There is still no electricity in La Yacata

There is still no electricity in La Yacata

This is the electric post that convinced us to buy here instead of someplace else. It stands smack dab in front of the house and has provided not one bit of electricity to our house in the 10 years we have lived here.

This is the electric post that convinced us to buy in La Yacata instead of someplace else. It stands smack dab in front of the house and has provided not one bit of electricity to our house in the 10 years we have lived here.

I have been down and out lately about the distance we still must cross for electricity in La Yacata. I’ve pretty much given up hope of Moroleon completing the 2 kilometers of posts and wires that would illuminate our streets and our home. Yes, you read that correctly. TWO kilometers separates us from the last viable electric post. It’s just not profitable enough for Moroleon to care that residents in La Yacata have no electricity. (See The Birth of the Revolution)

With the advent of adolescence and the plethora of electronic devices available, my son has also expressed his frustration with the lack of connectivity and recharging options. It goes without saying that no electricity means no home internet either.

My husband seems the only one untroubled by our lack. He uses the truck radio when he wants music and that’s pretty much all he wants. As a result, he’s been less than enthusiastic about my ideas.

the boy who harnessed the wind

My brother sent me The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.)some time ago, as inspiration I expect. In it a 14-year-old boy designed and built a windmill that positively changed the quality of life for his entire village. My husband and the plomero (plumber) up the hill have been promising me a windmill for nearly 10 years now. Every time I bring up other options, my husband counters with the statement that he’s going to make that windmill any day now.

Until that windmill gets built, I’ve been trying to do alternative research on my own. Every prepper web site has directions for a DIY solar generator set-up. Well, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that I just can’t do it myself. One issue is my lack of electrical know-how. Of course, there is the plomero (plumber) up the hill who was also a US licensed electrician before deportation. However, he’s not all that reliable these days. His wife left him a few months ago and he’s been on a drinking binge ever since.

Solar water heaters are readily available in our area, but just won't work for us.

Solar water heaters are readily available in our area, but just won’t work for us.

Even if we could catch the plomero between binges, there is the lack of materials available in area. Solar water heaters are readily available–but nothing in the way of solar generators. We do not want a solar water heater because it’s just not feasible for our home setup. In order to have a solar water heater, we would need to elevate the tinacos (water storage containers) at least a floor. However, the local water truck refuses to fill tinacos (water storage containers) that are above the second floor. They say it’s “policy” although I suspect more laziness since the trucks are new and the water shoots out super powered and the pipes would reach…but I’m not in charge of policy. So our tinacos are on the roof of the first floor, which is technically the second floor. And even if we put the tinacos on the roof of the second floor, I would still count it as being on the second floor and not on the non-existing third floor but the water truck dudes disagree. So until such time as policy changes, we use a gas boiler to heat our shower water. Our stove is also gas, so we can cook just dandy without electricity as well.

The truck pulls in front of our house and we run a house from the truck to the ajibe and tinacos.

The truck pulls in front of our house and we run a house from the truck to the ajibe and tinacos.

Lacking local solar generator parts options, I tried my hand online. Amazon and Ebay offer kits that we could possibly afford if we sold Myrtle (the vocho) and saved another 6 months, not including shipping. Yet again, there are issues. I will not order from Ebay again and Amazon does not accept Paypal payments.

I even tried contacting a few people that might be “in the know” about such things, but I have yet to hear back from any of them.

This is what I think we need.

This is what I think we need.

What I think we’d be good with is this setup Go Power! Solar Extreme Complete Solar and Inverter System with 480 Watts of SolarHowever, being a newbie means–well that I don’t know if this would be adequate or not.

So for the present, the dream of electricity is just that, a dream. We’ve lived nearly 10 years without it, and realistically in the grand scheme of human history, electricity has only been available to the masses for the blink of an eye, so do we really need it?

Well, yes and no I suppose.

If we had electricity we could recharge our phones, kindle, portable DVD players (Sylvania SDVD1332 13.3-Inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player with USB/SD Card Readerand laptops at home. Right now we haul the rechargeables to the school where I work and charge there. We also have the option of plugging the devices into the lighter in the truck or Myrtle, but we have found that overuse of this option is hard on the vehicle batteries.

If we had electricity we could use the blender–but we use the blender now with the AC/DC inverter (PowerDrive RPPD1500 1500-Watt DC to AC Power Inverter with USB Port and 3 AC Outlet)and the truck battery.

We could turn the lights on and cook now since it gets dark at such an indecent hour with daylight savings time and all. Now we use candles.

The kindle is an older version that doesn’t have a back light like this one Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 6th)–it’d be nice to not read by candlelight and just flick on the bedside lamp.

Drumil, the foot powered clothes washer by

Drumil, the foot-powered clothes washer by Indiego.

If we had electricity we could use a washer for our dirty clothes. Right now we head to the arroyo (stream) and wash there. Although we may not need electricity for a washer. Indiego is advertising pre-sale for their foot-powered washing machine. Of course, at $239 USD it’s still out of our financial grasp, but perhaps the price will come down in time.

