Category Archives: Mexican Cultural Stories

The Girl who Inspired a Revolution

In honor of International Women’s Day, and in light of Yalitza Aparicio Martínez’s moment in the sun at the Oscars, I’d like to talk about an illegitimate, indigenous girl from Cabora who inspired a revolution and became a saint.hummingbirds daughter

Teresita Urrea was born on October 15, 1873. Her birth name was Niña García Noña María Rebecca Chávez. Her father, Tomás Urrea, was the hacienda owner of Rancho de Santana, Ocoroni in Sinaloa, Mexico and her mother, Cayetana Chávez, was a 14-year old Tehueco servant on the ranch.

In 1880, Urrea moved his ranch to Cabora, Sonora because of some issues he had with Porfirio Diaz. After arriving in Cabora, Teresita had some sort of fit and lapsed in and out of cataleptic states for several months.

She began to do healings as a curandera shortly after she recovered, mostly ministering to the poor, downtrodden indigenous people of the area. People came to her for healings which she performed in the name of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

The Mayo and Yaqui referred to her as La Santa de Cabora which angered the Catholic church officials. The press got wind of all this and started to include regular articles about Teresita in the Mexico City newspaper El Monitor Republicano.  Her legend became intertwined with the events that led up to the Mexican Revolution of 1910 beginning around this time.

Drought prompted the Tarahumara village of Tomochic, Chihuahua to ask for her intervention with the powers that be. While she was there, the village inhabitants had a violent confrontation with federal officials after the auspicious battle cry ‘Viva la Santa de Cabora!” or so the story goes.

Teresita and her father were exiled from Mexico by Porfirio Diaz in May 1892 as the cause of the indigenous insurrections. They were escorted to the border by the Eleventh Regiment and Twelfth Battalion of the Mexican army led by General Abraham Bandala.

After she was exiled, Teresita’s name and sainthood continued to be the rallying call for the Tomochitecos. Federal troops finally destroyed the village and killed at least 300 villagers. The Mayo also united under her banner and attacked Navajoa, Sonora after their lands had been seized by the government.

Meanwhile, Teresita and her father settled in El Bosque near Nogales, Arizona. Teresita began practicing her healing arts again.

In 1895, she was living in Solomonville, Arizona where Lauro Aguirre and Flores Chapa were publishing an anti-government newspaper called El Independiente. In 1896, the two journalists published a pamphlet which referred to the Tomochic rebellion and called for the overthrow of the Mexican government. Flores and Chapa were arrested and tried by the United States government. During the trial, Teresita was named as an accomplice in the drafting of the pamphlet calling for equal rights for all. After the men were acquitted, Teresita moved to El Paso, Texas where again Aguirre was publishing newspapers. She was featured in newspapers in El Paso as “an apolitical spiritual healer.”

In 1896, a group of 60-70 Yaquis and Tomochis attacked the customs house in Nogales, Arizona under the protection of La Santa de Cabora calling themselves “Teresitas”. It was rumored that some carried a picture of Teresita over their hearts as protection.

The Mexican government demanded Teresita extradited back to Mexico, still blaming her for the uprisings. Teresa made a public statement in the El Paso Herald on September 11, 1896, denying she had anything to do with the attack in Nogales.

The Mexican government made at least 3 attempts on her life. Teresita married, Guadalupe Rodriguez, a Yaqui miner, in 1900. Guadalupe tried to kidnap her to return her to Mexico the morning after their marriage. He was arrested, declared insane, and sent to live in an asylum. They were divorced in 1904.

Teresita went on the road with her healing. She signed a contract with either a San Francisco publisher or pharmaceutical firm, sources are unclear which. She performed in public in several large cities, including St. Louis and New York. A conflict over charges the tour promoters had been exacting from those who came to see her ended her contract.

She had a daughter in 1902.  In 1904 she had a second child. Not much is known about the father of these children. She died of tuberculosis on January 11, 1906, and was buried in Clifton, Arizona where her father is also buried.

Whether or not Teresita actively incited the indigenous to revolt against the oppressive regime of Porfirio Diaz, the idea she embodied was an inspiration to thousands. Just four years after her death, Mexico entered a long and bloody civil war.queen

If you are interested in reading more about Teresita’s life, you can read Teresita by William Curry Holden, La insólita historia de la Santa de Cabora by Brianda Domecq, The Astonishing Story of the Saint of Cabora, The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America written by Teresita’s relative Luis Alberto Urrea.

