And here we were on the road again towards Veracruz. We had left Oaxaca reluctantly. Those days had been memorable and had rekindled our love for Mexico once more. The warm sun, the colorful streets, the impressive monuments, the markets and the food. That rich and spicy food which comforted our bodies and soul.
We couldn’t leave though without taking a bit of Oaxaca with us, a bit of fruit, honey and chocolate of course. We had the cocoa beans that we bought at Zaachila market but we couldn’t leave the city without getting a few “molidas” as well. “Molidas” are ground cocoa beans you can order to your taste. You can have a mixture of chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and nuts. The ratio is totally up to you. No sugar, less sugar or brown sugar are healthier alternatives. As well as choosing between peeled and unpeeled cocoa beans.
Once it is measured and mixed well, it goes into the grinder until you have a fine paste or “molida”.
And here it is!
All that was left was to indulge on a cup of Hot Chocolate before our departure.
Finally on our way, looking outside at the beautiful volcanic landscape, I wondered how we would find the port of Veracruz once again.
I’ve written about Veracruz and their wonderful food before but this time we were on a flash visit, all we had was the rest of that day and one night. The priorities had to be to taste the wonderful seafood and go for a walk along the sea port.
After a few hours on the road, you always feel hungry, at least I do. The taste of the sea brought back good memories. Octopus “al ajillo” is always my favorite and tasting again sea bass a la “Veracruzana” with peppers and olives was a nice complement.
The afternoon was ending at a fast pace and it was time to visit the sea port.
That famous port has witnessed history unfold since the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century. The different ethnicities that crossed the sea into the unknown and stepped out at Veracruz at different times during the course of Mexican history, make up the essence of the Veracruzano. European, Caribbean and African joined an indigenous population and created a unique blend. A blend that is obvious in the faces you meet on the streets.
Walking hand in hand, feeling nostalgic, I almost missed the crowd of youngsters in shorts. That and the chilly air that made it all even more unbelievable. I had heard about what they do but had never seen it before. A new experience just when you think you’ve seen it all. We heard a commotion and cheering and that is when we approached.
There they were, a group of teenage Veracruzanos encouraging a family to throw coins into the sea so that they could catch them. And there they went! They made it look so easy. We asked them if they were not cold but they said no, they were having fun!
Looking at the families gathering at the port and strolling along the pier when the sun was about to set, I thought about what sea ports mean to me.
Besides the understandably strong connection I have with the sea in view of my being Portuguese, I feel ports are a metaphor of my life.
I am always waiting for the next pier where I will disembark and start my new adventure. More than blending with the locals, I try to immerse myself in their culture, their traditions and their way of life. It is never an imposition of one over the other, I feel it is a trade. We exchange our culture and enrich our lives in the process. So a port brings hope of new beginnings but also of longing. Longing for places that have touched my heart and where I can no longer disembark. longing also for Home, Portugal my country, my sea, my people. We have a word in Portuguese that expresses that feeling, it is called “saudade”.
We couldn’t leave Veracruz without a hearty breakfast at “La parroquia” accompanied by the famous “Lechero”my favorite coffee with milk, a must at this traditional coffee shop.
On my last stroll going back to the hotel on that gloomy morning that seemed to mourn our departure, I was already thinking about how we would soon trade the Gulf of Mexico for the Pacific Coast of Acapulco.
But before that we needed to make a stop at Mexico City to celebrate my daughter’s 6th birthday. Dressed as Frozen but having the most loving heart I know, she had a memorable birthday arranged by her “Nonna” and all the Mexican family and friends that warmed us with their presence. And what would a Mexican birthday be without “piñatas”. The hard task it is to break them with the stick, the excitement and song that encourages the children, makes it all the more fun and rewarding when the rain of sweets finally showers the children. They gather as many as their little hands permit helped by us the parents and even the grandparents who try to break through the confusion and all the laughter.
While in Mexico City there were a few things we wanted to revisit. We started off with the city center. It was a day when the air above the city was heavy and not that clear. The traffic was as we remembered, chaotic and unpredictable. But in spite of it all, it didn’t take anything of the beauty and architecture of the capital and the pleasure we had to walk its streets once more.
The Angel of Independence greeted us from its stand
The beautiful “Palacio de Bellas Artes” the main performing arts and cultural center in the city, reminded us of so many wonderful performances we had the privilege and the pleasure of attending.
And of course the Zocalo in all its glory with the Cathedral and the Presidential Palace.
It felt great to be back, enjoy a stroll through the city we called home for five years and even indulge in a few sinful sweets bought at one of the oldest sweet shops in town.
There were two more places on our list. The first one is always going to be very dear to our hearts. Xochimilco or the Venice of Mexico, as it is known, was the first place we visited shortly after we arrived in Mexico City. I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter and it meant the world to us that the owners of our house, Carmen and Luigi, took the time to show us this beautiful place. I have written several times about Xochimilco and the fun time we had there with the family that has since become ours. If you read those previous posts you will understand why Xochimilco will forever be part of our Mexican story.