It’s doubtful that even if we had electricity we would use it for a fridge. We’ve become so accustomed to buying fresh meat and produce, in daily portion sizes, that we have very little left over at the end of the day. Anything that won’t be good for the next day, we share out with our chickens, cats, and dog.

We also aren’t much bothered by not having a television. There’s never anything good on anyway. We do like to watch movies, but are just fine with our little portable (and rechargeable) DVD player. Unfortunately, our DVD player battery will not charge anymore. Finding parts (in this case a replacement battery) is a nightmare here and buying online with shipping is iffy at best. We recently purchased another DVD player and it’s fine for now, but eventually the battery will wear out as well. The same issue crops up with my laptap. My battery doesn’t hold a charge. I use it only at my place of work. My son’s laptop is new, so charging and taking it home works just fine, although there is no internet at home. Of course, transporting it might not be an option during the rainy season.

So I suppose I should be more lackadaisical like my husband. Living without electricity is entirely possible, we’ve been doing it for quite some time now. And why should I expect the luxury of electricity and all that it entails when 1 in 7 worldwide lives without access to electricity? For now, it remains a wish, hope, a goal or something along those lines.



Filed under Construction, Electricity issues, Homesteading, La Yacata Revolution, Water issues

El Dia de Los Muertos–Visible Mourning

que halloween ni que

I’ve had it up to here hearing about Mexican Halloween. It isn’t. It isn’t about dressing up, spooky stories, demons, or blood. Not Freddy Kruger, not poltergeists, not witches, warlocks or ghosts. It’s not about haunted houses, trick or treating, carved pumpkins or parades. It isn’t even about death.

It’s about life.

The celebration El Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico is the celebration of the lives of our dearly departed and the acknowledgment of the loss the living experience with each death. Although I’ve lived in Mexico for almost 10 years, this is only the third year that I have participated in El Dia de Los Muertos events. And why is that? Because up until then, there was no one to visit at the cemetery. Three years ago, my mother-in-law was killed in an accident with a police vehicle. Two years ago, my husband’s grandmother in Cerano died at the age of 89. Now we have family to visit at the cemetery. And we do.


We clean and place flowers. We sit and remember. We laugh and we cry. It’s more like Memorial Day in the United States. Or maybe Veteran’s day. So it’s hard for me to understand the touristy aspect that has sprung up in larger areas.

student altar

The altars that are constructed in the town center in Moroleon are typically in honor of recently deceased community members. It’s a community mourning ritual. There are altars for recently deceased students, teachers, bakers, metalworkers, shopkeepers and more. The altars constructed outside homes in Cerano are even more personal. So what would motivate someone to go to some community of which they are not a member to gawk at this mourning ritual?

A child's crypt. Notice the toy cars and pacifier behind the glass.

A child’s crypt. Notice the toy cars and pacifier behind the glass.

El Dia de los Angelitos, November 1, is even more personal. Altars constructed in the town center or outside homes are created in memory of children who have died–some recently, some not so recently. It’s a personal homage. It’s not for me to intrude on this public manifestation of grief. After all, it is no more or less than a visible reminder that the dead are gone but not forgotten. Families visit the graves of their “little angels” and leave flowers and toys. Brothers and sisters are made aware that there was another that remains a part of the family although no longer physically present.


The sugar skulls are personal–you don’t buy a bag. You buy one and have a name written on its forehead. The figurines are personal–the catrinas are frolicking about in death much as the deceased did in life–drinking, dancing, singing, making music, even making love. The offerings left at the grave or incorporated into the alters are personal–favorite sweets, favorite toys, favorite drinks. The home altars are personal. Each one is constructed with the deceased in mind.


Perhaps it is the fact that these personal traditions are done publically that gives the impression that it is something to gape at–like one would at the zoo or a museum. Death and loss are not hidden away here. They are accepted as a part of life, not detached from it. Is this idea such a curiosity in modern times that guided tours are needed?

pan de muerto

The rituals of El dia de los Muertos bring comfort to the living. The altar or ofrenda is constructed just so. The days of remembrance are sacred. But times are changing….

The school board waited until the last possible moment to authorize the day free from classes. The official calendar has November 2 listed as a school day, while November 16 is a non-school day for El Buen Fin, in some effort to compete with the US’s Black Friday. What does that teach the children about the value of tradition?

This year at the panteon (cemetery) in Moroleon there was a sign telling visitors to denunciar (report) people stealing from the graves. What do they steal? Flowers? Children’s toys? A bottle of coke? Who would steal these things? For what purpose? Has it really come down to a culture that steals from the dead rather than honor their memories?

Some larger towns and cities now provide parades, contests, theatrical presentations, mass-produced foodstuff and trinkets. Wal-mart even offers a Halloween/Day of the Dead mixed selection for your buying pleasure. This tradition, that in 2003 was named as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is now up for sale.


But for us, the ritual that is El Dia de los Muertos remains personal. It reminds us that those that have preceded us in death remain part of our present lives. They helped shaped who we are today.  It isn’t a fascination with death.  It isn’t an obsession with death.  It’s an acknowledgment of death and a celebration of life.

