Category Archives: Morelos State

Food of Día de los Muertos

Filo making green salsa sopes for breakfast over an open fire. My absolute favorite! Thin and crisp, tangy and creamy at the same time. Mmmmm!

When we go to Mexico to visit family we very well fed. Mex’s sister’s cook for us and everything is always delicious. However, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a very busy time for them.

Preparing tejocotes for the ofrenda

The focus from October 30th to November 2nd the main focus is preparing food for deceased family members so we were a little out of luck in the “getting spoiled” department.  There are a number of traditional foods Mex’s family prepares for their ofrenda or offering for their deceased relatives. We tried to let our son participate as much as possible.

Our son loved helping his dad and Aunt Sofia peel tejocotes. Tejocotes are a small fruit, about double the size of a cherry. First the are boiled in water until their skins pull loose. Once they are all peeled, the tejocotes are simmered with sugar and cinnamon. After about an hour, the liquid starts to thicken and become syrupy. The finished product has an intense, delightful sweetness but don’t eat too quickly because the fruit has a small pit.

Simple green mole with chicken

Mole (MOH-lay) is often called the national dish of Mexico, with each region claiming their own version of the recipe. Stemming from the Nahuatl word mulli, meaning sauce, mole comes in a rainbow of colors; green, red, yellow, black and all shades in between. My family in Mexico says green mole is the only type made for the deceased spirits. Though mole has a reputation as being complicated, with up to 35 ingredients, this green mole is surprisingly simple.

The balance between tomatillos and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) is very important according to Filo. For every pound of tomatillos, use a little over one cup of shelled pepitas. First the tomatillos are roasted slightly in a pan with some vegetable oil (you could put them under a broiler for about five minutes as well) then they are pulsed in the blender with the pepitas and a couple serrano chiles until smooth. The sauce is simmered with some epazote and salt. That’s it. No garlic (gasp!).  It is a very well-balanced sauce. The nuttiness of the pepitas takes the tartness out of the tomatillos.

It is amazing to see my sister-in-laws spend hours each day, staying up almost all night preparing food to serve the spirits. Besides tejocotes and green mole, they make tamales wrapped in corn leaves, sweet squash that cooks over an open fire for two days, and rice pudding.

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Filed under Food, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexico, Morelos State, Recipes, Tetelilla, Morelos

Mexican family ties


Walking back with daddy to see the horse

Helping Tia (aunt) Ely and Tia Filo with the morning chores.

Although the heat during the day is not as oppressive in November as in the spring, our poor little boy was sweat more during each day than in the previous 17 months of his life. The room we sleep in has little ventilation. Due to getting up two hours earlier than normal, the morning nap time was reborn. Excellent! The room was cool enough for him to sleep comfortably in the morning but by his afternoon nap we had to strip him down to his diaper (and he still woke up with soaked hair).

Currently, he is going through a phase where he only wants his mother and that made it difficult in Mexico where he had an army of aunts and cousins who wanted his attention during our brief six day stay. The longest he lasted away from me was about 10 minutes… yes, that is for the entire trip. Despite the fervent distraction of the horse, and riding a little bicycle, he still started crying “mama” loudly across the yard. I felt guilty because I knew how much they wanted to play with him so I would hide out-of-sight for as long as possible, only coming when his crying turned to gasping sobs.

Ayelyn, our almost four-year-old great niece tried desperately to play with him. However, her insistent hand pulling to try to “direct” him towards certain activities typically led to more tears. Apparently, we need to have more play dates with older children so he can get used to being “bossed around” a little bit.

Making some soup with lime's off of the tree with Tia (aunt) Ely and daddy

Our son’s favorite parts of the trip seemed to be seeing the horse and pig, eating oranges off the tree, and making “lime” soup with the toy pots and pans. He also loved all the jars hanging on the kitchen wall, enjoyed eating papaya for breakfast every morning, and watched eagerly out the window every morning to see his Tia’s walking in the yard.

Helping daddy fix the flat bicycle tire was another favorite activity

Luckily, our son is flexible and adapted quickly to his new surroundings, learning all his Tia’s and cousin’s names. It was amazing for us to see how much Spanish he really has picked up from Mex, though Mex doesn’t seem to speak it consistently to him. Our son responded correctly to all the directions his family gave him. They were all charmed by his big smile, and seemed to think he looked more like Mex than me. This surprised me a little, since I figured his pale skin would make them assume he looked more like me. It makes me wish that there were pictures of my husband when he was a baby. His sisters must remember what Mex looked like and see similarities in their features. Our son definitely has his dad’s eyebrows but got stuck with my tiny eyes when he smiles.

