Friday, March 22, 2013


My first week in Mexico City (we're talking July 2010), my dad and I planned to cut through the park Viveros on our way to Coyoacán until we realized that with the layout of the park (closed off with a few entrances/exits) it wasn't really feasible.

Since that almost attempt at a visit, I had never been into Viveros. That is, until (finally!) two weeks ago when Edson and I visited Viveros for a run.

Viveros means "garden center" or "nursery." My Lonely Planet Mexico City City Guide 2008 (that I just remembered and pulled out for the first time in forever) describes it as:
... the principal nurseries for Mexico City's parks and gardens. The 3900,000-sq-meter swath of greenery, 1km west of central Coyoacán, is popular with joggers and perfect for a stroll, but watch out for belligerent squirrels!" (Lonely Planet Mexico City City Guide 2008) 
I'm not so sure about "belligerent" squirrels, but the 2 km path is heavily used by walkers and runners and in the open grassy areas I've seen yoga, Tai Chi, bootcamp and other classes. There are seedling and sapling areas, though I'd say the majority is made up of full grown trees, divided by type (at least according to the map, chestnut, walnut, cedar, ash, elm, poplar, palm, pine, and cacti among other things). The 2km path along the perimeter gets pretty hectic with walkers and runners, but you can also stroll (or run. whatever) along the more peaceful, tree-lined pathways that traverse the park.

Map of Viveros

I really enjoyed Viveros and wish I had discovered it (aka actually gone in) sooner. It's a nice breath of fresh air in the city!

Choir concert at Children's home A&S

Last Sunday the choir performed at the Children's home "Help for and Solidarity with Street Girls" (Ayuda y Solidaridad con las Niñas de la Calle). 

The Children's home provides a safe and supportive home for the girls as well as psychological and medical attention, legal counsel, academic and employment preparation, and an opportunity to participate in cultural activities and sports. The girls are between the ages of 4 and 20 and at risk of living on the streets due to domestic violence, sexual abuse, extreme poverty and/or orphanhood.

I wasn't sure what to expect but I was really impressed, upon arrival with the facilities and later on with the girls and the overall feel of the home. The girls came in all dressed up and so excited for the concert. Since our audience was a younger crowd the director made the concert a bit more interactive to keep them involved. Their responses were so intelligent and often times hilarious. I loved watching the little (or not so little) ones attempting to imitate the percussion movements. We finished the concert with two encores, repeating by request their two favorites songs we had sung. It was definitely one of the most enthusiastic and memorable audiences we've sung to! 

If you're interested in learning more about the Children's home you can visit their website (here in Spanish or here in English that could use a bit of help with translating/ editing) or Facebook page. You can also donate here.

Happy Spring

The jacarandas are in bloom! It must be Spring! 

Also, yesterday I saw what I'm assuming was a preschool's Spring parade. The park was filled with little ones (accompanied by parents and teachers) riding tricycles, bicycles, scooters and "Barbie cars" decorated with flowers and balloons. Some of the kiddos were dressed up as animals. I liked the little girl dressed as a bunny in her Barbie car with carrots. 

Happy Spring! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big city, small world

Last week, in less than 48 hours, I ran into 4 friends/ acquaintances that I don't normally cross paths with. One showed up in my living room -a friend of my roommate, unbeknownst to me. I stood next to two of them on the metro, on separate occasions. And another I saw from across the street and we said hello in the middle of the crosswalk. Did I mention that an estimated 8,851,080 people live in the DF?
Big city. Small world.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Visit to Maltrata

I went back to Maltrata February 7-10th to celebrate Mama Juanita's birthday.

view from the bus window of Maltrata down below

I arrived in time on Thursday to help make the tamales for Friday's celebration. The masa (dough) was practically ready by the time I got there, though they were still working on getting it to just the right consistency and flavor. There was regular masa, made with ground corn (cornmeal? cornflour?) and lard, as well as frijol (bean) dough and alverjón (dried pea) dough.

