Wednesday, December 12, 2018


1531 Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe anagoria.jpg
Original Picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe shown in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The Catholic Church considers the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on the cloak of Juan Diego as a picture of supernatural origin.

The Virgin of Guadalupe (also known as La Guadalupana and Virgin Mary) is Mexico's patron saint and one of the most important religious figures throughout much of the Latin America world including the neighboring country of Guatemala. Each year in Mexico major celebrations and peregrinaciones (pilgrimages) begin on December 1st and continue daily until December 12th when the birth day of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" is celebrated.

Lovely young senoritas parade in honor of their beloved “Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe), also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe (Spanish: Virgen de Guadalupe), which is the title given to the Virgin Mary.

From the smallest of pueblos to the largest of cities in Mexico, including the capital of Mexico City, the Virgin is celebrated with the culmination of festivities on December 12th.  Throughout the country, including Puerto Vallarta, Guadalupe's feast day is celebrated on December 12th, a day which commemorates her appearance to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City from December 9 through December 12, 1531.

Tens of thousands of people travel to Mexico City to visit the place where the Virgin appeared to the Mexican People. The holiday is a national fiesta that includes traditional music, dances. and fun attractions. Pilgrims bring presents to the virgin, usually bouquets of flowers while other visitors will perform dances and song for her. Some pilgrims walk on their knees on the stone street leading to the Basilica, asking for miracles or giving thanks to the virgin for a petition granted. The chanting, singing, and dancing can last throughout the night.

Many of the pilgrims make their way on their knees, carrying candles, images, and illustrations of her likeness to give thanks and to honor the Queen of Mexico.

On the days leading up to the 12th of December the faithful in Mexico begin the pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Tepeyac to pay homage to La Virgen.

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with its iconic gold crown


"The Story behind this celebration demonstrates how the Catholic faith gained importance in the hearts of the Mexican people. It is a story of miracles and faith which mark a change in the history of Mexico.

The Spaniards, after they conquered Mexico, had in mind the goal of converting the indigenous Indians into Catholicism. But the Spaniards encountered many difficulties because the Mexican people had existing strong beliefs in their many gods. It wasn't until the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego that this started to change.

Juan Diego was a young indigenous Indian walking toward the Hill of Tepeyac on December 12, 1531 when he was stopped by the appearance of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary appearing to Juan Diego was a young woman with black hair and dark skin which looked more like an indigenous person. She ordered Juan Diego to go to the Bishop and ask him to build a church at the Hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego then ran to the Bishop to tell him what the Virgin Mary had told him. The Bishop didn't believe what this young men was telling him and decided to ignore the petition.

The Virgin Mary appeared again in front of Juan Diego and told him to collect flowers from the top of the hill, but because it was December Juan Diego knew that there was not going to be any flowers at the rocky hill. Upon reaching the top of the hill, Juan Diego was surprised to see that it was covered with colorful and beautiful flowers. Juan Diego, as he was asked to, collected the flowers using his overcoat and ran again to see the Bishop.

Juan Diego gave the coat full of flowers to the bishop, and here the bishop discovered the image of Virgin Mary's picture was miraculously traced on the coat. Seeing both the unseasonal flowers and the image of the Virgin, the Bishop realized Juan Diego had told him the truth and The Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe was built on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City."
Source Credit

An outdoor lovely shrine to honor the Virgin of Guadalupe in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

MORE OF THE STORY:  "According to legend the Dark Virgin of Guadalupe (aka Coatlaxopeuh and Tonantzin) appeared before the peasant Juan Diego only ten years after the Spanish conquest. The symbolism of the Virgin of Guadalupe can be interpreted from both indigenous and Spanish perspectives. Whether or not the Virgin of Guadalupe actually appeared to the indigenous peasant Juan Diego in 1531 at Tepeyac Hill is a question of faith. What is certain is that the cultural significance of her image for Latinos across the Americas is indelible.

According to anthropologists, the duality of her symbolism spoke to both Spanish and indigenous Nahuatl audiences in the sixteenth century.

Her very name, Guadalupe is the Spanish pronunciation of the Nahuatl name Coatlaxopeuh, a Mesoamerican fertility goddess.The well-known image is, according to scholars, full of a number of symbols that strongly relate it with the culture and history of the indigenous people." Source Credit

    Visiting with Guadalupe devotees in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico

The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a woman with brown skin.  This, and the fact that the account of her apparition to Juan Diego was related in texts in both Nahuatl and Spanish during the time of the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, make her the ideal unifying force for what Mexico was to become:  a mestizo blend of native and Spanish blood. The Virgin of Guadalupe is also identified with the Aztec earth goddess and mother of humankind.

