El Bicentenario in my City...

What a weekend this has been! Mind you, our weekend started on Wednesday. And who doesn't love a 5-day weekend? The reason behind our extremely long weekend was the Bicentennial celebration of Mexico's Independence from Spain.

The celebration began early Wednesday morning with taking Hope to the Izamiento del Labaro Patrio (flag raising) ceremony outside of La Presidencia (City Hall).

Later in the day, we attended the tribute to Miguel Hidalgo, in which Jack's kindergarten class participated.

No tribute or celebration in Mexico would be complete without Cohetes (REALLY loud firecrackers).

We didn't attend El Grito that night, but we were able to watch the amazing fireworks display from my bedroom window.

On Thursday, we watched the Independence Day parade, starring our favorite kindergartner. (Jack looks so handsome in his uniform.) (He's the one at the end of the line.)

I loved the floats featuring students, both young and old, dressed up as Heroes de la Independencia.

And in their finest Bicentenario attire.

Again, there were beauty queens.

Niños Heroes...

Today, all of Mexico celebrated Los Niños Heroes and my small town wasn't the exception. (Read more about Los Niños Heroes on Wikipedia.)

Hubby and I decided that since all four kiddies were in school, we would attend the commemoration being held in honor of Los Niños Heroes. The escoltas (honor rolls) from each of the schools were in attendance, along with a large number of students, teachers and townsfolk.

We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves standing behind our favorite kindergartner.

Also in attendance were local and federal government officials.

The town's very own Jose Luis Iñiguez Gamez, also our Diputado Federal (Congressman), delivered a heartfelt speech about the children of today being the future heroes of Mexico.

Ofrendas (offerings) of flowers were then presented to the Niños Heroes by the children.

To end the ceremony, one of the speakers began calling out the names of each of the Niños Heroes, to which the crowd responded, "Murio por la patria!" (He died for his country!)

"Juan Escutia."
"Murio por la patria!"

"Juan de la Barrera."
"Murio por la patria!"

"Agustin Melgar."
"Murio por la patria!"

"Francisco Marquez."
"Murio por la patria!"

"Fernando Montes de Oca."
"Murio por la patria!"

"Vicente Suarez."
"Murio por la patria!"

"El Himno del Heroico Colegio Militar."
"Murio por la patria!"

Oops! The kindergartners got a little carried away with that last one, which was actually an introduction of the hymn of the Heroic Military College. But it provided us all with a hearty laugh and the kiddies did get free popsicles.

Sundays in My City...

I had so much fun sharing my city with all of you last week, I thought I'd do it again.

Today was the big Inaugural Parade, the "official" beginning of Las Fiestas (the fair) and it couldn't have been a lovelier day.  Look at the billowy white clouds.

Before the parade started, I was a little startled to see 2 young men standing high atop the church.  They were bell ringers, waiting for the parade to start so they could start spinning those large bells round and round.  

The parade featured Charros

Vaqueros (Cowboys).


Beautiful costumes representing the traditional dress of several parts of Mexico.

There were also several Bandas de Guerra on hand.  This particular band was from nearby Tepatitlan de Morelos.

One band visited from Ciudad Guzman.

And another band from the state of Guanajuato. 

There were beauty queens.

Colorful characters.


Even some of the local businesses participated, often offering free samples of their products to the public.  It was like a party on wheels!

It was a fun time for everyone.  Now, I must go and rest my feet before the next parade on Thursday!


What is THAT???

"I have heard some crazy things during my 10 years in Mexico, but what I heard today has to be the craziest."
The above statement on my Facebook status may have been written in haste.  And may be a slight exaggeration.  But then again, maybe not.

Before I tell you what exactly it was that I heard, let me start by telling you that we are an asthmatic family.  Hubby and I have suffered with asthma since childhood and the kiddies have varying degrees of asthma.  Nick's being the worst and Hope's being non-existent here in Mexico.

Being raised by my Mexican grandparents, I remember traveling to San Luis, Sonora to visit a farmacia (pharmacy) in search of a cure for my ailments.  (I suffered from both asthma and acne.)  Back then, the pharmacist was very much like a doctor.  He conducted a physical exam, asked about symptoms, then offered his diagnosis.  Sometimes he prescribed traditional medicine and other times he suggested more exotic remedios.  

Thanks to the pharmacist, my grandmother prepared every kind of tea, rubbed foul-smelling ointments and warm mud on my chest and back.  The worst, I thought was having to eat a teaspoon of ground, dried rattlesnake every day to rid my face of acne.  It was also supposed to help with my asthma.  A sort of 2-for-1 deal.  I'm just glad that Gramm drew the line at having to smear fresh deer or rabbit blood on my chest.  (Shudder!) 

