Charrería

I thought the national sport of Mexico would be soccer, but it’s really Charrería. Really? Charrería? It turns out the Mexican rodeo is extremely popular in the central parts of Mexico. I’d been to the rodeo before when my family visited Texas a few years ago, but I wanted to see the difference between the two. So I gathered a few brave souls to go with me, and we headed to the local competition.

I noticed the first difference right off the bat. The Charros (traditional Mexican horseman) wore brightly colored costumes. This one Charro had on a bright blue hat with gray custom designs and his suit was gray with the same bright blue in the patterns. It was fully coordinated, even down to the bright blue cowboy boots he wore. He also had on a bright blue scarf around his neck. It kind of reminded me of a mariachi costume smacked with bright blue paint. And the costumes got even better. There was a woman in a long, hot pink dress with puffy shoulders and a white ruffle bell-shaped bottom. I kept thinking to myself that she was too beautiful to participate in this type of competition, but she got down and dirty with the rest of the men and women out there.

Mexican Charros - Photo by Ehecatzin

Mexican Charros – Photo by Ehecatzin

Another major difference I saw was the Charros worked in teams and not as individuals. In the competitions in Texas, the riders tried to win the competition and the prize money as an individual, whereas the Charros in Mexico won their individual competitions to add to their team’s total points. Then at the end of all nine of the different mini challenges, the team with the most points wins. Wins what, you ask? Not money, but glory and pride for their riding association. I would have wanted a cash prize for risking my life, but the Charros do it for bragging rights.

I’m glad I went and experienced the Charrería. Aside from the great Mexican food and the colorful scenery, I got a taste of the rich Mexican tradition that’s been around since the 1500’s. The sport has grown and evolved since the sixteenth century, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow in the twenty-first century. Maybe I’ll come back to see it all on a larger scale on Charro Day on September 14th.

Activities:

  1. List the main differences between charros and cowboys.
  2. What do you think would be most entertaining about watching charrería? Why?
  3. Charrería is a derivative word made by adding the suffix –ería to the stem of the word charro:charro ➞ charrería
    Add the suffix –ería to the following words to create the derivative words.Guess the meaning of the new words!
    fruta ➞
    niño ➞
    helado ➞
    pescado ➞
    carne ➞
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¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival

Today we went to the ¿Qué Pasa? Festival in Richmond, VA. It was a celebration of Hispanic heritage at the city’s Science Museum. The first thing I noticed when we pulled up, besides the incredible number of people, was that the museum looked just like the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. It had the dome at the top and everything. The only difference was the museum was longer and not as brightly painted.

I noted that the festival was both indoors and outdoors. That was a good thing, because I saw some clouds off in the distance that looked like rain clouds. I could also smell the rain coming, as the old folks would say. I could see some dancers performing as we were walking up. They looked like flamenco dancers with the brightly colored dresses and the castanets on their hands. They must have been finishing up, because a band was coming on next. Another thing I noticed was that there were a crazy number of vendors outside. There had to be about a hundred craft, food, and sponsor booths, once we walked inside, there were hundreds more!

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival - Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival – Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

We walked past the compass swinging across the globe and towards the elevators. Before we could push the button something bright caught my eye. PIÑATASSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! Piñatas lined this long hallway. Apparently, the festival organizers asked the local high schools to participate in a piñata design challenge. So the schools submitted their best piñatas. They were unbelievable!!!! All shapes, all sizes, all colors! They were just astounding.

I started to get a little cold and a little hungry. I saw an arepas vendor outside that I wanted to try out, but on my way out I was distracted by a group of guys and girls dance-fighting. It’s called capoeira. I watched them for a while until my stomach started growling. I searched out the arepas vendor and got one. When I came back, the capoeira people were just finishing up. Some random guy called out for them to come over. He said, “I know how to dance-fight, too,” and started break dancing. It was hilarious!