SOTBS Blog Hop Op1Sq

    Have a Day of the Dead themed blog post? Link it up here!   An InLinkz Link-up 


Filed under Carnival posts, Cultural Challenges, Death and all its trappings, Mexican Holidays, Religion

Playing Tourist–Valle de Santiago

craterThe other week we headed to the town on the other side of the Lake Yuriria, Valle de Santiago. The town itself doesn’t have any of the magic that Yuriria or Cuitzeo have, but what it does have is a kick-ass tianguis (flea market) on Sunday. We were able to buy two pairs of Levi’s jeans for my son, a pair of cordory Dockers and Caterpillar work books for my husband and a Spider plant for me, all at totally reasonable prices. AND since we had to go through Yuriria to get to Valle de Santiago, we stopped for a fabulous lunch in el mercado (market). Since the weather had turned chilly, I had an excuse to purchase my first ever rebozo. Wearing a rebozo is like wearing a blanket–and totally acceptable in public. My husband and son called me granny the rest of the day, but I was a warm granny!

So a little history here…


Valle de Santiago and the surrounding area was first settled about 2,000 years ago by the Purepechas and most likely conquered or otherwise absorbed by the Tarascos. Back then it was called Kamenbarhu (or Camembaro) which translates as roughly “lugar del estafiate” which then translates as “place of the estafiate plant.” Estafiate is also known as Western Mugwort, Western Wormwood, Louisiana Sagewort, Prairie Sagewort, Mountain Sage, Simonillo, and Itzauhyatl in Nahuatl and is used for digestive issues, as an analgesic, a decongestant, a sedative, a diuretic, an expectorant and an antioxidant, among other uses.

Kamenbarhu (or Camembaro) was renamed Valle de Santiago (Saint James’ Valley) and officially “founded” in 1607 by a bunch of Spaniards. In 1997, the state of Guanajuato declared the area a natural preserve.

Valle de Santiago

Valle de Santiago

While the town of Valle de Santiago isn’t much to brag about–the drive there and back is spectacular. We already knew that Lake Yuriria is formed from an extinct volcano crater, so it was not much of a stretch of the imaginiation to see that the surrounding landscape also had a volcanic look to it. When we got home, I did some internet research–because asking the locals never gets us anywhere–and lo and behold, the area all around Valle de Santiago is known as the Siete Luminarias (7 lights) which refer to 7 specific craters, although there are more than 30 craters formed by now extinct volcanoes in the immediate area.

Astroarchaeology (the study of how people have understood the phenomena in the sky and the role that understanding played in their culture) suggests that the Siete Luminarias align with the constellation La Osa Mayor (the Big Dipper) every 1040 or 40,000 years (there seemed to be a bit of a descripcincy on when that event actually happens) hence the name Siete Luminarias. It does seem to make the rough outline of the Big Dipper if you look at the map below.

forming the big dipper

The 7 craters are named as follows:

La Alberca, formerly known as Tallacua

Hoya del Rincon de Parangueo, formerly known as Liricua

Hoya de Flores, formerly known as Membereca

Hoya de Cintora, formerly known as Andaracua

Hoya de San Nicolas

Hoya de Alvarez

Several of these craters have been the site of strange phenomenon. The lake in the Hoya de San Nicolas turns red, much like Lake Yuririra does, and probably for the same reason.

chan bw

La Alberca is reportedly home to Chac (or Chan), the Loch Ness monster’s cousin. This creature is said to live in the underground tunnels that connect the craters. It supposedly resembles a sauropod dinosaur.The only picture of the creature was taken in 1956 from a plane and it seems far from conclusive to me. But maybe you want to believe????

giant cabbage

There have even been various reports of extraterrestrial contact and UFO sitings in the area of the Hoya de Flores. A local resident riding his donkey saw strange lights in 1987. Crop circles were later discovered in the area (although I haven’t been able to find any pictures of them online.) Some UFO-ologists reported contact with a glowing silvery-blue man there. The most famous contact was with a local farmer, Jose Carmen Garcia Martinez, who grew enormous vegetables in La Hoya de Flores in the 1970s. He claimed that his astronomical success in creating his astronomical sized vegetables was based on agricultural methods he received from astral messages.

Well, I wouldn’t have expected aliens and monsters from our pleasant day in Valle…but then I have learned that Mexico is often not what it appears to be.


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Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Tourist Sites in Mexico

A night at the movies

watching a movie

I have joked that we are a long ways from cave-dwelling in La Yacata, but a recent trip to the movies makes me wonder about the truth in that statement. So here’s what happened….

I had two class cancelations on Thursday afternoon, so my son and I thought we’d be spontaneous. Let’s go to the movies! Maze Runner 2 was playing and although we had already bought the pirated version, it was too dark to see what was going on in the movie. So we headed to Cinepolis in Uriangato, which is situated in a strip mall.

Upon arrival, we saw that we had several hours to wait for the next showing. That was ok, we’d wander about and get something to eat in the food court. While this is not our first trip to the mall, typically we have very focused hit and run shopping excursions. We loiter about the door at opening time (where we discovered that Coppel does some sort of magical all-employee chant and clapping session before rolling open the doors), get the item we need and leave the store. So, this extended period of window shopping was all new for us.

