Pasta Tiles Handmade in Mérida Yucatán México

Hand made pasta tiles with Allison Nevins of TexMex Fun Stuff.

Follow me to the most famous pasta tile factory in México. Mosaicos La Peninsular – Beautiful European imports which became a Yucatecan tradition. These hand made pasta tiles are now made in Mérida, Yucatán, México.

Pasta Tiles hand made at Mosaicos la Peninsular.
The Man, The Myth…Ignacio Durán. Owner and Boss Man of Tile! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Quick History of Mosaic Tiles or Spanish Tiles or “Pasta” Tiles in the Yucatan Peninsula:  These tiles were originally made in Barcelona, Spain and used by architects such as Antoni Gaudi as early as 1857.  We couldn’t find any mention as to if they were made exactly the same way there and then as they are here in Mérida today…But, today’s pasta tiles are essentially 3 levels of cement that have been turned into individual works of art! 

Long story short, as early as the 1600’s, the Spaniards realized that they wanted to bring back home all of the great shit that México has to offer…aka…chocolate, coffee, gold, silver and most importantly at the time…henequin.  We’ll cover henequin in another video/blog post. #promisespromises

Making Handmade Pasta Tiles (Mérida Yucatán México | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

So on their way to México (when they more or less owned it) the Spanish loaded their ships full of these pasta tiles as ballasts – literally to balance the otherwise empty boats to fill with New World treasures. They landed in the ports of Yúcatan, Campeche and Veracruz…then proceeded to dump all of the tiles out upon arrival. Then they filled the ships up with their Mexican treasures and back off to Spain they went.

Obviously, this left a lot of random tile laying around the peninsula, so people started collecting them and using them for flooring in their houses…and of course as sexy kitchen backsplashes and wall décor around their pools… Just Kidding. 

SO Many Decorative Uses! Gracias to Hotel Luz En Yucatan and El Palacito Secreto! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Essentially, these tiles started as free imports here.  But then about a 100 years ago, factories started popping up in the Yúcatan to make tiles to order for haciendas, businesses and regular casas alike.  The good homeowners and business property folks realized that these tiles are cost effective, easy to maintain, beautiful and durable all at once.  Plus, they really do stay cool and it gets hot as balls here. 

Then China came up with less expensive ceramic tiles and introduced them to México and the world market.  At that point the 7 or so factories in Mérida that had been producing these high quality tiles couldn’t compete and shut down.   All but one… Mosaicos La Peninsular. 

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Ignacio and the gang endured the “ceramic tile storm” and thank God (!) because they alone kept this home decoration and flooring tradition alive. Plus, mosaic tiles last a minimum of 50 years and up to 100.  Ceramic tile lasts around 7-10 years. #worthityo

He was commissioned to design the flooring for the Famous El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya in Mérida. This is a sexy honor, but we can tell Ignacio is WAY prouder of being featured in the Tacombi Mexican Restaurant in the Empire State Building!

Ignacio simply BEAMS with pride when he talks about how his tile is in the Empire State Building! | Photo: La Magia de los Mosaicos Yucatecos

Ignacio says that he doesn’t let just anyone into the factory, but I batted my eyes like a gringa flirt and got my way! First stop on the tour is the cement separation station. These dudes are literally not wearing shoes and standing in a pit of thick sand. Then by hand, they shovel the material up and throw it through a sifter. This is an important step because they end up garnering two levels of cement that helps build the necessary layers of the tiles.

How to make pasta tiles.
Seeing Production!!!! Behind Door #1 is the separation of the cement. | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

The particles that fall through the strainer are used for one level of tile and the thick stuff that doesn’t make it through gets used as the bottom of tile. NOW we take the separated material to the artists!

This guy below is called a Ladrillero – that’s Spanish for “Brick Maker”. The Ladrilleros start with a decorative mold and they mix very fine dry cement with color and fill in the little sections within the mold with a scooper thing.  Afterwards, they sprinkle fine dry cement on top.  THEN they fill in the rest of the space with a thicker, damp and chunky cement mixture…

After the Ladrillero cleans up the mold, he just sticks it in a hydraulic press and literally presses it for 5 seconds.  Ignacio is actually a mechanical engineer by trade, so I think that’s where the hydraulic press comes into play. This compression adds to the longterm durability of the tiles.