Tio (uncle) Alejandro came over for a visit our last day in Tetelilla

Eating oranges fresh from the tree... the neighbor's tree actually. When branches lean over fences the fruit becomes fair game!

Tia Tollis and cousins Edgar and Katy trying desperately to distract our little guy

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Filed under Mexico, Morelos State

A foreigner at home

Coming in to Mexico City

Ten hours after leaving our house, Mex and I paused to eat our Minnesota Haroldson apples while looking down at the swelling custom’s line. Five flights arriving almost simultaneously created a chaotic scene at the Mexico City airport.

I looked at the two lines, one that said Ciudadanos Mexicanos and one that said Extranjeros, Foreigners.

“How does it feel to be entering Mexico as a foreigner?” I asked.

After a pause, he smiled slowly and said, “Strange.” This is the first time visiting Mexico since he became a US Citizen.

Our 17-month-old son fell asleep as the plane descended, and slept thru his first passport stamp. For the first time in our journeys to Mexico, a member of Mex’s family was waiting for us at the airport. In the past, I’ve always been a little jealous of traveler’s who exit customs (aduanas) in to the arms of happy family members. It was nice to see my sister-in-law Sofia, and eleven-year-old niece Arlin waiting eagerly for us.

It has been two years, almost to the day, since we were last in Mexico. My husband’s father passed away in late August 2009, and to help Mex with his grief, we decided to visit eight weeks later for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It was one of the most eerily beautiful, touching experiences of my life. When trying to decide a time to visit before our son’s “dreaded” second birthday when he becomes a paying airline traveler, we settled on Day of the Dead over Christmas.

Candy skulls for Day of the Dead

An added bonus for Mex, was the fact that one of the big festivals in his town was Saturday, the day we arrived. One thing I love the most about him is, even though he’s been to Disney World, the Minnesota State Fair and other large festivals in the US, his whole face brightens when he talks about Tianguis, nicknamed Las Naranjas (The Oranges- a very little festival in comparison) and I can see the happiness small celebrations brought in to his impoverished childhood.

Toddler-size mole paddles- that’s mo-lay, the national dish of Mexico, not mole, the wicked little creatures that destroy our lawn. Though the paddles may be useful for those too…

Unfortunately, our son had a fever, congestion, and four hours less sleep than in his normal day so we went rather quickly though the displays. Everyone walking around was dressed up (which, after traveling a total of 14 hours and sleeping only two hours the night before I was way too exhausted to do) and there are vendors selling clay jars, enormous wooden paddles for mole,  tamarind and nut candies, clothing, fruit, toys… There were people serving up fresh potato chips, tacos on tiny 4-inch corn tortillas (always doubled), pozole in big bowls , large slices of thick-crust pizza (with nine types of hot sauce to drizzle on top), rich vanilla ice cream on miniature cones, and of course, piles of oranges which Mex claims are the sweetest of the entire year.

In the small plaza area by the elementary school were some carnival rides. The two-story Ferris wheel,  mini kids roller coaster, and a rather rickety version of the tilt-a-whirl seemed to be the favorites. It was great people watching and, as always, entertaining to be “watched” ourselves. It was funny to see people look at Mex carrying our son (who is pale like his mom), see the wrinkled eyebrows, glance at me trailing just a little bit behind and almost shake their heads like “oh, that explains it!”

Just after our son was born he had jaundice which gave his skin a yellow brown tone darkening him to Mex’s color. When I would take him to Barnes and Noble so I could have a Frappucino and get out of the house, usually an older-than-me (my definition of “older” seems to change rapidly with each year that goes by) woman tell me how cute he was and then flow right on with “What is his dad?” Now of course I realize they meant what ethnicity but I just always found the phrasing of the question interesting. I have a friend who is married to a Korean man and she has had people assume her children are adopted, since Korea is one of the most popular countries to adopt from in Minnesota. All I can say, is it certainly is… interesting… the observations that come from the mouths of complete strangers.

Anyone can toss up a foodstand at the fiesta

Deciding we had to put our baby boy to bed after his long day and high fever, we left without doing any activities or munching any delicious snacks. An hour-long struggle at bed time, meant the weary little traveler ended up in bed with his mom while dad went to enjoy the fiesta with his sister’s. He came back at 12:15 a.m. with stories of near-death experiences on carnival rides and mini tacos.

“Was it as good as you remember?” I asked, before biting in to my still-warm chicken taco.

