Wednesday, June 23, 2021

TACO TIME

                          


So let's talk tacos the unofficial national dish of Mexico which are as varied as they are delicious and can be found on practically every street corner. However, they are not made with hard Dorito-like shells and are rarely topped with shredded lettuce no matter what the Taco Bells worldwide would have you believe.


                    


The taco predates the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. There is anthropological evidence that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Dias del Castillo documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans was a meal which Hernan Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, arranged for his captains in Coyoacan which is now known for its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and the bright-blue Museum of Frida Kahlo showcasing her life and work.   

Check out the virtual tour of Frida's blue house at: 


 
                                        Hernan Cortez, the Spanish conqueror of Mexico 

                  
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s lay out the basics that every Mexican food lover should know. Authentic Mexican tacos in their most common form are served up with lightly, but deliciously greasy corn tortillas as their staple base, and then loaded with the meats and fillings of your choice before being topped off with cebollita and cilantro (diced onion and cilantro) and a whole host of spicy sauces, frijoles (beans), and a healthy squeeze of lime. To eat a taco you need confidence, a big mouth, and a solid grip.





Delicious and historic the taco forms part of the cultural and gastronomic diversity of Mexico. Whether it be a taco al pastor, carnitas, longaniza, cochinita, barbacoa, birria, carne asada, chicken, chile, nopal with cheese, grasshoppers, or many other options, the taco has an incredible variety that suits all kinds of tastes and it is a heaven for those who can’t tolerate gluten.  Almost everything in Mexico starts with corn. Although its origin is unknown, it is believed that the taco was born as the basis of an Olmec diet thanks to the first traces of nixtamalized corn.




Nixtamalization is a process for the preparation of maize in which the corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, washed, and then hulled. Nixtamal can be ground to produce the dough known as masa from which tortillas, tamales, tlacoyos, etc. are made or it can be left whole and boiled again to produce the puffed up boiled corn used in posole. Nixtamalization was invented in ancient Mesoamerica, now Mexico and central America, over 3500 years ago. 


 Being introduced to fish tacos in Ensenada is one fond memory.

Seafood tacos which are our favorite are perhaps one of the greatest culinary legacies the Mexican Pacific Coast has blessed us with. Typically made from breaded white fish these tacos are served up in traditional corn tortillas before being topped with lettuce (they are one of the only exceptions to the no-lettuce taco rule), spicy mayonnaise, and something else which is a well-kept secret.  


                        Receta fácil de la salsa mexicana pico de gallo


Pico de Gallo, also called salsa fresco or salsa cruda, is a type of salsa commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It is traditionally made from chopped tomato, onion, Serrano peppers, with salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro. And the above photograph is a representation of this marvelous concoction. 


                             
Introducing our daughter to fish tacos in Ensenada way way back when!   

            
                              


Tacos de camarones (shrimp tacos) also originated in Baja California in Mexico. Grilled or fried shrimp are used usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos including lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado, and a sour cream or a citrus/mayonnaise sauce all of which are placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. The above photo was taken many years ago at our very, very favorite fish taco stand  which is still thriving.  

               
                               


Another regional taco is the birria taco which is popular in Jalisco, the state of its origin. A slow-cooked goat (or lamb) stew, birria is commonly loaded onto a tortilla and enjoyed for breakfast.  Having said that, one of our favorite taco stands in Puerto Vallarta serves up birria tacos irregardless of the time of day and eating a taco on the street is always a good thing.  


                               


Tacos de carnitas (deep-fried pork) are also a common option in the state of Jalisco where Puerto Vallarta is located and many would say they make for one of the best authentic taco fillings.  The above image of locals and taxi drivers lined up for tacos of carnitas in a nearby outlying area of Puerto Vallarta I believe is a good indication for yummy tacos!  


                                  


Waiting in line for a birria (goat) taco with the locals in Old Town Puerto Vallarta is worth the wait since I believe they know what's best from practical experience and the street ambiance can't be beat!  


 


Tacos de cabeza (head), the lengua (tongue), or the labios (lips) are very traditional.  I think I will pass, but maybe I should give it a try since I am a firm believer that locals usually know best. 


                            


So what are street tacos? Mexican street tacos are smaller tacos typically served on corn tortillas. They are small in size making it easier for a “street traveler” to enjoy a quick meal on the go. The filling is served on two small corn tortillas so that they don't rip or tear when piled high with toppings. This is one popular local taco stand which is always doing a brisk business.

Authentic tacos are only topped with fresh cilantro leaves and finely diced white onions. Then comes the meat itself. You'll find Mexican tacos filled with marinated meat like flank steak. The marinade usually contains oregano, ground black pepper, cumin, paprika, lime juice, and chilies.


Enjoying goat tacos in Old Town, Puerto Vallarta is a family affair. Yum, yum!

And if memory serves me correctly, this is a breaded fish taco to die for!

This street taco stand in Old Town is always packed.  Word certainly gets around!  

Traditional Mexican tacos are called street tacos. They are typically served on corn tortillas and are stuffed with meat. Traditional toppings include onions, cilantro, and salsa. There is no lettuce, tomatoes, or cheese in traditional street tacos. Those toppings have been added so that they more closely resemble the tacos that most North Americans are familiar with. 

                              
Sharing made-to-order fish tacos and a fresh all-natural fruit drink with our family is a ritual which never grows old. 


I sincerely appreciate your joining me and our family for some of our favorite fish tacos in the world. 



                                                           Until next time saludos! Laura 


And a special thanks to Marisma Fish Tacos which never disappoint!  







Sunday, June 13, 2021

HAPPY 7TH BLOG BIRTHDAY 2021





Mexico and Beyond: Laura's Photo Journey could not be happier than celebrating another birthday and I can hardly believe it's my seventh!  It is with thanks and gratitude that you, my blog followers, have joined me in this journey.  Because without you this blog would be just a figment of my imagination.  Gracias from the bottom of my heart and looking forward to another year of blogging.


The following links will take you to this years blog postings and I hope you enjoy revisiting them.




A BLOGGERS TRAVEL MEMORIES PART 1 




THE MAGIC OF OUR MARINE WORLD IN PUERTO VALLARTA 


























THE RADISH AND CORNHUSK FESTIVAL OF OAXACA, MEXICO


Muchas gracias and wishing you wonderful travels and adventures where ever the road may take you.





Sunday, April 4, 2021

OAXACA'S RADISH AND CORN HUSK FESTIVAL IN MEXICO





























Oaxaca is one of the most culturally traditional of Mexico’s thirty two states so it comes as a surprise that it hosts what is without doubt one of the quirkiest festivals in Mexico.  Each December 23rd hundreds of competitors create intricate sculptures from the humble radish fighting it out for a large cash prize and more importantly, the pride of being crowned champion.






























The legend as to how this traditional Christmas event in Oaxaca originated goes something like this:  Native to China, radishes were introduced by the Spanish and in particular by the Catholic friars. One year in the mid-18th century the local radish crop was so abundant that a section lay unharvested for months.  In December two friars pulled up some of these forgotten radishes. The size and shapes were amusing and they brought them as curiosities to the Christmas market held on December 23rd.



























Carving the radishes began as a marketing gimmick and eventually the local population began buying the radishes not only to eat, but to create centerpieces for their Christmas dinners. In 1897 the mayor of the city decided to create a formal radish carving competition for this uniquely weird and wonderful festival which has been held annually ever since. 




























One might wonder why the typically tiny radish takes center stage, but if you are you have no doubt ever seen the radishes which are bred and grown specially for this event in Oaxaca.  They are monstrously large and ideal for carving.  




























The scenes created by both skilled horticulturalists and amateur radish carvers are typically festive and religious in theme with the nativity being a particular favorite with the Three Kings and the Virgen of Guadalupe (the virgin Mary)  being the most popular. And the red and white color of the radish works particularly well for this unusual Christmas celebration.






The entire Radish festival is remarkably brief lasting only a few hours. The brevity of the event is not in any way, however, a reflection of the hard work and preparation that goes into the work of this competition. Three days before the start of the festivities competitors begin carving their radishes the seeds of which were sown approximately three months ahead of time.



























Each year the festival becomes more popular attracting over one hundred contestants and thousands of visitors. The creativity of the carved radishes and the art of the corn husks become more and more spectacular leading to a high sense of anticipation among the public who come to view this amazing annual festival in Oaxaca.




The  Radish Festival now  includes competitions for works made with dried corn husks and dried flowers called the "flor immortal" (immortal flower) which is named as it dries quickly and keeps most of its color. The themes are similar to those which are created with radishes.






































































Thank you for joining me in my blog "journey" to the Radish and Corn Husk festival of Oaxaca and until next time, wishing you well wherever your travels may take you.  Saludos, Laura


RADISH AND CORN HUSK FESTIVAL OAXACA, MEXICO





















x

Sunday, March 7, 2021

THE MAPUCHE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF ARGENTINA AND CHILE




When my husband and I decided to indulge ourselves in a nomadic lifestyle Argentina became our first country to explore. It was large and diverse in its many regions and we loved it. Our base was the incredible capital city of Buenos Aires which seemed like a country in and of itself. Buenos Aires turned out to be our jumping off point for visiting many other parts of Argentina. 


A lovely older Mapuche woman we met during our exploration of the area and their culture.


On one of our first explorations we headed to the Northwest region of Argentina which intrigued me. The Argentine Northwest (Noroeste Argentino) is a geographic and historical region of Argentina composed of the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Salta, Santiago del Estero, and Tucuman. Little did I know how the landscape and culture of this region would capture my fascination.


It was here that I was “introduced” to the indigenous Mapuche people of this stunning area of Argentina. And now many many years later I look forward to sharing the Mapuche culture and people with you as part of my “INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF LATIN AMERICA” blog series. 



So let’s meet the Mapuche indigenous people of Argentina and Chile. 

  

I love maps and getting a sense of where we are I believe is a good thing.


The Mapuche nation is situated in what is known as the Southern Cone of South America in the area now occupied by the the countries of Argentine and Chile. The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina including parts of present-day Patagonia with a population of approximately 800,000. The literal meaning of Mapuche is “people of the earth.” 





A LITTLE MAPUCHE HISTORY





Historically the Araucanian Indians lived in the southern, central, and northern areas of Chile and in present-day Argentina. They were divided into three main groups: the Picunche in the north, the Mapuche in the central area, and the Huilliche in the south. The Araucanians fought Inca invaders from Peru in the fifteenth century and Spanish conquerors in the seventeenth century.






The Mapuche and the Huilliche groups established a reputation as fierce warriors. Both groups bravely defended their lands and their way of life. They continued to resist the Spaniards for hundreds of years. The Mapuche finally lost their independence in the War of 1880–1882. After this defeat they were forced to settle further south on small reservations. 



WHERE THE MAPUCHE LIVE






The main group of Araucanian that still remain in Chile today are the Mapuche numbering some 800,000 people. Initially they lived between the Itata and Toltén rivers. Today many live in the vicinity of towns such as Temuco, Villarica, Pucón, Valdivia, and Osorno as well as in the southern island region of Chiloe. 



Approximately 400,000 Mapuche have had to migrate to the cities and now live the life of poor, urban workers. There are still a few Mapuche reservations in Argentina particularly on the shores of Lake Rucachoroi and Lake Quillen. However, most Mapuche Araucanian today continue to live in Chile.



THE MAPUCHE LANGUAGE






Mapuche from mapu meaning "land" and che meaning "people" which is pronounced as (ma-pu-CHAY with accent on last syllable) or Mapudungun (from mapu meaning "land" and dungun meaning "speak or speech") is an Araucanian language related to Huilliche and is spoken in south central Chile and west central Argentina by the Mapuche people. 


The Mapuche language was formerly known as Araucanian a name given to the Mapuche by the Spaniards when they conquered the Mapuche territory.  Mapuche avoid using the term Araucanian as they consider it offensive because of its Spanish roots. Mapudungun is not an official language of Chile or Argentina and has received virtually no government support throughout its history.


MAPUCHE MYTHOLOGY AND RELIGION





The mythology and religion of the indigenous Mapuche people of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina is an extensive and ancient belief system. A series of unique legends and myths are common to the various groups that make up the Mapuche people. The Mapuche believe in an ultimate balance between the forces of creation (Ngenechen) and destruction (Wakufu).



Reverence for nature and acknowledgment of the forces of good and evil are also part of their belief system. Traditional prayer meetings called machitunes invoke the help of the gods and goddesses for rain and good crops. Another type of meeting called a malon involves listening to dreams and prophecies. Roman Catholicism which was brought to the “New World” by the Spaniards has co-existed alongside the original religious beliefs of the Araucanian and in some cases the two have merged.



MAJOR MAPUCHE HOLIDAYS






Mapuche who live in cities celebrate the major Chilean national holidays together with the rest of the population including their Independence Day and the "discovery of America" by Columbus on October 12, 1492. 






The Mapuche who live on reservations have maintained some of their traditional celebrations. One of the best-known festivals is the "guillatun" which is an ancient Mapuche religious ceremony. This rite works as a connection with the spiritual world to ask for well-being, to strengthen the union of the community, or to thank for benefits received.



