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.
Quick History of Mosaic Tiles or Spanish Tiles or “Pasta” Tiles in the Yucatan Peninsula: These tiles were originally made in Barcelona, Spain and used by architects such as Antoni Gaudi as early as 1857.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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
This is my list of the most Badass Chingonas of México who shaped and/or continue to shape this beautiful country. I chose to leave Frida off of the list because what could I possibly write about Frida that hasn’t already been written?!?! She has always been México’s most famous chingona, but what I’ve learned is that there are AT LEAST 16 other women whose stories of badassery you simply must hear…I’m only covering 8 of them today…
Each woman on this list deserves their own blog post, but I’ve written a brief overview of why I think they are chingonas or “cabronas” as my badass friend, Julissa says. We will use these two words interchangeably through this post so be prepared! #CHINGA!
I also added a link to the best article I found on each of these hotties in case you want to dive deeper into their stories… I hope you do…
Sister Marcella ‘Clarissa’ of Querétaro
Clarissa (1700’s) is famous for being a hot nun who tricked a rich guy into constructing a 6 mile aqueduct so that the people of Querétaro could have fresh water. Clarissa was a very beautiful Capuchin nun (very austere sect and which cappuccinos are named after. Yes, it’s true.) Her aunt was married to a very rich dude from Mexico City. In 1721, she convinced her aunt to help her and her nun friends “spread the word of God” to Querétaro and set up a new convent there. Q-town was an up and coming city just northwest of México City.
Clarissa’s aunt was La Marquesa who was married to El Marques Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana. Let’s just call him El Marques. La Marquesa proposes to El Marques that since they are so loaded, they should build and then visit this new convent in Q-town every year. So El Marques agrees and buys some land to build the convent and a house to stay during their annual visits.
In the meantime, El Marques falls in love with his niece-by-marriage, our lovely Clarissa. He professes his love and faith to her, but being dedicated to her aunt and married to God, she did not accept any relationship with him. She did notice that the water in Q-town was shitty, due to old pipes and a long distance to clean fresh water, so she decides to make a deal with El Marques : If he designed, funded and built an aqueduct to provide clean water to the city, she would leave the convent for him. Easy peasy!
On October 22, 1735 water finally flowed into the city, but Clarissa had other plans. She broke her promise to El Marques and stayed with the convent. Bit of a nut punch, but Clarissa got want she really wanted…clean water for her city. Sneaky nun! #cockblock
(1768-1829) Aka La Corregidora de Querétaro – aka The Mother of México’s Nationhood – aka Dama de Badassery leading up to the War of Independence from Spain. Born in Morélia, Michoacán, her parents died when she was an infant so Josefa was raised by her older sister who got her into a college in México City (no small feat for a woman in the 1780’s!)
She married Miguel Dominguez, whom she met at college and 10 years later he was relegated by the Spanish colonial rulers to be the Mayor (Corregidor) of Querétaro…so off to Querétaro they went. Josefa had a big heart for indigenous Mexicans who were always treated like second class citizens by the Spaniards (who her husband worked for). She started helping her native Mexican conspirator friends plot a revolt of Independence from Spanish rule in México. This is how she met Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende (muy importante hombres!). Anyway…
Her husband, Miguel started getting onboard with the idea of Independence when all of a sudden the Spanish authorities asked him to conduct a search of Q-town in order to apprehend rebel leaders! So El Corregidor literally imprisoned our cabrona in their house to prevent her from exchanging info with her fellow conspirators! #awkward
HOWEVER, Josefa was able to get a message to Hidalgo to warn the conspirators that the Spanish were onto them and to start the revolt at warp speed instead of the usual “mañana, mañana” time frame that Mexicans are so famous for.
Eventually, the Spanish figured out that Miguel, the misfit Corregidor was in on the conspiracy too, and imprisoned both him and La Corregidora separately…her in a monastery. At this time she was pregnant with her 13th child (!), but was still so rebellious that the monks kicked her out! Then she was sent to a convent/jail situation with mean nuns and was finally released when she promised to stop being so supportive of the rebellion and her own rebellious ways! #nunlife
She eventually gave birth, but never behaved, because why the hell should she?! Cabrona central. That’s exactly why she is one of the Badass Chingonas of México.
Babe with brains (1789-1842). She lived during the same time, but in a different place as the ‘Chingona Corregidora’ whom we just mentioned. Why bring up 2 bad asses from the same period with the same goals? Because if you think Latino societies treat women as lesser citizens than men now – imagine 200+ years ago! Plus, Leona was 20 years younger than Josefa at the time and she has a kick ass love story which includes NOT getting jailed by her spouse. #lowexpectations
Actually named María de la Soledad Leona Camila Vicario Fernández de San Salvador, we will refer to her as LV. LV was orphaned at 17 and she and her vast inherited fortune landed with her uncle in México City. Her uncle was an excellent lawyer and a powerful rancher (read RICH). He taught her social sciences, culture, literature and politics which was highly unusual for a girl at that time.
LV learned to think critically and became a journalist who wrote for big deal newspapers in México City. One of which was read by the Insurgents (revolutionary rebels). They contacted LV when the War of Independence was breaking out and she agreed to send them secretly coded messages THROUGH HER ARTICLES in the newspaper so they would know what was going on in the capital city.
She joined a secret political society called, “the Guadalupes” who were some of the richest and/or best connected women within México who sent letters with strategic information for the rebel forces; plus money, weapons, ammunition and medicine. LV specifically gave shelter to fugitives, sent a shit ton of her inheritance for guns and ammo and collaborated with the rebels to get them news and information about what was happening in the Big Town.
LV was thrown in jail for being an insurgent, but NOT by her husband, Andrés Quintana Roo! In fact, he helped her escape! You may recognize his name…He was from the Yúcatan, but came to México City to work with her uncle years prior as a poor legal apprentice. Andrés and LV were “en fuego” pretty much right away, but he was a broke ass bitch and LV was a very wealthy heiress, so her uncle didn’t want them to marry. Well, LV was a chingona after all and she said, “Fuck it!” Andrés also became very important in the fight for Independence in his own right, but we aren’t writing about cabrones right now.
Carmen (1875-1948) founded the Revolutionary ‘Junta de Puebla’ which is the first batch of badass cabrones and cabronas that wanted an end to the non-stop Putin-like presidential administration of the times. She is known for her strength and courage in the fight against the regime of México’s President, Porfirio Díaz. Basically, Diaz was a pinche pendejo who was Prez for 31 years and he wanted to just keep rolling with it. Carmen and her amigas said, “Ay! No Mas!”
President Díaz learned that Carmen, her brothers and other like-minded folk planned to overthrow his regime so he staged an attack on the Serdán family residence/Anti-Diaz HQ in Puebla, Puebla. Now this was November, 1910 and the Anti Re-Electionists planned to start their revolution on November 20th. Diaz’s dudes stormed the Serdán home/HQ on the 18th at 8am – pre-coffee! #offensive
Carmen, her brother Aquiles and “La Junta de Puebla” started firing. Carmen ran to the balcony and yelled to the townspeople below, the great quote that earned her the title, ‘Heroine of the Mexican Revolution of 1910’…
Mexicans, stop living on your knees! Freedom is worth so much more than life!”
Elvia (1878-1968) founded the first feminist league in 1912 and was basically the most badass broad in the Yúcatan. Let’s go back to her days growing up in Motul, Yúcatan, a small pueblo outside of the capital city of Mérida…Elvia was a fiercely independent child from a big family.
Her favorite sibling was brother Felipe, who later would become the governor of the state. Even as kids, these two were intelligent and sensitive enough to notice that the indigenous Mayans in their pueblo were not treated with the same dignity or given the same opportunities that more European/Mexican families were privileged with. They also noticed how differently males and females were educated and what roles they were encouraged to play. This shit didn’t sit well with these two badasses.
As per typical late 1800’s Mexico…Elvia was married off at the age of 13 to a much older man. She had a kid with him and after 8 years was a widow. Then she remarried. Then she divorced. Then she remarried AND divorced the same guy. Does this sound like an early 1900’s dame to you? No, it sounds like Elizabeth Taylor. CHINGONA!
Her struggle and social activism earned her the nickname of ‘The Red Nun of Mayab’. “Red” because of her socialistic views and “Mayab” because she furthered the native Mayan causes. Not sure where the nun part came from because she committed her life to achieve women’s suffrage, the emancipation of women and their rights in México. She was a teacher and poet, and an activist for birth control, sexual freedom, divorce and anti-religious oppression of the time. CABRONA!