We opted for Chinese food. It’s not exactly authentic. The rice had chopped chilies in it. The food is served with jalepenos instead of soy sauce. The chicken, well there’s always some doubt as to what the chicken might actually be. We took our trays and plunked ourselves down in front of the food court TV. The music video channel was on. It’s usually that or the soccer game.

After our refreshment, we headed to Blockbuster. Even though Blockbuster has gone bust en el Norte, the DVD rental chain is alive and well here in Mexico. I came across the boxed set of Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2
The Game of Thrones and then the boxed set Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-ray] with a little Tyrion doll included. Oh, how longing surged up in my heart. Imagine how many hours of viewing pleasure were contained in those boxes! I checked the price. There were so many numbers that I couldn’t make sense of it. Apparently I have been conditioned that anything over three digits is incomprehensible. My son pried the boxes from my hands and we headed to the door. I was distracted by a light saber. Star Wars Light Up Weapons Light Saber Keychain - Obi Wan Kenobi EP4 Of course, I had to pluck it from the display and turn it on. Only then I couldn’t figure out how to turn in off again.

I left it still on and rushed out of the store in shame. We headed to another store–Heaven and Earth, where I was very badly startled by towering mannequins with hair and nipples and confused by the manner in which the clothes were hung–sideways rather than upright on the hangers. I scurried out and into the bookstore.

There was a display for The Game of Thrones which caught our eyes. Among the books we already have, there were two which we didn’t. One was the Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. The other was the prequel to the series.( A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire) Longing welled up in my heart again. The books didn’t have any prices on them as far as I could see, and after the scare at Blockbuster, I wasn’t about to ask.

After this, we decided to go and purchase our tickets. Although there was no line, we wound our way through the ribboned off area to the ticket counter and waited to be acknowledged by the clerks. I asked for two tickets forThe Maze Runner  and suddenly a seating chart appeared on a screen. The clerk instructed me to choose our seats, except for the green seats which were already taken. As there were only two seats that were green, I was puzzled. Ok, well I choose these seats then–and I touched the screen. Nothing happened. So I pressed harder. Still nothing. Maybe it wasn’t a touch-screen? So I told the clerk–I’d like E11 and E12. OK. He entered it and the seats turned green. DUH! The tickets were $63 pesos apiece. HOLY CRAP! The minimum wage in Mexico is $70 per day! No wonder everyone buys piratas (pirated movies) (3 for $50 pesos) and hang the illegality of it.

Then we went for popcorn. There was a digital counter number sign like you’d find at DMV (or at the bank here in Mexico). It said we should go to counter 2. The girl at counter 4 said we could order there. I pointed to the sign that said counter 2. She hit some buttons and it changed to counter 4. Okie Dokie. We ordered a popcorn and 2 sodas. They came on a large awkward blue cup-holder tray. Refreshments cost $120 pesos.

We headed to the theater, leaving a trail of buttered popcorn behind us. After giving the young lady our tickets we went to the designated theater, only to find that the theater was still closed. Apparently the previous movie wasn’t over. We didn’t know what to do. We spent some moments lurking outside the door, until the young lady came to our rescue. She explained that the movie theater wasn’t ready yet (which we had figured out on our own) and that we should wait in the lobby. I made sure that she would let us in again since we had already given her our tickets and she assured us that she would.

So we shuffled back to the lobby. There were no chairs there, so we headed to the mall area. I was pretty sure some sort of alarm would go off if we took the tray too far from the door, so we huddled on benches in front of the theater. There we sat people watching for a bit.

At 7:00 pm we tried to get into the theater again, only to be told by the same nice girl that the movie wasn’t over yet. We should try back at 7:20. So at 7:20 we went back and found that the ticket collector had changed. We had a few minutes of panic until the girl, who had been sweeping up our popcorn trail, came back and gave the nod to let us in.

Whew! We bolted to the theater and anxiously looked for our seats. I was afraid we’d find them occupied, but we were in luck and they were vacant. However, each set of people that entered had me ready to defend my seat again. Good grief!

peter b

So after admonishing us not to buy pirated movies, support the special olympics and save the Mexican eagle from extinction, the movie began. Continuing with the night’s Game of Thrones theme, Petyr Baelish (or rather the actor who plays Petyr Baelish) rescued the Maze Runner teens. My son and I both drew in breaths and whispered–NO! Don’t trust Petyr Baelish–having watched betrayal after betrayal in The Game of Thrones.


We quickly discovered that the movie had ZOMBIES! My son and I have a love/hate relationship with zombie movies. Zombies are such a primal fear for us, instinctive like snakes and giant spiders. Our fight or flight responses, already at high alert, went beserk watching the movie. We were literally paralllyzed in our seats. Of course, there was the size factor. We’ve become accostomed to watching movies on a 6-inch screen. Zombies seem much less dangerous at that size. The movie screen was way bigger than 6 inches–the horror larger than life!

