Central American Artifacts in D.C.

Did you know that the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. has a large bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibit called “Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed“? It’s there until February 15, 2015 and features more than 160 objects from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama – so check it out while you can if you live in the area. If not, here are a few highlights!

ceramica-de-los-ancestros

designs

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Lempa River jar in the form of an armadillo, AD 900-1200, Near Palacios, Oratorio de Concepción, Cuscatlán, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya figure, AD 600-900, Usulután, El Salvador

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Classic period Maya bowl, AD 250-600, San Agustín, Acasaguastlán, El Progreso, Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Stamps from Costa Rica and Guatemala

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Pre-Classic period Maya female figure, 200 BC-AD 1, San Jacinto, San Salvador, El Salvador

Carlos said, "Hey, this one looks like me!" even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Carlos said, “Hey, this one looks like me!” even though I told him that usually statues with hands on the hips are females.

Want more?

The National Museum of the American Indian website has more information related to the exhibit including photos, video, and even a really awesome printable coloring book for the niños!

Gelatina de Mosaico (Mosaic Gelatin)

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A family potluck this past weekend with my side of the family seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make my first attempt at “gelatina de mosaico” – A colorful gelatin dessert popular in Mexico and some other Latin American countries. When I told Carlos what I wanted to make, he asked, “Are you sure it isn’t going to be too weird for them?”

He didn’t believe me when I told him, although many gringos may not be familiar with “gelatina de mosaico” specifically, most older generation Americans are not strangers to creative Jell-O dishes, (and some may actually know this exact dish by the name “stained glass bars” or “mosaic dessert bars.”)

I pulled out this old Jell-O cookbook I have in the cabinet. When we moved to this house about 10 years ago, I found it in the kitchen cabinet and decided to keep it; In it are all manner of Jell-O dishes – many of which are much stranger than “gelatina de mosaico.”

joys-of-jello

Do the math: 1897 + 65 means this cookbook was printed in 1962.

Do the math: 1897 + 65 means this cookbook was printed in 1962.

Can I interest you in some shrimp Jell-O? How about some Jell-O with vegetables?

Can I interest you in some shrimp Jell-O? How about some Jell-O with vegetables?

Radishes? Cauliflower? Seems like nothing is off-limits in this Jell-O cookbook.

Radishes? Cauliflower? Seems like nothing is off-limits in this Jell-O cookbook.

South of the Border Salad. Hmmm. Should I try this one?

South of the Border Salad. Hmmm. Should I try this one?

These are called "Crown Jewel" desserts and are very similar to gelatina de mosaico.

These are called “Crown Jewel” desserts and are very similar to gelatina de mosaico.

Anyway, I ended up making the gelatina de mosaico and it turned out great. Everyone loved it, (and I saw a few people getting seconds!) … The original recipe is on the Jell-O website HERE, but here it is with my adapted step-by-step directions which include some tips to ensure it turns out right!

Gelatina de Mosaico

What you need:

5 1/2 cups boiling water
1 box JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Orange Flavor Gelatin
1 box JELL-O Grape Flavor Gelatin
2 envelopes KNOX Unflavored Gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
Cooking spray

Directions:

A note before you begin: As fun as this dessert is when finished, I don’t recommend allowing children to help make it because there is a lot of pouring of boiling water. Also, you will want to make this the night before you want to eat it as it takes several hours to become solid.

1. Clean your fridge! Seriously, don’t skip this step. Make space because you’re going to need it to chill 4 different containers of Jell-O.

2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. (You don’t have to measure out the 5 1/2 cups right now. Just make sure you have more than that in the pot.)

3. While waiting for the water to boil, get your supplies ready. You need 4 large glass cereal bowls. (Whatever type of bowl you use, make sure it can handle boiling hot water.) Empty each packet of flavored Jell-O into a bowl – one flavor per bowl. Strawberry in one bowl. Orange in one bowl. Lime in one bowl. Grape in one bowl. (You don’t need the unflavored gelatin yet. Don’t open it now.)