Elvia founded family planning programs that instituted legalized birth control in México. She also shared her material with Margaret Sanger of the US, the founder of the American Birth Control League which was later renamed Planned Parenthood. #Badassconnection
In 1923, Elvia was named to the Yucatan congress during her brother’s tenure as governor, the first woman to hold a position in state legislature in México. Then Felipe was assassinated and ALL womens’ rights were stripped in the Yúcatan! Can you fucking believe that?! She loses her brother and all of the progress they had made together in one gunshot! So she said, “Fuck this!” and moved to San Luis Potosi to continue taking up the Chingona cause!
MF (1914-2002) short for mother fucking awesome, was originally named María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña. She was one of 16 siblings and one of the most successful Mexican actresses in the 1940’s and 50’s – the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. MF earned the moniker, La Doña, from her character in the movie Doña Barbara. She was known for her strong character and intelligence…never letting herself be dominated by anyone and being very loyal to her ideals. MF became an indomitable example for Mexican women – CHINGA!
The two films that really shaped her career and reputation were La Mujer sin Alma (The Woman without a Soul, 1944) and La Devoradora (The Devourer of Men, 1946). As María Félix herself said,
“With these films, I became the number one enemy of the Mexican family morals. Somehow, I seduced the public, even those who criticize the conduct of my characters in the films. My legend began to take shape without moving a finger. The public imagination did everything for me.“
No citation needed, cabrons!
This chick had some fucking opinions. Here are some of her greatest quotes: “Talking about me is very severe and difficult because I am so much better than I look.”
“The best way to love someone is to accept them as them as they are… it’s not easy, but just loving assholes is easy.”
“I’ve never cried for a man because the moment he doesn’t love me, I don’t want him anymore.”
“Don’t feel bad if someone rejects you, people usually reject the expensive because they can’t afford it.”
Hopefully these classic lines give you an idea of how much she embraced her inner cabrona. La Doña María went on to star in over 47 films across the globe. Her IMDB bio says it best…
More a star than an actress, she constructed an image of a tough woman, a sort of one-liner she-male that went beyond the traditional role of Latin American women. Her fame went beyond México to Latin America, Spain, France and Italy. She always refused to learn English, so she never acted in any English language movie. That’s the main reason why her fame was related almost exclusively to Latin countries.
Similar era…different kind of chingona! Chavela (1919-2012) was a gravely voiced Ranchera Singer, a lesbian with a long list of famous lovers and a shaman. Even as a teen she smoked and drank way too much, wore men’s clothing and carried a pistol. Fucking cabrona! The New Yorker Magazine called her, “México’s Magestic Lesbian Chanteuse.” Not a bad title!
Her real name was María Isabel Vargas. As it turns out, Chavela is a pet name for Isabel. She was born in Costa Rica, but moved to México when she was 17 years old because Costa Rica sucks for lesbians with pistols. She adopted México as her homeland and once declared, “I owe my whole life to México. And to myself.” Therefore, she makes the list.
Vargas was called “la voz áspera de la ternura”, the rough voice of tenderness. She was hugely successful during the 1950s, 60s, and the first half of the 70s, touring in México, the United States, France, and Spain. This is more or less the 25+ years where she drank more than most fish in the sea. Crazy-town alcoholism. Not her only open secret…
Long considered an open secret, she publicly came out as a lesbian at age 81 in her autobiography titled And If You Want to Know about My Past. She compiled an amorous résumé that ranks among the most distinguished in the history of twentieth-century lesbianism and why she is on my list of Badass Chingonas of México.
I recently watched a great documentary about her that detailed an intimate relationship with none other than Frida Kahlo. Sexy time.
“I live only for you and Diego,”
In addition, she had an affair with the magnate and collector of Frida’s and Diego’s works, Dolores Olmedo. Diego definitely banged Dolores too and rumor has it that Frida tried to get into DO’s pants as well. SCANDALOUS! Rumor linked Chavela Chingona to fellow-divas Lola Beltrán and María Félix (our MF!).
But the most talked about ‘secret’ was when freaking Chavela went to “one of those parties where ‘we went in Saturday and went out Monday, all drunk’…she had an affair with Ava Gardner. It was at the wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd in 1957, in Acapulco, that she attended with Frida Kahlo. “Everyone dawned with everyone, I dawned with Ava Gardner,” she says. Not kidding.
She was in her 90’s on a trip to Spain when she fell ill and spent 10 days in the hospital. When she regained enough strength, the Mexican Government sent a repatriate flight to bring her back “to die in my own country.” Her final words on the day she died in Cuernavaca, Morelos, México were, “I go with México in my heart.”
Yalitza (1993-present) rose to stratospheric fame after starring in her film debut as the lead in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 drama, Roma. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go to Netflix right fucking now. Our Oaxacan princess was raised by her single mother who worked as a maid and by her older sister. Her sister was going to the Roma auditions in their town and dragged Yalitza along (even though she had no acting training at all).
Of course, she was fabulous in it and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the first Indigenous woman and the second Mexican woman to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination (following Salma Hayek for her role in 2002’s Frida). So what makes her Chingona material?
Do you know how much shit she received from her fellow Mexicans for being highlighted as an actress and model hottie? Racism is sadly everywhere and México is no different. Between the Spain-ish Mexicans (read light skinned/white) who have mostly just European blood lines to meztizos (European and Indigenous mixed race) who are certainly lighter skinned than the truly Indigenous/solely native Mexicans…it seems that the fairer skinned Mexicans think they are better/classier/blahblahblah than those of native Mexican-only decent…
In a New York Times Op-ed, Yalitza wrote:
“I never thought that a movie alone could prompt social awareness and change. That’s exactly what happened. Suddenly people in my home country of México were talking about issues that have long been taboo here — racism, discrimination toward Indigenous communities and especially the rights of domestic workers, a group that has been historically disenfranchised in Mexican society.”
However, Aparicio said that the kinds of prejudice challenged by the movie plagued her in real life once she received the Best Actress Academy Award nomination.
“I have firsthand experience with this kind of discrimination. After I was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying Cleo, racist comments began to circulate on social media. Commenters questioned why I was nominated, making references to my social and ethnic background. ‘An Indigenous woman was not a worthy representative of the country,’ some said. It was hard for me to see and hear these sorts of statements.”
This poor girl just went to a casting call and accidentally booked a role in a film that ended up being really important…THEN she ends up being recognized as a badass Latina by Vogue…THEN had to endure a shit storm by uppity fuck nuts who can’t see the beauty of her indigenous Oaxacan heritage. #Annoying.
How did she handle the backlash of her fame? By giving the haters a big “Fuck You!”, that’s how! In 2019, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. On October 4, 2019 she was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Indigenous Peoples – so there! She has not filmed a single thing since Roma, choosing instead to use her voice for activism.
One little diddy about Salma (1966-present) …Hottie Hayek was born in Veracruz and began her career in México acting in Telenovelas. She moved to Hollywood in 1991. In 2002 she landed her breakthrough role in Frida and was nominated for the Best Actress for the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award. She is super hot and accomplished, but we have so many actresses to cover in this blog, y’all! #lovemesomesalma
In conclusion…this post is part 1 of a 2 part series on Badass Chingonas of México! So even if we didn’t cover Frida Kahlo, we sort of did. And even though we didn’t cover Salma Hayek who portrayed Frida Kahlo in Frida, we sort of did. Did we mention that Chavela Vargas also starred in Frida? No? Hmmm. Stay tuned for the other half of this list! Gracias and thanks!
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 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.
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.
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?!”
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…
HOWEVER, the REAL Definition of “Votive” as per Dictionary.com is actually: advective
offered, given, dedicated, etc., in accordance with a vow: a votive offering.
performed, undertaken, etc., in consequence of a vow.
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.
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.
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 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?!
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!
I see this Virgin of Guadalupe broad everywhere. She is insanely iconic to Mexican culture…but why? The Virgin Mary as the Mother of God or at least the female expression of God is a Christian concept. But Catholics in Latin America take it to another level. So how did this virgin become such a big part of Mexican religious and national identity?
“Iconic” often describes something or someone that is considered symbolic of something else, like spirituality, virtue, or evil and corruption. The iconic Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom. Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David was supposed to represent anatomical perfection. In Christianity, the Virgin Mary is an iconic image of purity and closeness to God.
Not only has Mother Mary gone mainstream as an image, but her day of celebration (Dec 12) is the most important holiday of the year in México! I mean, really… it kicks off a 3-week long wretched excess party during the holidays which finally ends on Three Kings Day on January 6. This party streak is also known as: The Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon (blog post on that to follow).
Let’s start with the plethora of names for her: Patron Saint of México (Patroness de México), Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), La Reina de México (The Queen of México), La Virgen de Guadalupe (The Virgin of Guadalupe), Empress of the Americas, México’s #1 Mother and of course…Virgin Mary.
Also, there are many versions of her story and how she became the ultimate Goddess and Madre of México…One chick, one day, one miracle in Central México almost 500 years ago…here we go, yo.
After this apparition, Juan Diego traipsed his way down to the Big Cheese Catholic bishop, also named Juan, to tell him about Our Lady’s request. Juan De Zumárraga was the first bishop and archbishop of México and he just straight up didn’t believe the other Juan. #notcredible
In fact, Juan De Zumárraga (or J De Z as we will call him) demanded a sign before he would approve construction of the shrine/church/basilica situation. So poor dejected Juan Diego just went back home. Three days later (December 12), Juan Diego’s uncle lay dying and so he was sent back to the church to get a priest to read his uncle his last rites.
Well, lo and behold, if Nuestra Señora didn’t show her ass up again! She reappeared to Juan Diego and ordered him to collect roses in his cloak and take them to J De Z since he was heading there anyway. So Juan Diego took the roses to the bishop and when he opened his cloak, the roses fell to the floor and magically the image of the Virgin was imprinted on the inside!
That seemed to be all the proof that J De Z needed, so construction of the basilica in the Virgin’s name began on the spot where she appeared. Not sure of what became of Juan Diego’s uncle though.
FUN FACT: Juan Diego’s actual cloak with the image is still on display in the Basilica de Guadalupe. For the record, originally only the figure of Mary was on the cloak. Later the gold rays, the baby angel beneath her and the glowing warm orangey-red light surrounding her was added-probably by Bishop J De Z. It has never been restored yet it looks just as it did in 1531 after 488 years!
Unusual? Yes. A miracle? Maybe. A little far fetched? Hard to say. BUUUUUUUT…This is what PROBABLY happened…
According to author Rosemary Reuther, an American feminist scholar and Catholic theologian, who wrote “Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History” (book available on Amazon)…this situation in México is likely a copy cat. It is well known that Spanish priests were sent to the ‘New Spain’ to endear/force upon Catholicism (and its biggest heroine…the virgin/Mary/Mother of God) to the indigenous natives of México.
The central part of México had predominantly been ruled by Aztecs when the Spanish successfully invaded. The Aztecs believed in a myriad of gods, not one god from a mother who never actually had sex with anyone. And Juan Diego was likely Aztec. Here is why Reuther thinks this story is more or less a nod to a previous event that, according to tradition, happened in the region of Extremadura, Spain centuries earlier…
The Original Virgin Story
Reuther explains that a small wooden statue of the Virgin was carved by The Episcopal, Luke right after Jesus (Son of the Virgin Mary) died. St. Luke had sculpted this statue of the Virgin and was laid to rest with it in Antioch, Turkey. Someone at some point dug into St. Luke’s grave and took the Virgin sculpture with them to the Pope in Rome. #graverobber. The next Pope inherited her and then eventually gave her to Leander the Great who was hanging out in Seville, Spain circa 7th century.
Circa 8th century, the city of Seville was captured by the Arabs/Moors of Islam and so a whole slew of priests took a bunch of Catholic relics, including Luke’s statue, and buried them in the hills of Extremadura, near the river of Guadalupe. They hid it so well that no one could find it for centuries. Oops.
Then one day, a shepherd named Gil (yeah, seriously) was herding his cows on a delightfully crisp mid-14th century morning when he realized that one of his cows was missing.
Gil immediately left the flock to look for it and discovered the dead body of his good buddy next to the banks of the Guadalupe River. Gil was devastated and all, but decided to take advantage of the cow’s skin. When he pulled out his knife to score a little hide, THE VIRGIN APPEARED TO HIM AND SAID,
“Don’t be afraid. I am the Mother of God, Savior of the human lineage. Take your cow and take it to the herd with the others and then go to your land. You’ll tell the clerics what you’ve seen. Tell them from me that I’m sending you there, too. Let them come to this place where you are now. Let them dig where the dead cow was, under these stones: you will find an image of me. When they take her out, tell them not to move it or take it from this place where it is now, but make a box in which they put it. Time will come that in this place become a very remarkable church.”
Needless to say, Gil did just that and not a damn one of those clerics believed him. #soundfamiliar? Anyway, he was super bummed and his day was about to get worse…Gil arrived home to find that his firstborn son had died. CHINGA! His entire family and village were at his house mourning this loss when Gil, who couldn’t take much more of this shit, dropped to his knees and begged Our Lady with much devotion:
“Ma’am, you brought my cow back to life. Let’s do this again with my son and we’ll show all these motherfuckers how powerful and miraculous you are.” OK, I took some serious liberties with that one, but the original quote is way too long.
Before the stunned gaze of all those present, Gil’s son rose, as if awakening from a dream, and everyone marveled at the great miracle. Then Gil told them about the whole cow situation and how the Virgin appeared by the river and how she wants a church in her honor to be constructed in that exact place.
And, oh by the way, she also mentioned that they should dig for the sculpture that St. Luke carved and that the clerics of Seville buried so many years before. The whole village ran to the Guadalupe river and started digging.
Sure enough, they found her statue plus the other relics and documentation that were in a marble casing (almost like a mini casket). Off they went to show and tell the bishops in the nearby mid-size town of Cacéres! This time Gil was TOTALLY CREDIBLE.
The mass construction of the basilica in The Virgin’s name, (which ended up including a monastery, a school, chapel, etc.) ended up creating a village of workers around it. They decided to name their new town Guadalupe since the Guadalupe River ran through it and everyone had pretty much agreed that they should call the shrine “The Virgin of Guadalupe”. Not extremely original, but certainly sensible.
If you remember from your history books, Hernán Cortés invaded México in the early 1500’s when his troops overthrew the Aztecs in their capital city. Welp, Cortés and his some of his men spent a great deal of time in the Extremadura region of Spain and had become enormous devotees of the Virgin of Guadalupe prior to the invasion of México.
Reuther contends that some of Cortés’s army spent time in the Tepeyac hood while preparing to take the Aztec capital (now Mexico City) in 1521. It is probable that while they were there, the story of the original Virgin of Guadalupe was bastardized into a Mexican version, whereas the apparition showed herself to an indigenous man so as to get the Aztecs on board with the “miracle of Christianity.” #itworked
Another similarity between the two Virgins is the pilgrimage by their devotees to their respective sacred places. People bike and walk hundreds of miles to her basilica in México City and to “satellite” basilicas all over México to pay respects and ask for miracles on December 12 every year. The Virgin of Extremadura welcomes visitors all year long who come from far and wide to show their devotion. #Cortés
WeAreLiveLatin.com is a blog about all things fabulously Mexican and they phrased this phenomenon better than I ever could…
“The icon of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was used by father Miguel Hidalgo as he launched the fight for independence. The image of the Virgin has since been an important image in México’s struggle for freedom and as a patriotic symbol. Revolutionaries like Zapata always carried a flag with her image as they went into battle, and later, when they marched triumphantly into México City.
She is present in all aspects of Mexican life, and her image has become synonymous with México. In places like truck stops, bus stations and automobile garages, there are small shrines to the Virgin where people can pray. In many churches and shrines, instead of a crucifix there is an image of the Virgin. Her image is deeply etched into the consciousness of the Mexican people; so much so that it has even become a form of kitsch. She can be found on t-shirts, calendars, towels, tattoos, cups, and even bank checks.” So there.
We Are Live Latin
You know you’re an icon when another icon imitates you for her pregnancy and baby pix!
And now for some blasphemy
OK, you may or may not have noticed that I am not super Jesus-y/religious-y/Believer-y. My thoughts on all of the above are this: this story is as ridiculous as the actual Christmas story. Of course it is. However, this woman is so important to the land and culture that I live in now that I don’t dare question the validity of it all around my Mexican friends. That would be sacrilege to the level of un-friending, and not just on FaceBook.
“BUUUUUUUUUT!,” as my dear Mexicana bestie, Julissa says…every sacred situation deserves a good meme. So here we go in Español…
Did I manage to explain why the Virgin of Guadalupe is a bad ass broad? Good. The End.
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!
As I mentioned in the very first post (called “S#*t You See in México”) on this damn site that my husband, Todd, more or less forced me to start a blog while road tripping through México. “It’s good for SEO,” he said. “It will bring you more business,” he said. “You are going to lose a majority of your hair trying to come up with material,” he DID NOT say.
Oh well, hopefully someone somewhere gets a little joy out of said blog. I must admit that it has been fun taking hilarious photos while road tripping through México for almost 2 years now. Therefore, it is officially time to show you more funny shit.
I know some of these are not flattering of me, but fuck it. These are in no particular order of importance or chronology…they just make me laugh. So there.
I figured I would also put together a list of my favorite things from my journey through this beautiful country. I don’t have photos of all of them, but these are some highlights…
Favorite Beach: Playa Yelapa. A one hour boat ride from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco and famous for the saying, “I’d rather have a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo.” When I say boat ride, I mean that you can’t get there any other way.
