Inspiring Women Writers in Mexico–Nicole Salgado

Hi, my name’s Nicole Salgado. I’m from Syracuse, NY but now live in Queretaro, Mexico.

I originally came to Mexico to build a house here with my husband. My husband and I met in the SF Bay Area after we both migrated there for work in 1999. He was an undocumented immigrant and we weren’t able to adjust his status in the U.S., so the plan was we would leave the U.S. for 10 years until we could submit his green card application.

Well, now I feel like an expat, someone who has left their home country. In our case it wasn’t by choice – I would have preferred to stay and live and work in the United States, where I am from. But, by honoring my marriage vows and accompanying my husband to a place where we both can be 1st class citizens, my life has changed accordingly.

One funny thing that happened to me as a result of living in Mexico is that I have an adopted a lot of cultural customs that once exasperated me – for example, I have a flexible relationship with punctuality now. I also use indirect communication more now than I ever used to – I am by nature pretty direct, but since the culture here has a different way of being in many ways, I’ve adapted.

My beliefs haven’t changed much – I still highly value friends, family, the environment, culture, artistic expression and individuality, social justice, a strong work ethic, continual improvement, and the like.

I have had to become much more patient. I have had to accept governmental corruption and non-enforcement of laws. I have had to accept less time outdoors and more time in cities and in an office. Queretaro is a pretty big city, and even though we get a little more country exposure living on the outskirts, at the end of the day it’s still a metropolis. I have also learned to embrace the Mexican culture much more than before.  Although I had a grandfather who was born in Tijuana, we really weren’t steeped in the culture like I am now.

I think everyone has their stuff to deal with as a kid, in my case, I overcome typical adolescent taunts about my poor eyesight and my weight by getting into sports and being more social, and learning to ignore “the haters,” so to say.

At the university level, I overcome stiff competition at an Ivy League school and being the first in my family to complete a 4-year college education by seeking out allies and mentors, and never giving up – and also, by giving back to my community as a volunteer and in socially and environmentally conscious activities, which has rewarded me multifold.  While I don’t currently volunteer, there are many worthy causes that one can participate in. I do make both in-kind and monetary donations to a variety of things such as progressive political campaigns, migrant relief and youth empowerment efforts, and of course environmental conservation.

As a young adult, I overcame the emotional burden of being far from my family by maintaining good long distance communication, and again, relying on and trusting friends to support me in many aspects of my life.

In Mexico, many things have been hard. For one, I am a naturalist, biologist, environmental activist, and outdoor enthusiast, so it’s been strange not having immediate access to as many natural, green, or wilderness areas as I did in New York and California, where a high value is placed on environmental conservation and enjoying nature as recreation. Here, most people are just struggling to get by or build their businesses or the local economy so it’s harder to place emphasis on conservation.

Another thing that was difficult was finding myself again professionally, but again, I had to just keep putting myself out there and believing in a positive outcome, and it eventually happened.

Finally, I have had a lot of health challenges, several of which I think are related to stress and our move south, but I have tried to see the silver lining by focusing on different ways I can get and stay healthy.

It still affects me and depresses me that American immigration laws and public perception are just getting more and more xenophobic, and they are making our country less and less welcoming to immigrants worldwide. The prospect of never being able to (or wanting to, due to our perception of how unwelcoming the U.S. is getting for immigrants and brown and black people) go back to the U.S. is a little frightening. Not because our life here isn’t good, but because I would like to be closer to my family in the States, and I always dreamed of my daughter experiencing the culture and wonderful things I grew up with at some point – and all the anti-immigrant rhetoric just is really threatening to my family and our prospects in general.  I miss all the time outdoors and spending time with family and friends in the States.

My father once said one of my worst characteristics is also my best, and that is that I am very stubborn, or headstrong, so to say.  That’s how I persevere.

My family, my friends, my coworkers keep me going. So does my conviction that there is a better way. I believe in myself and others. Having contributed directly to many positive outcomes in the past convinces me that I/we can do so again in the future, with the right approach, or mindset, and sometimes even surrendering to divine will.

It is hard to say what accomplishment I am most proud of. I am quite proud of my education and profession, but I am also very proud of my marriage, and my daughter.

I still laugh when I think back to my teenage years and how much I coveted material items, fancy dresses, cars, big houses, etc. I think a lot of that was because of marketing, advertising, and catalogs. Seeing ads and comparing it to what you have makes you feel almost incomplete, inadequate. I no longer feel that my status or quality of life is determined by what I don’t have. That’s not to say I never like to get new things, but I do believe the mantra “live simply so others may simply live” can inform our lives if we let it.