In many ways, the image of La Guadalupana is one that unifies and reconciles Mexico's history and blends its Spanish and Aztec heritage.  She is sometimes called the "first mestiza" or the "first Mexican." 

Aztec dancers also participate in the annual Dia de Guadalupe parades in tribute to Juan Diego, the Aztec peasant, who witnessed the apparition of the the Virgin in 1531.

The legend of Juan Diego meeting the Lady of Guadalupe is also credited with the linking the polytheistic beliefs of the indigenous people of Mexico and Latin America with the Virgin Mary.  "Our Lady of Guadalupe" (Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) is considered a "Marian apparition" which is a supernatural appearance by the Virgin Mary and a 16th century Roman Catholic icon. Guadalupe is also Mexico's most popular religious image.

The original image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a woman with brown skin. This photograph was taken in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, at one of the municipal markets and was decorated with Christmas ornaments.

                              Juan Diego by Miguel Cabrera, 1752
Juan Diego born 1474 in Cuyauhtitlan, Mexico and died 1548 in Tepeyac, Mexico

A modern day Juan Diego continues the tradition of Dia de Guadalupe celebrations in Mexico.

 Music is a vital part of the annual Dia de Guadalupe celebrations throughout Mexico and it is no different in Puerto Vallarta.   

More Aztec dancers marching in their colorful traditional wear while beating drums and shaking maracas rattles filled with seeds or pebbles.

Three children dressed in their traditional "Dia de Guadalupe" finery as seen at La Merced Church festivities in Antigua, Guatemala.

Greetings from this young senorita at the Dia de Guadalupe celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala

In 1745 Pope Benedict XIV declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of what was then called New Spain which corresponded to Spanish Central and Northern America.  Pope Leo XIII authorized coronation of her image in 1895.  Pope Saint Pius X proclaimed her patron of Latin America in 1910.  In 1935 Pope Pius XI had a monument in her honor erected in the Vatican Gardens.  In 1992 Pope John Paul II dedicated a chapel in her honor within St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.  He also decreed Our Lady of Guadalupe patron of the Americas in 1999.  And finally, Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego, the Mexican peasant, in 2002 who first witnessed the apparition of the Virgin.

This muchacho is dressed as a young Juan Diego at the Dia de Guadalupe celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala and is my favorite "Juan Diego."

 Father and son dressed in their "peasant" finery representing Juan Diego during the Puerto Vallarta parades.  Please note the "bigote,"or moustache, which is a must for both Papa and nino!

I believe this was the youngest "Juan Diego" participant I saw in the annual Dia de Guadalupe celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala.  Que lindo!

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Spanish: Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) is a Roman Catholic church, basilica and National shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City. The shrine was built near the hill of Tepeyac where Our Lady of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. This site is also known as La Villa de Guadalupe or, in a more popular sense, simply La Villa, as it has several churches and related buildings. The new Basilica houses the original tilma (or cloak) of Juan Diego which holds the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the most important pilgrimage sites of Catholicism, the basilica is visited by several million people every year, especially around 12 December, Our Lady of Guadalupe's Feast day.


A mural and tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe (aka Virgin Mary) as seen in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

 Another "Juan Diego" celebrating the birth of Our Lady of Guadalupe at La Merced Church in Antigua, Guatemala.

There are eleven nights of parades in Puerto Vallarta in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe who is also the patron saint of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known locally as La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, in Puerto Vallarta.

Celebrating Dia de Guadalupe in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico and aren't you handsome and proud!

This photograph was taken in San Miguel de Allende where an altar/shrine had been set up in honor of the Virgin - simply lovely!

Irregardless of personal beliefs or persuasions DIA DE LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE is one of the most important and celebrated occasions in Latin America which is certainly true in Mexico and Guatemala. Feliz cumpleanos (happy birthday) to Our Lady of Guadalupe! I have included photographs which were taken during the Dia de Guadalupe celebrations while living in both Mexico and Guatemala. 


Thank you for joining me in this special holiday and wishing you well wherever your travels should take you.  Until next time, remember memories are only a click or tap away! 


Saturday, December 8, 2018


One of my favorite things about living in Mexico is the truly amazing variety of fruits. I am Southern California native where we had an abundance of fresh fruits, but they were pretty much limited to apples, oranges, and bananas in “my day.”  Sound familiar? Consequently my exposure to “exotic fruits” was very limited. Fast forward many, many years and I live in México where I can experience and enjoy a different and exotic fruit almost on a daily, if not weekly, basis.  

