Tag Archives: History & Traditions

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

Researchers believe that taste memories can be among the strongest one can have based on a principle called “conditioned taste aversion,” a survival tactic that helps one remember if something was eaten previously and was either poisonous or caused illness. This principle states that this memory biologically helps to prevent one from repeating the mistake in the future when this food is encountered.
-from the article Food and Memory by Joy Intriago

I love when something is so unexpectedly delicious that it imprints on me, creating a food memory that I will remember for years to come. It isn’t usually exotic foods, but an oddly delightful and unexpected pairing that causes my taste buds to perk up. Over 25 years ago in Brighton, UK, at a vegetarian restaurant, after watching The Wedding Singer at a movie theater, I had a combination of beet, cucumber, dill, something creamy and something crispy… maybe a piece of fried wonton. I have tried to recreate this perfect combination but have never managed to hit the same balance of yum.

About 13 years ago, on a chilly May evening, I had dinner in Montreal with my aunt and uncle at Laloux, a French restaurant. I had a combination of foie gras and apple that has made every time I have eaten foie gras since, feel like something is missing.

When I miss my father I can taste the pancakes with ham and maple syrup that he made for me on Sunday mornings. The beauty of a food memory is that you don’t just remember the taste but all the details of the moment get frozen and saved.

Last month I went to Mazunte for a 3-day silent meditation retreat. I was feeling a little dubious about going as I lived in Mazunte for a couple of years when I first moved here in the late 90s. Back then it was a dirt road village with a few palapas on the beach, one Italian restaurant and electricity in only a few parts of the village. Each time I have been recently I felt annoyed by its growth, and I felt even more annoyed with myself, for being that kind of person. Change happens, places grow, some evolve and some just get bigger.

Upon arrival for my retreat I was told that the retreat actually started the following day so I was left to my own devices for dinner. I wandered into the village. Stopped and visited the family that welcomed me into their fold twenty-five years ago and set off to find dinner. Outside the restaurant La Cuisine a blackboard displayed the evening’s specials and one was Tortellini de Conejo con Salsa de Zanahoria y Parmesano (rabbit tortellini with carrot and parmesan sauce). My mouth watered just thinking about it. It did not disappoint. Large tortellini with ground rabbit and a hint of fennel seed… I think, I tried to decipher each bite. The carrot and parmesan sauce was the perfect complement and I liked the cleverness of serving carrots with rabbit.

I had to admit, progress has its advantages in bringing new ingredients and chefs with different techniques. And it’s not new, it’s always been this way. Change is the only constant.

The Art of Portraying Food in Art

By Randy Jackson

I was interested to see a recent news story about a restored fresco from Pompeii depicting what the headline billed as an early version of pizza. The fresco shows a flatbread with toppings believed to include pomegranates, dates, and a type of pesto sauce. But what attracted my attention was not an interest in the history of pizza, or even the fascinating discoveries of daily Roman life frozen in time at 79 CE, but our ongoing interest in depicting food in art.

I trace this curiosity to a much younger version of myself wandering around art museums in Europe, and pondering why there were so many paintings of bowls of fruit. What, I wondered, was so great about that? In an attempt to answer that, and to hopefully develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of still-life painting, it helps to have some historical context of food in art.

The Meaning of Food in Art

When food is represented in any human artwork, it always conveys, or intends to convey, some meaning. Some of the earliest depictions of food appear in the Egyptian pyramids. These drawings were thought to hold magical properties that could enable the deceased to have food in the afterlife. Food as sustenance, and in the afterlife, you gotta eat, right?

Centuries later, the ancient Greeks and Romans painted food in their frescos of celebrations. Here, food was portrayed as symbols of wealth and abundance. One thing the Pompeii flatbread painting has taught us is that good quality food was not reserved solely for the elites. The everydayness of the meal, portrayed in the fresco of a house attached to a bakery in Pompeii, demonstrates that a much wider group than the elite enjoyed their meals, and had access to foods prepared, at least in part, for the pleasure of eating.

As European civilizations moved through the Middle Ages, the depictions of food in art no longer reflected food as celebratory, but rather as one of the regular features of daily life. Paintings of the period often showed food preparations for meals and feasts. Christianity was of course a central force running through the Middle Ages and food is an important symbol of devotional Christian practice (bread = the body, wine = the blood of Christ). Probably the best examples of this, in art, were the paintings of the Last Supper, where fish or lamb (both symbols of Christ) were conveyed along with wine and bread.

As European society gradually emerged into the Renaissance, food in art began to represent abundance. There was also a movement in paintings towards detailed realism. Scenes of butcher shops and kitchens (notably in the Italian Baroque) were common, although food did not yet serve as the centerpiece of a painting, often being shown as part of busy crowded scenes in the paintings of the time.

But the attention to detail for everything in the paintings, including the food, was greatly elevated from earlier paintings of the Middle Ages. While food remained a secular object, it was rarely painted without some Christian symbolism.

An interesting side note on food in art in the Renaissance is seen in the work of Italian painter Giuseppi Arcimboldo (1526-93). Arcimboldo’s work is recognizable today for its creative genius – he painted portraits entirely from fruits and vegetables. These food portraits were only part of Arcimboldo’s more conventional body of work; the portraits were understood to be for the amusement of the court (he was a painter for the Habsburg court in Vienna). Arcimboldo’s other paintings, including his religious paintings, have largely been forgotten in the context of better-known Renaissance paintings.

Food in Art in the Dutch Golden Age

The movement towards naturalism and detailed personal observation emerging in Renaissance art provided the underpinning for still-life genre paintings to emerge, culminating in the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s.