You can also read my review of The Hummingbird’s Daughter here.

 

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Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Religion, women in Mexican History

2019–International Year of Indigenous Languages

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Did you know that 2019 has been declared International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations? The organization’s goals include increasing understanding, creating conditions for knowledge-sharing, and integration of indigenous languages with the dominant cultures of each country. UNESCO has even set up a site which lists events, ways to get involved, and teaching resources which you can find here.

The Mexican government officially recognizes 68 indigenous languages which have approximately 350 different dialects. Most of these languages originated from 7 larger language families while some resulted from 4 language isolates, that is they developed independently of other languages. Purépecha, the indigenous language spoken in the area where I live on the border of Michoacan and Guanajuato, is one of those language isolates. (See Catalogo de las Lenguas Indígenas Nacionales: Variantes Lingüísticas de México con sus autodenominaciones y referencias geoestadísticas). Twenty-one indigenous languages are in danger of extinction as the last remaining speakers die off.

Since 2003, the Mexican law Ley General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas requires that its citizens receive services in their native tongues. Some strides in that direction have been made because of the efforts of the Instituto Nacional de Lenguas Indígenas but the results have been limited nationally.

Approximately 6 million Mexicans speak an indigenous language. Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and Yucatec Maya are the two most spoken languages. Six million people is only about 7% of the entire population of Mexico which has allowed for increasing marginalization over the centuries.

However, under the new presidential regime of AMLO, indigenous culture has taken center stage once again. At his December 1 inauguration, the president-elect received the official blessing from the governor of Los Pueblos Indígenas (indigenous towns) complete with incense and cedar staff engraved with 68 indigenous language representations. He received yet another ruling staff on his trip to Oaxaca later in the month. This staff was the official Tatamandón, the staff that symbolizes the ruler of the majority of indigenous communities of the area.

Just days after taking office, AMLO announced the formation of the Programa Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas stating “Daremos preferencia a los más humildes y a los olvidados, en especial a los Pueblos Indígenas de México.” Andrés Manuel López Obrador (We will give preference to the most humble and forgotten, especially the Indigenous Towns of Mexico)

It appears he is making efforts to listen to and incorporate the indigenous population in the new government.

On the other hand, AMLO also approved the construction of what is known as the Maya Train, even going as far as hosting a ceremony to ask Mother Earth bestow her blessings on the construction. Indigenous groups in the area are opposed to the route which will pass through some of Mexico’s most biodiverse and fragile ecosystems.

Furthermore, EZLN (the Zapatistas) have already made it clear that they do not support AMLO in any way, shape or form and will oppose his government with violence if necessary.

Whether the new government fulfills its promises toward the indigenous peoples or not remains to be seen.

What indigenous languages are spoken in your area?

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Mexican Cultural Stories, Politics

A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays

Remember how I said that I was writing a survival guide for women moving to Mexico? Well, the project has become enormous. So I’ve decided to publish the sections as separate books so that the sheer volume of information doesn’t become overwhelming.

Today I’d like to announce that the first section of the survival guide is now available at Amazon.  A Woman’s Survival Guide to Holidays in Mexico answers how, when, and why these festivities are observed not from abstract research, but personal experience. Because moving to a new country can be daunting, learning about the patriotic, religious and civil festival days will help you understand some of what makes up the Mexican culture and allow you to become more fully immersed in the amazingly diverse world of Mexico. Viva! holidays

This informative book is available for your reading pleasure on Kindle, as a full colored paperback (which is a bit pricey) and as a black and white paperback.

And in celebration of its release, the Kindle version is FREE for the next few days!

As for my other books……

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The paperback version of  Wascally Wabbits and Zombie Babies: Animal Antics South of the Border has also just been released.  The Kindle version of this book has been updated with a few new adventures.

La Yacata Revolution: How NOT to Buy a Piece of Heaven in Mexico and A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico have had updates recently as well.