Mexico is a country rich in delicious exotic fruits that you rarely find elsewhere. I am still in the process of learning about the many unusual  fruits which I have never seen before elsewhere. Over time I have gradually learned to know and love many of them. I like to think of myself as a student of fruits who is working herself through the endless possibilities, fruit by fruit, in order to qualify for a degree in fruits.  

Step into any Mexican market and you will likely come face to face with fruits that you’ve probably never seen let alone heard of. What makes shopping for fruits and produce in México special is often the joy, surprise, and challenge of finding that perfect exotic fruit specimen.

In México there exists a vast variety of shopping options including, but not limited to, the local open-air weekly tianguis (traditional indigenous) market, the neighborhood “Ma and Pa” tienda (store), the local street cart vendor, the semi-permanent roadside stand, and the back of a pickup truck!

If you don’t enjoy the challenge of a scavenger hunt, however, this might not be to your liking. In which case you may now choose to shop at the newer, bigger, and brighter supermarkets that are now a very big part of modern Mexican culture. But in my humble opinion, if you want to experience the true culture of México, you need to experience shopping in the “old school” manner.  

I have decided to start this posting with my favorite fruit in México which might not be the most exotic, but without a doubt is my number one choice.  And that fruit is the MANGO in all of its many varieties. I confess that I was not always a mango maniac. For many years the papaya was my tropical and exotic fruit of choice. I eventually learned, however, that what my daughter had been saying for years was that mangoes are the best. And once you have mastered the technique of cutting mangoes you are on the way to fruit paradise! , that what my daughter had been saying for years was that mangoes are the best.  And once you have mastered the technique of cutting mangoes you are on the way to fruit paradise!   


Mangoes have been called the the king of all fruits and I can now wholeheartedly agree.

A LITTLE MANGO HISTORY:  Spanish explorers brought mangoes to South America and Mexico in the 1600’s. They were then introduced to Mexico from the Philippines in 1775 as part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade route which brought porcelain, silk, ivory and spices from China to Mexico in exchange for New World silver.

At some point, along with the other exotica, mangoes made the same East to West journey and aren’t we all very thankful!  Go to MANGO.ORG to get the whole story of our yummy mangoes!
The mango fruit has hundreds of varieties each having its own characteristic taste, shape, and size. The mangoes which are grown and are available In México include the following:  MANILA, ATAULFO, HADEN, KEITT, KENT, and TOMMY ATKINS. Until you have sampled them all, you will forever be a mango neophyte!   


My husband cannot fathom why I like tunas so much.  They are my oddball signature fruit for a number of reasons none of which relate to taste since there isn't one! To me it’s all about the quenching liquid and the crunchy seeds which are not edible, but must be swallowed.

In Mexico tuna does not refer to tuna fish (that would be atún). Instead, it’s a pear-sized fruit that grows on cacti across Mexico and is most often found at street fruit vendors. The outer skin of the tuna is covered by small, almost invisible spines which must be carefully removed before eating. This task is usually performed before purchasing, but you still need to be careful when handling and peeling the tuna. The interior flesh has the crunchy juiciness of watermelon with very hard, pellet-like seeds. Tunas are eaten raw or turned in aguas frescas for a refreshing drink. What more can I say? I think tunas are a fun fruit to eat!

Juicy and crunchy tunas make this blogger happy!  


From the Nahuatl word “tzapotl,” zapote is a term for a whole family of soft, edible fruits. Zapote negro (black) is one of them. Sometimes written with an ‘s’ and spelled sapote, the zapote is a catch all term that applies to several different kinds of fruit, such as the zapote negro (black), zapote amarillo (yellow), and the mamey. The zapote negro is a baseball sized round fruit which is green on the outside, but dark brown on the inside with a light chocolatey taste. For this reason it is known as the “chocolate pudding fruit.”

The zapote negro has shiny, bright green skin that wrinkles as it softens. Common in markets from August to January, the fruit’s jet black flesh is sweet and nutty with hints of stewed prune and chocolate. It can be sliced in half and eaten with a spoon or the flesh can be cooked down with sugar and cinnamon for a rustic dessert.


The mamey, part of the zapote family on the other hand, has a kiwi-like brown skin and vibrant orange interior surrounding a shiny black pit. Described as having a honeyed almond flavor, or a taste similar to pumpkin, mamey is commonly found in giant wheelbarrows on the street during the winter time cut open like flowers.  

