Category Archives: Mexican Cultural Stories

Celebrating International Children’s Book Day

International Children’s Book Day has been around since 1967. It is observed on April 2, in honor of Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. I don’t know about you, but I loved books since I was a child. Hans Christian Andersen’s stories, which many Disney movies are based on, were particularly dark. The Little Mermaid certainly doesn’t have the same ending, that’s for sure.

Another book that I loved was I’m in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor. The wildness of that story reminds me so much of my life now in La Yacata. Perhaps, unconsciously, I strove to replicate it in crafting my middle-aged life? Who knows.

As a mother, my favorite children’s book was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It makes me sob. My son didn’t like me to read it to him. Go figure. In fact, I’m crying just thinking about it.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite’s as a teacher. I read it to my classes in English and in Spanish when we talked about the environment. It certainly got a mixed bag of reactions from my students!

Travels with Grace by Erma Note is my latest children’s book read. Erma Note will be featured in a few days on Content Creative for the A to Z Virtual Book Tour. Be sure to check that out on April 16!

My own contributions to the world of children’s literature are not as spectacular as these that left a lasting impression on me growing up. However, I hope that children with parents or grandparents from our town will cherish them. So in honor of International Children’s Book Day both La Historia de Moroleón para Niños and The History of Moroleon for Kids ebooks are on sale for 99 cents from April 2 until April 6.

What are your favorite children’s books?

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Filed under Book Reviews, Mexican Cultural Stories

La Historia de Moroleón para Niños

Now that I figured coloring book formatting out, setting up La Historia de Moroleón para Niños was much simpler than its English counterpart. My son did the translation for me. We checked and double checked accents and word choice. And I’m happy to announce that it’s now available on Amazon! 

Click on the cover for a preview.

Amazon Mexico is also carrying the ebook version, but I’m not sure when or if the paperback version will be available. There are far fewer books available through the Mexican site than the US one. Perhaps there is less demand. 

I’ve ordered my author copies. Claudia, my artist friend who illustrated the coloring books, is going to see if we can offer it at the two bookstores in town and maybe the historical society. After all, it’s a local interest book. I fully realize the audience for this topic is very limited, so I don’t expect it to make much money at all. And that’s ok.

One of my friends suggested I offer it to local schools. Having worked in several, I know how that will go. The school may buy a copy (or ask me to donate one) and then feel free to make unlimited copies to use in the classroom. Copyright has very little value here. So I’m not going to waste my time offering it to schools. 

This project, publishing the coloring book in both English and Spanish, took several years to complete. The first version was available in 2016. It’s now finished to my satisfaction and I’ll be moving on to another book project shortly. There’s no time to rest on my laurels!

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Natural Healing — Cempasúchil

marigold alter.jpg

The Aztec marigold (Tagetes erecta)  is known as cempasúchil in Mexico. The name comes from the Nahuatl cempohualxochitl which translates as “20 flowers”, possibly referring to the fact that each blossom has the potential to create 20 or more flowers, although some sources reference the ritualistic significance of the number 20, so there maybe be other reasons for this name.

This aromatic flower is native to Mexico and has a long history of medicinal and ritualistic use. Even today, this flower dominates the festival Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is believed that the strong scent will call to the spirits that are roaming free and guide them home to visit loved ones. This use has given the cempasúchil another name, Flor de Muertos (Flower of the Dead).

The Mayan had similar beliefs. The priests would wash their hands and face with an infusion of leaves and flowers before calling the spirits.

There is a legend that describes the love of Xóchitl and Huitzilin. Their feelings were so strong that when Huitzlin died in battle, the sun god Tonatiuh heard the pleas of Xóchitl to reunite them. He transformed Xóchitl into the cempohualxochitl flower. Huitzlin, who had been reincarnated in the form of the hummingbird, forever after found nourishment among her “20 flowers.”

Francisco Hernández described the common use of the cempasúchil in the Historia Natural de la Nueva España like this:

“Tienen todas hojas como de tanaceto, flores amarillas, o amarillas con algo de bermejo, de temperamento caliente y seco en tercer grado, sabor acre, partes sutiles y olor un tanto fuerte. Tiene virtud resolutiva y aperitiva; el jugo de las hojas tomado o las mismas hojas machacadas y tomadas con agua o con vino atemperan el estómago frío, provocan las reglas, la orina y el sudor, alejan los fríos de las intermitentes untadas un poco antes del acceso, quitan la flatulencia, excitan el apetito venéreo, curan la debilidad que proviene de destemplaza fría del hígado, abren las vías obstruidas, aflojan los miembros contraídos, alivian la hidropesía, provocan vómito tomadas con agua tibia, y curan los fríos de las fiebres y aun las fiebres mismas evacuando la causa por la orina y el sudor.”

Historia Natural de la Nueva España, Volume II. Book IV, CLXXIX

Loosely translated, it reads:

“They all have leaves like tansy, yellow flowers, or yellow with some red, hot-tempered and dry in the third degree, pungent taste, subtle parts, and somewhat strong smell. It has a decisive and aperitive virtue; the juice of the leaves drunk or the same leaves crushed and drunk with water or wine temper the stomach, provoke menstruation, urine and sweat, remove intermittent shivers by smearing a little near body cavities, rid the body of flatulence, they excite the venereal appetite, they cure the weakness that comes from the dislocation of the liver, they open the clogged passageways, they loosen contracted limbs, they relieve dropsy, they provoke vomit when drunk with lukewarm water, and they cure shivering of the fevers and even the fevers themselves evacuating the cause of urine and sweat.”

Strange 15th-century disorders aside, like the floating liver, the cempasúchil has been shown to be effective in the majority of the ailments Hernández listed and continues to be an important ingredient in many natural remedies in Mexico today.

Traditionally, the cempasúchil has been used to treat intestinal parasites. Drink 3 cups of a tea made from a pinch of flower petals and 1 / 4 liter of water. The flowers also have anti-inflammatory properties.

A diluted, lukewarm tea is given to babies with colic commonly called empache. The flowers have spasmolytic properties which help soothe the bellyache and reduces fussiness.

An infusion or tincture of the flowers is also used to treat susto or espanto which are nervous conditions. The compounds in the flowers have a sedative effect.

Both antioxidant and antibacterial, the cempasúchil has traditionally been used for wound care. The flowers are crushed into a poultice and can be applied directly to the injury or sore. The crushed leaves are used to treat boils and burns which aids in healing.

In the Yucatan, Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Veracruz, the cempasúchil is used to treat fever. Extracts from the plant are applied in a tincture to the bottom of the feet to provoke perspiration and sweating. In Guerrero and Tabasco, the plant is used to treat colds.

The petals are edible and have anti-aging properties, so go ahead and sprinkle some on your salad. Or you could this chicken in marigold sauce recipe or one of the dishes in the video below.

This versatile plant is also a boon to the gardener, being a natural insect repellent. Crushed petals rubbed on your skin will repel mosquitos.

The petals make a non-toxic dye. In Mexico, dried and powdered petals are fed to chickens so that their skin and eggs are yellower. There is also a cempasúchil pulque (moonshine) made in some areas.

All in all, there is more than one reason to have cempasúchil in your herbal repertoire. 

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Filed under Health, Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Food and Drink, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing