Playing Tourist in Mexico: A Collection of Adventures from Women Traveling in Mexico

Patty M. Vanegas, Susi Schuegraf, Lynne DeSantis, Karen Swanson, Jill Michelle Douglas, Emily Lee Garcia and I combined our adventures into an amazing travel book last year. It’s finally available on Amazon as a  Kindle book and a full-color paperback!

Have you ever wondered what Mexico is really like? In Playing Tourist in Mexico: A Collection of Adventures from Women Traveling in Mexico you can share in the travels of seven women to 45 different locations throughout Mexico.

Not only are places like Mexico City and the beaches of Baja California included, but also remote but equally delightful places like Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato the birthplace of independence, and Paracho de Verduzco, Michoacan, a mountain town dedicated to handcrafting guitars.

You’ll see a different beauty in Mexico through the eyes of these women as they galavant hither and yon experiencing the sights, tastes, and sounds of this amazing country.

If you’ve already read this fun travel book, then we’d love if you could leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads!

Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico

Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico

Curanderos (healers) in Mexico still practice traditional herbal remedies learned centuries ago. It is only recently that scientists have begun to take these healing practices seriously. Study after study has validated the medicinal use of plants native to North America as well as some brought by the Spanish after the conquest. It’s time to reexamine the basic healing power in 34 common herbs used by traditional Mexican healers.

Included in the Herbs and Essential Oils Ultimate Bundles 2019.

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Let me know what you thought!

Mirador by James A. Jennings

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Sarah and Nate Hunter become embroiled in more than they bargained for when they volunteer to help restore a crumbling church in Mirador, Chiapas. Unbeknownst to them, el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) has big plans to use Nate’s internet savvy in order to make public their War Against Oblivion. Then the unthinkable happens. 

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I have to say that Mirador by James A. Jennings was a great read. The Zapatistas (EZLN) have been in the news lately as they continue this struggle against oblivion begun in 1994. The pivotal events in the story occur just months before the Zapatista battle cry ¡YA BASTA! was heard on January 1, the day NAFTA was signed into effect. 

The characters were well-developed and believable. The locations were described in exquisite detail. The political situation was explained in the introduction and then again in a historical note at the end, bringing the events up to the present. 

Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.--Emilano Zapata.jpg

What this book really needed, however, was a Mexican consultant for the Spanish phrases included in the book. These lacked the proper cadence and rhythm found in Mexican Spanish that just can’t be duplicated by a non-native speaker. 

For example, although “Mi hijo” is grammatically correct, no one says that, mijo. It was to the point that I was reading the Spanish text as if a gringo were speaking, not a Mexican. There were also grammar errors. When speaking of the native people of the area, the correct term is “los indígenas” not “las indígenas” even though the word ends in the feminine “a.” Another incident was that a young man would NEVER use the informal “” tense when speaking to a woman he revered as a grandmother which occurred in the book. There were sentences that were totally incomprehensible in Spanish, as if the author tried to translate directly from English. “Ser grave” should have been “Se serio” and so on. 

While I understand that the book was meant for English speakers, these glaring oversights detracted from my enjoyment of the story to some extent. Although to be authentic, most of the characters would have been speaking in one of the nearly 70 indigenous languages found in Mexico. 

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On the other hand, I took immense pleasure imagining life among the Zapatistas, something I probably will never experience. I was delighted to learn just a little more about el lek’il kuxlejal which roughly translates as buen vivir (living well) that is at the heart of the indigenous resistance movement in Mexico. 

I believe you will enjoy Mirador by James A. Jennings as much as I did!

I received an ARC from the publisher to review this book.

Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger

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I read Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger last year and was profoundly moved by it. I thought I’d reread it again this year and had the same reaction. The author was able to capture Mexico as I see her, all her hardship, corruption, and exquisite beauty. I would be remiss not to share this story with you.

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Mary Ellen left behind the corporate jungle to read in the shade of the steps of a pyramid in Mexico. She began her new life in tourism but eventually found her way to a sheltered patio in Oaxaca as a caretaker to an elderly widower.