The Dutch Golden Age is thought to cover a good portion of the 17th century. Spurred on by the wealth of overseas trade, the Netherlands emerged to lead Europe in the arts and sciences. Of note in this flourishing is the Dutch Reform movement that shifted the Netherlands away from Catholic-dominated Europe, which then led to independence from the Church in intellectual life, commerce, and the arts. In the Dutch Golden Age, wealth was largely held by the merchant class. As a result, decisions in all aspects of society reflected perspectives and interests different from those of the elites, royalty, or the church, which still shaped most of the rest of Europe. It was the wealthy merchant class who commissioned works of art. This, along with the Renaissance movement towards naturalism and observation of details, motivated Dutch artists to create the genre of still-life paintings.

Dead Game, Red Lobsters, and Bowls of Fruit

To my own youthful question about what is so great about paintings of bowls of fruit, the answer, somewhat clearer from the passing of years, is that attention to detail is a deepening of awareness. Artists can bring a greater awareness to us, the viewer, through their attention to detail and the reproduction of that detail on canvas of texture, light, shadows, and hues. This can, if we apply our own attention to the painting, bring a sense of marvel. Articulating many aspects of the beauty of Food in Art, I recommend the New York Times article titled “A Messy Table, A Map of the World” – an amazingly entertaining tutorial in understanding the social history of art.

Email: box95jackson@gmail.com.

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“When we name an inanimate object, we are intentionally building a relationship, elevating it to a character in our lives. Not only do we feel closer to things that we name, but perhaps we name our things in order to feel closer to them.”
Kathryn Hymes in The Atlantic

Words. Where would we be without them? We marvel at a baby’s first words- usually little more than a gurgle, we learn the names of objects, we learn to read, we learn to manipulate and interpret their meanings and along the way we take them for granted, until the day when we start losing them one by one.

In translation, beyond word substitution, there are gaps of meaning within languages. We’ve all heard about how some tribes in the Arctic have 50 words for snow. There are other languages that have words that give more specific meaning to things, such as the German word Treppenwitz which translates to stairs (treppen) + wit- and means “the perfect retort that comes too late”, what you didn’t respond in the heat of the moment because you only thought of it while you were already leaving. I need at least seven English words to describe what this German word captures with one. By the way it’s a noun, in case you were wondering how to integrate it into your speech. German is full of amazing compound words like Lebensmüde, which means “life-tired”.

In Iceland they have Gluggaveður – which describes when the weather looks pleasant from your window, but is actually really cold and you need a jacket. Gluggaveður literally means “window-weather”.

One of my favorite words is the Japanese Komorebi, which refers to the scattered sunlight that filters through the leaves on the trees. So poetic and gentle feeling. What do you think… noun or adjective? If you are a native English speaker I bet you guessed it is an adjective because it feels so descriptive. It is actually a noun which makes it even cooler because it is a thing, it has form, it’s more than a description- it’s a slice of a moment and the Japanese have captured it with a word, naming it gives it heft.

This month our writers explore the naming of things. On the surface this topic feels flat but it is anything but. Naming is the first act bestowed upon us when we are born. Attaching words to things, people and emotions is how we find our place in the world and give form to our experiences. In fact, naming is such serious business that many countries have regulations regarding naming. In Mexico, in the state of Sonora, the name Hermione is banned, as is the name Robocop. Sarah is a banned name in Morocco, although without the ‘h’ it is permissible. Linda is banned in Saudi Arabia due to its association with Western culture.

Names have so much power. In Harry Potter there is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Judaism avoids mentioning G-d other than when reading the torah. This is because he is thought to transcend the word as no word can capture the essence of G-d.

And for when you start forgetting the names of things or people, the Hawaiian language has Pana Po’o – the act of scratching your head in an attempt to remember something you’ve forgotten.

See you next month,


Street Names in Mexico City

By Jan Chaiken and Marcia Chaiken

Everywhere in Mexico you will find lengthy street names commemorating historical figures or events, and this is particularly true in Mexico City. Although the persons or occasions commemorated by the names of streets in the nation’s capitol are known to most Mexicanos, those of us who did not attend school here as children are generally clueless. Here we hope to help you get in the know about the background of street names so when sitting in gridlocked traffic you feel as if you are surrounded by history rather than just by hundreds of cars belching noxious fumes.

Nearly every tourist who has been in Mexico City is familiar with the Paseo de la Reforma, the grand wide avenue that transverses the city diagonally and looks as if part of the Champs-Élysées had been lifted up from Paris and transported here. Reforma was originally conceived by the Emperor Maximilian, an Austrian installed as the ruler of Mexico during the French intervention (1862-67); he intended to name it Paseo de la Emperatriz in honor of his wife Carlota, but it was given the name Reforma after Maximilian – who badly miscalculated Mexican sentiment towards him – was executed and Benito Juárez became President of Mexico. The name refers to La Reforma, a series of federal legislative enactments that brought about the separation of church and state in Mexico.

As you walk or drive down Paseo de la Reforma, you inevitably encounter the magnificent memorial The Angel of Independence (commonly called El Ángel) at the intersection of Reforma and Avenida Independencia. These names commemorate the 1821 victory of Mexico over Spain in its War of Independence. The Angel was dedicated by the dictator Porfirio Díaz in 1910, on the centennial of the date that independence was declared.

Another street most visitors to Mexico City encounter is Avenida de Los Insurgentes (aka Insurgentes), the longest street in the city. The 28.8-kilometer (17.9-mile) avenue runs from the southwest Mexico-Cuernavaca Highway to the northeast Mexico-Pachuca highway, connecting numerous neighborhoods, including the famous Roma area. Along this route, there are many restaurants, hotels, museums, monuments and entertainment centers. First known as Avenida Santa Cruz, the current name memorializes the people in the insurgent army that fought in the war of independence from Spain.

If you have traveled into or out of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport, you may have encountered a much less distinguished nearby street: Calzada Ignacio Zaragoza. Its namesake Zaragoza was actually born in the United States in 1829. His family moved to Mexico, where he attended the National Military College.

