Tag Archives: celebration

Happy Birthday, Mexico: Celebrating Independence Day

On September 16, 1810, Mexico declared her Independence from Spain. Hidalgo, a priest from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, gave out El Grito, the cry for freedom and the war began. The Spanish conquest of Mexico began in 1521, and after almost 300 years of occupation, the country followed the United States independence model to set itself free from European rule.

Many confuse Mexico’s Independence Day with either Cinco de Mayo or the 1910-1920 revolutionary war. Don’t be confused!

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

The celebration began last night with the president of every state, municipality and village letting out the battle cry. Here in Teotitlan del Valle, the call for freedom was accompanied by the bands from the elementary, middle and high school — Bandas de la Guerra — drumming and tooting well into the night. The cohetes, firecracker missiles, rang through the air. And, it started again this morning with a desfile (parade) through the streets.

Accoutrements of birthday celebration!

Accoutrements of birthday celebration!

The ubiquitous Banda de la Guerra, this one in Patzcuaro, Michoacan

The ubiquitous Banda de la Guerra, this one in Patzcuaro, Michoacan

Red, white and green as a food display.

Red, white and green as a food display.

Happy Birthday, Mexico, our sister nation.

A drum for every child? Why not!

A drum for every child? Why not!

Happy New Year: Feliz Año Nuevo From Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

My family is here for the New Year. This past week we celebrated with a mezcal tour led by Alvin Starkman, a pottery tour to Santa Maria Atzompa with Innovando y Tradicion and a family trip to Hierve el Agua and San Juan del Rio.

We ended 2015 with a grand New Year’s Eve fiesta and finished off with a January 1 ritual pilgrimage to Las Cuevitas to welcome the New Year with wishes. Here, everyone is encouraged to have dreams.

This year the sunset at Las Cuevitas was less than dramatic but the festivities carried on in grand style befitting Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.  Like, close to the entire village was here. The band plays on and fireworks continue throughout the day and night.

 

We could call it a family picnic on the hillside but it’s much more than that. This celebration to welcome in the New Year is ancient. These grottos where three altars stand hold magical and healing properties. Make a wish at the altar. Then toss a coin into the small brook. If the coin lands on the plate and not in the water your wish will come true.

A wish for good health and prosperity, with candles, flowers and pesos

A wish for good health and prosperity, with candles, flowers and pesos

Mostly, people wish for good health. They might dream of a new house or a baby or a yard filled with farm animals, a good corn crop, the absence of drought. Abundance is a dream we all wish for, worldwide. We sent a prayer to our mom who just died. Lit a candle. Made our tribute.

The fire log toss, Teotitlan del Valle style at Las Cuevitas

The fire log toss, Teotitlan del Valle style at Las Cuevitas

Here young men play with fire. They soak a special log in kerosene and take turns throwing it off to the next one in the circle. A pre-Hispanic ritual, someone explains to me.

Families gather around campfires. Some have pitched tents and spend the night there New Year’s Eve. There are cooking stoves and the smell of grilled meat fills the air.

 

Each year on January 1, I always like to arrive by 4 p.m. to get there in time for sunset. This gives me a chance to gather rocks and join the locals to build a miniature structure that will symbolize plenty in the year to come.

 

Small plastic barnyard animals are for sale at the entrance to the caves. You can add these to the front yard of your house or build a roof with leafy branches gathered from the countryside. 

As sun sets, the sparklers twinkle and we get into the rhythm of the evening. It is festive and makes us pause to reflect on the past year and the one to come.

This year I had my son, sister, brother-in-law and goddaughter with me, along with friends, so being at Las Cuevitas was a special time. We made wishes, gave thanks, remembered parents and grandparents, and looked out onto the Tlacolula Valley from the mountain top.

More than a few of us played with fire. As sunset became night, the hillside filled with a display of light that could be seen from the Pan-American highway.

 

Wishing you all a 2016 filled with love, all that you wish for including blessings, peace, health, contentment and satisfaction. Thank you for being with me on this remarkable journey.

Un abrazo, Norma.

P.S. If you want to come and spend the night, make your reservations early! There is a limited supply of rooms in Teotitlan del Valle and I know some people were disappointed they couldn’t be here.

Viva Mexico! Happy Independence Day!

September 16 is Mexican Independence Day. All this past week every city, town and village I’ve traveled through — from Mexico City to Tenancingo de Degollado to Morelia, Patzcuaro and Tzintzuntzan — is preparing for the celebration.

Mexico Colors-6

Right now, in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, the zocalo is filled with families waiting for the mayor to speechify.  On September 15, a tall castle built of bamboo appeared. At ten o’clock at night the wheels at the top of the castle will spin and propel firecrackers and a pyrotechnics display skyward announcing the independence once again.

