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! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Weekend in Veracruz, part 1: Veracruz (Port City)

The first week in February, Edson and I spent a long weekend in the state of Veracruz.

Early Friday morning, on the way to our first destination (Veracruz, the Port City), we were greeted by this magnificent view of the Pico de Orizaba.

Good morning! The Pico de Orizaba in the early morning

We made it to Veracruz and worked from (his cousin's) home for the day, fitting in time of course for picadas and empanadas for breakfast and seafood for lunch.

That evening we went to the Veracruz - Querétaro fútbol game (thanks Alejandro, Gabriel, and Manola for the tickets!).

Veracruz's team bus pulling in

"Stronger than ever" 

In our Veracruz colors 
The main attraction of the day was, arguably, not the home team, but Querétaro's newly acquired star player, Ronaldinho. Even I recognized that name! Ronaldinho is a Brazilian soccer superstar who "won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005. Renowned for his technique, tricks, dribbling, overhead kicks, no-look passes and free kicks, Ronaldinho is regarded to be one of the best players of his generation" (thanks, Wikipedia). Unlike the rest of his team, he got a huge cheer when he made his way onto the field. 

Ronaldinho (left), warming up

Ronaldinho, warming up

Ronaldinho + teammates, warming up

Please note that all of the photographers were focused on Querétaro Ronaldinho (left) during warm-ups, completely ignoring the Veracruz team (right). Ha!


The stadium was PACKED! I don't have a good photo to show it, but you couldn't even see most of the aisle-ways since they were completely filled with people. Definitely a fire hazard. 

Querétaro tied the game 1-1 at the last minute with a rather anti-climatic goal and the star player didn't do much besides make a few passes and excel at his role of famous player. We had fun though and I got to meet some of Edson's college buddies.

On Saturday we went to brunch at the famous El Gran Café de la Parroquia.

El Gran Café de la Parroquia

We took a drive along the coastline and hung out for a bit at the beach.

"R" for Rebecca 

"E" for Edson

We enjoyed a late lunch at a seafood buffet with live music. My favorite part of the meal was mofongo (google is telling me it's a Puerto Rican dish?), which was fried plantain, shaped into a ball, stuffed with seafood and topped with cheese. It was delicious!

From there we headed out for our next destination: Maltrata, Veracruz. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our weekend in Veracruz!

Monday, February 16, 2015


It's been a while. Let's catch up, shall we?

So lately: thesis, thesis, and more thesis. Fun, right? So besides that....

Back in January, I caught up with Xóchitl, one of my first friends at the UNAM. I hadn't seen her since she moved to Spain two years ago! It was a fun night of life updates and lots of laughs with friends.

UNAM friends 

I also celebrated my birthday in January. Edson surprised me with an awesome breakfast when I got back from the gym and that night we went out for dinner and drinks. We planned to go out, just the two of us, that weekend since I wasn't going to plan a big celebration this year. Little did I know...

This was me an hour or so before heading out on Saturday: reading through my draft and not very happy about it.


We headed out to Mama Rumba, my favorite place to Salsa dance. SURPRISE! Friends were already waiting for me there, ready to celebrate my birthday with cake, roses, mojitos, and dancing! Edson did a fantastic job organizing my surprise party (I had NO idea) and I had so much fun!


Also in January, we celebrated Proma's birthday (a lovely new friend!)...

Happy birthday, Proma! 

... and I caught up with a high school classmate I hadn't seen in ten years, who happened to be in Mexico City for the week. I made sure his introduction to the DF included birria, tostadas at the Coyoacán Market, and chapulines.


Some of the choir girls (alto power!) celebrated with and said goodbye (for now) to Nira, who successfully finished up her studies at the UNAM and now, as an official doctor, is heading out for her year of service. (Like residency maybe? Not sure, the system is different...) 

Alto love

In February, I watched Adriana perform an Afro-Cuban dance at the Sala Miguel Covarrubias.

Afro-Cuban dance

Edson and I took a long-weekend trip to the state of Veracruz, visiting both the port city Veracruz and Maltrata (a full post on that trip coming soon! *Edit: Part 1 and Part 2).

in Veracruz

in Maltrata with Mamá Juanita

We had a bachelorette party for a friend getting married next month. 

And finally, on Saturday, Edson surprised me with a dozen gorgeous roses for Valentine's Day! He was out of town on Valentine's Day, so it was quite a pleasant surprise delivered to my door!