El Tortillero

Before we went on our trip to visit my family, my sister-in-law T. asked if my son would help her out on weekends at her tortilleria. Saturdays and Sundays, she averages 8 buckets of masa (dough) each day. Some days, her pistoleras, the ladies who crank those hand-pressed tortillas out, arrive late or not at all. (The word pistoleras literally women wielding pistols or in this case prensas–tortilla presses.) Their tardiness or absence puts T into a bind since she has to fire up a comal and make tortillas herself instead of packing them up and receiving the money.  Because this has been happening regularly, my son said he’d be the money handler.

Since we’ve returned from our trip, he is now working 6 days a week at the tortilleria with T. Weekdays, he works 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for the lunch rush with Thursdays off. On the weekends, he’s there from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or so. 

He seems to be enjoying working with his aunt, and she with him, it appears. She has some pan dulce y leche (sweet bread and milk) ready for him every morning. He’s adjusted his schedule so that he is up early for some computer fun before heading to work, then naps in the afternoon. Plus, there’s a little trickle of income for his own use that sweetens the deal and a kilo of tortillas, a container of salsa and some beans every day for dinner.

I enjoy hearing about his day. Customer service always provides some interesting anecdotes. Plus the pistoleras themselves chatter away as they pat and flatten and flip the tortillas.

The other day, my son came home with another one of those strange health beliefs that abound here. This one was that you can’t drink coke and atole (corn drink) together because one is black and one is white. The colors apparently clash in your stomach and make you ill.

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who would want to drink coke and atole together. It sounds like a horrible combination and sure to upset your stomach no matter what color the mixture happens to be. I actually think this belief has more to do with the hot/cold indigenous categorizations. You wouldn’t ingest something cold and hot together. This is why water is often offered al tiempo (room-temperature) with meals or on hot days.

My son also brings us the goings-on from Moroleon. The tortilleria is the hub of gossip mongers. We learned about the sudden death of our neighbor, el plomero (the plumber) from my son. The guy had gotten into a fight, sustained injuries and didn’t go to the doctor. It seems there was some internal bleeding and he died as a result.

Not all the stories are so tragic. One day my son was dispatching the tortillas and a girl about his own age paid him too much money. Before he could give her change, she ran off flustered. All the pistoleras hooted at that! Remember, my good-looking son is a Lady Killer! Later the girl’s mom came back and picked up the change with the young lady in tow, red as a tomato.

It sounds like my son has just pulled up to the house with his bike. Time for me to find out what the latest news from town!


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Filed under Employment, Small Business in Mexico

Renewing Our Seguro Popular Policy

September arrived and it was time to renew our Seguro Popular policy. It comes up for reaffiliation every three years and since I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled in November plus all the lab work that goes with that, we needed to make sure our policy didn’t lapse.

renew seguro popular

So first we headed to the Módulo de Afiliación y Orientación building. I was just the paper carrier. I let my husband do all the talking. First, he showed the guy at the desk our expiring policy. Then another guy came over to take a look at it. He said we needed a copy of identification and comprobante de domicilio (proof of residency). 

When my husband explained we had no utilities at our house, he said we should go to the presidencia (town hall) and request a letter. We’ve tried that route and since we live outside of town, they won’t do it. Then I handed my husband the letter we have from Super Prez verifying that we live in La Yacata. We haven’t had to use it since the last time we applied for Seguro Popular. The letter was dated 2016. So we’d need a new letter.

My husband showed his driver’s license, but it was expired. Then he showed his motorcycle driver’s license, but that too expired in May (as did mine). So we’ll need to renew those as soon as we have the chance but that was a quest for another day. His IFE was still valid and even though his photo makes him look like a psychopath, it would do. Whew!

We went home and I typed up the letter we’d need from Super Prez, the president of the asociación de colonos de La Yacata. I don’t have any ink in my printer, so we headed to a Ciber (computer cafe). Everything was fine except it printed on two different pages. Since I had saved it as a PDF, the girl couldn’t alter it there. And I couldn’t remember my Google password to access Google Docs, so we went back home. I took out a space and saved it again.

Back to the Ciber and it printed out just fine. Our next task was to locate Super Prez to sign it. We were in luck! While he wasn’t in his office, his brother who runs the ferretería (hardware store) next to the office said he was at home. So we rounded the corner and rang the bell. 