When Hubby and I moved to Mexico, the remedios didn't end.  The good thing was that they weren't forced upon us, they were merely suggestions. 

I believe that some plants and herbs do have medicinal properties.  I saw first hand how savila (aloe vera) erased any signs from my grandfather's face that he had suffered 3rd degree burns from an exploding radiator.  But I don't believe in some of the "natural" remedies I have heard over the years.

Many were quite delicious, like roasted orange and red onion drizzled with honey.  Miel de maguey (maguey honey) was also very sweet and soothing to my irritated throat.  Cough syrup and homeopathic drops made from eucalyptus, tree sap and gordolobo (mullein?), while also delicious, did nothing to cure any of us of our asthma.

Even a Chihuahua puppy was suggested as a cure.  It's believed that the asthma will somehow transmit itself to the dog, freeing and curing ourselves of the illness for good.

All this did was reassure me of my faith in modern medicine.  There are just some illnesses that NEED modern medicine.  None of the "alternative", "natural" or "homeopathic" medicine I have tried has ever done anything to alleviate my asthma.

This week Hubby, Nick and I were hit with a lower respiratory tract infection.  (Happens EVERY September!) Thanks to speedy diagnosis and antibiotics we were only out of commission for a couple of days and are now feeling much better.

Today being Saturday, we were visited by our friendly neighborhood hierbero.  He is an elderly man who sells dried plants and herbs, along with a variety of nuts (including cashews and macadamias) and candies for the kiddies.  We rarely buy the plants and herbs, but Hubby decided to ask if he had something for our asthma.  The man informed Hubby that he didn't have anything in his plastic paint bucket, that he used to transport his goods, but that he did have just the thing for us at home.

I thought he was going to return with te de abango.  It hasn't helped me much in the past, but it does taste pretty darn good.  I was not prepared for what he brought to my door.  I stood in shock, with my jaw to the floor, staring at the tiny package that he presented to me.

What on earth is THAT???  The hierbero explained to both Hubby and me that these little things are Bofes de Zorrillo.  Translation: Dried Skunk Lungs!!!

Wait...it gets better.  (Or worse.)

You're not supposed to eat them.  You're just supposed to make a tea.  But whatever you do, DON'T boil the bofes.  You're supposed to boil a cup of water and dunk a single lung three times in the boiling water, let it cool slightly, then drink it.  I wonder...Has Andrew Zimmern ever drank Skunk Lung tea?

I'm going to be 36 years old in less than 2 weeks.  I will try almost anything once.  But there are just certain things that I refuse to submit myself or my children to.  Like my grandmother years ago, I'm going to draw the line at dried skunk parts.


Cost of Living in Mexico

Aside from the FAQ's I answered a couple of months ago, the question I am asked most is...How much does it really cost to live in Mexico?  This isn't an easy question to answer, because everyone's budget, expenses and way of living are very different.

Here is a breakdown of the basics.  I'm not including groceries because that deserves it's own post!
  • Rent:  We've lived in the same rental house for 7 years.  We were paying the ridiculously low price of 600 pesos a month for both house and shop. (50 dollars a month! Shocking isn't it?)  But after the owner's visit last month, we will now be paying 600 pesos a month for each.  A 100% increase, but still quite a bargain for being so close to El Centro (downtown).
  • Phone/Internet:  500 pesos a month.  This could be much cheaper, but the way the owner of the house has it set up, we can't get a cheaper deal. 
  • Electricity:  750 to 1000 pesos every two months.  (Covers both house and shop!)  Oddly enough, we pay more for electricity in the winter than in the summer.
  •  Cable:  200 pesos a month.
  • Propane:  500 pesos every three months.  (That's 166 pesos a month.)  Having a stationary tank is much cheaper than the smaller cilindros that cost about 200 pesos each and only last 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Gasoline:  250 pesos a month.  We live in a small town where EVERYTHING is within walking distance.  Hubby only uses the truck to pick-up or deliver furniture and when we go out of town.
Sub-total monthly basics:  2800 pesos  (I rounded it out!)   

 A few extras:

  • Eating out:  We only eat out once a week.  While a taco dinner for 6 will cost us 50 pesos, we usually order Chinese take-out and spend 200 pesos a week. 
  • Entertainment:  I can't really put a price on this one.  Again, you must remember we live in a small town.  Most entertainment is GRATIS (free)!  There are no malls, movie theaters or fancy restaurants.  Nor do we go out of town often, because Hubby only has one day off (Sunday), which is spent with my in-laws.
  • Medical Expenses:  We don't pay for doctors or dentists, because they refuse to charge family members.  We do buy medication and spend about 300 pesos a month.
Sub-total extras:  2000 pesos  (I'm being extremely generous with this amount!)