He served in the Mexican-American War and later was appointed commander of the Mexican Army in Puebla. In 1862 his army was victorious against the French at the battle of Puebla, an event commemorated as Cinco de Mayo, which in recent years has been celebrated, at least enthusiastically in the United States as in Mexico.

Calle 5 de Mayo (pronounced “Cinco de Mayo”) is a major thoroughfare in the historic center of Mexico City; it begins at the Palacio de Bellas Artes and ends at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City. Calle 5 de Mayo is only one of Mexico City’s many calles de calendario (streets named for dates on the calendar). Avenida Independencia changes its name to 16 de Septiembre as it approaches the historic center of Mexico City to commemorate the date of Mexican Independence. 16 de Septiembre is one block south of Calle 5 de Mayo and runs from the Eje Central, or Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas, to the Zócalo. (Cárdenas was a Mexican army officer and politician who served as president of Mexico from 1934 to 1940; the zócalo is Mexico City’s central square, formally named Plaza de la Constitución). Residents of Mexico would be familiar with the significance of 16 de Septiembre street from their schooling and their experience that the date is a national holiday, with schools, banks and many businesses closed.

One block further south is Calle Articulo 123. This is named after Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution, which is the labor law of Mexico – it guarantees workers the right to fair wages, safe working conditions, and social security benefits. It also ends at Eje Central/Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas. Calle 20 de Noviembre runs south from the Zócalo, perpendicular to the streets already mentioned. November 20th is a national holiday in Mexico that celebrates the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, which ran from 1910 to 1920 and overthrew Porfirio Díaz after he had been president for 35 years.

The 12th of December provides an interesting example of how separation of church and state operates in Mexico. December 12 is the Feast of Guadalupe, a popular national holiday in Mexico; religious processions are held throughout country, including in the Huatulco area, on that date. In Mexico City a very popular tourist attraction is the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. But there is no calle calendario for December 12 near the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Instead, Avenida de Guadalupe is the name of the street that ends at the Basilica. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, and her image is one of the best known religious symbols in the world, but secular authorities who designate street names in Mexico City do not commemorate the date December 12.

If the average visitor begins to feel overwhelmed by the details of street names rooted in Mexico’s rich history, we suggest a drive through or stroll around the Polanco neighborhood where the streets are named after luminaries enshrined in history studied in most North and South American and European schools. Beginning with ancient Greece and Rome, Homer, Horace, Aristotle and Archimedes lend their names to streets, and there are streets named after 20th-century notables such as Mahatma Gandhi. Block after block of the small Juárez neighborhood remind us that Mexico City is a major urban center of Western civilization, with streets recognizing London, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Genoa, Tokyo, Oslo, Copenhagen, Rome. And overall, Reforma, Insurgentes, and calendar streets remind us of the struggle to achieve this status.

Mexico’s Pre-Hispanic Heritage Lives on in Today’s Names

By Brooke O’ Connor

When we think of Mexico and language, most people think of Spanish; certainly, it is the predominant language. However many indigenous languages are still spoken, like sleeper cells waiting to be called back into the mainstream. One way these languages stay relevant is through names. In fact, Mexico was not this great country’s original name. Anahuac (land surrounded by water) was the Náhuatl name given to this land during pre-Hispanic times.

Names for People

In modern times, pre-Hispanic first names are still very popular. They honor indigenous heritage and show pride in these ancestors. Here are some popular female pre-Hispanic names:

Ameli – Water
Citlalli – Star
Erendirani – Happy, happy to awaken
Itzel – Bright Star
Ix Chel – Moon
Malinalli – Goddess of grass
Nayelli – Love
Quetzal – Jewel, beautiful feather
Xochitl – Flower
Yunuen – Half Moon

And some popular male pre-Hispanic names:

Tonatiuh – Sun
Moctezuma – Stern prince
Ikal – Spirit
Nezahualcóyotl – Coyote who fasts
Canek – Black serpent
Cuauhtemoc – Descending eagle

Names for Places

Many towns and cities have maintained their pre-Hispanic names as well.

Oaxaca, comes from the Náhuatl word Huāxyacac (place of the guaje). The guaje is a tree (Leucaena leucocephala) found around the capital city.

The meaning of Huatulco (Guatulco, Coatulco) is “where they worship the tree” or “wood,” which refers to an ancient legend. During the first century A.D. a bearded white man arrived on a small boat to the beach we now call Santa Cruz. The man was carrying a gigantic log, that somewhat resembled the shape of a cross. Once he got to the beach, he found Zapotec and Mixtec people. The white man planted the log upright without any help from the locals. He then spent some time teaching the local people new agricultural techniques and cultural improvements.

At some point, he left in the same boat he came in on, never to be seen again. Some say that this man was Quetzalcoatl (the god of, among other, more fundamental things, learning, reading, writing, and books).

Two hundred years before the Spanish conquered Mexico, the Huatulco area was colonized by the Mexicas, whom we call the Aztecs. When they noticed the locals worshiped the wooden cross, they called the place Cuauhtolco, a Náhuatl word meaning “the place where the wooden log is adored.”

Later, after the Spanish came, Thomas Cavendish looted and pillaged the entire region. This included many failed attempts to destroy the mysterious log that apparently couldn’t be cut, sunk, or burned. Soon Spanish Catholics took this opportunity to call it a Christian cross and gave it the name Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). One more cultural appropriation to lure the submission of the locals.

Coyula, located west of the national park, represents versatility, enthusiasm, agility, and unconventional methods.

Cacaluta, located to the southwest of Santa Cruz, received its name from the Zapotec word cacalote (blackbird, including a variety of crows or ravens). In this case, Cacaluta has also been interpreted to mean vulture (zopilote in Spanish).

Tangolunda is a Zapotec word meaning “pretty woman.”