We made it through the movie somehow and stumbled out of the theater. Once in the light, we began to laugh hysterically at our evening adventures. Who would have thought we would have had such difficultly negotiating the modern world? We retreated to our cave in La Yacata, safe at last from the howling savagery beyond.


Filed under Cultural Challenges, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Some days are definitely better than others–Ni modo

life better

Yesterday was one of those days that a series of annoying happenstances made a typical day (one with only two or three annoying happenstances) seem like paradise.

We woke up at 5 am. My son’s new school schedule demands it. We are not pleased about getting up before the sun, but we remind ourselves that it is only temporary. Secondary school is 2 more years, so a long temporary, but temporary. Ni modo. (This expression can be translated as It’s no big deal, That’s just the way things are, That’s just how it is, There’s nothing we could have done about it, There’s nothing we can do, or Whatever.)

Of course, the day started out on the wrong foot when we realized there wasn’t any water to shower with. Ni modo. My husband generously went outside and filled a bucket from the ajibe (dry well) for my son and I to wash with. The water was cold. It is the middle of October after all. We could only bear to wash our heads, but even that was unpleasant, although it was enough to wake us up completely. The rest of the parts would have to wait until we could get a truckload of water delivered. (See Water Woes) After all, there was deodorant…oh but wait, both my son and I were out and my husband refuses to buy his own (he just uses ours). Well a-stinky we shall go. Ni modo.

During the day, my son lost 2 pesos and therefore didn’t have enough money for a torta (sandwich) at lunch. As food is life for a growing pre-teen, that made his school day less than optimal and by mid-afternoon he was irritable. Ni modo.

My day was also annoying. Although I had enough money for lunch, I spent the morning working on the grades for report cards, which is not my favorite task. I dislike assigning a number value to learning, so I had gone out of my way to make the job more difficult for myself by grading everything from attendance and school supplies to the “exams”. All in all, it ended up to be 15 separate evaluations for each student. Ni modo.

I also had a slightly heated discussion with the school director over some proposed changes I wanted to make in classroom management. When my emotions are high, my Spanish is low, so it made the whole process even more frustrating. Ni modo.

In the early afternoon, my hungry and cranky son arrived and we headed to the store to buy some deodorant. I bought 3 and each cost more than 50 pesos. Fifty pesos is what I earn for one hour of teaching. So I had worked more than 3 hours to buy that particular hygiene product for my family. Ni modo.

From there we went home. The house was a wreck–dirty dishes piled sky high. My husband had an unexpected morning job, so didn’t have time to tidy up. Ni modo, I would do the dishes. So I stacked and sorted and was ready to begin—only to be reminded when I went to turn on the water, that there was no water. Duh! Ni modo. The dishes would have to wait.

OK, time for dinner. We looked high and low and there wasn’t anything prepared, although there were fresh tortillas. As my husband typically prepares something for his lunch and then leaves enough for us to eat when we get home—this seemed odd and aggravating. Ni modo. Back to town for something quick and easy, ham and cheese for quesadillas.

I returned home and lit the stove–blue flames swooshed out! It appeared that we were dangerously low on gas. Just great! Fortunately, there was just enough to heat the tortillas and melt the cheese–so dinner was saved.

After we ate, I continued straightening the kitchen. I went to throw a bit of leftover rice to the chickens but didn’t realizing that I would be walking into a den of iniquity! What to my wondering eyes did I see but there in the new addition to the goat corral that my husband is working on–was Tinkerbell humping Stinky Chivo while one of the James brothers was humping her. Something was very wrong with the picture. Why was Stinky Chivo not doing his husbandly duties when it was apparent that Tinkerbell was in heat? (See Goat Genetics)

Upon closer examination, I find that Stinky Chivo’s head and leg are stuck in the food trough. Great! As his horns are wedged under the wire and he has some big horns, it took some maneuvering to release him.

The bondage and sexual scandal were not the only evidence of debauchery. The goats had taken the liberty of stripping the peach and pomegranate trees of leaves and bark. Not bad for a morning’s work. It’s their nature I suppose–Ni modo.

So later my husband explained that he didn’t leave dinner because it had been stolen. He had arrived home for lunch with meat and tortillas and heard some commotion in the goat corral. He went to investigate, leaving the goods hanging from his motorcycle handlebars. When he came back out front, only the tortillas remained. He had bought 60 pesos of meat, so that means more than an hour of work for someone or something to enjoy the meal. I suspect it was Chokis. Ni modo.

That evening, after the goats were rounded up again and the horses stabled, we realized we still had no gas to cook supper or anything to cook for that matter. Ni modo. There was nothing to be done but head out for some tacos. Our high-stress day was made all better with a few tacos de tripa, bistek or chorizo (depending on the family member) and some nopales (cactus) and onions sauteed in grease. Our meal cost $150 pesos, which is a day and a half of work for my husband, so we were appreciative of this special treat.

Ni modo. Nothing to be done but hit the sack and hope that tomorrow will be better.