Mexico Colors-9

Flags, bunting, parades, musicians and red, green and white jello cups dominate the landscape. Across the land, mayors, governors and the President will shout out La Grita — the call for freedom from Spain that Hidalgo yelled in 1821. Children will wear the colors of their country. There is even a Liberty Bell. This is a photo tribute to Mexico and her Independence. untitled (197 of 378)RebozoMkt+Anniv-5Malinalco 41-26 Metepec 48-2Malinalco Best 59-38

The feast of the season is the red, white and green taste treat called Chiles en Nogada, created by the nuns in Puebla for General Iturbide who became Emperor of Mexico after independence from Spain.

Mexico Colors-14 Michoacan-3 Mexico Colors-11I’m not sure that Mexico can be topped by any other country for her widespread use of red, white and green. From confections to cake decorations to adornment on buildings, the color of the flag dominates everything this week.

Mexico Colors-10 Mexico Colors-8Mexico is a country of do-it-yourselfers. The Parisina fabric store (it seems like there is one in each medium to large size town) is filled with enough notions, textiles and glitter to outfit each man, woman and child in the country’s colors.

Mexico Colors And, if you need a flag, look no further than your neighborhood street corner, where you can get one in any size. Add a feathery hair adornment, a horn, a drum, and a whistle and you’ll be ready to join any band in town.

Mexico Colors-4 Mexico Colors_7Mexico Colors_5

At the Feria del Rebozo in Tenancingo de Degollado, State of Mexico, I saw many finely woven shawls that were in the colors red, white and green. They were hung like flags on display and I know that many women coveted them.

Mexico Colors_2 Mexico Colors-13

 

Michoacan-7 Michoacan-6 Michoacan-4 Mexico Colors-12 Mexico Colors-5Michoacan Even at Casa Azul, home of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, an exhibit of her clothing featured a skirt in patriotic colors.  Diego_Frida_July2014-102 I’m writing this on the night of September 15. The firecrackers just went off. I heard the mayor call La Grita. Time to go to sleep, if I can sleep. Who knows how for how long the firecrackers will crackle and sizzle and burst with sound. Sending wishes for peace and freedom for all.

Michoacan-6 Michoacan-9 On September 16, we’ll go to the zocalo for the parade. Every Independence Day needs a parade, yes?

Feliz Año Nuevo — Happy New Year 2014 — Oaxaca Cheesecake Recipe

For the past week I’ve gone market shopping, both at the Sunday Tlacolula market and at the smaller, though equally satisfying Teotitlan del Valle market where I live.  It’s easier now that I have LaTuga — a market trip can be spontaneous.

NewYearsCollage-16 NewYearsCollage-23 NewYearsCollage-28

As the invitation list for my New Year’s Eve house warming birthday party dessert open house grew to over thirty, I realized I might not have enough pastries and wine.  So, I made multiple trips to Amado’s tienda to stock up on red wine and mezcal.

NewYearsCollage-2 NewYearsCollage-12

At the market I bought flowers, queso fresco, sweet bread, goat cheese, and the ingredients to make tomato ginger chutney.  I usually do this in the North Carolina summer when there is a two week window for ripe tomatoes.  Here in Oaxaca, they are ripe year round.  The chutney is great warmed and poured on top of the goat cheese, then spread on bread slices.

NewYearsCollage-8 NewYearsCollage-20

I made the fruit salad recipe I shared with you last week, but added mandarin oranges and poached, spiced crab apples.  Eloisa baked me three giant Chocoflan cakes, and on impulse I bought a big homemade, layered jello extravaganza at the village market.  It was a dessert buffet.

NewYearsCollage-18  Chocoflan-3

Yesterday morning, I decided on the spur of the moment to make a New York style cheesecake when I saw Amado had two pounds of Philadelphia cream cheese in his case along with Alpura brand sour cream and a tube of Maria’s cookies.  My friend Ani gave me a gift of butter earlier, and I picked up a few extra eggs.  Instead of liquid vanilla, I used fresh squeezed lemon juice (called lima here) and zest.  I augmented the cream cheese with mashed and pureed queso fresco.  When it didn’t look like I would have enough cookie crumbs for the crust, I added some of the sweet bread to the Maria crumbs.  Adaptation is an important element for living in Mexico.

Lupe came to help me get the house ready and we prepared the cheesecake together.  Her son Daniel hung the papel picado flags and the piñata filled with candies for the children to dismantle with a stick at the end of the party.   Our village is party central.  On December 30, I was at Janet and Jan’s home for her birthday celebration. The flowers were abundant and the food delicious.

