Tag Archives: Mexican holidays

Back home and lonely

Well, Mex and I made it home safely on Monday night after a very, very long day of travel (starting at 5 am and ending at 1 am Tues). It was sad to say goodbye to his family, especially his dad, but we felt upbeat all day because we were excited to get home. However, once we got home and our house was cold and quiet we really, really missed all of his family in Mexico and the togetherness we feel when we are there. Our house still feels lonely with just the two of us here.
Tuesday the 6th was another holiday in Mexico that we missed called Day of the Kings (Dia de los Reyes). “Santa” (they actually say the kings) comes on the night of the 5th and delivers presents to the children. They do it this way because the 6th is when the three kings brought presents to Jesus. On that day there is a special bread called Rosca de Reyes. It’s in the shape of a circle and has dried fruit on top. Inside somewhere there is a little plastic baby Jesus doll about one-inch long. Whoever gets the doll has to provide tamales and chocolate for anyone in town who wants to come over on Feb 2nd (Mex’s pretty sure it’s not because of Groundhog’s Day =) for Candelamas or the Candle Mass day.
 
On another note, we celebrated our 3rd anniversary yesterday. This 3rd year of marriage has completely flown by and I have a hard time believing it has been that long already. Although the Oceanaire is where we had our wedding dinner, Mex likes to go to Ichiban’s so we went there instead and had the sushi bar. I’m glad to report we are still happy although definitely out of the “honeymoon phase” and are willing to argue openly when necessary =)
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New Year’s Day

 Mex and Neto hanging up the piñatas for New Year’s (even though we still haven’t cracked them open). Mex’s whole family came over last night and we had dinner together, starting the meal at about midnight. We ate shrimp soup, quesadillas (which are more like what we would call tacos) and potato salad – who would have thought that was a Mexican treat- and this chicken that was pounded almost completely flat and then breaded and fried.

These are some of our nieces and nephews – Neto 20, Gaby 18, Deysi 23, Edgar almost 18. Mex’s dad even stayed up this time and came over to eat. He didn’t on Christmas and I think Filo (the oldest sister) gave him a lecture, telling him we were here to see him, not all of them. We toasted at midnight which is similar to in the US but then we went around and gave everyone hugs. It was really nice to be able to spend New Year’s with them and Mex was happy he was able to hug his dad for the new year, something he hasn’t done for 13 years. We ended up going to bed around 2 am.We still didn’t get to crack open the piñatas. Oh well. My pictures did not turn out very clearly because I didn’t use the flash. His family glares at me a little when I take photos as it is so I didn’t want to make them mad. It was a different experience to spend New Year’s with family since we usually celebrate with friends in the US. Except the last few years we have gone over to Mex’s brother’s house. Oh well, that’s all for tonight. I’m going to try to call my mama on Skype.

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Christmas Eve in Tetelilla

So Christmas Eve is like the grand finale of the Posadas. It is kind of like Halloween on steriods with the baby Jesus and lots of praying thrown in. We walked around town for 3 hours searching for processions and then when we saw one we would run to catch up to it and squeeze into the house listening to the prayers until it was time to put Jesus in the manger. Then everyone pushes and squeezes out the little door to get the bag of treats which are a little more impressive on Christmas eve. We got tamales, chicken tortas (sandwiches), marshmallows, punch, pop and tons of other stuff.


Here is the punch that we had to drink. It has sugar cane and lots of fruits that I don’t know the name of because we don’t have them in the US, except guavas and cinnamon. They simmer it all day and then add some tequila. It was delicious! We also had atole which is like a think drink made of ground up rice.
I gotta run now. I’ll write more later.

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Lights and sparks… and more animal crackers

Yesterday we went to another posada celebration, actually two… the first one was the same as before but the second one was a little more exciting. They were going to hang piñatas up and someone thought it was a good idea to connect the rope to the roof on one side of the street and to an electric wire on the other side. A couple guys were playing with the rope in the middle trying to get ready to hang the piñata and I was taking a picture of a house on the corner with lights when all of a sudden there were sparks down the street. I thought it was fireworks but the everyone started screaming and running and Mex was yelling my name. It took me a second to figure out it was the electric wires. I figured it out quickly when the bulbs started flashing and then went out in all the houses on the street. It was quite hilarious after the initial fear of electrocution was over. Then we came back to Mex’s house and sat around eating our animal crackers and waiting for his sister Ely to come home from work.