4. You need 4 rectangular shaped medium-sized containers. (I used disposable cookie sheets but these were a bit larger than needed. I will use something smaller next time.) Spray each rectangular container with cooking spray and set them near the bowls.

5. Once the water is boiling, ladle one cup of the water into a large glass measuring cup. (Leave the rest of the pot boiling while you work.)

6. Carefully pour one cup of boiling water into the bowl containing the strawberry Jell-O powder. Mix about 30 seconds until dissolved. Pour into one of the rectangular containers and put in the refrigerator to chill.

7. Repeat step 6 with the lime, grape and orange flavors. When finished, you will have 4 rectangular containers of Jell-O chilling in the fridge.

8. Turn the heat off for the boiling water, but don’t dump the water out. You’ll need to turn it back on later.

9. Wash up the dishes and then wait at least one hour for the Jell-O to become solid.

10. Put the pot of water back on to boil.

11. Spray a glass or metal baking dish (about 9×13) with cooking spray.

12. Chop the colored Jell-O into pieces. You can make uniform squares or just chop it up randomly – however you want. Put the chopped up Jell-O pieces into the greased baking dish. Set in the fridge.

Note: If you have trouble getting the colored Jell-O out of the rectangular containers so you can chop it, try running a sharp knife around the edges before turning it upside down over a clean surface.

13. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the contents of 2 unflavored gelatin packets over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to sit for 1 minute.

14. Ladle 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the large glass measuring cup. Pour the 1 and 1/2 cups boiling water into the medium-sized bowl of unflavored gelatin. Stir. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Mix well and allow to cool.

Note: If you are too impatient and don’t let it cool enough, your red-colored Jell-O will stain the white Jell-O slightly pink in the next step, which is what happened to mine. It’s still pretty, but most people aim to keep the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture white.

15. Remove the pan of chopped up colored Jell-O from the refrigerator. Pour the sweetened condensed milk Jell-O mixture over the colored Jell-O. You can gently mix this a little bit to distribute the colors to your liking.

16. Put the pan back in the fridge to chill. This will take a couple hours – I left mine in overnight.

17. Once your mosaic gelatin is solid, run a knife along the sides to loosen it up, and then turn it upside down over a clean surface. Cut into bar shapes and place on a serving dish or back in the glass baking dish. Serve or keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

mosaic-jello-latinaish

Lluvia de Peces

Image source: Trevor Huxham

Image source: Trevor Huxham

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Hay un fenómeno conocido como la “Lluvia de Peces”, que ocurre una vez o dos veces al año en el pequeño pueblo de Yoro, Honduras. Cientos de pequeños peces aún vivos se caen del cielo durante grandes tormentas usualmente en mayo o junio.

En la década de 1970, un equipo de National Geographic fue testigo del evento, pero algunos siguen siendo escépticos. ¿Crees tú en la “Lluvia de Peces”?

Aquí hay un video de 2012 de un hombre hondureño muestrando los peces. (¡Nunca me di cuenta de que los hondureños hablan tan parecida a los salvadoreños!)

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

There’s a phenomenon known as the “Lluvia de Peces” (Rain of Fish) which happens once or twice a year in the small town of Yoro, Honduras. Hundreds of small, still-living fish fall from the sky during big storms usually in May or June.

In the 1970s, a National Geographic team witnessed the event but some remain skeptical. Do you believe in the “Lluvia de Peces”?

Here’s a 2012 video from a Honduran man that shows the fish. (I never realized Hondurans speak so similar to Salvadorans!)