Favorite Brunch: Gaspar in the Colonia Americana section of Guadalajara is known for having the best hamburgers in town. That’s true, but their wicked strong martinis and french fries covered in scrambled eggs and garlic truffle oil makes any Sunday a Funday. Also, they are super dog friendly. Deuce approved!
Favorite Restaurant: MOG Bistro in Roma Norte, México City. A tasty fusion of asian cuisine, kick ass sushi, Oaxacan mezcal and waitstaff sporting Carhardt onesies.
Favorite Pozoleria: Pozoleria Matamoros in the Los Sapos section of Puebla, Puebla. Pozole is the world’s best soup. You know you are in the right spot when there’s a wait to get in and the place is full of families, construction workers and zero.zero gringos.
Favorite Mezcalería: El Destilado in Oaxaco Centro, Oaxaca. Cheap happy hour specials on mezcal cocktails, shots and tacos. Plus they have a killer view from the rooftop bar!
Favorite Pulquería: Cálendula Pulquería in Los Sapos in downtown Puebla. Don’t be scared cause it looks like snot. Just order the cucumber lime pulque with a shot of mezcal. Trust me! #Icanbetrusted
Favorite Day Trip: Jose Cuervo Express Train from Guadalajara to Tequila and back…although I don’t remember much of the “back” part. I’m not proud of this picture above. This occurred on the way “back”.
Favorite Drive: Puebla City to Oaxaca City on Tollroad 135D. Majestic mountains, valleys, cacti, tunnels and sketchy AF roads. Freaking beautiful.
Favorite Flight: A single engine prop plane on Aerotucán more or less hovers over the mountains and fields from Oaxaca City to the beautiful beaches of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. 45 minutes of picture taking magic.
Favorite Park: Chapultepec Park in México City. Wander from the world famous Anthropology Museum through the endlessly shaded sidewalks up to the Chapultepec Castle which sits at the top of a huge hill. It used to be a military school where teenage Mexican soldiers fought the Spanish for México’s independence. They lost, but hey. Castles are sexy.
Favorite Hike: La Malinche is a mountain one hour due east of Puebla, Puebla. It is technically in the state of Tlaxacala and makes for a challenging day hike as it peaks at 14,400 feet above sea level. And I know this for a fact because my husband climbed it and I didn’t.
Favorite Lucha Libre Venue: Arena Puebla in Puebla, Puebla. Cold beer, hot sweat and lots of cussing. Not too big, not too small, loud as fuck.
Favorite Mercado: Mercado De Artesanias La Ciudadela (Artisan Market) is in the Ciudadela neighborhood (a 5 minute cab ride from Roma) of México City. Handmade everything from all over México and there’s a bar in the middle!
Favorite Shopping: Independencia Avenue in Tlaquepaque, a Pueblo Mágico outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco. I could stroll down this pedestrian only street forever. Galleries, shops, restaurants, street vendors and it is covered by thousands of colorful umbrellas!
Favorite Co-working Space: Workósfera in Puebla, Puebla. The original location is in the Los Sapos section of Centro in a colonial mansion. The newest location in the La Paz neighborhood and is in yet another mansion, but this one has a pool! Fast wifi and great people.
Favorite Live Music: Callejoneadas in Guanajuato, Guanajuato. At night, college kids turn into singing minstrels wearing tights. They tour pedestrian only alleys playing instruments and encouraging crowd participation up and down the hills of this beautiful city. Smoking, drinking and singing of course.
Favorite People: Mérida, Yucatán. In all fairness, there isn’t a city in the world that can compete with the community in Mérida. It is my home and it is chock-filled with my people.
As you can see from my list of favorites, in 20 months we have gone from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato to México City to Puebla to Mérida to Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta to Querétaro and back to México City.
We did make it to Oaxaca briefly. As it turns out, Oaxaca is not known for its paper maché. Or for its ass grabbing. Luckily for you, both were captured in this shot…
Welp, that’s all of my pics for now of our journey while road tripping through México. I will spare you the really gross stuff. Plus, I should really get back to work. It is imperative that I shop for more bad ass stuff, from this bad ass country, for your decorative enjoyment! Hasta luego!
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!
It was a balmy 86º November evening when I found myself slowly shuffling down the main street of Mérida, Yucatan surrounded by a shitload of people carrying candles and dressed as dead people. I was in a crowd of thousands and all I heard was silence. We were quietly walking to the cemetery and I was about to experience my first Day of the Dead, aka Día de los Muertos (Spanish), aka Hanal Pixán (Mayan).
Of course I had heard of Day of the Dead and thought that it was just a bunch of people dressing up like skeletons. “Oh, that’s just like Halloween!” Nope, not a damn thing like Halloween.
I had been living in Mérida for about 10 months by the time October 2011 rolled around. Once October started, everyone in the city began planning for this upcoming, um, holiday?, event?, party?, celebration? The name ‘Day of the Dead’ doesn’t sound like much of a party, but people were acting like this was the most important fiesta of the year.
Day of the Dead is in fact a three day celebration each year from October 31 – November 2nd. It’s an opportunity to commemorate family and friends that have “advanced on their eternal journey.” In the Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. During this time, the living family members pray for the temporary return of their loved ones who now reside in the afterlife/world/place. They share stories of the ancestors who have passed and celebrate their former lives.
Aztecs – Lady of the Dead
The ancient origin of Día de los Muertos in México goes back to the Aztec festival dedicated to the ‘Lady of the Dead’, which in modern times is referred to as La Calavera Catrina. The artist José Guadalupe Posada was the first person to illustrate the goddess in a zinc etching in 1910. She’s super hot, as far as skeletons go.
So anyway, in Aztec mythology, this Lady was named Mictēcacihuātl and was queen of the underworld. She ruled over the afterlife with her hubby. No one ever mentions him, but she was responsible for watching over the bones of the dead and presiding over the ancient festivals of the dead. #respect
The Aztecs in México and central America celebrated Mictēcacihuātl for the entire 8th month of the Aztec calendar year (sometime in the middle of the summer). They partied, danced and sang instead of mourning because being sad for dead people was considered an insult to them. Therefore, they fiesta’ed with food, drink and activities that the dead had enjoyed while they were alive.
The two most familiar symbols of the Aztec version of Day of the Dead are Catrinas and Catrins (dead chicks and dead dudes, respectively). You will either see these images as calacas or calaveras (skulls and skeletons, respectively). The calaveras are always dressed up in colorful outfits and having a blast dancing, drinking, flailing around and generally enjoying the afterlife. If that is what death is all about then rock on!
The calacas, being just dead heads, are usually hanging out on an altar that their family created with a big smile on their face…happily watching the living pay tribute and tell stories about them!
Spanish Catholics – All Saints Day
The Spanish invaded México in the 1500’s and brought with them their Catholic religion. This may not sound very Christian, but basically they made a point of enslaving the Aztecs and telling them their customs and beliefs were stupid. Typical evangelicals. The synthesis of Catholicism with the Aztecs’ tradition results in an adjustment of the dates to make Day of the Dead more in line with existing Catholic death-celebrating holidays.
The Spanish moved the celebration from the 8th month of the Aztec year to October 31st – November 2nd of the Gregorian calendar so that it would land on All Saints and All Souls days. Pushy af, but here’s why…
All Saints Day, according to Christianity.com has this origin…”In the early years when the Roman Empire persecuted Christians, so many martyrs died for their faith, that the Church set aside special days to honor them…In the 8th century, All Saints Day was changed by Pope Gregory III to today’s date–November 1. People prepared for their celebration with a night of vigil on Hallows’ Eve — Halloween (possibly because of the strong holdover influence of the Celtic Samhain festival which many Christians in Ireland, Britain Scotland and Wales had continued to observe).”
Mayans – Hanal Pixán
The Mayans in the Yucatan Peninsula refer to Day of the Dead / Dia de los Muertos as Hanal Pixán and it lasts for 3 days starting October 31st. Sound familiar? Well that’s because the Spanish conquered them too.
Mayan families construct altars in their homes honoring their lost relatives/buddies. These altars include the dead’s favorite food, drinks and games plus they add candles, pictures and symbols of their lives. They even go as far as moving the furniture in their houses to create a pathway from the front door to the altars to help their loved ones’ souls know where to arrive. You know, rearranging all the furniture for guests.
The first night of Hanal Pixán (Oct. 31) is reserved for celebrating the all too short lives of the children whom have passed. Their offerings include toys, chocolates and sweets. The adult souls are not honored until November 1st.
To honor the souls of adults, boozy treats are placed on the altars with candles and their favorite foods. I’m now making a point to start my Day of the Dead celebrations on November 1st for this reason. I’m avoiding the first night because I’m not into kids, especially dead ones. #goingtohell
They close out the 3 day death-fest with a long, slow, silent walk through the center of town. They call it “Paseo de Ánimas” or “Promenade of the Souls”. Everyone wears typical Mayan clothing and have calaca sugar skull faces painted on by street artists. The whole town walks to the main cemetery…so THAT is what I was caught up in that November night in 2011!