Today is Christmas Eve but it doesn’t feel like it since it is warm and sunny and not cold and snowy. Kind of like the Christmas we spent in Florida. Just not quite right… Right now his sisters are preparing for the afternoon dinner. Mex and I made tuna noodle salad for them but I’m not sure what they will think of it. They have wireless internet and I was going to hook up to it so I could use Skype and talk to my parents but it needs a password and they don’t know what it is so I can’t connect. Oh well. Maybe his nephew will let us download Skype on his computer for two weeks so I can use it. We’ll see. it would be kind of fun for my family to see Mex’s and vice versa. Maybe they’ll figure out the password and I can use my computer. Anyway, we should go help cook if they will let us. Have a Merry Christmas everyone! We are thinking of you.

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Surprise in Mexico

Here we are again in my husband´s hometown, Tetelilla, Mexico. We left at 6am on Sunday (after about 2 hours of sleep) and finally got to his town at 7:30pm. When we got there his sisters weren´t home but as we went over to the gate and were standing there trying to decide what to do, his dad suddenly opened the door and looked right at us. He was quite surprised and tried to open the gate thinking we had our car (which we wish we did). I was totally surprised that the house was decorated with lots of Christmas lights.

We were able to haul all our stuff into the house we stay in and then sit and talk to his dad for awhile before his sister´s Filo and Sofia came back and his 8-year-old niece Arlin (who is completely crazy about him!). I think his poor sister Filo almost had a heart attack when she saw us and they both were so excited. We went to bed before his sister Eli (the one that is my age) got home and his sister Filo didn´t tell her we were there so last night when she got home from work we were able to surprise her as well. It was very fun to see how surprised and happy they were to see us. They also had kept it secret from his sister Andrea so we had gone to visit her in the afternoon and surprised her. Mex asked her why our lunch wasn´t ready… He loves giving his sister´s a hard time and they totally laugh and say ¨Ay hermanito¨ which is kind of like saying “Oh Little Brother” and they have huge smiles.

Last night we went to a posadas celebration (This is our nieces Gabi and Deysi – who was at our wedding) and it was very nice. A lot of ceremony which I can´t figure out is Mexican or Catholic or both since there is probably little separation in a country that 95% of the people are Catholic. We went to one house and took some candles and flowers and walked in a procession while some people carrying a statue of Mary and Joseph (very similar to the Good Friday Procession, although with different characters of course) and everyone was singing. Then we walked around for about 15 minutes and went to someones house and there were people inside singing pretending to be the innkeeper and then the people outside pretending to be Mary and Joseph trying to find a place for the night. When they opened the gate to let everyone in it was like a herd of cows pushing. Probably like going shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the states. Once inside there is a little more singing and praying and then the host family hands out glasses of corn water (Mex can´t remember the name – maybe atole de granillo) and then everyone lines up to walk through the house and get a bag full of treats. Mostly the treats are animal crackers but Mex remembers when he was little they got mandarin oranges and sugar cane also. It was very nice and I´m glad I got to see it since I´ve been fascinated with the Posadas since I read about them in Spanish class.
 
Over all the weather now is just about perfect. We no longer sweat just sitting in the shade. His poor family is wrapped in sweaters and shivering and Mex and I are in short sleeves telling them they don´t know what cold is! I´m sooooooo glad it´s not as hot as before. Today we took the bus to Cuautla (about 15 miles away) to go to the big grocery store and get some vegetables like green peppers and carrots and potatoes that they don´t have in his town right now. We did find a place with our favorite ice cream and got a little and also saw a bakery with the largest cakes you´ve ever seen for weddings and quinceañeras (15th birthdays). I took some pictures but I think the lady was kind of mad but I just gave her a blank look and she left me alone. The whole family is coming over to his dad´s house tomorrow because they celebrate on the 24th with a big dinner. It will be nice to have everyone in one place and hopefully I´ll be able to take lots of pictures and video. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and I´ll try to put up more pictures.

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Day of the Dead – a little early

For the first time, Mex and I went to an event celebrating Day of the Dead. Ironically, it was a celebration held at the Minnesota History Center which I personally found a little odd.

