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Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

This month we look at pegar, a verb with many uses, and suerte, the word for “luck,” which, surprisingly enough, can come in quite handy!

Pegar

Pegar is, as noted, a very versatile verb, but rather than being verbose, I will keep it to a few fun phrases and definitions! Its primary use is “to stick” or “to glue,” but it can be used as a synonym for golpear, “to hit,” and it can be used to describe plants, to mean “well rooted” or “established.”

Examples

  1. Por favor, me gustaría pegar los carteles a la pared. Please, I would like to put up these posters on the wall.
  2. Hace tanto calor que se me pega el pelo a mi frente.
    It is so hot that my hair is stuck to my forehead.
  3. El campocorto pegó la pelota de béisbol al campo derecho.
    The shortstop hit the baseball to right field.
  4. Esa bugambilia tiene por lo menos tres años; está muy bien pegada en la jardinera.
    That bougainvillea is at least three years old; it is very well rooted in the planter.

Pegar derivatives (nouns, adjectives, adverbs):

Pegamento: glue
Pegajoso: sticky

Suerte

The word suerte means “luck.” If someone wants to wish you “Good Luck,” they will say “¡Buena suerte!” or just “¡Suerte!” Useful at the Chedraui checkout counter when they offer you lottery tickets: No, gracias, ¡nunca tengo suerte!

You can have buena suerte or mala suerte. Should you wish to practice your Spanish reading skills, try Rosa Montero’s 2020 novel, La buena suerte, in which good luck turns out to be bad luck, and vice versa – or maybe it’s hard to tell!

Here are some other phrases associated with luck:

  1. Mere circunstancia. Mere chance.
  2. Chiripada, chiripa. Lucky.
  3. Pura cajeta. Literally, “pure dulce de leche,” or pure caramel sauce; used to mean serendipitously lucky, as in a lucky shot in tennis.

Immigrants: Alcatraz, Agapanthus, and Sugarcane

By Julie Etra

Did you know that the calla lilies and agapanthus, common flowers found in many Mexican markets (and a mainstay at our own Mercado Orgánico Huatulco [aka MOH]) are originally from South Africa? Well, neither did I. In Mexico, they grow in the Sierra Madre del Sur and other temperate climates. Sugarcane, also commonly cultivated in multiple regions of Mexico, is also an immigrant, but with a much longer and more complex history.

The Calla Lily

Calla and arum lilies are both scientifically identified as Zantedeschia aethiopica – arum lilies are larger, calla lilies boast multiple colors. In Nahuatl, they are called huacalxochitl, while the Spanish name is alcatraz, a word derived from the Arabic Spanish used in southern Spain (the Moors ruled Spain in progressively smaller areas, ending up with only the southern part known as Al-Andalus, now Andalusia, from 711 to 1492).

How the word alcatraz came to name the calla lily is debatable; apparently when an 18th-century Spanish explorer sailing up the Pacific to what is now California reached San Francisco Bay, he found callas growing on one of the islands in the bay – and the bay was full of pelicans (alcatraz also means “pelican”). Through a series of cartographic mishaps, the originally unnamed island came to be named La isla de los alcatraces, which transferred to the calla lilies. Callas can be spread by bird-dropped seeds, which is most likely how they got to both San Francisco and Mexico. On the other hand, explorers who had reached South Africa had brought them back to Europe a couple of centuries earlier, so they could have been introduced to Mexico by the Spanish. The trail went cold as I tried to figure out the route of the alcatraz through Europe, and ultimately Spain, for its eventual export to Mexico. Who was responsible for its spread? Was it the Portuguese? The Dutch? Other European traders? Was it ever cultivated in Spain, and if so, where?

In Mexico it grows prolifically in temperate climates on the periphery of oak pine woodlands. In Oaxaca it is commonly cultivated around San José del Pacifico. The white, trumpet-shaped “petal” of the flower is actually a “spathe,” or bract (modified leaf); the flower is the central yellow “spadix,” or phallic-appearing spike covered with tiny flowers.

Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist, had a particular fascination with white calla and arum lilies. He included them in both paintings and murals as a symbol of both purity and sensuality. Some critics believe he used callas to represent the “abundance of life and death” in indigenous life. However, the calla also appears in pre-Hispanic art. Given that it is not native to Mexico, how do we explain that? There are 700+ members of the Araceae family, all displaying the same spathe-and-spadix form; Mexico has 41 species, 26 of them native. Most probably the “flowers” portrayed in ceramics, sculptures, and other works of early art are the calla’s native relatives.

Agapanthus

Agapanthus, called agapando in Spanish, is derived from the Greek – agape meaning “love,” and anthos meaning “flower.” The purple flowers are clustered in an umbel-like form at the end of the stem, accompanied with fleshy leaves.