A Ladrillero doin’ his thang! First the paint mix, then the fine dry cement level and then the thicker base level. Press and be Impressed! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Anyhoo, the ladrillero removes the mold from the press, releases the ‘brick’ from the mold, flips it over and voila!  A 100% handmade piece of beauty is on the back side! Since all of this is done by hand, a ladrillero can make from 80-130 tiles per day.

Ignacio has a mold for every style: 1800-1900’s Hacienda Old World classics, Art Deco, Traditional Mayan embroidery looks, you name it.  As you can imagine, the more complicated a pattern and the number of colors per piece determine the length of time it takes to make each one, but after that process is complete…the tiles simply dry.  No baking of any kind.  They simply dry out for 8 days.

Molds for every style! Pic 2 is the warehouse where made to order tiles are drying out until they are ready to ship… | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

When the tiles are installed in their final resting place as flooring – a polisher shows up to buff and shine them with a polish.  This polishing brightens up the colors and the tiles really become their best selves. Smooth to the touch, shiny and slippery when wet…but excellent to dance on!

When our tour was over, Ignacio gave me a fabulous and unexpected gift…the literal book on the subject…’La Magia de los Mosaicos Yucatecos’. A real treat!

THE BOOK! Forgive the Starbucks…It WAS early on a Monday morning after all! | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

For those of you who want to score this gem, it’s all in Spanish. The main gist is the history of bringing the tiles from Spain, the rise of factories like Ignacio’s in the early 1900’s and then their decline. It really drives home the value the tiles bring through design, durability, aesthetics, cost and ease of maintenance. I will have a discussion with Ignacio about making this book available to purchase! #promisespromises

IN THE MEANTIME…check out all of what Mosaicos La Peninsular has to offer on their English and Spanish website Mosaicos La Peninsular! Gracias and thanks for watching and reading and get ready for more to come!

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Amazing México Instagram Feeds You Should Follow

My favorite amazing Mexico instagram feeds

Eighteen amazing México Instagram feeds you should follow have given me an escape from my ‘shelter-in-place’ lifestyle that feels like it’s never going to end. Even though I’m sheltering in place in Puerto Vallarta (I may be a little spoiled) I have been living vicariously through these accounts which beautifully showcase the country that I’ve fallen in love with and now call my home.

Did you have to cancel your travel plans to México this summer?

Are you dreaming of your last trip to a Mexican beach in the Caribbean?

Are you thinking about selling everything you own and moving to México like I did? (Do it!)

I wanted to share with you my top picks of absolutely amazing México Instagram feeds that feature the beauty, charm and culture of this incredible country.

@mexicodesconocido

The Mexico desconocido Insta feed (run by a news and blogging website) is one of my go-to spots when I’m researching a new part of México to visit. If you want to learn about spending the night in a tree house in a Kali-Tree in Puebla or visiting a hobbit town in the mountains of San Luis Potosi, this is your website. They have great articles on their site about normal spots throughout México as well, but who doesn’t want to visit a hobbit town in the mountains of México? Come on…am I right? BTW, “desconocido” means “unknown” en Español!

@mexicotravelchannel

Thumbing through the México Travel Channel is like walking through a museum of must see locations throughout the country. You can cool off in the sparkling clear water of the cenotes in the Yucatan, get blasted on the blue agave nectar in Tequila and feel the sand between your toes on the beaches of Oaxaca.

Pueblo Mágicos, Volcanos and National Parks are all covered in this feed. Put on your imaginary hiking boots because all of these photos feature the outdoors of México.

@mexicosorprendente

I couldn’t describe this feed any better than how these guys describe their own page so here you go…

A page dedicated to show how beautiful México is. Landscapes, culture, traditions and more!

