Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Its Michelada Time!

The loss of my camera (among other things) has lately made me lazy when it comes to my American Mexican blog. Thankfully, my sister is addicted to FaceBook and her iPhone, and recently posted about Micheladas and their contents. So I have this little tidbit for the interweb, a necessity for any blog about traveling in this lovely country. A recipe for deliciousness... It is truly a meal in a beer. !Provecho!

Mary Claire ♥ the brown michelada. beer with worcestershire, soy sauce, and lime juice. ¡genial!
Yesterday at 10:05pm · Comment · LikeUnlike
2 people like this.

Mary Claire
can also contain tomato juice and chili if you please

Oooooh, that actually sounds kinda good! :)
Yesterday at 10:14pm

Yea, I know a good place in Guadalajara. Twill be a happy Easter indeed...
Yesterday at 10:21pm ·

+ chili = yes!
Yesterday at 10:37pm

i learned the michelada while on a study abroad to morelia, and then re-learned it on a vacation... i make them here at home and always get weird looks. waiters/waitresses tend to look at you funny when you request soy and salt with your beer. but, there's no denying the deliciousness!
Yesterday at 11:15pm

what's the ratio? just a splash of each? any kind of beer? i'm intrigued...
7 hours ago

Mary Claire
just mexican beer, haha. dark (like negra modelo) or light works. i start with a tall glass, and if you can find it it's nice to rim with chili salt. squeeze into the glass maybe 1/4-1/2" of lime juice (1/2 a normal lime), then i add several jigs of worcestershire (1-2 tbs i guess) and dash of soy. tomato juice to taste, a splash, then add the beer... See More. i have lately been excluding the tomato and going heavy on the worcestershire.

salty beer is so good. even if i'm not making a michelada, i still sometimes like to add salt & lime to my beer.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I lost my passport, cash, credit cards, cell phone, keys, and camera just hours before I was to board a plane headed back to Guadalajara for class to begin (tomorrow). Not a pleasant thing to write about, but important to my trip. Now I have the inconvenience of getting a new passport and credit cards in a foreign country. It sucks.
I just got to D.F. thanks to a bus ticket lent to me from my sister. I am VERY fortunate she is here (MC shout out!!!). I rode all night from San C. to here and now I am sick from the ride: it was cold, I was stressed, we got stopped and searched by the federales (police) twice in the middle of my slumber, and I was sleeping sitting down. The worst part of it all, I am wondering if this is a bright, neon-flashing sign from the Universe telling me I should not go back to Guadalajara. My debate of going back or going to Oaxaca is driving myself (and the friends I have been talking to about this) crazy.
Up side. There is always an upside. The friends I made in San C took amazing care of me. My traveling clown buddy gave me lots of hugs and support. My two lovely U.K. ladies kept me giggling and nourished. The owner of oPosada Mexic took me to the police station to file a report and said I could stay at her wonderful place as long as I needed. She even offered to give me some money until I could pay her back. I love how there can be a loving community anywhere you are willing to make one. I am so happy as well as thankful to have witnessed it once again.
Tambien, si hubiera salido en el día había planado por Guadalajara, no habría conocido lo mas hermoso hombre en México....ahhhh Beto... que lastima no nos pasamos más tiempo juntos...
We will see what happens next. My sore throat is saying no to D.F., capital of esmog, my tarot reading says GDL is the most comfortable option (and Talia, Curtis, AND MUNICIPAL WASTE are coming there in March!!!!), but something is nagging me not to ignore Oaxaca's potential.