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Filed under Animal Husbandry, Cultural Challenges, Homesteading, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

Playing Tourist–Yuriria, Guanajuato

Mighty impressive church door in Yuriria, GTO

Mighty impressive church door in Yuriria, GTO

While we often travel for a day trip to Cerano, once in awhile we also head to Yuriria, the bigger town that Cerano is a municipality of.

Caldo de bagre

Caldo de bagre

Yuriria is pretty and there is a restaurant with a one-armed waiter that serves delicious fresh-water fish soup. The market is also full of neat stuff to see and the whole town has a different feel to it than Moroleon, so we enjoy it as a close-by getaway place.

View of the lake by Yuriria

View of the lake by Yuriria

The actual name is Yuririhapundaro although most people refer to it as simply Yuriria. It was founded the Chichimecas in 945 D.C .As with Cuitzeo, the name comes from the Purepecha language. It translates as The Place of the Bloody Lake. With such a name, it’s no surprise that Yuriria was built along the banks of a lake. It’s actually an extinct volcanic crater that is renewed through rainfall rather than an underground source.

Yuriria is also one of Guanajuato’s Pueblos Magicos and on that official site, the bloody lake gets its name from the soil runoff, not from dead bodies. Well, as the idea of Pueblos Magicos is to get tourists to come, I suppose having tainted waters might put people off, so the run-off explanation is given out. However, Diego Basalenque made note, in 1644, that the oral tradition of the native people spoke of sacrifices that had been made in the center of the lake to the gods, leaving the red stain of their deaths behind in the waters.

A scientific explanation might resolve the issue of whether the sacrifices or the volcanic soil give the lake it’s reddish color. It may be that the coloration comes from the rapid reproduction of microscopic plants, like the chromatiaceae bacteria, that bloom under certain conditions. The plants subsequently poison the water for the fish. A whole lake of dead fish would cause the local population to perform sacrifices to appease the gods, beseeaching them to allow the water to return to its normal color.

As the lake is not always bloody, the scientific explanation seems to make sense. Certainly when we have visited, it’s been as blue as Lake Cuitzeo. Locals say that the two last bloody events occurred in 1985, before the devastating earthquake in Mexico City and in 1986, before the earthquake in San Francisco, California. Well, as I mentioned, the extinct volcanic crater is smack dab in the middle of the lake–things like shifting fault lines might cause such an occurance.

The impressive ex-convent in Yuriria

The impressive ex-convent of San Agustin in Yuriria

After the lake, the the most imposing structure in Yuriria is the Ex-convent of San Agustin. Construction was begun in 1550 by Fray Diego de Chavez y Alvarado, nephew of Don Pedro Alvarado, one of Hernan Cortes’ followers. Fray Diego is also given credit for the creation of the lake because he commissioned the construction of a canal that diverted the river waters to the crater in 1548. I’m not so sure he actually created the lake since the name of the area implies the village had been established by a bloody body of water long before the Spanish came (records indicate that the Tarascos, who conquered the area in 1350 D.C. made note of the red tinted water phenomenon)…but you know how those Europeans like to take credit for everything.

All things considered, Yuriria is a pleasant stop on the road to little known tourist attractions in Mexico.


Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Tourist Sites in Mexico

My Life in La Yacata–the video


Well, it took all summer and then all of September–but my son’s video about our life in Mexico is up!

If you haven’t already–click on the host’s page Growing Up Around the World and give it a “like”.  Heck, go ahead and comment if you want!

Or if you’d rather see it here–well go ahead!

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Playing Tourist–Cuitzeo, Michoacan

We’ve been to Morelia on several occasions. We’ve gone to the National Migration Institute, only to be told we had to go to San Miguel de Allende for my legalization process. It’s another state you see, although only 45 minutes away. We’ve also gone to Morelia to have my son’s birth certificate and my marriage certificate translated by an official perito traductor, who unfortunately died before we had all our documentation officialized. We did find another perito traductor in San Miguel de Allende later on though and now we have one right here in Moroleon for all our legal issues.

So Morelia isn’t a new destination for us, but we normally have some official business to take care of and as a result, don’t take the time to play tourist. The other week we had the day off and decided to go just because. Although Morelia yet another city on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, my intentions were not so lofty.  I had the vague notion of finding a Wal-mart or maybe even a sporting goods store to buy some arrows for my son’s bow. It was so much effort just to get it that it was terribly disappointing that it came with only 2 arrows, one which hit a stone and cracked and the other which flew into the great beyond on the very first day.

That little cement barrier is all that separates you from the lake!

That little cement barrier is all that separates you from the lake!

We always take the libre (free) road rather than the cuota (toll) road not just because it saves us a few pesos. It’s a pleasant drive, although I imagine it could be a bit hair raising during inclement weather. But the sun was shining today.  One time, I was gazing out the window while driving through the lake and BAM–all of sudden a water snake took down a duck.  Just one more occasion that I find myself live on the discovery channel!

