Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Day of the Dead Meets Christmas

I could not resist taking a photo of this skeleton dressed as Santa outside of a restaurant in Condesa...


Saturday, December 30, 2023

Back to the Zócalo

The purpose of my trip downtown on Wednesday was to once again visit the "Verbena Navideña" (Christmas fair) on the main plaza. 

 In the daytime, one could appreciate better the giant Christmas trees made of poinsettias.

Yes, those are live poinsettia plants.  Obviously, workers have kept them watered because the plants all looked very healthy.

I wanted to go to the handicraft bazaar in order to buy a few more gifts.  On my previous visit I had run out of money.

These dolls had struck my eye on my first visit.  They are handmade rag dolls similar to the ones from Amealco (see previous post).  However, their costume is quite unique.

The dolls come from the town of Chilapa de Alvarez in the mountains of the state of Guerrero.  Apparently, this is the traditional attire of the region, because the vendor was also selling clothing in the same style.  Even though I had just bought a doll for the daughters of a friend of mine, I had to buy one of these because they are so distinctive.

I was also interested in buying of piece of lacquerware.  These come from the town of Olinalá, also in the state of Guerrero.

The very aromatic wood from the "linaloe" tree, which is native to the region, is used to create these beautiful pieces.  I bought a jewelry box from this couple who are talented artisans from Olinalá.

I was tempted to buy more, but I headed back to the apartment with my two purchases.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Hello Dollies

 On Wednesday, after I had picked up the mail, I hopped on the Metrobus again and went downtown.  Near the Monument to the Revolution there was a large tent set up.  At the entrance were two enormous dolls.

The so-called "María" doll (and her male counterpart "Juan") have become an iconic symbol of Mexico.  They are hand-made by members of the Mazahua and Otomí tribes, but they can be found for sale throughout the country.

I went inside and talked with a couple of the vendors.  They all come from the town of Amealco, in the state of Querétaro, a few hours north of Mexico City.  You might recall that I have visited Amealco a couple of times.  It has become the center for the creation of these rag dolls. More than 3000 Otomí people from the town are involved in making them.

There were a few dozen vendors there, and a plethora of dolls.  The traditional "Marías", with their native attire and ribbons in their hair were in abundance, but I noted that they expanded their line with "grandma dolls", "Day of the Dead" dolls, unibrowed "Frida" dolls, and a variety of different, more elaborate costumes.

Although the dolls predominated, there were other handicrafts.  The Otomí women make beautiful hand-embroidered clothes, and these purses embroidered with "Marías" were interesting.

I have written before that I send dolls to the daughters of a friend of mine.  Even though I had just sent them a couple of dolls for Christmas, I could not resist buying one from Amealco.  They already have a "María" doll, so I bought a "Juan" doll.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

December Sky (2)

Here is another photo of a dramatic sky just after sunset.  I took this picture from my apartment yesterday.

Season's Greetings

I have mentioned previously that I have a private service which delivers my mail to Mailboxes Etc. in Mexico City via an address in Miami. The office is located in the Condesa neighborhood.  If I feel like walking, it takes forty minutes to get there.  Or I can take the Metrobus, and it's just a four-minute walk from the nearest stop. 

The Wednesday before Christmas I made a trip to the office, and I received my first holiday cards.  After that, I was at Alejandro's house for five days.  It wasn't until yesterday that I had a chance to pick up my mail.  There were several Christmas cards waiting for me, including three cards from cousins in England.  

Later in the afternoon when I returned to the apartment, there was an email from the Mailboxes Etc. office saying that more mail had arrived.  So, today I will probably stop by again.

The mail service is not especially speedy.  It seems to be taking more than two weeks to arrive.  But that is far more reliable than if the mail were coming via the Mexican Postal Service.  After I first met Alejandro, I sent him a Christmas card from Ohio just after Thanksgiving.  He received the card in time for Easter!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

December Sky

A few days before Christmas Alejandro and I went to visit an aunt and uncle of his.  When we left, just after sunset, Alejandro snapped this photo of the dramatic sky...


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Santa Was Late This Year

 I mentioned in yesterday's post that after our Christmas Eve dinner, we did not exchange gifts. Then, on Christmas Day, it wasn't until that evening at suppertime that the whole family was together for giving presents.  The problem was that they were sick in bed most of the day.  Since last week, one by one, they have been coming down with some sort of bug, and by yesterday they were all under the weather.  I am the only one in the house (knock on wood) that has not come down with it.

Finally, in the early evening, everyone was gathered at the table for leftovers.  After eating, I put on my Santa hat, and we finally exchanged gifts.

They have been coughing and sneezing, and some have had a low-grade fever.  Since I am the only one in the house that had a COVID shot this fall, I was worried that might be what they had.  (It hasn't been until the last few days that limited supplies of the latest version of the shot by Pfizer and Moderna have been trickling into the pharmacies down here.)  However, Alejandro's nephew, who was the first to come down with the cough, was tested for COVID, and he was negative.  This morning Alejandro also took a home test, and he too was negative.

