Chili Queen & Chiquita & How's tricks?
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Wed Sep 20 17:18:12 UTC 2006
Any historical citations for "chili queen" and "Chiquita" and "How's Tricks"
will be appreciated.
Perhaps "Chiquita" (female name) is relevant to the "Chick" (male name)
Entry from September 20, 2006
Chili Queen (or Chile Queen)
A “chili queen” (or “chile queen") was a woman in the 1880 and 1890s who
sold chili. The term was popular in San Antonio, and the chili queens operated
near or in the Alamo. The term is of historical interest today.
28 September 1891, Daily Light (San Antonio, TX), pg. 2?:
The chile queen has taken to the stage again. This time she will “supe” in
3 November 1897, Stevens Point (WI) Daily Journal, pg. 2?:
THE CHILI QUEENS.
THEIR THRONES WERE IN SAN AN-
TONIO’S HISTORIC ALAMO.
Their Reign Is Faded, But They Rules
Royally For a Long Times—They Were
Especially Gracious to the Tourist From
the North and Made It Pay.
When the northern tourist used to strike the town, the first things the
patriotic citizen who was doing the honors would proudly steer him up against
would be the Alamo plaza chili stand, with its attendant divinity, the far famed
“Now, sir, you’ve seen the historic Alamo, the old cathedral and the
missions and got a whiff of our ozone,” the citizen would remark with righteous
pride, “and tonight you must come and east a Mexican supper and see the chili
queens. The chili queens are one of our most noted attractions—the beautiful,
dark eyed senoritas, you know.”
The tourist generally knew. This was in the late eighties, the palmy days of
the chili queens, when their fame had spread to the larger northern cities.
Some very musical verse about them had appeared in the magazines, and in the
newspaper sketches they were idealized as stunning creatures, with the rich,
brown skins of the tropics and the languorous grace and bewitching black eyes
of Spanish donnas.
When the citizen and the tourist stroll up to the gay looking chili stand
with its big red, green and yellow lanterns and its scintillating pyramids of
cheap but gorgeous glassware, she promptly shuts up the sporty young man who
is bandying slang with her or quits haggling with the chili gorged bootblack
She hastily rearranges the flowers in her hair and the big bouquet at he
bosom and beams o nthe new arrivals with sparkling eyes.
The citizen addresses her with an easy familiarity.
“Hello, Chiquita! How’s tricks?”
“Hello, senor. Tricks are bueno. How is my amigo, the senor?”
They all used the Spanish dialect when they had special customers, despite
the fact that other tongues came easier to some of them by nature. There were
six reigning queens on the plaza in 1888, and one of them was of German
descent and another was born in the island where the sod is highly green and there
are no snakes. The other four, however, were senoritas of the genuine
Chiquita’s eyes sparkle with their most brilliant luster, and, with a quick
succession of flashing smiles, she uses her red lips and white teeth to good
advantage on the tourist while she engaged in badinage with the citizen.
“You’re looking prettier than ever tonight, Chiquita. I’m glad of it,
because we want to make a good impression on my friend here. He’s from away up
north, you know, and he’s heard of you before.”
Then Chiquita uses her tinkling laugh and slaps the citizen gently on the
“So sorry, but I have not a single nickel to give you. But take this flower
She transfers a big rose from her corsage to the citizen’s buttonhole. The
tourist is beginning to want his share of the fun.
“Yes, I heard of you up there, and that’s one reason I came down here—to
see you, you know.”
“Oh my! You must have a flower too.”
Her hands linger lightly on his coat as she carefully pins a spray of
honeysuckle on, and the tourist begins to believe that he must have come down here
for this. He is enjoying himself very much.
“Well, let’s being on our chili peppers,” suggests the citizen. “You say
you never ate one before? We had better take a little of everything, then, so
you can say you ‘did’ San Antonio right. Bring us the whole bill of fare,
The queen turns sharply to the slimy looking old Mexican who has charge of
the steaming pots and kettles in the rear and rattles off this with a celerity
which seems to astonish the tourist:
“Jesus, andarle! Dos platas de chili con carne, y dos tamales con chili
gravy, de enchilades tortillas, y dos tazas de cafe.”
The fiercely burning chili con carne agonizes the tourist and he chokes on
the enchilades, but he manages to struggle through the tamales by drinking a
great deal of water. Meanwhile, the chili queen sits opposite him in a
languishing attitude and keeps up her tinkling laugh. When it comes time to go, he
insists on paying the bill, despite protests of the citizen, and tenders a $5
bill. Chiquita seems to have trouble in counting out the change and a thought
strikes the tourist.
“Say, Chiquita,” he says tentatively, “you needn’t mind that if”—
“You mean you want to make me a present?”
As that is what he means, she tucks the bill in her bosom, and gives the
tourist a fond look. She places another rose from her hair and pins it on his
coat and squeezes his hand in bidding him goodby.
Then, when her customers are gone, she goes and sits down in front of one of
the steaming kettles, with a lap full of tortillas, which she uses to scoop
up large mouthfuls of chili.
Chiquita was a fair type of all the chili queens. They were not the idyllic
creatures of popular conception that they appeared to be when on dress
parade, but most of them were really comely and they had the charm at least of
The glory of the chili queens waned and flickered away with great
suddenness, and they themselves drifted away from the high tide of fame and fortune in
a like manner.—San Antonio Express.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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