The longing business

Salsa from the latin salsus and the verb sallere, to put salt. 

In Mexico, salsas are part of everyday life  they provide a contrast or compliment for the palate and a seasoning to the soul. No decent Mexican meal is absent of salsas. With this, the business of the exporting a bit of Mexico to the world exploits the longing people have for their home. In Spain, the number of inhabitants born in Mexico has increased 38% in the last decade, being around 52,500 in 2016. Anyone who really knows the Mexican culture would then appreciate finding this in the alleys of a foreign city thousands of kilometres from Mexico.

The joke that everyone is in on

Luchas is a famous sport in Mexico. The sport happens as much in the ring than outside of it. The crowds will shout and hassle one another, the referee or the wrestlers. The wrestlers will run the joke that everyone is in on.

Lucha libre is said to have started sometime in the 1860s. Its popularity has only increased since then. The wrestlers still hold true to their spandex attire and colourful masks. There are two sides in Mexican wrestling: técnicos (good guys) and rudos (bad guys).

Luchas in Mexico is more than a sport. It has a politically incorrect culture around it with famous wrestlers and songs commonly played at weddings and parties about them. Wrestlers are men, women, dwarfs; all making moves known as “llaves” or keys. Famous wrestlers will have their signature move.

Whilst a luchador that takes the mask of another is disqualified, taking the mask is taking another wrestlers honour; hence you might witness the shameful event of a wrestler losing their mask. Often, wrestlers dont have masks but instead long hair. It is common to observe a dare of “mascara vs cabellera” (mask vs hair).

And like all good events in Mexico, snacks and drinks are readily available to help you enjoy the experience

Not all is lost

These old circular structures are called the “guachimontones”. Its name is said comes from the abundance of the tree of guaxi in the area.

These are not the only circular ruins in Mexico; however, the distinctiveness of this archeological site is that around these structures there are also a circular plaza for ceremonies and circular platforms for people of highbirth to watch ceremonies. Since before the conquest Mexico already knew class differences.

The guachimontones is a relatively new site, only discovered in the 1970s. It is the only evidence of the Teuchitlan culture.

Where this picture is taken has two incredible stories.

The first: nowadays it is merely a pile of rocks. It used to be a round temple like the other one but corruption got the history of our country. First, people thought the guachimontones were graves so they dug a hole through it making the structure collapse and not find any bones beneath. Afterwards, construction companies got a hold of the knowledge that rock was already piled up and sent for trucks to take to the “big” city of Guadalajara to build modern housing. A shame and a sad story.

The second story is that the indigenous from that time were so knowledgeable that from where we stood we could talk in normal voice and the structures and echos would mean that someone standing 500 metres away could hear clearly.

But not all our history and hope is lost in our country. Efforts to preserve this site are being made. Also, efforts to preserve the ancient ball game which is still played as exhibitions and in some cases, a small league, around the country.

How to make proper Tequila

Is it the drink that made Mexico famous or did Mexico make this drink famous?

Good Tequila is a mix of art, patience and hard work. The “pineapple” of the Agave takes from 7 to 10 years to harvest. It grows to an average of 40kg – 80kg; though in some cases it has grown to weigh 120kg.

The Agave is a cactus, though only one specific one can be used to make tequila: blue Agave, and is the sugar source for the fermentation needed to produce alcohol. After the pineapple is cooked and ground, it is juiced and only 40% remains. The rest is used as compost. Or in some places to make biscuits. The juice is then fermented and distilled at least twice to raise the alcohol content. In Mexico, tequila can have 35-55% alcohol though the minimum alcohol content to export is 40%.

Tequila that is bottled after distillation is “white” tequila. Its flavour is raw and is truer to the fruit. Tequila can also be aged in barrels for different lengths of type to make “reposado” (2-11 months in barrel), “añejo” (1-3 years in barrels) or “extra-añejo” (3+ years in barrels). The barrels, as with wine, change the flavour of the drink. White oak is what is needed and it comes from USA or France. There used to be also Canadian oak used but our northern neighbours tore their business by raising their taxes in the transportation.

The cost of barrels drives decisions on the final product. French oak is generally used for the older tequilas. A barrel can cost between 1000-1500 usd. Whilst american oak is used for younger types of tequila as the barrel cost is between 300-500 usd. Barrels used to age wine and bourbon are also sometimes re-used for tequila. Barrels life is 8-10 years thus so is the aging period of the “oldest” tequila.