An Interview with Alfredo Genovese, Fileteador

alfredo-genovese

I love art in general, but the diverse art of Latin America is my favorite to explore. It was during one of these internet explorations that I stumbled upon the traditional Argentinian art called “fileteado” and one of its most respected modern day masters, artist Alfredo Genovese.

havanna-alfredo-genovese

If the style looks familiar to you, it’s possible that you recognize it as the type of art historically found on the sides of wagons, particularly those used by circuses. The art seems to have originated in Italy and was brought to Argentina by immigrants where it has become its own unique style known as the “Fileteado Porteño” of Buenos Aires.

When Alfredo Genovese studied art, he was surprised to find that Fileteado was not part of the school’s curriculum, and so he went to study under masters of the art, traveling around the world, before returning to Buenos Aires where he makes a living as an artist and a teacher of Fileteado.

cocacola-fileteado

I emailed Mr. Genovese to ask if I could feature him and some of his art here, and to my surprise, he even agreed to an interview (below!)

Interview with Alfredo Genovese, Fileteador

Latinaish: For those who aren’t from Argentina and don’t know what “Fileteado” is, can you explain?

Alfredo Genovese: Fileteado is a popular decorative art form originating from the horse cart factories of Buenos Aires in the early 20th Century. It is a hand-painted, brightly coloured style, which has a real life of its own. Vibrant contrasting colours, with highlights and lowlights, often incorporating symbols such as the acanthus leaf, dragons, flowers, birds, cornucopias, ribbons and scrolls etc. Recently inspiring the work of graphic designers and Tattoo artists also.

Latinaish: What attracted you to working as a fileteador, more so than other types of art?

Alfredo Genovese: My interest in Fileteado began when I was an art student at the school of Bellas Artes, and was disappointed to see that this traditional Argentinian art form was not taught in schools. I began to study the basics with an old master Fileteado painter called Leon Untriob. Any information regarding this old art form was very limited at the time, so I decided to investigate as much as possible about the technique and later began teaching Fileteado workshops and have also published 3 books about it.

Latinaish: You’ve traveled all over the world! What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from other cultures that you’ve applied to your life and/or art?

Alfredo Genovese: I learned a lot about the value of elaborate and meticulous art work from different cultures all over the world. How to be methodical and patient like all those artisans who create their work daily.

Latinaish: What has been your favorite project so far? Why?

Alfredo Genovese: Three years ago I painted a live Bull. It was a challenge and the first time I had painted an animal weighing more than 1000kg.

Latinaish: What would your advice be to a young person who is thinking about studying to become a fileteador? Is there anything you wish you knew when you were a student first starting out?

Alfredo Genovese: I think its important for an artist to find their own style, different to what is commonly seen. To keep investigating and practice a lot. To be patient and self critical to achieve work of good content and quality. Actually Fileteado is not only a pictorial skill, but also a way of representing conceptual ideas.

I want to thank Mr. Genovese for his time and for sharing his art with us. You can learn more at his website, which is in both English and Spanish. On his website you will find more examples of his art, history and information about Fileteado, dates for workshops, and books about Fileteado which are available for purchase, (PDF summaries of the books can also be downloaded.) Love Fileteado? Follow Alfredo Genovese on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

(Images are copyright Alfredo Genovese and have been used with permission.)

Caminar (review & giveaway)

caminar

Book description:

Title: Caminar
Author: Skila Brown
Release Date: March 25, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6516-6

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her… Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

My review: When I agreed to receive a copy for review of Caminar by Skila Brown, I didn’t realize the story is told in poems, although it’s clearly stated in the description. It’s a quick read, partly because the book is made up of poems and partly because there’s excellent suspense that propels you through the story, making you want to read “one more” poem to see what happens. The book’s target audience is middle grade and the book is fiction based on real historical events. I like that it’s told in first person, so kids can really identify with Carlos and feel a little bit of what it must have felt like to live through such an experience, and I like the little bit of Spanish throughout.

