A few years ago, I spent a beautiful weekend with a large group of family friends in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. While I was there, we witnessed some pretty spectacular sunsets each evening as we gathered on the patio for dinner. I couldn’t resist pulling out my camera to capture the golden sky as the sun slipped away from us.
Día de los Muertos was this past week and as a special treat, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me photos and descriptions of their altars to share here on The Other Side of The Tortilla to show the variety of ways that people celebrate this holiday.
Where in Mexico are your family’s roots?
I am a first generation immigrant from the city of Cuernavaca in the beautiful state of Morelos, known for its spring weather all year long. All my family lives in Mexico, and they have been denied visas to come visit the U.S. so I literally live between two worlds. My dad lives in California, but he left me and my family when I was 8 years old. Although I’m glad he’s here, I haven’t lived with him in California.
Who does your altar honor?
My altar mainly honors my culture and my roots. I put together my altar at the last minute. I called my dad and asked him to expedite me a box full of sugar skulls (some of them arrived broken), marigolds, bread and papel picado. Then I went through my files and found pictures from two of my great grandmas and one of my tía abuela.
Why do you make an altar for Día de los Muertos?
I made the altar because I wanted my kids to learn about my traditions. This is my first attempt to recreate a Mexican tradition with them and it was a success!
How does it keep you connected to Mexican culture?
Last summer I had the chance to take my kids to Mexico to meet my family. They connected with my family in a very deep way, the Latin way. Saying goodbye to come back to the U.S. was heartbreaking, not only to me, but to them as well. They not only learned Spanish, but they also learned that there is an entire family that loves them in a different part of the world. They had never had many adults around in their lives who paid individual attention to them. Ever since we got back to Utah, they think that every airplane that goes by our house is either going to Mexico or coming back from Mexico. I know that they will forget those relationships they formed if I don’t maintain their connected to Mexico. I don’t know if they will continue these traditions, but I know that at least they will be exposed to them. They will have to decide for themselves if they want to pass them on or not, but I surely hope they do.
- Share your altar with us! Fill out this form by Nov. 10 to participate and your altar could be featured here.
In October, I traveled to Mexico for a cousin’s wedding. It wasn’t your typical church wedding followed by a reception at a banquet hall. Instead, it was held at a beautiful ex hacienda in the town of Yautepec, located in the state of Morelos. Not far from Cuernavaca, Yautepec is a short trip (about an hour and a half drive) from Mexico City. If you go, I recommend a stay at the very hospitable Villa Iyautli, where our family often stays. This area is incredibly rich with history and I was thrilled to visit and learn all about it.
THE HISTORY OF THE AREA AND EX HACIENDA APANQUETZALCO…
Today we’re headed back to Chicago and la vida diaria, but so we don’t skip a beat while traveling, we’ve prepared a few lists, based on you, the readers, and what you loved most on The Other Side of The Tortilla in 2010. Click on the photos below to visit each recipe or story.
And don’t forget, for more homemade Tortilla goodness, a glimpse at what’s cooking in the Tortilla Test Kitchen and exclusive giveaways for fans, LIKE us on Facebook!
TOP 3 BEVERAGES/BEBIDAS
TOP 3 RECIPES/RECETAS
TOP 3 TRAVEL STORIES/CUENTOS DE VIAJE
TOP 3 VIDEOS
- We hope you’ll find something new that you may have missed or that you rediscover a recipe or story you may have already read. If your favorite post isn’t listed here, let us know in the comments what you liked best. Also, please feel free to leave a comment with what you’d like to see in 2011!
This past weekend, I spent some time with my suegros at a friend’s weekend home in Cuernavaca with a group of my suegra’s best friends from college. Cuernavaca is located in the state of Morelos, Mexico. They were all at our wedding in Los Cabos nearly two and a half years ago, so it was wonderful to see them all in one place again. And the last time I was in Cuernavaca was two years ago when we stayed at the Camino Real Sumiya for a short New Year’s vacation, so I was overdue for a visit.
Cuernavaca is nicknamed the city of eternal spring because of its pleasant year-round climate and is located about an hour outside of Mexico City. There’s a little bit of something for everyone: museums, resorts and spas, ecotourism that includes national parks, and an abundance of historical architecture including a palace that belonged to Hernán Cortes. According to the Mexico Tourism Board, the palace is the oldest example of viceregal architecture on the American continent. The first time I saw it two years ago, I was in awe – to think of how long ago the palace was constructed and that it still exists today left an incredible impression on me.
At the home where we gathered in Cuernavaca, there was an abundance of food, dancing, chatting, food, swimming, fireworks… and more food. The fireworks weren’t ours, though; we just enjoyed someone else’s from afar. My suegro told me that it’s fairly common in Cuernavaca to see fireworks when there’s a wedding. In the food department, we had a little bit of everything: fruta, huevo con chorizo, barbacoa, tamales, paella, pollo, botanas, tortitas de bacalao, quesos, jamón serrano, flan, paletas, just to name a few things.
This weekend I’ll be off galavanting around Cuernavaca to visit friends with my suegra, but so as not to leave you too verde de envidia (especially if I end up eating at El Faisán before returning to Mexico City on Sunday), I thought I’d give you a few events going on in a few of my favorite U.S. cities that will make you feel like you’re in Mexico – at least for a few hours.
If you know anything about Mexican music from the 1980s, then you know the Mexico City guacarrock band, Botellita de Jerez. True story: we played the Botellita de Jerez song “Abuelita de Batman” at our wedding in Mexico and it was a hit with all our guests! For a blast from the past, watch the music video of the song below.
Now, there’s a film, “basada en hechos más o menos reales” as they say about the true story of Botellita de Jerez, and it’s called “Naco es Chido.” I’ve been dying to see the film but haven’t had the opportunity to view it yet because I was out of town when it screened in Chicago this summer during the Hola México Film Festival. Botellita de Jerez will be in San Diego and Los Angeles this weekend, with a special screening of the film in Los Angeles followed by a performance by the band….
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.
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….