Until, one night she was bustled from her residence to the Ixcotel State Prison, one of the most overcrowded and unhygienic facilities in Oaxaca. There she was held for 33 days on fabricated charges. However, her story is just the prelude to the stories of the women she met inside.

Concha, arrested for armed robbery, who found love at last inside the stone walls. Berta, whose husband had tended sorghum interspersed with marijuana for a wealthy landowner. Susa, heroin addict earning drug money with a shoeshine service for visitors. Natalia, arrested so that the wife of her lover could take her child. Ana, human rights lawyer jailed because of her work on behalf of rural farmers. Citlali, a curandera who spoke only Chinantec and her infant daughter Xochitl. Lucia and her infant son Sebastian, whose 5-year-old daughter was in a group home allowed to visit once a month. Soraya, imprisoned for refusing the advances of the mayor. Flor, dying of a tumor from the bullet in the back of her head.

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Mary Ellen was not the same women upon her release and neither will you be after you read these haunting stories from the women at Ixcotel State Prison.

Read more about Mary Ellen Sanger here.

Echoes from the Wall: Real Stories of Mexican Migrants By Judy King

Recognize yourself in he and she Who are not like you and me..jpg
echoes from the wall

This quote by Carlos Fuentes epitomizes Echoes from the Wall: Real Stories of Mexican Migrants by Judy King. With so much division being fostered these days by politicians with private agendas, it’s hard to see the similarities we all share. Judy King does an excellent job both sharing stories of Mexican migrants and the recent U.S. policy change that are affecting them.

In Echoes from the Wall, you’ll meet Varo, Moises, Ramon, Arturo, Roberto, Jose, and Ken who are sometimes documented, sometimes not migrant workers. Then there are special circumstances:

  • Erica, a promising, bright young scholar accepted at Yale who is unable to get a student visa.
  • Rafael, married to a U.S. citizen and father of 2 U.S. citizens, who is unable to obtain residency.
  • Leo, a wounded veteran, deported from the country he lived in since he was 3 years old.
  • Lalo, whose house is filled to overflowing with his brother’s wives and children.

You’ll also see the facts about remittances sent to Mexico, border facial recognition policies, Legal Permanent Residence, the effects of the Border Wall on wildlife, the high cost of crossing the desert into the U.S. and the illegality of providing food, water, and medical treatment to migrants, the damage to children separated from their parents, the truth about healthcare and taxes for migrants,  whether migrants are more apt to be criminals than U.S. born citizens, who is financing the mega-detention centers, and how the Bracero work program began the immigration cycle from Mexico to the U.S.

Additionally, you’ll read about the importance of family to the Mexican people, Saint Toribio, the patron saint of travelers, La Virgen de Guadalupe and her iconic presence on both sides of the borders.

Echoes from the Wall ends with a list of both fiction and non-fiction books for further reading about Mexican migrants and the immigration situation as it stands in the U.S.

This well-researched book poignantly tells the story of those who otherwise might not be heard. Tony Burton, Arturo Garcia, and Richard Rhoda contributed to clarifying once and for all who stands to gain by the propagation of an immigrant crisis in the United States.

You can read more about Judy King here.

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

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Beyond Justice by Cara Putman

Seventeen-year-old Miguel is killed while being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s juvenile detainment center in Texas.  Hayden McCarthy, a young D.C. lawyer known for thinking outside the box, is assigned as an advocate for justice for Miguel’s family.  As her investigation deepens, so does the danger for everyone involved. Why did Miguel cross the border?  How did he die?  Who covered his death up and for what reason?  

With immigration still a sensitive topic in politics these days, perhaps it might seem that the scenario in the book is a bit far-fetched.  How likely is it that minors seeking refugee status be kept in what is essentially a juvenile prison?  Unfortunately, it’s the new reality in the US.  

