The flavors of Mexico

This month we celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day on September 15th. The whole month you can see street vendors selling all kinds of goods with the red-white-green colors of the national flag. Mexicans are very proud of their country, culture and cuisine.

Even though I wasn’t born in Mexico, I feel like this wonderful country has adopted me. The past eight years that I have lived here, I have been lucky enough to visit many different regions. Most foreign visitors head towards one of the many beach destinations, but there’s much more to see, hear, smell and taste! Join me on my travel through Mexico.

Taxco

Taxco, 160 km southwest of Mexico City, has ridden waves of boom and bust associated with the fantastically wealthy silver deposits discovered here in the 16th century and then repeatedly until the early 20th century. With its silver now almost gone, the town has fallen back on tourism to sustain it. The town is scattered down a precipitous hillside surrounded by dramatic mountains and cliffs, its perfectly preserved architecture and the twin belfries of its baroque masterpiece, Parroquia Santa Prisca, make for one of the most spectacular views anywhere in the central highlands.

Morelia

Morelia is the coolest place you’ve ever been. The colonial heart of the city is so well preserved that it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991. The cathedral is no just gorgeous. It’s inspirational, especially when the working organ with 4600 pipes is played. Sixteenth and 17th century stone buildings, baroque facades and archways line the narrow downtown streets, and are home to museums, hotels, restaurants, chocolaterias, sidewalk cafés, a popular university and cheap and tasty taquerias.

Puebla

East of Mexico City lies the gorgeous colonial city of Puebla. Mexico’s fifth largest city, Puebla is the dominant regional centre and big tourist draw for its cathedral, culinary attractions and well-preserved history. The surroundings of Puebla are predominantly rural, with stunning views on the incredible Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes.

Puebla is rightly famous for its gastronomy  (and especially for moles poblanos, the classic spicy sauce containing chiles, chocolate, sesame seed and more). If you’re visiting Puebla you must try this, to have really experienced the city.

Oaxaca

Oaxaca is the heart of a region whose highly creative populace produces the country’s finest range of crafts and some of its most exciting contemporary art. Artists and artisans alike are inspired by the state’s deep-rooted indigenous tradtions and by its bright southern light. The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites and by colourfully traditional villages and small towns.

Oaxaca has its own spicy take on Mexican cuisine, based on its famous seven moles (sauces usually served over chicken or pork). Other local specialties include tasajo (slices of pounded beef), tlayudas (big crisp tortillas with varied toppings, sometimes labeled ‘Oaxacan pizza’), quesillo (stringy cheese) and chapulines ( grasshoppers! – usually fried with chili powder, onion and garlic). When you are in Oaxaca, you have to try this unusual delicacy. Because any serious foodie should be brave and try whatever’s cooking!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the history, food and culture of Mexico. This large country has both temperate and tropical zones, reaches 5km into the sky, stretches 100,000 km along its coasts. Mexico is what you make of it…. open your eyes the huge variety of options for human adventure that it has to offer.

Olé!!!

Dancing Chef Maaike

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Ancient Mexican sculpting

The “Corn Cane Paste” (Pasta de caña) technique was created by the Purepechas (indigenous people from Michoacan, Mexico) in the 18th and 19th century.

 

The Spaniards came to Michoacan to influence the inhabitants with their doctrines; like they did in many other places in Mexico. They tried to oblige the Purepechas make their Saints like they were used to do it back inEuropeusing mainly wood carving. The interesting thing about this ancient technique is that the sculpture looks almost the same but weighs ten times less than the traditional wood carving. In Mexico these solid wood sculptures are called “de Bulto”, because they are made of one big piece. They are used for the traditional fiestas and the walking processions.

 

When the Spaniards found out that the Purepecha sculptures had the quality that they needed but ten times lighter, the Spanish monks started to teach the Purepechas how to make Saints instead of letting them do their own pagan gods.

 

The process starts gluing together the corn canes; the natural glue is made out of Orchids bulbs and cactus salvia. This becomes the internal structure of the final piece. Then we grind the canes and the glue and we have a paste that we will use to cover those canes structure and make the final details like face, hands and other features.

 

The second stage is sanding the surface until we have a smooth texture and then we finalize with the polychrome and the gold leaf finish.

Nowadays not many people know how to make sculptures using this ancient technique from the Purepechas in Michoacan. It’s a unique way to make Saints……

Mexico has many different kinds of handcraft and I hope you will discover these wonders with me in my following blogs.

Olé!!!

Dancing Chef Victoria

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