From Náhuatl to Spanish to English

As English speakers, we constantly use words borrowed from Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, and many other languages, but did you know we even have a few words from Nahuatl?

Because Nahuatl is still a living language, English speakers are borrowing various words from Nahuatl. For example:


And last but not least – Shack

The others may seem plausible, but “shack”? Etymologist David Gold traces this word back to the Nahuatl word xacalli, (note that the ‘x’ = ‘sh’), also spelled jacalli, meaning “hut with a straw roof.”

There are other words you probably know that may seem Spanish, but come from pre-Hispanic origins. Thanks to John Pint, a writer from Jalisco, we have the following list:

Amate: the ficus tree, and also paper made in pre-Hispanic times out of the tree’s bark. Still used today by artisans, ancient peoples used it for communication and religious ceremonies. A crumpled piece of amate paper found in the Huitzilapa shaft tomb in Jalisco dates back to the year 70 CE.

Atole: a thick drink made from corn flour and water, then sweetened with piloncillo (brown cane sugar) then flavored with cinnamon, vanilla and maybe chocolate.

Cacahuate: a “peanut.” The ancient Mexica used to refer to this ground nut as a tlacáhuatl or “earth cocoa bean.”

Canica: a “marble,” as in the glass balls kids play with. The word supposedly comes from the Náhuatl expression Ca, nican nican! meaning “This is mine right here!” You would shout this if you thought your marble was the winner.

Cuate: from the Náhuatl, “twin.” Today it is used much like “buddy” or “dude.”

Escuincle: the short form of xoloitzcuintle, the Mexican hairless dog breed. Today, the derivative escuincles refers to children. This is not necessarily pejorative, as xolos were considered protectors from evil spirits and the guides who take our souls to the next life.

Mitote: may originally have referred to dancing and drinking. In modern times it means “a mess” or “chaos.” Armar un mitote is to make a fuss.

Petatearse: a petate is a mat woven from reeds or palm fronds. It was also used to roll up a corpse for burial. From this comes the verb petatearse. So, se petateó means something like, “He kicked the bucket.”

Pochote: also called a ceiba, this is the silk-cotton tree, considered divine in ancient Mexico because its branches, trunk, and roots represent the cosmos’ three levels. Many Pochote varieties can be recognized by their trunk’s thick spikes.

Popote: a “drinking straw,” and is derived from the Náhuatl popotli, referring to the hollow reeds which grew all around the ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

Tejuino: a nonalcoholic beer made from sprouted corn. The ancient Nahua viewed it as the “drink of the gods.” If you drink it regularly, they said it will replace the pathogenic bacteria in your colon with probiotics – great idea for someone looking to add to the local organic market!

Tianguis: a street market, or tianquiz(tli) in Náhuatl. A tianguis is referred to as a mercado if it is enclosed. In that case, the name of the Mercado Orgánico Huatulco, held on Saturdays in Santa Cruz, ought to be Tianguis, although mercado most likely clarifies the event to foreigners.

Tlacuache: a possum. This word comes from tlacuatzin, meaning “little fire-eater.” Why is a possum a fire-eater? Let me tell you!

In pre-Hispanic mythology, the tlacuache stole fire from the gods. He grabbed a piece of burning wood with his tail and gave it to humans. So, that’s why the tail of a possum is hairless.

Tecolote: comes from the Nahuatl word for “owl” and is found in the common Mexican saying, “Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere” (When the owl hoots, the Indian dies). It’s interesting to note that Native Americans in the US also think the owl brings death.

Zanate: a bird called the great-tailed grackle in English. Legends say it has seven distinct songs, all of which it stole from the sea turtle. It is thought that in these songs you can hear the seven passions: love, hate, fear, courage, joy, sadness, and anger.

Pre-Hispanic languages are redolent with a rich heritage and deep connection to nature. Names provided descriptions, rather than adornment. We can see today how many Mexican people have several names, yet can go by nicknames that have nothing to do with their official, legal ones. I have yet to understand this phenomenon, but it has something to do with how they feel about themselves and the family names they were given.

In my observation, pre-Hispanic names seem to carry more pride and grounding. Although they are harder for English native speakers to pronounce, I’m sure the people with pre-Hispanic names would be happy if we did our best to (try to) learn!.

What in the World Do Demonyms Name?

By Deborah Van Hoewyk

Back – way back – when Greek was the language of the day, there lots of “nyms,” a suffix that basically means “name.” We all learned about synonyms and antonyms in grade school, and the homonyms were always fun. You remember, different words but pronounced the same? Road/rode, beat/beet, cereal/serial, gate/gait.

It turns out, growing up in Maine, I was also interested in demonyms – the names (nyms) of peoples (demos) – also called “gentilics.” People from Maine were known as “Maineiacs,” and not always in a positive sense. While the World Book Encyclopedia of 1956 did not actually refer to the people of Maine as “Maineiacs,” it did identify us as “hardy fisher folk” who suffered a geographic inferiority complex. Which probably says more about the non-PC world of the nineteen-fifties than anything else.

Understandably, we now go by the more sensible “Mainers,” although the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing is still called the Maineiacs – only right in that one of their talents is air-to-air, high-speed refueling in the Arctic. And Maineiac might well apply to me and my husband personally, in the decade or so we’ve spent driving from the northeast corner of the U.S. to the southeast corner of Mexico – and back again – a path that takes us through 13 of Mexico’s 31 states.

What Are the Demonyms of Mexico?

Of course, over and above the 31 states of Mexico is the Distrito Federal, the Federal District referred to as “Mexico City,” which people used to call “DF” (day-EFF-ay). Since 2016, however, it’s officially been designated “CDMX” (Ciudad de México – City of Mexico); this move was supposed to help devolve power from the federal to the local level, on the path to eventual statehood. Not much progress there to date.