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Festival Piñata poster - Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

¿Qué Pasa? Hispanic Cultural Festival – Photo by the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

I walked a little further down the complex and there was a fashion show going on. I thought it was wedding gear, but it was Quinceañera fashion. I sent a text message to the girls to tell them about it as I walked away. Tess texted back to say they were doing Zumba inside and I was welcome to join them if I liked. I wasn’t interested, so I went to go see the Mariachi band play. That is, until it started to drizzle. That was my cue to head back inside.

I walked around for a little bit and was happy to see so many Hispanic cultures represented at one festival. Everyone looked so proud to take part in such celebrations of diversity. I was happy to be a part of the crowd and support these kinds of festivities. I’d say it was a success, despite the rain. I would definitely come back.

Activities:

  1. What is capoeira?
  2. What does the name “¿Qué pasa?” mean? – Think of an alternative name for the festival.
  3. Is there a similar festival in your hometown? Describe it.
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Florida Oranges

I am an orange freak! Every Saturday morning when I was a kid, when my mom and I would go to the grocery store, we’d walk directly to the produce and seek out the oranges. When we’d find them, we’d look for the label that says Florida. We liked Florida oranges the best because the peels are really thin. Even though they’re harder to peel, there’s more fruit and they are juicier than other oranges. Once we found the Florida oranges, we would promptly grab a bag and fill it until we couldn’t fit any more in there. Then we would shop the rest of the store. That was the beginning of my orange addiction.

You know oranges aren’t native to Florida, right? Juan Ponce de Leon brought them to Florida in the early 1500s. Rumor has it that Ponce de Leon was in search of the fountain of youth, and oranges are a part of staying young. They contain a generous amount of antioxidants, which have been proven to fight aging. I’m sure Ponce de Leon switched the saying from an apple a day to “an orange a day keeps the doctor away.”

Florida Oranges

Florida Oranges

Speaking of health, did you know people used to give oranges as wedding gifts? They were a gift to symbolize good health for the new couple. I’m sure that was a great gift back in the day, but there better be a juicer to go along with all those oranges at my wedding!

As we were driving around in Florida, there were orange trees in people’s yards, there were orange groves in the country fields, and miles and miles of orange farms owned by corporations. The orange growing business is an almost 10-billion-dollar business in Florida. You would think that Florida was the world leader in oranges, but actually, Brazil, specifically São Paulo, is the world leader. Brazil’s oranges are purely for exportation, however, whereas the Florida orange is mostly for domestic consumption.

Don’t laugh at me, but I joined an orange fruit club. Every year from November through May, I get 10-pound crates of oranges each week. From November through January I get navel oranges and February through May I get Valencia oranges. They come directly to my doorstep and I enjoy them all week long. They’re always fresh and perfectly picked. Must I say it again? I’m an orange freak!

Activities:

  1. Where do Florida oranges originally come from?
  2. Who was Ponce de León? How did he impact the history of the United States?
  3. What is your favorite fruit and why?
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Arnold Belkin

I couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful murals while we were in Mexico City. Almost every corner, almost every building, held the works of a famous painter/muralist: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Arnold Belkin, to name a few. Wait, Arnold Belkin? That name didn’t ring a bell. So I decided to do some research on him to find out who this famous muralist with an Anglo name was.

Come to find out, Arnold Belkin is a Canadian artist who was inspired by Mexican muralists as a young man. He saw an article about Diego Rivera in a magazine when he was 14 years old and attending a school for the arts in Vancouver. When he saw that article, he knew he wanted to be a muralist. After he graduated high school, he moved to Mexico City to attend an art school. Arnold wanted his murals to make a difference, so most of his murals tackle social injustice and poverty. I guess that’s why they call him the “Canadian son of Mexican muralism.”

Arnold Belkin Mural

Arnold Belkin Mural

Some of his earlier works went unrecognized because the works of the famous muralists overshadowed the up-and-coming artist. But Belkin won the hearts of many Mexican critics when he painted a mural on the Mexico City Penitentiary. It was called Todos Somos Culpables (We Are All Guilty) and it followed the life, trial, jailing, and freedom of a convict. That was the mural that opened people’s eyes. After that, Belkin was able to work with his idol, David Siqueiros, and many other artists.