Well said mis amigos! And this is exactly why I stalk your page! I never knew that México has vast deserts and dunes in Chihuahua or has massive mountain peaks in Nuevo Leon. México Sorprendente ventures off the beaten path and delivers stunning views of the sites off of the normal road trip routes. BTW, “sorprendente” means “surprising” in Español!

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Las dunas de samalayuca en chihuahua un asombroso paraje desertico impresionante!! 🤩🌵🏜️ . . . . Son dunas errantes en tono sepia. Las más pequeñas miden 100 metros, casi la altura de la columna del Ángel de la Independencia, pero también hay montículos que superan los 300 metros, casi como la Torre Eiffel. Su forma nunca es la misma, el viento se encarga de diburjarles líneas o dejarlas bien lisitas para deslizarse sobre tablas de madera. . . . . Ese espectáculo natural se ubica en el desierto chihuahuense, a 45 kilómetros de Ciudad Juárez, y son las dunas de Samalayuca, catalogadas como las más grandes de Latinoamérica. Desde la carretera que conduce a la reserva natural, se aprecia el extenso mar de arena y cómo sus olas inmóviles son conquistadas por los aventureros que practican sandboarding. La actividad consiste en deslizarse sobre la arena con la ayuda de una tabla. A pie, subes el costado de una duna y en la cresta, te colocas sobre la tabla para que sea atada a tus zapatos. Solo es cuestión de flexionar un poco las rodillas e inclinar el cuerpo hacia adelante para avanzar a toda velocidad sobre la arena. 🤩🇲🇽👌🏽. //. The dunes of samalayuca in chihuahua an amazing impressive desert spot !! 🤩🌵🏜️ . . . . They are wandering dunes in sepia tone. The smallest measure 100 meters, almost the height of the Angel of Independence column, but there are also mounds that exceed 300 meters, almost like the Eiffel Tower. Its shape is never the same, the wind is responsible for drawing lines or leaving them very smooth to slide on wooden boards . . . . This natural spectacle is located in the Chihuahuan desert, 45 kilometers from Ciudad Juárez, and they are the Samalayuca dunes, classified as the largest in Latin America. From the road that leads to the nature reserve, you can see the vast sea of ​​sand and how its motionless waves are conquered by adventurers who practice sandboarding. The activity consists of sliding on the sand with the help of a board. 🇲🇽🤩👌🏽 . . . . 📸: @unmexicanoporelmundo

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@Mexico_Amazing

I really wish I would have thought of this Instagram handle, but I guess I’ll have to stick with TexMex Fun Stuff. México Amazing is well, the name says it all. I look at each photo and think to myself, is that place real and how fast can I get there?

The diversity is crazy from one pic to the next. They go from snowy hills to humid swamps to erupting volcanos to crashing waterfalls. This feed truly is amazing.

@Pinche_Raf_Art

Rafael Gonzales Jr. is an artist from San Antonio, TX who is combining the classic Mexican La Lotería and the Covid19 pandemic into works of art. La Lotería is México’s equivalent to bingo and is steeped in tradition here. I even wrote a blog post about it title, La Lotería Ain’t Your Grandma’s Mexican Bingo.

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Rafa is combining entrepreneurship and artistry by launching Pandemic Lotería, an entire game featuring his newly inspired creations! Taking pre-orders again…

@geraldinesgram

Geraldine is a México-based YouTuber and photographer who has a perfectly curated and diverse Instagram feed. I’m wicked jealous. I like how she focuses on outdoor scenes of México and blends the colors of facades along the streets with the oranges and blues in the sky.

When I’m walking through the streets of México, I’m typically sweating my nuts off with a drink in each hand and stains on my t-shirt, but not Geraldine! She always looks amazing. You go girl! #sisterlove

@planbviajero

The Plan B Viajero (Plan B Traveler) feed is managed by Camilo and Gaby, Eco-Travel bloggers from México and Argentina that are based in Oaxaca. They are clearly living their “Plan B” and have built a blog that is dedicated to practicing and promoting responsible and sustainable tourism. I’m totally crunchy granola too, so there’s that. Check out their blog here and one of my favorite amazing Mexico Instagram feeds below.