What’s the demonym for residents of CDMX? While residents of the big city can be called mexiqueños/as, defeños/as, or capitalinos/as, they are mostly called chilangos/as, from the Náhuatl chīlān (capital, or “in the center of the moon”). While some travel websites say the demonym is an “affectionate” or “humorous” term, that’s probably a minority view. Originally used to refer to people from the countryside who had migrated to Mexico City, chilango now means those born and bred in CDMX, and specifically contrasts with provinciano – i.e., sophisticated vs. being a hick. However, when chilangos go on vacation, they’re often considered demanding, rude, and generally obnoxious. In vacation areas near CDMX, the saying goes “Haz patria, mata un Chilango” – “Do something for the motherland, murder a Chilango.” Given that Chilangos represent about a sixth of Mexico’s total population, they are largely responsible for Mexico’s domestic tourism. Their lives and limbs are probably pretty safe when they travel!

Here, in alphabetical order, is how to refer to the people you meet in Mexico.

Aguascalientes, capital Aguascalientes: Residents of both the state and the capital city are called aguascalentenses. Notice that the ‘i’ in the “caliente” part of the name drops out.

Baja California, capital Mexicali: State residents are called bajacalifornianos/as. If you live in the capital, you’re a mexicalense.

Baja California Sur, capital La Paz: State residents are also called bajacalifornianos/as, while residents of La Paz are called paceños/as.

Campeche, capital San Francisco Campeche: If you live anywhere in Campeche, you’re a campechano/a.

Chiapas, capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez: A resident of the state is a chiapaneco/a, while a resident of the capital can be called a tuxtleco/a or a tuxtleño/a.

Chihuahua, capital Chihauhua: Both state and capital residents are called chihuahuenses; colloquially, they are norteños/as.

Coahuila, capital Saltillo: Someone from the state of Coahuila is called a coahuilense, while someone from Saltillo is called a saltillense.

Colima, capital Colima: Residents here are called either colimenses or colemeños/as.

Durango, capital Durango: The folks from Durango are referred to as duranguenses or durangueños/as.

Guanajuato, capital Guanajuato: If you’re from Guanajuato, the state or the capital, you are a guanajuatense or a guanajuateño/a. If you come from Moroleón, a large city located in a textile manufacturing area and known for clothes shopping, you’re a moroleonés/esa.

Guerrero, capital Chilpancingo de los Bravo: State residents are called guerrerenses, while residents of the capital are chilpancingueños/as. If you’re from Acapulco, you’re an acapulqueño/a.

Hidalgo, capital Pachuca: Refer to state residents as hidalguenses, and capital city residents as pachuqueños/as.

Jalisco, capital Guadalajara: People from the state of Jalisco are called jaliciences; if you live in Guadalajara, you’re a guadalajarense or a guadalajareño/a. However, if you were born in the city, you’re a tapatío/a.

(Estado de) México, capital Toluca de Lerdo: Live in the state? You’re a mexiquense. In the city of Toluca? Toluqueño/a.

Michoacán, capital Morelia: These people would be michoacanos/as and morelianos/as.

Morelos, capital Cuernavaca: Folks from Morelos are called morelenses, and those living in the capital are called cuernavaquenses. You will also hear them called guayabos or guayabas. One explanation is that there are many guayaba trees in Cuernavaca, often pink, and they scent the streets or even dye them pink.

Nayarit, capital Tepic: State residents – nayaritas (remember, a word ending in ‘a’ can be masculine as well as feminine) or nayaritenses; capital city residents – tepiqueños/as.

Nuevo León, capital Monterrey: If you’re from here, you’re a neoleonés/esa or a nuevoleonés/esa; if you’re from Monterrey, you’re a monterreyense or a regiomontano/a – the latter is related to the name “Monterrey,” which translates as “mountain of the king.”

Oaxaca, capital Oaxaca de Juárez: Both state and city residents are called oaxaqueños/as; however, if you’re from the capital city, you might also becalled a vallisto/a, after the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. If you’re from Huatulco, of course, you’re a huatulqueño/a.

Puebla, capital Puebla de Zaragoza: People from both the state and the city are called poblanos/as, although city residents are also called angelopolitanos/as. At one point the capital city was called “Puebla de los Ángeles,” and is now nicknamed “Ángelópolis” (“City of Angels”), hence the gentilic for people live in the city of Puebla.

Querétaro, capital Santiago de Querétaro: If you live anywhere in Querétaro, you’re a queretano/a.

Quintana Roo, capital Chetumal: People who live in Quintana Roo are called quintanarroenses, while those in the capital are called chetumalenses or chetumaleños/as. If you live in Tulum, you’re a tulumense, and if you’re out on Isla Mujeres, you’re an isleño/a.

San Luis Potosí, capital San Luis Potosí: The demonym for both state and city residents is potosino/a, although if you live in the capital, you might also be called a sanluisino/a.

Sinaloa, capital Culiacán Rosales: State residents – sinaloenses; capital city residents – culiacanenses. If you hail from Mazatlán, you’re a mazatleco/a.

Sonora, capital Hermosilla: State residents – sonorenses; capital city residents – hermosillenses.

Tabasco, capital Villahermosa: State residents – tabasqueños/as; capital city residents are called villahermosinos/as or villermosinos/as.

Tamaulipas, capital Ciudad Victoria: Residents of Tamaulipas are called tamaulipecos/as, while folks from Ciudad Victoria are called victorenses.

Tlaxcala, capital Tlaxcala de Xicohténcatl: Both state and capital city residents are called tlaxcaltecas.

Veracruz, capital Xalapa-Enríquez: If you come from the state of Veracruz, you’re a veracruzano/a, from the city of Veracruz, a porteño/a. If you’re from Xalapa, you’re a xalapeño, which can be spelled with a ‘J’ – just like the pepper. There’s a more colloquial name for the veracruzanos: jarocho/a, which can be translated in many ways – hot-tempered, brusque, chaotic; it is also the word for the long spear used by fishermen along the Papaloapan river.