A typical mamey can weigh anything from a quarter to more than a half pound, with a large, lustrous black pit, or hueso, which accounts for about ten percent of its weight. The skin of the pit peels away to reveal a yellow kernel underneath, the fruit's seed, which can easily be split in half lengthwise and carries a faint aroma of almonds, honey, or sweet potato pie. Mamey can be blended into juices or ice creams and is considered highly nutritious and super yummy!


The guanabana fruit will most likely be a familiar flavor and name to those who have visited Mexico. Strangely spiky with thorns on the outside, the fruit itself is quite large and has a white interior dotted with black seeds. Sliced in half, it has an intoxicating floral scent.The fruits can ripen like avocados on the counter and are ready when slightly soft to the touch.

Guanabanas can also come in a variety of weird shapes as I am holding above.

Guanabanas can be semi frozen, the flesh scooped out like ice cream with a taste similar to a combination of banana, pineapple, and peach. The creamy interior of the guanabana makes for delicious aguas frescas, ice creams, and paletas (popsicles).  Guanabana juice and nectar can be found in markets throughout México and is both delicious and refreshing.  Guanabana is also promoted as very beneficial for your health.  I will certainly drink to that!


Guava fruits are a pale orange tropical fruit with pink, juicy flesh, and a strong, sweet aroma.They are round or oval depending on the species and measure from l.5 inches to 5 inches long, more or less. Depending on the specie of guava the skin can be any thickness, but is usually green before maturity which then becomes yellow, maroon, or green when ripe. The guava pulp may be sweet or sour and off-white for “white" guavas to deep pink for "red" guavas”. The seeds in the central pulp vary in number and hardness also depending on species Certainly a lot of variety isn't there!

In many countries guava is eaten raw typically cut into quarters or eaten like an apple. Guavas can also eaten with a pinch of salt and pepper or cayenne powder. Definitely my kind of thing with many of the exotic fruits of México! In Mexico, the guava agua fresca (cool water) beverage is popular. The entire fruit is also a key ingredient in punch, and the juice is often used in culinary sauces (hot or cold), as well as artisan candies, dried snacks, fruit bars, desserts, or dipped chamoy.
Pulque of guava is also a popular blend of the native alcoholic beverage in México. I say bravo to the guayaba!


Do you know how to eat jackfruit? Have you ever heard of it? Jackfruit is a peculiar looking fruit with a textured green exterior that conceals golden nuggets of flavor. Eating jackfruit is like eating a delicious blend of pineapple, mango and banana. The seeds of the jackfruit may be roasted or boiled which makes them taste a bit like chestnuts. Although a jackfruit is sweet and aromatic, the ripe fruit smells very pungent from the formation of hydrogen sulphide. As a consequence the jackfruit gets its unpleasant nickname of “stinky fruit.”

Yikes!  And this isn't the largest of jackfruits, but plenty big enough for me!  

Interesting seeds and interior of the jackfruit, wouldn't you agree?

Native to Southeast Asia jackfruit is prized for its wonderful flavor and multiple health benefits. It is the largest tree-born fruit which can grow up to 35 inches in length with a diameter up to i21 inches and a weight up to 80 pounds!  Jackfruit is definitely the king of the tropical fruit jungle with its enormous size.  The biggest challenges of enjoying a jackfruit is cutting it (a machete might come in handy).  Consider yourself forewarned!   

Mama, mia!  I could not believe my eyes when I saw this photograph of jackfruits and could not help but share.


This lovely yellow fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides and when cut in cross-section it resembles a star, thus its name. The entire fruit is edible including the slightly waxy skin. The flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy. It does not contain fibers and has a texture similar in consistency to that of grapes.

Starfruit is consumed shortly after they ripen and are yellow with a light shade of green. Fruits picked while still slightly green will turn yellow in storage at room temperature, but will not increase in sugar content.  Ripe starfruit is sweet without being overwhelming as they rarely have more than 4% sugar content. Good to know, si?

The following link will take you to a charming animated Starfruit introduction with everything you need to know about this lovely fruit:


The taste is difficult to describe, but it has been compared to a mix of apple, pear, grape, and fruits from the citrus family. Unripe starfruits are firmer and sour, and taste like green apple.  Starfruit may be used in cooking and can be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.


Maracuya, sometimes written maracuja, is essentially a passion fruit although its skin is typically bright yellow rather than deep purple. However, there are several variations and a confusing variety of names of fruits that are similar to the humble maracuya. The fruit most like maracuya would be the the sweet passion fruit.

