Jul 14, 2009

Catemaco Pilgrims

In a more than 300 year old tradition, pilgrims from deep within the mountainous Sierra Santa Marta began arriving in Catemaco today.

Thousands make the yearly trek, walking up to 60 miles, in the hot sun or pouring rain, crossing rugged mountains and, depending on the rain, torrid rivers. Most will stay in Catemaco till July 16th to worship the catholic Holy Mary in its local version of  "la Virgen del Carmel", alleged to have appeared here to a fisherman in a cave in the 1600's.

The pilgrims are accompanied by more than a hundred horse riders bearing the standards of their faith, while hundreds of bicycle riding pilgrims and road runners will brave the treacherous Los Tuxtlas roads from as far away as Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Dozens of tour buses, plus a downtown fair, choke beautiful downtown Catemaco and joyous singing and the smell of a plethora of dozens of open air food stalls permeates the evening. while in the nights every nook and cranny will be jammed with pilgrims overnighting on cold concrete.

Visit the Catemaco Basilica, Home of the Virgin

Jul 8, 2009

Catemaco Eggs

Growing up 60 years ago I was fascinated by the market stalls selling eggs sitting atop contraptions lit from underneath to see the condition of the eggs.

The memory crossed my mind after cracking my umpteenth rotten egg in beautiful downtown Catemaco, which is part of chicken country with 10 times as many chickens as people.

The last time I saw eggs for sale, which were maintained in a cooler, was years ago. Local eggs are kept for sale a room temperature which regularly reaches above 90 degrees in unventilated stores. And as for quality I regularly get eggs in sizes ranging from pigeons to small ostriches. And I have also learned to love fertilized eggs.

Egg flavors also come in surprises because of the food choices by free ranging chickens, and on occasion an egg will smell like a good fart, or almost as bad as the smell of Baluts (dead embryonic duck eggs) favored by many in South East Asia. But I have learned to appreciate my Popoluca teaching me to never crack eggs directly into a pan.

My dependable local quality egg provider was unfortunately put out of business by a snake feasting on his hens, and since then my soft boiled and eggs over easy consumption has dropped drastically, especially after considering that Mexico is a haven for salmonella induced diarreah, and wondering how much of it stems from eggs.

Photo: BioSciencia

Jul 5, 2009

Today is Torta day in Catemaco

Ever since the French invasions of Mexico, tortas have been making inroads on tacos. Tortas are sandwiches of the submarine genre, served on small sizes of French bread, often called "bolillos". Lately foreign fast food joints are competing with them and to protect the Mexican tradition there are now several state torta festivals to celebrate and promote the second best fast food group in Mexico.

Tortas are served both hot and cold and ingredients range from beef tongues to stuffed chiles, fried fish, chunks of pork and the staple of sliced ham. Usually sold in mom'n pop stands, the owners name their tortas after whatevever suits them, so don't expect a  "Tejano" torta to taste the same in Xalapa and Acayucan.

Today only, beautiful downtown Catemaco along with the rest of Mexico serves a unique version of a so called torta. It is an imaginary bread roll stuffed with a 500 peso bill and swallowed by zillions of impoverished peasants and workers ready to sell their vote to the torta giver. Of course the process is illegal, but election officials nationwide are deaf, dumb and blind to the entrenched custom.

The rest of July is a great month to be in Los Tuxtlas. Giant parties, street festivals, dances, lots of beer and loud music roil  the three major cities.

July 9-12
Verafest 2009
San Andres Tuxtla

July 12-9
Celebration of the Virgin del Carmen and county fair

July 18 & 19
Climbing around Volcano San Martin Tuxtla
reserved for 200 by DEMATAC

July 18-26
Celebration of Saint James
Patron Saint of Santiago Tuxtla

Photo of Torta - El Asador