Yucatán, capital Mérida: If you come from Yucatán state, you’re a yucateco/a, and from Mérida, a meridano/a.

Zacatecas, capital Zacatecas: No matter where you’re from, you’re a zacatecano/a.

The Resurgence of Classical Music in Mexico City

By Carole Reedy

Even before the pandemic, classical music, and especially the opera, appeared to be on the downslide in our grand cultural city. Over the years, music lovers had become accustomed to a solid season filled with operas, symphonies, and string quartets as well as individual appearances by world famous artists, such as Chinese pianist Lang Lang, Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, home-grown tenor Javier Camerena, and even the queen of opera Maria Callas, the American-born Greek soprano, in the 1950s.

It is true that classical music venues in México do not receive adequate support and funding from the government. Neither is private support up to the level of other nations. For whatever reason, the scene was not the same as it had been in earlier years.

Then came the pandemic and everything shut down.

However, during those bleak pandemic years emerged a single figure, a young musician, to rescue the classical music scene. His enthusiasm, knowledge, foresight, diversity, and dedication to communicating with the public has changed the course of music for all of us.

Enter Iván López Reynoso
His name is Iván López Reynoso. In his early 30s in 2020, and after two years as assistant conducter of the Orquesta del Opera Bellas Artes at 18, López Reynoso was named Director Artístico de la Orquesta del Teatro Bellas Artes. From that time to the present, the roster at Bellas Artes has been chock full of opera and symphonic concerts, live and online. The maestro’s personal calendar is even more impressive.
López Reynoso was born in Guanajuato in 1990; after his parents, who were engineers, recognized his interest in music, he began to study violin, piano, and conducting from an early age. At 15, he studied at the Conservatorio de Las Rosas in Morelia, and from there he went to Mexico City..

He’s also a significant figure in the music world outside of Mexico, conducting in Oman, Spain, the US, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, among other countries.

The first time I saw Maestro López was on a free Zoom session during the pandemic in which he analyzed Verdi’s opera Rigoletto by sitting at a piano for two hours, playing the score, singing many of the parts (he is an accomplished counter-tenor), all while explaining the opera to his attentive listeners. From that moment I knew he would be a significant figure in my life as well as for the future of opera in Mexico.

He states the philosophy of his career simply in an article from Forbes magazine: “I have as a mission and as a philosophy that every concert I direct, every note I sing or every chord I play, I have to play it as if it were the last chord in my life, as if it were the last concert I am going to conduct. That is, with the maximum dedication, the maximum effort, love and devotion possible.”

This is evident in every concert he conducts and every role he sings as a countertenor, his other talent.

Of significance to the listening public, López Reynoso communicates actively with his followers on social media (look for him on Facebook and Instagram), where he announces concerts, musical events, and venues, all with a very personal touch. When information is readily available, the music community responds with enthusiasm. Gracias Maestro for bringing the music to us!

Not only does the city have the ambition and talent of López Reynoso, but venues elsewhere here are opening once again for concerts.

And the Beat Goes On …

The Auditorio Nacional has opened its doors to the Metropolitan Opera of New York transmissions. Each season, the Auditorio presents ten of the Met’s operas, which provides a perfect sound system and a huge screen for viewing.

In addition, opera transmissions from the Royal Opera House in London will be presented once again at CCU (Centro Cultural Universitario). The popular Carmen, Il Travatore, Turandot, Cinderella, The Marriage of Figaro, and Sleeping Beauty will be among the operas shown on Sundays in May, June, and July 2023.

Sala Nezahualcóyotl also has a full schedule ahead with the Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM (OFUNAM), performing regularly in May and June

Soprano Elīna Garanča returned to Mexico in March at the magnificent Bellas Artes venue. And each week other musical events are adorning the main theater. Check the schedule online. I am happy to conclude this article with positive thoughts for the future of classical music in Mexico City!

Mariachi – a Uniquely Mexican Musical Tradition

By Julie Etra

Mexico has a diverse, regional, and rich musical history and it is mariachi that is probably played more than any other Mexican musical form. Mariachi originated in the state of Jalisco, particularly in and around Cocula, “la cuna del mariachi” (the cradle of mariachi), southwest of Guadalajara. In 2011, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), added mariachi music to the organization’s list of Intangible Cultural Patrimony of Humanity.

Other traditional musical styles are son jarocho, corridos (19th-century narrative folk ballads sung by rural, working-class people on both sides of the border) narcocorridos, Tejano (Mexican/Texas border); conjunto (with the bajo sexto, a 12-string guitar); quebradita (a “little bit broken,” music for a particular dance style, with a lot of brass instruments); banda (a type of polka); ranchera (a genre of mariachi); and Norteño (northern Mexico). In the state of Oaxaca there is chilena music from the coastal regions, sones and jarabes in the Mixteca (a region in western Oaxaca and adjoining parts of Puebla and Guerrero); sones and huapangos in the Papaloapan basin, with harp and jarana (a small guitarlike instrument), marimba in the Valles Centrales; and Zapotec songs on the Isthmus (e.g., “El Feo”, originally written in Zapotec). Check out the band Paulina y el Buscapié from Oaxaca City; Paulina plays the jarana (they played here in Huatulco a few years back as part of the Amigos de la Musica concert series).

Origin of the Word Mariachi

The late Neal Erickson, musician and former writer for The Eye, wrote about mariachi for The Eye in 2012 (https://theeyehuatulco.com/2012/02/01/mariachi/).

He points out that “the consensus of modern scholars is that the word mariachi is indigenous to Mexico.” The etymology of the word indicates it came from the now-lost Coca language, spoken in and around Cocula in central Jalisco. Erickson adds that “Legend erroneously attributes the word to the French Intervention of the 1860s, explaining it as a corruption of the French word marriage [but] historical documents prove that both the word mariachi and the ensemble it designates pre-date the French occupation of Mexico.”