Tengo suerte a pesar de la situación con mis cosas materiales.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I went to the Eastern part of Chiapas to see the Maya rainforest ruins of Palenque the other day. I was beautiful. Probably my favorite of all of the pre-Hispanic city ruins in Mexico.
The day started out annoying. I stayed in this jungle collective of restaurants and cabana huts near the entrance to the ruins (El Panchan). I wanted to fall asleep to the peaceful sounds of the jungle frogs and birds. I was even okay with hearing monkeys in the night, but the hippie bongos til 3 am were intolerable. I barely slept despite my exhaustion from the 5 hour winding bus ride from San Cristobal de las Casas that day. I woke up at 5:30, then 5:35, then 5:40... dang German dudes kept hitting "snooze" on their cell phone alarm and when they finally turned it off they were not concerned at all about waking up the rest of us in the shared dorm room with their conversations.
It was pouring rain all night and continued into the morning. I had already paid a man in town to pick me up and take me to the ruins and some water falls before returning to San Cristobal, so I was locked in to going out in the torrent at 8am. I managed to buy a large trash bag off of one of the restaurants (DIEZ pesos! for a BAG) and stuck my head and arms through holes I made. Panchoed up, I was ready to go. I lost my bad attitude because at that point, it was just funny to me.

The rain eventually turned into an eerie mist after a half hour of being in the ancient city. It definitely heightened my experience. The clouds and the thick of the jungle surrounding the sight meshed together seamlessly. It was a truly amazing sight. I was able to climb around the steps and the insides of most of the buildings there. Being INSIDE a B.C. Mayan palace was intense. The energy was almost palpable. Que suerte yo tengo...

There are still some baas reliefs intact on some of the buildings which depict decapitations, skulls, and rulers ascents to the throne. Loved it. Architects found a lot of amazing art work around the site and some of it is on display in a small museum near the site. Despite the size, the content is worth the visit. A couple of things I read in the museum struck me. First, archeologists think that the city was abandoned because the tribe over-exerted the natural resources of the surrounding area. Secondly, only the ruling class (dynasty, priests, specialized artisans) were able to read and write the glyphs and the agrarian workers had to not only pay the upper class taxes for being in communication with the Gods, but they had to maintain themselves with virtually no support from their rulers. Different epoch, same shit...

The falls of Misol Ha were gorgeous. Lush surroundings, the most pleasing noises, and a neat cavern to enter to see another cascade inside the cliff. It was still grey and drizzling out, so I didn't swim, but I could have. I didn't want to be shivering en route. It was nice to sit under the falls and next to more and absorb it all. Agua Azul is yet another rapids/cascade around the area. It gets its name because the water there is almost swimming-pool-turquoise. I think it gets its color from algae or something. It was also beautiful. I followed the cascades upstream for a while barefooted. Squelching in the mud. A girl who could not have been more than 5 years old demanded pesos from me to "buy a pencil". I told her she needed to learn how to say please if she was going to ask strangers for favors. She never said it. I gave her an apple. She won.

So the whole experience was beautiful, but I wouldn't do it all again over 10 hours. I was BEAT by the end of it all. I recommend spending two days at a slower pace.

I heard something sad yesterday. The government wants to put in a more direct road from San C. to Palenque, and supposedly, they plan to do it without the consent of the people who live along the way (Agua Azul is another Zapatista territory). They also want to build more resort-like buildings in the area to encourage increased tourism. It will be a shame when these things become more like Chichen-Itza (Elton John is scheduled to preform in front of the temple dedicated to Quetzalcoatl this Spring... cringe. Sacrilege)

Monday, February 8, 2010


I had an incredible experience today. I went to Caracol de Resistencia y Rebeldia por la Humanidad, one of the five headquarters for the Juntas de Buen Gobierno, the leaders of the neo-Zapatista movement in Chiapas. The caracoles (compounds...literal translation is snail or observatory) house alternative schools, clinics, pharmacies, artisan workshops, and land for agriculture (they grow delicious, organic coffee.) They exist to promote the continuation of indigenous culture, language (Tzotzil and Tzeltal are spoken here more than Spanish), and tradition, and additionally, to support the poor who have been removed from ownership of their native lands. They wish to have a government autonomous from the Mexican government, as well as from any other government who bases its economy and socialization on capitalism.

