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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Re-posting an old favorite:

One of my fondest Christmas memories is also one of the saddest.  It happened in 1978, the year I got married.

My mother lived in Long Beach, California and my husband and I lived in Santa Monica.  His parents lived in Mexicali, Baja California, which is about a four or so hour drive from where my mom lived.  I had never missed a Christmas at home.  It was very important to me that I not miss being home, not just for my sake but for my mother’s.  I knew she wanted me to be home.  So we consulted with everyone and figured out a plan where my husband and I would drive to Mexicali a few days before Christmas.  We would have an early Christmas lunch after opening presents with his family, then we would leave there and come across the border by one in the afternoon or so.  We would then drive to Long Beach and be there for a late Christmas dinner and opening presents with my family.

We were staying on the U.S. side of the border, in Calexico, at my husband’s grandmother’s house while we were down there.  On Christmas Eve when it was time for bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I talked for hours and hours.  My husband heard about every one of my Christmases that night.  I think I was nervous about being with my new family (I had just met them two months previously and had not spent much time with them) and also nervous about the timing of the drive to my mom’s house.  I didn’t want anything to go wrong that would keep us from spending a part of the holiday with my family.  They were all waiting for us, including a number of nieces and nephews who weren’t going to open presents until we got there. So I went on and on about Christmas and about birthday cakes (my birthday is on Christmas).  I think I recalled every single gift I had gotten in my 22 years!  Finally, I let him fall asleep at what was probably about three in the morning.   I stayed awake after he fell asleep.

The next day, everything on his family’s end of the planning went well.  By nine we were finished opening presents and our lunch was being prepared.  We ate by noon and even though I offered to stay and help with the clean up, we were ushered out of there so we wouldn’t be late getting to my mother’s house.

To get on the road, we had to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.  The road we took to get from my in-law’s to the border, was the fastest route.  It had businesses on one side and a very high fence on the other side, which served as the division between the third world country and the richest country in the world (at least in those days).  As the road approaches the border, the last mile or two, the fence is just a cyclone fence and you can see right through it, (at least in 1978 you could; I’m not sure what it’s like now).  We slowed as the road ahead of us narrowed from four lanes to the two border patrol booths that were open.  It was not a long wait but to me, it was way too long.  Because there was little traffic that day, there were no cars between us and the cyclone fence, giving us full view of the “dividing line.”  As I sat there, I looked over and watched as families congregated at the fence, exchanging gifts through the openings in the cyclone fence.  Once I realized what it was that they were doing, the excitement I felt about being on my way home left me along with my breath.  For what seemed like forever, I couldn’t breathe.  I was riveted to the scene before me.  There were mothers and their children passing crudely wrapped gifts from one side of the fence to the other.  On both sides of the fence, people were smiling and chatting as they exchanged Christmas gifts.  It seemed to be normal to them, and I’m sure it was.

I was struck by the fact that these families could not embrace or pass any gift bigger than three or so inches to the other side.  The families’ economic differences were clear.  The ones on the Mexico side of the fence were very poorly clad, especially for what was a crisp December day with the promise of rain in the sky.  The ones on the U.S. side were better dressed and wore shoes and coats appropriate for the weather.  The families although together, were very far apart in many ways.  Before I knew it, I was crying.  My chattiness was gone and we drove home to my mother’s house in almost complete silence.  When we arrived, being there with my family, in the same piece of earth, was more special than it had ever been.  I could hug them and kiss them and hold them near to me.

That was the Christmas in which I left my childhood innocence behind in many ways.

 

For a lighter Christmas Story, click on the link:

Baby Jesus Bridge

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Popocatepetl, a great Aztec warrior, was in love with a beautiful maiden named Iztaccihuatl. Iztaccihuatl was the daughter of the tribal king. The two lovers went to the king to ask for permission to be married. The king told them he would allow the marriage only if Popocatepetl was successful in battle with an enemy tribe. Popocatepetl went off to battle and stayed away for many, many long days.

Another soldier who had secretly loved Iztaccihuatl came to the home of Iztaccihuatl and told the king that Popocatepetl had been killed in battle. Hearing this terrible news, the king called his daughter and told her of her lover’s death. Iztaccihuatl was so saddened by this news that she was unable to do anything but cry. She could not eat. She could not sleep. All she was able to do was cry, for her heart had broken.Unable to console his grieving daughter, the king blamed himself for making Popocatepetl prove himself in battle.

Soon, Iztaccihuatl, unable to be consoled, died of her broken heart. The king, greatly saddened by the death of his only daughter, had her taken up high into the mountains where he could always look up and see her.

