Las Posadas Navideñas

Thursday this week began las posadas navideñas, the nine days of annual Christmas celebrations that culminate with a big celebration on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. The nine days symbolize each of the months that Mary was pregnant, and that’s also why Christmas Eve is more celebrated in Mexico than Christmas Day like in many other countries.

The posadas often include traditional foods and drinks, especially things like tamales and ponche navideño. There are many different ways to make ponche, and each family does something different. Another holiday favorite of mine is rompope, an eggnog-like drink that comes from the famous nuns of Puebla, a city located about two hours outside of Mexico City.

Watch this video to learn more about las posadas and how our family celebrates.

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Wordless Wednesday: Nochebuenas

This past weekend I saw the first Nochebuenas of the holiday season! Did you know that Poinsettia flowers originally came from Mexico? Just a few hours outside of Mexico City, the first poinsettias were discovered in the valleys of Taxco and Cuernavaca but it wasn’t until after the Spanish conquest that they were incorporated as a symbol of the Christmas season thanks to the Franciscan priests. The flower was popularized in the United States after it was brought here by Joel Poinsett, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico after the country won its independence from Spain.

  • Does your family use Nochebuenas to decorate during the holidays?
The photo in this post was taken with my iPhone 3Gs using the Polarize app by Christopher Comair.

Celebrate Mexico Every Day

September 16th, Mexican Independence Day, has come and gone, but the celebration of Mexico isn’t really over just yet.

Tomorrow, November 20th, Mexico will celebrate the centennial of its Revolution. This year has been filled with special events all over the world honoring these two important anniversaries in Mexican history.

But there are many everyday reasons to celebrate Mexico, too: the diverse flora and fauna; beautiful ecosystems spanning every kind of terrain from jungles and deserts; the incredible food with worldly influences ranging from pre-Hispanic cultures to European, Asian and beyond; the kind and generous people; the abundance of historical and World Heritage sites… I could probably go on listing the things I love about Mexico for days. I can’t wait to one day have children to teach them all the things we love so much about the country where their papá was born and raised.

In the news in the U.S., Mexico is often painted as a violent, turbulent place and seldom are the positive things about the country and the culture shared in the mainstream media. But to me, Mexico is so much more than what they show on the news. Here on The Other Side of The Tortilla, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of Mexico and Mexican culture because it is what I feel in my heart. It is a mission here to both connect Mexicans at home and abroad to their culture via stories about family and food – two of the most important aspects of the culture – as well as educate those who are not Mexican about traveling the country, absorbing the rich culture and experiencing the incomparable cuisine.

This week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded Mexican cuisine the status as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya. This is big news in Tortillalandia and you can definitely expect to read more about it here soon. In the meantime, check out the Conservatorio de la Cultura Gastronómica Mexicana to learn more about the organization that submitted the proposal that was approved by UNESCO. I’m excited to see that the world is finally acknowledging the importance of Mexican cuisine and it’s even more special that the status is being awarded during the bicentennial year.

From November 29-December 10, Mexico will also be hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also know as COP16/CMP6) in Cancun. I was delighted to hear that the conference will be planting around 10,000 trees and bushes in Cancun as part of their way of giving back to the city for hosting. I’m very excited to see all the sustainability efforts being implemented during the conference, as environmental sustainability and caring for the natural resources of the area are very important to the local habitat. The Riviera Maya has much to offer in terms of natural beauty, historic landmarks and world-class culture and food. In fact, the ruins at Tulum are one of my favorite gems in that area because they incorporate both the lush vegetation and the incredible building skills of a civilization that is not physically present, but still lives on in the heart of Mexican history.

I encourage you to follow along with the conference and check out the resources on their website as Mexico steps into the limelight to become part of the solution, bridging the gap between the developed and developing worlds and educating others on how to preserve our beautiful natural spaces and reduce our carbon footprints for generations to come.