There will be some more gifts exchanged on January 6th, the Day of the Three Kings.  Surely by that time everyone will have recovered from whatever this bug is.   

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Eve

 As Christmas grew nearer, Alejandro's family had done nothing to decorate the house for the holidays.  Finally, on Christmas Eve day the decorations came out.

A skinny tree, similar to the one that Alejandro had given me for the apartment

A small lighted table-top tree

A cute Nativity scene

Alejandro put lights on the wreath that he had bought earlier at the handicrafts market on the Zócalo and hung it on the door.

Around 9 PM we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  We had a feast that did not require cooking on the part of Alejandro or his sister.  Alejandro has a former student who is now a chef and sells traditional Christmas dishes already prepared.  He had ordered food from her. In the afternoon we drove to her house and picked up dinner to take back home.

We had pork loin in "adobo" sauce and a fruit salad of apples, pineapple and nuts.  In the lower left corner is something I had never had before that is very traditional for Christmas... "romeritos".  "Romeritos" are greens that are served in "mole".  I wasn't sure if I would like it because the "mole" is seasoned with dried shrimp.  I don't care for shrimp, but I really couldn't taste it in the sauce.  I did pass however on the shrimp patties ("tortas de camerón") that are served with the "romeritos".

In addition, Alejandro's aunt had sent over another traditional Christmas dish, "bacalao a la vizcaina" (Basque-style cod).  

The shredded cod is served with tomatoes, green olives, capers, almonds and other ingredients.  I have had it before and liked it, but this was too salty for my taste, and Alejandro agreed with me.

After supper it is traditional to exchange gifts, but Alejandro's father was tired and wanted to go to bed.  So, Santa Claus will have to wait until today.

Even the dogs were tired.

Alejandro, his sister and his nephew, and I stayed up until midnight.  We went outside and lit sparklers to welcome the arrival of Christmas.

It used to be that all the neighbors would come out on the street at midnight and wish each other a happy Christmas, but only one next door neighbor came out.  There were, however, a lot of firecrackers being set off in the area.

So now it's Christmas Day, and, as I write this, I am the only one awake.  It is usually a very quiet day... just relaxing and eating leftovers.

Best wishes for a 
¡Feliz Navidad!


Sunday, December 24, 2023

'Twas the Morning Before Christmas

On Christmas Eve morning, Alejandro went out and bought us something special for breakfast.  For most of the family he got "pancita" (cow's stomach).  But knowing that animal organs are a turn-off for me (I don't care how good they might taste), he bought some "barbacoa" for me.  Although our word barbecue is derived from "barbacoa", the Mexican dish is quite different from our concept of barbecue.  "Barbacoa" is lamb or goat, slow cooked over a fire, or, more traditionally, cooked in a pit covered with "maguey" (agave) leaves.  In this case, it was lamb, and it was cooked the traditional way.

The "barbacoa" was accompanied with salsa, diced onions, "manzano" peppers and chopped cilantro.  Alejandro got some blue corn tortillas, so we made tacos.  And, of course, it is de rigueur to squeeze some lime juice onto your taco.

  The family enjoyed their tacos of "pancita", and I enjoyed mine of "barbacoa".

Saturday, December 23, 2023

"La Posada"

The Christmas tradition that is most characteristic of Mexico is the "Posada".  "Posada" is the Spanish word for lodging, and these neighborhood processions represent Joseph and Mary looking for room at the inn.  The participants go from house to house and sing a litany which begins... "En nombre del cielo os pido posada." (In the name of heaven I ask for lodging from you.)  At each house they are turned away.  At the last house, the home of the host of the "posada", the doors are opened, and the participants are welcomed in.  Refreshments are served, and piñatas are broken.  The "posadas" are held for nine nights prior to the Christmas.

There have already been a couple of "posadas" on Alejandro's street.  Thursday night, Alejandro and Silvia, a neighbor down the street, collaborated in organizing a "posada".  Around 8:00 some of the neighbors came out and blew whistles to let everyone that a "posada" was about to begin.  People came out onto the street, candles were distributed and lit, and a procession was formed.  They went up and down the street chanting a prayer to Mary.  The procession was led by two children carrying figures of Joseph and Mary.

In this case, rather than going from door to door, the entire litany was sung outside Silvia's house, and the responses sung from inside.

At the end, the door is opened, and everyone sings, "Entren santos peregrinos..." (Enter holy pilgrims...)


Alejandro handed out "aguinaldos" (goodie bags) to everyone.  Buying the candy and making up all the bags had been part of his responsibility.  Silvia and her son also passed out refreshments... "tortas" (Mexican sandwiches) and "ponche" (hot fruit punch, traditional at Christmas).

Then came the part the children had been waiting for... the piñatas.  Alejandro had purchased three piñatas and had filled them with treats.  Alejandro had bought traditional ones that have cones attached to the central, candy-filled core.  Originally, those cones represented the seven deadly sins (although these piñatas didn´t have seven).  Overcoming sin (breaking the piñata) would bring rewards (goodies showering down on you).