@pueblosdemexicoconhistoria

The Pueblos de México’s Insta account was created by San Luis Potosi-based photographer Didier Palomo who captures the ‘Magic Towns of México’ brilliantly. The ‘Magical Villages Program‘ is an initiative led by México’s Secretary of Tourism to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts and great hospitality.

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The most unique characteristic of earning the designation of being a Pueblo Mágico is that the village has to be a unique, bustling town (state capital towns/cities are not qualified).

A “Magical Village” is a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, festivals, traditions, great food, and fun interactive shopping, day-to-day life – in other words, “magic” in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism. 

@elfotografodeguanajuato

Guanajuato-based photographer Chema Sanchez has the feel of this Disney movie level magical town nailed. When we lived there I fell in love with the singing minstrels who danced me up and down the winding alleys in this one-of-a-kind city. I miss it everyday, but Chema’s amazing México Instagram feeds takes me back to this college town/state capital that includes the mummy museum, El Pípila on the mountain top and the minstrel music that constantly echos off of the surrounding mountains. This is literally the town that the afterlife kingdom in Pixar’s ‘Coco’ was fashioned after.

@MexicoDF

Mexico DF is managed by the 3 person team of Manuel Portillo González, Alex Revilla and Chac B who are photographers, bloggers and street artists. The ‘DF’ in the name is a throwback to when México City was referred to as ‘Distrito Federal’. The city went through a rebranding campaign in January, 2016 and completely changed the abbreviated name to CDMX, otherwise known as Ciudad de México. Rebranding a whole freaking city…amazing!

“CDMX” is now seen everywhere in México City from the city street signs to the sides of buses. It really is amazing how quickly they got rid of the “DF” moniker and rebranded in less than a year. This feed feels like you are wandering down the streets of México City.

@enigmatino

Edward Nygma is a Oaxaca-based photographer who takes me back to when I spent 5 amazing weeks in the capital city of…you guessed it…Oaxaca, Oaxaca. When Mr. TexMex Fun Stuff and I first drove into Oaxaca, we followed a local’s advice and went straight to the Benito Juárez Market.

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We could not get enough of the market’s smoke alley, lined with taco vendors grilling up fresh meat served with fresh tortillas, avocados and bright red salsa. Oh, and several cold cervezas brought to us by a nice teenage kid. The food, colors and native Zapotec culture are clearly the focus and passion of Edward’s feed.

@gustavomoguel

Gustavo Moguel travels from the deserts of Sonora to the haciendas of the Yucatan to the museums of México City to craft his Insta feed into a total México journey. From underwater shots swimming with tropical fish to views from his kick ass drone, Gustavo has an eye for showcasing the beauty of México’s land, sea and air. Check it, yo…

@rogb12

Rodrigo GB loves architecture and reflections. It really comes through in his vivid photos which primarily focus on México City. He is based out of CDMX and tends to shuffle in some of the top ballet dancers from the city. I love the evolution and diversity of his feed and how he is displaying his art. #fabulosa #reflectonthis

@gastronautadf

Gastronautadf is a food blogger based out of México City. You know you’ve made it as a food blogger on Instagram when Rick Bayless follows you! Foodie greatness.

My mouth waters over this account. This. dude does a great job of combining food and booze, my two favorite things. #nohashtagneeded #yum

@MexicanCoolture

The Mexican Coolture® feed and brand has been created by the soul and talent of Mexican artists who make handmade masterpieces. inn the form of beaded hat bands, purse straps and handbags. “Mexico in your hands” = Hecho a mano for sure. These guys are promoting goods curated from artisans in México and they have never looked better.

@cmll_mx

I experienced my first Lucha Libre event a few years ago and literally laughed, cried and screamed the entire time. I even wrote a blog post about it, My Lucha Libre Experience – Laughing, Crying & Screaming which details the sheer exhilaration and hilarity of The Big Show.

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I have not found anything else in my travels throughout this country that had me saying to myself over and over, “holy fuck, only in México.” The amazing México Instagram feed that captures the essence of Lucha Libre is definitely the World Wrestling Council. Feast your eyes on ‘the most Spectacular of Sports and the most Sporty of Shows’.

@DosHombres

I couldn’t live with myself if I made a list of my favorite amazing México Instagram feeds you should follow and not list my boys from “Breaking Bad”. Yep, mis hombres, Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul teamed up again! But this time it they aren’t cooking meth!

They have invested in one of my favorite delicacies of ALL OF México…and one that I only recently acquired a love for while in Oaxaca…mezcal! Yeah baby!! The Blue Meth Boyz feed mixes their friendship and their passion for mezcal and México. Una mas mezcal por favor! Plus, they are both pretty hot when not tweaked out and wearing tighty whiteys!

@TexMexFunStuff

I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t include my own Instagram feed in this list of amazing México Instagram feeds you should follow! I have wistfully created a random-ass feed while traveling through México in search of handmade goods for you.

I’m still learning the ropes on what a ‘professional feed’ should look like, but as you know by now, I’m not a very professional broad.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, video and stories that chronicle my road tripping travels through México as I build TexMex Fun Stuff and search for handmade treasures (tesoros en Español!). Viva México! 🇲🇽🌮🍹🍺✈️

Are you looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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Mexican Milagros – Because We Could All Use Some Miracles Right Now!

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Mexican Milagros – Because We Could All Use Some Miracles Right Now!

Milagros hand made onto a Sacred Heart.

As Mr. TexMex Fun Stuff and I sit “trapped” in our AirBnB in Puerto Vallarta, we realized that I haven’t contributed jack shit to our fun followers in a while. And since we as a society are collectively “trapped” with this whole coronavirus scenario, this would be a good time to use time wisely. Which, of course, I thought was wise.

Anyway, being fresh out of ideas I asked our buddies John and Rick what they would be interested in reading. They suggested getting to the bottom of wacky Mexican life hacks that we Americans don’t understand…like why do Mexicans use white vinegar, Pinol, VapoRub and muriatic acid for freaking everything?!

These Mexican Staples ARE NOT MIRACLES. However, they were all hoarded at the beginning of this crisis!
| Photos: Google Images

These are great questions worth exploring. However, Mr. TexMex Fun Stuff and I thought a more timely topic would be Milagros…that’s Spanish for Miracles…cuz now would be the time for a few of them.

Definition of “Miracle” brought to you by Dictionary.com:

noun

  1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
  2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
  3. a wonder; marvel.

México is chock full of Catholics and “The Catholic Church believes miracles are works of God, either directly, or through the prayers and intercessions of a specific saint or saints.” David Van Biema, (1995). “Modern Miracles Have Strict Rules”

You DAMN right, girl! | Photo: Unknown. Meme courtesy of IMGFlip

Whether you believe Dictionary.com’s or the Catholic Church’s definition of miracles…Mexicans talk about them ALL THE TIME! Once I started understanding a wee bit of Español, I started hearing my Mexican friends and neighbors use the word “milagro” super frequently.

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Then I started noticing these crazy tin or silver charm things being referred to as “milagros”. Thoughts entered my head like, “What is that guy doing with that tiny corn on the cob? How come she has a wee bitty metal heart? That dude just kissed a little shiny hand – WTF?!”

Saints and birds and cows, oh my! So many metallic thingee-doodles! | Photos: Directfrommexico.com and Etsy respectively.

Come to find out that for centuries, Mexicans have been fashioning votive charms into representations of milagros. Allow me to mansplain…Mexicans have turned little metallic thingee-doodles into symbols of miracles!

“WTF does votive mean?,you ask! You’re not alone. To be honest, I thought votives were nouns, like, my idea of “votives” were candles like these…

Votive candles. Not a noun as it turns out. And no one gets credit for this photo, not even Yankee Candle. Sorry for the derailment.

HOWEVER, the REAL Definition of “Votive” as per Dictionary.com is actually: advective

  1. offered, given, dedicated, etc., in accordance with a vow: a votive offering.
  2. performed, undertaken, etc., in consequence of a vow.
  3. of the nature of or expressive of a wish or desire.

So a Votive Milagro is an offering to a saint that performs miracles – and the more specific you can get, the better! Got leg pain? Buy a leg votive milagro and present it to your favorite saint as a wish or offering!

Experiencing a heartache? Or heartburn, for that matter… Buy a heart votive milagro and present it to your favorite saint as a wish or offering! See how that works?! After a while I guess everyone dropped the ‘votive’ and just went with ‘milagro’ because the votive part is just assumed.

🇲🇽 Buy Sacred Heart Pendants on Amazon!  🇲🇽

Being a Preacher’s Kid, I’m not a big reader of religious stuff. BUT, I was seeing those little tin arms, legs, hearts and farm animals often enough to be interested in the subject. So I went to “the webs” to see if I could find out more about their history…because God forbid I step foot in a church. Good old Wikipedia broke it down like this…

Milagros are small religious charms that people usually nail onto sacred objects, pin on the clothing of saint statues, or hang with little red ribbons or threads from altars and shrines. Typically, a believer will make a vow to a saint or to a sacred object, and later on she will make a pilgrimage to the site of the shrine or church and take a milagro there and leave it as a sign of gratitude and devotion. People also carry milagros for protection and good luck.

You see all those little silver things on the heart things? Those are milagros on sacred hearts! We’ll get to sacred hearts in a minute | Photo: Good Old Google Images!

Different milagros have different meanings and uses, and are often interpreted differently by different people, or for different occasions. For example, a milagro of a body part, such as a leg, might be used as part of a prayer or vow for the improvement for some condition associated with a leg – such as arthritis. Or, it might refer to a concept such a travel, the leg implying walking, which implies any form of travel. Similarly, a heart might represent a heart condition that one is praying for a cure: or a romance, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of Mary, and a prayer that the power of those spiritual forces might come into ones life. Often, a sacred image in a home will have milagros nailed to the frame, in such a way that the saint represented in the picture might bless the persons represented by the milagros, or the cares of these persons.

So there.

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Mexican Sacred Hearts vs. Milagros

So you know how we mentioned that milagros get nailed onto sacred objects? Well the most common is a heart. In fact, one of the most common symbols in religious folk art is the Mexican Sacred Heart. These hearts come in various forms: surrounded by flames, with a crown, with a dagger through the center and sometimes with a crown of thorns – all allegedly representing Jesus’ compassion for humanity.

So just to make sure you are following…Folk artists in central México make sacred hearts as decor, not for prayer. Yes, the heart represents a prayer, a wish, notes of gratitude or thanks. But, they are just pretty in your house as a Christmas ornament, as a magnet on your fridge, Valentines Day decor, you get it.

So basically, the hearts with thorns or rays of light that I used to think were “milagros” are actually “sacred hearts”. A very popular trend is for sacred hearts to be covered in milagros – like some of the ones pictured above! #combopackage.

But I was not alone in my confusion. If you google ‘Mexican Milagros’ for instance you will find yourself in a sea of images with both the milagros and the sacred hearts….like, which is it?!

Here are classic examples of sacred hearts. For a year I sold these aprons on the left as “Milagros” instead of “Sacred Hearts”. #oops #uninformed | Photo: TexMex Fun Stuff

Hopefully I have cleared that mystery up for all of us. Time to get back to FaceBook to see if the sky is still falling. In all seriousness, take care of yourself and others. This is a weird one and we need to stick together by…ironically…not literally sticking together! Peace, love and milagros from PV, México!

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And for my kick ass homies, John and Rick…and in the spirit of this crazy fucking corona thingee-doodle…”you can take the girl outta class, but you can’t take class outta the girl”. #AmIright?

This bitch (me) loves memes and milagros! Credit has already been mass given. Get it? Mass?! Given?! Chinga.

Looking for more inspiration from México? Check out the TexMex Fun Stuff Blog for more sights, sounds and badass-ness uncovered while exploring México searching for handmade fun stuff for you!

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🇲🇽 Shop the TexMex Fun Stuff online storefront on Amazon!  🇲🇽