issue no. 5 | fall 2021
Why I Believe Ricardo Montañez
Invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos
I ask for an elote with extra chile.
The elotero says memory fades.
His work is so tastefully done
it belongs in history books.
Kid-me believed that this elotero,
in his White Sox cap and Tajín-fragrant apron,
his cart on the curb outside the church off Ogden
every Sunday, was magic. I still do,
though not the same magic white folks believe in
when they leave a brown drink on a cafeteria floor
for the Brown janitor to mop.
Because Ricardo Montañez was that janitor.
I do believe it was his idea; suits
in a boardroom claim it wasn’t. Who cares
if I prefer Takis when I stand stoned in mid-
night convenience stores.
The kid playing Tigres del Norte
behind the Mobil counter is stoned as I am,
our nods an accordion
bouncing between us,
each other’s catercorner —
Because we are each other’s catercorner.
The elotero has been
my entire life.
My Sunday morning mass,
his whistle-toothed grin,
con extra chile por favor, I ask,
his eyes having become so blue with sky
I’m not sure he recognizes me.
Julián Martinez is the son of Mexican and Cuban immigrants. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Juked, The Hellebore, La Cascada, and elsewhere. His essays on his Chicano upbringing and pop music have received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence. He lives in Waukegan, IL. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @martinezfjulian.