Then suddenly the mood changes and a celebration breaks out in the cemetery! It’s magicaland like a scene straight out of Pixar’s Coco. People were actually dancing, laughing and decorating the graves of their loved ones with flowers, candles, pictures and gifts. Beers were popping open. Stark difference from the silent mode we were in for blocks and blocks! I def prefer this part of the ritual.
Gringos – Halloween
I really did think Day of the Dead was the same as Halloween and it turns out I wasn’t completely wrong. Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) originated in Ireland and is celebrated on October 31st. As you know most Irish are Catholics and they had the same idea as the Spanish when it came to bastardizing holidays.
So basically European Catholics wanted to celebrate the night before All Saints Day. Which is also known as “A Feast for All Saints” OR “All Hallows’ Day”. So Halloween is the eve of this Christian holiday. Traditionally in Ireland, Spain and other Catholic countries, it is common for families to attend church and visit cemeteries in order to lay flowers and candles on the graves of their deceased loved ones. It’s all coming full circle.
So Halloween / All Hallow’s Eve is the night that the descendants of Mayans and Aztecs celebrate the souls of dead children. Somehow this morphed into Americans thinking, “Hey, the way to celebrate the souls of dead children is to form a path of candy and dress up like all the fun things these kids use to love and that will help show their little kid spirits the way home!” Am I going to hell? Probably. Please join me!
Anyway, I was trick-or-treating as a kid in the States on the same night that the Mayans were honoring children’s souls in the Yucatan. It seems blasphemous now, but it was a fabulous idea then and made October my favorite month of the year! It also made November the most sugar crazed hell on Earth for my parents. I do get the connection of luring a spirit back by displaying / handing out things they loved (candy) while they were with us in this life. Check out these comparisons below:
Mexicans really love American traditions. We gringos celebrate the fuck out of holidays that require dressing up and dealing candy like drugs. Now that I’m an adult, I bypass the whole trick or treating neighborhood deal. I do still enjoy dressing up as a dirty pirate hooker. Or a booby-licious Octoberfest chick. Or a Catrina.
Anyway, many Mexican families have adopted our tradition of dressing up the kids and dealing candy within neighborhoods. It is usually some night the week of or before Day of the Dead so that they can get their sugar fix and still be sacred on the correct date! They have it all! BOO!
Ernesto De La Cruz stole my heart the first time I saw his big, sexy, latino, animated self in Pixar and Disney’s movie, Coco. I was preparing to move back to México from Texas when I saw the trailer for this cinematic masterpiece about my adopted homeland.
The bright-eyed boy Miguel, his dog Dante with his tongue hanging out and the sounds of mariachi music made me look VERY forward to seeing the show with my nephew (great excuse to watch a kid’s film)!
Sweet baby Jesus!! That music and scenery gave me chills! To the point of nearly dropping everything and moving to México that very second. If the trailer was that good, I couldn’t wait to see the fucking movie. “The music is in me!”
Coco was released in the US on November 22nd, 2017…four months before I was moving back to México. I’m continually looking for inspiration to build the TexMex Fun Stuff brand and to help me refine my product offerings in the US. As luck would have it, the timing of this movie was equally as magical.
For those of you reading this who have yet to see Coco, from the bottom of my corazón…please stop reading this post and go stream it right now! THEN let me know your thoughts via comments here or on our FaceBook page!
“When life gets me down, I play my guitar. The rest of the world may follow the rules, but I have to follow my heart” – Ernesto De La Cruz
Quick breakdown: The story follows a very young aspiring musician, Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead and where he must find his deceased, musical genius great-great-grandfather to help him return to his family among the Living WHILE reversing his family’s ban on music AND within a limited time to escape before he disappears! Heavy drama! Massive action! Dead people!
After living in México for 5 years previously, I felt that the movie encapsulated everything colorful, cultural and mystic about México…the customs, food, sounds, family traditions, street dogs, papel picado flags, piñatas, music and the Day of the Dead (blog post on that in October)!
Attention to the finest details throughout the movie makes me want to watch it over and over to catch gems that I missed. I mean seriously, check this cute photo of Miguel teaching himself to play the guitar by watching Ernesto De La Cruz movies! The skull head of that guitar is straight outta Day of the Dead. Chinga!
So who is Miguel’s great-great-grandfather who must save the day? None other than the dearly departed, world-renowned, muy famoso, Ernesto De La Cruz…or is it? EDLC (as I will call him) was from Miguel’s hometown and had been a very famous singer, musician and actor who starred in many “Charro” films. Sadly, EDLC was crushed to death by a giant bell at a very early age. Yes, a giant fucking bell. Miguel admires his music and emulates him in secret (ancestral ban on music-long story).
I’m still a bit behind when it comes to Mexican musicians, dead or alive, but I’m trying to get my shit together. I was wondering throughout the movie, “Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on a real Mexican icon or just a made up character from the genius minds of the Pixar people?” EDLC was larger than life (even in death) like Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Plus, he rocks the feathery smooth voice like a mariachi boss so I figured he had to be real. Right?
“For even if I’m far away, I hold you in my heart / I sing a secret song to you, each night we are apart.” – “Remember Me” -Best Original Song from Coco
Doing a Google Search for ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz…’ comes up with the auto suggestions of: ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz real’, ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on Elvis’, ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz a father’ and ‘Is Ernesto De La Cruz based on Vicente Fernandez.’
I thought, “Screw Google. I’m gonna research the real-life person who played the animated character, Benjamin Bratt to see who his muse was for this character!” I have always felt is super hot, so why the hell not?!
Benjamin Bratt, in all of his hotness, nailed the role of Ernesto De La Cruz
Bratt relied on his roots as a Peruvian-American to embody this macho Mexican singing icon. His mother, Eldy, was a nurse and activist (badass) from Lima, Peru and was a member of the indigenous Quechua tribe. His father, Peter Bratt Sr., was an American sheet metal worker whose father, George Cleveland Bratt, was a Broadway actor. So there’s the connection – Like grandfather, like grandson!
To prepare for the role of La Cruz, Bratt studied the “Charro” films from the ‘Golden Era of Mexican Cinema’. From these he drew from 3 different and incredibly talented Ranchera singers/actors that were handsome, suave and charismatic. Together these men gave him the template to portray Ernesto De La Cruz. Without any prior singing experience, Bratt voiced the character and sang the Oscar winning title song of the movie, “Remember Me”. #impressive #hotandtalented
I’m still trying to figure out the subtle differences between Ranchera Music and Mariachi Music, but in any case, they both involve big sombreros, booming voices and costumes that are works of art. 100% Bad Ass-ery! To prove it, see my post on Mariachis here. So when I looked up the difference between Ranchera and Mariachi music styles/genres/what have you…WikiDiff.com had this to say…
As nouns the difference between Mariachi and Ranchera is that Mariachi is a traditional form of Mexican music, either sung or purely instrumental while ranchera is a traditional Mexican song performed solo with a guitar.
Other sources say that Ranchera is one form of Mariachi. It’s a little confusing, but both were represented PLENTY during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema from the 1930s to the 1950s. This genre of movies… “Charro“…were extremely popular. These films featured movie stars such as Tito Guízar, Jorge Negrete, José Alfredo Jiménez and Pedro Infante, who would often sing Mariachi songs to their leading ladies.
Drum roll please…so who were those 3 actors/singers that Mr. Bratt embodied? CHECK IT!!!
1. Pedro Infante, hailed as one of the greatest actors of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.
Pedro Infante is considered to be one of the best Ranchera Singers and idols throughout México and Latin America. His full name was Pedro Infante CRUZ. #NotSoSubtle
Ole Pedro recorded over 350 songs and starred in over 60 films, 30 of which with his brother, Ángel Infante. His most critically acclaimed movie, “Tizoc” won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1958. The Golden Globe can be seen at the Pedro Infante museum on a tiny island called Isla Arena in Campeche, México. #BeenThere
Pedro also had a fascination with aviation and had converted a Bomber war plane into a cargo plane in San Diego. He was learning to be a pilot and was co-piloting this plane when the engine failed shortly after takeoff in my adopted hometown of Mérida, Yucatan. The plane was headed to México City, but crashed 5 minutes after taking off and he died at the age of 39 – April 15th, 1957. Sad day in México.