My 12 year old asked what I was reading and asked me to read some to him but after awhile he stopped me and said, “No offense, but I prefer funny poems.” (He was raised on Shel Silverstein.) That being said, I enjoyed it and think it would work best in a classroom setting, read as a class with discussion and related assignments, but if you have a child who likes poetry (the non-funny kind), and is interested in Guatemala and can handle serious subject matter, then they might enjoy this book as much as I did.

===GIVEAWAY CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO FJKINGSBURY, SANDRA RIVAS, and EZZY!===

The Giveaway

Prize description: Three lucky random winners will each be receiving an advanced copy of Caminar by Skila Brown.

How to Enter: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below sharing who you’d like to win this book for – If for yourself, why do you want to read it? (Please read official rules below before entering.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. address for prize shipment. Your name and address will only be shared with the company/person in charge of prize fulfillment. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid email address in the email address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winners will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. If no response is received after 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between February 17, 2014 through February 23, 2014. Entries received after February 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte / Good luck!

Disclosure: A book was received for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Biscochitos

biscochitos

Today we’re getting ready for the annual “galletada” with my mother, sisters and all the kids (my sons, my nephew and my niece.) We always make decorated sugar cookies but sometimes we each bring already prepared cookies of other varieties to share. This morning I decided to make biscochitos.

Biscochitos (often misspelled “bizcochitos”) are a holiday tradition passed generation to generation for many families in New Mexico where my older sister lived for a few years. One of the souvenirs she sent me back while living there were these anise seed cookies with a unique licorice-like flavor I really liked, so I looked up recipes and made them myself many times over the years even though Carlos isn’t that fond of them. (He says that anise is used as a home remedy in El Salvador so they taste medicinal to him.)

Anyway, if you want to give them a try, my recipe is below. Unlike traditional biscochitos, I use butter, even though New Mexicans will insist that to be authentic, you must use lard. My older sister is vegetarian which is why I usually use butter, but please feel free to sub lard for butter in the recipe. It will give it a slightly different texture, (which many much prefer!)

biscochitos3

Biscochitos (New Mexican Anise Seed Cookies

You need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (you can use lard)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (you can use rum)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

1. Cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar in a large bowl. Next beat in the egg, anise seed and vanilla extract.

2. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture little by little until combined. Do not over mix.

3. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface. The thinner you make them, the crunchier they’ll be, so if you’d like them to be a little softer, roll them out thicker. Use a drinking glass dusted with flour or a cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles or desired shape. Carefully move the cookies to a foil-lined greased cookie sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Bake the cookies at 350 F until they’re starting to brown at the edges. Sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar mixture while still hot. Allow to cool and serve.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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A Trip to: Mexico

atriptologo

Editor’s note: Welcome to the Hispanic Heritage Month “A Trip to” series here on Latinaish. This series has been so popular that we’re going to continue it beyond Hispanic Heritage Month! Join us as we virtually visit different Latin American countries through the photos and words of people who live there, have lived there, or have visited and have a lot of love for that particular place. Today F.J. of Bilinguish shows us around Mexico!

Mexico is a fascinating country to visit because it is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the Americas and, with more than 116 million people, the most populous. Besides having great physical diversity, from volcanoes to deserts to jungles, Mexico also boasts a variety of indigenous languages and cultures.

The gorgeous view from atop a pyramid at the archeological site of Teotihuacán is one of the most iconic images of Mexico, but it is just one of many beautiful places to see.

Teotihuacan Avenida de los Muertes y P del Sol desde P de la Luna

Mexico City is a great place to start exploring; It is one of the largest urban centers in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The center of the urban area is called México D.F. (Distrito Federal), and it’s surrounded by the state of Mexico. There were about 19 million people living there as of 2009.

Mexico DF gris

The center of the city has a large paved plaza called the Zócalo. There you can find some of the city’s most important buildings, including the city and state government buildings, as well as a Catholic cathedral. Public celebrations, including the country’s Independence Day observance, are held here, too. The enormous Mexican flag is raised and lowered each day. In this picture you can also see some of Mexico City’s famous smog, caused by the city’s geography and vehicles for all those millions of people. There are now many environmental programs in place to cut pollution and clear the air, so to speak. Imagine how impressive a view of the endless city surrounded by volcanoes would look then… ojalá.

