Love for Mexico

The Magic of Mariposas Monarcas in Central Mexico April 08 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

Right now, in mid-February, there are millions of mariposas monarcas, or monarch butterflies, in the mountains west of Mexico City. They arrived in central Mexico last fall, after traveling from as far away as eastern Canada.

These beautiful orange-and-black-winged creatures are a true marvel of nature. In fact, there are so many amazing things about monarch butterflies and their migratory patterns back and forth from central Mexico that it’s hard to decide what the most astounding part of their story is! 

From Across North America to a Special Place in Mexico

The monarch butterflies that migrate to central Mexico come from the parts of the United States and southern Canada that are east of the Rocky Mountains, while those that are found in the west spend the winter along the coast of California. This means that the vast majority of North American monarcas converge on a relatively small area of Mexico that’s covered by volcanic mountains and forests of pine and oyamel firs, their preferred hibernation trees. They cluster together in 14 colonies that are so densely packed that there can be thousands of butterflies on a single tree limb.

Monarch butterflies covering an entire tree
Photo by Giovanirvp, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Why do they come here? Well, this is a topic that continues to be studied, but one major reason is that this cool, dry, high-altitude winter microclimate provides the perfect conditions for them to hang out and preserve their energy. They can be found covering entire trees on steep, south-facing mountainsides, where they are protected from predators and adverse weather. 

Multigenerational Migration of the Mariposa Monarca

It takes multiple generations of butterflies to complete each yearly migration pattern. This is unique in the animal kingdom, and it’s amazing because how these insects know where to go to places they have never been to without older generations to guide them there?

Monarch butterfly chrysalis
Photo by Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 3.0 

The Genius Navigation System of the Monarch Butterfly

For a bug with a miniscule brain, the monarch butterfly has a surprisingly sophisticated navigation system. Monarcas have two compasses: a sun compass, where they are able to use the angle of the sun in conjunction with their internal body clocks, and a magnetic compass, which depend on the light-sensitive magnetosensors in their antennae. Basically, they are able to keep track of where the sun is in the sky and orient themselves according to what time of day it is. 

Additionally, it’s thought that they rely on the spine of the Rocky Mountains to funnel themselves south to their special place in central Mexico. And there are genetic factors that are also at play.

Monarch butterfly flying away from a Mexican sunflower
Photo by Rbreidbrown, CC BY-SA 4.0 

The Secret to a Miraculous Migration: A Super Generation

Most monarch butterflies live for around six weeks as an adult, which isn’t long enough to make it very far, especially considering the way they flit about. However, the monarch butterflies that emerge from their cocoons starting around mid-August, as temperatures begin to cool, are larger, stronger, and live something like 8 times longer than regular butterflies. Although it sounds like something out of Marvel Comics – or the world of lucha libre! – they’re known as the “super generation,” and they are the ones that fly all the way to central Mexico, stay for several months, and then begin the long journey north again. These butterflies lay their eggs along the way and then die, leaving it to the next few generations of short-lived butterflies to complete the journey back to their summer breeding grounds.

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

If you ever get the chance, do not pass up the opportunity to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve while the monarcas are there. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes two sanctuaries that are open to tourism generally from November through February, and it is located in the Zitácuaro region of eastern Michoacán. It’s truly a magical experience!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Frida Kahlo: Celebrating Mexicanidad March 29 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

Today, the world knows Mexican painter Frida Kahlo as a pop culture icon whose distinctive portraits appear on everything from clothing and jewelry to handbags and shopping bags, from indoor decor and wall posters to outdoor graffiti and murals. But she wasn’t very famous during her own lifetime. So how did the woman who was once best known for being married to muralist Diego Rivera become the internationally recognized woman known for her prominent unibrow along with her thick braids piled atop her head, often decorated with flowers?

Be Fearless mural in Los Angeles
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Frida Kahlo’s Charismatic Character

It was the 2002 movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina, that brought international stardom to Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, as it introduced people unfamiliar with Mexican culture to the passion, pain, and sheer force of character that drove the extraordinary life of this colorful character.

And it wasn’t just that Frida loved to dress flamboyantly. As the film shows, despite her small, delicate-looking frame, Frida had an outsized personality that allowed her to overcome serious physical disabilities caused by polio and a tragic trolley accident as well as other traumas ranging from her philandering husband to a series of miscarriages that left her emotionally devastated.

Frida Kahlo as a Feminist Icon

There was another important element of Frida Kahlo’s life besides her strong personality that allowed her to persevere, despite all those setbacks.

Long before the slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a motto for women who are breaking down the barriers to equality in society, Frida Kahlo persisted by channeling her pain into her artwork. It was unique, groundbreaking work that revelled in la chingada. And the fact that she created raw, honest self-portraits depicting women’s real experiences rather than just trying to capture the ideal of feminine beauty is one of the main reasons Frida is considered a feminist icon.

Super Frida!
Photo by Veroniki Thetis Chelioti on Unsplash

Frida Kahlo Celebrating Mexicanidad

Although it would take half a century after her death in 1954 for the wife of Mexico’s most famous muralist to become a symbol throughout the world of individuality, innovation, inner strength, and insistence on living life to the fullest, within Mexico, Frida Kahlo had reached the status of a cultural icon by the 1980s. And it had a lot to do with her devotion to Mexican folk culture and mexicanidad.

At a time when being “civilized” in Mexico meant adopting European standards, Frida was part of a movement to change this attitude by celebrating indigenous traditions and Chicano pride. This impulse is expressed in her artwork, which often involves pre-Columbian themes and stylistic elements like lack of perspective. But what she is most famous for is her compelling self-portraits, which often depict her wearing her customary traditional Mexican huipiles and long, embroidered skirts, abundant jewelry, and her now-famous braided hair with flowers.

Wall portrait of Frida Kahlo
Photo by DDP on Unsplash 

This favorite among many insightful  Frida Kahlo quotes highlights the way so many Mexicans love and appreciate their native country: “México está como siempre, desorganizado y dado al diablo, sólo le queda la inmensa belleza de la tierra y de los indios.”

Don't forget to check out some of the articles in Shoptezuma that celebrate Frida's life:

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

¡Happy Birthday Benito Juárez! March 16 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

This week, Mexico celebrates the birthday of Benito Pablo Juárez García

Born on 21 March 1806 into poverty in the mountains of Oaxaca, Benito Juárez went on to become the country’s first indigenous president. He is considered the main architect of la Reforma, which championed liberal democratic principles such as freedom of speech, equal rights for all Mexicans, and separation of church and state..

Benito Pablo Juárez García
Photo author anonymous, Public Domain

While several heroes of the Mexican War of Independence — namely, Vicente Guerrero, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, José María Morelos y Pavón, and Andrés Quintana Roo have states named after them, Juárez is the only Mexican national hero who has a special day (the third Monday in March) set aside as a national holiday. 

But that’s not the only way his legacy is celebrated, as his picture appears on several Mexican peso notes and countless streets and bus stations, towns and municipalities, institutions, geographic features, and many other things are named after Mexico’s foremost reformer.

Here are some of the standout ways that Benito Juárez has been honored by Mexicans and others throughout the world who see him as being on par with Abraham Lincoln regarding his influence on the history of the nation.

Hemiciclo a Juárez

Ordered by Porfirio Díaz, this neoclassical semicircular marble monument to Juárez graces Alameda Central del Centro Histórico.

Monument to Juárez
Photo by Hajor, CC BY-SA 3.0

Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez 

Mexico City’s major international airport is known officially as Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez and unofficially as Mexico City Juárez.

Benito Juárez International Airport terminal 2
Photo by Edgor TovarVmzp85, Public Domain 

Ciudad Juárez 

Located across the Río Grande from El Paso, Texas, the city formerly known as El Paso del Norte was renamed Ciudad Juárez in 1888. It’s the largest of the many towns, cities, and municipalities in Mexico and elsewhere bearing the name Juárez or Benito Juárez.

Monument to Benito Juárez in Juárez City
Photo by AndiieVga, CC BY-SA 3.0

Puente Internacional Juárez–Lincoln

The Juárez–Lincoln International Bridge spans the Río Grande between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. It’s an important crossing point on the roadways connecting San Antonio, Texas, with the major Mexican city of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

So Many Benito Juárez Sculptures!

Of course, there are sculptures of Benito Juárez all over Mexico. But did you know that there are several high-profile sculptures of “Mexico’s Lincoln” in the United States?

Benito Juárez statue, Plaza of the Americas, Chicago
Photo by HaSt, CC BY-SA 4.0

The statue of Benito Juárez in Washington, DC, was a gift from Mexico to the United States. It’s a cast of the original statue in Oaxaca that was designed by Enrique Alciati, who is most famous for the Winged Victory statue that watches over the chaos of Mexico City from atop the Monumento a la Independencia.

Statue of Benito Juárez in Washington, DC
Photo by G0T0, CC0

Other distinguished statues and busts of Benito Juárez can be found in US cities including Chicago, Houston, New York, and San Diego. There’s also a statue of him in the Colombian capital of Bogotá.

Estatua de Juárez en Bogotá, Colombia
Photo by Felipe Restrepo Acosta, CC BY-SA 4.0

Benito Juárez in Popular Culture

Benito Juárez was first brought to the silver screen in 1933 in the Mexican film Juárez y Maximiliano, which depicted the relationship between Mexico’s republican president and the monarch placed in charge of the country during the Second French Intervention.

His next appearance in cinema came with the 1939 Hollywood historical drama Juarez, starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis’ Eyes.

Mexican cinema later retold the story of the man’s early life in the 1954 film El joven Juárez, and President Juárez appeared in the 1972 movie Aquellos años.

Also in 1972, El carruaje came to Mexican television as the country’s first historical telenovela produced in color. 