Warning – down the rabbit hole! Being the bibliophile that I am, I ordered Jesus Juáregui’s El mariachi: Símbolo musical de México, (Mariachi: Musical Symbol of Mexico) the authoritative work on the subject (2006, there are updated editions).

According to Juáregui, the first time the word showed up in print was in 1852: “Tambien se llama mariachi amanecerse en un parranda, en un baile. Se decia ‘amaneci en un mariachi’, ‘vengo de un mariachi.’ This translates to “It is also called mariachi when you greet the dawn in a party, at a dance. It was said ‘I woke up in a mariachi,’ ‘I come from a mariachi,’ in this case referring to a group of musicians. The baile, or dance, was also called fandago.

Development of the Musical Style and Instruments

Regardless of the origin of the word, mariachi gradually developed from the fusion of Aztec instruments (conch shells, teponaztlis [wooden slitted drums, see O’Connor article elsewhere in this issue]), huéhuetls [another Aztec percussion instrument], reed or clay flutes) with guitars and violins brought from Spain. In 1695, the Cocas (people from Cocula) invented the vihuela (5-string guitar) and, later, the guitarrón (4-string bass guitar), which replaced the Spanish lute and double bass. In the infancy of mariachi in the 1850s, the instruments included violin, harp, and a specific type of drum. By the end of the 19th century, there were several well-known mariachis in Cocula and Tecalitlán (south of Guadalajara). The region’s most famous example is perhaps Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, founded in 1897 by Gaspar Vargas López ​(1880-1969). At the time, most mariachi groups included a guitarrón, two violins, a vihuela and a chirimía (a double-reed wind instrument similar to an oboe).

Mariachi arrived in Mexico City in 1896 with strings and the voice of the José García group. At the beginning of the 20th century, Cirilo Marmolejo’s Mariachi ensemble donned charro suits – the style was immediately adopted and modified by successive ensembles. The charro outfits resembled clothes worn by vaqueros (horseman) of Jalisco: tailored woolen long pants and short jacket, festooned with gold or silver colored metal buckles, and the highly decorated wide-brimmed sombrero. The Porfiriato (period of governance of Porfirio Díaz, 1884-1910) was not a good time for the mariachi, since, like tequila, it was considered representative of the lower classes (although in 1905 and 1907, Díaz celebrated two parties with mariachi music).

With the Mexican Revolution (1910-21), the corrido became the musical companion to the struggle, providing the mariachi with lyrics. Once the country stabilized after almost a decade of war, filming of ranchera movies began, featuring mariachi music and providing much greater exposure.

In the 1930s, the Marmolejo group introduced the trumpet and in 1936, then presidential candidate Lázaro Cárdenas invited the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán to his electoral campaign, resulting in a revitalization of this genre of vernacular music, and the Vargas group (which is currently in its fifth generation of musicians) became popular.

Over the decades, the instruments and structure of the band have changed; Mariachi Marmolejo included a flute, which is no longer played. In most contemporary ensembles, the harp has also disappeared, and they do not include drums. Standards are the violin, guitarrón, vihuela, trumpet and voice.

Artists of Mariachi

Famous mariachi artists include the singers Jorge Negrete, José Alfredo Jiménez, Lucha Reyes, Pedro Infante, Lucha Villa, Antonio Aguilar, Vicente Fernández, Juan Gabriel, and the great female vocalist Lola Beltrán.

A close friend gave me a CD of the the group Mariachi Los Camperos, De Ayer Para Siempre (From Yesterday to Forever) recorded in 2019, for my birthday. While some of it is quite sentimental and schmaltzy (“schmaltz” is Yiddish for rendered chicken fat, “schmaltzy” means maudlin sentimentality). However, there are some great standards such as El Pasajero and Pajaro, in which the talents of the excellent singer and violinist Jesús “Chuy” Guzmán shine, along with a harmonizing chorus. And, of course, a few numbers include the Grito Mexicano (roughly equivalent to shrieking “yeehaw” in the U.S, but with musical adornment – see below!).

Arguably the most famous mariachi song is “El Rey” (The King), a symbol of Mexican maleness and independence written and recorded by José Alfredo Jiménez in 1971. Jiménez died in 1973; “El Rey” hit number one on the Mexican charts in 1974.

El Grito Mexicano/El Grito Ranchero

This is a lung-filled, prolonged but ‘”melodious” high-pitched note, cry, shout, yell, shriek, call, laugh, oink, or combo thereof, not easily described in English. It punctuates and characterizes many traditional mariachi songs; there are many competitive performances for duration, range, and quality.
This is very fun to google (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeyADIDthdk). It is not exclusive to mariachi or male vocalists.

Female Mariachi

In 1948, first female mariachi group formed in Mexico City, the Aldelitas (Adelitas were women who actively participated in the Mexican Revolution, often seen with bandoleros). The group was purportedly inspired by an all-female Cuban band, discovered on the island by the group’s director.

In California, always a progressive state when it comes to culture (remember, it was part of Mexico until 1848), schools started teaching mariachi classes in the 1970s as part of a bilingual and multicultural education program. In 1994 Reyna de los Angeles emerged from this program and formed Mariachi Reyna de los Angeles. With its ensemble of violins, guitar, guitarrón, vihuela, trumpets and harmonized voices, the band is known for its fresh take on the mariachi tradition. The group also has had enormous impact in breaking new ground for women in a genre long dominated by men.

One of my favorite female bands is Flor de Toloache, based in New York City and founded by Mireya Ramos and Shae Fiol in 2008. Flor de Toloache first began playing in the New York City subways; since then, they have become a sensation, recognized for excellent composition, musicianship, and vocals with compelling harmonies, including Gritos Mexicanos. We were lucky to see them at an outdoor concert near our place north of the border. Amigos de la Musica, are you listening? (https://mariachinyc.com/meet-las-flores).

