Exploring Mexico

Images of Mexico Part X

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Mexico is a big country. It can only be described as a sensual mosaic of different scenes of people and landscapes. Soft pastels and hard colors are seen and felt in the emotions of the people.

Beautiful as the soft music of a romantic trio in the evening or a hard ranchera. The laughter of a people who love their children and celebrate life in the streets and their homes.

If you look at a map of Mexico and the US, you might describe the US as the mind and logic, and Mexico is the heart.

Cafe de Olla
Cafe de Olla
Villa Azueta, Veracruz
Café de Olla
One Saturday, we got up early to take a trip to visit friends in the little town of Playa Vicente, Veracruz.

People say thereīs no playa (beach), nor is it Veracruz. It is on a branch called the Playa Vicente river that eventually feeds north into the Papaloapan River a couple of miles east of the border with Oaxaca. It is deep in sugar cane and cattle country.

First we got to Tuxtepec, and went east. We were early and hungry for breakfast. Itīs just after the turn off to Villa Azueta. Look for a couple of high slanted thatched roofed restaurants, typical of the area. We took a quick vote and decided to stop for a snack.

The Padrino ordered some coffee and on second thought some scrambled eggs with longaniza. He said the sausage like longaniza is very good in this area. I ordered the same.

Besides the coffee having a special flavor, the eggs with the deep red chile de árbol was great. What I didnīt expect was the delicious slices of chicharrones mixed in with the black beans. It really gave it a unique taste.
Bike Riding with a Buddy
Cempoala, Veracruz
When we finished, I didnīt want to get up from the table.

Bike Riding
One day we were visiting friends in Cempoala just before a performance of the Voladores at the pyramids.

Although many of the streets are dirt roads, they are good for bike riding.

In Mexico, people of all ages ride bikes. They donīt think much about the exercise value. Itīs just faster than walking.

And sometimes you want to take a bike ride with a buddy.
The Hat
Acayúcan, Veracruz
The Hat
The meeting was rather boring that day in the small town of Acayúcan, Veracruz.I saw this guy almost in front of me. He had a magnificent feather in his hat.

He didnīt notice when I snapped his picture.Afterwards, I stopped and talked to him. I told him I really liked the feather.He looked sheepishly at the floor and offered to give me his hat.

In Mexico, you should never admire someone elseīs property, because according to the old customs, he will feel awkward and offer to give it to you.

To save face, I told him I had taken his picture with a digital camera and showed him the picture. Just having the picture was enough.

He smiled and we shook hands and have been friends ever since.
Veracruz, Veracruz
The next time you are in Veracruz, be sure to order picadas for breakfast, and a cold Fanta.Itīs kind of like a pizza.

One day around 11 AM I went over to Ramón's house for a visit. I had just finished my own breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and orange juice. Not to mention the coffee while waking up.

We sat under the trees in his patio and talked for awhile.

On the way out the gate his wife said there is a neighborhood lady who makes good picadas and wondered how many I wanted. They hadnīt had breakfast yet.

To be polite I ordered two even though I wasnīt hungry.

Later I found that I still had room left for the two picadas. Everybody else ate 4.
Tamales Steaming in the Backyard
Tehuacan, Puebla
Steaming Tamales
On many occasions I have eaten hot tamales. You probably have, too.

One weekend in November, we were invited up to Tehuacan, Puebla and got there well ahead of time.

Being guests from out of town we were given a good welcome, and were offered beds to take a siesta while they cooked the food.

After the siesta, I got up and looked around the outdoor kitchen.

Some of the best food in Mexico is cooked in an outdoor kitchen.

In Northern Mexico, tamales are wrapped in corn husks, and in the South, they are wrapped in green banana leaves.
Cooking Empanadas
Tehuacan, Puebla
Here you can see a portable gas tank, and a steamer made out of a 55 gal. drum.

Cooking Empanadas
Across the patio, they were preparing empanadas on an outdoor comal.

You canīt see it, but some of the empanadas have a soft cheese filling.

Other fillings are spicy hamburger meat, chicken, and other things.

The weather in Tehuacan was chilly that day, but that didnīt cause any problems.

I think the cool weather was the reason why I ate so much that day.

I also took them up on the offer of a second siesta.
Stuffed Jalapeņos
Xalapa, Veracruz
Stuffed Jalapeņos
Xalapa is famous for giving the name to the Jalapeņo peppers.

Itīs not because the peppers are grown here in the highlands, but along the hot coast. Itīs because the original packing plants were in Xalapa.

At Don Nachoīs birthday party in Xalapa, or Jalapa, however you prefer the spelling, I just had to take a picture of the Jalapeņo peppers in the city of Jalapa.

In Xalapa, they have many ways to prepare the Jalapeņo pepper.

The peppers you see in the picture were stuffed with tuna fish and topped with the carrots that come packed with the peppers.

After a couple of them, the cold coke tasted good.
Hotel Lobby
Hotel Lobby
Veracruz, Veracruz
A Downstairs Lobby
During the last couple of years, some really nice hotels have been built in Veracruz.

One day I was waiting for my tour bus in the "downtown" lobby. It is next to the spacious parking lot.

The main entrance is on the upper level where your car door is opened by a uniformed bell man, then another man in a uniform with valet parking drives your car to a special parking lot.

The downstairs entrance way is tastefully done with pleasant pastel colors and soft lighting.

They have paid attention to every detail, including a floral arrangement where votive icons and candles would have been.
Hotel Lobby
Veracruz, Veracruz
Step Up to the Main Lobby
These are the stairs to the main upstairs lobby.

The attention to detail include a real oriental carpet with a huge floral arrangement on the large glass table in the middle.

You have to walk around the table and pass the little floral arrangement embedded in the wall to get to the stairs.

The main lobby is where the reception desk, the open restaurant, and lobby bar are located.

It is really nice.
The Aquarium
Veracruz, Veracruz
The Aquarium in Veracruz
One of the favorite places for tourists in Veracruz is the aquarium. They get something like 500,000 visitors a year, and itīs worth the trip.

At the entrance you walk into a tropical rain forest with toucans and butterflies. The exhibits of live fish and coral from the area are remarkable and you get the impression you are walking under the sea.

You are really surrounded by swimming tarpon, sharks, and turtles. In the middle they give a short presentation that is both informative and entertaining.

At the end, you can see a family of manatees that were originally found after a flood along the nearby Papaloapan river south of Veracruz. I really enjoy visiting the Aquarium in Veracruz.
Tender Morsels Before Lunch
Tender Morsels
On a trip to nearby Antigua, Veracruz, we stopped by one of the restuarants.

We had started our morning at Quiahuiztlán to see the first Veracruz where Hernán Cortes has burned his ships in 1519.

Later we visited the pyramids at Cempoala, and watched a special performance of the Voladores de Papantla under the shade of the palm trees swaying in the Gulf Breeze.

Later, we walked around the ruins of the pyramids of the Totonac civilization where Cortés made his the first Christian converts.
More Tender Morsels
Afterwards, we came to Antigua, and walked through the historic ruins of where the Spanish Empire begin. The first church in continental America is here, too.

When we finished our excursion, the tropical open-air verandah of the one of the restaurants along the river looked inviting and we stopped for a snack.

After a couple of succullent morsels of crab and shrimp, the waiter brought a selction tray of fresh fish and we decided to try some.

I never could say no to fresh seafood.

The River
After Lunch, a Siesta
Maybe it was the atmosphere along the peaceful river, and after all, it was lunch time and we were hungry.It was nice.

Afterwards I went home later and took a siesta.

These are the important things in life.

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