Orientation DF museo templo mayor 1

Mexico City has been an important place since pre-Hispanic times. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, this city was called Tenochtitlán and it was the center of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The Templo Mayor (principal temple) was destroyed by the Spanish and covered by the modern city. In 1978, some electrical workers digging near the Zócalo stumbled upon a buried artifact from the temple, which renewed public interest in excavating the area. Now you can visit the Templo Mayor archeological site and museum near one corner of the Zócalo. This large statue is one of the many pre-Hispanic objects you can see in the temple.

Puebla from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn rooftops and church spires

Just a few hours south of the capital, Puebla is a beautiful colonial city. Although it’s the fourth-largest city in the country, the centro histórico has an old-fashioned feel. Besides the beautiful architecture, Puebla is also famous for its food and traditional talavera pottery.

Oaxaca Tamayo ofrenda

If there’s one city that captures the essence of Southern Mexico, it’s Oaxaca City. With a more rural feel, more visible indigenous culture, and its own beautiful archeological site, Monte Albán, full of pyramids and ancient ball courts, just outside the city, Oaxaca is worth spending days in. The name of the city and the state are pronounced “wa-HA-ca.” You can buy chapulines (fried grasshoppers) from a sidewalk vendor or walk down a “chocolate road” whose shops and chocolate factory smell delicious. One of the best times to visit Oaxaca is November 1st and 2nd for Día de los Muertos. The city is full of ofrendas (offerings) to the dead, like the one above for Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

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The Mexican countryside is beautiful too. This picture was taken from the window of a train en route from Guadalajara to the town of Tequila. Visitors tour a tequila factory and see the whole process of tequila-making, from agave cactus (above) to finished product. And they give you “all you can eat” food and drink on the tour- yum!

Feria de Puebla - chapulines y  cerveza- alimentacion del futuro

No trip to Mexico would be complete without tasting some delicious Mexican food. You can sample the previously-mentioned chapulines at many places in Southern Mexico, like the Puebla state fair (above.) Other interesting dishes include escamoles (ant eggs), sesos (cow brains, usually in a taco), gusanos de maguey (caterpillars, usually fried), menudo (tripe soup), and huitlacoche (corn smut, usually in a quesadilla.)

Exquisitas Gringas

Not all Mexican food has the “yuck” factor, though. There are plenty of dishes that you might recognize from your local Mexican restaurant. Chalupas, cemitas, tamales, atole, pozole, and sopa azteca are some of my favorites, although, to be honest, the “real” versions of these foods that I eat in Mexico are often very different from what you get in Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants in other countries. There are tacos and tostadas, too, as well as gringas, which are like a combination of a taco and a quesadilla. I took a picture of this sign because, of course, a gringa is also a way to refer to an American woman. (Cue music by The Guess Who.)

Chamizal arcos y tejedores 7

No trip to Mexico would be complete without watching some folkloric dance. Each state has its own traditional costume and dance. The most famous of these is el Jarabe Tapatío, from Guadalajara, Jalisco, known to the wider world as the Mexican Hat Dance. Here is another, called Arcos y Tejedores (“Arches and Weavers”), performed by children at a public school celebration on Mother’s Day.

Ritual a Quetzalcoatl las gringas 3

Many traditional dances have roots in indigenous cultures. These dancers are part of Ritual a Quetzalcoatl, a yearly event performed at the spring equinox on the pyramid in Cholula, Puebla. This dance group was from the Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla, a study abroad program at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, who learned about Mexican culture and music firsthand through dance.

Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this guest post? If you have some nice photos of a Latin American country you’d like to share as we did here with some short descriptions, please email me to be a part of this special travel series!