On the very day that she was taken to the mountains, Popocatepetl returned, victorious, and went to Iztaccihuatl’s father to claim his bride. Upon hearing of her death, Popocatepetl was so shocked and saddened that he went up into the mountains to look for Iztaccihuatl. Upon finding her, he knelt down and picked her up, placing her on his raised knee. Popocatepetl lit a torch so that Iztaccihuatl’s spirit might find its way back to her body and she might come back to life.

To this day, Popocatepetl still stands guard over his lovely bride and the torch still smokes. They can both be seen for hundreds of miles.
_______________

High above Mexico City are two volcanoes, the larger one named Popocatepetl and the smaller, Iztaccihuatl.

Painting by Jesus Helguera

Painting by Jesus Helguera

s1.reutersmedia.net

Iztaccihuatl (l) and Popocatepetl (r). Photo by reuters.net

Popocatepetl's latest eruption was in October of 2015. Photo from foxnews

Popocatepetl’s latest eruption was in October of 2015. Photo from foxnews

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When I was growing up, I was the one who helped my mother do the everyday correspondence, even though I was the fifth of seven kids.  I remember being in second grade and being the one that filled out and addressed the Christmas cards for my mom every year.  I had to print because I didn’t know cursive yet.

One year I was filling out the cards and the card my mom had picked out was a really pretty one.  It had a bright red poinsettia on the front of it and on the inside it had the normal holiday greeting but on the backside of the front picture was a paragraph about the poinsettia being introduced to the United States in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  It also mentioned a Mexican legend about this flower, which in Mexico is known as la flor de la noche buena, or the Christmas Eve flower.  It didn’t tell the legend, it just mentioned that there was one.

That caught my interest and I started to wonder and ask and read about this beautiful flower.  After several years, I learned the legend.  I’ve shared it with my readers previously but I’d like to share it again.  I’ve put it into my own words.  I’ve changed the name of the little girl to Maria (she is called by different names in different versions of the story).  I just recently learned that December 12 is “the day of the poinsettia” in the United States, which is interesting to me because December 12 is also the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

The Legend of the Poinsettia

[This is a retelling of the traditional legend of the poinsettia.  I have read many versions and have worded this one in my own words, from a number of variations on the traditional legend.]

In a small village in Mexico, many years ago, lived a family with three children.  The daughter was María and the oldest of the three.  Her two younger brothers were Pablo and José.  Her father worked wherever he could find a job, often traveling to villages far away for a few days of work.  María’s mother was a wonderful weaver.  People from villages nearby brought their weaving to her.  María helped to take care of her little brothers while her mother worked on the weaving.

One day, the priest from the village church came to see María’s mother to ask a favor of her.  Each year the villagers participated in a procession to the church where they re-enacted the birth of the Christ child.  The priest brought the blanket to cover baby Jesus to María’s mother to repair as it was frayed and damaged.  Instead, María’s mother said she would make a new one because the old one was too far gone.  She assured the priest it would be ready in time for the Christmas Eve procession.

The next day, María’s father left to a village to do some work.  He would be back in a week.  His children stood at the entry to their small house, smiling and waving at their father as he left then they went to school, María leading the way as she held on to her brothers’ small hands.  When the three children returned home, their mother was very ill.  María left to call the doctor who was in another village.  When the doctor came, he took care of María’s mother but told María that her mother had to remain in bed until she was well.  It would be some time.  María promised to take care of her mother and make sure she took her medicine.

For the next few days, María took care of her mother and her brothers and tried to finish weaving the blanket her mother had begun to make for the baby Jesus.  It was such an honor to be asked to contribute this small gift to the village’s tradition and to the Christ child.  Her mother had begun to teach her to weave but María couldn’t do it.  Instead, the thread became tangled in the loom and it was no use.  There would be no new blanket for the Christ child that year.  María cried in shame.  Her family would be dishonored and shamed.

When Christmas Eve arrived, María did not want to go to the procession because she was so ashamed of not having been able to make the blanket.  Her little brothers were looking forward to the procession and they pleaded with her to take them.  She finally agreed, thinking that she would hide in the bushes near the church, close enough to watch the procession and close enough to watch her little brothers but far enough to not feel her cheeks burn with shame.  So she took them to the procession and sank back into the bushes, out of sight.

From nowhere came an old beggar woman and asked María why she was hiding.  María told her what had happened.  The woman told her she had to join the others in the procession and participate in the tradition of bringing a gift to the Baby Jesus.  The woman told her it did not matter what she took as a gift to the Christ child.  The only thing that mattered was what was in her heart.  María argued that she could not join the procession with no gift but the woman convinced her that the gift would be joining in the procession and being present.