In 2014, it became policy to detain and hold undocumented individuals in privately owned and maintained detention centers much like the one described in the book.  Some of these detention centers have been specifically designed for the detainment of women and children.  As of August 2016, more than 2,000 women and children are being detained in facilities, known as Family Residential Centers, both in Texas and Pennsylvania.  Not surprisingly, the restrictive arrangements have caused irreparable mental harm to the mothers and children, some as young as 2 weeks old, who have fled their home countries in search of safety. (See Teen mother at immigrant detention center in Texas attempts suicide, Infants And Toddlers Are Coming To The U.S. To Work, According To Border Patrol, Is Texas Reforming or Enabling Immigration Lockups for Children?, Immigrant kids detained in warehouse of humanity)

Life for teenagers in the detention camps is not easy. (See What It’s Like to Be a Teen Living in an Immigration Detention Center, The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps)  Legal aid came too late for Miguel, which is not unusual for teenagers seeking asylum in the US. (See Teenage Immigrants Are Being Denied Asylum Because They Have No Right to an Attorney)  It might seem that against such overwhelming odds, there can be no justice.  Fortunately, there are lawyers, like Hayden McCarthy, who take it upon themselves to assist these children seeking asylum. Personally, I have the honor to know Nicole Ramos, whose tireless efforts have saved countless women and children.  (See Modern Day Marias–Nicole the liberator)

Beyond Justice by Cara Putman, although fiction, resonated with life.  It is yet another avenue that the voices of these lost children, like Miguel, can be heard.  Once heard, their stories can be shared.  Once their stories are known, action can be taken on their behalf.  No child is Beyond Justice.

5 star

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Infusions of Healing–A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies by Joie Davidow.

While the Botany & Wildcrafting Course from Herbal Academy Courses that I recently completed was spectacular and I have more confidence in using my plant identification skills, I still run into the problem of not being able to transfer the identification from Mexican Spanish to English. This has been frustrating to me since my little Aztec Remedy books say use such and such a plant, but I have no idea what the botanical name is.

My previous Mexican plant authorities!

One of my friends recommended Infusions of Healing–A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies by Joie Davidow. I ordered it from Amazon and finished it in a week. In it, hundreds of herbal remedies are included as well as a chart that gives the English name, Spanish name, Botanical name and other names it might be called. Fabulous!

Recipes were included that used plants that I can identify in La Yacata, like mesquite, sábila, and huizache and I can’t wait to investigate more about their medicinal properties.

Furthermore, more 1/3 of the book talked about indigenous healing traditions. Thousands of years of medicinal tradition were lost when the Catholic church ordered the codices to be burnt, only a handful of others were preserved.  Spanish priests and naturalists compiled various tomes about the conquered peoples that were sent to Europe and lost for hundreds of years, only having been recently rediscovered.

These rediscovered accounts helped me to put the curandero tradition still alive and flourishing into perspective. Not only were curanderos skilled with herbs but they were also doctors of the soul. Some of those long-ago spiritual beliefs about health still exist in Mexico today.

Let me give you an example. It was an extremely hot month, hotter than I can remember since moving to Mexico. So now that we have electricity, albeit limited, we bought a fan. I had my husband install it so that we would get a nice breeze while we slept. My sister-in-law, who has also been suffering from the heat, asked to see our fan since it doesn’t use too much power. She thought it was good but said she’d never have the fan blowing on her in the night because she’d wake up “chueca” (wry-necked).

So what does this have to do with ancient Aztec beliefs? Well, the Aztecs believed that body ailments were either “hot” or “cold”, “wet” or “dry”. Therefore, a cramp would be an ailment caused by a “cold” source, the fan which cooled the tonalli (energy center also connected to the heat of the sun) of a person that is centered in the head.

Other things suddenly became clear as well. The sacred novena (9-day prayer session for the deceased) is 9 days because there are 9 levels to Mictlan, the underworld and 9 levels in the celestial kingdom above. Bilis, an illness caused by excessive coraje (rage) occurs when there is something wrong in the ihiyotl, another energy center located in the liver. The belief that not only must the physical body be treated, but the God who sent the infirmity must also be appeased continues with pilgrimages, prayer, candles, and offering found throughout Mexico.

