9 posts

Recipe Sunday: Feliz Cinco de Mayo

¡Hola! Move over, Lucky. Today I’m your HMIC (Head Mexican in Charge) and I’m here to wish you a happy, fake, not-at-all Mexican holiday.

But don’t let the falseness of the holiday, dissuade you from celebrating. No good American lets the fact that a holiday is basically a figment of our collective imagination stop them from throwing a party. This goes double for me and my fellow Mexican-Americans, who love few things more a BBQ. Happily, because we are Mexican, we don’t really have to switch it up for Cinco de Mayo, it just means our normal fare is on special at the grocery store. Continue reading

Chinese Food in the Yukon and Chiapas

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada: New China

It’s a frigid October afternoon. I’m walking towards a Chinese restaurant suggested by Lonely Planet. About halfway there, I see about a dozen middle aged Chinese men (obviously from Mainland China based on their hairstyle and the way they wear their white collared shirts) cramming themselves into a 15-passenger van. With toothpicks in their mouths and loud, satisfying burps, I can tell that they just ate. They came out of New China, which was not my destination. Continue reading

Mexican Elections Are More Dramatic than Mexican Soap Operas

In light of our North American celebration today (Happy Canada Day!), I wanted to bring a little attention to our friends south of the border and the elections happening today. It is widely expected that Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) will win against the number two candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the Progressive Movement Coalition and who narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón in a hotly contested election in 2006. Two other candidates, seen trailing, are Josefina Vazquez Mota (National Action Party) and the long shot Gabriel Quadri (New Alliance Party). Continue reading

La Vida Sencilla (The Simple Life)

Now that I am only a month or two away from moving away from the tiny Mexican pueblo – about an hour away from Puerto Vallarta – that has been my home for the last seven years, the anticipation I felt at returning to live in the United States has been replaced by a general feeling of dread, a kind of malaise of the soul.  All I can think of is how much I will miss almost everything about this town: most especially, my warm, welcoming and easily communicative neighbors, none of whom speaks English.  They have all been tremendously patient with me as I chatter away in my amusingly broken Spanish (although it is far better than it was when I arrived with five years of long-ago language schooling and little practical experience speaking it).

I am flummoxed as to why in the U.S., Mexicans have received an undeserved reputation as being lazy; it is my experience that nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to witnessing how hard they work, I have also come to greatly respect their sense of reverence for family – extending quite literally from the cradle to the grave. I have been fortunate to have been invited to baptisms, quincinieras (a huge party for a girl’s 15th birthday), weddings and funerals over the years, and always, I have been treated with respect even though I am clearly not a native Mexican.

The picture accompanying this post is the view from the roof of my house; the vacant lot next door is home to a couple of cows and an obviously nocturnal donkey who serenades us often in the middle of the night. Chickens and dogs wander freely, and herds of goats and cows traverse the town’s small and perilously uneven cobblestone streets. Horses are mostly used for transporting tourists curious about our unusual bucolic existence. Young children safely walk unescorted through the streets; traffic is light, drivers are cautious in town, and everyone here knows each other, which enhances a feeling of safety as well as community.

Elsewhere in Mexico, there have been reports of rampant violence related to drug cartels and/or high unemployment. In Puerto Vallarta, the cruise lines imposed a moratorium on cruises into the are which lasted almost a year. But the violence which Bad Karma wrote about in his article on San Miguel de Allende (12 hours away from here) has, thankfully, not affected us. There have been an increase of break-ins in a wealthy nearby enclave, but no injuries or deaths as a result.

Fortunately, the word has gotten out that this area is a relatively safe one, and the cruise ships and tourists are back in force, sampling the various Mexican delicacies – from taco stands to high-end restaurants – sunning and surfing on the glorious beaches and shopping  at the tianguis (outdoor bazaar-style stalls), locally owned shops or expansive malls. This is the best time of year, weather wise – it is absolutely ideal – and many tourists come to seek brief refuge from their inhospitable home environs. A friend of mine just regrettably returned to Chicago after two weeks in paradise. Her response upon returning home was a terse “I don’t even want to talk about it.”

After living in such a friendly, open and free environment, my concern is that living back in the U.S. will feel stultifying to me in comparison with the liberation I’ve been so blessed to experience here. My hope is that the friendships that I form (and re-incite) when I return to America will encourage me to continue being as warm, kind and open as my Mexican neighbors have inspired me to be.

It’s Getting Harder to Ignore the Violence in Mexico – Because It’s Right At My Door

I moved to San Miguel de Allende six short months ago, and there’s a lot to love about this place. It’s a 500-year old Spanish colonial city that, despite growth and an enormous expat population, retains much of it’s old-world charm. There’s a thriving arts community, the rents are still relatively cheap, and the high-desert climate is just about perfect: cool nights, warm days, dry air and an abundance of sunshine. And while the growing violence in Mexico is quietly discussed at cocktail parties around town, San Miguel has been relatively sheltered from what’s been occurring in areas closer to the US border.

At least until now.

In the past three weeks, three American expats have been brutally murdered here.

On January 19th, Peter Mudge, a retired American who had been living in San Miguel for 20 years, was found dead in his home, the victim of an apparent robbery gone wrong. He was found with a plastic bag tied to his head, and he had been stabbed more than a dozen times.

On January 23rd, the body of a young American identified only as “Andrew” was recovered from the side of a local road, his body riddled with bullets. For some reason, the US Consulate’s office will offer no details, citing the need to protect the family’s privacy.

And on February 6th, Joseph Feuerborn, another expat who had been living in San Miguel for decades, was found beaten to death in his home, also the victim of an apparent robbery.

Stories of the three murders vary widely. Coroners are reported to have labeled Mudge’s death as asphyxiation, and Feuerborn’s as heart attack, even though local newspapers have reported the violence.

The local internet boards, which are populated almost exclusively by Americans, are full of rumor, speculation, fear and uncertainty. And the  people that own property here don’t want this kind of bad news to spread, so there seems to be a push, particularly on the boards, to keep information from getting out there. It’s unfortunate, as the boards are the only source of information at times.

I love living here, but I’m beginning to feel as though I have a target on my back. I’m a gringo, a foreigner. A have in the land of have-nots. A large part of me wants to head back home. And a part of me wants to stay and just close my eyes to what’s obviously happening.