Tag Archives: Tetelilla

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

About to leave

We are getting ready to leave today after our two weeks in Mex’s home town. It is sad and happy at the same time. We are glad to go back to our home and work (scary I know) but we are sad to be leaving his family again knowing we won’t be back here for quite a few months. It is definitely a lot colder here in the mornings. I just love his dad in this blanket. He looks like the perfect picture of a little Mexican grandpa. He didn’t seem to smile as much during the time we were here. I’m not sure if the novelty of seeing Mex has worn off or if he isn’t feeling good and just doesn’t want to tell anyone. 

Today we packed and went around looking around his town some more taking pictures and buying some presents for his family in the states. We also went to the cemetery because I wanted to see where his mother was buried and also his sister Hilaria that died last December. They are both buried in the same grave. All those flowers are from December 9th when it was the 1st anniversary of her death. It was sad to go there but it was nice to see it. Mex’s mom’s name is no longer on the gravesite because the paint has worn off the cross (she died in Sept of 1991) but he asked his sisters if they could have it painted back on.
I don’t have time to write much more because we want to visit with his family some more.
Buenas noches everyone and we’ll hope for a safe journey back to Minnesota tomorrow. Dad told me it is -10. Gee, we can’t wait! =( 


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Filed under Family, Mexico, Tetelilla, Morelos

Leaving ¨home¨

Sunday was a very nice day where all his sister´s that live in Tetelilla (four of them) were at the house preparing food for a big meal. We were going to go to Jonacatepec and use the

All the women in the family enjoying our last lunch

internet in the afternoon but it was just to social at his house and Mex was enjoying all the conversation, stories and laughs. We took a bunch of pictures but no one ever looked at the camera at the same time. The food was fabulous and his sisters and nieces were all there. Poor Mex is the only guy at these dinners but he doesn´t seem to mind because he gets lots of attention. I must say they really love their ¨hermanito¨ or ¨little brother.¨ We had garlic soaked shrimp, two kinds of fish, chicken that reminded me of my mom´s teriyaki chicken wings, nopales salad, and spaghetti. Wonderful and we felt so spoiled and stuffed.

On Monday morning his sister Abelina (Andrea) came over about 9 when we were done with breakfast. We had already packed the car so we just did some last minute visiting then went over to his sister Sofia´s house where she was making tortas to take to the school. We helped with the tortas but, finally, around 10 we had to say goodbye. It was very tearful for all of us and only made better by the fact that we know we will soon be able to visit whenever we want. It will not be a long time before he sees his family again! However, it didn´t really make us feel better as we hugged everyone and got into the car and left town. His sister´s are so hospitable and friendly and generous that I really did feel like part of the family even though my communication wasn´t the best. Although when his oldest sister Filo tells stories and his sister Abelina laughs and smiles you don´t need to speak the language to understand the happiness they feel. We are both

The final picture of our Hometown Mexico

looking forward to the next time we visit them and we will be starting to speak Spanish at home so I am more prepared. I so want to share in their stories and be able to tell my own! I did bring pictures of friends and family and was able to eek out a few stories but next time will be better.

Now we are on the second part of our journey. The journey to our Minnesota home. We are also looking forward to returning and seeing our friends and family that are there and getting back into our daily routine. Traveling is fun, eye-opening and exhausting all at the same time.

Another random tip- for those of you that use Tabasco sauce you should toss it and buy Valentina hot sauce. It is a Mexican brand of hot sauce that isn´t mega spicy but actually has a great flavor not just a heat. Don´t forget that when you´re in Mexico wash down your Valentina with Victoria beer NOT Corona or Modelo!

Father and son. Now I know what my hubby will look like in 40 years! I have to get him a hat!

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Filed under Mexico, Tetelilla, Morelos

A day in Tetelilla

The day starts about 4:30 am when I absolutely haveto get up and walk to the bathroom because I can’t

Bathroom - shower on the right, toilet and sink on the left

hold it another minute. Mex usually walks with me since it is still dark and the dog has a habit of walking in under the curtain and doesn’t understand my scolding in English. We enjoy the brightness of the stars as we walk the 25 yards back to the house where we sleep. By this time the birds are chirping and roosters crowing all around town. (Luckily, Mex’s family doesn’t have any so they aren’t walking right under our bedroom window!)