Meanwhile, the character of Benito Juárez had been showing up in western television series shown in the United States during the 1950s and 60s, including the wacky steampunk series The Wild Wild West.

 

You can also have some fun and celebrate Benito Juarez' life with this t-shirt in our store:

¡Feliz cumpleaños a  Benito Juárez!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Love for Mexico in the Time of Coronavirus February 26 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

For whatever reasons, trolls have been busy spreading all kinds of misinformation about the coronavirus, with the latest coronavirus hoax being the outrageous claim that the Chinese government is exterminating people who are ill with the disease. The correct info about coronavirus is out there, yet people who aren’t paying that much attention seem more than willing to jump to ridiculous conclusions. 

Speaking of ridiculous conclusions, here’s something so absurd, I’ve got tears in my beers from so much laughing and crying at the same time. According to the folks at Vice, a disturbing number of people think coronavirus is related to Corona beer!

Corona bottle in its natural habitat
Photo by Kjetil2006, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Corona as in Crown 

Of course, coronavirus has absolutely nothing to do with Corona beer, beyond the coincidence of sharing the same word in their names. Corona can mean crown, halo, garland, or wreath, in both Spanish and Latin.

In the case of the beer, the corona in question is a crown that sits atop the slogan La Cerveza Mas Fina, implying that it’s fit for a king.

Spanish Royal Crown
Photo by TheRichic, CC BY-SA 4.0 

It’s part of a marketing strategy that’s been quite effective – maybe too effective, when the first thing that pops into the heads of many non-Spanish-speaking people across the globe when they hear mention of a scary new infección vírica is a bottle of their beer, perhaps with a lime wedge sticking out of the top. 

Solar Coronas Gone Viral 

As for the virus, its name comes from the way these chinchecitas minúsculas look when viewed through an electron microscope.

As you can see, the coronavirus has protrusions sticking out all around it that create the effect of a solar corona – the halo of plasma surrounding the sun that becomes visible to the naked eye for us humans here on la Tierra during total eclipses.

Love for Mexico in the Time of Coronavirus

Maybe we should actually be congratulating the marketing team at Cerveza Corona for causing so many people around the world to immediately think of their beer whenever the word corona comes up – even if it is in the context of a contagious disease. 

According to Forbes, Corona is exported to over 120 countries and is the no. 1 imported beer in the United States, and the brand is worth US$10.1 billion. 

Better yet, let us celebrate the fact that Mexican Entrepreneurship Knows No Bounds, as T-shirts with the slogan Ya me dio... el Corona Virus bring us a new way of saying that we’ve (once again?) drunk too much Cerveza Corona

It all goes to show, once again, that México es Chingón.  Mexicans have the amazing quality of being able to find humor in almost any situation – even if it’s a contagious disease. After all, this is the culture that celebrates Día de Muertos and is famous for poking fun at death, itself!

Day of the Dead Fiesta Scene
Photo by Pieter van de Sande on Unsplash
JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Carnival in Veracruz: Showcasing Mexico's Caribbean Vibe February 19 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is famous the world over. But did you know that Mexico has some major Carnival celebrations of its own, and that one of them is considered by many to be the second most important in all of Latin America? ¡Es la neta! The city of Veracruz holds the largest Carnival celebration in Mexico. It’s spread out over nine days. And it’s billed as “El Más Alegre del Mundo.”

Veracruz Carnival parade
Photo by Saulo ren, CC BY-SA 4.0 

As a major port city on the Gulf of Mexico, and the place where Cortez first arrived at the American continent and the first city to be established by the Spanish in Mexico, Veracruz has a long and interesting cultural heritage that includes Afro-Caribbean influences as well as an indigenous legacy that’s unique to the region. It was founded in 1519; and in 2019, los jarochos celebrated their city’s 500th-year anniversary with the extravagance it deserves. 

According to the official website for Carnaval de Veracruz 2020, this year’s celebration will be in its 96th year, and the theme will be “Iconic Cities of the World.” 

Opening & Closing Carnival: Satire, Parody, and Upending All the Rules

Although the official dates of Carnival in Veracruz are 19-25 February, the festival atmosphere sets in on Sunday, 16 February, with Solteras vs Casadas. It’s a baseball game played on the beach by men dressed in drag and other colorful costumes that draws over a thousand spectators every year.

 
Men in drag
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash 

La Quema del Mal Humor on Wednesday 19 February signals the official start of the festivities. During this traditional Carnival event, an effigy of some hated person is burned. The effigy represents the bad vibes that are dispensed with to make sure there’s nothing but buenas ondas during the festival season. 

To close things out, there’s el Entierro de Juan Carnaval, a parody funeral performed by a local theater group with the royal court that was elected that year playing it up by melodramatically mourning and crying over the end of the desmadre, making way for the beginning of Lent. 

Carnival Parades, Balls, and Concerts: Rhythm in the Streets 

Sandwiched between those events are the meat of Carnival: the parades!

Los gran desfiles are filled with comparsas (carnival performing groups), drumlines, baton twirlers, dance troupes, huge sculptures, and floats, including those carrying the members of the royal court. Dances, mojigangas (masquerades), and huge concerts also fill the city with music, movement, and merriment.

 

Of particular note at Carnaval de Veracruz are the sounds of el danzón, a Caribbean music genre that was instrumental in the development of the mambo and the cha-cha-chá. Harps, marimbas, and guitars highlight the Afro-Cuban roots of jarocho culture as couples dance to the slow, syncopated beat.

But Is Carnaval de Veracruz Really the Happiest Carnival in the World? 

In case you’re probably wondering if Carnaval de Veracruz is really the happiest Carnival in the World, I’m here to tell you that it sure feels like it when you’re right there, in the midst of it, absorbing all the colors and rhythms and energy of the performers and crowds, ¡pasandola a toda madre!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Thanks to the Ancient Mexicans, We Have Chocolate for Valentine's Day February 04 2020, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler 

February has arrived, and that brings one of my favorite holidays. Of course, I’m talking about Valentine's Day, or as it’s often called in Mexico, Día del Amor y la Amistad. I love that there is a holiday to celebrate love and friendship. But even more, I love that this holiday elevates that heavenly substance so treasured by the Mesoamerican world that they considered it a gift from the gods. So in order to get in the mood for el Día de San Valentín, let’s talk a little about love, chocolate, love for chocolate, and Love for Mexico!

Heart-shaped nopal
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash 

Feast Day for Saint Valentine: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

If there is a saint’s feast day for nearly every day on the calendar, why does Saint Valentine stand out as the one who is celebrated across the globe by Christians and non-Christians alike?

The reason, mis amigos, is Love.

Saint Valentine, painting by Leonhard Beck
Public Domain

Valentine of Rome was a martyr for love. He was a medieval priest who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers of the Roman Empire, who were forbidden to marry because it was thought that it would negatively affect their performance.

But if secretly marrying couples who are in love isn’t romantic enough, legend has it that Valentine also performed the miracle of curing his jailer’s daughter’s blindness and then wrote her a goodbye letter signed, “Your Valentine” when it was time for his execution. So that’s how we got the tradition of sending valentines on Valentine’s Day.

 

Chocolate for Valentine’s Day: What’s Mexico Got to Do With It?

It was the ancient Mexicans who discovered the wonders of chocolate, which is made from roasted, ground cacao seeds.

The Olmecs may have been the first people to domesticate the cacao tree for making cocoa paste. The Olmecs, who lived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico and were the mother civilization of the Mesoamerican world, probably use chocolate for purely ritual and medicinal purposes.

The Aztecs and the Mayans considered chocolate to be of divine origin, along with maize and other foods gifted to them by their gods. These pre-Columbian Mexicans used cocoa powder to make a rich, bitter, frothy drink in combination with ingredients such as water, chili peppers, vanilla, and cornmeal.

Traditional Oaxacan hot chocolate
Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Spanish brought Mexican chocolate with them back to the Old World, where the addition of sugar and advances in processing technology made it increasingly popular.

Love and Romance: What’s Chocolate Got to Do With It?

From its earliest use by humans, chocolate has been considered a highly desirable luxury item imbued with intoxicating and aphrodisiac effects.

A Maya lord sits before an individual with a container of frothed chocolate
Public Domain

For example, among almost 300 medicinal uses of chocolate by the Aztecs listed in the Florentine Codex are the properties of increasing sexual appetite and enhancing fertility, along with fortifying and sustaining stamina.

Cacao beans were a major form of tribute to leaders of the Aztec Empire, and the pods were a form of currency throughout the Mesoamerican world. And in Europe, as well, it was only the wealthy elite who could afford to drink hot chocolate, until the Industrial Revolution brought the science and technology to produce chocolate in the solid form that we know and love oh so much today.

Un Brindis a los Mexicanos para el Día de San Valentín

While some ingenious marketing by chocolatiers has undoubtedly been greatly responsible for the popularization of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates as the classic Valentine’s Day gift the world over, it’s the joyful effects of content of those boxes on the spirit and the soul that make these small signs of affection so special.

Box of valentine chocolates
Photo by Woodlot, CC BY-SA 4.0 

And so, a toast to the Mexican people is in order, for the gift of chocolate and for making it possible to properly show our love and friendship on el Día de San Valentín!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

10 Colorful Mexican Expressions to Liven Up the Conversation December 07 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

One of the most wonderful things about Mexico is the way that the Spanish language is enlivened and enhanced to create a whole new lexicon that’s amazingly expressive, colorful, and distinctly Mexican. Beyond all the slang, there’s a wealth of Mexican expressions, sayings, and proverbs that provide everything from the wisdom of the ages to nonsensical wordplay, and they offer insights into the national culture – and make engaging in conversation with Mexicans all the more enjoyable.

Teotihuacan speech scroll
Image by Madman2001, CC BY 3.0

These 10 colorful expressions help make Mexican Spanish so entertaining and fun. ¡A huevo!

Mexican Sayings that Transform Negatives into Positives

Mexicans have a wonderful way of facing difficulty with a positive attitude, as reflected in these proverbs and common sayings:

  1. “Al mal tiempo, buena cara”

Translation: “To bad times, a good face”
Meaning: Be positive!


  1. “Tarde pero sin sueño”

Translation: “Late but without sleeping”
Meaning: I may be late, but I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed (Note: it’s particularly useful if you’re late because you did, in fact, sleep in.)

Tired worker
Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Mexican Sayings Involving Animals

 These sayings make creative use of animals to get their point across: 

  1. “El que es perico, donde quiera es verde”

Translation: “He who is a parakeet, wherever he is, is green”
Meaning: A tiger never changes his stripes

  1. “Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente”

Translation: “The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current”
Meaning: You snooze, you lose. 


  1. “Ahora sí vamos a ver de qué lado masca la iguana”

Translation: “Now we are going to see which side the iguana chews on”
Meaning: This expression meaning “we are close to knowing the truth” is a double entendre that works because in Mexico, the word “mascar,” which means “to masticate,” also means “to sense, anticipate” – never mind that iguanas don’t actually chew their food!

Iguana
Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Putting the “Mexican” into Mexican Sayings

Referencing Mexican drink, food, crops, and pop culture, these are some of the most Mexican of Mexican sayings:

  1. “Para todo mal, mezcal y, para todo bien, también”

Translation: “For everything bad, mezcal and, for everything good, the same”
Meaning: Drink mezcal to drown your sorrows, celebrate your victories, and, well, just because


  1. “El que nace para tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas”

Translation: “If you’re born to be a tamale, the leaves will fall from the sky”
Meaning: If it’s meant to be, the universe will conspire to make it happen

Tamales oaxaqueños
Photo by N. Saum, CC BY-SA 3.0
  1. “Ya nos cayó el chahuiztl”

Translation: “Now the chahuiztle falls upon us”
Meaning: Chahuiztli is a corn fungus. But unlike huitlacoche, another corn fungus that’s enjoyed as a delicious delicacy, this one is a ruinous plague. And that’s why this Mexican expression is often uttered when something unpleasant or unexpected happens. 


  1. “No hay de queso, nomás de papa”

Translation: “There is no cheese, just potatoes”
Meaning: This silly expression is a play on the words of the phrase, “no hay de qué,” which means, “no problem.” It’s a nonsensical phrase that originated from the nutty character Chaparrón Bonaparte in the Mexican sketch comedy show Chespirito.


  1. “A darle que es mole de olla”

Translation: “Get working because this is mole de olla
Meaning: Mole de olla is a wholesome, spicy meat-and-vegetable soup that lends itself to a common saying that means something like, “Get to work because this is important, people are counting on us, and it will be worth the effort!”

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

 


Día de Muertos: Honoring the Dead and Celebrating Life October 29 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

To people who aren’t familiar with Mexican culture, Day of the Dead may seem to be some kind of morbid death cult. Or, since the annual holiday falls on 2 November, many people think it’s just the Mexican version of Halloween. But those assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth! 

With Día de Muertos celebrations gaining increasing worldwide attention in recent years, let’s take a look at what it’s really all about for Mexicans and anyone else who is interested in looking at death and the loss of loved ones from a different perspective.

Colorful Day of the Dead calaveras
Photo by Sam Brand on Unsplash

Día de Muertos Is about Honoring and Connecting with Deceased Loved Ones

At the heart of Día de Muertos is the concept of honoring and connecting with loved ones who have passed away. That’s what the ofrendas (altars) are for – they’re meant to attract the spirits of the dead. Families create elaborate altars in their homes with photographs of the deceased as well as offerings of their favorite food and drink. They are traditionally adorned with orange cempasúchitl flowers (marigolds), brightly colored tissue paper decorations called papel picado, and particular foods such as pan de muerto (sweet bread made just for this holiday), calabasa en dulce (candied pumpkin), and tamales.

Ofrenda de día de muertos
Photo by Paolaricaurte, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sugar skulls are another common feature of ofrendas. These candy skulls harken back to Aztec times, when they were made of amaranth seeds and honey instead of sugar, which didn’t exist in pre-Colombian Mexico. Candles are lit and copal incense is burned to attract the spirits of the dead, as well.

Amaranth and honey skulls
Photo by Abbie yang, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Another way Mexicans connect with deceased loved ones is by gathering at their gravesites to share food and drink, stories, poetry, and music. Gravesites are cleaned up and decorated with yet more ofrendas featuring cempasuchitl along with other beautiful flowers, photos, candles, fruits, and skulls. While the mood at the gravesite gatherings may sometimes turn solemn, there’s generally a festive atmosphere because getting together with those you love is thought to be a joyous occasion.

Burning copal for Day of the Dead
Photo by Jordi Cueto-Felgueroso Arocha, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mocking the Grim Reaper with Elegantly Dressed Skeletons 

In addition to the intensely personal family ofrendas and gravesite observances, Day of the Dead also spills out onto the streets with colorful calaveras, effervescent parades filled with festive skeletons, and many other fun, artistic displays and activities. And throughout the country, people transform themselves into Calaveras Catrinas, where the males dress up in fancy duds, the women wear fine dresses and oftentimes, big, fancy hats, and faces are painted to look like skeletons with beautiful designs – much like the sugar skulls. I’ve even seen live dogs spray-painted to look like skeleton dogs!

Calavera Catrina in CDMX
Photo by Salvador Altamirano on Unsplash 

If this sounds an awful lot to you like the movie Coco, it’s because the filmmakers did a fantastic job of capturing the lively spirit of Día de Muertos just as it is IRL! (Well, except for the alebrijes as animal spirit guides – they made that part up). As the movie depicts, Day of the Dead really is all about family togetherness while dressing up, laughing, and expressing joy in the face of death. It’s the distinctly Mexican way of accepting death as a part of the great circle of life.

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Día de Muertos in Pop Culture: The Mexican Art of Celebrating Life October 23 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

With its ancient Mesoamerican roots, Día de Muertos is the perfect example of how the Mexican people have kept their rich cultural traditions alive by allowing them to evolve so they remain relevant to people’s lives through the changing times. While the most enduring traditions of this holiday honoring loved ones who have passed away are the colorful ofrendas and the emotive gravesite rituals, customs also often include lively music, dancing, theatrical performances, and parades. So it’s no wonder that Día de Muertos has been embraced as the ultimate representation of the passion and vibrancy of Mexican culture, and there’s an intriguing feedback loop between pop culture references to Mexico’s most famous holiday and the way the holiday is celebrated in real life.

Día de Muertos en Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán
Photo by Julie R Butler

La Calavera Catrina Represents the Mexican Attitude Toward Death

La Calavera Catrina is the common name for a zinc etching created by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada in 1910 that has become an iconic image of Día de Muertos. Its original title was La Calavera Garbancera, and it was meant to satirize indigenous people in Mexico who adopted European fashions because they were ashamed of their own heritage.

It was the muralist Diego Rivera who gave us the name “Catrina” when he featured an elegantly dressed skeleton in his mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central, as the term “catrín” means stylish or well off.

Diego Rivera’s Catrina
Photo by Flickr user momo, CC BY 2.0

La Calavera Catrina has become ubiquitous throughout Mexico as a symbol of the Mexican attitude toward death, which is to embrace death as a part of the great circle of life.

Catrinas for sale in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán
Photo by Julie R Butler 

The 2015 James Bond movie Spectre Inspires a New Tradition

A century later, some folks who wanted to create an impressive opening sequence for their action flick determined to set the scene in one of the most vibrant cities in the world during a major celebration – and thus, a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City’s Centro Histórico was developed for the amazing long-take opening of the James Bond movie Spectre. The opening scene was so invigorating that chilangos were inspired to start a whole new tradition of having a massive Day of the Dead parade in CDMX on 2 November each year. It’s not that this kind of parade was something unprecedented in Mexico, because the movie parade was itself inspired by events that take place elsewhere in the country. However, the sheer scale of the new parade, in addition to its location in the beating heart of Mexico City and the fact that it was inspired by a fictional movie plot, makes it a case of life imitating art to the umpteenth degree. 

The Movie Coco Beautifully Captures the Vitality of Mexico’s Day of the Dead Celebrations 

Three weeks after opening in Mexico just ahead of the 2017 Day of the Dead festivities (and before it even premiered in the United States), the Disney-Pixar film Coco became the highest-grossing film ever in the Mexican market. The movie company struck box office gold with a family film that is so beautifully rendered that Mexicans are proud of the way it represents one of their most important traditions. Centered on an unforgettable cast of loveable characters, Coco brings Day of the Dead to life  for people around the world who value music, celebration, and above all, family – and that set of priorities is indeed something Mexicans should very proud of!

You can find a great selection of products for Dia de Muertos in our store here: 

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

How Mexico City Celebrates Day of the Dead 2019 October 15 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Día de Muertos is an important tradition in Mexico that takes place 2 November. It also incorporates Día de los Angelitos on 1 November, when many Mexican families honor infants and children who have passed away, making it a multi-day observance rather than just a single day affair, as the name implies. But wait – it’s actually a three-day celebration that begins on 31 October, the day dedicated to creating the ofrendas that attract the spirits of the dead to visit, according to some regional traditions.

Calaveras
Photo by Valeria Almaraz on Unsplash

Then there’s Mexico City, where Day of the Dead has morphed into an entire month-long festival season that has been drawing international attention for its massive, carnival-like events. 

