Sweet Death

Sweet Death

Creative Hands of Mexico

The term artesanía roughly translates to “handcrafts” or “folk art” although cultural differences mean that the terms are not completely equal. For example, the adjective artesanal can and often is applied to certain processed foods such as bottle salsas, chocolate, coffee and alcohols if said products are made at a home or by a small enterprises that do not use industrial methods.

Despite the tempation cover some of these artesanal goods (as they ARE wonderful), I have stuck to products that fit the definition of handcrafted in English. However, there is one tradition that truly blurs the line between edible and non-edible “handcrafts.”

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Alfeñique is the creation of a sugar paste, which is then molded into various decorative shapes. The term is not known to foreigners, but anyone who has been to Mexico during Day of the Dead (esp. in central Mexico) has seen its most representative product… a highly…

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Earthquake rescue, relief and rebuilding–It’s up to me!

Earthquake rescue, relief and rebuilding–It’s up to me!

Surviving Mexico

In the days since two strong earthquakes shook Mexico, I’ve seen a lot of conflicting advice, suggestions, and commentary.  What I’ve come to realize that it comes down to personal responsibility and that the only person who can decide if you are personally responsible or not, is, well you.

Let’s talk about Jorge.  He wasn’t a trained first responder.  He wasn’t a building expert.  He was quite ordinary in fact. But what Jorge did was assess the situation, said to himself “It’s up to me.” and crawled through rubble to rescue 4 children trapped inside. (Jorge Houston: el desconocido que ayudó a rescatar niños del Rébsamen)

This was not an isolated occurrence. Thousands upon thousands of residents took up the call for aid just minutes after the earthquake. Instead of saying “Well, the military will get here soon and they can take charge.” they said “It’s up to…

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Carnival costume in Mexico

Carnival costume in Mexico

It’s Carnival time in Mexico!

Creative Hands of Mexico

Mexico does not come immediately to mind when thinking about Carnival/Mardi Gras, but it does has a number of important events and unique traditions. According to Mexico Desconocido, there are ten important Carnivals in the country: those in Mazatlan, Veracruz, Campeche, in various small towns in Morelos, Mérida, Huejotzingo, Puebla, Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, Chamula and Huistan, Chiapas, Tlaxcala and Ensenada, California. However, there are quite a few more.

bulevar_avila_camacho_en_el_carnaval_de_veracruz Carnival parade in Veracruz (credit:Saulo ren)

Those in major cities such as Mazatlan, Veracruz, Campeche and Ensenada are very similar to those held in the famous locations of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, though Mexican themes show up in parades, especially floats. Giant colorful monsters called alebrijes, based on a handcraft of the same name, have also begun to be seen regularly in these events.

258px-santamartacarnival2013_27 Though not common, costumes mocking authority still appear

Perhaps more interesting and…

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Baby Jesus dresses up

Baby Jesus dresses up

On February 2nd, Mexicans celebrate Candlemas and there’s a very interesting tradition that goes with this special holiday!

Creative Hands of Mexico

ninodiossanfran08 Niño Dios as an angel

The holiday season in Mexico is known as Lupe-Reyes, referring to a nearly month-long period that begins on the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, on December 12 and Three King’s Day (Epiphany) on January 6.

But there is one other date related to the time period, February 2. This is called Candlemas in English, although its observance has waned in the Anglo world. It commemorates the taking of the infant Jesus to temple 40 days after his birth, a Jewish practice at the time.

Images of the infant Jesus are very important in Mexican Catholicism. It is lain in the nativity scene on 25 December, and very can often be much bigger than all the other figures. It can be on family altars throughout the year and there are even a number of famous “Niño Dios” (literally Child God)…

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Vignettes of Ensenada, Mexico

Vignettes of Ensenada, Mexico

Ensenada is a city on Mexico’s Baja coast, about 77 miles south of San Diego. Locals call it the “Cinderella” of the Pacific. I have no idea why they call it that, but I do know it’s a beautiful place. Take a look at Michelle Rae’s gorgeous pictures and see for your self!

Another Spur on the Road

Having finally decided on Ensenada for our Thanksgiving getaway this year has me all excited, even though I have a few trips scheduled before that. What can I say, I loved our first visit there and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. And it wasn’t just because of the tacos… although I must admit, it did play a big role.