A little before 6, there is a loud clank as his dad swings the heavy metal door open and scrapes the plastic chair scrape across the cement floor into the door frame to watch the morning come (one morning we saw him out there at 3:30). A few minutes later there are a couple more clanks as his sisters and niece start to come out of their room. The neighbor’s donkey hee-haws just as you imagine an ornery donkey would. At 6:15, as if by some internal alarm clock, the horse whineys a couple times. My husband reluctantly rolls around for a few minutes, gives me a hug and then gets up. Ernesto is away at school during the week so Mex takes the horse down the road to pasture for the day. I think Gabi probably does this when we are not here. I’m still a little unsure why they have a horse since they don’t ever ride it… I wait for his sister Eli to get out of the shower. She works Monday through Friday. She used to work as an agricultural engineer but now she works in an office in Cuautla which lends money to very poor people.

The dogs have usually let out a few morning yelps by now and the man with the megaphone has started his auctioneer-style ranting all before 7. Since there isn’t a lot of local radio or TV or even billboards, people pay guys with trucks and big speakers to drive around town, starting very early in the morning, chanting advertisements. I can’t make out a single word but the voices have the same sing-song rhythm of the very quickest auctioneer.

Gabi runs to one of the small stores down the street to get ingredients for breakfast while Eli gets ready for work and Filo starts to cook. I get in the shower while my husband helps clean his father’s toe since he had the toenail removed last week. Mex’s father right arm and leg don’t work very well, because in his 20’s he had a mini-stroke and has been partially crippled ever since. He can walk but his right foot drags a little bit and he can’t use his right hand. His daughters bring him his breakfast to his chair and if he needs something else he yells “Chiquitin” (a form of chiquita which means “little one”) to get Gabi’s attention and she comes quickly to help him. 

A man comes by in a truck selling alfalfa and Filo buys some to feed the two pigs. They are an investment of sorts. They buy pigs, feed them, and when they are big enough kill them sell off the meat to people around town. We water the plants with what is left in the barrels of water set around the yard. No plant really gets enough water but we try to make sure they all get a little.

Sometime around 8:30 we all end up in the kitchen (except his dad). Breakfast usually starts out with coffee (the Nescafe mix with water variety), sort-of-sweet breads, some eggs mixed with either green beans or nopales (cactus paddles), tortillas, toasted bread, watermelon, cantaloupe or papaya. I’m pretty sure the sweet breads and fruit are an addition just for us. We have had sopes a few times. I love them. They are

mmmm... Sopes

similar to flat tortillas with the edges curled up and you put them on a griddle and fill them with green or red salsa, cheese and sprinkle some onion and cream on the top. Simple and delicious! The kitchen starts out with a slightly smoky smell from cooking the tortillas but it clears by the time we start eating. Some mornings you can hear clicks and scrapes as small iguanas make their way across the tin roof of the kitchen. We hear the door clank as his dad leaves for his day out. He takes a taxi to the next town 5 miles away and sits in the plaza with his friends. Usually Mex’s sister Sofia comes to breakfast and sometimes his niece Karla and her two-month-old baby.

Between 9 and 10 the cattle go by. The clopping of hooves gets closer and closer until they are right outside the house and the horns bob up and down over the stone fence behind the kitchen. Just like the horse, they are brought down the road to pasture for the day because no one has any green grass in their yards. The fields must not be too abundant with food because the cow’s skin hangs loosely from sharp hip bones. The donkey always hee-haws crankily during our meal but I have finally stopped giggling when it happens.
His sisters tell stories about people in town, family members, and all the stuff people talk about at the table. Sometimes Gabi sneaks out to do homework. We usually don’t leave the kitchen until 10:30 or so when we finally decide it is time to do the cleaning before it gets really hot out. The cool breeze has died by this time and it is impossible to find any shade in the yard.

Gabi scoops up the dishes and goes back to wash them in the dishwashing/laundry station that is set up by the bathroom. My husband and I keep trying to scoop up the dishes to wash them but every time we do, his sisters look so offended and mad we put them back down. Next time when we visit we will insist. I think this time they want to completely take care of Mex since he has been gone for so long. Filo cleans inside the kitchen while Gabi starts sweeping the cement outside the house. She then spreads water on the dirt and sweeps that. I am still very confused by this but his family is impeccably neat and clean so for that reason it makes sense. We sweep and mop the inside or our house while they clean theirs. Then Gabi cleans the bathroom and shower.