Here is the lineup of the biggest 2019 Día de Muertos events in Mexico City to watch out for, whether you’re able to be there live and in person or you would like to observe the spectacles from afar.

Saturday 19 October: Parade of Giant Alebrijes, Zócalo, 12 am

Having started out as the fever dreams of artisan Pedro Linares, alebrijas have come alive in Mexican culture, first as colorful, fantastical folk art and then as the giant sculptures parading through the streets of Mexico City. The annual Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales is organized by the Museo de Arte Popular to honor Mexico’s vibrant folk art traditions. The parade is scheduled to start at the Zócalo at noon.

Alebrije Monumental “Michin Rojo”
Photo by Thelmadatter, CC BY-SA 3.0

Saturday 19 October: Marcha Zombie, Monument to the Revolution, 10 am

On the same day as the alebrije parade, the dead will come alive in the streets of Mexico City! The CDMX Zombie March begins at 10 am at the Monumento a la Revolución. Organized by Unidos Distribuimos y Transformamos, this horde of ghouls comes out each year to have fun and make food donations for distribution to those in need.

Zombie March (Toronto)
Photo by Andrevruas, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Saturday 26 October: Mega Procession of Catrinas, Paseo de la Reforma, 6 pm

Long before the rise of zombies in today’s popular culture, Mexico’s elegantly dressed skeletons, known as calavera Catrinas, were common features of Day of the Dead celebrations throughout Mexico, often imbued with a social critique. Although you’re bound to see plenty of faces with colorful Catrina designs at Muertos-themed festivities across the globe this year, there’s nothing quite like the joyful Mega Procesión de Catrinas in the heart of Mexico City.

Sunday 27 October: International Day of the Dead Parade, Zócalo, 2 pm

This year, the fourth annual Desfile Internacional de Muertos has the slogan, “A Gift of Mexican Songs and Flowers for the World,” and it has a new route. Its goal is to showcase Mexico’s vibrant and diverse culture on the world stage. Allegorical floats, giant marionettes, and over a thousand participants make it Mexico’s biggest parade.

Saturday 2 November: Grand Day of the Dead Parade, Paseo de la Reforma, 4 pm

El Gran Desfile de Día de Muertos occurs on the actual Day of the Dead, and it is the parade that was inspired by the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre. It starts later in the day, and rather than beginning at the Zócalo, like the international parade, it ends up there. Also, instead of having a grand theme or cultural tradition behind it, this parade is a giant celebration of how younger generations of Mexicans are able to take an age-old tradition and make it their own!

Now, check out Shoptezuma's Dia de Muertos collection by clicking below:
Dia de Muertos Collection
JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

This is Why Mole Should be Mexico's National Dish October 10 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Mmmm mole… With the Feria Nacional del Mole in San Pedro Atocpan, DF, taking place 5-27 October this year, it’s time to talk about the sauce that’s considered by many to be the national dish of Mexico. The other Mexican dish that competes for that title is, of course, chiles en nogada, the beautiful plate that’s served up during las fiestas patrias because it displays the red, green, and white colors of the Mexican flag. So you would think that level of patriotism would make it a shoo-in for being the country’s national dish. Nonetheless, there are a few reasons why mole – the indescribably rich and savory sauce that usually includes ingredients such as seeds, nuts, chiles, dried fruits, herbs, spices, and Mexican chocolate – is better suited for the position, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

Moles for sale at the Feria Nacional del Mole
Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mole Origin Stories 

Like chiles en nogada, mole has numerous origin myths. One attributes its invention to the accidental spilling of chocolate and/or spices into a cazuela filled with sauce, while another legend has it that the nuns who wanted to prepare a special meal for an archbishop simply threw together everything they had. 

But unlike the tricolored dish, mole has another origin story that reaches back even further in time to the arrival of Cortez in Tenochtitlan. This story tells of Moctezuma serving the marvel that is mole to the conquistador, thinking he was the god Quetzalcoatl. And this connection to that fateful event in Mexico’s history gives mole some serious Mexican cred!

Tenochtitlán, Entrance of Hernan Cortés, from the Lienzo de Tlaxcala
Public Domain

Real History of Mole

The known history of mole does indeed stretch back to pre-Columbian times, when Mesoamericans first came up with sauces to enrich their diet of game, fish, and veggies. In fact, the word “mole” comes from the Nahuatl word “mōlli,” meaning “sauce.”

What they put in the sauce is unknown, although ingredients they had available would have included tomatoes, peanuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, plantains, dried berries, herbs such as epazote, achiote, hoja santa, various types of chiles, and traditional Mexican chocolate. Additions such as garlic and onion, raisins, sesame seeds, almonds, and cinnamon are ingredients that were eventually brought over by the Spanish.

Enchilada with mole poblano
Photo by Ruth Hartnup, CC BY 2.0

Mole Captures the Complexity and Diversity of Mexico 

While chiles en nogada may represent the country’s patriotic spirit with its colorful presentation, mole digs much deeper into the national character, with a richness and complexity that mirrors the coming together of many diverse cultural traditions throughout Mexico.

To be clear, when talking about mole, it may be assumed that we’re referring to one of the classic thick, dark, chocolate-infused moles, such mole poblano from Puebla or mole negro from Oaxaca.

Chicken with mole poblano
Photo by Elelicht, CC BY-SA 3.0

However, there are also many other types of mole that don’t necessarily have chocolate in them and that come in a wide diversity of colors and consistencies, such as mole almendrado, de cacahuate, verde, picoso, apiñonado, and pipián.

I Heart Mole

My final argument for why mole deserves to be Mexico’s national dish is, well, because I love it (and I’m not the only one). I can still taste the first mole I ever tried. It was after a long day’s drive, on sweltering evening, in the front room of someone’s house somewhere near the Gulf of Tehuantepec. ¡Holy mole, quel sabor!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

An Ode to Francisco Toledo: Mexico’s Mystical Maestro of Art and Culture October 04 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

On 5 September 2019, Mexican artist Francisco Toledo passed away at the age of 79. Toledo was prolific in producing works in different mediums, including paintings, prints, photography, and ceramics. But beyond Toledo’s distinctive artwork, which is filled with fantastical monkeys, iguanas, insects, and other animals that often take on human characteristics in earthy tones, he was known for his social, cultural, and environmental activism.

 This blog post offers a mini profile of the fascinating man who was considered Mexico’s most important contemporary artist. 

Lucha Libre Animated Francisco Toledo’s Early Artistic Impulses

Here’s a little-known fact about Francisco Toledo: In the above video, he says that as a child, he was enamored with lucha libre and was a fan of early luchadores such as Tarzán López, Murciélago Velásquez, and Tonina Jackson. He later painted some frescos that are based on these vibrant characters.

Lucha libre
Photo by Joe Hernandez on Unsplash 

A Dreamworld of Fantastical Creatures Intertwined with the Human Spirit

Having spent his childhood steeped in the Zapotec traditions of southern Oaxaca, Toledo was also hugely influenced by the teeming wildlife of the region as well as by mythical creatures like the four-eyed fish that has two eyes for seeing the underwater world and two for seeing the world above. 

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Toledo went on to study and develop his craft in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Paris, where he was inspired by modern artists ranging from Picasso and Miró to his own mentor, Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo. His artwork has been described as “a dizzying bestiary that is part ancient codex, part intensely modern graffiti.” It invokes the Mesoamerican concept of the nahual – the shapeshifter that possesses the shamanic ability to transform from human to animal form.

Nahual, from the Borgia Codex Public Domain

These images drawn from Mexico’s mythical past are presented with a sophistication that speaks to the modern age. And in 2018, one of Toledo’s paintings sold for over a million dollars!

“Alternative Nobel Prize” for Promoting and Protecting Oaxacan Cultural Heritage

In 2005, Francisco Toledo was honored with a Right Livelihood Award (the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) “for devoting himself and his art to the protection and enhancement of the heritage, environment and community life of his native Oaxaca.”

Toledo’s Work Promoting the Cultural Heritage of Oaxaca

 Francisco Toledo founded numerous artistic and cultural institutions in Oaxaca, including:

  • Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca
  • Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca
  • Jorge Luis Borges Library for the Blind
  • Manuel Álvarez Bravo Photographic Center
  • Santo Domingo Cultural Center
  • Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca
  • Eduardo Mata Asiasín Sound Library
  • Oaxaca Paper Art Workshop
  • San Agustín Arts Center, the first center for ecological art in Latin America
  • Ediciones Toledo publishing house 

In addition to all that, he brought children’s libraries to indigenous communities. Francisco Toledo was also a strong voice for social equality and human rights – all while constantly expanding his large body of artwork.

Always dressed in his simple peasant manner, you’d never know that this approachable, humble man was a world-renowned artist! In many ways, the man known as “El Maestro” captures the essence of the Mexican character: a complex and contradictory marriage of primitive and sophisticated impulses into one mystical whole.

 
JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Mexicans Know How to Have Fun - And How to Recover from It September 26 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

So, you’ve been enjoying time with friends and loved ones and have had a bit too much to drink. Where can you turn for help the next morning? Well, I suggest you pay attention to what Mexicans do. After all, they’re renowned for being both fun loving and resilient. Mexicans certainly have plenty of experience overindulging, considering their long history with spirits such as pulque, charanda, mezcal, and tequila. So it’s not surprising that there are a number of Mexican hangover cures that may help you recover after you’ve had too much fun.

The Day After by Edvard Munch
Public Domain 

The Mexican Breakfast of Champions 

My favorite Mexican cure for la cruda is also my favorite Mexican breakfast. Chilaquiles are made of lightly fried corn tortilla sections bathed in sauce and topped with cream and crumbly Mexican cheese.  Maybe the secret to their curing power is the perfect combination of carbs, protein, and grease. Maybe it’s the picante of the sauce. Or perhaps it’s entirely psychosomatic. Whatever the case, chilaquiles con huevos al gusto are easy to make at home using leftover tortillas, and they’re a great way to start your morning – especially those difficult ones.