Passion fruits are round or oval and can be yellow, red, purple, and green. The fruits have a juicy pulp with a large number of slippery black seeds. The edible part of the maracuya, or passion fruit, is often sold in frozen form in the United States. The maracuya has a tropical taste including flavors that are tart or sweet with hints of vanilla.

The Maracuya may be eaten raw. The pulp and seeds can be used in sauces, desserts, and ice creams. In México maracuya is used to make juice or is eaten raw with chili powder and lime. Any fruit which likes to be “dressed” in chili powder and lime definitely makes this blogger happy!


The actual names, pitaya or pitahaya, stem from the Latin American heritage of these exotic fruits. They are native to Central America dating back to the 13th century. However, the pitahaya eventually made its way to Vietnam and Malaysia where it is now widely grown and very popular. I have read that the Vietnamese name “thang loy” for this fruit  translates into English as “dragon fruit,” and thus the different name for Pitahaya.  So whether you see them called pitaya, pitahaya, or dragon fruit they are all basically the same fruit. With me so far?

The one thing these fruits have in common is that they are high in fiber and vitamin C. But the flavor profile of each fruit can be different. The white-fleshed fruit from Vietnam is gorgeous on the outside, but has a mild, non-distinctive flavor. In contrast, the dark purplish red flesh from fruit grown in Latin America is sweet, juicy, and similar to watermelon. That a fruit in México is the color and taste of the country makes total sense to me.  

Highly regional and seasonal in Mexico, pitayas are regularly described as fruit that looks like brains. Perhaps this relates to the fact that when you peel back the bumpy green skin, the innards are slimy, vibrantly colored, and distinctly brain like in appearance. Don’t be put off, however, because Pitayas have a sweet and juicy taste similar to grapes, violets, and watermelon.

Pitahaya (aka Dragon fruit) is actually a cousin of the cactus pear (remember my tunas?).  However, the dragon fruit’s seeds are completely soft and edible (much like a kiwi fruit) as compared to the cactus (tuna) pear seeds which are crunchy. Also, unlike the cactus pear, the dragon fruit does not have spines on its skin.  I definitely say bravo to that difference!   


Bananas reached Mexico for the first time in 1554 when Spanish Bishop Vasco de Quiroga (the first Bishop of Michoacán, Mexico) was returning from Europe and brought some plants back with him from a short layover in Santo Domingo in the Caribbean. That’s it on my history lesson!   Here is a fun links for you banana lovers: BANANA FUN FACTS  and  GEO-MEXICO WEB SITE

Someone I know looks lost in the banana area of the weekly OCOTLAN, OAXACA MARKET  

In this post I am attempting to limit myself, as difficult as that may seem, to the basic differences between the banana and the plantain. So here is my very abbreviated take on the subject and an introduction to the PLANTAIN, or PLÁTANO, as it is called in México.  

Black is good when it comes to plantains (aka plátanos)!          
If you see what looks like a bunch of bananas in the market which are bigger, greener, with a thicker skin they are not a banana imposter, but plantains/plátanos. Although grown most frequently in the tropical coastal areas of the country, plantains are found in markets all over Mexico where they are called plátano macho and look like bananas on growth hormones (!) ranging in color from unripe bright green to nearly black when overripe.

I think this is beautiful photograph of a banana tree in bloom and it looks oh so tropical!  

Plantains are members of the banana family, but they are starchier and lower in sugar which means that when they ripen they will still be green in color. If you get them when they are overripe, they may have started to turn yellow or black. While a banana makes a great raw on-the-go-snack, plantains aren’t usually eaten raw because of their high starch content.

Looking for the perfect fruit in a traditional Mexican market is like being on a scavenger hunt, but so very worthwhile!  

Native to India and the Caribbean, plantains serve an important role in many traditional diets. When used in cooking they are treated more like vegetables than fruit. You are most likely to encounter them at your favorite Latin, African, or Caribbean restaurant either baked, roasted, or fried up in the form of a delicious savory side.

Plantains are especially good for grilling by simply wrapping unpeeled, ripe plantains in aluminum foil and putting them on the grill for about 20 minutes. They then can be peeled and eaten as a side dish or as the meal's dessert. Plantains also go particularly well with grilled chicken or fish and as a dessert plantains need nothing more than a topping of whipped cream, ice cream, honey, or sweetened condensed milk which is very, very Mexicana.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting some of my favorite exotic fruits of Mexico and that you are not feeling like the above hombre!

The following links will take you to my photograph album for this posting and to two of my previous blog postings which tie into this "food theme."




Many thanks for your company and I very much look forward to seeing you in the near future. Until then, wishing you happy trails and safe travels, Laura