Like the alcatraz, it most likely followed a similar route from Africa to Europe, first arriving there at the end of the 17th century, possibly returning with Dutch traders. Europeans – in this case the Portuguese – first happened on the Capetown area in 1488, while searching for a sea route to the Orient in lieu of the dangerous and costly overland Silk Road. The Dutch, renowned flower breeders, settled Capetown in 1652, but numerous European traders followed. By 1679, the agapando had reached Europe by a returning trading ship; it loves to grow around the Mediterranean Sea (some countries have declared it an invasive species), so it made its way to Spain and thence to Mexico.

The cut flower trade is a multibillion-dollar industry; Mexican “ornamental plants and flowers” – also the name of Mexico’s overall trade association – were valued at $1.8 billion USD in 2021. The majority of production is located in the states of México, Puebla, Morelos, and Veracruz. There are about 25,500 producers of ornamental plants and flowers, providing 188,000 permanent and about 50,000 permanent jobs. More than a million jobs are indirectly related to the ornamental sector of Mexico’s economy.

Mexico is unique in that it produces cut flowers under natural conditions in open fields, as well as under controlled – usually in greenhouses – conditions. Both agapanthus and calla lilies are field-grown, which may be why they are not in the top 10 flowers produced for export (in 2007, they were about 13th and 14th on the list).
The Ornamental Plants and Flowers association will be hosting its international exposition, La Feria Especializada en Horti-Floricultura, Viverismo, Paisajismo, y Diseño Floral, September 13-15, 2022, in Mexico City at the Centro Citibanamex.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) is in the grass family. It arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, in 1522, brought from Cuba by Hernán Cortés. By 1524, there were already sugarcane plantations along the shores of the Tepengo River in Santiago Tuxtla, Veracruz. Although the origins remain unclear, it most likely is a native of New Guinea. It arrived in Persia (Iran) around 500 CE, spread throughout North Asia, traveled to Egypt and North Africa, and from there on to southern Europe. In around 755 CE, it arrived in southern Spain and the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. From Spain (or the Canary Islands) it migrated to Cuba in 1493. Its cultivation continued expanding into Central and South America. In Mexico, Veracruz was the ideal environment for sugarcane cultivation, given its soils, hydrology, and climate. Sugarcane spread rapidly throughout Mexico from 1550 to 1600, particularly in the states of Michoacán and Jalisco, around Puebla, and Cuernavaca and Cuautla in the state of México.

It rapidly became an important export, along with gold, silver, chocolate, and cochineal (the red dye created from insects that cluster on cactus), almost entirely to the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Early production was very labor intensive using basically slave labor, indentured servitude known as the encomienda system (explicit slavery was outlawed by the Catholic church). Production evolved into haciendas or large plantations, and production surpassed that of cotton, a Mexican native. By the 18th century over 300 sugarcane farms were supplying the sugar mills and factories.

According to the Secretaría de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural (Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development), as of August 31, 2021, there were 49 sugarcane processing facilities in Mexico, producing over 5.7 million tons of refined sugar, an increase of over 8% percent from previous years. Approximately 738,146 tons were exported to the United States in 2021.

The state of Veracruz leads national production at 35% of the total, followed by 14% in Jalisco and 8% in San Luis Potosí. More than 826,000 hectares are under cultivation. Refined sugar is produced by crushing the sugarcane stems, heating the juice, filtering and crystalizing the juices, and finally centrifuging the liquid to further the purification process.

In addition to refined sugar, Mexico produces a type of unrefined sugar called piloncillo, which is also found elsewhere in Latin America under different names including panela, panocha, chancaca, and rapadura. Cone shaped, piloncillo is a solid form of sucrose derived from boiling and evaporating sugarcane juice. It is available in virtually every Mexican food market. Moscabado or mascobo is a type of Mexican sugar that resembles the brown sugar sold in the U.S. and Canada. It is a partially refined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor, and dark brown in color. It used to be hard to find in Huatulco, but is consistently stocked at the Colorín market located on the south side of Calle Colorín between Rosa Laurel on the west and Chacah on the east.

An Eye on the Women of The Eye

By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken

Julie Etra has drawn on her professional background in environmental sciences to write many articles about Mexican plants and animals, ever since the second issue of The Eye was published. Julie was born, raised and educated in New Rochelle, New York. When she was still in junior high, the New Rochelle high school building completely burned down, so her high school classes were held in temporary barracks. She then studied in real classrooms at the University of Colorado in Boulder, earning a BA degree in Environmental Biology, followed by completing an MS degree in Soil and Crop Science at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Continuing her westward trek, Julie worked for the U.S. Forest Service in South Lake Tahoe, California, for three years and then decided to start her own business, Tahoe Native Plants. One of her USFS projects involved restoration of land at a community college, and it was there in 1985 that she met her future husband who was also working on the project as a general engineering contractor. In 1990, Julie and Larry decided to buy land in Washoe County, Nevada (near Reno), and build their own home. Living in a 14′ travel trailer that was freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer until their construction was completed, they finally moved into their home, where they still live when not in Mexico. Once settled in Nevada, Julie moved her office to Reno and changed the name of her company to Western Botanical Services, Inc. She has continuously provided botanical surveys and soil analysis as a contractor to private engineering and landscape architecture companies and public entities overseeing implementation of erosion control and land restoration projects. Her business was incorporated in 1994.

