"The day of the dead" celebration
One of our more famous mexican celebrations is "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Death) This is a fun and interesting celebration that you can't miss if visiting on November 1 & 2, is often compare with the American celebration of Halloween, but honestly there's nothing similar in them!
The day of the dead is dedicated to honor those gone, but not forgotten. A celebration to transform grief into acceptance, where the living invite the spirits to return home for a few hours of laughter, tears and memories. To celebrate people make an "Altar de Muertos" (Death altar) to honor and invite the death for a day of celebration. This Altar should have:
Cenpazuchil flowers; that means the eternal life of the death.
Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls); to make their dead more sweet.
Papel picado (tissue paper cut-outs);
Pan de muertos (breath of the death); to erpresent the food needed for survival.
Agua (water); to quench the thirst and for purification.
Sal (salt); to season on the food and for purification.
Velas (Candles); to lighten their way home.
Foto del difunto (photo of the honored death person); as representation of the person you're honoring and inviting back home.
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The "Altar de Muertos" in the photo is our own little altar, is our 1st year back in México and the firts year we celebrate it (at least for me and my son), my son requested that we make our own Altar de muertos at home, and he decided to dedicate it to our death pets; our Dog Tequila and our fish Blue (we didn't had photo of it so my son make a drawing) Is not completely finished (we still need the flowers) but was fun to make it together.
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A good website for.... Part 2
... Continued from "A good website for expatriates & visitors" tip.
As I was saying, Mexican cuisine and the crime situation in Mexico City are only 2 of the many aspects about which people are misinformed abroad. They come to find out the truth only when they have the chance of experiencing "the real thing" by spending a few days in Mexico. But there are many people who do not have such chance and they continue to believe a bunch of things which are not true. So I think you might find a few useful tips on this site which may help you start finding out what THE REAL Mexico is like --- at least the info I've found here so far has turned out to be trustworthy. As usual: don't believe everything you read/hear, but at least from my quick surfing I found this site to be quite impartial and objective in their assessments and the information they provide, very much like VT. So I think you can have a pretty good idea of what things are like in Mexico from visiting it.
Good luck when traveling to our beautiful country! Enjoy your stay!!
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A good website for expatriates & visitors
If you're moving to Mexico City - even temporarily - there's a website that might be quite helpful to you. And why not?? It can be helpful for people who are spending a few days in town for business or pleasure as well. The address is: http://www.solutionsabroad.com/index.asp
I just bumped into it by chance while looking for references about a restaurant on the web, but it has a lot more information: job searching, info about different cities, security, traveling, relocation advices, etc. It is rather intended for people who might have to relocate temporarily or permanently because of their job so they can more easily adapt to the new environment they will be living in. It's written in Spanish, English and German. It particularly caught my attention because of a couple of statements made in the restaurant/cuisine and security sections which are very true and I copy hereby textually:
"You need to know that this country's eats are not the taco "shell", ground beef-and-baked-beans fare that Tex-Mex has made it out to be. In fact, the Mexican cuisine genre contains more variety than any other type of cooking, except for French and Chinese."
"Because expatriates who visit, temporarily reside or live in Mexico are not Security Professionals, all information they receive before they arrive here is that found in their local press or via official Websites. While evidence shows that we have a serious growing problem with crime, what goes on in this area of the world as reported by international media is alarmist, without the vision of a global context. Its current Vision increases a sense of fear, that in my opinion, is unjustified."
Mexican cuisine and the crime situation in Mexico City are only 2 of the many aspects about which people are misinformed abroad. Please read next tip for further info, no space left (as usual!)
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While traveling in my country you will find Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola beverages everywere, but instead of drinking those why don't you try one of the many mexican soft drinks?
Probaly the most important company is Pascual Boing, wich is the one you will find more easily in Mexico City, their symbol is the Pato Pascual (Pascual Duck) wich is very similar to Disney's Donald Duck, for many years they were the absolute leaders in the mexican refreshments market, but many troubles between the workers nad the owners provoked a conflict wich made the empress close for three years, now they have returned as a cooperative but they have lost their place in the market and have a hard fight to survive. They sell two refreshments (Pascual and Lulú) each one with various flavors and some juices called Boing.
Another very important company is Novamex, wich makes the also famous refreshment called Jarritos wich today is the biggest mexican company, you'll find their products anywhere in Mexico and even in some places in the United States, they also sell a famous Apple beverage called Sidral and another brand called Mundet.
For years Peñafiel was an independetn company, but in 1992 they were bought by Cadbury, they sell different refreshments like Squirt, Orange Crush, RC Cola, Canada Dry and the most famous a mineral water called Peñafiel. (website http://www.cadburymexico.com.mx)
Other less important brands are Titán, Yoli (wich you wil surely find if you visit Guerrero) and El jarochito (very popular in Veracruz), Del Valle and Barrilitos.
All of this refreshments are hradly selled in restaurants where Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have almost a complete monopoly, so if you want to try them you must look for them at mini or super markets.
If you want to stick with the two big companies you could try a refreshment called Manzanita Sol (Pepsi) or Manzanita Lift (Coca) wich as far as I know are only sold in Mexico.
Ich bin ein Berliner in Mexico !