Chilaquiles with a fried egg
Photo by Grueslayer, CC BY-SA 4.0 

Tacos and Tortas to Ease Your Hangover Pain

When it comes to carbs, protein, grease, and a bite of picante, a breakfast plate of chilaquiles isn’t the only Mexican dish that fills the bill. There are a few street vendor faves that could offer help recovering from a night on the town:

  • Tacos de Barbacoa: Whether you prefer them doroditos (golden-fried) or blanditos (soft), these beef-filled tacos will soak up any lingering alcohol in your system. They can be made spicy or bland with condiments, according to the state of your stomach lining. 
  • Tortas Ahogadas: “Drowned sandwiches” are a Jalisco thing where they take a bolillo (bread roll), stuff it with meat, and then soak it in spicy red sauce. Many a Guadalajareño swears by these flavorful soggy sandwiches to steady their nerves after a fun night out.
  • Carnitas: The “little meats” in these tacitos from Michoacán are made with pieces of tender, juicy pork that have been seasoned and slowly cooked before being chopped and folded into tortillas. Best eaten right away at the taco stand.

Mexican Stews that Soothe the Soul

While the US has its chicken soup, Mexico has its own traditional stews that are labored over for many hours and served at family gatherings, and thus they hold special places in the hearts and souls of the Mexican people. Their hearty broths, along with their status as comfort foods, also provide curative powers to those experiencing the pain of too much drink the night before. 

  • Menudo: Beef stomach in a garlicky sauce may not be for everyone; but for those who know and love it, there’s nothing better for a queasy stomach than a warm bowl of menudo.
  • Pozole: This hominy and meat stew is another Mexican comfort food that is considered a cure for colds, flu, and hangovers. It is enjoyed throughout the country, and it is so beloved that you really shouldn’t mess with authentic Mexican pozole unless you want to become the next Twitter meme! 

The Hair of the Chihuahua

This remedy for la cruda is more of a postponement than a cure. But if you’re going to go with “the hair of the dog that bit you,” make sure it’s a Mexican dog! A tangy, refreshing michelada will provide your body with salts, some protein, and a bit of a bite, even as you’re chasing your hangover with yet more beer. 

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Mexican Earthquakes, Resilience, and a Dog Named Frida September 17 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

With Thursday, 19 September 2019, marking the 34th anniversary of the devastating 1985 Mexico City earthquake, Mexicans will have another, more recent seismic event on their minds, as well. But despite the jarring coincidence of a second major earthquake rattling the city on the exact same date, the 2017 Puebla earthquake presents a different kind of story than that of a disaster made worse by government inaction and ineptitude. It’s a story of courage, hope, and resilience. And the face of that story is a heroic dog named Frida.

On Mexican Courage and Resilience in the Face of Disaster

Any earthquake is, of course, a huge tragedy for those who lose loved ones and/or homes. And the sensation of feeling the Earth below you shaking or the building you’re in swaying is pretty nerve-wracking, let alone witnessing entire concrete buildings collapsing to the ground! So the stories of people rushing in to try to help instead of running in the opposite direction in search of safety says so much about the nature of the many chilangos who did just that during the 2017 earthquake, a 7.1 quake, whose epicenter was determined to be just outside San Felipe Ayutla, Puebla, by the US Geological Survey.

Diego Luna says he was inspired by seeing Mexicans running into the danger zone to help:

A reporter from the Dallas Daily News also documented the resilience and solidarity of the Mexican people in the face of disaster and hardship, highlighting how a new generation of young Mexicans who weren’t around back in 1985 has taken it upon themselves to do whatever it takes to help their neighbors and move their country forward.  I mean, this snippet says it all: 

“’There is more courage in Mexico than in any other country I know,’ said John Womack, a historian at Harvard University and longtime expert on Mexico. ‘The resilience — strength of heart, corazon, courage — comes from family and from historically, for centuries, having to face disaster after disaster without much of a coherent state to help.’”

Volunteers moving debris in Colonia Obrera, Mexico City
Photo by ProtoplasmaKid, CC BY-SA 4.0 

Frida the Rescue Dog Goes Viral

The biggest hero to emerge from the 2017 terremoto was Frida the rescue dog. Frida became an international star after the Secretaria de Marina (SEMAR) posted this tweet about the loveable golden Labrador retriever several days before the Puebla quake, as she had been hard at work helping rescue people caught in the massive 8.2 Chiapas earthquake that had shaken much of the country on 9 September. 

Although there were other valiant rescue dogs that also helped save lives by going into dangerous situations in search of survivors, Frida was the most experienced among them. She and her handler, Israel Arauz Salinas, have even been honored with a statue in the city of Puebla along with a plaque that memorializes the pair as “symbols of the strength Mexicans can have when we decide to come together for great causes.” 

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

5 Fun Facts About Mexican Independence Day September 09 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

At about 11 p.m. on the night of Sunday, 15 September, 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will step onto a balcony of the National Palace to reenact the Grito de Dolores, the call to arms by the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the early hours of 16 September 1810 that marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence.

 
Balcony where the president of Mexico gives the annual Grito de Dolores
Photo by Flickr user Eric Menjívar, CC BY-SA 2.0 

Father Hidalgo’s call for an uprising is the historical event that Mexicans commemorate each year, and the president’s reenactment of the grito serves as the beginning of Mexican Independence Day celebrations, held on 16 September throughout the country.

To get you in the spirit of the upcoming fiestas patrias de México in mid-September, this blog post highlights five interesting facts regarding el Grito de Dolores and el Día de la Independencia.

1. Mexico’s Bell of Independence

The bell that AMLO will be ringing is the very same bell rung by Miguel Hidalgo back in 1810. In 1896, the bell was moved from the church in Dolores (now known as Dolores Hidalgo), Guanajuato to the National Palace in the heart of Mexico City.

Bell of Independence
Photo by Drkgk, CC0

2. El Grito de Dolores

The exact words of Hidalgo’s original Grito de Dolores were never documented by a first-hand witness, so no one will ever know what, exactly, he said. And it’s not at all certain that Hidalgo rang the bell to gather his parishioners, or that he was even able to gather much of a crowd. However, one account published on 28 September 1810 describes the event like this:

 “...E insultando á la religión y á nuestro soberano D. Fernando VII, pintó en su estandarte la imagen de nuestra patrona nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, y le puso la inscripción siguiente: Viva nuestra Madre Santísima de Guadalupe. Viva Fernando VII. Viva la América. Y muera el mal gobierno.” 

“...And insulting religion and our sovereign D. Fernando VII, he painted on his banner the image of our patron saint Our Lady of Guadalupe, and included the following inscription: Long live our Blessed Mother of Guadalupe. Long live Ferdinand VII. Long live America. And death to bad government.”

Banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe carried by Hidalgo and his insurgent militia
Author of photo unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0

3. Father Hidalgo: Father of the Nation

While Miguel Hidalgo is considered the “Father of the Nation” for being the instigator of Mexican independence from Spain, he never organized a disciplined fighting force or laid out a strategy beyond denouncing “bad government.” But his undisciplined and poorly armed army won early battles against royalist forces because they were caught off guard by the sudden rise of the insurgency.

4. Mexico’s Independence from Spain

Mexican independence from Spain was officially declared on 28 September 1821, after Agustín de Iturbide led the Ejército Trigarante (Army of the Three Guarantees) into Mexico City from the east, supposedly stopping along the way to enjoy a patriotic meal of chiles en nogada in the city of Puebla.

Entrance of the Trigarante Army to Mexico City in 1821
Public Domain

It was not until 1836 that Spain, under the rule of Isabella II, finally recognized Mexican independence. 

5. El Ángel de la Independencia in Mexico City

The remains of Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla are currently housed in the mausoleum at the base of the Monumento a la Independencia in Mexico City, along with those of other heroes of Mexican independence.

Monumento a la Independencia in Mexico City
Photo by Thomas Ledl, CC BY-SA 4.0
JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Tequila and Mezcal: Mexico's Iconic Agave Spirits September 01 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

For many people in the United States, the mention of tequila generally conjures up images of salt-rimmed margaritas and the strange ritual of licking salt off the back of your hand, slamming a shot of tequila, and then sucking on a lime wedge. But unless you’ve spent any time drinking with Mexicans in Mexico, you might be surprised to learn that margaritas aren’t as popular here as you’d think, given the drink’s ubiquity at Mexican restaurants and Cinco de Mayo festivities throughout the United States; and in the motherland, tequila is usually served neat and sipped rather than slammed. Furthermore, mezcal is a bigger deal than tequila in many parts of Mexico. 

So what gives? Why do gringos associate tequila with all things Mexican? Also, while Mexicans do have a thing for lime and salt – and their cultural genius did bring us the michelada – how did the gabachos come to be the ones adding salt, lime, and all kinds of other stuff to their tequila drinks when that’s not actually the Mexicans way? And what exactly is the difference between tequila and mezcal?


¡Mentes inquisitivas quieren saber!

Agave Spirits: A Short Primer

It all starts with the agave plant. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Aztecs fermented the sap of the agave to make an alcoholic drink used during religious ceremonies called pulque. Then, the Spanish started distilling agave in the 17th century. These distillates are called mezcal (also spelled “mescal”). The mezcal that comes from around the town of Tequila, Jalisco, was originally called “mezcal de Tequila.” Now this mezcal, which must be made from at least 51% blue agave to be labelled as “tequila.”

While there is a large market for tequila in nearby Guadalajara, regular mezcal – especially the stuff from Oaxaca – is more popular in pretty much the rest of Mexico.