MAPUCHE RITES OF PASSAGE






All major stages in the life cycle such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death are marked by special ceremonies. Important members of the tribe such as lonkos (the chieftains) play special roles. They are accompanied by music and also include elements of the Araucanian' oral tradition such as poetry and legends.


MAPUCHE RELATIONSHIPS







Greetings have well-defined levels of formality and informality. Strangers can only come into a traditional Mapuche environment upon receiving permission. Those who are accompanied by a Mapuche may be welcomed with elaborate feasting and great hospitality. However, those who come alone could just as easily be met with hostility and silence.


MAPUCHE LIVING CONDITIONS







Some Mapuche continue to live in a fairly traditional style, but many have migrated to towns where they share the lot of other poor urban workers living in shanty towns with poor housing and health conditions. In remote country areas traditional thatched roof huts provide shelter.


MAPUCHE FAMILY LIFE






The Mapuche people who still live on reservations have tried to maintain their traditional family structure which includes members of the extended family or a clan-like structure which includes a clan head or chief. Traditionally, each extended family was headed by a lonko, or chief, who had several wives and many children. The sense of family identity extended to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and relatives by marriage.



This type of social structure is gradually being undermined by efforts to Christianize the Mapuche and by government attempts to assimilate them into mainstream society.  Because the male family members come into contact with white society through their work it is they who are influenced by mainstream culture. Women often take the most active role in maintaining the group's traditions.




MAPUCHE CLOTHING




Men in towns wear Western-style shirts and trousers. Women are sometimes dressed more traditionally with long skirts and colorful embroidered aprons. They may also wear head scarves which are sometimes decorated with gold or silver coins. Younger Mapuche girls often wear Western-style clothing such as sweaters and skirts and the boys wearing western-style shirts and pants. 







MAPUCHE EDUCATION





The Mapuche who lost their lands and had to emigrate to the towns now try to offer their children opportunities to attend school. On the reservations many still try to educate their children about their traditional way of life.


MAPUCHE EATS







Traditional hunting and fishing as well as crops such as corn and various fruits ensure a varied and traditional diet for the Mapuche. The distinctive curanto oven (also known as a earth oven, ground oven, or cooking pit) can still be found in rural Mapuche communities. The earth oven is a pit in the ground used to trap heat and bake, smoke, or steam food for hours. Traditional feasting on special occasions can last for several days.


THE MAPUCHE FLAG 



In March 1991 the Chilean Mapuche organization Aukiñ Wallmapu Ngulam, also known as Council of All Lands, decided to have a competition to make the flag of the Mapuche nation. About 500 designs were submitted of which one was selected for the Mapuche nation. The flag is called Wenufoye in the Mapudungun language which translates to "The Heaven's Winter's Bark."

The colors and forms of this Mapuche flag represents:

Yellow (chod or choz): renewal, symbol of the sun.

Blue (kallfü): life, order, wealth and the universe. In Mapudungun, is also an adjective that could be translated as "sacred" or "spiritual".

White (lüq): the cleansing, healing and longevity symbol of wisdom and prosperity.

Red (kelü): strength and power, symbol of history.

Green (karü): the earth or nature, wisdom, fertility and healing power, symbol of the machi (Mapuche shaman).

Cultrun (kultrung or kultrug), a "Mapuche drum": This is a percussion instrument for ceremonial and social use. It has a flat surface in which is represented the Earth's surface. There is drawn the circular design of the mapuche cosmovision: the Meli Witran Mapu (the four cardinal points), and also the sun, the moon, and the stars. This is a symbol of the knowledge of the world.

Gemil (ngumin) Stepped cross or star similar to the Chakana or Inca Cross, or rhombus with twisting border which represents the art of handcrafting, science and knowledge, and the symbol of the writing system.

I find flags as interesting as maps and I find this Mapuche flag wonderful. My pledge is to to start paying more attention to flags in future blog postings.


CLOSING VINTAGE PHOTOS OF THE MAPUCHE



















I hope I have done justice to the Mapuche indigenous people of Argentina and Chile in this introductory blog posting. I have enjoyed learning more about the Mapuche in researching their culture and history and would very much like to revisit this interesting and beautiful area again.  Until then, I couldn't resist the following photograph as my closing Mapuche image which I consider simply beautiful.




With my sincere thanks for joining me and until next time, I wish you safe travels and wonderful adventures wherever they may take you. Saludos, Laura