Another famous mural by Arnold Belkin can be found on the wall in a playground in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. It’s called “Against Domestic Colonialism.” It’s such a shame, but it’s starting to rub off the wall. Time and the elements have not been kind to the mural. But there are many more murals still standing. He has some in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and in other places in the United States.

I was wondering how Belkin could do all of these murals alone. Some of them were two and three stories high! I read that sometimes he enlisted the help of students during the big projects. I imagine he had help when he did four ginormous murals at the Metropolitan University in Mexico City. It’s just awesome to me that even though he wasn’t born and raised in Mexico, Mexicans are proud to have adopted him.

Activities:

  1. Why is Arnold Belking called the “Canadian son of Mexican muralism”?
  2. What is the story behind the mural Todos Somos Culpables?
  3. Who is your favorite artist and why?
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Tijuana

Today we found out what all the hype was about in Tijuana, Mexico. As we were on our way to San Diego, CA, someone suggested that we go to Tijuana for a few hours. I’d heard about Tijuana, but I was never allowed to go. There were a lot of rumors and stereotypes about this growing border town, so it was always known as the “Forbidden City.” Thankfully, today we put all of those rumors and stereotypes to rest.

Tijuana border with the U.S.

Tijuana border with the U.S.

We started off by taking a vote. Did we want to walk into Mexico or drive into Mexico? Along with a majority of the group, I voted to walk, so we parked the car off of the last U.S. exit and proceeded to walk to the border. We were almost at the border when I realized I didn’t have my passport, so I had to run back really quickly to get it. . I knew I didn’t need ID on my way into Mexico, but I was going to need it on the way out.

We went through this loud, clanky metal gate, and we walked immediately into the customs area. I looked back to see a sign that said “San Ysidro” with an arrow pointing to the U.S. side and “Tijuana” with an arrow pointing to the Mexico side. I learned something new: San Ysidro, California is the town right before you cross the border into Mexico.

The walk to downtown Tijuana took us about 15 minutes, and that was at a good pace. Our mission was to get to Revolution Avenue or Avenida Revolución, which is the heart of shopping and entertainment in Tijuana. My Tijuana tour book said to follow the arch, and Revolution Avenue would be at the other end of the arch, so that’s what we did. We had to cross a bridge before we could get to the end of the arch. I don’t know why there was a bridge in the first place; the river below was just as dry as could be. We could have walked across the bottom and not gotten wet. There was a HUGE Mexican flag at the end; sort of like “X marks the spot.” Then we were finally at Revolution Avenue, which is the second most visited tourist spot in the western hemisphere (New York City being the first).

I chose to do some shopping. I went in and out of the stores trying to bargain shop. The guide book said that no price was ever final, so I put in some work to negotiate the best prices. I would tell the shop keepers that the cash in my hand was all I wanted to spend, and most of them would take my offer. There was one guy that wouldn’t bite, so I went to walk out of the store and he chased me down to accept my offer. Got ’em!

Avenida de la Revolucion - Photo by Johntex

Avenida de la Revolucion – Photo by Johntex

I was super hungry by the end of shopping, but thankfully I didn’t have to go too far because there were plenty of restaurants on the avenue. Everyone else chose to eat at the fast food chains because it was fast and easy. My thought was, I don’t want it if I can eat it every day at home. I wanted authentic, so I sat down for a real Mexican feast. As I was leaving, I caught up with the group. They were chatting about how the price for fast food in Mexico wasn’t any cheaper than the fast food in the U.S. I paid less money than they did, but I got more food. Hah! Guess that’s what they get for not going for the full Mexican experience!

Activities:

  1. What are the rumors and stereotypes about Tijuana the writer is referring to?
  2. Go to Google Maps and find out where Tijuana is located. Describe its location in relation to the US.
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