How Tequila Became Popular in the United States: A Brief History 

According to that same article I linked to above, tequila was introduced to the United States at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was smuggled later into the country from Mexico during prohibition. Then there was that hit song about it by The Champs in the 1950s, followed by Jimmy Buffett’s song about Margaritaville in the 70s. 

Tequila: A Simple Guide

Tequila shots have by now become standard college-age drinking rituals in the United States, complete with that whole licking and sucking business, and margaritas are a must-have for every Mexican restaurant in the country. The reason? Probably because of the poor quality of the tequila that was, until recently, the only option available. If the bottle doesn’t say “100% Agave” on it, it’s been mixed with other sugars that could be anything from another type of agave to (yikes!) ethanol.

Nowadays, there are better options – options that don’t require a commitment to suffering a major hangover the next morning, if you’re willing to spend the money.

Types of tequila range from blanco, which is aged for less than 2 months, to extra añejo, which must be aged for 3 years or more in small oak barrels.

Mezcal: A Quick Word

In contrast to tequila, which is mostly produced industrially, mezcal is generally still handcrafted by small-scale producers using methods that have been passed down through the generations. Many mezcal producers add a gusano – the “worm,” though it’s actually a moth larva that infests agave plants – to each bottle, which adds a slightly salty flavor. 

Although mezcal culture is strongest in Oaxaca, more and more of this smoky agave spirit is being produced, sipped, and savored by people throughout Mexico as well as internationally.

So pour some tequilitos or mezcalitos for yourself and a few friends, and salud – enjoy!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/


Mexico is Super Chingón - Especially If You Know Mexican Spanish August 27 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

There are many benefits to being bilingual. The science is in on the lifelong cognitive advantages of being able to speak more than one language, including strengthening working memory and attention control, increasing problem solving and multitasking abilities, and staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There are also economic advantages, since knowing multiple languages can make you a hot commodity in the business world. But for people who are multilingual, it’s the personal, social, and cultural benefits that are most valued. And for native English speakers in the United States and Canada, the ability to speak even elementary Spanish gives them the enormous advantage of better understanding the people and culture of their other North American neighbor, Mexico.

Getting Mexican Jokes

Take Ford Quarterman of Where’s the Gringo fame, for example. Describing himself as being “100 por ciento gringo de los Estados Unidos” – while speaking impeccable Spanish – Ford explains why, after traveling to more than 50 countries, he decided to move to Mexico: 

Obviously, the guy loves Mexican people and Mexican culture, and it’s because he gets it. Since he speaks Spanish well, he understands that Mexican people are bromista (jokesters). How else would he know that he’s been the brunt of a joke when admitting that he likes spicy Mexican chiles, where chiles have the double meaning of a penis?

As he points out with that example, if a Mexican is making fun of you, it normally means that they like you. And he’s totally right to say that it seems that everything in Mexican Spanish has some double meaning. So I think it’s fair to say that being able to understand Mexican humor is as big a motivation for learning Spanish as singing pop songs, understanding Hollywood movies, or watching The Simpsons is for learning English!

Gabriel Vargas comic characters. Museo del Estanquillo, Mexico City
Photo by Fernan, CC BY-SA 4.0

Getting the Most out of the Mexican Experience

In that Where’s the Gringo video, Ford gives all the reasons why he thinks Mexico is amazing, citing the people, culture, natural treasures, history, food, alcoholic drinks, architecture, art, and music, and his enthusiasm is infectious. The thing is, in order to get the most out of the Mexican experience, you’ll want to know Spanish – and not just Spanish, but Mexican Spanish, with all of its nuance and innuendo.

Morelia, Michoacán
Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

Of course, the best way to learn Mexican Spanish is to go to Mexico and immerse yourself in it all, although it will help to get the fundamentals of the language down to some degree beforehand or while you’re there. As Ford and so many others are constantly pointing out, Mexicans as a whole are a friendly bunch, and they’re always proud to share their heritage with others and help visitors get to know why Mexico is super chingón!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

 


Chiles en Nogada: A Delicious Patriotic Mexican Treat August 12 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

There’s plenty to get excited about with Mexico’s fiestas patrias coming up; but one of the best things about late summer for Mexicans is that it’s time to bust out the chiles en nogada

If not the “national dish” of Mexico (there’s strong competition with mole for that title), chiles en nogada is certainly the most patriotic of Mexican dishes. This exquisite concoction that hails from the city of Puebla has a strong connection with Mexico's independence, and it is served throughout the country during the months of August and September, when the signature ingredients are in season. So let’s take a look at the tri-colored dish that serves as a delicious example of how Mexican cuisine is deeply intertwined with the history, culture, and identity of the Mexican people.

Chiles en Nogada: The Dish

Chiles en nogada consists of roasted poblano chiles that are stuffed with a stew of picadillo, fruit, and nuts, then bathed in a silky white walnut creme sauce and garnished with bright red pomegranate seeds and fresh green parsley.

Preparing Chiles en Nogada
Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are many variations on the stuffing, but it’s generally made with ground or chopped meat stewed with seasonal fruits such as apples, pears, and peaches, along with nuts, raisins, candied fruits, and spices, among other ingredients. Originally, acitrón, or crystalized cactus pulp, was used; but since the barrel cactus that this candy is made from is so slow growing that its use has caused it to become endangered, other crystalized fruits such as ate are substituted. The stuffed peppers may or may not be battered and fried.

Barrel cactus with acitrón
Photo  by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez, CC BY-SA 3.0

Traditionally, the walnuts for the nogada were peeled laboriously by hand and ground to a smooth paste with a metate, a mortar and pestle made of volcanic stone. Today, there are shortcuts you can take preparing the sauce, but it’s considered essential that the walnuts be freshly harvested, as older walnuts will ruin the rich flavor of this creamy sauce.

The pomegranate seeds will, of course, be fresh and in season at this time of year, and they add bright pops of flavor. More importantly, though, they provide their red color, which goes with the white sauce and the green parsley to create a remarkable culinary tribute to la bandera nacional de Mexico.

Half-peeled pomegranate
Image by Prathyush Thomas, GFDL 1.2

Chiles en Nogada: The Legend

While there are several different stories about its invention, but the most prevalent chiles en nogada creation story says that it was invented by the Augustinian nuns of the Santa Monica convent in Puebla. According to this legend, after signing the Treaty of Córdoba, which established Mexican independence from Spain, Agustín de Iturbide was traveling to Mexico City; and as he passed through the city of Puebla, the Augustinian nuns honored the war hero) with this special dish.

One version of this story also has it that the nuns were further motivated to create something extra special because the event occurred on the 28th of August – which is Saint Augustine Day, making it the general’s saint day.

Entrance of the Trigarante Army to Mexico City in 1821
Public Domain 

Chiles en Nogada:  The Traditions

While enjoyed throughout Mexico in the late summer, when stone fruits, pomegranates, and walnuts are in season, chiles en nodada are the pride of Puebla, and the dish is celebrated at the Feria de Chile en Nogada in San Andrés Calpan, Puebla during the first weeks of August.

This special dish is also eaten by many Mexicans on 28 August, Saint Augustine Day. However, the celebrations of the nation’s independence during the month of September bring out the love of patria; and for Mexicans, you can’t get more patriotic than eating amazing food that’s as rich in historical and cultural significance as it is in flavor and flair!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Mexican Food Abroad vs. Mexican Food in Mexico August 12 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Tacos and enchiladas on a combo plate filled out with rice and refried beans covered with a mound of melted yellow cheese and a dollop of sour cream – yeah, it sounds delicioso, but that’s not something you’re likely to find at a restaurant in Mexico. Even as the growing Mexican-American population has been raising the visibility of authentic Mexican cuisine across the United States, there’s still a disconnect between what people outside Mexico think of as Mexican food versus what the food is actually like in Mexico. Here are a few examples.

Cheesy Mexican-American food
Photo by Alexandra Golovac on Unsplash

Nachos are Not Really Mexican

Let’s get just this one out of the way to start with: Nachos are not really Mexican. Although the mythology has it that nachos were invented by a guy called Nacho in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, it should be understood that the plate of totopos topped with melted cheese and jalapeños was supposedly created for a group of gringas who were hungry at a time of day when Mexicans don’t usually eat meals.

What you will find in some restaurants in Mexico is that totopos may be brought to the table as an appetizer along with pico de gallo or other salsas piquantes, although you’re just as likely to receive bread or rolls.

Mexicans Aren’t Cheeseheads

If the nacho creation story is true, I guarantee that those first ones were not coated with Velveeta or any other type of processed cheese product that has nothing to do with actual cheese besides the name.

So what kind of cheese might Nacho have used? Maybe queso Chihuahua, which was introduced to Mexico by Mennonites and is the closest thing there is to cheddar in the country. Other possibilities would be queso asadero and queso manchego, which also melt well. 

Note that none of these cheeses even comes close to the sharpness of cheddar or the strong flavors of many European cheeses, and that Monterey Jack is often used for Mexican-American dishes precisely because of its mild flavor.

As for the impression that there’s lots of melted cheese involved in authentic Mexican food – it’s just not true. Queso panela, queso doble crema, and requesón are used for different purposes, but if there is a cheese topping on hot food, it’s likely to be salty, crumbly queso Cotija. In general, Mexico is not much of a cheese culture.


Tex-Mex and Other Varieties of Mexican-American Cuisine

Until fairly recently, many foods that passed as Mexican were actually Tex-Mex, including chili con carne, fajitas, and chimichangas. I grew up thinking that those envelopes of chili powder and taco seasoning for the ground hamburger we used to put into pre-formed hard taco shells held the flavors of Mexico, only to learn that the cumin in those is peculiar to San Antonio and the Moroccan influence of workers brought over from the Canary Islands by the Spanish during the 16th century. In reality, chili powders in Mexico have salt and lime flavoring but not cumin.