Julie is avid about music, plays the piano, and listens to “almost everything.” She also enjoys playing tennis, swimming, gardening and, like the other writers for The Eye, constantly reads books, magazines, and newspapers. Julie first visited Mexico in 1977, where in Cozumel she was certified for scuba diving. In 1988, she and Larry began spending 3 months each year in Baja Sur. They visited Huatulco in 2007 and in 2008, decided to spend the winter here and built a home in Conejos. They also are extensive travelers and, with the exception of Antarctica, have visited every continent; Julie’s favorite is (subSaharan) Africa. Julie has two step-kids from Larry’s previous marriage and two grandkids with whom they stay in close contact.

The first articles Julie published in the Eye focused on corn – three articles on corn – until our editor suggested she might explore other topics and something less technical. The Eye article she enjoyed writing most described her travels with Larry and their puppy during COVID – “It was fun!”

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

This month, let’s take a look at two verbs with multiple, not-always-obvious meanings – andar and echar.

Andar literally means to walk, but also to go out with or date, to be, to come out, run (operate), to run around, go ahead, go around doing something, to be from; synonymous in some meanings with caminar.

Examples:

  1. Andamos juntos al cine. We walk together to the movies.
  2. Mi coche anda bien. My car runs fine.
  3. Todo anda bien/mal. Everything is (going) fine / wrong.
  4. Maria anda con Juan. Maria is dating Juan/going out with Juan.
  5. ¡Andale (pues)! Move it!
  6. Tomas siempre anda tomado. Tomas always is/ goes around drunk.
  7. El andaba borracho cuando se cayó. He was drunk when he fell.
  8. Ella siempre anda preocupada. She is always worried.
  9. ¿Andas por aquí? Are you from around here?

Echar is complicated! It is very idiomatic but fun and versatile. There are lots of ways to use this verb. Common meanings: to throw, launch, toss, drop, throw out.

  1. Echar de menos. To miss someone. Te echo de menos. I miss you.
  2. Echarse a perder. To rot/go bad. La leche se echa a perder. The milk is going bad.
  3. Echar ganas. ¡Echale ganas! To be motivated, move it, let’s give it a try!
  4. Echar un vistazo. To glance. Le echo un vistazo a Carla. I glance at Carla.
  5. Echar chispas por los ojos. To glare (literally, to throw sparks from your eyes).
  6. Echar aguas. To warn someone, “Watch out!” (From the medieval custom of throwing dirty water, including night soil, out the window into the street.)
  7. Echarle porras (a alguien). To encourage (someone).
  8. Echar hojas. To sprout leaves.
  9. Echar el ojo. To take a look, to choose.
  10. Echar tacos. To eat lunch. Echarse un taco (de ojo). To look, maybe leer, at someone very attractive.

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

Local Expressions (colloquialisms) and Polite Exchanges

Money: Dinero is broadly used. Lana is synonymous and more common here. Billete refers to the actual bill. Biyuyo is also used here. Moneda is coinage, but slang includes morraya and chincastle.

Bottled water: A big 5-gallon jugs of water is called a garrafón as opposed to a small bottle of water, una botella

Beer: Cerveza is universal, but also known here as a chela. A caguama is the 40 oz version, and a species of sea turtle. A michelada is beer with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, clamato juice, and chili peppers. It is served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Kind of like a Caesar.

Work: Trabajo is universal but here you will hear chamba (noun), chambear (verb), chambeando (adverb)

Polite expressions for excuse me:
Con permiso: Useful when shopping and you need to get around someone
Perdón: pardon
Discúlpame: forgive me

¡Provecho! Enjoy your meal, said to the adjacent diners upon leaving a restaurant

Boats: Here the smaller fishing boats are lanchas or pangas. Yachts, power or sail, are yates. Big boats are barcos. Sailboats are veleras.

We are even, as in ‘keep the change’ (said when paying a bill): Estamos a mano.

And for fun, here is a pun:
¿Que le dijo un pez al otro pez?
NADA

Mexico – The Money Tells Its Story

By Julie Etra

In this part of southern Mexico, paper money – all issued by the central Banco de México – is colloquially known as lana, billete(s) or biyuyo. Change in coins is called moneda throughout Mexico, and locally you might hear chincastle and morraya.