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So, that ought to keep you busy while I keep working on another installment of the Woman’s Survival Guide series.  Happy reading!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Holidays, Politics, Religion

Playing Tourist–Dolores Hidalgo, Gto

I’m not a big fan of Mexican movies, but every now and then, one catches my fancy. Our latest tourist adventure was inspired by 2014 movie En El Último Trago. Three old geezers set out on a whirlwind adventure, well, as whirlwind as 3 old geezers can spin, to Dolores Hidalgo, specifically to the José Alfredo Jiménez museum. The movie is a hoot. There was nothing for it but to recreate their journey to Dolores Hidalgo ourselves.

It’s only about 3 hours from our home, so it was an easy day trip. Thank god, we had no vehicle problems or no random police stops. Nearly all of my proposed visit sites were clustered near the centro, so we parked and hoofed it.

After stopping for refreshment at a torta place, we began our tourist adventure with the Casa Museo José Alfredo Jiménez. I even got some pictures of the signature of José Alfredo Jiménez, which is a key feature of the movie. Entrance is $40 pesos with a discount for teachers and students with appropriate ID. We bought most of our souvenirs here, which meant lugging them around the rest of the day, but after seeing the other gift shops, we decided it was worth it.

We passed the Parroquia de Nuestro Señora de Los Dolores and saw some class trips reenacting the Grito de Dolores.IMG_20180711_121814

We went to El Museo del Bicentenario which was disappointing. I wasn’t able to exactly understand how the displays came together. The nearest I could figure each room represented an oppressed society. One had posters about censorship in Russia, another Vietnam, 2 full rooms were devoted to China and the last room was all about Israel. There were some exceptional stained glass windows in one room and a few spectacular Catrinas in another, but that was about it as regards to Mexico. Oh, and the two full wall surrealist murals were something to see. Admission was $20 pesos, half price for students and teachers.

Our next stop was La Casa de Los Descendientes de Hidalgo (the House of the descendants of Miguel Hidalgo), which was also an upscale restaurant. The entrance was $30 pesos per person and $10 for camera use. As the name implies, this was the home of the 5th generation descendants of Miguel Hidalgo, the last remaining descendant having just celebrated her 106th birthday. Apparently, after the 5 generations, the blood is no longer pure and the generation count begins again. So the children of the 5th generation, are no longer descendants of Miguel Hidalgo, or so our tour guide told us. This was my favorite museum. There were dioramas depicting some of the most relevant aspects of the fight for Independence. I have to admit, I always wanted to have my own handmade wooden dollhouse and these little scenes made my heart go pitter patter with longing.

We then took a turn around the centro, which was very pleasant, and had some ice cream (another reference to the movie). There were a few nice statues, lots of benches to sit on, and a whole lotta shoe polishing carts. We admired La Casa de Visitas from our park bench.

We hiked a few blocks to the Museo del Vino and the Casa de Hidalgo. Both had a $45 peso admission fee, which seemed a little steep now that we’d been to a few of the other museums. We opted not to tour either. I did peek in Hidalgo’s house and was reminded of another movie Hidalgo la Historia Jamás Contada which as far as historical movies go, wasn’t bad.

Of course, it could be that Hidalgo, who fathered children with two different women and spearheaded the national fight for Independence, was not quite what you would expect from a Catholic priest. Hidalgo had his own vineyards which were burnt in punishment for his treason against the crown, so the Museo de Vino wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination right there next to his house in what used to be a hospital. We did hit the gift shop and bought a locally produced bottle of wine called Lloro de Tierra. It was a nice, sweet, fruity rose and we enjoyed it immensely when we got home.

We did not get to the Museo de la Independencia, nor did we stop to see la Tumba de José Alfredo Jiménez en the Panteon. When we asked for directions to the cemetery, hoping it was close enough to walk to, we were told we’d have to walk “un chingo” to get there. My son’s flat feet were starting to ache and we were getting tired, so walking un chingo didn’t seem like something we were interested in doing.IMG_20180711_140241.jpg On the way out of the town, we stopped in another nice park with statues, a playground, some nice fountains (without any water) and benches that resembled sofas.IMG_20180711_141220As far as Pueblos Mágicos go, Dolores Hidalgo should be on your must-see list, not for the quality of the museums because they were rather ho-hum, but for the historical significance of the area, and the wine. I would recommend staying more than one day since there are so many things to see.

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Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Tourist Sites in Mexico