Sadly, while we’ve got our hotel room booked already, Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away. So for now, I’m settling on looking at (and sharing with you) my photos from our last visit.

Come enjoy them with me…

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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is a charming colonial city in Mexico’s heartland. It was named one of the best cities in the world by Condé Nast Traveler and it’s also home to one of the largest expat communities in Mexico. Read this post by Cindy Veg to find out what all the buzz is about!

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A quaint, little colonial town nestled in the mountains north of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende is where I’ve decided to hang out for the next six weeks. The colorful and historic buildings which line the cobblestone streets are some of the most photogenic I’ve seen anywhere, the food is tasty, and the people are friendly.

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Despite warnings from other travelers, it is still much colder than I expected. To those of you – feel free to say “I told you so.” Starting all the way back with my road trip in Arizona, if there is one takeaway from this trip, it is the effects of altitude. San Miguel de Allende sits around 6,500 feet, making me wish I had brought more than a thin, zip-up hoodie. But what it lacks in heat, it certainly makes up for in charm.

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I spend my days strolling through the many markets, painting, and practicing…

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Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is one of the world’s great cities, alongside New York, London, and Tokyo. Take a look at the best sights in my native city in this post by Nathan Bell, the Canadian Globetrotter.

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Mexico City is one of the largest metropolitan centres in the world and it is the oldest capital city in the Americas. Home to 9-million inhabitants (26 million in the greater region), Mexico City is also the largest Spanish speaking city in the world!

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Containing over 300 neighbourhoods and 16 different boroughs, Mexico City can be quite overwhelming at first. However, many of the main sites are located in the historic centre – making Mexico City a little bit easier to navigate.

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Home to a cheap and extensive metro system (introduced in 1969), Mexico City can be efficiently explored via subway – linking travellers to every area of the city. Furthermore, in recent years Mexico City has phased out the use of diesel buses and a new modern rapid transit bus has been implemented into the city.

Or, you can simply choose the tried and true method of walking amongst…

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Day of the Dead altars for novice spirits

Day of the Dead altars for novice spirits

On this upcoming Day of the Dead in Mexico, the recently deceased will get a special altar to welcome them when they arrive on All Soul’s Day. Take a look at this beautiful post at Creative Hands of Mexico blog.

Creative Hands of Mexico

The most important element of Day of the Dead in Mexico is the setting up of an altar (literally “offering” (ofrenda)) to honor the dead. In homes all over Mexico, these altars are of a personal nature, featuring loved ones who have passed on. Common elements include marigold flowers (which bloom at this time of the year), religious images, food offerings and very often, photographs.

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The purpose of the altars is to make a connection with the departed loved ones, as Day of the Dead has roots in pre Hispanic beliefs, which included the return of the dead once a year to visit the living. Hence Day of the Dead is not a somber or frightening occasion, but almost a happy one, a chance to relive memories.

ddm3_alina Day of the Dead altar dedicated to various Mexican authors (credit Gomez, A01335017,CCM)

I personally have found it psychologically rewarding, thousands…

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The Grand Dame of Day of the Dead

The Grand Dame of Day of the Dead

In Mexico, the Death figure is not a hooded specter but a sassy, grinning skeleton lady dressed in glamorous outfits. This is her story.

Creative Hands of Mexico

Few images in Mexico are as ubiquitous or have the depth of meaning as the female grinning skeleton with a large overly-adorned hat and a gown from the late 19th century.

She is known as La Calavera Catrina (The Catrina Skull) or simply La Catrina. Her image, and those since derived from it, can not only be seen in Mexican handcrafts,  but also in Mexico graphic and fine art. In fact, it is the latter two which brought this particular figure to life.

451px-jose_guadalupe_posada_calavera_oaxaquena_broadsheet_1903 Print sheet with skeletal imagry dedicated to Oaxaca by Posada (1903)

Catrina began as one of a number of skeletal figures created by José Guadalupe Posada, a graphic artist publishing in Mexico City newspapers in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. His importance to the development of post Mexican Revolution culture cannot be overstated, deserving of its own article.

Originally La Catrina was only a…

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