It was quite funny to find things reminescent of Berlin. El Angel on Avenida Reforma reminded me of Siegesaule in Berlin and I thought of "Der Himmel ueber Berlin" of Wim Wenders (one of my favourite films).
The local barrel organ players carried instruments with German inscriptions, like for example "Schoenhauser Allee". I wonder how these instruments came to Mexico.
- School Holidays
I heard Mariachi bands playing at a couple different restaurants (El Arroyo and Cielo Rojo) during my stay in Mexico City, but the most famous place to hear the music is at the restaurants near Plaza Garibaldi. This area, however, is a little seedy at night, so I avoided it.
The music is great usually consisting of some violins, two trumpets, a guitar, a vihuela (a guitar with a rounded back) and a Mexican harp. The songs are usually upbeat and lots of fun.
El Quince Anos
When a girl turns fifteen years old, her parents will often throw her a party called "el quince anos." VTer Laura_Mexico and I were walking by this small chapel in Coyoacan when we noticed this Quince Anos celebration taking place. The girl's family was all gathered around and dressed up for the event. Laura told me that the event marks the girl's entrance into womanhood and is great family celebration.
Tequila comes from the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, but as you would expect, is found all over Mexico and, of course, all over the world. It is distilled from the fermented juices from the hearts of the blue agave plant. Drinks made from just the agave plant can be called Mezcal, but if it's from the blue agave, then it's tequila.
Tequila is usually served in a two ounce glass and should be sipped not chugged like at Spring Break in Cancun! You can bite down on a lime before sipping, but that isn't always done either. There are four main types of tequila: Blanco is clear or transparent and is bottled just after the distillation process. The flavor is strong and the taste of fresh blue agave. Oro is tequila that has colorant added (caramel or "gold" coloring is most common, hence its name). It is a bit more mellow than blanco. Reposado or "rested" tequila sits in oak barrels for between 2 months and a year to allow a bouquet or smell to develop and a little more complexity to develop. I enjoyed these a lot (the one pictured here is good) as they are still relatively affordable and have a developed taste. The last kind of tequila is anejo, or aged tequila, which sits in oak barrels for over a year (even up to 8 years, which would be a "reserva"). These are the most complex kinds of tequila that also cost the most.
So, remember, look for Blanco, Oro, Reposado or Anejo (sometimes Reserva) on the bottle when making your selection.
Most people in Mexico City are Catholic and churches are more than just beautiful buildings with wonderful artwork inside, they are places of worship. Be respectful of those who are inside the churches for spiritual reasons. Always avoid flash photography.
This is not to say that Mexico City is an ultra religious place. In fact, most of the local I talked with called themselves Catholic, but also said they were not strictly religious.
Diego Rivera lived from 1886 to 1957 and was one of the most significant painters of the 20th century. He is known for revitalizing the bright colors used in pre-Hispanic times and I noticed that his use of colors is fairly similar to some of the arwork on display at the National Anthropoloical Museum by groups like the Toltecs and the people of Teotihuacan. I also like the fact that many of his murals are on display here in Mexico City in their originally intended place. Most of what you see was painted by Rivera in the place that it now sits, so you can see the artist's intent to bring his art to the public. He painted in government buildings, galleries, shopping streets and other places very available to the public. His paintings sometimes show scenes from daily life, but also often include important moments in Mexican history and no other artist better represented his people.
One of the best places to see Rivera's art is at the National Palace in the Zocalo, or at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera near the southwest corner of the Alameda.
Everywhere I went in Mexico City, I saw shoe shiners on the corner. On my third day in town, after spending some time walking the dusty paths around the pyramids at Teotihucanan, I decided that my shoes could use a shine. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that is was only 12 pesos for the service and the guy did a terrific job. I gave him 20 pesos and he seemed pleased. That's still under 2 bucks for a service worth a lot more.
The Zocalo was once a focal point of Aztec society and the ruins of the Templo Mayor are still here today. As a result, there is a steady presence here of groups celebrating pre-Hispanic traditions. You'll here the pounding of drums and see "healers" offering smoke healings to tourists in the main square most of the day. The dances sometimes draw big crowds.
El Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is celebrated all over Mexico, but seems particularly commercialized in Mexico City with all of the paper cutouts and trinkets on sale dedicated to the celebrations. You'll see all sorts of skeletons and mini-coffins and the like from around mid-October through the beginning of November. October 31st is Young Souls Day, November 1st is All Saints Day and November 2nd is All Souls Day and locals use this time to feel closely to their departed relatives. They decorate their graves and their own homes and even make a special bread called "pan de muertos" which is shared with family members. It is believed that the dead come back to be with their relatives and can eat and drink as when they were alive.
These pictures show a Day of the Dead exhibit that is right across from the Alameda.
In the center of the main square (the Zocalo), there is a giant Mexican flag that is ceremonially lowered each day at sundown (around 6pm). A group of guards comes out from the National Palace which is located right on the square and with plenty of flair they lower the flag and fold it neatly into a small bundle. After about a half hour, the flag is raised again.
On the 16th of September in order to celebrate the Independance Day, big military parade is held in Mexico City. Thousends of solders, dressed in colourful uniforms march through Mexico City.
The parade starts near Zocalo and goes all the way to the Bosque de Chapultepec.
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