There were a lot of activities meant to entertain kids and then events which Mex personally doesn’t connect to the celebration like Aztec dancers (though the costumes are amazing and it’s hard not to enjoy the dances). However, the ofrendas were very similar to the ones in Mexico. In Mexican households and in the cemetaries each family creates an altar with all sorts of things that remind them of the deceased loved ones. Traditional items left at the ofrendas vary by state but there are basic similarities throughout Mexico. One such item is the pan de muerto, bread decorated with bone shapes, which can be found everywhere. Also, the bright orange cempasuchil flowers, similar to marigolds, are the “flowers of death” and are used all over the country. Celebrations start on what we Americans celebrate as Halloween with Mexican families setting up their altars and preparing for the deceased spirits to visit. The spirits of the children or angelitos (little angels) are supposed to revisit their families on earth in the early hours of Nov 1st.
Deceased adult spirits come to visit their families in the early morning hours of Nov 2nd. Usually the favorite foods of the dead person are laid out for their spirit to taste. Tamales, atole (a thick cornmeal drink), beans, rice, chocolate, a glass of tequila, etc, are some examples. Candles are lit and incense is burned. The families spend the evening and days remembering their passed loved ones.

Sugar and candy skulls are also sold in mass along with little candy coffins. In Patzcuaro, where Mexico’s most famous celebration is held, they sell skeletal figurines all year long. We saw them in March when we were there.
These traditions, although seemingly Christian in nature, actually date back to pre-Hispanic rituals dedicated to Mictlantecuhtli, the Mexica (Aztec) lord of the underworld, and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec war deity to whom many people were sacrificed. In an attempt to convert the natives of Mexico, Spanish priests moved the date to coincide with All Soul’s Day. I guess the Aztec dancing does come in to play….
Though Mex’s family has been honoring his mother on Day of the Dead for 16 years, this will be the first year for his sister Hilaria who died of cancer last December. They also honor all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Mex also has a sister who died at age 7 (who was older than him) and a brother who I believe was still-born (he isn’t counted on his mother’s line of births that’s on Mex’s birth certificate though) but the details are fuzzy on that since it was way before Mex’s time and his family doesn’t really discuss things like that. I hope next year we can go to Mexico during this time because I know Mex would like to be part of the memorial/celebration after being gone for so many years. I personally, think this is a wonderful idea and told Mex I hope we would do this tradition in our house when we have children or that we should even do it now. How nice to spend at least one day a year remembering those you love who are no longer with you. Something I bet not a lot of us take time to do after the initial grieving period is over.
 
For anyone interested in learning more about the Day of the Dead celebrations in the Twin Cities I will let you know about a few things I know that are going on. All of the events are FREE>
Friday the 31st – Dia de los Angelitos Traditional Aztec Danza at the Neighborhood House, 179 Robie St E, St. Paul. Starts at 7pm and is followed by music and food.
Saturday the 1st – 1-3 pm Sugar Skull making and information about history of Day of the Dead at the gym in the Neighborhood House (address above).
6pm – Gathering at La Placita, 175 Cesar Chavez St, St. Paul. A procession through the neighborhood starts at 6:30 ending at the Neighborhood house (address above) with music, food and a bonfire.
Sunday the 2nd, at Global Market in Minneapolis there is free Mexican food from 2-5 and I’m guessing some ofrendas will be there on display. I’m sure there must be events held at Mercado Central on Lake & Bloomington as well but I haven’t seen any information on those.

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Feliz Dia de la Independencia

Happy Independence Day to all the Mexicans out there! Yes, September 16th is Independence day, NOT May 5th like many Americans may think, due to the big Cinco de Mayo celebrations we tend to have here in the States. Here is the summary of the movement as I understand it.

In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and got rid of Ferdinand VII, replacing him with his own brother Joseph Bonaparte, which further agravated the colony of New Spain, which was already extremely unhappy with the crown. In 1810, after more than 300 years of rule by Spain, often violent and oppressive to the indigenous tribes and any one who was not a true Spanish-born Spaniard, the Independence movement of New Spain was beginning. By this time most of the land was owned by the powerful Spanish- born or Spanish descended residents of New Spain.

There was a group of young people who had a “literary club” in Querétaro and they had declared that Dec 8, 1810, would be the date to proclaim Independence and they gathered weapons and ammunition, seeking allies across the country. With only three months to go, news leaked and some members of the group were arrested including Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez who managed to get news out to the others before she was taken away and jailed. Doña (an even more polite version of Señora or Mrs.) Josefa is considered the heroine of the Mexican Independence movement.