BUT some people think his death was faked since his body was “burned beyond all recognition” in the crash. Authorities were never able to positively identify his remains and adding to this mystery, a man was spotted in Veracruz in the 1980’s that went by the name Antonio Pedro who closely resembled Infante. Fans wanted to believe conspiracy theories that Infante was still alive, however a bracelet of Pedro’s was found near the crash sight which more or less settled that. #Asgoodasdead
2. Jorge Negrete, Opera Singer, Actor and Military Veteran
Jorge Negrete was born in one of my favorite cities in México and which many scenes in Coco strongly resemble…Guanajuato City, Guanajuato. The papel picado draped above the winding streets and colorful callejones in the make believe cities of Santa Cecilia and Land of the Dead is a beautiful intersection of animated nostalgia and this real-life city full of Mexican pageantry. #Guanajuato
Negrete was a brilliant, but rebellious teenager which caused his father to enroll him in El Colegio Militar, a military academy, where (of all freaking things) he fell in love with music. Negrete graduated from the academy with a developed gallant presence that served him well as a leading man in films and a booming star on stage.
As fabulous as he was militarily speaking, he LOVED singing and had an astounding voice. So when he met José Pierson, a prestigious singing professor, he started seriously studying music. Pierson became fascinated with Negrete’s voice and got him on the radio. He also helped Negrete develop his talent for Opera which led him to become well known in the United States. He went on to star in over 40 films from 1937 to 1953 and helped found the Mexican Actors Association.
Randomly, Negrete died at CEDARS-SINAÍ Hospital in 1953 at the age of 42 while on a business trip in LA, CA from complications of cirrhosis. There was a faux public rivalry between Negrete and Infante since their careers paralleled, but privately they were close friends right up to Negrete’s death. Some historians say that Negrete’s death actually helped Infante’s career since he was no longer in Negrete’s shadow. Both men died very young and in their prime…kinda like EDLC!
MOVIE SPOILER ALERT***Both Infante and Negrete make brief dead cameos in Coco when Ernesto De La Cruz comes up to talk with them at his party in the Land of the Dead.***
3. Vicente Fernández, the King of Ranchera Music
Vicente Fernández, nicknamed “El Rey de la Música Ranchera” (The King of Ranchera Music) is a retired actor, singer and movie producer. He grew up in Guadalajara, Jalisco and was inspired to be a singer while watching Pedro Infante movies as a young boy. #parallels
“When I was 6 or 7, I would go see Pedro Infante’s movies, and I would tell my mother, ‘When I grow up, I’ll be like him.'” – Vicente Fernández
He went on to record over 50 albums and would always perform wearing a traditional Mexican charro suit, which of course included a massive felt sombrero. He also contributed to over 30 films between 1965 and 2016. He retired from performing live in 2016, but definitely went out in style. #Notdeadjustretired
To a sold out crowd at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium in April, 2016 he stopped his concert to address the then-US presidential candidate…
“There’s a U.S. presidential candidate that’s saying a lot of ugly things about Mexicans. The day I come across him, I’m going to spit in his face! I’m going to tell him to go fuck himself. I’m going to tell him everything no one has ever told him in his damn life.” – Vicente Fernández
BOOM. Not sure if they have had a face-off yet, but there’s time.
Vicente’s 51 year career has earned him 3 Grammy Awards, 8 Latin Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he has sold over 50 million records worldwide. That makes him one of the top-selling Mexican artists of all time. Google is backing us up here…
Felicidaes y gracias to Benjamin Bratt for channeling the heart and soul of Mexican music into Ernesto De La Cruz! It is clear in his performance that he used the musical and personality stylings of these 3 icons and in the process created another real Mexican icon…EDLC! VIVA MÉXICO!!!
Coco to date has grossed over $807 million making it the 15th highest grossing animated film ever made and was the first feature film with an all Latino cast. It was originally titled Day of the Dead, but was changed to Coco, which is the name of Miguel’s grandmother in the movie. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and one for…you guessed it…Best Original Song, “Remember Me”.
Every single Saturday evening in any given town in México you will see a limousine full of teenagers dressed to the nines hanging out of the sunroof screaming and singing and waving at onlookers. Seriously, they look too young to be going to Prom and Prom is only a May/June thing anyway, so what’s the deal?
Welp, that there is a little tradition we like to call “Fiesta de Quince Años”. It means “Party for the 15 year old” in Spanish and just kidding…there is NOTHING little about it. A lot of teens celebrate ‘Sweet 16!’ in the United States. This is sorta like that, just a year younger and WAAAAAYYYY more over the top! BTW, it is pronounced ‘keen-sey-ah-nyair–uh‘.
When I turned 15, my parents winced about putting on a taco and ice cream party for 20 people, never mind a whole Cinderella fantasy! For reals, these things take a full year to plan…like a wedding. Basically when a little girl turns 14 it’s time to get the party planning going full steam ahead. Allow me to share what I was doing in my 14th year of life. It looked something ridiculous like this…
Total Breakdown of this Event
Quinceanera-boutique.com is a one stop shop for all things regarding this tradition. Here’s their take on this teenage Latina/o phenomenon…
“In the Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American traditions, the custom can be referred to as a Quince (XV) Años, a quinces, a Quinceañera, a Quinceañero or a Fiesta Rosa. The Quinceañera celebration traditionally begins with a religious ceremony. A reception is held in the home or a banquet hall. The festivities include food and music, and in most, a choreographed waltz or dance performed by the Quinceañera and her Court.”
***Allow me to interject before continuing with this big explanation. The word ‘Quinceañera’ is the word for both the celebration AND the 15 year old girl. Now, when a family celebrates a boy coming of age they call the event AND the 15 year old boy ‘Quinceañero’. *** Back to quinceanera-boutique.com‘s kick ass quote…
“It is traditional for the Quinceañera to choose special friends to participate in what is called the Court of Honor. Usually, these young people are her closest friends, her brothers, sisters, cousins – the special people in her life with whom she wants to share the spotlight. The Quinceañera’s Court of Honor can be comprised of all young girls (called Damas), all young men (called Chambelanes or Escortes) or a combination of both boys and girls.”
The Quinceañera traditionally wears a ball gown, with her Court dressed in gowns and tuxedos. Guests usually receive small tokens (cápias) to commemorate the celebration.”
This is Cinderella stuff!! The closest thing I ever got to at that age was going to Prom…twice. AND I had to wear the same $100 dress both years! PROOF:
But enough about my teenage angst. There are so many rituals in a typical Quinceañera that I can’t even list a majority of them. Let’s not even get into the First Doll, the Last Doll, the Changing of the Shoes, the Kneeling Pillow or any of that jazz.
Suffice to say, there is a lot of pomp and circumstance that occurs during one of these ceremonies/parties. I’m writing about it because I’m all about grand fiestas and Quinceañeras are the fiestas that Latin American parents throw the most money at!
Seriously, more pesos are spent on Quinceañeras than on the girls’ actual weddings! Probably more than MY wedding! Follow the money…
There is BIG Money in Quinceañeras
Ain’t no joke. Quinceanera.com has a list of the Top 10 things a Quince’s parents will spend a small fortune on. Luckily, Godparents or ‘Padrinos’ are expected to shell out some cash or sponsor certain expenses. With the exception of an open bar (which has strangely been left off this list), anyone who has had a traditional wedding may find these expenses VERY familiar:
Venue for the Mass – donations to the church more or less required
Save the Dates / Invitations – obviously depending on the guest list which could be anywhere from 50-1,000 peeps
Catering Services / Reception Space
The Dress, bouquet and accessories – tiaras are essential!
Photography / Videography / Photo Booth – all things capturing the evidence!
DJ or Maricachi Band or Live Band
Decor / Flowers / Party Planning Services – 3 way tie
Hair and Makeup
Guest gifts / Party Favors
Clearly the Reception is More Important than Ceremony
I feel that ‘party’ is more important than ‘prayer’ because I’m a heathen. That said, How Stuff Works totally agrees with me and lays out the play by play of these events really well…
“Although its emphasis is more on the party than the prayer, the Quinceañera starts at the local Catholic church. Before any birthday cake is cut, the quince girl attends a special Mass in which she reaffirms her dedication to God and receives a blessing from the priest. Afterward, the Sweet 15 reception gets underway, typically involving some combination of choreographed dance sequences***yes you read that right***, limousine arrivals, sumptuous spreads of food and desserts and an official presentation of the quince girl to fiesta attendees. Similar to cotillion and debutante traditions, Quinceañeras serve as young Hispanics’ official entrance into society and womanhood and incorporate a host of unique elements and rituals that celebrate girls’ birthdays, as well as their heritage.”
Cotillions and debutantes?! I’d say! The only difference between those traditions and Quinceañeras is that EVERYONE in México and Latin America has a Quinceañera/o these days, it’s not just for the uppity-ups.
You know how much I love Wikipedia...They have a little diddy about debutantes that might ring a few bells:
“A debutante or deb (from French: débutante, “female beginner”) is a young woman of aristocratic or upper-class family background who has reached maturity and, as a new adult, comes out into society at a formal “debut” or possibly debutante ball. Originally, the term meant the woman was old enough to be married, and part of the purpose of her coming out was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select circle.”