Not wanting to go into the church empty handed, María looked around her but found only some green leaves growing near the bushes.  She grabbed an arm full of them and joined the procession into the church.  As her turn came to proceed up the aisle to the manger, María walked with the bouquet of green leaves in her arms, tears running down her cheeks because she was so ashamed of having no gift.  As she placed the leaves at the manger as her family’s gift, she closed her eyes in shame.  She heard the collective gasp of everyone in the church and feared that they were laughing at her for bringing weeds to the Baby Jesus.  She opened her eyes and instead of the wild green leaves, she saw the most beautiful red flowers.  As her tears dropped onto the green leaves, each leaf turned a deep red.  They were the most beautiful flowers María had ever seen and they were her miracle gift to the Baby Jesus.

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When I was growing up, I was the one who helped my mother do the everyday correspondence, even though I was the fifth of seven kids.  I remember being in second grade and being the one that filled out and addressed the Christmas cards for my mom every year.  I had to print because I didn’t know cursive yet.

One year I was filling out the cards and the card my mom had picked out was a really pretty one.  It had a bright red poinsettia on the front of it and on the inside it had the normal holiday greeting but on the backside of the front picture was a paragraph about the poinsettia being introduced to the United States in 1828 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  It also mentioned a Mexican legend about this flower, which in Mexico is known as la flor de la noche buena, or the Christmas Eve flower.  It didn’t tell the legend, it just mentioned that there was one.

That piqued my interest and I started to wonder and ask and read about this beautiful flower.  After several years, I learned the legend.  I’ve shared it with my readers previously but I’d like to share it again.  I’ve put it into my own words.  I’ve changed the name of the little girl to Maria (she is called by different names in different versions of the story).  I just recently learned that December 12 is “the day of the poinsettia” in the United States, which is interesting to me because December 12 is also the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

The Legend of the Poinsettia

[This is a retelling of the traditional legend of the poinsettia.  I have read many versions and have worded this one in my own words, from a number of variations on the traditional legend.]

In a small village in Mexico, many years ago, lived a family with three children.  The daughter was María and the oldest of the three.  Her two younger brothers were Pablo and José.  Her father worked wherever he could find a job, often traveling to villages far away for a few days of work.  María’s mother was a wonderful weaver.  People from villages nearby brought their weaving to her.  María helped to take care of her little brothers while her mother worked on the weaving.

One day, the priest from the village church came to see María’s mother to ask a favor of her.  Each year the villagers participated in a procession to the church where they re-enacted the birth of the Christ child.  The priest brought the blanket to cover baby Jesus to María’s mother to repair as it was frayed and damaged.  Instead, María’s mother said she would make a new one because the old one was too far gone.  She assured the priest it would be ready in time for the Christmas Eve procession.

The next day, María’s father left to a village to do some work.  He would be back in a week.  His children stood at the entry to their small house, smiling and waving at their father as he left then they went to school, María leading the way as she held on to her brothers’ small hands.  When the three children returned home, their mother was very ill.  María left to call the doctor who was in another village.  When the doctor came, he took care of María’s mother but told María that her mother had to remain in bed until she was well.  It would be some time.  María promised to take care of her mother and make sure she took her medicine.

For the next few days, María took care of her mother and her brothers and tried to finish weaving the blanket her mother had begun to make for the baby Jesus.  It was such an honor to be asked to contribute this small gift to the village’s tradition and to the Christ child.  Her mother had begun to teach her to weave but María couldn’t do it.  Instead, the thread became tangled in the loom and it was no use.  There would be no new blanket for the Christ child that year.  María cried in shame.  Her family would be dishonored and shamed.

When Christmas Eve arrived, María did not want to go to the procession because she was so ashamed of not having been able to make the blanket.  Her little brothers were looking forward to the procession and they pleaded with her to take them.  She finally agreed, thinking that she would hide in the bushes near the church, close enough to watch the procession and close enough to watch her little brothers but far enough to not feel her cheeks burn with shame.  So she took them to the procession and sank back into the bushes, out of sight.

From nowhere came an old beggar woman and asked María why she was hiding.  María told her what had happened.  The woman told her she had to join the others in the procession and participate in the tradition of bringing a gift to the Baby Jesus.  The woman told her it did not matter what she took as a gift to the Christ child.  The only thing that mattered was what was in her heart.  María argued that she could not join the procession with no gift but the woman convinced her that the gift would be joining in the procession.

Not wanting to go into the church empty handed, María looked around her but found only some green leaves growing near the bushes.  She grabbed an arm full of them and joined in the procession into the church.  As her turn came to proceed up the aisle to the manger, María walked with the bouquet of green leaves in her arms, tears running down her cheeks.  As she placed the leaves at the manger as her family’s gift, she closed her eyes in shame.  She heard the collective gasp of everyone in the church and feared that they were laughing at her for bringing weeds to the Baby Jesus.  She opened her eyes and instead of the wild green leaves, she saw the most beautiful red flowers.  As her tears dropped onto the green leaves, each leaf turned a deep red.  They were the most beautiful flowers María had ever seen and they were her miracle gift to the Baby Jesus.

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