The plotters decided to advance the date. Three days later they pronounced Mexico independent. Just before dawn on September 16, 1810, the priest of the town of Dolores (near San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato where Mex & I visited), Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla raised the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and gave the Cry of Independence (now known as the “grito de Delores” by Mexicans). There is no record of exactly what he said but the most repeated version is “Viva la religion! Viva nuestra Santissima Madre de Guadalupe! Viva la America! Y muera el mal gobierno!” or “Long live the religion! Long live Our Holy Mother of Guadalupe! Long live America! And death to bad government!” The other sentence that is often quoted is “Death to the gauchupines (Spaniards)”

Hidalgo was 57 and a criollo, which means he was born in New Spain of Spanish parents. Not a mestizo (mix of Spanish, indigenous and even African blood) which was the underclass, indio which was a full-blooded Indian- the lowest class, or a peninsular which was someone actually born in Spain – the highest class at the time. The Virgin of Guadalupe became a symbol of the revolution, the Holy Mother with the Brown Face. Her face is dark like the indigenous people and was proof to them that God loved them, while Spaniards used them, killed them and enslaved them. Hildalgo led troops under a flag of the Virgin with the grito written on it.

They had victory after victory as they marched. The army was 50,000 strong when it marched on Guanajuato, one of the richest silver cities of the time. On Sept 28th there were 500 Spaniards and criollos with their fortunes inside the stone walls of the towns public granary, now becoming the Spanish fortress of Guanajuato. The forces fighting for independence threw stones and shot at the walls of the granary but they held. Finally they piled wood at the gate and lit it on fire. At 5 that night the angry crowd burst through the the burned door and violently killed everyone except the women and children and looted all the valuables. The looting and killing went on all night, by a frenzy of angry, impoverished people.

After months of battles across the country the leader, Hildalgo, was captured on March 21st in a trap set by the Spaniards, along with three other leaders, Ignacio Allende, Jose Mariano Jimenez and Juan Aldama. They were taken to the Federal Palace of Chihuahua City, jailed, probably tortured, and sentenced to death. Allende, Jimenez and Aldama were found guilty of treason and executed on June 26, 1811. In the end, Hildalgo recanted and apologized that he had not controlled his troops. He apologized for the madness and the slaughter that the poor had done. Though he apologized for the bloody turn of the revolution, he remained determined that Mexico should be freed. On July 30, 1811, Hildalgo stood before the firing squad, refusing to be blindfolded. He put his hand over his heart to give the executioners a target. The first volley wounded him in the arms and legs and one passed through his hand but did not kill him. He lay on the ground, bleeding and in pain until someone pointed the gun straight at his heart and killed him.

The heads of all four men were hacked off and put in metal cages where they were sent to Guanajuato and hung on the four courners of the walls of the Granary. The heads remained there in metal cages for 10 years, which is how long it took that priest to lead his worshipers of the Virgin of Guadalupe out of the strangling embrace of the Spanish crown. New Spain’s independence was finally recognized by the Spanish Empire on September 27, 1821.

To decide a new name for their independent country, they looked in to their history, back before the conquest by Spain, to the great city of Tenochtitlan or Mexica (the city in the middle of the lake where Mexico City now stands). Mexico, the name of a warrior god, one of the names of perhaps the most beautiful and orderly city in the world at the moment of its destruction (early 1500s after the Spanish came). However, the people who lived in the city, who built it, who were mostly destroyed, were called the Mexica. If everyone in the country was going to be a Mexican a new name had to be created for the Mexica. They were the people we now know as Aztecs, renamed because one of the stories of their origin said they came from a place called Aztlan.

How did my husband celebrate Independence Day as a kid? On the night of Sept 15th, the President of Mexico reenacts the Grito de Delores by ringing the bells of the National Palace in Mexico City, repeating the words of Hildalgo with the addition of “Viva Mexico!” “Long live Mexico.” Up to 500,000 spectators gather in the Zocalo (main plaza) of Mexico City to watch this. At dawn on Sept 16 there is a parade and the day is full of festivals all around towns throughout Mexico and ended with fireworks displays even in the smallest of towns.

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