And of course, the other border states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California have made their unique contributions – take New Mexico green chiles, for example – and cities from New York to L.A. have their own riffs on Mexican-American cuisine.

The Farther Away from Mexico You Get...

Don’t assume that you’ll find Mexican food throughout Latin America, because the farther away from Mexico you get, the less likely you are to find authentic flavors and textures of the real thing. Argentina and Chile are a long way away and lack the indigenous influences that exist in Mexico.

Also, if you ever find yourself in Australia craving Mexican food, be warned! There aren’t many Mexicans in this far-flung corner of the world. But that hasn’t stopped enterprising Chileans from posing as Mexicans, opening Mexican restaurants, and serving food that resembles Mexican food – or at least what they believe to be Mexican food (marinara sauce and salsa roja are interchangeable, right?!)

The moral of the story, kids, is that if you want real, authentic Mexican food, come to Mexico!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Lucha Libre: A Mexican Phenomenon that went Worldwide August 01 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Superheroes may have hit the big time for the rest of the world starting in the 2000s (witness X-Men, Spider-Man, The Incredibles, and the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example); but Mexico has had its own living, breathing superheroes ever since El Santo stepped into the wrestling ring wearing his legendary silver mask back in 1942. Thus began the tradition in lucha libre of masked wrestlers, who have become Mexican folk heroes, representing the battle between Good and Evil in the ring as well as on the silver screen and in comic books, video games, and beyond.

Lucha libre masks
Photo by Larry Costales on Unsplash

While Mexico’s freewheeling freestyle pro wrestling characters have both entertained and inspired multiple generations of Mexicans for over half a century, lucha libre has also been making its mark on the wider world on a number of fronts – and that’s what this article is here to celebrate.

Lucha Libre in the United States

The US audience was not exposed to lucha libre until the When Worlds Collide event in 1994, which is billed by the WWE Network as “The best pay-per-view you’ve never seen.” Nowadays, folks in the United States can watch weekly broadcasts produced by el Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre on Galavisión and LA TV Spanish language cable networks. 

Lucha Underground also continues to promote events in the United States, in addition to the four seasons of the TV series they have produced so far.

And if you’re up for the ultimate spectacle, there’s LA-based Lucha VaVOOM, joining burlesque, comedy, and Mexican wrestling together into one high-energy extravaganza.

 
El Hijo de Santo vs. Blue Demon Jr.
Photo by Flickr user danksy, CC BY 2.0

Lucha Libre Cinema in English

Although there were many lucha libre films produced in the 1960s and early 70s, only four of the 52 movies starring El Santo, “the John Wayne of Mexican cinema,” were dubbed into English and distributed in the United States:

  • Santo contra los zombis (1961), a.k.a. Invasion of the Zombies
  • Santo contra las Mujeres Vampiro (1962), a.k.a. Samson vs. the Vampire Women
  • Santo en el museo de cera (1963), a.k.a. Samson in the Wax Museum
  • Santo contra el doctor Muerte (1973), a.k.a. Santo Strikes Again, The Masked Man Strikes Again 
El Santo statue in Tulancingo, Hidalgo
Photo by Marrovi, CC BY-SA 4.0

Then, in tribute to the fabulously campy original lucha libre films, a trilogy of movies starring another renowned Mexican luchador was produced in English, starting with Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (Mil Mascaras: Resurrection) in 2007, followed by Academy of Doom (Mil Mascaras: Academy of Doom) in 2008 and Aztec Revenge (Mil Mascaras: Aztec Revenge) in 2015 – thus introducing the drama and fun of lucha libre to whole new audiences around the world.

More Lucha Libre in American Pop Culture

You know you’ve achieved true success when you’ve reached cartoon status; and indeed, the ethics of the lucha libre hero have been illustrated to children across the English-speaking world through the El Santo inspired animated TV series ¡Mucha Lucha!, where nearly everyone in the town of Luchaville has their own mask, costume, and signature wrestling move. 

For adults, there’s the book trilogy and FX series by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan called The Strain, which follows a retired luchador known as Angel de la Plata.

And finally, we can’t talk about the effect lucha libre has had on the American psyche without mentioning the movie Nacho Libre, starring Jack Black as a priest-turned-luchador. The movie was inspired by a real-life Mexican priest who wrestled under the name Fray Tormenta.

Lucha libre
Photo by Joe Hernandez on Unsplash

 

At Shoptezuma, we have several t-shirts that celebrate Lucha Libre, check them out here:

¡Viva Lucha Libre!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Mexico's Best Summer Eco-Adventure Activities July 25 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

If you haven’t yet been convinced about why you should visit Mexico this (and every!) summer with our recent festival listings (July and August) or our favorite off-the-beaten-track beaches, then maybe one of these extraordinary Mexican eco-adventures will entice you!

Swim with Whale Sharks in their Summer Breeding Grounds

One way to experience amazing sea life in Mexico is to swim with whale sharks in the warm waters of their summer breeding grounds off the coast of Cancún. Don’t worry, they’re neither whales nor sharks; rather, they are fish – the largest fish in the ocean, in fact! You can book tours to visit with these gentle giants of the sea from Cancún, Isla Holbox, or Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, where the annual Whale Shark Festival takes place in July.

 
Whale shark

More Great Mexican Snorkeling Spots

Mexico has many great snorkeling spots, and they’re not all in the ocean, as the cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula also provide for some interesting underwater experiences. One of the best is the Dos Ojos system of cenotes near Tulum.

Meanwhile, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which begins at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, encompasses several protected areas and parks, including Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Arrecifes de Xcalak National Park, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, and Cayos Cochinos Marine Park.

Then there’s Cancún’s Museo Subacuático de Arte, an artificial reef that’s also a haunting underwater sculpture museum.

On the west coast of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez also offers clear waters and beautiful sea life to explore, as well.

Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash 

Mexican Sea Turtle Conservation Programs

Mexican beaches serve as nesting grounds for different types of endangered sea turtles including hawksbills, loggerheads, letherbacks, and green turtles. Although there are opportunities to volunteer to help protect eggs and release hatchlings into the ocean throughout the year, the high season for these important conservation activities is between May and November. And although there are many places where you can participate (most hotels can help with local bookings), the most well-established turtle rescue and educational program is the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga of Mazunte, Oaxaca. Other Mexican sea turtle hotspots include Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, as well as Akumal Bay, X'Cacel Beach, and Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in the Yucatán.

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash 

Explore Yucatán Wildlife at Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve isn’t just a turtle hangout – it’s over 520,000 hectares of protected area of “intricately linked marine, coastal, and terrestrial ecosystems” made up of tropical forests, marshes, wetland savannahs, and the coral reef system that are home to hundreds of animals, including over 300 types of birds, and around four thousand plant species. Sian Ka’an also contains several archeological sites, as well.

Chill Out at Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas

Sand and salt water not your thing? Head to Lagunas de Montebello National Park for an encounter with nature on the high plains of Chiapas. At altitudes between 1,500 and 1,800 meters (about 4,900 to 5,900 feet), this national park encompasses 59 lakes that are famous for their striking colors, which vary according to their mineral content. It’s a great summer vacation spot for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. This beautiful park also holds cenotes and limestone caves as well as impressive vistas and the Mayan ruins of Chinkultic.

Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas

Magical Encounters with Fireflies

Make the best of Mexico’s summer rainy season, typically from June through August, by surrounding yourself with fireflies at one of central Mexico’s firefly sanctuaries – or santuarios de luciérnagas – in the states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, and Mexico. Not only will you have an unforgettable, magical experience the whole family will enjoy, but also, you will be supporting more sustainable forestry practices in the heart of Mexico.

Photo by toan phan on Unsplash

As these eco-adventure parks and activities prove once again, Mexico is filled with beauty and wonderment!

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Beaches in Mexico July 11 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

So you want to hit the beach on your summer vacation in Mexico – but not a crowded beach with tourist prices. So where should you go? If you’re looking to truly escape to a place where there might not even be a cell signal, there are countless secluded and less-developed beaches strung all along Mexico’s extensive coastlines.

With far too many to mention in one article, here are a few of the best off-the-beaten-path Mexican beaches for those who are willing to do a bit of exploring to achieve that extra special beach experience this summer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

El Tecolote, Baja California Sur

25 km north of La Paz on State Highway 11

El Tecolote Beach is an excellent alternative to the crowded, overpriced beach tourism scene in Cabo San Lucas. With its stretches of fine white sand, warm water, gentle waves, and stark desert beauty all around, you can enjoy your solitude without being too solitary. Available activities include water sports, sampling some of the best fish tacos on the planet, and visiting isla Espíritu Santo, which is part of a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve in el mar de Cortes.

Coastline of La Paz, Baja California Sur

Los Alaya, Nayarit

A few clicks west of Rincón de Guayabitos

Located just about an hour and a half north of Puerto Vallarta by car, Los Alaya is a small beach town that’s perfect for a family getaway. Although this beach may not exactly be a hidden oasis of solitude, the surrounding cliffs help ensure that it doesn’t get as crowded as nearby Guayabitos can get during the tourist season. And for a more intimate experience, you can take a boat from Los Alaya to visit the small, secluded beaches tucked away among the crags just down the shoreline.

Guayabitos Beach, Nayarit

Tenacatita, Jalisco

90 km north of Manzanillo, Colima

Tenacatita is on the “Costalegre” – the string of Pacific capes, bays, and beaches along the Jalisco coastline stretching from Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo. Tenacatita is located out on the small peninsula that forms the western edge of la bahía de Tenacatita and is the most remote of the six beaches that line that bay. And actually, there are so many great beaches along the Costalegre that you can situate yourself at any one of them and hire pangas to take you to different beaches throughout your stay.