This worked out really well since he not only signed the letter, but we could bring him up to date on the goings-on in La Yacata. We were even able to brag a bit about our completed solar system

With this letter in hand, we headed back to the Reaffiliation Office. My husband was given a number (10) even though there was NO ONE else there. Whatever. We sat down to wait. Eventually, he was called up to the desk. As the clerk was entering the information, the system flagged my husband as having an IMSS policy. Thus, in the computer anyway, it looked like we were double-dipping in the healthcare system. In order to proceed, he would need to present a letter from IMSS that stated he didn’t have a policy. 

IMSS in Moroleon, GTO

We headed to IMSS which was on the other end of town. Let me tell you, it was liking into the gates of heaven when compared to el Regional where I go for my appointments. There were no lines. The floor wasn’t broken. There was AIR CONDITIONING! And the nurses, staff, and doctors were just strolling around, not harried and frantic. 

We were sent around the bend to an office where a nice young girl looked up my husband’s information. She said he DID have an IMSS policy in 2007. It turns out that the job he had then which lasted about 2 months, had turned in his paperwork for IMSS. If you remember, IMSS is healthcare for employed Mexicans. Of course, once the job was done, my husband was laid off, so we had no medical benefits since then, hence our application for Seguro Popular. 

So this nice young woman gave me a list of requirements we would need to request the letter stating my husband didn’t have IMSS including a sample letter. Apparently, this sort of thing happens enough that they printed up this information to hand out. 

We would need to bring back the original and copy of his birth certificate, CURP, IFE, comprobante de domicilio, and the signed letter entitled CONSTANCIA DE NO ASEGURADO. We headed home and I typed up the letter. It was too late in the day to continue our pursuit, so we would have to wait until morning. 


Bright and early the next morning, we headed to the Ciber for the print-out and copies required. Then back to IMSS. My husband asked if we would need a ficha (number). Nope. The nice young woman took the documents and printed out the letter we needed for Seguro Popular. My husband asked if there was a charge associated with this. Nope. We thanked the nice young lady and left.

Back to the Reaffiliation Office then. My husband was given a ficha (number) even though there was NO ONE there and we sat and waited. With all the documents in order, the application could proceed. The clerk asked my husband a few questions about his work, our house, our income. I remained silent even when my husband didn’t get my education information correct. 

I primed my husband to ask about our son’s coverage since he will be turning 18 in May. He’s covered until then and as long as he is enrolled in school which can be proved by a constancia de estudios (a letter written by the school). 

I was a little worried about that since his school is online until I remembered that there is a UVEG branch in town where we could go and ask about it. If he is still studying, he can remain on our Seguro Popular policy until he is 26. If he isn’t he may need to apply for his own policy, which I’m not sure he’d get approved for since he isn’t the head of a household. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The clerk printed out the new policy sheet and we are hunky-dory for three years. Of course, the new president AMLO has been making sweeping changes in the national healthcare sector and they’ve been going along as swimmingly as the changes in gas distribution went in January. Medication shortages in states where the reforms have begun have created an unbelievable healthcare crisis. That means it’s hard to say what the future of Seguro Popular will be and how that will affect us personally. 


Read more about negotiating the healthcare system in Mexico!

healthcare cover



Filed under Health

Making Herbal Preparations 101 Mini-Course from Herbal Academy

Free Making Herbal Preparations 101 Course

Every time I treat myself to an herbal course at Herbal Academy I find myself rubbing my hands in glee. My latest experience, Making Herbal Preparations 101 Mini-Course, was no exception. I signed up during the free enrollment period in July. This course is scheduled to be re-released next year, so don’t despair if the link above takes you to another page.

I have to admit that herbalism in Mexico is challenging. I can’t just order herbs willy nilly from organic herb stores and have it delivered to my doorstop to brew, decoct or tincture in endless delight. Oh, no. That would be too easy. Instead, I have to painstakingly gather information and positively identify plants, flowers, and trees that I didn’t learn about growing up in the Eastern United States.

So, this drawn-out process in my adopted land has undermined some of my herbal concoction confidence. This is where I appreciated the Herbal Academy’s most recent course.

