Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Video: "Mariachi without instruments" by Virtual Choir Vuela Alto

The latest project from Virtual Choir Vuela Alto: "Mariachi without instruments," including "Pelea de Gallos," "Si nos dejan," "Mujeres Divinas," and "México Lindo y Querido."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Video: "Mexico City"

I love this video! Not only does it offer incredible views from rarely seen perspectives, but it includes many of the sounds of the city as well.

La Ciudad from Santiago Arau Pontones on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Video: Mexico's street art explosion - Aztec meets urban

"The University on the Threshold of the 21st Century" mural

The middle section of the mural "The University on the Threshold of the 21st Century" ("La Universidad en el umbral del siglo XXI"), by Mexican painter Arturo García Bustos, in the Universidad metro station. 

"Universidad en el umbral del siglo XXI," Arturo García Bustos, 1989

Click here for more photos and a "who's who" guide (in Spanish) from the Metro's website.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Article: In New York, Protesters Against Police Brutality Embrace Families of Mexico’s Missing Students

An unfortunate connection between the two countries I call home:

"Americans and Mexicans have reacted with shock and horror to incidents over the last year that, in each country, have come to symbolize a deadly chasm between the rule of law and the citizens it is meant to protect. On Sunday, Mexican and American representatives of the individual struggles north and south of the border marched side-by-side to demand an end to police brutality."

Read the article, by Cleuci de Oliveira:

In New York, Protesters Against Police Brutality Embrace Families of Mexico’s Missing Students

Monday, May 11, 2015

Video: Tribute to Chespirito by Virtual Choir Vuela Alto

The virtual choir Vuela Alto paid tribute to Chespirito in their most recent video.

Vuela Alto is a nontraditional choir, in that they don't rehearse or perform together. Instead, they learn and record their parts individually, which is later combined into a video of the "virtual" a cappella choir. Homar Sánchez Díaz is the director (and a friend I met while singing in UNAM's choir), and the singers are students at the school where he teaches in the State of San Luis Potosí.

I'll let Wikipedia help me out describing Chespirito, for those of you who aren't familiar with him and his work:

Roberto Gómez Bolaños (21 February 1929 – 28 November 2014),[2] more commonly known by his pseudonym Chespirito,[3] was a Mexican screenwriteractorcomedianfilm directortelevision directorplaywrightsongwriter, and author. He is widely regarded as one of the most important Spanish-language humorists of the 20th century.
He was internationally known for writing, directing, and starring in the Chespirito (1968), El Chavo del Ocho (1971), and El Chapulín Colorado (1972) television series. The character of El Chavo is one of the most iconic in the history of Latin American television, and El Chavo del Ocho continues to be immensely popular, with daily worldwide viewership averaging 91 million viewers per episode.[4]

As far as I know, in the U.S., Chespirito was only shown in Spanish, so it's not well-known to the general population. However, people in Mexico and throughout Latin America (including Brazil, where it was translated into Portuguese) grew up with El Chavo del Ocho (The Boy from No. 8) and El Chapulín Colorado (The Red Grasshopper). (If you're interested, this is an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times, "What ‘Chespirito’ Left Us, " by Ilan Stavns, about Chespirito in Mexico and Hispanics in the U.S.)

Enjoy the video (and probably the cutest group of chapulines colorados you'll ever see!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Another Spring day at the UNAM

Jacarandas and Tower II

the Central Library 

the Central Library 

the Central Library


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Jardines de Pedregal's International Women's Day Breakfast

Back in March I attended Rotary Club Jardines de Pedregal's breakfast in celebration of International Women's Day.

This year, the club honored the following women:

  • Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas, Secretary of Tourism
  • Martha Ortiz Chapa, Chef
  • Margarita Carillo, Chef 
  • Virginia Sendel de Lemaitre, President and Founder of  the Michou y Mau Foundation for child burn victims 

I was named an honorary member of the club and awarded a Rotary pin, for my assistance with a Global Grant project. As an Ambassadorial Scholar, I helped initiate contact, facilitate communication, translate documents, and track the project between Rotary Club Jardines de Pedregal in District 4170 (Mexico) and my sponsor Rotary Club Crescent in District 7690 (North Carolina). Through this project, a small cooperative was formed in Cuautepec (on the outskirts of Mexico City). The members (almost all women) received technical, business, and co-op training, and now make and sell clothing in their neighborhood, providing a local option for employment in a neighborhood where economic opportunities are scarce. Sara Méndez, President of the Co-op, was also recognized at the breakfast.  

with Maricarman Porras Navarro (Jardines de Pedregal President) 

with members of RC Jardines de Pedregal and the Co-Op President 

I had attended Jardines de Pedregal's Women's Day breakfast my first year in Mexico, which you can read about here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Article: "How the burrito conquered America"

Wondering about the history of the burrito and it's popularity? (An important topics, I know)

Read the article, by Phil Edwards, at Vox:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Article: Liquid mercury found under Mexican pyramid could lead to king's tomb

Archaeologists have identified liquid mercury at the end of a tunnel under one of the pyramids at Teotihuacan, which may indicate a king's tomb or ritual chamber (as of yet, no such tomb or chamber has been discovered). 

Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan 

Read the article, by Alan Yuhas, at The Guardian:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Video: Ayotzinapa's 43 Disappeared: Family & Friends Remember

Tomorrow marks seven months since the forced disappearance of the 43 students from the teacher's college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. Seven months, and still no real answers. 