Very similar traditions, indeed. At the bottom of all that money and hardcore party planning is showing the world that now this 15 year old is ready to date/marry/get out of her parents’ house. Back in the day, this was much more of a display to bachelors that a young girl’s family was ready to marry her off. Nowadays it’s really a tradition for fun, family and friends…but as a semi-feminist I still get riled up at the concept.
I mean really, when I was 15, I was just put back into braces. Again. Believe me, my Dad was sooooo ready to get rid of me after round 2 of braces…Can you imagine getting married at 15 with braces?…Ayayay. This blog post is bringing up a lot of weird shit for me! Sorry.
Now I’m 46 and I have a child of my own who turns 15 on July 5!
I can’t believe my boy is all grown up! Dog Quinceañeros are not typical. Then again, we are not typical.
We are not celebrating Deuce’s transition into manhood. It’s more like we’re celebrating that he has not transitioned into death. That’s worth a few pints, cocktails and cake! There will be no tiaras, scepters or bibles on hand and we will certainly NOT have a choreographed dance!
We do have both Godparents present, so that’s pretty good tradition-wise. We will get rip roaring drunk and eat an expensive half dog cake/half human cake. There will be papel picado flags and a piñata hanging from the rafters of a British pub in downtown Queretaro. English bulldogs should be celebrated in British pubs in México after all. So there.
****IMPORTANT UPDATE! Deuce’s Quinceañero was a grand success…except for the cake…***
In conclusion, Quinceañeras are a huge part of Latin American culture. A culture that prioritizes parties every chance they get. Go big or go home at any age! Especially at 15 and in a limo! Peace and paz.
I’ll be honest. I freaking loved Speedy Gonzales as a kid with that “Arriba, Arriba, Andale, Andale” shit! Little mouse with a big ass hat that he never lost even when he was zooming around at 100 km/hr. He was my first introduction to rodents, Mexican culture, Spanish slogans, hot nasty badass speed and of course, Sombreros.
Speedy was a cutie and all, but the history of Sombreros in México goes back over 500 years and is steeped in tradition, functionality and rebellion. Sombreros are those wide brimmed hats made of straw, felt or velvet that are now an icon of Mexican culture. For reals, you show up at any party, wedding or funeral wearing a Sombrero and you’ve just turned it into a full-blown fiesta.
The word Sombrero is derived from the Spanish word for shade which is ‘sombra’. The direct translation for El Sombrero then is…’The Shadower’. See there?!
There are three different countries/people claiming to have invented this sun-defying Mexican symbol of bad-assery. The only consistency between these 3 possible backstories is that the Sombrero was made for one specific function: to shade the person wearing it from the intense heat of the sun.
Mongolians, Spaniards and Mestizo Cowboys all claim to have invented the Mexican Sombrero.
CLAIM #1 – LAMENESS ALERT – The first people to declare that they invented the Sombrero were the Mongolians back in the 1200’s. Most Mongolians were horse riders…shepherds or nomads or both. So OK, I get that they needed wide brimmed hats prior to the invention of Coppertone, but let’s take a look at what they are claiming.
Back in the day the Mongolians had some crazy ass hats. Some were wide brimmed and most were completely out of hand pointy, but I’m going to go ahead and strike their claim from the record. Seriously take a look at these examples…they’re not even close to the Sombrero fantastic-ness we all love today!
CLAIM #2 – The Spaniards (as per usual) are much more likely “founders” of the Sombrero. Allegedly in 1400’s Spain, elite men wore Sombreros made of plush felt while the peasants’ Sombreros were made of straw. When the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 1600’s, they brought along their wide-ish brimmed hats. You are going to hear from HistoryofHats.com right now because they know what they’re talking about…
“Even as far as 17th century, people from Spain used to wear hats called ‘Sombrero cordobés‘ (translated as ‘wide-brimmed hat’), a traditional hat from the Spanish territories of Córdoba and Andalusia. This hat is defined by the flat crown that is between 10-12cm high, and a relatively short and perfectly flat brim that can be 8-12 cm wide. It is believed that the Mexican Sombrero was created after Spanish immigrants brought Sombrero cordobés to the New World.” – HistoryofHats.com
Here is a pic of a Spanish 1800’s-ish model with a “Cordovan” (sombrero codobés) and Madonna in 1980-ish with a Cordovan on her ‘La Isla Bonita’ album cover…
CLAIM #3 – REALITY ALERT – Mestizo (People of European and Mexican Indigenous mixed decent) farmers and ranch hands from central México came up with Sombreros. The hats they wore were made out of straw and were wide enough for everyone in the fields to protect their head AND shoulders from the sun. That’s how big they were. These hats also had upturned rims that would deflect water while trotting around the mesa, herding cattle or whatevs. HistoryofHats.com has this explanation…
“Sombrero hats were created out of necessity in the early history of the Mexican culture. Faced with the strong sun during an entire year, both native residents of Central America and European immigrants who started settling it during the 17th century and later, quickly strived to find easy ways to provide protection against sun and elements in the territories that were then considered as very desolate, harsh and hard to work in. One of the most popular solutions for protection of the sun were hats imported from Europe, but they were viewed as insufficient against strong Mexican sun, especially for workers who had to stay outside during an entire day. Mexican natives and immigrants soon started building hats with wider and wider brims, and those hats quickly became an iconic clothing accessory for the whole nation.” – HistoryofHats.com
Now For the Rebellion Part
Straw sombreros with a wide upturned brim and a pointed top were made famous by Emiliano Zapata in the late 1800’s. Viva México! Zapata was a prominent leader in the peasant revolt of the Mexican Revolution. Prior to the revolt he was a farmer, a rodeo bad ass and an agricultural entrepreneur from the state of Morelos. To say the least, he knew a thing or two about headwear for long days in the sun. His preference for the super wide, straw, pointy-topped style charro hat led everyone in México to just start calling that style ‘The Zapata’.
From Wikipedia: “General Zapata’s dress until his death was a charro outfit: tight-fitting black cashmere pants with silver buttons, a broad charro hat, a fine linen shirt or jacket, a scarf around his neck, boots of a single piece, Amozoqueña-style spurs, and a pistol at his belt.”
We just mentioned ‘charro’ three times. What the hell are ‘charro’ hats and outfits, you ask? Charros are cowboys. Simple. Charro hats and outfits are just the style of cowboy/ranch hand headwear and clothing. Charro beans are cowboy style beans…but that’s another story.
So whether the Spanish brought the Sombrero to México or today’s version really began with central Mexican farm folk, Sombreros have been kicked up several notches in creativity, function and style thanks to the Mariachis and Charros of Guadalajara. Together they are credited with enlarging and bedazzling the shit out of this already big hat and making it a true symbol of Mexico.
Charros / Mariachis know how to ROCK the Sombrero.
The Charros of Guadalajara were the first to create the hat that pretty much everyone envisions when they think of Mexican Sombreros. They were the horsemen relying on the Sombrero to protect them from the sun while adding a little bad-assery to their wardrobe. However, the Mariachis of Guadalajara are ultimately responsible for going really over the top with this awesome headpiece. We’re talking elaborate, colorful, decorated shit, here. Rhinestone cowboy stuff.
The outfits that Mariachis wear today are actually called Charro Suits and any self-respecting Mariachi never leaves home without his/her Sombrero. To keep them from blowing off in the wind or while they are rocking out, they tighten up the ‘borboquejo’, which is Spanish for chin strap.
You can find Charro and Zapata style Sombreros for sale in most mercados (markets) throughout México. The picture above is me causing trouble in the Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale in Puerto Vallarta. I bought this fancy pink Charro Sombrero for about $20 USD. I think they just wanted me to leave. Wait, no…they definitely wanted me to leave.
This video is in English and it’s awesome so watch it, yo. That way we don’t have to type everything they say 😉
Sombreros are still crafted by hand today, but there are subtle differences in their design that showcase the level of artistry and inevitably impact the price. My $20 USD pink bejeweled beauty was made by the Pigalle Sombrero Company and combines pre-cut patterns that are glued onto the brim with hand sewn threading that weaves the patterns across the top and bottom. Sombreros are commonly emblazoned with beads, sequins, thread, sparkles and other flashy decorative elements.
I’ve been traveling through México for years and have found that most types of arts/crafts are known for coming from certain towns. Examples are Taxco for sterling silver, San Salvador Huixcolotla for papel picado, León for leather and Tultepec for fireworks. Sombrero artists/manufacturers aren’t located in a specific city, but more of a region throughout the states of Jalisco (hence the Guadalajara connection) and Guanajuato.
The story behind the Mexican Hat Dance will make you fall in love.
The Mexican Hat Dance (Jarape Tapatío) is the story of a young man trying to gain the attention of a beautiful girl. In an act of pride and commitment, he throws the most valuable thing he owns to the ground as a symbol of his love to her. In front of her feet laid his Sombrero.