This time was very hard since our Dear Luigi was no longer with us. Our friend, partner, companion, cousin, grandfather was missing from our celebration. It was the first time he wouldn’t be the heart of the party or cheer the other boats and toast to their health or make us laugh and tease us. Two of the Mexican cousins accompanied us and for my daughter and Carmen in particular, I tried to hold all my emotions inside. It took dark glasses and a lot of will power and even a little bit of tequila to not break down. Still a few stubborn tears made their appearance, it was to be expected.
In the beginning, we were feeling a bit bereft, my daughter even laid down with her thoughts. Then, slowly, sharing the nice food, tequila, the beauty of our surroundings, the fun atmosphere in other boats and the music around from mariachis and other performers, we started to unwind.
But until the end it looked like we would have no mariachis visiting our boat, our daughter was sad since it was always part of our tradition. But at the last minute, there they were, in a boat in front of us, how could we not? I’m sure Luigi would have approved and dancing at the sound of “La Cucaracha” and the “Mariachi Loco”, I felt he was there, celebrating along with us, cheering our happiness.
Our last stop while in Mexico City were the famous pyramids of Teotihuacan. Preceding the Aztec empire, once believed to be the biggest city in the Pre Columbian Americas dating from the second half of the first millennium AD, this is a mandatory visit even if you don’t have the time to visit the many other well known archeological sites in Mexico.
The sheer grandeur of the pyramids of the Moon and the Sun in themselves are enough attraction but there is a lot more to see. We had been several times before but always without our daughter as the climbing of the pyramids requires a big effort and extra care. So this time we wanted her to experience it although on a smaller scale. We did not go all the way to the top anymore but went a few steps up so that she could admire the skill and the architecture of the site. It was nice to see her enthusiasm and admiration.
The steps are quite high, an added sacrifice to please the Gods. The view from the top is impressive and you can’t help but wish you had a time machine that could give you a glimpse into the past and the everyday life of this once multicultural city.
After revisiting the past we were ready for sunny Acapulco.
Again so many good memories expressed also in a previous post are associated with this special place. We arrived at Carmen and Luigi’s apartment, looked at the beautiful view that Luigi loved so much and again missed his presence.
I wish I could say we enjoyed the pool and the beaches but when you are traveling the unexpected can happen. My daughter got sick. High fever set in and stubbornly lingered. We had to consult a pediatrician and a few days went by until we got it under control. We were worried sick but I am so grateful I had Carmen and Reynaldo and Cecilia, her cousins and our dear friends, to lean on. They were wonderful, without their support it would have been so much more difficult. In the last few days, my daughter started to be herself again and enjoyed their loving care and the warmth of Acapulco.
With the worst behind us and left in the good care of her father, there was still time for Carmen and me to go for a drive, my farewell to a place that always enchanted me.
We had a peek at one of the wonderful beaches and witnessed the sunset. I felt blessed I got to be there after the last difficult days.
Standing in the balcony the morning of our departure, my daughter asked Carmen unexpectedly, her “Nonna” why “Nonno” had left us. We all got a bit emotional and explained that due to his age, it had been his time but we were sure he was watching us and happy that we were together again.
It was time to return to Mexico City and bid our farewells. I dreaded it, I always get too emotional. In our last evening surrounded by our Mexican family once more, we tried to leave Mexico and the family we made there with the reassurance that we would be back again.
It took me some time to write this last part of our revisiting our beautiful Mexico. I had the perfect excuse. After all I am now preparing our departure once more, this time back to the Middle East. Our next destination will be Iran. It is a new adventure, one we are looking forward to. But deep down I think I was delaying it because I still wanted to hold on to Mexico a little while longer. Mostly I wanted to hold on to the wonderful new memories we made this time around and the special time we spent with our Mexican family. They are and always will be in our hearts and we will always be in each others lives. Whatever new memories we will make in Iran, you will always be our family.
Thank you for your love and support, even to the family that we did not get to see this time. You know who you are and thank you again Carmen for being our friend, our mother, confident and grandmother to Stephanie. To Luigi, wherever you are watching over us, you will always be in our hearts. To all of you, gracias! Thank you for always being there and showing us such love. We feel very grateful. Los echamos de menos! Hasta may pronto!
Mexico is a culturally and gastronomically rich country and I hope you are able to see beyond the controversial headlines and take the time to visit. There is plenty to explore and experience and Mexicans are a welcoming and kind people who have pride in their heritage and their country. In the five years we spent in Mexico, we never had a problem and we are happy we had the opportunity to explore so much and get to know its people.
To you Dear subscriber and reader thank you for being so patient and for traveling with me. I hope you will continue to be part of my journey.