I plan to continue celebrating the magic of the Bicentenario through the rest of 2010 and well into the future. I’ll be visiting Mexico for most of the month of December and into early January so you can count on a daily serving of whatever I’m up to, all laid out here in stories, photos and video every day while I’m there. Ven conmigo and subscribe via email or RSS so you don’t miss out on the fun!

Without Mexico, my life would be a lot less picante, verdad? And to me, life without a little spice is boring so I’m proud to say that Mexico is my home away from home.

If you missed the espectáculo, check out this video below for a glimpse of how the bicentenario was celebrated in Mexico City’s zócalo. To learn more about Mexico’s rich history and the events still to come in 2010, check out the Bicentennial websites in Spanish and English.

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200 AÑOS DE SER ORGULLOSAMENTE MEXICANOS

  • HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE MEXICO EVERY DAY?
The photos in this post were provided by the government of Mexico through Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
Ogilvy is working with the government of Mexico as a communications partner to help promote Mexico worldwide as a global business partner and unrivaled tourist destination. To accomplish this, they are working with writers like me to provide interesting information, additional facts, economic information, and new perspectives about the country to a range of interested audiences. The words and opinions here are my own.

Querétaro: barbacoa de la carretera & other tales

This past summer I took a road trip from Mexico City to Aguascalientes with my suegros to celebrate José’s Abuelita Ana’s 90th birthday.

The day before we left Mexico City, my suegros were going on and on about this place we were going to stop for barbacoa for breakfast. I didn’t need to hear anything more; I was sold. Mostly because any time they mention food that’s along the highway, I know it’s going to be good. I can’t quite explain why, but every restaurant I’ve ever been to along the highway in Mexico with them has been practically legendary.  It’s fodder for conversation for months – sometimes even years – at the dinner table, family gatherings, via email or phone. Highway food is never forgotten in our family. Many conversations begin with, “remember that time we ate at that little place off the highway?”

Perhaps I never understood what “something to call home about” meant until I ate the world-famous cecina at Cuatro Vientos on the highway to Acapulco just outside of Cuernavaca a few years back. (OK, perhaps it’s not world-famous, but it’s certainly famous within Mexico. It should be world-famous, it is that good.) I’ve explicitly trusted my suegros with steering me toward the best highway road trip food ever since and they haven’t disappointed me yet. So when they told me we were going to have barbacoa de la carretera, my salivary glands were already in overdrive.

We left Mexico City around 6 a.m., and as we got stuck in traffic on the way out of the city I began to drift off in the back seat. When I awoke, we were pulling off the highway and onto a gravel driveway that was packed with cars and people who all had the same motivation as ours: barbacoa for breakfast at Barbacoa Santiago…. 

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Happy National Taco Day!

Happy National Taco Day!

I didn’t even know this holiday existed in the United States until today when I was doing my daily morning food reading, but I’m glad I came across it because who doesn’t need another excuse to talk about tacos? Although practically every day is taco day in my house and we don’t need a holiday just to eat them, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some history about one of Mexico’s most common culinary delights.

My good friend Claudia, who is from Puebla, Mexico, and is also a linguist, shared with me a little lesson about the origin of the word “taco.”

There are various accepted origins; literally, it means a plug for an empty gap. Which makes a lot of sense when you look at it from the perspective of food – you eat a taco to fill the emptiness in your belly that is hunger.

A gringa from El Fogoncito in Mexico City

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Classic guacamole recipe

mi papel picado bicentenario

¡Feliz Día de la Independencia, México!

Did you watch the Grito last night?

In my house, we hung papel picado and waved our Mexican flag as we watched the celebration starting in Mexico City’s zócalo. My heart was filled with emotion seeing the zócalo, where I have stood in awe many times, brimming with people from all corners of Mexico to celebrate the bicentennial of Independence from Spain and 100 years since the Revolution.

If you missed the Grito, the shout of independence honoring Mexico’s national heroes, you can watch it here:

If you want to watch last year’s Grito and attempt a very traditional Independence Day recipe, you can check out the chiles en nogada I made and posted last year here on The Other Side of The Tortilla…. 

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