I was pretty intimidated when I arrived. I came with two friends from Argentina and France, and their Spanish-speaking abilities helped me feel better. I was too nervous to talk much at first. They checked out our passports and asked us why were were there, what professions we held, and if we were aligned with any particular political organizations. They were welcoming, but very bureaucratic and all wearing ski masks... My friend explained to me, the masks are not just to hide the identities of the rebels, but also to make race and gender irrelevant. Despite this knowledge, I was on edge (and kept me from communicating with much fluidity in Spanish).

The leaders talked to us for almost an hour, answering some of our questions about their philosophies, alliances, and organization, but were somewhat secretive and responded with very general answers at times. I appreciate the amount of time they spent with us however.

They allowed us to wander around the Caracol. We were permitted to take photos of the place as long as no one's face was revealed or license plates were seen in the photos. We had to carry a permission slip with us everywhere we went and even had to present it a few times.

Seeing the school was great. About 150 students attend the secondary (middle-high) school and the professor teaches them together even though they vary in age from 13 to 18 years old. They were just getting out of class when we made our way over to the school. I was impressed with the attendance numbers since no one actually lives in the compound all year long and it is pretty well off the well traveled routes of Chiapas. The people living in the surrounding areas seem to have a lot of faith in this way of living. I am very much impressed with their level of organization despite being unsupported or recognized by the official Mexican government. They are giving people, otherwise ignored, a voice and an alternative means to educate themselves and I respect that immensely.

We saw the clinic as well. They use modern western medicine combined with Maya herbal medicine. They get most of their pharmaceuticals donated to them from various sympathetic organizations. I was told quite a lot of the donors are from outside of Mexico. They had a dentist working on someone when we visited the clinic, as well as rooms for gynecology, optometry, emergencies, and sick beds for 8 people. The man telling us about the place said there is rarely a day when none of these beds are occupied. There are no resident doctors or nurses in their clinic. They host visitors a few times a year, but other than that, laypeople organize the distribution of medicines and treatments as well as host health workshops a few times a month. I would not mind at all coming back with a team of health care workers to treat some of the illness in the people who seek treatment there. It would be nice to exchange my work for a few lessons in herbal medicine. The herbal pharmacy was my favorite part of the trip. It smelled amazing. I wish we could have had more time to talk with the workers there about their individual contributions to the cause and their skill set. However, the people populating the caracol did not volunteer information very often and seemed pretty removed from our presence in their space.

I just had a rare opportunity to touch an alternative means of civilization outside of what I know. I feel honored. I am curious to learn more.

Friday, February 5, 2010

El Museo de Medicina Maya

So happy this place exists!

Explanation of the five types of Mayan Healers: midwives, pulse-readers, bone healers, herbologists, and prayer healers. A garden with medicinal shrubs, flowers, roots, and trees. On-site "pharmacy" to make plant tinctures. A 10 minute video of the practices of Mayan birth techniques. See for yourself. Pfizer isn't everything... This is the original Western medicine.

*If you know basic Spanish, click on the photo to enlarge and read this sign. Well said.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Enter San Cristóbal de las Casas

Every new place I go in Mexico on this trip manifests itself into my new favorite. San Cristóbal is no exception. I guess I’ll just have to sum it up and say MEXICO is my favorite place.

So, my Chiapas adventure began yesterday. I left the Tuxtla airport and got a ticket for a collectivo to San C. About 30 minutes into the drive I thought, “wait a sec, I didn’t even make sure I got on the right collectivo.” Then I had the awesome revelation that it didn’t really matter. I had no concrete plans, no reservations, no one expecting me on the other end. Everyone should have at least one of those moments. I was giddy. I actually was going the right way. At the end of the ride, a woman in front of me turned around and asked me if I had a place to stay. Turns out she is the owner of probably the coolest hostel I have ever been to (Posada de Mexico)! It is like the Club Med of backpackers without the exhorbant prices. The included breakfast was off the hook! Potato and beet empanadas, herbal teas, fresh squeezed pineapple juice, and yogurt. I am excited what tomorrows breakfast table will bring! It also has a large library, a BBQ, a pool table, and a garden to chill in. SWEET! The best part about it was that I had already been interested in going to that particular hostel anyway and the owner paid for our taxi ride to get there! I take it as another sign (of many) that my Mexican adventures are completely blessed.

I shared a breakfast table with two women, French and Belgian, who invited me to go with them on a tour of San Juan Chamulas via horseback. Totally awesome because I had thought I might go, but was planning on taking a collectivo there rather than a horse. We were out for 4 hours and it only cost me 120 pesos! The ride was badass! It was up a mountain, through a creek, and the guide let us run the horses part of the way (the only time I have ever been on a horse it was walking slowly). My ass is sore in its entirety and there were some definite white-knuckle parts of the journey (my poor 40 year old horse got a little sassy in his old age crotchetiness), but it was a beautiful and exciting way to travel. Bonus, my new friends speak about as much English as they do Spanish, so we only spoke Spanish. Like I am supposed to be doing every day but have some how managed to avoid for 3 months here. It was fun and soooo good for me!

Chamulas may be the most unconventional place I have ever visited. I just read that it is the ONLY autonomous local government in Mexico - Mexican police and military are prohibited from entering. The pueblo’s police force is all decked out in fuzzy white vests! Adorable! Their religion is a mix between Catholicism and Maya though they officially banned Catholic Church priests presiding in their church in the late 1800’s. I was forbidden to take photos in their amazing church because many people there think cameras have the ability to take away souls. I was allowed to go in. Beautiful. The whole floor is covered in pine needles (there are no pews), incense, and candles. It smelled wonderful and I was immediately at peace when I walked in. Along the sides are idols of their most beloved saints with mirrors on their chests to reflect evil from them. At the very front there is an idol of, not Jesus, San Juan el Bautista, who is, only after the Sun itself, the head hancho of spirituality and life. Jesus was there, of course, but his idol was off to the side in a COFFIN. That’s right, the people of Chamulas believe that Jesus was never resurrected after he died on the cross. Whoah. I love that Mexicans have transformed Christianity into what they need instead of what some old fart in Rome thinks they need.

One last gem of information on Chamulas, they use Coca Cola as a ritual beverage. This fact was confirmed by my guide after I read about it on the Lets Go Mexico web site . He explained that they think the bubbles wash away sin. It is mixed with pox, their ceremonial sugar cane alcohol (think Mexican moonshine) and away those sins go. I saw some Coke bottles strewn about the church floor where people were praying.

When I got back I went to a tea house where movies are shown. I saw a documentary entitled, Autónoma Zapatista which taught me how very much alive and well the Zapatista movement is and what it is all about. I applaud the amount of motivation the group has to preserve the antiquated cultural practices of indigenous Mexican peoples, and the organization of this group is on point. They have their own schools, clinics, herbal pharmacies, high production farms, ect. I am interested in learning more about it. First things I want to know are why exactly almost everyone wears something to cover their faces (no doubt a very good reason, I just don’t know) and do they use currency much (one of their main goals is to remove themselves from the evils of capitalism). I also really need to get the whole story on Emiliano Zapata because I only have the most rudimentary ideas of why he was a revolutionary general. Literature recommendations are always welcome, readers.

Tomorrow I plan to check into Pingüino bicycle tours in hopes of finding a group who wants to do the ride out to the caves around here. I am also verrrrrrry excited to see the Mayan Medicine Clinic and Museum (I am starting to want to expand my healing practices into herbology). There are also a million other things to see and do here. I am so pleased that I went with my gut and got a ticket to this place. I am starting to wonder why I didn’t make it a one way ticket…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Travel Advice: All About Sayulita

I definitely recommend visiting Sayulita, Nayarit Mexico if you ever happen to be on the Mexican Pacific Coast. For a town this size (tiny), there is a lot happenin' over here and it is easily accessible from Puerto Vallarta (which has an international airport). Buses go to Sayulita and its neighboring beach towns (Bucerias, San Francisco/Pancho, y más) for less than $3 and leave directly from the airport (which is good because Vallarta is la mierda of Mexico as far as I'm concerned).