“Oh, yes!” he exclaimed instantly, his eyes lighting up as if reliving all the excitement of childhood in one momentous flash.

After 16 years living in the United States, marrying a Minnesotan, becoming a US citizen, and travelling across the US and in Europe, few things bring innocent joy to his face like reliving his youth in the little town of Tetelilla, Morelos, Mexico.

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Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Family, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico, Morelos State, Tetelilla, Morelos

Las Mañanitas Restaurant – Cuernavaca

Beautifully secluded restaurant and bar area. Relaxing escape in the middle of one of Mexico’s largest cities.

Albino peacock roaming the grounds. There are over a dozen “free-ranging” peacocks. They are beautiful but beware when they fly into the tree above your table or try to nibble off your snacks in the bar area.

Our night in Cuernavaca we decided to have a splurge for dinner and went to the world-famous Las Mañanitas restaurant (it is a hotel also – over $250 a night). If you ever go to Cuernavaca we would all highly recommend it and they have delicious pastas starting at about $14 US so it doesn´t have to be a big splurge. Even though it is on a busy street, once you walk through the entrance you feel like you are miles away from the city and can hear absolutely no noise but peacocks calling.

Luckily, we got there before it was dark which is a total MUST in order to wander the gardens and see the exotic birds, including toucans, colorful peacocks and even white peacocks. We sat in the bar first and enjoyed drinks while we watched the birds. The waiters (which there must be 2 or 3 for each guest) bring a little snack tray of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), peanuts and chips for you to snack on in the lovely open air patio while sitting on bulky-cushioned lounge chairs. The

Cheese cup salad sounded good, but for the expense I would choose the green salad instead

peacocks walk right up to the table and try to eat your snacks however, which freaked me out a little. When one flew into the tree directly over our heads I made Maren and Mex move because I did not want to be in his ‘line of fire’.

Ready to enjoy our seafood in the cool night air. Gorgeous outdoor dining.

Sinful seafood dinner for two.

Our menu recommendations are the salad that has goat cheese on it. The one with crab in the parmesan cup sounds good but is nothing special for the price. For dinner, if there are two of you that like seafood, the seafood platter to share is absolutely incredible! The

Shrimp pasta – also swimming in buttery goodness

mussels melted in my mouth, no fishiness or chewyness at all. There are shrimp and a sinful pasta. I can’t imagine how much butter and cheese went in to this dish but it was incredibly tasty. Great atmosphere and fabulous food.  It was dark by the time we ate so all the pictures turned out horribly.

On a side note… This restaurant (and hotel) are on the “1000 places” list. Check!

Las Mañanitas
Linares 107
Cuernavaca
from US – 1 (888) 413 9199
http://www.lasmananitas.com.mx

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Filed under Food, Mexico, Morelos State, Restaurant reviews

A day or so in Cuernavaca

For us, that was enough… Cuernavaca is called the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and has been the weekend getaway for wealthy Mexico Citians since the time of the Aztecs and Mayans. However, in my mind, 95 degrees is NOT spring weather! It feels like Las Vegas in July but you can´t run into a casino to get the fresh air-conditioned feeling. They say the water has been disappearing from the city and the temperature has been rising but no one really uses the term global warming like in the US.

Jacaranda trees and mountains on road to Cuernavaca

The drive to Cuernavaca was mountainous but luckily we figured out how to take the toll road this time so we avoided the topes (speed bumps) that plagued us on the way through to his town the first time. In many spots the road was lined with trees that were covered in purple flowers, Jacarandas they are called. Beautiful and strange because they have hardly any leaves. We found our bed and breakfast, La Casa Mediterranea,  after not too many wrong turns.

Casa Mediteranea bed and breakfast in Cuernavaca

There is no signage on the outside because, according to the owner, signage = inspectors dropping by and collecting “fees” all of the time. It was on a side street about 3 blocks from a main road higher up the hills in the city so it remained somewhat cool there with a fresh breeze in the morning and evening. Our host, who spoke no English, told Mex it was only a 20 minute walk to the zócalo (downtown plaza) but I had read in my travel book it was at least 3 km (1.5 miles) so after walking a few blocks the three of us decided to hop in a taxi. I don´t know how fast of a walker our host is but the taxi alone took 20 minutes so I cannot believe there is any way to walk it in that time.

Sitting on the top level of the tour bus was a little nerve-wracking at times since you could almost reach up and touch the electrical wires.