By noon the heat has hit full force. Sweat is dribbling down my face, back and arms. Thankfully we are usually done with chores by now. Gabi showers to get ready for school which starts at 1 in Jonacatepec, the town 5 miles away. She is the equivalent of a senior in high school in the US. Mex and I pull the blue tarp off the car and try to start it… Not a sure thing anymore since our car trouble began. Lately we have been stopping off at the internet café afterwards since I wanted to get caught up on my postings before we leave Tetelilla.

From 1:30 – 2:30 it is time to fill the water tanks. The town is divided into sections and each one only has water for 1 hour every day. Each home is allowed only one pump to bring the water in. If your plants look too green the neighbors assume you have two pumps and they will “tell on you” to the local water watchers. The pump fills the tank on top of the bathroom first so they have water to shower. Then they move the hose around the yard filling barrels and tubs with water for plants, dishes and laundry. This is the hottest part of the day. If water wasn’t so precious Mex and I would squirt ourselves all over with water like kids running through a sprinkler. It is very hard to feel like doing anything in the sun because it has such a strong intensity. All different kinds of music starts blaring from the neighbor’s houses.
During the chaos of filling the water tanks someone always manages to prepare “lunch.” This afternoon meal at around 3 is the big meal of the day. Sometimes Sofia who lives three houses down makes lunch and we help her carry it over. No matter who cooks, we always eat in the kitchen at Mex’s dad’s house. Sofia, Arlin (her 7-year-old), Karla and her baby are always there along with Mex, Filo and I. His dad is still in Jonacatepec, Gabi and Ernesto are at school and Eli is at work. This meal could be anything… Chiles rellenos, green enchiladas, spaghetti (either with cream sauce or pureed tomatos), fish soup, rice, fruit or jamaica flower water, chicken and mashed potatoes… and always lots of tortillas. The time after lunch is for descansando or resting. It is hot and sticky and there is not much else to do. We sit in the kitchen and chat or rest on the beds. There is no shade making it uncomfortable to sit outside. This early evening time is speckled with the occasional clip-clop of horse hooves, turkeys gobbling, roosters crowing, donkeys hee-hawing and dogs barking. And how could I forget, the “auctioneer” ads. Sometimes we’ll see iguanas skittering across the rocks or climbing quickly up the cement brick walls to escape the heat by sitting under the tin eaves. Although, I can’t really imagine it’s cooler up there so maybe they are trying to go towards the heat.

Finally someone collects the dishes and around 5, Mex’s dad comes home and sits in the chair in front of his room, which by this time has a little shade. Filo brings him a big glass of the days fruit water (jamaica-a dried flower-, pineapple, or orange are the most common) and his dinner. A truck goes by with someone yelling about fruits for sale so we go out of the gate and look at the mangoes and melons. The vendor cuts Filo a slice of mango to sample and once she gives the ok we buy two kilos (4.4 pounds) and a coconut for about $2. Mex and I each peel back the skin of a mango as easily as on a banana and smell the sweetness before we bite. Filo takes a shower and gets ready to go to a neighborhood meeting. At 6, Mex goes back down the road for the horse. The sun is low in the sky by now and it is slightly cooler although still hot enough to keep constant sweat droplets on my brow. When he returns his sister Filo leaves for her meeting and Mex sits outside next to his dad. I sit and read a magazine or name our overload of pictures on the computer so he can have some time alone.

Gabi comes home from school around 8 and immediately starts getting things in the kitchen ready for dinner, setting out leftovers covered in towels. There is a little TV time sprinkled in the evening because we wait for Eli to come home from work before eating. That can be anytime from 8:45 to 10pm. We lay lazily on the beds listening to the TV and chatting. I have gotten more comfortable and this is the time where I usually attempt to communicate and piece together sentences and stories about myself and friends and family. Usually by 9 his dad asks for his glass of milk as he continues to sit in his chair. Only once-in-a-while will he come into the room and lay on the bed to talk or listen.

When Eli arrives home someone calls Sofia and tells her to come over. Then, even though it is still warm outside we have coffee, tea or hot chocolate as we sit around the table once again. This late evening meal starts with either toast or the same not-so-sweet rolls. Then we have leftovers from lunch either exactly as they were or sometimes made into something else like mashed potato taquitos or cheese tacos. This is the best time of day because everyone is together and the conversation flies. Eli tells about her day at work and Filo starts telling about any news from her meeting. Everyone gets so animated when they tell stories and the smiles and laughs fill the kitchen pouring out the windowless windows. During this time there is inevitably a dog fight out on the streets somewhere nearby. Finally, sometime between 10 and 10:30 I leave to start my nightly ritual and Mex stays just a few more minutes to wrap up the evening. We adjust the fan so it blows as much air on us as possible, even though the air is pretty hot and uncomfortable until about 2 or 3 in the morning. We settle down in bed making sure to stay as far apart as possible because skin contact causes even more sweating. A honeymoon this is not =) We fall asleep to the sounds of dogs yelping all over town and a few good night hee-haws. That is our average day in Tetelilla, Morelos, Mexico!