Cuitzeo, Michoacan

Cuitzeo, Michoacan

We drove through the picturesque town of Cuitzeo , also known as Cuitzeo porvenir, where all the business and houses are painted red and white. Just outside the town we stopped at a roadside restaurant Las Jacarandas for a morning buffet breakfast. We enjoyed our meals (I had a yummy fish something or other) and relaxed a bit while Marc Antonio Solis’s greatest hits played on the giant flatscreen TV.

Las Jacarandas roadside restaurant

Las Jacarandas roadside restaurant

Then off again. We arrived in Morelia only to discover that our normal route was closed because of the parade. We were about 5 minutes from Wal-mart when we were deviated. We spent the next 2 hours driving around Morelia. I kept insisting we weren’t lost, but I could not convince my husband. He started pulling on his goatee and transformed into Donald Duck. Never say that men don’t ask for directions. He pulled off the road every 10 minutes or so to confirm that we were on the right track.

We were never lost, just not on the road that we had intended to arrive at. We did finally pass a Wal-mart, but my husband had his face pressed up against the windshield at this point and I decided that it would be better for all concerned if we just went home. I wonder how we became so inept at city driving! I have driven through New York City and Washington DC during rush hour. How is it a little detour threw us for a loop? I think it might have to do with our overall confidence. So many things can and do happen while on the road in Mexico that the unexpected really takes it out of us. It was a disappointing trip to say the least. The next day off isn’t for awhile yet–maybe we’ll be able to work up the guts to try a new adventure.

Cuitzeo, Michoacan

Cuitzeo, Michoacan

I did convince my husband to stop in Cuitzeo on the trip back though. There were several ladies selling hand-woven baskets in the town center and I wanted to get a better look.  Fiber crafts are the most common local handicraft.  Baskets, floor mats and hats were displayed for my admiring gaze, all made from reeds from Lake Cuitzeo.

Daisies outside the church en el centro of Cuitzeo.

Daisies outside the church en el centro of Cuitzeo.

We bought some churros and fruit covered in powdered chile and walked around a bit before heading out again.  So honestly, our tourist day was spent in Cuitzeo rather than Morelia.  The name of the town comes from the Purepecha word “cuiseo” which means place of water containers. As the town is right next to Lake Cuitzeo, the second largest freshwater lake in Mexico, freshwater fish dishes are local specialties.  Cuitzeo has even been named as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos which is program designed by the Secretary of Tourism to promote tourism in non-traditional touristy areas.

 Santa María Magdalena monastery was built in 1550.

Santa María Magdalena monastery was built in 1550.

The Santa Magdalena monastery is the historical highlight of the town.  We didn’t make the effort to tour it, as you’ve seen one monastery, you’ve seen them all.  However, I was impressed with the church door in the town center.

church door

It’s now on my list of things to do to visit more of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos.  I think it will be better for my husband’s nerves too!


Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Tourist Sites in Mexico

La Llorona Returns


There have been a rash of horror movies made recently, even an animated cartoon, about the legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). It seems a bit tawdry that this Mexican myth has been regulated to the same genre as The Nightmare on Elm Street and other such slasher movies.

As with any story, there are several versions of this legend. In one version, La Llorona roams the streets weeping for her children who have accidently drowned in the canals. In another version, the children of La Llorona are murdered by their father. In yet another version, La Llorona drowns her children herself in a fit of insanity when the father of the children, a Spaniard, abandoned the family and married another.


Most experts agree that the basis for the legend most likely comes from the goddess Cihuacoatl of Aztec mythology. She was one of several goddesses of motherhood and fertility and the mother of Mixcoatl.  Myth states that she abandoned her son at a crossroads, but often returned there searching for her lost son.


La Llorona, Cihuacoatl, or perhaps another aspect of the goddess in the form of Coatlicue, was reported to have appeared prior to the conquest of Tenochtitlan by Hernan Cortes. The Florentine Codex record her words as “Ay mis hijos! Ya se acerca la hora de irnos. Ay mis hijos! ¿a dónde os llevaré? (Oh, my children! It is nearly time to leave. Oh, my children! Where will I bring you?)


Some believe that La Llorona was actually La Malinche. La Malinche, whose given name was Malinalli, then Marina once baptised, served as interpreter and advisor to Hernan Cortes. She did have two children. Martin was the son of Cortes. Maria was the daughter of Juan Jaramillo. There is no evidence that Malinalli murdered her children. On the contrary, her children were forcibly taken from her when both men abandoned Malinalli to marry titled Spanish women.


The legend of La Llorona reappears in the 1700’s. In the colonial version, a young indigenous girl is abandoned by her Spanish lover. In an act of revenge, she drowns her children. When she recovers her senses and realizes what she has done, she drowns herself. She appears before the gates of Heaven where she is asked the whereabouts of her children. She is denied entrance and sent back to Earth to search for them, condemned to spend eternity trapped between the living and spirit world.


Some versions of the legend claim that La Llorona kidnaps children out at late at night and drowns them. She is said to appear in the late evenings near the rivers and lakes of Mexico City. Hearing the cry of La Llorona is said to be an omen of death.

The name most often given to La Llorona in most versions of the legend is Maria, which is fitting. Maria (Mary) had a son who was forcibly taken, tortured and executed by the state. (John 19) And Maria, in the form of the La Virgen de Guadalupe, is the embodiment of Mexico.


Today, La Llorona’s cry is heard again in Mexico. One year ago, September 26, 2014, Mexico, in a fit of insanity, murdered her children of Ayotzinapa. How long will she weep, searching for her children?

Ah mis hijos!

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Filed under Death and all its trappings, Mexican Cultural Stories, Safety and Security

Playing Tourist–Guanajuato, Guanajuato

Every now and then we have a chance between disasters to have a mini-vacation or two. Unfortunately, they never seem to be as relaxing as we would like.

Guanajuato, Guanajuato

Guanajuato, Guanajuato

Some time ago, we had some business to complete in Guanajuato, Guanajuato. Our business was done early and we had the whole day free. So we pulled over to this side-of-the-road tourist booth to get the grand tour. We followed the guy into town to a parking garage where we could leave the truck and hopped in a mini-van with about 10 other people, all Mexicans strangely enough.



Our first stop was the Museo Ex-Hacienda del Cochero built in the late 1600s. It seemed mild enough from the outside. However, we were in for a surprise. Our guide, dressed in monk robes, led us from a beautiful garden to the dungeon to see the devices the Spanish Inquisition used to torture infidels, indigenous, political dissenters and anybody else that was in need of torture.

Chained to the wall!

Chained to the wall!

We saw iron maidens, chastity belts, guillotines, garrotes, hanging cages, the rack, and even a person’s remains that had been walled up alive. Our guide explained that some of the mummified remains (I wasn’t sure here if these were really mummified remains or just props) were identifiable as witches because of the red skirt and artifacts they were buried with. There was even a graveyard in the back. I guess they had to put the bodies somewhere. All this torturing supposedly went on without the neighbors knowing anything about it for years due to the thickness of the stone walls.

The walls were 2-3 feet thick and kept the screams from bothering the neighbors.

The walls were 2-3 feet thick and kept the screams from bothering the neighbors.

So we were a bit creeped out by that, but surely the next stop would be better.

Yep, it's a real mummy.

Yep, it’s a real mummy.

Nope–we headed to the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato. Yep, mummies. Lines and rows of naked, crumbling mummies. It seems between 1865 and 1958, the local government required relatives of interred patrons to pay a tax to provide maintenance for the tombs. Those who had no family members, or whose family members did not pay the tax were dug up. The grave diggers discovered that the bodies had been naturally mummified due to the unique soil composition of the area. They started charging a few pesos for entrance into the shed where the bodies were stored. Eventually, the present museum was constructed.

So basically, it was horrible. The clothes had been cut off most of the mummies to cut down on the stench–although most still had their shoes on. There was a horrible section of infant mummies and the mother and child buried together after dying in childbirth, and the woman whose final resting position gave rise to the speculation that she had been buried alive. And did I mention the rows of glass cases with the naked men and women left without a shred of dignity between them?

Outside the mine in Gto.

Outside the mine in Gto.

We hurried through that museum and waited outside with the tour van driver. Next stop, the San Ramon Boca Minas, silver mines where the Spanish exploited the indigenous men, women and children for private gain! By this time, we were out of money, so couldn’t go on the tour, which was a disappointment as it seemed the only one worth taking.

Outside the sweet shop.

Outside the sweet shop.

The tour van also took us to a regional sweet shop and an artesian store, which would have been more exciting for us if we had any funds to purchase anything. After all, each museum was about 35 pesos, plus the tip for the tour guide and the bus guide and the parking garage where we left the truck. It added up. We did take a picture or two though as mementos.



The driving tour also took us past the giant statue of El Pipila. This statue was in honor of Juan Jose de los Reyes Martinez Amaro. He was a miner who became a revolutionary hero when he carried a giant stone on his back to protect him from musket fire and used a tarred torch to set fire to the door of the granary known as the Alhondiga de Granaditas. Once the door was destroyed, the rebels entered the granary and killed every single man, woman and child who had taken refuge there. This occurred on September 28, 1810.


Alhondiga de Granaditas

We were also driven past said building where the blood from the massacre could still be seen as late as 1906 on the pillars and main staircase. The morbid history of this building did not end there. The revolutionary leaders Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Jose Mariano Jimenez were executed by the Spanish firing squad on July 30, 1811 and their heads hung on the four corners of the Alhondiga de Granaditas for 10 years, the time it took for Mexico to finally win its independence from Spain. In 1867, the Alhondiga de Granaditas was converted into a prison by the reigning French emperor Maximilian. It remained a prison until it was converted into a museum in 1958.

gto 1callejon

Thus ended the tour. This wasn’t the Guanajuato I remembered! I had visited the city as an exchange student some years ago and was charmed by the picturesque architecture and romantic stories like the Callejon del Beso. I even took the walking tour of the callejones (alleys) carrying a jug of sangria and listening to mariachis. After all, Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! I guess it just proves the truth that for every beauty there is an equally ugly underside.

Student singers

Student singers

Charming Gto.

Charming Gto.


Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Holidays, Tourist Sites in Mexico