We went up to celebrate our friend Papo’s birthday in Maricao. He had a similar party in December for Christmas but instead of lechón, the main meal this time was sancocho de conejo – a very delicious rabbit stew.
We learned from the last party that we needed to have something to do otherwise we would end up milling around aimlessly since we don’t bet on the roosters or dice. Papo set up a domino table for us, but we ended up finding the perfect station for us: bartenders in the little cantina.
I tended to the customers and served up the drinks of Coors Light, Medalla Light, Busch, and Heineken and made change while Britton juiced the fresh oranges for the Finlandia and OJ tragos. The pineapple pitorro and sancocho were free.
We are definitely still the exotic guests of Papo and I overhead quite a few comments about the “Americanos” from Rincón. I also got a lot of questions, attempts at English, “oye rubia” and even a request for the change to be in besos instead of pesos. So of course I had to ask… how much is a kiss worth and they told me…maybe $3? I thought that was pretty funny. When it got really busy even Britton worked the bar passing out drinks using his broken Spanish. His Spanish has really improved since we arrived! He can have a passing conversation fairly easily!
One thing I noticed as the bartender was that no one paid any tips (besides the requests to buy a kiss). Not even when the total was $4.50 and they handed me a $5. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong but Papo said that it’s just not the custom to tip. He said that these people are too poor to tip (but managed lots and lots of beer and gambling!). I wonder if tipping is just not very common in other service industries like restaurants. We continue to tip when we go out, but it made me question what the cultural standards for tipping are in general here in Puerto Rico (and partially why there is an assumption that all gringos are rich -sort of a hey they just give their money away feeling?).
It’s such a different world especially way deep in the mountains like this but we are starting to get more accustomed and comfortable. In addition to the sancocho we also loved the homemade pasteles and Britton told me he thinks pasteles are one of his favorite foods now! We really enjoyed our short foray into Puerto Rican country bartending and our time at the party. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new about my new homeland.