While living in Mexico, there came a time when I had to let go of toxic relationships – with certain in-laws, with certain friends/acquaintances, etc. I had to realize the role I was playing in continuing negative thought processes and/or relationships with negative people. By starting to meditate, and distance myself from toxic or dysfunctional individuals, although at first, I felt guilty as if I were neglecting something/someone, I actually found a lot more freedom to be myself, make progress, and experience less drama.

I work full time for Peace Corps Mexico, whose office is in Queretaro. We have a team of a couple dozen staff and over 70 volunteers serving in over 9 states in Mexico. I am in charge of the environmental education program, I help to select sites, train, and provide follow-up support for EE volunteers, who do a lot of really great work in conjunction with our partners in the SEMARNAT (National Protected Areas Commission, National Forestry Commission, others). I am pretty much exclusively working with and for Peace Corps Mexico at this time, due to the full-time schedule. Previously, I offered workshops on urban gardening and a few other speaking engagements on environmental topics and my two books.

A couple things have changed that affect how I spend my free time. I have very long work hours and travel a lot, so on the weekends I am pretty tired out and spend a lot of it recuperating. Before, I used to garden and do yoga more, but now I like to read, spend time with my family, be in touch with friends, and cook if I have the energy. I also enjoy ecotourism and “puebleando” (visiting quaint small towns in Mexico) as they call it and luckily I can still do that when we get long weekends or I take vacation time. Photography is a pastime I have always been able to maintain and enjoy, luckily. I have also recently taken up learning piano.

To me it’s important to balance opportunities for work, free time, and friends and family. It’s also very important for me to express myself creatively, whether through art, writing, or currently, I am learning about music through the piano. I also like to think that I am part of a movement for sustainability on this planet, although I’m aware we could always be doing more.

I have coauthored 2 books in Mexico.  In 2009 I self-published “The Bajio’s Bounty: Home cooking for the Queretaro, Mexico Region” which is essentially a collection of family recipes (my husband’s family were farmers, and his father still is) and fusion recipes. Available on CreateSpace here.

In 2011 I began co-authoring “Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders” with Nathaniel Hoffman, Boise-based journalist and friend/colleague from Cornell. We published under our own imprint, Cordillera West Books, in 2013. The Kindle version is available here. Even though our project was self-financed, we did have a successful crowdfunded kickoff campaign where we raised enough funds to take our book to Washington, DC and deliver a copy to every Congressperson, Supreme Court justice, and the President and First Lady.  You can read about that here.  We still blog from time to time and recently launched a new project, #buildbridgesnotwalls which we are hoping will gain more participation.

A wise midwife friend once told me: fear is F.E.A.R.: false expectations approaching reality. I think I was less fearful and more adventurous as a young adult. Now as a mother and wife, I have to remember I am thinking for the rest of my family. But on the other hand, letting fear get the upper hand can cloud your decision-making ability or prevent you from making positive changes in life, so you have to find a balance in your relationship to things that intimidate or frighten you.

I am inspired by people who live their principles. People who rise out of poverty, abuse, or addiction, and break cycles of negativity and/or violence. People who dedicate their lives to serving others.

I am angered by people who don’t appreciate their blessings. Greedy, violent people. I especially am angered by those who take advantage of others, especially those who hurt women and children. People who don’t respect Mother Earth or their neighbors. Hypocrisy, double standards, disrespectful attitudes bother me a lot.

The most important thing for me right now is to continue putting food on the table for my family, making sure my daughter gets a good education. I am currently pretty happy with what I am doing, but I am also interested in working for myself again, more with plants, art, writing, and maybe helping my husband to grow his own business. We’re not sure where the future will lead in terms of geographical locations, so any future plans have to have a certain level of flexibility built into them.

There are a number of misconceptions about the process of legal immigration to the US.  Amor and Exile not only provides personal accounts of couples trying to negotiate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of immigration but also provides a history of US immigration and explanation of current laws.  Find out more on Nicole’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

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And the winner is….

My first sponsored contest ended on Monday.  There were two winners, fittingly enough one from the US and one from Mexico, who won on the basis of being the two highest scorers on the Surviving Mexico social media “test.”  I’m still waiting to hear back from dangerks to send out your prize. Please check your inbox. 

Here are the answers to the “test.”

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Question #1–Where does Linkedin say that I am located?

Answer: Los Angeles, Guanajuato, Mexico

I know I don’t live there.  You know I don’t live there.  But for some reason, Linkedin insists that is where I live.  I’ve tried changing it, but to no avail.

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Question #2–How many boards do I have on Pinterest?

Answer: 39

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My most popular boards are Mexican Revolution, Women in Mexico and Mexican Food and Drink.

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Question #3–How many people am I following on Twitter?

Answer: 156 (although it seems I followed 2 people without knowing about it)

Twitter is not my favorite social media network.  The instant updates distract me, so I end of turning off my notifications and just checking in once a day when I do my Book of the Day tweet.

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Question #4–How many posts do I have on Instagram?

Answer: 535

I forgot I was running this contest and started posting again at the end of the month so the actual number is 538 posts.  Isn’t Mexico lovely?

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Question #5–What is the category of my Facebook page?

Answer: Local & Travel Website

The category was selected by the process of elimination.  I am not featuring famous people, nor am I running a business, so tourist page it is.

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Question #6–How many classifications do I have in the About section on Tumblr?

Answer: 10

My presence on Tumblr has been a struggle for me. Maybe if I post more boob shots?   

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Question #7–How many drop down menus do I have at the top of my WordPress site?

Answer: 5

As of right now, I have 4.  Amazon suddenly stopped offering its astore option and so I just deleted it from my header.  

 

And there we have it, folks.  Miss Fabi chose Dizzy in Durango as her free ebook.  Congratulations Miss Fabi!  Thank you for participating and stay tuned for another contest in 2018! 

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Southern Comfort Food, Mexican Style

I love Mexican food. I mean, who doesn’t?  Tacos and tamales and pozole and carne asada. Seriously, grilled beef, roasted potatoes, and guacamole? Yummy!

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Carne Asada, roasted potatoes, refried pinto beans, guacamole

I love homemade tostadas smeared with refried beans and sprinkled with diced onion. And everybody loves churros, long cylinders of hot crispy dough fresh out of the fryer, covered with cinnamon sugar and served in a paper bag. Eating Mexican street food is like having a state fair going on year round, and just like at the state fair back home, the best vendors always have the longest lines.

I grew up in the rural North Carolina. We had a huge garden, enough to go a long way towards feeding our family’s nine hungry mouths year round. My husband and I want to do the same here in Mexico and we can’t wait to start canning our own food like my mother did. Like dill pickles. I miss pickles, crunchy little gherkins, popping with dill and garlic. Sigh. Oh, sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, southern cooking.

Naturally, my cooking repertoire includes a lot of Southern classics like crispy buttermilk fried chicken, fluffy biscuits, potato salad, deviled eggs, pecan pie and coconut cake, all of which turn out perfectly here, but hubby and I are serious foodies. We are both bemused by the fact that it surprises people sometimes that not only that he is a great cook in his own right, but that some of his very favorite dishes are not even Mexican. “People who live in the states don’t eat only American food,” he says, “so why would people in Mexico eat only Mexican food? Not all great food in Mexico is Mexican.

Lots of our favorite dishes are neither American nor Mexican, and just as at home on either table. My hot and spicy Catfish Soup plays very well here in Mexico, except I use a different firm white fish. Lamb in pomegranate sauce needs only minor substitutions, and pistachio crusted stuffed pork loin comes out just as flavorful with Mexican stone fruits. Adjustments are needed for cream sauces because dairy products are different, but my pasta in cream sauce with honey garlic chicken tastes the same as it did with American ingredients.

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Pasta in Cream Sauce with Honey Garlic Chicken

Mexico has fabulous fresh fruits and vegetables, and the farmer’s markets (mercados) have rows and rows of farmer vendors selling the best of the local harvest, just like back in my agricultural state of North Carolina. Some ingredients are hard to get here, and some are impossible to find, like Russet potatoes and butternut squash. I did hear a rumor that those two items can be found in some parts of Mexico, so if you have them where you are in Mexico, consider yourself lucky. (…and send me some!)

With a little creativity and a few simple substitutions, you can replicate almost any dish from any cuisine, while embracing the wonderful flavors of Mexico. And when it comes to baking, Mexico has some of the best vanilla and chocolate in the world, and as the original source of “Key” limes, Mexican “Key lime pie” is a piece of cake, so to speak.