Tequila is produced world wide though the drink has denomination of origin, which means that to be called as such it has to come from this region where blue Agave shares the same altitude, weather and soil. Otherwise the drink can be called Agave liquor or distillation of agave.

Real tequila is elegant and must be had sip by sip, accompanied by a slice of lime or orange and possibly a cricket. So next time you try this drink, make sure you appreciate the art that goes behind its production.

Dancing with a beer on your head

Mexico is an old country and hence has a long history. It is also a big place and each of its 31 states has its own culture and heritage expressed in languages and dances. Both mix and showcase the complex contradictions that is now Mexico.

Mexican folklore dancing has always been a way of honoring and celebrating the religious and cultural beliefs in the country. It is, as well, a representation of the struggles and joys of daily Mexican life. Its origins can be traces to the mesoamerican times when dances were used to apease the gods of the Mayans and the Aztecs. With their invasions, Europeans brought other dances that influenced the indigenous forms of dance. With time, Mexican folklore became what we now know and enjoy.

Dancing is not only the choreography but it expands to costumes and particular steps or “zapateado”. Each dance and region has a unique atire and representation

Generally, men wear black trousers with a bright red tie and a “sombrero”. And, women, are often clothed with long, bright skirts and dresses. Areas in Mexico that have a more indigenous background tend to have more of a simple dance garb that incorporate linen cloths, body paint, or even feathered hats. Other times, dances may use prompts such as swords or bottles of beer that must be balanced in the dancers heads. It is all part of the Mexican flavour!

The Sistine Chapel of Latin America

Set up by Bishop Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo to look after orphans, the disadvantaged and old people. Its construction started in 1805 and the finished building has 23 courtyards, 106 rooms and 78 halls. From 1937 to 1939 Jose Clemente Orosco painted frescos throughout the building. In 1997 the site was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Bishop Cabañas died with $3 pesos in his bank account.

The impressiveness of the frescos is two fold. On one hand, the murals have perspectives that moves around as you move around. On the other, Jose Clemente Orosco only had one hand as he lost the other when he was 17 in an accident playing with fireworks. Orosco’s frescos reflect his ideal that the world needs “evolution” not “revolution”.

Lob not love

The greatest food of them all is a tortilla wrapped or rolled around a filling. Tacos predate the European invasion and were really invented by indigenous though they were not called “tacos” back then. In those days, between 1,000 and 500 B.C., tacos were really just a kind of edible spoon: using a tortilla to scoop a filling. It is thought that as corn was seen as a religious symbol by indigenous, it was incorporated into their cuisine to honor the gods. Hence making its appearance in tacos. There are also records that Hernan Cortez back in 1500s referred to the tortilla in one of his reports back to Spain. The word tortilla comes from the Nahuatl “tlaxcalli” and Hernan described it as a “corn flat bread sold in local markets”.

So now that we have history sorted, let us get one fact straight: real tacos come from a stand not from a sit-down restaurant. And it is always better to have a recommendation from a local. Like this place, commonly known as “tacos Lob” because they are outside the Mexican clothing chain “LOB”.

Thus, as you enter Mexican lands that is the one thing you must do – direct yourself to the best nearest taco stand. Who knows maybe you get to try a new filling – like tongue or lip!

Güero güera

(picture taken 27 December 2014)

What güero means you can find here or here. However, the different uses of this word are so varied it is almost impossible to explain. Like, how do you explain a dark skin coloured Mexican being called “güero”? Be it as it may, if you ever find yourself roaming the streets of Veracruz old town, there is an obliged stop to the famous ice cream place “Güero güera”. There are copycats around so be warned…

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Sacrifices island

Many pictures of the sea look the same. How do you know if a picture was taken in the coast of Singapore, Malaysia, Peru or Mexico? Sand and ocean… It could be anywhere. But with this island I would recognise my Veracruz any day. This is Isla de Sacrificios which the tales say got its name from the time of the Spanish conquest. Spaniards went exploring and found 2 buildings (altars) and between both there were 5 bodies that had just been sacrificed to the Gods.

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First thing after landing

Is always eating tacos. They say that the meat al pastor comes from when some Arabs came to Mexico back in the early days of the Spanish conquest. The meat is seasoned and cooked very much like a kebab. Whatever its beginnings, the delicious and soft flavour for the tortillas wrapping around the carne al pastor cannot be found elsewhere. The sweet of the pineapple with the sour of freshly squeezed lime. And the choice of sauces… Something only truly experienced in Mexico.

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