While the book didn’t specifically mention going barefoot in the house as a potential cause of sickness, I bet the reason is mentioned in one of those lost books that I’d love to get my hands on.

So if you are at all interested in herbal uses of plants found in Mexico, this is the book I would recommend to you to start with. Having read it through once, I feel that I have finally entered the pre-school level in my local plant study.

5 star

A Woman’s Survival Guide to Mexican Healthcare by C.E. Flores

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A Woman’s Survival Guide to Mexican Healthcare is finally ready for release. The book covers the basics of the Mexican national healthcare system as it stands now, the reality of sexual assault, femicide, and abuse in Mexico, the role of the traditional curandera, and herbal remedies as alternative healing practices. Women living in all parts of Mexico (and Guatemala) candidly shared their health and wellness experiences so that other women will be better informed.

It is my hope that this book in some way empowers women who have moved to Mexico to have some measure control of their own healing. You can get it free at Amazon for the next few days.

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An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City: A Man and His History By Salomon Quintero, ESQ

An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City is the personal memoir of Salomon Quintero. Mr. Quintero led a fascinating life. He met Cesar Chavez, participated in protests, spent some time in jail because of his participation, had several simultaneous romantic relationships before finding the love of his life, had a successful law career, and finally retired to find inner peace.

No less fascinating were the lives of his parents and grandparents. Salomon’s great-grandfather was born in Mexico when Benito Juarez was president. His grandfather died during the Spanish influenza epidemic in 1918, leaving a young pregnant wife behind. His father, Antonio, played football with Kenny Washington and went to Mexico to live for a while in the 1940s to avoid the draft where he met and married Beatriz from Culiacan.

After a failed business venture, Antonio decided to head back to the U.S. to look for work. He was detained at the border and forced to enlist. Beatriz smuggled her infant son across the border under her coat and registered him several months later in the U.S. Subsequent children were born in the U.S. and had a fairly typical American upbringing.

Mr. Quintero shares the trauma his father endured as a soldier stationed in the Philippines. He also chronicles the ongoing family house expansion over the years. He mentions fascinating characters that were part of his life growing up but doesn’t follow up on their lives or talk about how their presence otherwise influenced his childhood.

I was slightly disappointed with the erratic flow of the book. Chapters seem to be organized around different themes rather than chronologically, which made it difficult to keep track of how the story pieces fit together and who the characters were at any given point in the story.

Then there were odd tidbits that I would think a little research would have cleared up. For instance, Mr. Quintero mentions that Claire, a Jewish girl from New York, might have been married to his father. Shouldn’t there be records on that? He alludes to the fact that his newly married parents experienced hardships that remained family secrets as long as his mother lived, but doesn’t specify what those hardships might have been. In for a penny, in for a pound Mr. Quintero.

There were historical references and certain terms that could have been clarified for readers.

Mr. Quintero mentions that the cost of coyotes is exorbitant but doesn’t explain that he is referring to human smugglers, not the animal. This term and process could have been expanded on when he talks about how his mother smuggled her son across the border. Or when he talked about his family moving from the Cananea Copper Mines to take employment at the Copper Queen Mine, probably with the intervention of a labor-brokerage coyote.

Mr. Quintero tells us briefly that his grandfather worked at the Cananea Copper Mines but doesn’t include the information that during that time period a violently oppressed labor strike at the mines was one of the factors leading the Mexican Revolution.  

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading An American Journey: Culiacan to Redwood City. I did. In fact, I enjoyed reading it so much, that I wanted more, more clarification, more details, more organization, more historical references. I felt at times I was getting the cliff notes version of Mr. Quintero’s full and rich family history. I expect that since some of Mr. Quintero’s family is still alive, there may have been things he preferred not to dredge up. Be that as it may, I still found an engaging read.

This book was reviewed at Reedsy Discovery.