Love for Mexico

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!

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/

Why You Should Travel to Mexico this (and every) Summer June 19 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Summer officially begins on Friday 21 June, when the sun reaches its most southerly point in the sky. The beginning of summer means school is out, the temperature heats up, and the outdoor festival season kicks in. It also means it’s time for relaxation and fun in Mexico. Read on to learn the top reasons why summer is one of the best times to vacation in Mexico.

Mexico’s Terrain Offers Many Appealing Summertime Destinations

Many people think of Mexico as a place to go to in the winter to escape the cold and snow. And there’s a tendency to assume that the farther south you go, the hotter the temperature gets. But Mexico is a big country that has everything from dry deserts to tropical forests, fertile valleys to snow-capped mountains. And with its extensive coastlines and mountainous terrain, that just isn’t the case.

Yes, it can get scorching hot in desert regions that are just south of the US border. But on the coasts, summertime temperatures aren’t as extreme, remaining in the mid-80s to 90s. Just take a dip in the ocean or chill out with a cold beverage in a hammock under a palapa, and you’re good to go!

For cooler temperatures, head to higher altitudes. In cities like Mexico City, which is at 2,250 meters, (7,400 feet) and San Cristóbal de las Casas, at 2,200 meters (7,200 feet.), you can enjoy vibrant and intriguing cultural centers while beating the heat in lower lying areas of the country.


The Summer Rainy Season in Mexico

In addition to hotter temperatures, verano in Mexico also means rain and possibly even hurricanes. But the daily rainstorms that are responsible for transforming the brown dry-season landscape lush and green often don’t occur until later in the day, so you can usually still enjoy outdoor activities under clear blue skies throughout most of Mexico’s rainy season.

As for hurricanes, the season officially begins in June; but it’s not until August that the hurricane season really kicks in, so your chances of being caught in one of these weather events is much smaller during the early months of summer in Mexico.

Off-Season Deals at Mexico’s Popular Beach Resorts

There are several great things about visiting Mexico during the off-season. One is that you can find great bargains on airfare, hotels, and excursions, if you decide to hit the beaches in and around the resort towns of Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancún. Plus, you may just find that you have the place all to yourself.

Summertime Eco-Adventures and Surfing in Mexico

Initio de verano brings some wonderful opportunities for nature lovers to encounter whale sharks and sea turtles in Mexico. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, and you can swim with them in their summer breeding grounds in the warm, plankton-rich waters north of Cancun.

Summer is also the egg-laying season for sea turtles, when you can observe females as they arrive at beaches throughout Mexico to nest and lay their eggs. You can even participate in helping save these amazing creatures from extinction by volunteering in conservation efforts to ensure that the eggs hatch and the hatchlings make it into the ocean.

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Also, surf’s up on the Pacific coast of Mexico. From Ensenada to Puerto Escondido, summer is the time of year when you can catch the best waves.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Mexico Summer Festivals

Finally, there’s a wealth of festivals and events that take place over the summer all over Mexico, from folklóricos and film to wine, food, and music. July festivals include a traditional dance festival in Oaxaca and a colorful balloon festival in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, while you may enjoy August festivals featuring mariachis in Guadalajara cinema in Monterrey.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

With so many great reasons to visit Mexico in the summertime, there’s something for everyone in 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/

Día del Padre: Bringing Families Together June 14 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

This year, el día del padre falls on Sunday, 16 June. Unlike el día de la madre, this holiday celebrating fathers occurs on the same day in both the United States and Mexico every year. Both countries have designated their Father’s Day holidays to the third Sunday in June, recognizing the importance of having it on a weekend so it’s easier for most families to spend the day together.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

The Origins of El Día del Padre: Feast of Saint Joseph

El día del padre has been celebrated in Catholic Europe at least as far back as the Middle Ages in the form of the Feast of Saint Joseph. That would be the same Joseph who went with Mary to Bethlehem and witnessed the miraculous birth of Baby Jesus and went on to raise the Christ Child as his own.

Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus

The Secular Father’s Day in the Americas

The Spanish and Portuguese brought the Feast of Saint Joseph to Latin America, and it was later brought to the United States by Italian immigrants. But while this feast day continues to be basically the Father’s Day celebration, held on 19 March, in those European countries to this day, a new, secular holiday was conceptualized in the United States at the dawn of the 20th century. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that it finally became an official national holiday.