Beaches of Costalegre

Maruata, Michoacán

2 hours down the coast from Tecomán; 3 hours up the coast from Lázaro Cárdenas

The coast of Michoacán is remota y selvática, with some sections of Highway 200 winding precariously in and out among the Sierra Madre del Sur as they plunge down into the océano Pacífico. But all efforts to get to Playa Maruata are more than worth it. There are multiple beaches at this established hippie hangout, including a pristine crescent beach with great swimming and snorkeling, a sheltered arc riddled with caves, tunnels, and blowholes, and a secluded cove for nude sunbathing.

Coast of Michoacán

Mazunte, Oaxaca

10 km west of Puerto Ángel

At the most southerly point of Oaxaca sits Punta Cometa and a laid-back paradise called Playa Mazunte. The small beach town of the same name is home to the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga aquarium and research center, which focuses on education and preservation of turtle species, while the rocky point serves as an important stopover for migratory birds and aquatic mammals such as whales.

Playa Mazunte, Oaxaca

Punta Xen, Campeche

90 km southwest of Campeche City

Heading over to the Gulf of Mexico side of la península de Yucatán, just down the coast from Campeche City, you will find a long stretch of tranquil, gorgeous beaches known as Punta Xen. On the far side of the peninsula from the resorts of the Riviera Maya, Punta Xen can be a good base for exploring some of the less-visited Mayan sites such as Edzná, Becán, and Calakmul.

Pyramid at Edzná, Campeche

 

Whether it’s for family fun or a romantic getaway, you’re sure to find something special and extraordinary when you get away from the crowds – and the higher prices – and head to one of the lesser-known beaches that Mexico’s coastlines have to offer.

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

August Festivals Highlighting the Best of Mexico, from Sawdust Carpets to Classical Guitars July 04 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

It’s summertime, one of the best times to travel to Mexico because, among other reasons, there are so many great festivals and events going on throughout the country. Our last blog post in this series highlighted a variety of July festivals in Mexico; so now, it’s time to learn a little about what’s going on south of the border this August so you can plan to attend a fun event during your summer vacation in Mexico. And be sure to check back with us over the next few weeks for even more great Mexico summer vacation ideas. 

Feria Nacional de Huamantla – Huamantla, Tlaxcala – 2-18 August 

The Feria Nacional de Huamantla is the event of the year in the state of Tlaxcala, attracting more than 800,000 people from Mexico and around the world to the town of Huamantla. Throughout the entire first half of August, the city hosts social, cultural, artisanal, sports, equestrian, automotive, and bullfighting events, as well as a carnival, all either at low cost or free.

The main attraction is La Noche Que Nadie Duerme, which takes place on 14 August. Throughout the day, the streets of Huamantla will be covered with over 10 km of colorful “carpets” made of sawdust, flower petals, and other organic materials creating beautiful designs in preparation for the midnight procession in honor of Our Lady of Charity, the patron saint of the town. Then, on Saturday, 17 August, La Huamantlada will again fill the streets, this time for the thrilling running of the bulls.

Huamantla carpet of sawdust

XXVI Encuentro Internacional del Mariachi y de la Charreria – Guadalajara – 23 Aug - 1 Sept 

Guadalajara’s twenty-sixth annual Encuentro Internacional del Mariachi y de la Charreria showcases world-class mariachis, rodeos, traditional dance, and other cultural events, with the Concierto Magno featuring Filippa Giordano, Natalia Jiménez, and Yuri performing together in an exclusive mariachi ensemble on Saturday, 31 August. 

LXXIV Feria Internacional de la Uva y el Vino de Parras 2019 – Parras, Coahuila – August

Parras de la Fuente, in the northern state of Coahuila, is not only the birthplace of winemaking in the Americas, but also the host of a month-long celebration of the 400-plus-year-old tradition of winemaking in the region. The LXXIV Feria Internacional de la Uva y el Vino de Parras begins on Friday, 2 August, with the coronation and initiation of the queen of this year’s festival, and they continue with grape harvest festivals at local wineries each weekend in August. International exhibitors will participate in the festival, along with all the wine houses from the Parras Valley.

Church of Saint Madero, Parras, Coahuila

Fiesta de la Vendimia 2019 – Ezequiel Montes, Querétaro – 2-4 August

August is the grape harvest season throughout Mexico, and another great celebration of wines, food, and music is the Fiesta de la Vendimia at Finca Sala Vivé in the Bernal Valley of Querétaro state. There will be artisanal cheeses and food pairings as well as a bazaar, tours of the deepest wine cellar in Latin America, musical entertainment, a children’s area, and grape stomping for the whole family.


Underground wine cellar

8th Annual Baja Blues Fest – Rosarita Beach, Baja California – 9-11 August

If beaches and blues music is more your thing, head to Rosarito for the Baja Blues Fest for some fun in the sun. With the stage set up just yards away from the Pacific Ocean, this year’s lineup will feature the blazing-hot soul-blues rocker Tommy Castro.

Rosarito Beach

XLIV Festival de Guitarra de Paracho 2019 – Paracho, Michoacán – 4-9 August 

Or, you might want to head to the hills to cool off and enjoy a lineup of internationally acclaimed classical guitarists at the Paracho Guitar Festival. While you’re there, you can pick up a beautiful handmade guitar and shop for some of the artesanias that the Purépechas of the region are so famous for. 

Of course, there are lots more festivals and events throughout Mexico in August, ranging from cultural events to fishing tournaments to one of the largest biker events in CDMX. So check them out, and watch for more articles in our series on vacaciones de verano en México for more summer travel ideas.

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/

Top July Festivals in Mexico, from Cultural Celebrations to Artesenal Beer June 27 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

In the previous Shoptezuma Love for Mexico blog post, about el inicio de verano, I discussed the top reasons why you should travel to Mexico this (and every) summer. So now, I’d like to highlight some of events being held in Mexico this July so you can be sure to include a colorful outdoor festival, intriguing film festival, or other great event into your vacation plans – you’ll be amazed at the range of activities going on! And be sure to check back with us over the next few weeks for even more great Mexico summer vacation ideas. 

Guelaguetza Festival – Oaxaca – 1-31 July

The Guelaguetza Festival celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Oaxaca’s many different cultural traditions, with the Lunes del Cerro main events taking place in a hilltop auditorium on the last two Mondays of the month (22 and 29 July).

In addition to the two shows at the Guelaguetza auditorium, where the 17 ethnic groups come together to pay homage to Oaxaca with their traditional music, dance, clothing, and gastronomy, the entire month of July is filled with activities in Oaxaca City as well as in nearby villages, including dance performances, balls, parades, offerings of regional foods, mezcal tastings, artesania fairs, fireworks, and the epic theatrical presentation of la Historia de la Princesa Donají.

Feria Nacional Durango 2019 – Durango – 19 July - 4 August

The Feria Nacional Durango celebrates Mexico´s cultura ranchera and much more with everything from rodeos and sporting events to forums, fairs, and expos to a jardín de las artesanias, a short-film festival, and a schedule of entertainment that features Maluma as the headliner.

Charros participating in a charreada in Mexico

XXII Guanajuato International Film Festival – San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato – 19-28 July

In case you haven’t heard, Mexico is in the throes of a revolution – in cinema. So if you love movies, don’t miss the Guanajuato International Film Festival, which has become “the most important platform for young filmmakers in Latin America.” The movie screenings, concerts, conferences, and workshops that take place at various venues in two of Mexico’s most picturesque cities – starting in San Miguel de Allende and then moving to Guanajuato City – are all free to attend.


 
Guanajuato, Jalisco, Mexico
Photo by Dennis Schrader on Unsplash 

CantoyaFest 2019 – Pátzcuaro, Michoacán – 19-21 July

CantoyaFest is a family-friendly festival that fills the skies over Pátzcuaro with hundreds of colorful paper balloons for a weekend each July. Drawing people from around the world to compete in different categories, this year’s theme will highlight animals in danger of extinction.

12th Annual Whale Shark Festival – Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, 19-21 July

If you’d like to actually get up close and personal with an endangered species while vacationing in the Caribbean, check out the Whale Shark Festival on Isla Mujeres. Festivalgoers will learn about these gentle giants of the sea and the importance of ecotourism as well as finding plenty of activities for kids of all ages.

 
Whale shark

Vans Surf Open Acapulco by Corona 2019 – Acapulco, Guerrero – 12-14 July

If sun, sand, and surfing is your thing, then head to Acapulco in mid-July for the Surf Open Acapulco surfing competition. Top surfers from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America will be strutting their stuff on the swells off of Playa Revolcadero.

 
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash 

Bierfest Orizaba – Orizaba, Veracruz – 18-21 July

If you would rather just drink good beer, then Bierfest Orizaba in Orizaba, Veracruz, will be just the event for you. Featuring both Mexican and international cervezas artesanales as well as the regional gastronomy, this year’s festival has Poland as the invited country.
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

So as you can see, there are festivals and events of all types – and this is just a sampling of what’s going on in Mexico this July!

The next article in this series on vacaciones de verano en México will present some of the events that will be held in August this year, and other articles will take a look at other types of activities you might like to make part of your summer vacation.

JULIE R BUTLER IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR LIVING IN PÁTZCUARO, MICHOACÁN. SHE HAS 20-PLUS YEARS' EXPERIENCE EXPLORING MÉXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, ARGENTINA, AND URUGUAY. IN ADDITION TO WRITING ABOUT THE WONDERS OF LIVING IN MÉXICO, SHE SPECIALIZES NEW TECHNOLOGIES – PARTICULARLY, HYDROPONICS AND SMART-CITY TECH. ONLINE PORTFOLIO: HTTPS://JULIERBUTLER.CONTENTLY.COM/