We got out at the zócalo in front of the Cortes Castle at about 5 pm and saw some bus tours there so we decided to hop on and sat on top of the double-decker bus in the open air. Unfortunately, the tour guide talked non-stop so it was difficult for Mex to translate for us. It was fine since we had to keep our eyes open for tree branches, traffic lights, and electric wires which would have scraped the heads of people not much taller than us. We got off the bus at a park that had a small canyon in it. There are apparently 50 or so of these canyons all around the city… After interrupting a dozen couples enjoying ‘cuddle time’ our tour group went down about 70 steps to a platform and looked around. Sadly, there was not much water in the canyon and it smelled awful. We took some very, very steep steps back up and returned to the bus to finish the tour which went past the cathedral complex and some huge hacienda where they film a soap opera. I didn´t really pick up much else from the tour and didn´t enjoy it as much as the one in Aguascalientes because we were stuck in traffic most of the time.

Templo de la Asuncion de Maria - Cuernavaca

After that we walked around the zócalo which was crowded with people and actually not that impressive because it doesn’t have a cathedral on it. It is actually the only main plaza in all of Mexico without a cathedral. The three of us walked about 4 blocks to where the main cathedral and a few others are. There are two churches inside a big brick wall and three more nearby. Then we made our way back to the zócalo to have dinner.

On Tuesday (25th) we got up and tried to go to the Feria de la Primavera which is like the Morelos version of the State

Flower display at the Feria

Fair. We arrived at 10:30 only to discover it didn´t open until 12:30. Since it was a 30 minute taxi ride just to get there we decided to walk down the road to the flower show which opened at 11. We were almost the only ones there so it was fun to walk through all the gardens and enjoy the greenery. There are very, very little spots in this entire country that we have found to be green. It was welcoming to see grass and little ponds loaded with the biggest coy fish I’ve ever seen. There were even some bonsai plants and a flower fountain. It was nice and relaxing and not too hot.

Yep... we were the only ones at the Feria. Mexicans are late partiers unlike loyal MN State Fair goes who get there at dawn.

At about 1 we started to walk back over to the Feria, thinking the action had started for sure by now. Oh no… there were maybe 20 people besides us there that weren´t employees. The rides weren´t running and only a handful of the craft booths were even open. After walking around and buying some water and habas (the fried lima beans with chili and lemon that I love) we decided to leave. The security guards tried to convince us to come back after 4 when the palenque (cockfights) and other action starts and it supposedly fills with people but we had enough by then.

Mural depicting events in Mexican history by Diego Rivera - Cortez Castle

Tired and sun beaten, we took another long taxi ride to the zócalo and went into the Cortes castle which is actually small a Mexican history museum. It was difficult because there was very little in English and even though my reading in Spanish is better than my speaking, museums don´t hold my attention for very long. At the end of the museum there was a mural by Diego Rivera which was interesting since Mex just studied his wife, painter Frida Kahlo, this January for school. It was amazing to see the size and detail and story that is wrapped up in one of his murals.

Mmmm.... Elotes! Corn smothered in crema, cheese and chile. The ultimate Mexican street food!

Overall, our impression of Cuernavaca was ´big city.´It is definitely somewhere I am not interested in living or visiting very many times. The plaza seemed crowded, traffic was horrible and it was just too busy. Everything was very expensive by Mexican standards also.

We did go to dinner at Las Mañanitas. See review here.

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Friend from home

We are a little behind on the blog but hope to get caught up soon. Pictures will take a little longer since we are back to using an internet cafe and I need to copy them to a CD first and then put them on the internet. Luckily for all of you that means I´ll have to be more choosy so you will have less pictures to page through.

Maren's first Mexico pic - one of the hills near Mex's town. My favorite photographer!

Last Sunday (23rd), our friend Maren arrived. We had a small bus crisis getting to the Mexico City airport.  When we took the bus from Jonacatepec to Cuautla to get Maren we got ¨held up¨so to speak. There was a broken down bus and a group of guys just stood in front of our bus on the highway and asked our driver for gas. The driver kept saying no but some other guys ran over to the broken bus and grabbed a huge jug and hose and siphoned off the jug full. It was insane! It sort of freaked us out and made us realize the whole bandit thing could happen because what are you going to do when someone stands right in front of you? You can´t really run them over. Maybe nudge them a little but that would not be a good situation. After two extra bus rides we managed to get there about 5 minutes before she made it through customs. Perfect timing for everyone. Just in case any of you ever come here to visit us I´m going to type myself a reminder that the bus from Cuautla to the Mexico City airport only leaves at 5:30 am, 7:00 am and 2 pm. It goes from the airport to Cuautla at 3 pm or 3:30, 8 pm and I can´t remember what other time. I´m sure that means nothing to you guys but it will be helpful to remember and I keep forgetting to write it down.