I had often wondered about the historical figures portrayed on Mexican paper currency and their significance, as well as the landscapes and images on the opposite side of various denominations. Typically, one side commemorates an aspect of Mexican culture and prominent historical figures, with landscapes and flora and fauna featured on the reverse side. Mexican paper money is indeed artistic, colorful, beautiful, and instructive, so I’ve written about this in The Eye before (March 2019). But it’s been changed again, so here’s an update!

The $1,000 Peso Bill

This past November (2021) a new 1,000-peso bill was issued, although it is not widely circulated. Unlike its predecessors, it is printed on a plastic polymer. Honoring the Mexican Revolution on one side in multi -hues of teal and yellow are portraits of Francisco I. Madero, Carmen Serdán and Hermila Galindo in the foreground, while a steam locomotive, the modern transportation of the day, provides the background.

Madero was Mexico’s 37th president (1911-13) and a prominent leader in the history of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20). He pushed for the ouster of Porfirio Díaz, the self-declared President for Life who had ruled off and on from 1876 to 1911. Although well-educated and from a wealthy family, Madero advocated for the social reforms that fomented the Revolution. He was assassinated during a right-wing military coup.

María del Carmen Serdán Alatriste took on organizing the logistics of Madero’s anti-reelection movement in the state of Puebla. She maintained and protected the family household in the city of Puebla, where the first armed battle of the revolution took place. Carmen and her sister had smuggled guns in their clothing into their house to support the anti-reelection battle, set for November 20; supporters of Porfirio Díaz discovered the conspiracy on November 18 and attacked the house. You can visit the ensuing bullet holes in what is now Museo Regional de la Revolución Mexicana, Casa de los Hermanos Serdán. at 6 Oriente 6 in the historical center of Puebla.

Hermila Galindo Acosta was a well-educated and outspoken feminist and advocate for women’s rights. She was a supporter of Venustiano Carranza and became his personal Secretary, among other titles and responsibilities. Carranza, after a complicated series of power plays and internal dissent, became President for three years after the assassination of Madero. He supported Galina and helped her efforts, including the 1915-16 publication of the review La Mujer Moderna (The Modern Woman).

The reverse side features the tropical wetland ecosystem of the Calakmul Reserve in the State of Campeche, Mayan ruins, and the endemic jaguar.

The $20 Peso Bill

The new pink and green 20-peso bill (which was supposed to be replaced by coins) was released on September 24, 2021, and on the horizontal side depicts the “Solemn and peaceful entry of the Army of the Three Guarantees to Mexico City on September 27 of the memorable year of 1821 and Consummation of the Independence of Mexico’ (the original artist is unknown). Also called the Ejérciito Trigarante, this newly formed unified (albeit briefly) army comprised Spanish troops led by Agustín de Iturbide and Mexican insurgent troops led by Vicente Guerrero. (Guerrero later became Mexico’s second president – for less than a year; he was betrayed and brought to Bahía de Entrega, one of the beautiful bays of Huatulco, then transported to Oaxaca City where he was executed.)

The opposite, vertical side celebrates Mexican coastal mangrove ecosystems, the Mexican crocodile, and the roseate spoonbill, portrayed at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere wetland preserve in the Yucatán state of Quintana Roo (mangroves, crocodiles and roseate spoonbills also inhabit the Pacific coast).

The $50 Peso Bill

Issued on October 28. 2021, the beautiful new 50-peso bill was printed on a polymer instead of paper and is predominantly mauve-purple in color. It is very complex, in part to eliminate counterfeiting. The images are vertically oriented on both sides of the bill; security features include areas on the bill that feel different to the touch, and areas that change color when you tilt the bill.

The bill was designed to honor both Mexico’s pre-Hispanic history and its diverse natural history.

On the mainly historical side, the primary motif in the foreground shows an eagle perched on a prickly-pear cactus holding the atl-tlachinolli (the Aztec symbol for “water-fire,” representing war as sacred; this motif is a bas-relief carving on the back of the monolith called El Teocalli de la Guerra Sagrada (the Temple – teocalli is Nahuatl for “temple” – of the Sacred War). The monolith was discovered in 1831 in the foundations of what is now the National Palace of Mexico in Mexico City, which was originally built with the remains of preceding Aztec architecture. The temple/throne has been moved to the National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park.

The monolith is a scale model of an Aztec temple, and could have been created as early as 1200; however, it is also thought to have been commissioned as a throne by Moctezuma II, the Aztec ruler defeated in the conquest, which would put its origins in the early 1500s. Archeologist Alfonso Corso, in a journal article from 1927, gave the piece its name, and hypothesized that the depiction of the eagle “justified human sacrifice and warranted warfare” as a way to collect prisoners for sacrifice.

In the background of the eagle depiction, a representation of the city of Tenochtitlán appears. The eagle depiction bears a striking resemblance to the national coat of arms that appears on the Mexican flag, except the “water-fire-war” object has been replaced by a snake. While no one quite knows why, some historians suggest that Spanish efforts to remove indigenous symbols led to the eagle capturing the snake. the city of Tenochtitlán appears; it is based on a portion of the 1945 mural by Diego Rivera, The Great City of Tenochtitlán, in the National Palace. The top of the bill shows the symbol for ollin (Nahuatl for “movement” – this ollin may represent the four movements of the annual course of the sun); there is a small “50” atop the symbol, as well as in each corner of the bill.

Although the Rivera mural shows some natural heritage – Mexico’s famous twin volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl, the central image on the reverse of the bill is the Mexican axolotl, an endemic salamander endangered due to loss of habitat, urban encroachment, pollution, and predation. The remaining axolotls are now confined to Lago Xochimilco, the remnant “lake” of the former basin of México and the name given to the southern Mexico City neighborhood where Aztec canals connected the neighborhoods of Tenochtitlán and provided access to chinampas, artificial agricultural plots for growing produce and flowers.

Not to be confused with other salamander species in this genus, often dubbed “axolotls” as well, the scientific name of this particular axolotl is Ambystoma mexicanum. Named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl, the axolotl, aka ajolote in Spanish, has been important in Mexican culture for centuries. It was important in the diet of pre-Hispanic residents of the city of Tenochtitlan and especially the Xochimiltecos (No thanks! But they still turn up in real tamales, check the February 2022 issue of The Eye).

Although native to the system of lakes that comprised the basin, axolotls were particularly prevalent in the Chalco-Xochimilco sub-basin, because it was less brackish than the other three basins. This huge, up-to-a-foot-long salamander is unusual in that its final metamorphic stage is not completed, and its gills remain outside its body. It is sexually mature in the larval stage. Even more unusual is its ability to regenerate limbs, hearts, spinal cords, and even part of their brains, so this odd-looking animal holds huge medical and scientific significance.

On the 50-peso bill, the ajolote is surrounded by chinampas, where corn – perhaps Mexico’s most resonant cultural symbol – is shown being cultivated. The trees shown growing on the edges of the chinampas are ahuejote trees (Salix bonplandiana), an erect willow resembling a poplar. (Ahuejote comes from the Nahuatl words atl, or “water” and huexotl, or “willow.”)

The $100 Peso Bill

A new 100-peso bill was issued on November 12, 2020. The bill is slightly larger than the new 20-peso bill. What a concept! Different sizes for different denominations. The images are vertically oriented on both sides, with hues dominated by pink and turquoise. Doña Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, better known as Sor Juana, a scholar, philosopher, and poet, is represented on one side. Born in 1648 on what is now the outskirts of Mexico City, she was raised by her wealthy criolla (Spanish, but born in Mexico) mother. Her intelligence and insatiable curiosity were recognized at a very young age, and she self-educated herself in the family library. Even girls of her economic stature and recognized capabilities were denied any formal education, typical for the era. Sor translates as “nun”, which she became in order to escape the confines and expectations of marriage, and to continue her studies and writings. She was considered a “proto feminist,” arguing for women’s education, and she risked being censured by the church for her outspokenness. For a more thorough description of this incredibly progressive woman, please see The Eye, “The Tenth Muse,” September 2013.

The temperate forests of the states of México and Michoacán de Ocampo, home to the Monarch Butterfly reserve, are featured on the other side. The butterfly is shown feeding on the nectar of a milkweed plant (Asclepias sp.), a symbiotic relationship essential for both the pollination of the plant and the reproduction of the Monarch. Loss of habitat and associated milkweed plants is the dominant reason for decline of this butterfly. In the background are oak-pine woodlands.

The $200 Peso Bill

In 2019 the Bank of Mexico issued the new 200-peso bill depicting Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the parish priest known as the Father of the Homeland, and José María Morelos y Pavón, known as “Servant of the Nation,” in commemoration of Mexico’s Independence. Pavón was also a Catholic priest and a revolutionary leader in the war of independence, who assumed leadership after Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla was executed.

To their left is La Campana de Dolores (the Bell of Dolores). The bell was rung at dawn on September 16, 1810, in the town of Dolores, Guanajuato, Mexico (known as the “Cradle of National Independence”), calling the population to rebel against the authorities of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The grito (shout) made by the parish priest, along with Ignacio Allende, a captain in the Spanish army who sympathized with independence, is known as the Grito de Dolores. Every year on September 15, the Mexican president rings the bell, which has been relocated to the central balcony of the National Palace in Mexico City, to commemorate the grito.

On the upper right side, the denomination 200 is multi-colored as it changes between blue and green depending on inclination and lighting. The bill is also friendly to the blind, containing tactile, three-dimensional lines. The opposite side of the bill celebrates desert ecosystems, represented by a golden eagle soaring over the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in the state of Sonora.

The $500 Peso Bill
In August 2018, a new blue 500-peso billete was issued, supposedly to fight counterfeit bills (one often sees checkout clerks inspecting 500-peso notes). Both front and back images are horizontally oriented. One side portrays Benito Juárez, the 26th president of Mexico, accompanied by an image of his triumphal arrival at Mexico City on July 15, 1867, symbolizing the victory of the Reformation, the separation of Church and State and the basic principle of equality before the law. Benito Juárez came from Oaxaca, and is Mexico’s only completely indigenous president (Vicente Guerrero’s father was of mixed Afro-Mexican and indigenous descent).

The opposite side of the bill features a ballena gris (gray whale) and her calf, representing the coasts, seas, and islands of Mexico’s varied marine worlds, and specifically the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve in Baja California Sur, a World Heritage Site.

The New Centro de Congresos y Reuniones at Marina Chahué

By Julie Etra

I don’t know how many of our readers were a bit perplexed upon returning to Huatulco to find a few of our favorite restaurants and Huatulco Dive Center gone from the Chahué marina. Many a memorable meal, and many memorable dives with HDC, from that marina. The boat yard has also been cleared out, although boats remain docked, and the marina is still functioning. There is a new seafood taco truck, Marea Alta (high tide), parked at the entrance – yum! Thumbs up!

FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Fomento de Turismo) is the federal agency that manages tourism, primarily in the form of real estate; FONATUR developed Bahías de Huatulco, and owns and manages the marina and environs. The agency is in the early phases of developing a large conference and meeting center, with plans to include retail shops, restaurants, a cultural center, a theatre, green spaces, and other tourist amenities.

But given the outcome of Avenida 5 (Fifth Avenue – the short cut from Santa Cruz to La Crucecita), which was originally designed to support retail stores, I questioned the viability of this ambitious project and the potential businesses it would attract. A Conference Center? For what type of conference(s)? Several years ago, I investigated hosting a meeting for an international organization on whose Board of Directors I served, and toured Dreams as well as Las Brisas. At least at the time it seemed both resorts would be able to handle a mid-sized conference and perhaps associated trade show, and both appeared very attractive and comfortable, with all the amenities including hotel rooms, restaurants, etc., and a BEACH.

When I discussed with The Eye editor Jane Bauer the possibility of writing this article, she commented that I might have difficulty finding much detail. Well, she was right, but I did find the basics, although the information may be outdated at any moment.

The development is a collaboration between Fonatur and the State of Oaxaca, represented by the current Governor Alejandro Murat Hinojosa. The project has selected the firm TEN Arquitectos, founded and led by the gifted architect Enrique Norten; TEN has worked on major projects around the world.

For this project, TEN was commissioned to design a sophisticated facility centered around the existing marina, in itself a major attraction. Listed on the TEN Arquitectos website as Centro de Congresos Chahué, TEN is “carrying out the preliminary studies” and has developed the project management schedule; according to Norten’s posting on the Facebook edition of Revista entre rayas (Between the Lines Review), they are in the final phase of producing the construction documents.

A visit to the site reveals that construction has begun with the removal of the boat yard and concrete pavement of the marina. A cul-de-sac, with improved infrastructure, eliminating the access road from the east side, was completed last year.

The center will consist of 11,000 square meters (approximately 3 acres) of new built structures, associated infrastructure, and public and green space. The principal auditorium will consist of approximately 1,580 square meters (approximately 17,000 sq. ft), with a capacity of 1,285 people. It will feature a stage, state-of-the art acoustics and lighting, and breakout rooms for smaller venues. A wide range of “world-class” activities is envisioned, including concerts, exhibits, academic conferences. Of course, the administrative offices of Marina Chahué will be upgraded and continue to operate in the new complex.

For the time being this is exciting, I think, as this classy facility will of course attract more people, but I am a little selfish and protective of this small community. On the other hand, I am not holding my breath. After all, the Oaxaca City/coast highway has been under construction for twelve years.

Spanish Lesson

By Julie Etra

We are resurrecting a monthly column that addresses local phrases to help you with your stay here in Huatulco, be it short or long term. This month we will focus on road signs and other interesting asides.

Ceda el paso = yield
Desviacion = detour. Via is the Latin root for route, way. The vehicles marked with ‘viales’ could be translated as highway patrol, but not as we know them in the USA.
Dos sentidos = two-way traffic
Grava suelta = loose gravel
Maquinas pesadas = heavy equipment working
Un sentido = one way
Solo carril = one lane only
Tope, vibradores = speed bumps (these come in a large assortment; check the EYE archives for more detail)
No estacionarse (often an E with a circle and red line across the E) = no parking
No tire basura = no littering

And what is with those seemingly randomly located stops signs heading east on Highway 200, ending at Secrets, with no one stopping? Those are for future hotels with associated bus stops and pedestrian crossings. And in La Crucecita there is the ‘no one stops at the stop sign’ at the intersection of Chahue eastbound and the north entrance to Calle Gardenia (one way), across from the ADO bus depot. And an Honorable Mention for the stop sign on Benito Juarez Blvd just west of the golf gourse where it turns south towards La Crucecita.

A few words in Zapotec. Zapotec is one of many distinct languages in the state of Oaxaca (there are at least 16), predating the arrival of the Spaniards. It resides in the family of otomangues and within the family are multiple dialects in accordance with the region, e.g the Isthmus versus the Valley of Oaxaca, often mutually unintelligible. Here in Huatulco, we have several restaurants and a few hotels with Zapotec names, such as:

Bie’ che’ is a bar and restaurant located above Xipol in La Crucecita, the former location of La Crema. It means ‘rejoice’, ‘be glad’.
Binniguenda is an all-inclusive hotel in Santa Cruz. It means ‘ancient people spawned from the clouds.’
Bladuyu is the name of a restaurant at the entrance to Chahue where they feature dishes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It is named for the clay (terracotta) dishes used in many restaurants.
Itoo’, another restaurant, is in Santa Cruz. It means ‘go eat’.

Talavera Ceramics

By Julie Etra

Talavera refers to a type and style of ceramics, including tiles, that originated in Talavera de la Reina, Spain. King Philip II of Spain (1527-98) famously used these tiles to decorate the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, an enormous complex in the city of the same name northwest of Madrid.

Mexican talavera is referred to as Talavera Poblana to distinguish it from its Spanish relative. The clay used for Mexican Talavera is natural earth, the same used to produce terracotta. The best clay is found in Puebla and Tlaxcala, east of Mexico City and the center of Mexico’s Talavera production, while the Moorish and European work uses white clay.

The glazing technique is the same, though, and was brought by the Moors to Al-Andalus (Andalusia, in southern Spain) in the 14th century. Called “faïence” after Faenza, Italy, which became a major pottery production center, the glazing technique adds tin to the lead-based white “slip,” or liquid clay applied over the surface of the piece, to create a smooth surface for painted decoration. In addition to the metals incorporated into the glaze, the faïence technique requires very high-temperature kilns.

The pottery of Spain and Mexico retains the name Talavera from the city of its origin; tin-glazed pottery from Majorca, the Mediterranean island off the eastern coast of Spain was called “Majolica” or “maiolica,” and was shipped from the island to Italy, where, as noted, the glaze became known as faïence.

In Mexico, production is centered in four Puebla cities: Puebla itself, Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali. Most likely introduced by Catholic monks, demand increased in the 17th century as Puebla grew and more churches and monasteries, that is, buildings subsidized by the Church, which was able to afford the lavish, ornate decorations. Elaborate tile façades of private homes were also indicative of wealth and prestige.

The terracotta clay is brick red (pun intended) and visible at the base of the pieces, left unglazed so the piece does not fuse to the shelf of the high-temperature kiln. To meet regulations for authenticity, Talavera pieces are hand thrown on a potter’s wheel – they cannot be mass produced. Glaze colors are limited to blue, yellow, black, green, orange, and mauve (pinkish purple), and must originate from natural pigments. Historically, blue was the dominant, if not only, color, derived from cobalt, prestigious due to its rarity. Cobalt does not typically occur in free form but is chemically combined, requiring smelting to be isolated. The bottom of the piece is signed by the artist, where the logo and location of the manufacturer also appears.

The production process of Talavera ceramics is slow, meticulous, and complicated. With the many steps come the risks of failure at each juncture, one explanation for the relatively high cost for such exceptional art. There are two firings, as with stoneware and porcelain ceramics. Following the first firing the pieces are hand painted, and then fired at a high temperature.

Talavera is a proprietary product, like tequila or Champagne, with production authorized only from a particular place – in this case Puebla (and Tlaxcala, surrounded by Puebla), with nine certified workshops regulated by the Talavera Regulatory Counsel (Consejo Regulador de la Talavera). Techniques and materials are very thoroughly scrutinized by the Board. The Consejo tests glazes to ensure that the glaze does not have lead content of more than 2.5 parts per million, since many pieces are used to serve food and beverages.

These days, you can find the workshops online and order pieces ranging from all sizes of tiles and full place settings. From my perspective there is no substitute for a trip to Puebla (also famous for its excellent cuisine) to admire and examine the beautiful architecture and associated ceramic embellishments, and to personally check out the workshops and markets. Talavera is Puebla!

Photo: Modern Talavera – Daniel LLerandi

Mexico’s Northern Border c. 1890:Saints, Unrest, and Rebellions

By Julie Etra

When you think about the Mexican Revolution, the larger-than-life characters typically come to mind: Emiliano Zapata in the south, Francisco (Pancho) Villa in the north. Before the Revolution, there was plenty of unrest and dissatisfaction with the centralized Mexican government led by José de la Cruz Díaz Mori. Near the border with the United States, pro-revolutionary, anti-Porfirio exiles living in El Paso and vicinity helped foment revolution through a variety of publications, also intended to gain support from the US Government. One of these Mexican expatriates was the inventive engineer and newspaper editor, Lauro Aguirre. (You can learn more about Aguirre in The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a wonderful book by Luis Alberto Urrea.)

