Hispanic Heritage Month Mes de la Herencia Hispana


Every year in the US, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15.  Hispanic Heritage Month was established in 1968 proclaimed by President Lyndon B Johnson.  At first, it was only one week but later was expanded to 30 days by President Ronald Regan in 1988.

 

September 15 was set as the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month because it coincides with the Independence of several Latin American, Hispanic, countries: Costa RicaEl SalvadorGuatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico  (early September 16), and Chile.

 

Hispanic Heritage Month honors and celebrates the contributions of the Hispanic community to the American culture. Hispanics have had a great and positive influence on our country.  

 

Let’s not forget that an important area of the US territory was once Mexico: Texas,  Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah, parts of Colorado & Wyoming.  Thus, Hispanic culture and traditions have been a part of the American culture for centuries.

 Through Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the values such as the strong sense of family, community and hard work.  Their festive culture, imagery, art, icons, heroes, artists, social activists, athletes, and scientists. 

 

 

The Hispanic population of the United States in2015 was  56.6 million, making it the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics constituted 17.6 percent of the nation’s total population.

 

 


 

Alebrijes: Oaxacan Wood Carvings

The artistic process and techniques used in the creation of these captivating  wooden Alebrijes.

Alebrijes are carved wooden figures created by Oaxacan artisans. They have become so popular that even the world’s most respected Spanish language authority, the La Real Academia de la Lengua Española, Spanish Royal Academy, has included the term “Alebrijes” in its official Spanish language dictionary.  The term “Alebrijes” originated from the name that Mr. Pedro Linares, of Mexico City, gave to his fantastic creations of paper maché; which are internationally recognized.

Most Oaxacan artisans simply call them figuras “wooden figures”, naming them after the animal which they carved, such as the deer, raccoon, leopard, etc., but when a fantastic figure is elaborated, the artisan is compelled to say he has created an “alebrije.”

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The creative process in making a wooden figure begins with the artisan imagining a form. On occasion, ideas arise spontaneously but sometimes artisans take days or even months imagining a very special figure. The wooden piece is then chosen. It will be used to create the figure that is in his mind.  Most artisans use “copalillo” wood to carve their figures. A few others use the “tzomplantle” and cedar.

The “copalillo” is a tree that grows in warm regions of Oaxaca.  There are several species and scientifically it is classified as belonging to the “Burseras” family.  Artisans classify “copalillo” trees as being either male or female. This differentiation is quickly made by simply looking at the tree and smelling it.

The ideal “copal or copalillo” is the female, which doesn’t have “knots” in its bark and smells somewhat like a lime (citric fruit). The female is used because it is softer and easier to carve. The male copal  is not used because of imperfections in its bark and its hardness; which makes it extremely difficult to carve.

Once the branch or the wooden piece has been selected, it is cut from the tree.

Some artisans prefer to carve the wood immediately to take advantage of the softness of the wood, while others leave it to dry in the sun for two or three days.

Once in the shop, its shell is removed. Initial cuts are made with the machete to form a rough idea of what the artisan has imagined. This gives it an initial proportion and size. Eventually during the process they start using finer and sharper blades that are more precise and make  finer cuts. Some artisans use other tools apart from knives and blades; for example, chisels, mallets, blades of different shapes and sizes, etc.

Once the figure has been carved, it is exposed to the sun. The amount of time the figure spends under the sun depends on the size of the figure: the small ones only a day, the big ones up to a month. Some artisans prefer drying the figures in the shade so that the drying is more natural and not so abrupt and exposed to the sun’s rays.

Valentine’s Day in Mexico

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Mexico celebrates Valentine’s Day, El Dia del Amor y la Amistad on February 14. 

Warm, festive and generous, this is how most foreigners who’ve had the opportunity to live for a while among us, define Mexicans and the Mexican culture. They say that not only are we known for displaying our willingness to show affection, but also the need for feeling pampered by those closest to us.

Maybe that’s why we’ve embraced Valentine’s Day with such enthusiasm every February 14th, a date that many consider somewhat commercial, but one that we’ve enriched with our traditions as well as an original idea or two about how to show our love for someone, here in Mexico.

It’s true that celebrating this date has no connection with our history, but then again; love is a cause for celebration for all human beings and civilizations. And just as the Greeks and the Romans had deities that represented this feeling in all its various shades; so the Mexica, the ancient civilization that inhabited Mexican soil, had a divinity that personified Love. Well, actually, there were two: Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal.

Xochipilli was like the Apollo of the Mexica. Also known as Macuilxochitl, he was the god of Love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, corn and songs. His name meant ‘prince of the flowers’ and he had a twin sister or wife; Xochiquetzal, which means precious flower or ornate bird. She was associated with the fertility of nature. Centeotl, the god of corn was their son.