For more on the first female mariachis check out this link: (https://masdemx.com/2019/03/primeros-mariachis-mujeres-historia-mexico/).
And yes, readers of The Eye, there is mariachi in Huatulco: https://www.facebook.com/MariachiHuatulcoOficial

Memories of Music in Mexico

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

When traveling to or in Mexico, we have always appreciated the music that is ubiquitous on the streets and in buildings, and we have been alert for opportunities to attend musical performances.

Our Introduction to Mexican Music

Our first musical trips were from Los Angeles to the border town of Tijuana, when, after spending hours exploring the San Diego Zoo or another attraction north of the border, our young children would beg to cross into Baja Norte to ride on Ferris wheels, whips and other amusement rides and then feast on tacos or other food they recognized as being tastier than fare in the U.S. Each ride came with its own music, and there was always a band playing nearby with people of all ages dancing in the plazas. Our daughter, never shy, was happy to join in and was welcomed.

When our children reached the ages that involved a week or more away at summer camp or school trips, we would hop on a plane for some snorkeling in Mexico at a coastal resort. We quickly realized that the best food and music was found outside the hotel, in areas frequented by the local residents. Rather than enormous buffets for tourists, we enjoyed fresh tortillas and fish, fowl and vegetables prepared on a grill, and in lieu of blaring rock our meals were usually accompanied by a guitarist or two playing folk songs that were frequently joined by neighboring diners who sang along.

Classical Music

But our serious exploration of Mexico and its music began as empty-nesters when we had the luxury of time to spend months rather than weeks visiting different parts of the country. Although we enjoy many forms of music, classical music has long been a passion. While Mexico City is one of the best places in the world to hear classical music, virtually every other major city in Mexico feeds that passion. Almost every Mexican state sponsors a symphony orchestra that is usually excellent, beloved by the local residents and appreciated by visitors. Many play on Sunday afternoons in a central plaza or the courtyard of a government building so that three or more generations of families can attend together. Whenever we arrive in a capital city we head to Centro and find the government office of culture to learn when and where the state (or visiting) symphony orchestra is playing. Since many concerts are free and seating is by order of arrival, we plan our day around that schedule.

Another method of finding great classical music is by checking with offices in theaters or conservatories noted for hosting outstanding performances. Our go-to place in Mexico City is the Palacio de Bellas Artes (see also Carole Reedy’s article in this issue). The superb National Opera Company and the world-famous National Symphony Orchestra often perform in the large concert hall inside Bellas Artes; excellent smaller ensembles can be heard in the upstairs chamber-sized Sala Manuel Ponce. In the Sala Ponce the stage is only a few feet above the auditorium floor; we’ve had the pleasure of seeing children run up and rest their chins on the stage to watch the performance.

For examples of places in other cities: in Guadalajara we head to Teatro Degollado; in Oaxaca, Teatro Macedonio Alcalá; and in Morelia, El Conservatorio de las Rosas. Often, finding out box office hours can be a challenge in those venues. So we simply ask the usual guard at the door how we can find out about tickets for concerts – and he or she is usually obliging about steering us to the right person. The concert halls are commonly architecturally stunning, the audiences knowledgeable (no disruptive applause between movements) and the musicians world class. We have had some magical hours at concerts we’ve attended serendipitously.

In Huatulco we’ve had absolutely delightful evenings filled with music arranged by friends. Our late dear friend Carminia Magaña took a dynamic lead in Amigos de la Música de Huatulco, planning and producing concerts by exceptional musicians from all over the world. Charmed by Carminia into traveling to Huatulco, we found the Amigos concerts, most memorably the ones taking place on the ocean-front lawn of the Camino Real Zaashila, were priced low enough so that local residents could afford to attend – and Carminia, working her magic, made sure that a roster of sponsors kept the organization financially afloat. Another friend, Nancy Norris, actually built an ocean-front amphitheater at her Cuatunalco home as a venue for exceptional young local musicians playing as part of fund-raisers to support the medical and other needs of local residents.

Even Imported Musical Theater!

Although classical music is our favorite, we’ve also enjoyed musicals imported from New York City – in Spanish of course – in Mexico City. Man of La Mancha in a small theater sounded more authentic in Spanish. We loved The Lion King in the large Telcel Theater, especially because the very well-behaved children in the audience could barely suppress their excitement. And taking one of our theater-loving bilingual granddaughters to see Los Miz, also at the Telcel, was a special treat.

The enormous National Auditorium of Mexico also hosts Broadway shows (we saw an enchanting performance of Mary Poppins there) and also is one of the worldwide venues where you can see New York’s Metropolitan Opera live in HD streaming. An audience of thousands attends, and if the opera of the day is in Italian, we can almost understand the Italian by glancing at the subtitles in Spanish.

An Uninvited Audience to So Much Music

We often plan our musical events, but Mexico is so full of music that we’ve come to appreciate and even anticipate becoming part of an uninvited audience. Wandering through plazas in far flung cities and towns we’ve stumbled on rehearsals of bands and on guitarists strumming together and never felt intrusive spending time sitting nearby to listen to them. Exploring churches, we’ve parked ourselves on a pew to listen to an organist or a choir practicing for a Sunday mass. When staying in Jalisco, we’re likely to choose a restaurant more for the sound of mariachis entertaining than for the food. In Chiapas we perk up our ears at the sound of a marimba ensemble and find a place where we can enjoy them. And even at local beaches we’ve suddenly found ourselves surrounded by visitors from other Mexican cities who unabashedly start singing folk songs that, after decades of our living in Mexico, are now familiar.

For us, music is synonymous with Mexico. And the sound of a symphony often brings back memories of hearing the same refrain in many of the states in Mexico we’ve come to love.