Back yard of dad's house

After we met her at about noon we grabbed some slices of pizza (I know, I know…) and got on the bus to Cuernavaca. Then we took a taxi to another bus to Cuautla. Unfortunately, we just missed the direct first class bus (which I will ALWAYS recommend taking, especially in the heat of spring here in Central southern Mexico). We ended up taking the second class bus that was not air-conditioned, quite a bit dirty and anything but direct. The trip that took us 35 minutes on the way there took almost 2 hours back and we crossed dozens of topes (speed bumps) along that route. Maren declared she was tired of them after about 30 minutes and we just laughed. It is one very significant part of rural Mexico and definitely is doing a number on our car and our patience.

The family kitchen in Mexico

After another bus ride from Cuautla to Jonacatepec we finally reached our car and drove the 10 minutes back to Mex´s house in Tetelilla. His family was very welcoming and wonderful (as always) to Maren. Since Maren remembers very little of her years of Spanish classes Mex and, even I, translated for her. I did feel like my Spanish had improved when I was able to pull that off so that was a nice little boost for me to help with the frustration of not understanding everything.

After dinner we walked to his other two sister’s homes and visited for a little while and had tours. The next morning we had breakfast with his sisters and they pulled out all the stops… Sweet rolls, corn on the cob and even fresh grilled fish (the entire thing) to accompany our usual eggs and green beans. As a side note, one thing that I thought was weird when I got here but now really appreciate is the pan tostado. They actually sell bread already toasted since many people don’t have toasters (there is no electric in the kitchen at his family’s house).  It´s actually really good and we eat it all the time.

Neighbor's 4 day old baby burro. So cute!

Neighbor's adobe house. The kitchen at my in-law's house was adobe like this until about 2000.

Maren was taking pictures like crazy of his dad´s house and the kitchen in the morning light and I am going to plagiarise some of her pictures and post them as soon as I can because they really captured some of the charm of the place beautifully.We ran over to the neighbor’s house quick to check out their newly arrived little donkey. The woman tried to grab it and pull it closer to us and it bucked and kicked his little back legs just like a stubborn donkey would! It was funny but also reminded me not to walk too close to an animal’s back side no matter how cute it is. I packed our bags while my husband chatted with his sisters and then we loaded up the car about noon to leave for Cuernavaca which is the capital of his state, Morelos.

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Filed under Morelos State, Tetelilla, Morelos, Travel Tips

Natural water park – Las Estacas

On Thursday (20th?) we went to Las Estacas which is a water park about an hour from Mex’s town.

River swimming area at Las Estacas

The water park was beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was tropical with 120 foot or higher palms and green grass.

Giant palms at Las Estacas

There weren’t really pools but instead a river with crystal clear spring fed water that was slightly on the cool side but definitely tolerable and refreshing. There were places to dive off, places to swing like Tarzan into the water, a walking area, mini golf, an outdoor pool table… tons of stuff. We got there around noon and swam for a while then went to the head spring. It is really deep and you can dive from this 15 foot high rock. It was incredible. The path was covered in palms and banana trees and I felt like I was walking through a jungle. We floated down the river in parts because there was a very slight current. Similar to a park in Minnesota, it has open spaces for picnicking and grills set up. We brought salads and cecina which is one of my favorite Mexican meats. It’s very thinly sliced, cured beef.

Deysi preparing cecina (thinly cut steak) to grill for lunch

Right as we were leaving they were starting this contest and Mex, his nephews Jaime and Ernesto, his brother-in-law Leonardo and Leonardo’s nephew Candido made a team. They competed against two other teams and had to do a bunch of activities like tying all there legs together and running, diving for rock things in the river, swinging into the river, and finally a jump from the diving rock. They did end up winning the contest even though their average age was about 40 and the other teams were teenagers or early 20’s. They won thanks to Jaime’s backwards somersault dive into the water where he got the most applause from the audience. It was a very fun but exhausting day.

Mex getting his “Tarzan” on

Absolutely beautiful and amazing to know such natural places exist. Even the kiddie pool was fed by natural spring water only. There is a small hotel on the grounds and lots of people camping. We totally recommend going here if you are ever in the Cuernavaca area. It is about $24 US for a day pass so go early and bring enough pesos because they don’t take credit cards! Great fun!

(I did read a blog post from Midwesterner in Mexico who went there and the water was dirty so maybe it depends on the time of year. March was great.)

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Filed under Mexico, Minnesota vs. Mexico, Morelos State, Travel