Today, many countries in the Americas celebrate el día del padre on the third Sunday in June. Some Latin American nations have designated different dates to honor their fathers, while only Bolivia and Honduras continue to follow the original Catholic Feast of Saint Joseph tradition.

Photo by Deviyahya on Unsplash

Appreciating Fathers and Families

In the spirit of showing gratitude for our father figures – those amazing men who have been there to provide for us, protect us, comfort us, and mentor us – there will be backyard barbecuing, picnicking in the park, frolicking at the beach, and other activities that Dad will enjoy. There will also be hand-made cards from the kids and maybe gifts of “Best Dad Ever” coffee cups or novelty socks or irreverent T-shirts. But the greatest gift of el día del padre is the sense of family that this holiday invokes, whether you’re in Mexico or the United States... and even if your family members are spread out in different places.

Photo by Jo Jo on Unsplash

Celebrating the Love Between a Father and His Child

When it comes to musical celebrations of the love between a father and his child, none is more moving and beautiful than Tu sangre en mi cuerpo, the soulful duet by Mexican singer Ángela Aguilar sung by her and her father, Pepe Aguilar:

 

¡Feliz día del padre a todos!

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 Cuisine: Mexican Identity and Local Diversity June 10 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Remember when the cofounder of Latinos for Trump, Marco Gutierrez, warned that there would be “taco trucks on every corner” in the United States if something wasn’t done to stem immigration of Latinos into the country?

By WhisperToMe, Public Domain

He probably didn’t know that traditional Mexican cuisine is considered a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO – and this cuisine, of course, includes tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and so many other wonderful foods that have been developed and enjoyed by Mexican people for thousands of years.

Authentic Mexican Food vs. Tex-Mex

Despite the image abroad of all Mexican food being various combinations of beans, rice, and flour tortillas topped with a ton of melted cheese and maybe some flaming hot salsa, those who know the real Mexico are familiar with the amazing diversity of foods, flavors, and cooking styles in different regions of the country. In fact, many of the dishes served in “Mexican” restaurants outside of Mexico, such as nachos, chimichangas, fajitas, and chili con carne, are actually Tex-Mex inventions.

Chimichangas

The Ancestral Mexican Diet

The ancestral Mexican diet was based on maize, beans, and chiles. Chia seeds were the third most important crop cultivated by the Aztecs, according to Jesuit chroniclers. And amaranth – another ancient staple now considered a “superfood” – served as an important source of protein.

Day of the Dead skulls made of amaranth and honey

Other important foods enjoyed by pre-Columbian Mexicans include:

  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Edible flowers
  • Cactus
  • Avocados
  • Epazote
  • Vanilla
  • Cacao

Spanish Influence on Mexican Cuisine

When the conquistadors took power over the Aztec Empire, the Spaniards banned foods like amaranth that were used in religious ceremonies while introducing livestock such as pigs, chickens, and cattle as well as crops such as sugar cane, wheat, and rice. Along with pork came pork fat and the new cooking method of frying. Cows as well as sheep and goats brought the introduction of dairy into the Mexican diet. With chickens came eggs. And with wheat came bread. None of these present-day staples existed before the Spanish invasion.

There were also foods like mangoes and tamarind that arrived from Asia on the Manila Galleons – the Spanish trading ships that sailed back and forth across the Pacific Ocean between Acapulco and the Philippines. And although it’s hard to imagine Mexican food without onions, garlic, and cilantro, these, too, are foods that became staples in Mexican pantries thanks to the Spanish.

Cilantro leaf

Mexican Bolillos and Sweet Breads: The French Connection

The French also left a lasting impression on the national cuisine in the form bolillos, conchas, and many other Mexican breads and sweet breads found at panaderías and pastelerías throughout Mexico.