The piñatas were hung, one at a time, from a rope strung across the street.  Someone at one end pulled the rope to make the piñata go up and down.  While each child tried to break it, the others same the traditional song... "Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino..." (Hit it, hit it, hit it, don't lose your focus...)  The papier mâché cores of the piñatas were very tough.  The cones and the decorations came off easily, but the center resisted smashing.

On the third piñata, the adults were given a chance to try their hand.  At first, they were blindfolded and twirled around.

When the blindfolded adults were not faring any better, they were allowed to try without a blindfold.

And yes, Alejandro and I were both given a chance.  I don't have any video of it, but, needless to say, we did not do any better than the others.  It was a fun evening in spite of the piñatas which defied breaking.

Friday, December 22, 2023


Alejandro's family agreed to join with another neighbor to organize a "posada".  "Posadas" are processions that represent Joseph and Mary looking for room at the inn.  They go from house to house and are turned away until finally at the last house they are admitted.  A party is held with the breaking of a "piñata" for the children.  

Alejandro's contribution to the "posada" was to buy the candy.  On Monday we went to Victoria Street* not too far from where he lives.  The street is lined with candy shops... and all those shops also sell "piñatas".

Inside one of the candy "supermarkets" where you will find almost any kind of candy imaginable.  Between all the candy and the high consumption of Coca Cola, it any wonder that Mexico has a very high rate of diabetes?

Alejandro filled up a shopping cart with giant bags of candies. He not only had to supply the candy that goes into the "piñata", but he also had to make up around 100 "aguinaldos", little bags of goodies that are given to each participant.

*If you are a super-observant reader of this blog, you might remember that earlier this year, we went to Victoria Street to buy some lamps.  That street, which is lined with lighting stores, is in the "Centro Histórico".  This is a different Victoria Street located in the borough of Gustavo A. Madero in northern Mexico City.

Thursday, December 21, 2023


Currently at the World Trade Center there is a toy exposition that runs through January 6th.  (Since January 6th, the Day of the Three Kings, is a traditional day to give children gifts, the expo will still be open for last minute shoppers!)  The admission is free, so last Sunday, Alejandro and I decided to check it out, even though we don't have children to shop for. (Alejandro's nephew is now a teenager.)

The expo is enormous with row after row of every kind of children's toy imaginable.  Visitors were offered BIG shopping bags, and many people were filling them.  Some children are obviously going to get everything on their lists to Santa and the Three Kings.

Alejandro posing at some of the exhibits

There were even some toys and games that I was familiar with.  "Uno" is still around of course, although there are various versions of it.

I didn't realize that they still make "Cabbage Patch" dolls.

There were loads of different Barbie dolls, but I didn't know that there was a "Day of the Dead" Barbie.  I wonder if it is only sold in Mexico.

I know that there are a lot of variations of "Monopoly", but here is one that is strictly for adults... Drinkapoly.

The descriptions say, "The route of drunken fun", "Let the happy hour begin.  You will tour the city on the board where they will give you courtesy shots, you will sing karaoke, dance in the strip-tease bar, courage will invade you, you will take ridiculous photos of yourself, and you will end up getting a pathetic tattoo" and "You will surely not remember what happened the next day, but the photos and your blackmailing friends will remind you."  WOW!

As it turned out, I did buy a couple of things.  Alejandro's nephew Ezra still likes Legos, so I bought him a set to build a sports car.  He also likes jigsaw puzzles.  I bought him a 1000 piece puzzle of a Van Gogh painting.  (Van Gogh is his favorite artist.)  I will probably save those presents to give him on January 6th.

A Christmas Fair

Last Saturday was supposed to mark the opening of the Christmas "verbena" (a fair or festival) on the Zócalo, Mexico City's main plaza.  I really had my doubts that it would open on schedule.  Last Friday, when I looked at the webcam of the Zócalo, the plaza was blocked off, and workers were still setting everything up.  However, on Saturday morning, when I looked again, it was open to the public.  After our trip to the handicraft market and dinner at Café El Popular, it was after dark, and we walked over to the Zócalo.


The Zócalo was thronged with people.

There were three large Christmas trees created out of poinsettia plants.

The poinsettia motif continued with the Christmas lights on the south and west sides of the Zocalo.

An enormous poinsettia in lights hung over 20 de Noviembre Avenue.

A stage was set up in front of the Cathedral, and there were continual musical acts performing.  The duo that was singing when we arrived were very good.

There were booths with carnival games, although these games were free of charge.  There was also a large tent with handicraft vendors.  All of the vendors were from the Mexican state of Guerrero, the state where Acapulco is located.  That was obviously a conscious choice in support of those who suffered from Hurricane Otis earlier this year.

We had just been to the Ciudadela Handicrafts Market earlier that afternoon, and I had spent most of my money.  Nevertheless, we did buy a few more things here.  I hope to have a chance to return before the "verbena" ends on December 30th and buy a few more things.

Alejandro bought one of the Christmas wreaths in the background.

The town of Olinalá in the state of Guerrero is famous for it beautiful lacquerware.

The embroidery work done by the women is gorgeous.