NewYearsCollage-21 NewYearsCollage-4

I was too busy greeting, serving and schmoozing to take photos of my birthday accoutrements and friends.  The cheesecake disappeared before I could stage a photo shoot. Maybe those who did take photos will share them!  After everyone left, the rockets, firecrackers and band played on into the night to welcome the procession of the baby Jesus to Las Cuevitas.  Even my ear plugs didn’t help. We will join that celebration later today.

NewYearsCollage-24 NewYearsCollage-26 NewYearsCollage-9

Meanwhile, I am wishing you a very satisfying, joyous, content, and healthful new year.  May peace and fulfillment be yours for 2014.

Norma’s Pie de Queso — Mexican Style Cheesecake Recipe —

Disfruta!  Enjoy!

The Crust:

  • 1 package Maria cookies
  • 1 slice of sweet bread or any sweet roll
  • 4 T. sugar
  • 4 T.  melted butter

In a food processor, add the cookies and sweet roll, process until fine crumbs.  Add sugar.  Pulse until completely mixed.  Add melted butter.  Combine until butter is mixed throughout.  Pour out into a parchment paper lined 8-10″ springform pan.  Press crumbs firmly on bottom and up sides of pan about 1/4-1/2 inch.  Set aside.

The Filling:

  • 2 lbs. Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 lb. queso fresco (Oaxaca crumble cheese)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1 C. sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl with electric beaters on high speed, blend the cheeses until smooth and creamy.  Add the sugar and mix until white and smooth.  Add eggs one at a time until completely mixed.  Add lemon.  Beat for about 30 seconds.  Add sour cream and blend in on low speed until just stirred in.  Stir in lemon zest.

Pour into a buttered springform pan (line with parchment to make clean-up easier).  Put into preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Turn oven off. Leave cake in oven to cool for 30 minutes or more before removing.

The Topping:

  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Stir all ingredients together.  Pour over top of cooled cheesecake and spread evenly over top with spoon or spatula.  Put into hot oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes.  Watch that topping does not brown or burn.   Remove and cool.

Strawberry Fruit Topping (optional)

  • 1/2 c. mashed berries
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1/4 c. Cointreau (or Controy here in Mexico)

In a stainless steel pan, mix together the berries, sugar and liqueur.  Cook over high heat for 2 minutes until berries are mascerated, juice begins to form and the sugar is melted.  Remove and cool for about 2 minutes.  Pour over the sour cream topping of the cheesecake.

NewYearsCollage-10

If you cut a circle in the center and then make the slices from this circle, the cake will yield 16-20 servings.  The remaining center circle can then be cut in 4-6 wedges.

 

NewYearsCollage-19 NewYearsCollage-29

And another sunset from the terraza to celebrate life’s infinite beauty.

NewYearsCollage

 

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla

First of all, it’s important to know that today, Cinco de Mayo, is NOT Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16, 1810.

Nevertheless, it marks a significant date in history when the French army was defeated in Puebla on May 5, 1862, marking an important symbolic moment to curtail Napoleon Bonaparte’s designs on establishing a monarchy in North America.  When you visit Puebla you can still see the bullet holes in front of the house occupied by General Ignacio Zaragoza.

 

Most of us know Cinco de Mayo as a U.S. celebration of Latino culture.  There are 44.3 million Latinos living in the U.S. according to the 2008 census representing 15 percent of the population.

Perhaps we know Cinco de Mayo as the name of a favorite local Tex-Mex restaurant.  Isn’t there a Cinco de Mayo Mexican restaurant in your town?  There is in mine!  And today, many will of us will welcome the occasion to have a party and raise a toast to our southern neighbor with a beer or Margarita.  What are you doing tonight?

But there’s much more to it than that, according to historian David Hayes-Bautista, as reported today by CNN and Reza Gostar in GlendoraPatch.  It seems that Cinco de Mayo was a rallying cry in the U.S. by Latinos against the elitist French monarchy, which was sympathetic to the Confederacy during the Civil War.   At that time, Latinos sided with the Union, fearing that a Confederacy win would expand slavery to include them.

Puebla is Angelopolis, City of Angels

Dr. Hayes-Bautista, who is director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, has uncovered the first groundbreaking research that links the celebration of liberation for Mexicans with the U.S. Civil War and the hope that the Union would prevail.  The win at the Battle of Puebla by the Mexican freedom fighters against the elitists energized many Americans early in the war when the Confederacy was powerful, especially Latinos.

So, as you raise your glass with a hearty Salud, recall that Latinos volunteered to serve in the Union Army in order to preserve freedom, independence, and fight for racial justice.

 

 

http://glendora.patch.com/articles/history-of-cinco-de-mayo-a-mexican-or-american-holiday