Even though we prepare meals from all over the world, our comfort foods are rooted in our childhoods. He grew up in rural Mexico and his comfort foods are similar to mine, beans, and cornbread. Well, tortillas in his case.  One southern favorite that I’ve adapted with Mexican ingredients is baked beans. You can make this dish with locally sourced bacon available from any neighborhood butcher shop, but after experimenting a few times, I found that the flavor of my memory is better served by chorizo, fresh Mexican sausage, and because ovens are uncommon in Mexico, this recipe is done on the stovetop and finished in a crock pot.

I hardly ever use recipes except for baking so you can never expect exact measurements from me, but here’s my process.  Clean, wash, soak, and cook one-half kilo (roughly a pound) of alubia beans (navy beans) with your favorite spices but do NOT add any salt. I use garlic, onion, black pepper, epazote and a pinch of cumin. While the beans are cooking, prepare the other ingredients.

Crumble chorizo into a medium hot cast iron skillet and cook thoroughly on a medium low flame, about twenty minutes, adding a bit of oil if needed. You’re looking for a chewy texture so it holds up well in the beans. Drain the cooked sausage and set aside. Finely dice a medium white onion, and add to the pan you just used for the chorizo. Cook on a medium flame, stirring occasionally until they are a lovely caramel color.

When the beans are almost done, sweeten them to taste by adding one-half cup to one cup of brown sugar or piloncello. If you use piloncello, be sure to grind it as fine as possible. Add a couple of spoons of tomato paste or one cubito of caldo de jitomate. Stir and cook about ten minutes to dissolve the sugar and tomato, then add the sausage and onions. If you have an oven and want to bake this dish, go ahead but I do these in a crock pot on low temperature for an hour or so. Once everything comes together, taste and adjust for salt. The saltiness of the chorizo takes time to manifest against the brown sugar, so don’t salt too early.

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“Baked” Beans with Chorizo and Piloncello

These beans are hearty enough to be a meal on their own. Full of sausage and onion, but slightly sweet, even hubby prefers a soft dinner roll with these instead of the traditional tortillas. Enjoy!

Geneva Gurrusquieta, Listener, Thinker, Doer, Writer, Finder, Helper

******Like what you read?  Follow Geneva on Linkedin,  or check out her online business Neva Online Business Services.

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Blogs About Mexico Worth Reading–IamKaren23

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Karen Z. Hendin writes at Iamkaren23, a blog I’ve been following for awhile now.

What brought you to Mexico?

I initially came to teach ESL.

What was the inspiration behind your blog name?

A simple name…………iamkaren23………..23 is my birthday

What area of Mexico and topics does your blog primarily focus on?

The area and topics vary according to where I am living and what that particular place has to offer. I am currently in Mazatlan so the focus is primarily on what is happening there. I also write the occasional blog that may be more thought provoking, such as why my son calls me a nomad or where do I actually call home. I occasionally write about family.

Why do you blog?  

Originally I started blogging once I moved away from Canada so that my friends could have some insight as to my life in Mexico. However I’ve met a lot of people in my travels in Mexico, and they have now become my readers as well.

What is your favorite blog post?   

That’s a hard one. Some of the posts I’ve written about my family referring to events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

What has been the most difficult for you to blog about?

Probably the posts about what I do and why I do what I do. A lot of people just don’t understand my way of life.

What has been the best experience you’ve had in Mexico?  

My first year in Mexico I taught in Culiacan. I became friends with another teacher and he and his wife and all their extended family adopted me. Their kids call me abuelita (grandma).

What has been the worst experience you’ve had in Mexico?  

The worst experience was moving to Irapuato to teach. The school flew me down there, but then changed all the rules about hours, job description, etc. once I got there. They didn’t help with my work visa as promised and no promised healthcare was ever arranged. Needless to say, I didn’t stay long at that school.

What advice do you have for those planning to move or travel to Mexico?

Do your research. If possible, travel around and scout out the area where you want to be. Every city is different. The climate varies. The insects vary. If you’re offered a job, check it out carefully.

If you are no longer in Mexico, do you plan on returning?  

I’m currently on vacation visiting a friend in the USA for the summer. But I’ll be back in Mexico in the fall. I plan to stay in Mexico indefinitely.

Where do you see your blog going?  

Right now I’m leaving it the way it is. I’m focusing more now on writing a novel.

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Where can you be found?

Iamkaren23

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