Here's a video from AJ+, with commentary from family and friends of the disappeared students, filmed in January 2014. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Another Spring day at the UNAM

jacaranda tree in bloom, the Rector's Office, and the Central Library

"The Conquest of Energy" by José Chávez Morado

jacaranda trees in bloom

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring at the UNAM

flowers outside of the Economic Institute 

jacaranda tree


succulent and cactus 

cactus flowers starting to bloom 

Sculpture Garden




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jacaranda sighting

This morning I had my first jacaranda sighting of the year!

Mexico City is famous for this purple-flowered tree, whose blooms mark the beginning of Spring. It's bit like the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.,  though here they are throughout the city and not in a specific place. While it's still early, Spring is on its way and the city will soon be in bloom!

I don't have a photo from this morning, but here are two from last year:

Jacaranda, 2014

Jacaranda, 2014

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekend in Veracruz, part 2: Mamá Juanita's 80th birthday in Maltrata

After two days in Veracruz, Edson and I headed to Maltrata to celebrate Mamá Juanita's 80th birthday!

Mamá Juanita is the matriarch of the family I always stay with in Maltrata, with 10 children (8 in town) and even more grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. I was practically adopted as one of the family during my first visit in 2011, and since then my trips to Maltrata have transitioned from thesis research to personal visits.

This was the third year I've been able to join in for her birthday celebration (check out the blog entries from 2013 and 2014). Since she likes to celebrate on her actual birthday, the festivities took place on a Sunday (thank goodness her birthday didn't fall on a weekday this year!). The morning was busy, preparing for the festivities. Then we quickly got ready to accompany Mamá Juanita at church, where she was mentioned during the service.

Mamá Juanita with 5 of her children after mass 

Me and Edson with Mamá Juanita after mass

Back at the house after church, a mariachi band arrived to serenade her (starting with "Las Mañanitas" of course, the Mexican birthday song) and escort her to the party.

heading up to the party while being serenade by the mariachi band

They went all out for the party! There was a huge tent set up and the tables were beautifully decorated, including gorgeous flower arrangements designed and assembled by Mamá Juanita's son, Ricardo. Mamá Juanita sat at the head table, in a comfy chair reminiscent of a thrown, appropriate for the queen of the day.

The decorations were red and heart-themed. In Mexico, February 14th is known as "El día de amor y amistad," or "the day of love and friendship," expanding the focus a bit from just romantic love. Since her birthday is in February, they tied in to the theme, acknowledging all the people she has loved and that have loved her over these eighty years.

flowers, heart-shaped balloons, and papel picado

Mamá Juanita's birthday celebration


There was a four-tier cake and a gift table eventually overflowing with presents.

cake and gift table

The mariachi band played for a while, followed by a man who sang and played keyboard, followed by a well-known local band. The party started in the afternoon for lunch (around 2 or 3pm, a normal time for lunch in Mexico) and turned into a dance that went on into the night.

mariachi band

me and Edson at the party

We enjoyed soup, chicken with mole (that Mamá Juanita made!), rice, and tamales. I was told that they were expecting 300-350 people, though the waiters estimated that 400 people were there over the course of the afternoon and evening. Apparently they ran out of plates and silverware and had to start washing to accommodate everyone!

chicken with mole and rice

As per tradition in Maltrata, they did the "baile del guajolote" or "turkey dance." 

For this tradition, a basket (or multiple baskets) is prepared, including one or two turkeys, whose heads stick up out of the basket and are secured between dowel rods decorated with tissue paper. Food (such as tortillas and mole) and even drink (like tequila) are place inside the basked and it is wrapped up, usually in a sheet or plastic tablecloth. For Mamá Juanita's birthday celebration, there was one basket with two turkeys: one decorated as the woman, with earrings and a hair accessory (or shower cap?), and the other as a man with a hat and a cigarette. 

the guajolotes prepared for Mamá Juanita's birthday celebration

When it's time for the turkey dance, there is a specific song (though I'm not sure what it's called, maybe just "Guajolote"?). Men, and sometimes women, take turns dancing with the (heavy!) basket, rocking it back and forth, spinning around, and sometimes tossing it into the air. The women, and sometimes the men, dance with flowers, candles, and incense. 

I'm ready with flowers for the baile del guajolote

ready for the baile del guajolote

Rosa María, ready with a candle for the baile del guajolote (and note the incense in the air) 

el baile del guajolote

el baile del guajolote

After the dance, the basket (or baskets) is given to the padrino ("godparent" or "sponsor," depending on the occasion) as a thank you. 

I didn't record a video this time, but you can check out two of my videos from previous "turkey dances" in Maltrata here or here. According to a quick Youtube search, it looks like the "turkey dance" is common in Oaxaca -- but there they dance with live turkeys!!

A few more photos before my camera battery died: 

with Paty, Arturo, and Alex... Axel was hiding behind them and refused to
take a photo with me the entire day! 
Mamá Juanita with 8 of her 10 children

Mamá Juanita with some of her children, daughters-in-law, grandchildren,
great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren

It was a fantastic celebration for a wonderful woman! I'm so glad to have met this family, been welcomed with open arms, and been able to celebrate Mamá Juanita's 80th birthday! 

with Mamá Juanita

I spent the night, then stayed long enough on Monday for a bit of downtime with the family and (delicious) leftovers for lunch before heading back to the DF. 

They sent me home with mole, and I was pretty proud of myself for making chicken and mole enchiladas and chicken vegetable soup (mostly to be able to use the chicken for the enchiladas and broth to prepare the mole paste). Yum!