In honor of the two gods, four days of fasting was observed. They sacrificed by inserting maguey thorns into their tongues and made offerings of bread and corn. They also danced to the beat of drums called teponaztli.

However, none of this is taken as a reference for celebrating Valentine’s Day in Mexico.  This festival is a European contribution and there are various versions as to its origin.

One of them says that in the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Ireland, February is the month when little birds “match” and mate. Another says that it’s a Roman feast that became Christian. This festival was dedicated to Cupidthe god of Love, to whom offerings were made to ask for the ideal love.

However, the most widespread and romantic version says that in third century Rome, when Catholics were persecuted and soldiers were forbidden to marry because it was believed that single men performed better in battle, a priestnamed Valentine was inspired to marry couples in secret.

Emperor Claudius II found out about this priest, and although at first he was drawn to the Catholic faith; he eventually sentenced him to death. When the time to die approached, the priest gave classes to Julia, his jailer’s daughter. He also fell in love with her.

On the day of his execution, he wrote her a message and signed, ‘From your Valentine‘. Hence, many postcards printed on that date carry this dedication.

By late January, the shops and restaurants are decorated with hearts, Cupid figurines, balloons and ribbons. On the streets and tourist sites, it’s common to see ballooners, with their colorful cargo and shopping malls crammed with suggestions for gifts, ranging anywhere from a simple card to the classic stuffed animals and chocolates, jewelry, perfumes, cell phones and even underwear!

Give love…don’t buy it!”says an old TV commercial that remains in the popular wisdom of Mexicans. But the phrase is lost among so many beautiful things that there are to give away.

Day of the Dead El Dia de Muertos

Day of the Dead: Celebration, History & Origins

From the beginning of time, man has felt the need to explain the mystery of life and death. Many civilizations and cultures have created rituals to try and give meaning to human existence.

· Where do we come from?· Why does life end?
· Is there “life” after death?
· If so, what kind of “life”?
· Can we do something while alive so we can enjoy “life” after death?
These are some of the questions man has asked himself in order to understand our finite existence on this earth.

To the indigenous peoples of Mexico, death was considered the passage to a new life and so the deceased were buried with many of their personal objects, which they would need in the hereafter. Many times even their pets were sacrificed so they would accompany their masters on their long journey.

From pre Columbian times, El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico, and other Latin countries. This is a very special ritual, since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly and sad. Nothing further from the truth, Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative

 

Pan de Muerto ~ Day of the Dead Bread

Ingredients1½ cups Flour

 ½ cups Sugar

1t Salt

2 Packets Dry Yeast

1t Anis Seed

½ cup Milk½ cup Water½ cup Butter4  Eggs

4½ cups Flour

Instructions

 
  • Mix all dry ingredients together except the 4 1/2 cups of flour
 
  • In a small pan, heat the milk, the water, and the butter. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture.
 
  • Beat well.
 
  • Mix in the eggs and the first 1 1/2 cups of flour. Beat.
 
  • Little by little add in the rest of the flour.
 
  • Knead the mixture on a floured board for 10 minutes.
 
  • Put the dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size.
 
  • Punch the dough down and reshape. On top put some strips of dough simulating bones, and a little ball (tear).
 
  • Let it rise another hour.
 
  • Bake at 350° F  for about 40 minute

Glaze:

1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup fresh OrangeJuice
2 tablespoons grated Orange Zest

  Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
  Sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.

Feliz Día de Muertos!

Common Misconceptions About The Day of the Dead Celebration


  •         The Day of the Dead  IS NOT the Mexican version of Halloween. Mexicans have celebrated the Day of the Dead since the year 1800 B.C.

 

 

    • It is not scary or morbid. There are no pictures or images of dead people, ghosts, witches, or the devil.

 

    • The Day of the Dead is not a cult. This ritual has nothing to do with cults. It is a Catholic Christian ritual intermixed with folk culture. Going to mass is an essential aspect of this celebration.

 

    • Day of the Dead doesn’t honor death, but our dead relatives. We welcome the opportunity to reflect upon our lives, our heritage, our ancestors and the meaning and purpose of our own existence.

 

    • Altars or ofrendas are not for worship but for offering our love and remembering our departed family members.

 

    • Day of the Dead is not a sad ritual. It’s a day of happiness because we will be remembering our loved ones. Although when in the graveyard, people assume an introspective attitude.

 


    • The Day of the Dead is about Love, not Fear.

 

    • Day of the Dead is not a “strange” ritual. It is very similar to going to a grave and leaving flowers or stuffed animals, lighting a candle to remember the deceased.

 

    • It is not a careless or fearless confrontation of death.

 

    • The Day of the Dead is a moment to reflect upon one’s life and the cycle of life and death.