Mexican bakery

Local Cuisine Specialties From Across Mexico

Although the ancestral staples of maize, beans, and chiles are part of the national identity of Mexico, there is at the same time an immense diversity of flavors and cooking styles across different regions of the country. Here is just a small sampling of the regional dishes that help make Mexican cuisine so varied and dynamic:

Monterrey cabrito

Cabrito: Roasted kid goat, a specialty of Monterrey and Northern Mexico

Birria: A spicy stew traditionally made with goat meat or mutton from Jalisco

Mole poblano: Complex sauce for chicken that includes tomatoes, nuts, raisins, bitter chocolate, aromatic spices, and several types of chiles

Carnitas: Tender pork tacitos from Michoacán

Tlayudas: Large crunchy tortillas with a spread of refried beans and toppings from Oaxaca

Huachinango a la Veracruzana: Baked snapper with tomato, olive, and caper sauce

Cochinita pibil: A marinated, slow-roasted pork dish popular in the Yucatán

Chipilín: A leafy vegetable that’s common throughout Southern Mexico

Mole poblano
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/

Behold Mexico's Amazing Biodiversity June 04 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Mexico is famously rich in culture, history, gastronomy, and natural beauty. But did you know that while it only makes up 1% of the land on Earth, Mexico contains 10%-12% of all the different types of living species on the planet?

Axolotl salamander

Mexico ranks #1 in biodiversity of reptiles, #2 in the number of mammal species, and #4 in amphibians and plants, while ranking fourth in the total number of species it hosts.

A member of the exclusive club of 17 nations known as “mega-diverse countries,” Mexico is also home to a large amount of species that only exist in one particular geographic location, and the country ranks second in the number of ecosystems that exist within its boundaries.

Why Mexico is so Rich in Biodiversity

One of the main reasons Mexico enjoys such rich biodiversity is because it’s in the tropics. But also, the country is muy montañoso, which creates multiple levels of altitude as well as pockets of unique microclimates that result in a variety of soils, climates, and habitats. Mexico also has two long coastlines, where the meeting of coastal dunes, mangroves, and lagoon systems with other ecosystems encourages biodiversity, and the country’s geography ranges from the rainforests of the southeast to temperate mountain forests in the center of the country to the deserts of the north, to name just a few of Mexico’s many ecoregions.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

Biodiversity is really important because every living thing plays some part in the ecosystem where it evolved; and the more different species there are, the more productive, resilient, and sustainable the ecosystem is.

The Laguna Miramar in the Lacandon Jungle

Mexico’s Rich Biodiversity Brought Us Maize and Zapote

Mexico’s rich biodiversity has played a huge role in shaping the region’s development reaching all the way back to when Mexicans began growing maize 9,000 years ago, since it provides an assortment of “natural services” including ecological processes like the soil formation and nutrient recycling that helped make the cultivation of maize possible.

And the wealth of plant biodiversity in Mexico has continued to influence the cultural development of the region since then. Maize may be the foundation of Mexican civilization, but ¿Qué sería México sin tomates, frijoles, calabaza, o los diversos chiles – o el cacao? Or “exotic” fruits like tuna, zapote, and pitaya, or veggies like chayote and jicama?

That’s biodiversity at work for you!

Mexico’s Biodiversity Provides Recreation and Tourism

With 182 federally protected natural areas covering more than 25 million hectares of land throughout the country, Mexico has a lot to offer nature lovers, outdoor sports enthusiasts, adventure travelers, and curious tourists alike, including 42 biospheres, 67 national parks, and a bunch of other designations that set the land aside to help protect the nation’s natural heritage and promote ecotourism in Mexico. People from all over the world come to Mexico to get a peek at wildlife ranging from huge wales to prowling jungle cats to delicate monarch butterflies to Xochimilco’s endangered axolotl salamanders – and so much more that Mexico has to offer!

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
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/

The Passion and Pride of Mexican Soccer Fans May 28 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

With the Liga MX Clausura 2019 wrapping up last week, the passion that Mexicans have for el juego bonito was once again on display. Saturday night’s semifinal was particularly emotional for the Tigres fans as well as the players, as they battled against los Rayados knowing that club legend Osvaldo Batocletti had passed away the previous day.

Sure, people around the world take great pride in their local and national sports teams. But Mexicans are world renowned for their fervor for fútbol.

Mexico against Argentina at the 2006 FIFA World Cup

El Tri: Connecting with Culture and Mexican-American Pride

What sets the Mexican men’s national soccer team apart from other national teams in terms of the size of the fanbase is the population of Mexican-Americans living in the States. Dan McCarney in San Antonio really put the massive popularity of El Tri in the United States in perspective when he reported:

“The Mexican-American population that backs El Tri so fervently would rank 38th among the world's 244 recognized countries and territories, not far behind Argentina (40 million) and Canada (35 million).”