She is so overcome by his romantic gesture that the two engage in a dance of courtship around the Sombrero. The Jarape Tapatió evolved into a Mexican folk dance which is now known as the National Dance of México. To keep with the tradition of the young couple, the dancers do not touch while dancing, allowing the Sombrero on the ground between the two…to keep them at a good safe/virginal distance.
As the song and dance conclude, the woman picks up the Sombrero and the couple disappears behind it for a few moments leaving the crowd to wonder how much tongue is going on behind the two foot wide kissing booth.
And by the way, Tapatió is the word used for a native of Guadalajara…so we have to presume that this couple and resulting tradition is originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco. That and tequila…Ayayayay!
Now that you have decided that you need one for yourself or a bad ass dog, here’s some ballpark pricing…Deuce is currently showing off a colorful, child-size velvet bedazzled wonder that we bought for around $12 USD at the PV mercado. Now all we have to do is convince him that wearing it is a good idea! Arriba, Arriba, Deuce!!! Andale, Andale!!!
I had seen those Mexican Bingo images everywhere. The Drunk, The Mermaid, The Crown, The Heart, etc. Cute and silly and there are a helluva lot of them. Except for all the names being in Spanish, I never really noticed that they are particularly Mexican (even though I had seen them all over Mexico). Mostly on paintings, cards, t-shirts, mugs, matchboxes, whatnot, what have you.
THEN I opened a store in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico with another gringa loca (crazy white girl) who was way more in the know than me. Her name is Julie and she was unfortunately in charge of teaching me a lot of shit about Mexican culture before our first buying trip in Guadalajara pre-grand opening. She told me we were gonna “Get our La Loteria on!” in a big way.
La What? La Profitable!
The Hardcore Backstory of La Lotería
Gambling is fun, let’s face it. Even Bingo is a good time…and I’m relatively young! Cards kill time and build friendships in ways other games can’t. Uppity folks in Italy and Spain knew this and played regularly as early as the 1400’s. It made sense for Hernan Cortés and his troops to bring a few decks of cards with them to play during the Spanish Conquest of México while plundering the natives of “New Spain”. Basically, when the Spaniards took time out from stealing land and enslaving Mexicans, they would kick back and enjoy a few games for laughs, money, pride or whatever.
I guess one good thing the Spanish conquerors did was introduce a taste for cards into México. Cortés himself was a great card player as it turns out. This introduction led to 2 very distinct, yet equally important games:
The Difference Between La Loteria and The Lottery
After all the battles of the War of Independence were over, lotteries and raffles were set up all over Central and South America. Lima, Peru was the first New World place to have an official lottery. It was introduced after an earthquake destroyed a local hospital and the archbishops there decided to institute a citywide lottery to rebuild the hospital with the profits.
Mexico needed profits to rebuild its post-war everything. BIG TIME. So in 1771, it became the second country to establish a legal lottery with the first big jackpot of $84,000 pesos.
“This vice, or time-honored habit – intelligently channeled towards good, so that it might benefit the poor and deprived, relieving them in their distress – is what gave rise to the lottery. Good engendered by evil: this was the idea proposed by the kindly King Charles III, who founded the lottery in his dominions of New Spain.”
—Artemio de Valle Arizpe in ‘A Brief History of the Mexican Lottery’ in “The Art of Fortune” by Artes de México.
And when we say ‘good engendered by evil’ we are talking about how all of the Catholic muckety mucks declared gambling as evil…even if it was ultimately for good. By 1782, after 11 years of successful fundraising (and some exploitation to line King Charles III’s royal pockets), México’s jackpot would commonly get to BIG MONEY. The PowerBall (if you will) would get to $715,000 pesos, which was a shit ton in 1782!
Since this was clearly a lucrative business, some clergymen and nuns got in the game…creating mini-raffles similar to La Loteria cards, but naming the cards after saints and relics. Douchey.
Long story short…México still to this day has its own National Lottery called Lotería Nacional with scratch-offs, PowerBalls and the whole shebang. This is NOT to be confused with the fun board game that is referred to as La Lotería. Yes, both types stemmed from the games of the Spanish soldiers, Cortés and King Charlie. However, La Lotería has much more cultural significance which is steeped in 200 years of history. The images of which have become iconic. No scratch offs, just loads of history.
Traditional La Lotería from 1887
So after 100-ish years of playing versions of La Lotería, a commercial board game version was created in 1887 by French entrepreneur, Clemente Jacques. He aptly called his widely sold game, “Don Clemente Gallo”. For those who have ever shopped in a Mexican grocery store or ‘super’, you have seen that name and that gallo (rooster) image before.
It was Clemente Jacques who came to Mexico to import games, seeds and canned foods and ended up establishing the first food processing and canning factory in México. This same dude made and marketed a timeless family-friendly game while feeding Latin America. Strange connection, but the company is one and the same.
Anyway, Señor Clemente Jacques mass produced a formal game of La Lotería. His version has a total of 54 images that each include a picture, a name and a number. Each one depicts a unique characteristic of México…food, Catholic beliefs, Aztec beliefs, booze and Mother Earth essentials. Frankly, Teresa Villegas says it better…
“Every culture has its idioms and icons -certain words and images that transcend the literal and reside in the psyches of the people. This artwork has drawn upon Mexican traditions, historical figures, gastronomy, and popular culture, translating them into images familiar and recognizable to those who have experienced this distinctive culture. ” And Teresa drops the mic…BOOM.
How to Play
Each player is given a La Lotería board that has 16 images and a hand full of beans, bottle caps, rocks or whatever is lying around. Then a caller gets ready to rumble…He or she draws a card like a bingo caller fetches a ball out of that whirling dervish of a metal cage.
The caller is the crucial part of the game and plays the Emcee, the ‘Fair and Balanced’ Entertainer and the Riddler. The unique aspect of calling out the randomly chosen images, numbers or names is that they don’t actually call them out at all. WHAAATT?? The caller uses riddles, puns or jokes to note which image/number/name is being called. Depending on the audience, he or she can be quite tame or risqué AF.
Remember, this game has been played in churches, schools, dirty cantinas and table dance joints all over México for over 200 years. #dontjudge
Sound confusing? I agree, but it’s actually genius and if it is used in grade schools to teach kids objects and words, it’s gotta be good! I personally think it’s pretty hilarious that one of the images is ‘El Borracho’ which is ‘The Drunk’ in English. Little kids in grade school are learning that shit pretty early in life! Foreshadowing? Si. 🙂
The riddles that are called out range from obvious to downright clever. Here are my Top 10 Tame Faves:
El Diablito – The Devil – Behave yourself so that the little red one doesn’t carry you off.
2. La Calavera – The Skull – As I passed through the graveyard, I found a skull.
3. La Muerte – Death – She walks through the bones, waiting to catch you and take you to heaven.
4. La Sirena – The Mermaid – The love of every sailor, sings with the sea, and entangles you with her hair.
5. El Nopal – The Cactus – To which all go to see when they have to eat.
6. El Corazon – The Heart – It beats, tomato in color, falls in love the very lover.
7. La Corona – The Crown – The hat of kings.
8. El Barril – The Barrel – The bricklayer drank so much that he ended up like a barrel.
9. La Botella – The Bottle – As a microphone for the drunk and as a remedy for the sick.
10. El Borracho – The Drunk – Playing goes with his body, which he cannot control and falls to the ground.
When a pun is called that matches one of the images on your board, you put a bean or a bottle cap on the square. Once you have 4 squares across or 4 squares down or just 4 squares in the shape of a square, you win and you scream out LA LOTERÍA! And the crowd goes wild.
Millennial La Lotería from 2019
Fast forward to 2019 and you have a new way to play! You millennials are cray cray and are always coming up with fun and fanciful shit. This is an example that I LOVE! Did you notice the ‘La Selfie’ image at the top of this post? Creator, developer and my new 20-something hero, Gerardo Guillén has created the Millennial version of La Lotería! And in typical millennial fashion, you can follow the company on Instagram at @millennialloteria. #followustoo @TexMexFunStuff
No more El Diablo, El Corazon or La Corona…now we have La Selfie, El Tinder and La Dick Pick!
It comes with 46 cards, 10 boards and 80 bitcoin tokens. Bitcoin tokens? I can’t even! I bought 10 sets. Buy yours on Amazon here. If you want one or 10 of the classic sets you can get those here…
So I hope that clears a few things up for you…
Finally, I mentioned that my friend Julie educated me on all of this shit and she deserves some serious street cred for that. Her store (formerly our store) is called El Estudio! and it is located on the main drag in Merida, Yucatan, MX. When in the hood, stop by and see her and get some cool Lotería merch! You’ll recognize the store by the logo below…which is basically she and I as Catrinas – another blog post!! Peace out and thanks for reading!