These are a few of our favorite things:
We spent most of today in a small indigenous pueblo called Cuentepec. The town, including its schools, is completely bilingual in español y náhuatl. In Cuentepec we helped to paint a sealant over a new mural in the town square. The mural depicts maíz, and important staple in the Mexican diet; Emiliano Zapata, a hero to the campesinos; caña de azúcar, a main export in this part of Morelos; and a mother passing down her indigenous language, náhuatl, to her child. We then took a hike to go see prehistoric cave paintings before heading to lunch at Berenice's home. Her mother prepared mole verde con pollo, tortillas, calabazas, and agua de naranja. The meal was accompanied by bags of cacahuates. ¡Sabrosísimo! After lunch we walked a few blocks to the home of Victorina where we learned how to hand-build whistles and figures with barro. Traditionally, this is a skill that only women practice, but we all joined in today!
Casa San Salvador: Nuestros pequeños hermanos
Our great day got even greater with a trip to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, home to around 450 children who have been orphaned, abandoned, or have experienced extreme family difficulties. We spent our time with the girls aged 13-14 and practiced our español while they practiced their inglés. We broke the ice by jumping rope together, breaking confetti eggs over one another's heads, and hitting piñatas. This was followed by a rowdy game of fútbol (soccer)--those girls have SKILLS! Finally, after saying our goodbyes, we toured the portion of the facilities that were most affected by the recent earthquakes (kitchen, dining room, and classrooms). Our students loved their experience here and some even called it the very best activity of the whole trip! If you would like to read more about NPH, donate, and/ or sponsor a child, please go to their website: www.nph.org/ws/homes/home.php?mexico .
The end of a wonderful day and the end of a wonderful trip has come. After arriving back to the school, we wrote cartas de agradecimiento (thank you cards) to our host families while we munched on our calaveritas from the other day. We have an early wake-up tomorrow! Hasta mañana!
After a very late night last night, we began the day with some fun: the best natural water park in all of Morelos state! Las estacas centers around a river, which springs from the earth right on the park grounds. We spent the morning splashing, jumping, swinging, paddling, and swimming to our hearts' content!
After getting our fill of sunshine and splashes at Las estacas, we made our way back to Ocotepec to see el panteón (el cementerio) decorated for el Día de Muertos. Although most families had already left after eating almuerzo with their muerto(s) in the cemetery, it was still a colorful and lively place. We wandered from tumba to tumba, admiring the love and care that was given to each one.
We ended a wonderful day meandering through the cobblestone streets of Tepoztán, el pueblo mágico. Among other things (los chinelos, la montaña, las pirámides, etc.) Tepoztlán is well known for its Tepoznieves--hundreds of flavors of delicious, naturally-made nieves y helados. ¡Qué sabroso!
El mercado grande
En la mañana we drove to the biggest mercado in Cuernavaca to buy everything we needed to build our ofrenda....and a little extra! It was a bustling place! We began downstairs and walked through row after row of fresh-cut meat (think pig's head, cow tongue, sheep stomach); went through the fruit and vegetable area (where we saw nopales being prepared!); stopped in the candle and incense area to buy 32 candles for our evening in Ocotepec; and ended in the clothing section.
La ofrenda y las calaveritas
petateWe returned to school to make our ofrenda with all of the things we bought at the market. As we added each element, we learned its purpose. For example:
-All altars have a representation of the 4 elements: tierra (sal), aire (papel picado), fuego (velas), agua
-The main colors used are to represent mourning in the two cultures that have mixed: orange (indigenous) & purple (Catholic/Spanish)
-Many bright colors and decorations are needed, however, because this is a fiesta!
-An altar can be 3, 5, 7, or 9 etapas high.
-There is always a cross on the floor for the dead to find their way back and a petate, woven mat, to rest upon
-Pungent (e.g., guayaba) and bright (e.g., tejocote y ciruela) fruits are also used to help los muertos find their ofrenda.
-Pan de muerto has representations of bones, skulls, or tears baked onto the top.
-The number of candles lit represent the number of family members and/or friends that have died, and one candle is lit for those who do not have families.
-As an invitation, cempasúchil petals are sprinkled to form a path from the home's entrance to the foot of the ofrenda .
After putting together the ofrenda, we made tasty calaveritas de chocolate y amaranto!
Did you know that there are over 60 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico? Náhuatl is the language of the Aztecs, the founders of Tenochtitlan, what is today Mexico City. In Náhuatl, Xochimilco means "the place of flowers". When the Spanish originally arrived to Tenochtitlan they were blown away, floating gardens, or chinampas, as far as the eye could see. Today, the waterways that weave through the chinampas are home to trajineras, the colorful boats pushed along with large poles, just like a Venetian gondola. Today we took a ride on one of these must-see trajineras and enjoyed being surrounded by water and trees while learning about Aztec history.