regular masa 

black bean masa
To make the tamales they layered the regular and bean doughs and regular and alverjón doughs, creating a marbled look. 

bean tamales ready to be wrapped
They taught me how to wrap the tamal dough in a leaf from an avocado tree (for flavoring) and then in a corn husk, twisting the end and pushing it into the dough to keep it closed while cooking.

bean tamal with an avocado leaf (behind) in a corn husk

wrapping tamales

tamales wrapped and ready to be cooked
There was leftover dough, so they also made some with the regular masa with rajas (cooked and sliced poblano chili peppers) and cheese inside. 

That evening we took the kiddos to the new park by the old Railroad Substation, where we saw a beautiful sunset. 

the boys with their mom

the old Railroad Substation 

The boys' current obsession is Toy Story, so we spent lots of time playing with the Toy Story toys that the reyes magos (wisemen) brought him for Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day / Day of the Wisemen).

The daughters and daughter-in-laws of the family spent Friday morning preparing the chicken, mole (which Mama Juanita made - it was delicious!!), rice, tamales and salad for that afternoon. Fifty or so people came over that afternoon to celebrate and we enjoyed a delicious meal, cake and music provided by a man who sang and played accordion.

Me with Mama Juanita and her grandson that shares her birthday

blowing out the candles

with Rosa Maria

Mama Juanita with her birthday flowers

On Saturday Edson stopped by briefly on his way to Veracruz, so he got to meet my "Maltrata family" and get a quick tour of Maltrata (my little buddy Axel got so jealous!) Since he drove he was able to stop and take pictures of Maltrata from up above. The smoke is from the tabiqueras or galeras, where they make tabique (bricks).

We stopped by Aquila as well (the neighboring town), where there were some stands still set up from their fair the week before. There were some huehues out dancing as well, though definitely not as big of a turnout as I had seen in Maltrata the year before (you can see photos and videos here).

huehues in Aquila

Overall it was a great long weekend in Maltrata. I enjoyed visiting and, as always, spending time with my little buddies! I realized that Alex -- who I met the day he was born -- is now the age Axel was the first time I went to Maltrata. How times flies!

Tamales on February 2nd

In Mexico, it's tradition to eat tamales on February 2nd. Let me explain (with my newly pieced together knowledge -- thank you Google)....

Candlemas is a Christian holiday celebrated on February 2nd. It celebrates the presentation of baby Jesus at the Temple after the traditional 40-day period of purification of Mary following his birth.
Candlemas is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Feast for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Meeting of the Lord.

In Mexico people share a rosca, a bread in the shape of a circle or oval with at least one baby Jesus figurine hidden inside, on January 6th for Three Kings Day / Day of the Wisemen (Día de los Reyes Magos). Whoever finds the baby Jesus figure in their piece of the rosca becomes the padrino or madrina (kind of like Godparent) and is supposed to provide the tamales and chocolate (like hot chocolate) or atole (a masa-based drink) on February 2nd.  

But why tamales? And atole? While Mexico is a very Catholic country, many of its traditions and beliefs are the product of sincretismo, the combination of Catholic and Pre-hispanic religions and cultures. Tamales were used as offerings to the gods because they are made of corn, the material used by the gods to create humans. And Atole is a masa (corn) - based drink.  So, while February 2nd is a Christian celebration, it draws upon Pre-hispanic traditions to celebrate.

Coyoacán hosted its Tamal Festival from January 30th - February 3rd, with tamales from all over Mexico and the world. I went on February 2nd with Edson and it was packed! We enjoyed lots of delicious tamales. Unfortunately, we were too excited (hungry?) about eating them to remember to take pictures of what we tried. I think my favorite was a tamal with chicken and mole from Oaxaca. There were the regular savory flavors (mole, bean, with salsa or chile) as well as sweet tamales, such as chocolate or blackberry and cream cheese. 



And this one is for you Josh - Ukraine!