The Rebellion of Tomóchic

After reading The Hummingbird’s Daughter, I became interested in the Rebellion of Tomóchic (1891-92) and the border unrest. This area, located in the state of Chihuahua, includes the Sierra Madre Occidental and the famous Copper Canyon (Barrancas de Cobre), home to the Tarahumara, or Rarámuri. It has always been geographically isolated, and essentially autonomous even after the Spanish conquest. Before the rebellion, the Tomochitecos resisted exploitation by the Spanish-descended hacienda owners (land barons) and mining companies. Constant unrest included land and property ownership conflicts as well as on-going threats by the Apache tribes from the north. Local skirmishes also resulted in violent conflicts with Mexican federal forces.

Around 1890, the community of Tomóchic became under increased scrutiny due to the rising fame of Teresita Urrea, the daughter of the Hummingbird (also the author’s great aunt), and the town’s adoption of her as their patron saint. Although she never set foot in the town, she was perceived as a Saint due to her purported healing abilities and posed an existential threat to the Porfirio regime solely due to her following, despite her claims to be apolitical.

The Catholic Church never had a strong presence in this remote region due to the lack of permanent priesthoods in isolated areas. This led to a vacuum of leadership and an atmosphere ripe for the cultivation of ‘saints’ to whom the locals attributed miracles due to their presumed direct communication with God and associated power. The only way for the Church to combat the dissemination of these alternatives to Catholicism was through the rare presence and ranting pontifications of priests in the Sierra Tarahumara. This situation became complicated since religious dissent was tied to notions of social justice and the “saints” provided guidance and comfort to the Tomochitecos suffering from exploitation and precarious socioeconomic conditions.

Since the early 1800s, the Porfiriato and the Church had both been trying to strengthen and centralize their control of remote regions. With the arrival of the railroad on the Chihuahuan border with the U.S., American exploitation of the area’s natural resources, particularly timber, took off. On December 1, 1891, Tomóchic staged an organized rebellion and declared its autonomy.

Although viewed by some historians as a precursor to the Revolution, other historians viewed the rebellion as a local affair, mestizos rebelling against their lighter-skinned, exploitative oppressors and the Church.

The story is told that the first time federal troops arrived in Tomóchic, they had talked themselves into a fright at the thought of facing the savage rebels. They were confused when they were met by a silent line of thirty women, all dressed in black, advancing slowly closer. The women dropped their black shawls, revealing themselves to be men, whipped out their Winchesters, and shot down the front line of troops. Nonetheless, after a year of confrontations with Porfirio’s troops, the rebellion ended with the annihilation of the entire town.

The Role of the Hummingbird’s Daughter

As noted above, the Tomochitecos were followers of Teresita Urrea, the Saint of Cabora. Before the uprising she had participated in other so-called insurgent movements, as defined by the federal government, that addressed social justice, particularly for the poor. She was demonized by an itinerant Catholic priest, offending the locals, and thereby planting the seeds of confrontation with the church. (Before the Mexican Revolution [1910-20] the church and the government were one state, intertwined and codependent.)

The true influence of la Santa de Cabora in the uprising has never been clear, as the entire town was destroyed during the conflict, along with most witnesses. Teresita Urrea and her father, perceived as a threat to the federal government, were exiled (or fled) to the United States. The Porfirio regime believed that if they had been executed in Mexico, it would have led to intolerable and counterproductive martyrdom. The Mexican Revolution had yet to be born, but this conflict undoubtedly fueled the flames of discontent.

If you are interested in reading more about the Rebellion of Tomóchic, check out these sources:

Frías, Heriberto. The Battle of Tomóchic: Memoirs of a Second Lieutenant, translated by Barbara Jamison. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. This is a historical novel by Frías, based on his experiences in the Rebellion of Tomóchic. The author sharply criticizes the actions of the federal government in crushing the Rebellion.
Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Hummingbird’s Daughter. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2005. Queen of America. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
Vanderwood, Paul J. The Power of God against the Guns of Government: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. This is a broader (academic) view of the Mexican Revolution and how the Rebellion is a key precursor to it.

If you are interested in Mexican music, the corrido, or heroic ballad, achieved its high point during the Mexican Revolution; “El Corrido de Tomóchic” is considered the first revolutionary corrido.

Lamadrid, Enrique R. “El Corrido de Tomóchic: Honor, Grace, Gender, and Power in the First Ballad of the Mexican Revolution.” Journal of the Southwest, 41:4 (Winter 1999): 441-60.