In Náhuatl, Coyoacán means "the place of coyotes". This is the home of la famosa Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo y Diego Rivera. Our first stop was a churrería, where one could choose from seemingly hundreds of rellenos! ¡Qué rico! We next hopped in line for our 1:00 walk-through of La casa azul. Once inside, we saw Frida's artwork, her separate bedrooms (one for day and one for night), the bedroom that was used first by Leon Trotsky, then by Diego Rivera himself in his later years. We loved the kitchen decor that spells out Frida and Diego with teeny tiny ceramic water pitchers! After the main house, we crossed the garden to the display of Frida's back-braces, special shoes for her leg that was stunted by polio, her traditional dresses skirts and blouses, and her jewelry. We enjoyed dressing up ourselves as Frida and Diego, too! We ended our visit with almuerzo in a local restaurant. The kids learned to say provecho as they exited the restaurant, wishing fellow diners an enjoyable meal!
Ciudad de México
In Mexico City, we began our tour at el Palacio Nacional. We saw the huge courtyard with its European architecture, and read the history of Mexico via los murales de Diego Rivera. After, we walked through the main walking street of the city, with vendors trying to convince us to buy glasses and characters charging money to take pictures with them. We saw la Casa de los Azulejos and entered to see Sanborns restaurant. We then made our way to the Palacio Postal--a giant, shining old post office to mail the postcards we bought in Teotihuacán. Parents, be on the lookout for your mail in a couple months! Afterwards, we stopped to gawk at el Palacio de Bellas Artes before buying traditional candies and snacks from a vendor and hopping into the van for our long journey back to Cuernavaca.
¡Hola desde Teotihuacán! We spent today tromping around this enormous (in area and in importance!) archaeological site. Don't worry parents--we put on plenty of sunscreen! We learned that the pyramids are temples to the gods and are not tombs. They are solid adobe, rather than hollow, inside. When a new ruler came to power, he would build another pyramid over the pyramid of his predecessor to demonstrate his power. In their time of use, the gray stones that we see today were covered over with stucco and painted brightly. We learned about and watched a demonstration of using natural dyes from nature, like the acid from bugs, the oil from nopales, the orange from cempasúchil petals, etc. We also learned about the many uses of cacti, including el nopal, el maguey y la sábila. Finally, we climbed la pirámide del sol and got an amazing view from above (and an amazing workout!).
On our way back to Cuernavaca, we stopped on Avenida la Reforma to see the brightly painted alebrijes--a Día de los muertos tradition. We voted for favorites and tried to find alebrijes that looked most like us!
After a quick survey in the bus, these are a few of our favorite things from the trip thus far:
Zoe: Explorar el mercado y el centro. También me gusta la sopa de fideos :)
Aidan: Escalar la pirámide del sol en Teotihuacán.
Alex: Ver la película Coco en español.
Erich: Toda la comida de la casa de Evelia!
Trey: Escalar el templo y comprar un clavecín.
Colin: Escalar el templo del sol.
Jason: Los desayunos: huevos, pan, fruta fresca y los hotcakes!
Señor Inge: El templo del sol y comer los tamales que preparamos!
Profe Gillard: Ver los alebrijes y los dulces de pepita en el mercado.
This morning we learned to make tamales! We made tamales de pollo y salsa verde and tamales de queso. To make sure the dough was ready, we plopped a dollop into a glass of water. If it floats, it's ready! We also learned to make agua de naranja with fresh mandarins from the garden next door. Our final product was BEAUTIFUL and DELICIOUS!
We went to El mercado la Carolina to buy more hojas for our tamales and chocolate for our calveras that we will make on Wednesday. Día de los muertos candies were everywhere! We bought sugar skulls, little animalitos made from pepita de calbaza and azúcar. Stopping to buy pan dulce was a must! We saw cecina, pigs' feet, liver, and chicken feet in the butcher stalls, too!
Rubén was our guide for our Cuernavaca city tour. We saw the pyramid of Teopanzoco, went through Porfirio Diaz's park, walked through the Morelos state traditional food fair, and went into La casa de Spencer to see the Día de muertos altars. Schools from around the area compete to show the best altar! We ended the day walking around the zócalo and trying new foods--more pan dulce and esquites.
Nos juntamos muy temprano en el aeropuerto- ¡a las 5 de la mañana! Bright and early!
We learned how to fill out luggage tags and immigration forms; entertained ourselves with reading, candy, and cards on the flight; found Colin's store and Zoe's water; and met up with Selene after changing our money from dólares to pesos mexicanos. There are ofrendas everywhere, from the duty-free store to the courtyard! Bright, colorful, and full of history!
After making our way to la escuela, we met up with host families: la casa de Evelia, la casa de Tere y la casa de Fabiola. Almorzamos antes de ir al cine para ver "Coco", la película de Disney-Pixar, en español. What a beautiful and well-done movie! The students were excited when the movie was over--something clicked halfway through and they began to understand the Spanish! Señor Inge was excited because he saw people topping their palomitas with chile. Profe Gillard was apparently the only one who cried in the movie... After arriving back to the school, we walked back to our families' homes for la cena a las 8:30 pm. We learned a dicho: "Desayuna como rey. Almuerza como príncipe. Cena como mendigo."