Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Santa Ana's Leg

Santa Anna....
Known for his cruel Massacre at the Alamo was involved in other schemes, plots & pursuits. He introduced chewing gum into the U.S., While in New York looking for ways to finance a new political career, he met Samuel Adams who was trying to figure out ways to make latex tires for carriages. Santa Ana sold him a ton of chicle gum from the zapote tree of Mexico. While experimenting one day, Adams daughter asked if she could have a piece to chew on, this inspired him to flavor it and sell it as a treat. It became an instant success and Adams Chiclet Gum was born. Adams became a millionaire and Santa Ana died impoverished. So the next time you sit or step in gum remember it was Santa Ana's fault.
Back around 1838 some of Santa Anas troups in Mexico City broke into a bakery on Tacubayo street and ate all the cakes & pastries, The shop was owned by a Frenchman named Remontel who put in a protest to the French ambassador. The price of the pastries was about $6000 pesos, Harsh words were spoken & the argument went on for months, finally France made a declaration saying Mexico owed $600,000 pesos, an exhorbitant amount at a time when the minimum wage was $1 peso a day. Mexico refused, France sent a warship & bombarded Veracruz, took over the port and Mexico declared war.
Santa Ana was living in Xalapa at the time and saw it as a chance to reenter politics, without authorization he gathered a scraggly band of men and descended on the port to wage war. Admiral Charles Baudin in charge of the Ship ordered his men back on board the vessel, Santa Ana on the docks ranted & screamed when suddenly a single canon shot of grapeshot came from the ship and hit Santa Ana in the leg, it seemed like a scene from a hollywood epic, Santa Ana went on and on as to how he was laying down his life for his country. He was taken to a hospital where his leg had to be amputated. Meanwhile the Gov't agreed to pay the debt with interest at a later date & the french departed. the war was over. Santa Ana wore a cork leg after that & he never failed to mention how he had given his leg in patriotic bravery.
Years later while chasing Sam Houston near San Jacinto, he along with a few soldiers stopped to rest under a shade tree and he took his leg off to rest it. Suddenly a group of Texicans rode up so his soldier escort picked Santa Ana up and placed him in a wagon and rapidly galloped off, leaving the leg resting against the tree. The Texans liberated the leg & took it as a Souvenir, it's now in a museum in Illinois.
During the Sesquicentennial of the Alamo(1985), someone in the U.S. Government mentioned that they had seen the flag that flew over the Alamo in a dusty glass case in the basement of Chapultepec Castle. So The Texas Gov't. wrote a letter saying they wondered if the Mexican Gov't. would be willing to trade the flag for the cork leg.
Someone, I believe it was the Secretary of the President of Mexico wrote back saying... "we don't want the leg of a man that lost half of our country. besides that Mexican boys paid for that flag with their blood."

Here's an interesting quote from Porfirio Diaz who was President/Dictator of Mexico for 30 years (1880=1910).
"Poor Mexico, So far from God and so close to the United States"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State Fair has started

The State Fair opened last Friday, tremendous Firework display Friday Night. Mexican Rodeo at the Fairgrounds and the running of the Bulls on Nov. 1st & 2nd.

Monday, October 20, 2008

more about All Saints Day

Fall is definitely here, the cornfields are turning brown wild flowers are blooming, theres a purple flower that covers roadsides , I cant identify it but I`m told it`s a chrysanthemum.Also cempasuchil flowers are showing up in the markets, which means the Day of the Dead is near,(All Saints Day).

All Saints Day is of European Origin but the Mexican Version predates it to prehispanic times and now it`s a blend of Catolic/Aztec Customs.

The Aztecs had their own way of celebrating death and their concepts that determined where they would go after death. Their idea was that warriors who died in battle were converted into companions of the rising sun, called "Cuahetecatl" or companions of the Eagle.

For those who died ordinary deaths, they would go to "Mictlan" , the 9th region of death to begin their journey , being buried with things they would need on their trip. Sometimes accompanied with their dog, a xolitescuntle, who would lead them through the underworld towards heaven.

In Aztec theology we find the god, "Xipe", who was worshipped and feared and his fiesta was celebrated in the Aztec calendar, el Tonamatl and Xiumatl that fell between Oct. 15th and Nov. 15th of our calendar. It was celebrated with flowers, song, food & drink.

Todays traditions of Day of the dead synbolize a mix of pagan0-christian beliefs, which have become customs with some modifications depending on the region.

The Day of the dead really starts on Oct. 28th.. when Mexicans celebrate the death of persons who have died in disgrace (murder-suicide) or in accidents. At 3 PM the priest orders the ringing of the church bells to receive the souls of the dead. Also people who have drowned on this day, the belief being that the xoloitescuintle (dog) didn`t aid them, for these water is added to the offering which is a sign of regeneration.

All souls are received with incense of copal (rosin), if its a child a white bow is placed on the incense burner. It`s believed that a child never journeys alone but is accompanied with another child who has died.

On Oct. 29th the souls of stillborn children are received.

On Oct 30th other infants souls are received.

On the 31st pubescent children & teens are received.

Nov. 1st is reserved for adults, on the 2nd of Nov. families, friends & godparents have a reunion & give a large offering. Besides flowers its time to clean up the gravesite.

In honor of the dead, food, flowers, fruit & food or placed at the offering. Adult offerings include day of the dead bread, cempisuchil flowers, incense, tamales, beer, tequila & items the deceased enjoyed in life. Seasonal fruits like tangerines, apples, jicamas, bananas, etc., are placed on a wooden altar along with a picture of the deceased, a cross and other religious images.

This is a celebration with a distinct prehispanic & Spanish colonial atmosphere. Very colorful & symbolic.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Poetic Money

If you take a close look at a $100 peso note you'll see some interesting things, first of all the Picture on it is the last Aztec King of Mexico..Cuahtemoc. He was captured by Hernan Cortez' Conquistador's while attempting to escape during the siege of Mexico city.

Cortez had him bound and tortured by putting his feet in a fire trying to force him to tell where the rest of the Aztecs golden treasury was hidden...He never talked.

Another interesting thing on the bill is just below Cuahtemocs left ear, above the word "peso" you can see something's very small and you'll need a really strong magnifying glass to see it. Here's what it says: (translation):

I love the song of the corn.....

& the bird of 400 voices...

I love the color of jade

and the invigorating perfume of the flowers...

But I love more my fellow men (humanity).



Netzalhualcoyotzin (in Nahuatl Indian language means "Fasting Coyote")...he was the poet warrior king of Texcoco, Mexico...His Father was assassinated when he was six. He hid in a Cherry tree and made his way South of Texcoco to Tlaxcala where he was adopted and trained as a warrior. When he reached adulthood he returned with a band of warriors to recapture Texcoco and regain his throne.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is coming up. Better known as All Saints Day in the U.S. . In Mexico practically the entire country will visit graveyards to pay homage to deceased relative or friends.

There will be "Offerings" at altars on which they will commemorate the death of a person by placing things they enjoyed in life, like special foods, drinks, etc.

Many floral decorations, incense and such are used. Its really a 3 day event, October 31st is for persons who died in accidents, November 1st is for children and Nov. 2nd for adults.

It's very colorful and many towns have contests to see who can make the best "offering altar".
Also during this festival a special bread is made, Pan de los Muertos", a sweet bread with the figure of crossed bones on top.