The team’s biggest US-based fan group, Pancho Villa’s Army, has 5,000 members and over 30 chapters across the country. They even have corporate sponsors. It’s the connection with Mexican culture, along with a sense of family, that draws so many Mexican-Americans to become such devoted fans of El Tri, allowing them to be proud of their heritage while still being proud to be American.

Pancho Villa with members of the Constitutionalist Army

That Time When Fans Mexico City Triggered an Earthquake During the 2018 FIFA World Cup

If you need further proof of the extraordinary ebullience of El Tri fans, consider the reports that soccer fans in Mexico City set off a minor earthquake when El Tri scored the winning goal against Germany during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Apparently, seismologists are now saying that the seismometers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico don’t confirm the readings from small devices that picked up movement within people’s homes. Nevertheless, 75,000 people rushing the Zócalo after the goal is damn impressive on its own!

Mexican Fútbol Fans Abroad Represent the Spirit of Mexico

While fútbol fans in Mexico and the United States are definitely a passionate bunch, it’s when they are abroad that they really show the true spirit of the tricolors. Mexicans were a big hit in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, with one Russian making the keen observation that “the Mexicans are having the most fun.” Whether it was the oversized sombreros, the bueno rollo mexicano, or the sheer number of devoted fans that flooded into Russia and overpowered rival supporters in the stands, Mexican fans captivated the world with their dedication to their national fútbol team, the sport of soccer and having fun!

Mexico's fans at 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia


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 State Names are a Window into Mexican Culture May 14 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Do you know what the names of the Mexican states mean? Some honor important men, while most highlight the geography, natural resources, or people of the region in vivid terms. The majority of them derive from indigenous languages. And with the origins of many being obscured by time, there’s a touch mystery and magic attached to today’s familiar Mexican state names.

Mexican States Named After People or Distant Places

Guerrero is named after Vicente Guerrero, a leader of the Mexican War of Independence.

Hidalgo honors war hero and Father of the Nation Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

Morelos honors José María Morelos y Pavón, a brilliant military strategist and organizer during the struggle for independence.

Andrés Quintana Roo was an influential politician, lawyer, and author during the Mexican War of Independence.

San Luis Potosí honors Louis IX of France – and invokes the rich silver mines of Potosí in Bolivia for good luck.

Durango was named after a town in the Basque Country of Spain.

Nuevo León honors the Spanish Kingdom of León.

Mexican State Names with European Origins

Aguascalientes gets its name from the hot springs in the area.

California may come from the Latin calida fornax, “hot furnace.” Or, it could trace back to the 11th-century epic poem Song of Roland about the battles of Charlemagne.

The capital city of Puebla was originally called “Puebla de los Ángeles,” after Bishop Julián Garcés had a vision of angels descending from heaven to design the new city.

Upon arriving in Mexico on Good Friday of the year 1519, Hernán Cortéz dedicated the city now called Veracruz to the “True Cross” by naming it “Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz.”

Mexican State Names Originating from Nahuatl

Chiapas comes from Nahuatl chia (chia seeds) and apan (river), creating the name they gave the ancient Mayan city of Chiapan.

Chihuahua may derive from the Nahuatl word xicuahua and mean “dry and sandy place,” or come from other words meaning “between two rivers” or “the place of the perforated rock.”

Coahuila seems to combine the Nahuatl words coatl (serpent) and huila (to fly). An alternative theory is that it comes from quautli (trees) and la (abundance), for the pine-oak forests of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

Colima derives from the Nahuatl colimán (old mountain or volcano) and maitli (where the old god rules).

Jalisco comes from the Nahuatl xālixco, “sandy place.”

Mexico originates from the Nahuatl mexitli, meaning “navel of the moon.” The words metztli (moon), xictli (naval), and co (place) refer to the island city-state of Tenochtitlan on Lake Texcoco.

Michoacán, the home of the Purépechas and Lake Pátzcuaro, has a Nahuatl name that comes from the words mich (fish), hua (to have), and can (place).

Oaxaca derives from the Nahuatl word huāxyacac, the name for Leucaena leucocephala trees found around Oaxaca City that produce an edible pod called guaje.

Tlaxcala likely originates from the Nahuatl word tlaxcallān, “place of maize tortillas.”

Zacatecas comes from Nahuatl zacatēcah, “place of abundant grass.”

