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The Guiltless Guajillo Pepper

chiles de árbol in a basket

The Guiltless Guajillo Pepper By Kaylee Carpinteyro

Roaring sounds of crackling peppers on the stove top

Are playing as I’m walking towards the kitchen,

Immediately wheezing and gasping for fresh air.

Punched in the throat with a mix of potent chiles de árbol

And the guilt of being the daughter of an immigrant.

It feels like this temporary cough is neverending.

How can such a small pepper carry so much heat?

She tells at me,


“You’re exaggerating!”

As I try my best to hide this painful spice kicking me

And my inner child.

But the Americanized me tells me to speak up

Express your feelings, put in boundaries

But you eat what mama puts on the table

“Si no, no comas.”

“If not, don’t eat”

How can I speak against this woman?

The woman who was blessed with such magical powers

Powers passed down by our ancestors

To create such delicacies of our rich and flavorful indigenous moles

I watch her pour the fresh red salsa on the hot pot

A loud sizzle erupts with the smoke hitting her face

How is she not coughing and sneezing?

She says, “Por que soy Mexicana.”

“Because I’m Mexican.”

She’s right. Because she’s Mexican.

A mixture of pain, sadness and oppression,

She learned how to survive instead of expressing her true self

But I can see past her survival mode

As we sit together to eat.

The irritating itch in my throat goes away

The raging peppers simmer down

Switching it to a light and airy sweet spicy aroma

And as I’m eating this sacred meal with her

While these chiles perfume my mouth

I feel as though these small pungent peppers are betraying me

with their ability to hurt so good.

About the author:

Kaylee Carpinteyro is first-generation Chicana who was born and raised in Reading, PA. Volunteering with Barrio Alegria, she found opportunities to work as the Eviction Prevention Coordinator through community outreach by providing information to local Latinx residents about the available resources during the pandemic. Being bilingual, she wants to help bridge the language gap between Spanish speakers and English-language resources.

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Jayne Brown
Jayne Brown
May 28, 2021

This is a really lovely piece. I appreciate how you use the food to show family bonds and culture in a very concrete a beautiful way--"hurts so good"--Nice!!

Kaylee Carpinteyro
Kaylee Carpinteyro
Jun 01, 2021
Replying to

Thank you so much! I appreciate your comment 😊

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