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Filed under Family, Food, Mexican culture, Mexico, Tetelilla, Morelos

Car problems


Our poor PT enjoying the few hours of morning shade before its daily roasting in the Mexican sun.

Our car has decided to stop starting. Luckily, we made it all the way back from Acapulco but the very next day when we drove to Jonacatepec to visit the internet cafe for an hour. When we went back to the car it wouldn´t start. We walked around the town looking for a mechanic and eventually found one but he couldn’t look at it. We took a taxi back to Tetelilla and left the car in the “parking lot” which is actually some one’s yard. A mechanic cleaned the starter off the next day and it started (Monday) so we drove it home but we tried to start it today (Wednesday) and it is sitting in his dad´s yard refusing to budge. The mechanic thankfully makes house calls since tow trucks are not easily found here in his town. He thinks it may be the battery, my dad thinks it may be the alternator. Thank goodness for Skype and the internet because I was able to run to the internet cafe and then instant message my dad and tell him to call me on Skype over the internet so we could talk like on the telephone… All that for just a few pesos! Technology is a blessing when travelling and thankfully my dad has become almost as tech savvy as any generation Xer (he just needs to work on the typing speed).

Tomorrow we are going to another water park to take a break from the intense heat. I´ll have some more entries on Friday and an update on our car. Fixing it is very important because we are planning to leave on Monday for our 10 day trip back to the border. Everyone keep us and especially Mex in your thoughts the next few weeks and send him lots of good vibes, prayers and confidence for his interview on the 17th! We miss everyone and are soooooooo jealous of the snow!


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Good Friday Procession

Beginning of the Good Friday Procession in Tetelilla. One man walks barefoot carrying a large wooden cross, while a statue of Jesus follows, carefully shaded.

On Good Friday (21st?) we participated in a procession around Tetelilla, Mexico. Mex had only done it once before so it wasn’t really a tradition for him but I wanted to see it. It was very hot so we only lasted for two of the about five hours it takes, from 10 am to about 3 pm. The people from town lined the streets holding lit candles and marching. In the middle of the street walked a guy (“Jesus”) with no shoes and a crown of thorns carrying a cross. In front of him walked five men, three of which held candles on tall gold poles, one held a cross, and one carried a cross with Jesus on it. Then “Jesus” was followed by men carrying a very large statue of Jesus in purple robes kneeling down while carrying the cross. There were other men who carried a tent-like thing to shade the statue. However, the guy carrying the cross had no shade… At the end of the procession were women carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary, shaded, similar to the Jesus statue.

Shaded stations were set up all around town for the cross bearing “Jesus” to rest while everyone sings and prays.

It seemed like almost the whole town was participating. They set up different “stations” around town that were shaded, had red carpet laid down and were decorated with streamers and an altar. The procession went from station to station, putting all the statues under the shade at each one while everyone sang hymns and prayed. They all ended up at the church but Mex and I did not last that long. We stopped because it was incredibly hot and there was no shade at all. I felt so sorry for the guy carrying the 80 pound cross with bare feet but I guess his suffering was the point…

There was also a procession at night during which no one is allowed to talk. We did not go to that one because Mex started to feel sick and we were still quite exhausted from the morning. The heat here is very intense but at least when the sun goes down around 7 every thing does cool off very well. The breeze is fresh and it makes you want to sit outside all evening long. We usually spend about two hours every night sitting in his family’s open air kitchen sipping hot chocolate or tea, having

Leaders of procession and people walking

a snack and getting caught up on 13 years of stories. I stay focused for the first 4o minutes or so but then my brain starts to hurt and I begin to stare  at all the fun pots on the wall. His family is wonderful and I am loving the opportunity to meet them and get to know them. They are all so nice and welcoming. It will be hard to leave but it is reassuring to know that soon we will be able to come back and visit whenever we want too!


Filed under Family, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico