Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

La Catrina dons her
best red sequined dress.
Swishing and swaying,
she will visit her loved ones today.

As she sets out for her trip, the
scent of marigolds finds her and
Clings to the red shiny
details of her embroidered dress.

The sequins, the smell.
They are everywhere.
They celebrate the season.
They celebrate the dead.

They celebrate the life.

Candles light the path of the souls.
The path of the souls to the feast.

As she walks along in her feathered hat,
La Catrina finds her offerings.

Sweet and sugary Pan de Muerto,
A Circle. A circle of bones.

The circle of life.

Friends and family join La Catrina.
Join La Catrina to celebrate
the season
the dead
the life.

A calavera, a skull, and a marigold
Stop to sing and join in her praise,
to celebrate
her season.

the twigster and her sister,
Josephine & Francesca

PS: Only one more full week of Peace Corps training before I become a Peace Corps volunteer. No puedo creerlo.


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Amongst the beagles and other varieties of street dogs roaming the humble pueblito known as Piedra Grande, roamed two Peace Corps volunteers named Danny and Josephine. Now these two volunteers found themselves in the mountains above Mexico City with a quest – a quest to create some of the best-recycled art crafts known on this side of the border. The motivation was simple and absolute, an eco-fair for about 70 children. Two weeks to prepare, and too many recycled crafts projects tantalizing their artistic energies led to quite the experience involving trash-picking, rancid milk, plastic dust in noses, and medical emergencies.

Now setbacks are inevitable in projects such as this, but they can’t always be anticipated.

Setback 1: The realization that papelerías are closed on Sundays. Significance of this discovery? Well, Danny and Josephine needed to buy art supplies from said papelerías before heading out from Querétaro to Piedra Grande that Monday morning. With a little huffing and puffing, the crisis was marginally averted. If you saw two gringos running at 8:00 in the morning, one falling a few steps behind the other (Josephine blames it on the altitude), then you saw Danny and Josephine running to buy paint, glue, construction paper, string, etc., before boarding a bus to Piedra Grande.  “Great,” they thought, “we’ve got all the materials, what can stop us now?”

Setback 2: Danny and Josephine decided to transform plastic bottles into jack-o-lanterns of all varieties in honor of the approaching and children-cherished, Halloween. In preparation for this feat, they collected bottles from a local school in Querétaro and hauled that “trash” bag to Piedra Grande, ready to turn the transparent bottles into pumpkins of vibrant orange opacity. And so, they began to paint. “Huh, how strange,” they thought, “the paint seems to be sliding right off the bottle.” Thus, they learned that they needed to sand 65 bottles before painting them – every nook, cranny, and crease needed a graze of the rough paper. That’s not time consuming at all, right? This is what led to plastic dust in noses.

Setback 3: Turns out Josephine was freakishly allergic to something, something still unknown, and as a result turned into a Blotch Monster. Face swollen, lips white, Benadryl state of mind. It is said that at this moment she informed Danny that she was no longer sanding. No, no dust particles were touching her already fragile face. At which point, as you can imagine, Danny ended up with more plastic dust in his nose.

With the setbacks finally out of the way Team Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was ready to get down to business. Day after day, more oranges bottles lined the room, haunting PC volunteers and begging them for eyes, noses, mouths. But jack-o-lanters weren’t enough. Oh, no. Danny and Josephine decided to make other recycled crafts to give out during a raffle during the eco-fair. This team was getting ambitious it seemed. Like elves, they carried on, hoping their energy and efforts would help dispel the myth that trash is nothing more than trash. Miraculously, beer bottle caps transformed into tambourines, a soda bottle into a piggy bank, milk cartons into wallets, and jugs into Day of the Dead decorations.

Two weeks of working and the time had come. The fair. Team Basura, Team Trash displayed all their handicrafts on the table, anticipating the rush of kids, and eager to give the pumpkins the faces they craved. As was hoped, the kids loved it! Helping the kids decorate their jack-o-lanterns made all the puffy eyes, and frustrated evenings of work fade away, and so they glued, decorated, and transformed “trash” for two hours.  It was the fair winding down, it was time for THE RAFFLE. Now kids had been eyeing these prizes every time they passed Team Basura’s table. They wanted that piggy bank. They wanted those tambourines. They wanted the trash. Names began to be drawn, as fingers were crossed. Prizes were received by kids with smiling faces, hugely smiling faces.

And so, Danny and Josephine gave each other a pat on the back, vowing next time to do the same, setbacks and all.

the twigster,


PS: Make your own bottle cap tambourines, milk carton wallets, and soda bottle piggy bank.

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My home for the next two years, I thought as I approached Huimilpan for the first time, “the place of the biggest cornfields.” My whole reason for joining the Peace Corps, to live and work in a community, was finally manifesting itself after a month of living in México. It was time for my site visit, time to gather the information I needed to survive physically and mentally for two years. Gathering, recording, processing. It felt a bit like collecting kindling with full arms. My mind was already heavy with new information. Taking a deep breath and fortified by the scent of the sea of flowers surrounding me, I stepped out of Señor Francisco’s car.

A combination of nerves and leaving the controlled setting of my Spanish classroom, instantly transformed this “intermediate” Spanish speaker into an eight year old. Nice to meet you. Smile. Nod. Smile. Fumbling over my words, I desperately tried to link context clues with what my boss was saying. Please,..time..to..process…the..translation. There was no stopping. “This is so and so, and this is my cousin so and so.” Dozens of hands shaken, dozens of kisses given. Nice to meet you. Smile. Nod. And so it went for four days in Huimilpan. Freeing embarrassment from my list of possible emotions, no entiendo, otra vez por favor, became a motiff in every dialogue. Smile. Nod. Locals turned a much-appreciated blind eye to my broken Spanish, helping me to feel less like a fish out of water. People were kind and patient, taking the time to repeat their sentence or say the same things with simpler words. The smile and nod returned if all else failed.

As the days passed, it seemed that the people of Huimilpan were happy just to learn the reason behind why there was this foreigner, the gringa, walking around town. Mexicans aren’t very shy in asking personal questions. Luckily, my family prepared me for this growing up. Uncles always put us on the hot seat during Sunday dinners to interrogate us about the latest boyfriend, or life step. With this experience under my belt, fielding the questions wasn’t too hard to navigate. Thanks, Uncle Joseph. Foreigner celebrity status was a bit harder. Sitting in the plaza after attending the outdoor mass to celebrate the Huimilpan’s patron’s saint, San Miguel, I felt hundreds of pairs of eyes of me. Peace Corps warned us about this. Since we Peace Corps volunteers are the odd ones around in our communities, people will be looking at our every action, all day, everyday. Gaga status. While in site we are “on” all the time.

Gaga status does have its perks though. While visiting one of the communities, Piedra Lisas, and chit chatting with a woman about her different eco-technologies, I was invited to make some tortillas with her using one of her eco-technologies, her efficient wood stove. When conversations involve food, somehow I manage to understand that Spanish. We spent the next hour making and eating corn tortillas with salsa made from the chili peppers she grew in her garden. Hot tortilla in hand and a mouth of fire, I stepped outside for a second and checked out the surrounding view – my new home. It was then that Francesca’s poem popped into my head. Francesca wrote “Simplistic Beauty” for me when I graduated from Tulane to serve as a constant reminder of the person I am, and the person I hope to be.

“There is nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…life isn’t about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.” With this as my mantra, Huimilpan didn’t seem as intimidating anymore. I went back to my host house in the city of Querétaro, took out my Spanish Grammar Book, and got to work. After all, I can improve a lot in the month before my service begins in Huimilpan.

the twigster,


PS: After an extended period of  thinking about every verb ending before speaking, all I wanted to do is chit chat with other volunteers in English upon my return and know certainly that they understand the sounds rolling off my tongue.

PPS: With only a quick assessment of the community to inform this, I think I will be working to build water cisterns and developing people’s individual gardens!

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The cool and crisp morning air awakens my senses to all that surrounds me. While dodging kids on their way to school with their breakfast churros in hand, I catch glimpses of the city’s past. Facades of buildings chipping. Ornate wooden doors. Mexican flags waving proudly in the breeze. Querétaro, a city of living history, is full of wonder at every turn. Spanish colonial churches, skinny stone sidewalks, and tiendas selling gorditas, charm residents and visitors alike. And so, I walk. Soaking in the city, I am in a trance-like state for forty minutes, on my way to prepare for what is in store for the next two years. Within what seems like only minutes, I find myself in front of the Peace Corps office, hardly ready to start another eight hour day of training. As the clock strikes 8:30, there I stand, left contemplating my fortune to experience this gem of a city.

the twigster,


PS: I am always really tempted to buy a churro from the street, but reconsider, wondering if churros are the best start to the day.  Tempting though, huh?



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Four years in New Orleans meant many nights parading around the humid town with a face full of glitter and homemade toile skirts. Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Second Line parades, Halloween- there was always an opportunity to let loose, to enjoy and celebrate life within the unique New Orleans culture. Friends or strangers, it never mattered. Everyone was happy and dancing while complimenting one another’s homemade costumes. This was one of my favorite things about life in NOLA, the self-proclaimed right to dance in the streets and sport purple and green hair, if only for the night.

After Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations this past weekend, I know I have found myself in another place with people that know how to appreciate and savor this life. Thursday night, with a tip from staff at the Peace Corps, I walked over to El Templo de Santa Cruz with some other Peace Corps volunteers. In celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day, hundreds of people gather in this square in Querétaro in order to dance the Concheros for two full days, non-stop. A dance with indigenous roots, it has been performed since the Spanish Colonial times blending Catholic symbolism and ancient ritual.

When I arrived to the Plaza, I was in the middle of a sea of feathers. People surrounded me with costumes of all colors, dazzling spectators with costumes made of sequins, beads, gold, and silver. Feather headdresses adorned the dancers’ heads, extending a meter in each direction. Organized in a group, dancers rattled the instruments on their ankles, dancing for hours at a time. They filled the air with music coming from conch shells, drums, and string instruments. All the while, I stood there awestruck, attempting to drink in all the sites and process all that I was seeing. With incense smoke, floating into the air, I couldn’t help but float away myself. Wow, I thought. I live here now. ¡Qué suerte! ¡Viva México!

the twigster,


PS: There is a tradition to crack cascarones on friends for good luck and shower them with confetti. Check out some instructions to make them here. They could be great for your next celebration!

El GRITO (The Cry for Independence)


¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria!

¡Víva Hidalgo!

¡Viva Morelos!

¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!

¡Viva Allende!

¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!

¡Viva la independencia nacional!

¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!


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