The course was divided into seven lessons. Each lesson had informative readings, printouts and easy to follow videos making this an excellent course for beginners.



This lesson differentiated the different types of herbal preparations. There are water-based, sweet-based, oil-based and alcohol-based preparations. The type of solvent you use depends on the application and plant property need to treat whatever it is you are going to treat with herbs.


Lesson two stressed the importance of treating herbs as medicine. This means knowing how to prepare the herbs, potential side effects, and the duration an herb can be safely administered. You should also know the health issues and life stage of the person taking the herb and any possible herb-drug interactions. Of course, you should also be cognizant of plants that could become toxic with extended use or those that resemble beneficial herbs.

I was delighted to learn that Western herbalism has a similar categorization process to the Mexican culture which sometimes confounds me. Energetics in herbs is based on temperature (cool or hot), moisture (wet or dry) and tension (relaxed or constricted) which in many ways is identical to the indigenous belief system found where I live. So a person with a dry cough would be given a moistening herb to aid the body in achieving balance.


Water-based herbal preparation is one that combines herbs and water. It could be a tea, wash, enema, infusion or decoction. A cup of chamomile tea prescribed as a sleep aid is an example of a water-based herbal preparation.


Using honey as a base for creating an herbal preparation was the topic of lesson four. After all, a spoonful of sugar (in this case organic honey) helps the medicine go down.


Lesson 5 demonstrated the use of alcohol such as vodka, brandy, and gin to create herbal rubs, washes, and tinctures.


Oils can be used to create herbal infusions meant to be used externally or in cooking. Doesn’t rosemary-infused virgin olive oil sound simply delicious?


Lesson 7 provided basic preparation instructions for each of the methods presented in the course plus some delightful recipes including how to make a chickweed poultice, violet honey lemonade, fire cider and more. What a fabulous way to end the class.

Having gone through Herbal Academy’s Making Herbal Preparations 101 Mini-Course, I’ve gathered enough confidence to start decocting my own herbal medicine cabinet from locally harvested herbs.

Just so you know, the Herbal Academy is having a Back to School sale with savings up to 25% until September 16. With classes designed for beginners to advanced herbal aficionados, there’s something for everyone!

Herbal Academy Back to School Sale




Filed under Health, Homesteading, Natural Healing

Not Taking The Blame

An actual picture of the elusive chicken feather guy rounding up his animals in the morning.

The other night, the horse guy, as opposed to the chicken feather guy, let his animals out to graze. Up and down the road they went, eating whatever tickled their fancy.

The next morning, the guy whose wife and kid planted some corn on their lot down the road came charging up to the house, beer in hand at 9 am to yell at me. He didn’t get too close. All three dogs got riled up and wouldn’t let him within 100 feet of me. Mr. Aggressive wanted to know if we had goats. We do. I didn’t deny it. He said that the goats ate all his corn. I said they didn’t. He should check with the guy who has sheep right next to his lot. 

So Mr. Aggressive went down to that house and banged on the door. The Borrega guy only comes before and after work so I shouted down that he needed to try at 5 pm or 8 am. You could see the steam rolling out of Mr. Aggressive’s ears. 

The corn field in question.

Mr. Aggressive went to town for some barbed wire and another beer and went at it. He hammered and drank and drank and hammered for 20 minutes or so. Curious, I decided to mosey on down after he’d left. Sure enough, he put up some sort of wire thing–not exactly a fence. He also nailed up a sign which I couldn’t figure out. Something about putas. If I couldn’t figure out the sign, what makes him think the livestock will stop and read it before helping themselves to young, tender corn shoots?

So the next morning, Mr. Aggressive lay in wait for Borrega guy who denied any and all knowledge of any corn eating. Borrega guy also pointed out that the poop right there in front of the lot wasn’t sheep or goat poop, which resemble little rabbit pellets. 

Not sheep, not goat, not even horse.

I’m not sure that the cow patty convinced Mr. Aggressive of anything. Neither the Borrega guy or we have cows. Of course, we could have brought one from another location to divert suspicion I suppose. Last night, the chicken feather guy let his animals out to graze again.

I have to quit rolling my eyes so hard. I’ve nearly given myself eye strain.

eye roll


Have you read all of our previous animal adventures?



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Filed under Animal Husbandry, Cultural Challenges, Homesteading