The beach isn’t the most beautiful I have ever seen, but with the jungles surrounding it, it has its charm (Go to Tulum, Quintana Roo if you want to see beautiful beaches). It is popular, crowded in some parts, but the farther you walk away from the Plaza area, the less people you run in to. The beach vendors aren’t too pushy, but there are a lot of them on the right break. The tamales ladies and the macaroon man were the only people I ever bought from and let me tell you, they sell some TASTY merchandise. Definitely treat yourself to their goodies at least once (you’ll be back for more…).

To get away from the hubbub, and if you are willing to do an easy rock scramble or take a 15 minute jungle hike towards San Pancho (with trails), you can get to a part of the beach where you may be the only person there (past the left break). Past the right break and a few gringo hotels, walk through the arches into a cemetery and you will find yet another beach, Playa de Los Muertos, on the other side. It has good swimming and a more laid back feel to it. (Beautiful for nighttime star gazing). On the main beach, you can rent surf and body boards hourly from one of the many stands. Shop around to find the best deal. If you want, you can pay for an hour of surf lessons, but don’t pay more than 250 pesos and make sure they show you how to maneuver your board ect on land first. The right break is good for beginners, the left generally has bigger waves and rocky shores so leave that for when and if you are more experienced, though it makes for good body boarding.

I recommend spending at least an afternoon in San Pancho, another beach town next door to Sayulita. Its really cute and less commercial than Sayulita. On Saturdays at 5pm you can get all gussied up and watch a couple of games of horse polo on plush white couches at the San Pancho Polo Club. Entry is free, but you are expected to buy at least a drink. Dinner is available after the games accompanied by live music. Table reservations are advised during high season.

Some basic should be covered. The only hostel in town is Hostel Venado Azul and is located just one block behind the plaza. I didn’t stay there, but I stopped in one night to check it out. The receptionist “dude” was very friendly and interesting and they have nightly backyard bon fires. If you are into camping, there are two campgrounds right on the beach, Camaron being the cheaper and more fun of the two, as well as a trailer park (BYOT: bring your own trailer). You can also cruise the classifieds on to find fancier, pricier houses to rent. It’s a good place to start with if you feel like splurging, but it does not, by far, have every place listed. Walk around town for 20 minutes and I guarantee you will find something that matches your needs. The cheapest ATM (the only one with fees that wouldn’t be considered extortion) is located next to Choco Banana (best coffee in town) underneath El Tigre. Currently, a 7.25 peso surcharge as opposed to 30. The best place to get produce is DEFINITELY Celia’s Fruteria (y Más!). She is STOCKED and has a lot of herbs and spices and good cheese. Everything I bought from her was fresh and tasty. Celia’s is closed on Thursdays. You can find it on the main road in to town before you go over the bridge. It is bright pink. Can’t miss it. Keep in mind “Nayarit time” is an hour behind Puerto Vallarta. Your cell phone and computer will tell you Vallarta time. It can throw a gal off occasionally. Another housekeeping tip, Sayulita stops selling alcohol in the convenience stores at 9pm until 9am so plan accordingly.

Speaking of food, I have some suggestions! Though I cooked a lot on my trip, I definitely partook in some dining out.

Hands down, Rollies is the most wholesome feel good and DELICIOUS place to get breakfast. It is easy to stuff yourself to the gills. Rollie himself, an old kindly ex principle from the states, comes around to all the tables to make sure we all love it. He might even buy you a round of pancakes “for dessert” if you clean your plate, and they are yummy my friends, make room if he offers!

Its hard to find good pizza in Mexico, but Don Pedro’s has it! They have a wood oven and their specialty pizza is shrimp and bacon. I feel like I don’t have to say any more to convince the hungry reader to go there. Salsa nights with a Cuban house band happen on Wednesdays.

