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Taking on a Jalapeño Challange

By Judith Mae Aguilar
On April 18, 2015

I had a plan when I decided to compete in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Media/Celebrity Jalapeño Eating contest. The plan was simple, abstain from spicy foods, especially salsas and chilies. Then beginning the day before and up to the time of the contest, eating and drink calming foods, like dairy items. However, as most plans go, it did not go according to plan.

For one, being a person that loves all the meals I eat to have some semblance of spice and heat, I could not get myself to eat bland foods—because if it wasn’t spicy, it was bland. Then on the morning of the contest, I just never got around to drinking that glass of milk I was planning to; matter or fact, I ended up not eating anything at all.

Coming upon 11am, I arrived to the Stripes stores at the corner of Loop 20 and Jacaman, which is only a short five mile drive from Texas A&M International University. I was nervous, not because I was about to do what most people would consider crazy, but because I would be competing amongst other media personalities from around the Laredo area.

The competitors gathered on a long table 30 minutes later and the ceremony was ready to begin. First came the announcement of those 17 brave persons willing to try eating as many jalapeños they could in 5 minutes. I was situated between the reigning Miss Laredo Latina Nancy Gomez and the radio personality Debbie Jo from Big Buck 98.1. As the announcement of last year’s winner, Albert “Big Al” Martinez of Big Buck 98.1, I became confident that I could at least match that. He had won by eating 16 jalapeños while the most I had eaten was 18—albeit not in 5 minutes.

Then it was time and after a short countdown, the competition began.

I reached into my cup of jalapeños with both hands and took a bite out of each jalapeño to let the juice out of the pickled treat in succession. Then I would attempt to eat the rest of the jalapeños in only one more bite—all the way to the stem. For the most part, I was successful with this unless the pepper was large.

I listened carefully as the minutes were counted out. One minute, I had a small pile of stems, only about 5 or so, but that was more than my competition. As minute two passed, I was making good progress. While some of the other competitors had already begun reaching for waters because the heat of the peppers they consumed was beginning to get to them, I had yet to reach for mine since I yet to experience the fire. As minute three passed, I was moving along and the crowd began to notice, along with the persons sitting beside me, even to the point of receiving a “You Go Girl!” from DJ Debbie Jo. As minute four passed, I took my time to turn my head towards my biggest competitor, Big Al. I could see he also had a pile on his tray so I turned back to my cup—the second cup by then as I finished the first—and went at it. That last minute was a stretch, trying to get as many jalapeños down but being stunted by the larger ones. Finally the countdown to the end of the five minutes with me biting the last one in the last second.

Then the counting began as I finally began drinking my water. It was not until the last minute that I finally start feeling the heat of the jalapeños. The counting was done and I found that I had eaten 25 jalapeños! As the counts were notified, I found that I most likely ate the most. It was later confirmed when the top three were announced: Sergio Verastegui (R Communications) downed 15, Albert “Big Al” Martinez managed to stuff 23 peppers, but I topped with my 25.

At the end of the challenge, a local non-profit group, Girl Scouts of the Greater South Texas, Stripes made a donation for every jalapeños eaten and presented at check for $500 which would be used to assist girls of lower income families with annual fees.

The challenge was a one-of-a-kind event that I enjoyed participating in as a representative from The Bridge Newspaper and as a TAMIU student. I would also do this again in a heartbeat given the chance, even considering needing to stay home for the rest of the afternoon.

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