Total monthly cost of living (excluding groceries):  4800 pesos  (That's a little less than 400 dollars, which is less than what we paid just for our rent back in the U.S.)


Sundays in my city...

Ever since I discovered Unknown Mami's blog, I have wanted to participate in her Sundays in my City meme.  This Sunday is the perfect one to share with you!  

Unknown Mami

If there is ever a time to visit my small town, it is now.  September is the biggest party of the year, that lasts all month.  And it all started today with a large peregrinacion (pilgrimage) from Guadalajara to visit El Señor del Encino (Our Lord of Encino).  (The town's patron saint.)

The Presidencia (City Hall) is getting all dressed up for the Bicentenario (bicentennial) celebration.

Vendors selling everything from purses to Mexican flags.

Not to mention the food vendors.  Tacos, tortas, menudo and birria are just a few of the delicious Mexican dishes available.

No celebration would be complete without a piece of Pan Dulce (pastry).

Or a churro!  Our favorites are the flat churros filled with delicous, creamy cajeta.

But the star of the show has to be El Chile de Arbol de Yahualica.  Said to be the best chile de arbol in the world.  There are piles and piles of chilies all over town.

The best salsas are made with Chile de Arbol de Yahualica.

And did I mention that the fair is in town?

I ♥ September!


Two fun ways to improve your Spanish

As some of you might already know, I am/was an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.  And I know that some of you are currently struggling with your Spanish.  I'm not sure if I am capable of writing frequent Spanish lessons, with detailed explanations on the proper use of Spanish grammar.  I'll leave that to experts like Mexico Bob, Rodney from My Spanish Notes and Pablo from Effective Swearing in D.F.  But I can share a few tips on improving your Spanish, starting with two fun games.  (Note: These games work with any language you are trying to learn!)

The first game I'm going to teach you is called BASTA! (Enough!)  It is best played with someone else, preferably someone that is a fluent Spanish speaker.  Each player will need a pen and a piece of paper.

The first thing you need to do is write the alphabet on a piece of paper.  Cut out each letter and place them in a bowl. 

Draw the columns (see pic below) on each sheet of paper, then choose a category for each column.  For beginners, I suggest using only 5 categories: Name(s), Places, Animals, Food & Drink and Objects.

For advanced Spanish speakers, use as many categories as you like.  We play BASTA often with our older kiddies and teenage nephews and nieces and we get pretty creative with our categories.  Some of the ones we use include: 
  •  First Name (Male)
  •  First Name (Female)
  •  Last Name
  •  Geography (City, State, Country or Continent)
  •  Animal
  •  Flowers/Plants
  •  Occupation
  •  Sport/Game
  •  Movies/TV shows
  •  Food & Drink
  •  Objects
One player picks a letter from the bowl and everyone must fill out one row on their card using Spanish words with the letter chosen, as fast as they can.  The first person to complete the entire row must yell, "BASTA!" (Enough or Stop.)  And the other players must put their pencils/pens down.

At the end of each letter, the players must compare their answers.  If a player had an original answer, he scores 100 points for that catergory.  If two players wrote down the same answer, they both get 50 points for that catergory.  And if 3 or more players wrote down the same answer, they all receive 25 points.  If you use the five columns/catergories, like the example below, each player can earn up to 500 points per letter.

Now it's time for another player to pick a letter from the bowl.  Continue playing for as long as you like.  At the end of the game, the person with the highest score wins!

Below is a sample of a BASTA game board.  The first letter drawn was "M", followed by the letter "C".


A second game that you can play all by yourself is the Alphabet Game.  Again, you will need pen and paper.  And you will need to choose ONE catergory, for example: People around town, toys, school supplies, verbs or objects that you have in your home.  Now make a list, using Spanish words, from A to Z of the category you chose.

People Around Town:

A - Albañil (construction worker)
B - Bombero (fireman)
C - Carpintero (carpenter)
D - Dentista (dentist)
E - Electricista (electrician)
F - Fontanero (plumber)
G - Granjero (farmer)
H - Huarachero (huarache maker) 

Don't worry if you get stuck on a letter, even the most fluent Spanish speaker can have a hard time with this exercise.  Just be sure to keep your Spanish/English dictionary handy so you can learn new words.

And most importantly, don't forget to have fun.