My favorite street taco stand is actually off the street. Check out the lady by the bridge into town. Just look for the guy sitting on the bridge painting landscapes and look down past him- there she be! Tasty, fresh, filling, cheap (for Sayulita), a variety of meats to fill your tacos, and delicious horchata! The place has everything you could ask for in a taqueteria. And, I didn’t get the feeling I was going to have a colony of amoebas in my belly after eating there. A week later, thankfully, I still don’t have that colonial feeling.

Le Biciclett has an interesting, mouthwatering menu to offer. You may have guessed, it is run by French people. As MC put it most concisely, French people simply cannot allow themselves to serve bad food. They bring in some good bands sometimes too. And they have real absinthe if you’re into that, just sayin’.

There are probably close to 50 different places to eat in this tourist haven, so go out and explore! Just make sure the place looks clean and the food looks fresh. It is easy to get the runs in Mexico. A good indication of cleanliness and food safety is if there are a lot of people already eating there daily (seeing a lot of Mexican patrons there is an especially good sign. They know whats up).

I have found a variety of non-beach oriented things to keep myself busy. Like most Mexican cities and pueblos, the plaza is a good place to start. Around 7 or 8 there is usually some sort of entertainment going on there. There, I have seen “African” drummer groups (they are pretty dern good! They also moonlight on the beach in the afternoons at times), puppet shows, fire twirlers, a dancing horse (!!!!), and amazing people watching.

As I mentioned above, Biciclett has some good live music. Its neighbor, Don Pato’s (This is Spanish for Mister Duck ya’ll!) has music en vivo as well. It seems to be almost exclusively reggae bands playing there, one of the 5 local reggae bands rotates to Don P’s frequently, though they do get some outside acts. It is a fun place with good vibes and definitely a decent place to go if you can’t think of anything else to do. Open mic nights are on Tuesdays.
El Dragon Rojo has “endless happy hour” and also hosts music acts. I go here when I want to drink but I want to stay under budget. The people who work there are really nice. I got to play a few rounds of Texas Hold Em with some of the employees last time I went there. They got 30 pesos out of me, but I enjoyed their company.
While I am on the subject of drinking, you really must stop by Tequila Bar around the back of the plaza. It is small, but maybe one of the most impressive shops in Sayulita. The owner boasts over 300 different kinds of tequila and that’s all he sells! It is a sight that gets me a little misty-eyed thinking of it. Thursdays from 5pm to 7 or 8, there is a special on their (nice) house tequila and fresh squeezed margaritas. A must if you drink…even if you don’t normally drink tequila.
El Sabor de Sayulita, right by the footbridge, has a projector and a screen for 7pm movie nights. Check outside the place for flyers. They rotated Avatar and a UFO documentary for a solid week last week, but you could probably lend them a disk bought from the Pirateria stand along the river and get Laura and Mario to play it if you ask nicely. They have pool chairs to lounge in while you watch and they sell Jamaica Wine!
Wednesdays at 12:30 pm, the Daykeepers of Nayarit gather around a Mayan Calendar mat on the beach (near el Camaron for the time being) and discuss time through the eyes of the ancient Pre-Spanish Mexican indigenous peoples. It is pretty interesting, and a feel good hour or so weekly. If you didn’t get enough mysticism from the Time Keepers, at 9am every Sunday there is a meditation circle on the beach by the stack of boulders on the left break. Go ahead and vibe out. That’s why God made towns like Sayulita.
If you feel like you need a little structure in your lazy days, I hear the Sayulita Libreria has Spanish grammar and conversation classes at 4pm for only 50 pesos a session. Strictly Spanish is spoken in class, which is a good sign that the class has a good teacher. The Costa Verde school also has adult classes- Spanish and Yoga, maybe cooking? Might be fun…

One last piece of advice- everyone is extremely friendly here. You will have more fun and find truly unique things to see and do if you keep your eyes and mind open. Most of the fun stuff comes to me by word of mouth.

So I hope the blog isn’t TOO detailed... Just something meant to get a newby started. Leave a comment if you hear of any gems I missed. I WILL be back for more in the future.