Mexican State Names Deriving from Other Indigenous Languages

Campeche is named after the Mayan city of Can Pech. The literal translation from Mayan means “snake and tick,” although it could also mean “place of Señor Sun Tick.”

Tabasco was the Mayan name of a river in the region, according to the chronicles of Bernal Díaz del Castillo.

Yucatán appears to actually come from Tobasco, where the Chontal Maya people, who call themselves Yokot’an, are from.

Guanajuato originates from Purépecha quianax (frog) and huasta (hill), describing the shape of the low, gentle mountains of the region.

Querétaro likely comes from the Purépecha word créttaro, “craggy place.”

The Cora people of Nayarit call themselves Náayerite in honor of one of their leaders.

Sinaloa probably comes from the Cáhita people of the region, with sina and lobola meaning “round pitahaya,” the bright red fruit of a cactus that grows there.

While there are legends about Sonora having to do with the word “señora,” historians believe it comes from the Opata word xunut or sonot (corn) and means “place of the corn.”

Tamaulipas comes from Huasteca, with the word tamaholipa translating to either “high mountains” or “place of much prayer.”

Celebrating Mexico’s Diversity

As you’ve seen each Mexican state name celebrates in some way the vibrant flavors, traditions, cultures, or history of the diverse people of Mexico.


References:

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/

Celebrating Mothers' Day Mexico-Style May 08 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Mexico celebrates Día de la Madre on Friday, 10 May, 2019, while in the United States, Mother’s Day will be celebrated on Sunday, May 12th this year. Only occasionally do the two countries observe the holiday together on the same day, when the 10th falls on the second Sunday in May. The last time it happened was in 2015, and it will happen again in 2020.

Photo by Julie Johnson on Unsplash

My First Día de la Madre in Mexico

The first time I was in Mexico for Día de la Madre, I had a magical experience!

On 9 May, my traveling partner and I drove from Palenque, Chiapas, to Catemaco, Veracruz. Intrigued by this lake town that’s famous for brujería, I was ready for something strange and wonderful to happen there.

Catemaco

After getting settled into our site at the campground in Catemaco, we were surprised to see the travelers we had said goodbye to that same morning in Palenque arriving. They were supposed to have gone to Mexico City, whereas we were heading north by more or less following the Gulf Coast. Well, apparently they’d been distracted and had missed their turnoff. But regardless of the reason, our unexpected reunion called for a celebration, and celebrate we did!

Later that night, I was awaken by the sounds of a small group of mariachis wafting gently to my ears from somewhere not too far away. I will never forget it. The music was so cheerful and sweet, it was a joy to hear it breaking through the stillness of the night, although I had no idea why they were out serenading in the streets at that late hour. I was absolutely enchanted.

When I mentioned the music to the others in our little group the next morning, however, they all thought I must have dreamed the whole thing, because I was the only one who had heard the mysterious nighttime strains. It had seemed so vivid; but then again, maybe it had been the beers. The experience had such an ephemeral quality to it that I was half convinced it had just been a lovely dream. Or perhaps it was the effect of some lingering witchcraft...

Well, it wasn’t until later that day, when we went into a grocery store in Xalapa, where we were visiting friends, that we discovered it was Día de la Madre because of all the cakes. It took a moment to register the fact that in Mexico, Mother’s Day is connected to a specific date and can occur midweek instead of always being on the second Sunday of the month, as in the States. But then it all clicked: I hadn’t just dreamed up that whimsical musical interlude after all. It had been a serenade for the mothers of Catemaco that began just after midnight!

Día de la Madre in Mexico

Día de la Madre in Mexico isn’t much different from holidays honoring mothers everywhere else in the world, with gifts, cards, and cakes, spending time together, or simply giving mom a day off. Except, of course, there’s a special song for the occasion that gives Día de la Madre in Mexico a distinctly Mexican flavor.

Here is the traditional version of Las Mañanitas to start your Día de la Madre celebration out right:


 

And here is something contemporary, with a bit of humor to keep your Mother’s Day light-hearted and fun:

 

In case you're looking for a last-minute gift for Mothers' Day, Shoptezuma is running a 20% off promotion across the store, but hurry up, we're only a few days away!

¡Feliz Día de la Madre a todos!

 

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/

The Meaning of Cinco de Mayo in Mexico and the US May 02 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is largely seen as an excuse to get together with friends and feast on tacos, guacamole, and margaritas, even though only 1 in 10 Americans know what Cinco de Mayo is actually about.

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

The Significance of Cinco de Mayo

Of course, anyone with connections to Mexico knows that Cinco de Mayo isn’t the Mexican equivalent of the Fourth of July – it’s not even a Mexican national holiday – and that it’s actually a celebration of the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on 5 May, 1862, that represents the capacity of the Mexican people to come together to defeat what was considered at the time the world’s most powerful army.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the city of Puebla with a huge parade along with battle reenactments, followed by music, dancing, and food. There’s also the Festival International 5 de Mayo, which lasts from 26 April through 12 May and features over 900 artists from nine different countries at 35 venues.

But why is Cinco de Mayo, which isn’t really commemorated much in Mexico except in Puebla, celebrated in the United States at all?

The Cinco de Mayo – U.S. Civil War Connection

Did you know that the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the States occurred in 1862, when Mexicans and other Latin Americans who had gone to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 were showing their support for the Union during the U.S. Civil War?

When Latin American countries won their independence from Spain, the new nations abolished slavery and provided citizenship to all people, regardless of race or social standing. So naturally, the Mexicans in California and elsewhere in the West were on the side of the Union in opposition to slavery during the U.S. Civil War. Plus, as people of color, many saw the prospect of a Confederate victory as a personal threat.

When news reports about the scrappy Mexicans’ defeat of the mighty French military reached them, they joined together in juntas patrióticas to not only celebrate the unlikely victory at Puebla but to also mobilize in support the Union war effort while denouncing the Confederacy, which was being supported by French Emperor Napoleon III.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Gringolandia

Although the original reason has become obscured by history, the tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles has continued without interruption ever since 1862. And today, there are major festivals celebrating Mexican culture in many U.S. cities. These are some of the biggest ones:

So regardless of which side of the Rio Grande you’re on, there’s reason to celebrate the triumph of the little guy over the big and powerful, the vanquishing of slavery, and the vibrant food, dance, and musical traditions of Mexico – all at the same time. ¡Viva Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo celebration in Saint Paul, Minnesota
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/

Commemorating the Struggle for Workers' Rights in Mexico April 29 2019, 0 Comments

By Julie R Butler

Día del Trabajo on 1 May is the day when workers in Mexico and many other place°s around the world celebrate the rights of workers and the struggle to gain rights and protections that began in the second half of the 19th century and continues today.

How May Day Became International Day of the Worker

Soon after the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, unionized workers in industrial centers such as Baltimore and New York began fighting for the eight-hour workday. And in 1884, a resolution was introduced at the annual convention of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, forever connecting the day of 1 May with the labor movement:

“Resolved ... that eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labor organizations throughout this district that they so direct their laws so as to conform to this resolution by the time named.”


On the designated date, workers across the nation began a general strike that was accompanied by rallies in support of the eight-hour workday. But events at Haymarket Square, in Chicago, took a violent turn when clashes between security forces and civilians left many dead. However, despite an anti-union clampdown and the kangaroo-court trial of suspected radicals, the labor movement in the United States grew and strengthened.

In July 1889, at the International Socialist Congress’ founding meeting of the Second International in Paris, May Day was officially designated as International Workers’ Day in commemoration of the Haymarket affair. The first of May became a day dedicated to the struggle for the eight-hour workday as well as for other workers’ rights, such as safe working conditions, workers’ compensation, and putting an end to child labor.

Today, workers’ rights are celebrated in many countries on 1 May, including all of Latin America, but not in the United States, which has Labor Day on the first Monday in September every year.

Día del Trabajo in Mexico

Mexico’s first workers’ parade was held on 1 May, 1913, with more than 25,000 workers taking to the streets. Today, 1 May is a federal holiday. Parades, rallies, and demonstrations take place throughout the country, often drawing large crowds.

La Huelga de Cananea


In addition to showing solidarity with workers demanding their rights across the globe and celebrating the hard-won workers’ rights and protections now instituted into Mexican law, Día del Trabajo in Mexico also commemorates la Huelga de Cananea of 1906. When the Mexican workers employed in the Cananea, Sonora, copper mines went on strike and rallied to protest deplorable conditions and being paid less than workers who were U.S. citizens, chaos broke out, as the miners from each country fought each other and both Mexican and U.S. troops were brought in to quell the tumult. The event is memorialized in the corrido La cárcel de Cananea.

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/