Jeggings and pearls

LogoJeans + Leggings = Jeggings

Early on one of our recent walks around the central core of Coatepec, Mexico a pair of jeggings on a mannequin standing outside one of the many tiny clothing shops caught my eye. These were jeggings with a twist. Not only were they leggings designed to look like tight jeans, but they were studded with imitation pearls. I looked but kept on walking. Later, as we circled around and headed back toward our friends’ house where we were staying, we passed the shop again and this time I couldn’t resist taking a closer look.

Entering the store, I looked around but didn’t see more of the jeggings anywhere. Approaching the clerk, I asked “Hablas Ingles?” (Do you speak English?) and as usual, the response was “No”. Beckoning for her to follow me out front, I pointed to the jeggings. “Grande o pequeño?” I asked. (Large or small?) Though I tend to wear a size medium in most things, that word wasn’t part of my extremely limited Spanish vocabulary yet! “Uno talla,” was the response. (One size) I recognized the word “uno” and that was enough to tell me that this was a one size fits all garment. The clerk took them off the mannequin and I held them up to myself to ensure that they were long enough. They were and my mind was made up. They were coming home with me! It didn’t hurt that the price was only 100 pesos; less than $7 CAD!

With their cozy fleece lining, these jeggings are surprisingly warm. In fact, since returning to Canada, I wore them outside at -27ºC (-17ºF) and didn’t freeze! Granted, I only walked half a block from the grocery store to the post office and back again, but they were plenty adequate for that. It may seem surprising that I was able to buy something this warm in Mexico, but Coatepec is in the highlands where it can get a bit chilly at this time of year. Since their homes aren’t insulated and don’t have central heating the people tend to dress quite warmly.

I strongly believe that leggings are not pants and that they should be worn with tops that are long enough to cover the buttocks and crotch. I’m undecided where these new jeggings are concerned though. Clearly, the pearl studded imitation pockets on the front and the details on the back are meant to be seen.

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 6.02.45 PMPearl embellished clothing has been very much on trend for the past year or so. I’ve seen sweaters, dresses, jeans, and even shoes adorned with imitation pearls. One of my favourite fashion bloggers, Josephine of Chic At Any Age, wore this cute pearl studded beret in one of her recent posts.

Adding faux pearls to a garment that you already own would also be a simple DIY project. I’d thought of doing that to a pair of jeans, but now that I have my pearl studded jeggings, I won’t need to!

Historic Mexico City

On Wednesday morning we took a taxi into Xalapa and then a bus back to Mexico City. Arriving at our hotel in the historic centre of the city a few minutes after 3 o’clock, we checked in, dropped our baggage in our room, and headed out to explore our surroundings. We had about four hours before dark to see as much as we possibly could!

About six blocks north of our hotel, we came across the expansive Plaza de la Constitución. There was a protest of some sort happening just off the south side of the square, but it was the amazing Metropolitan Cathedral (or to give its full name, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven) on the north side of the plaza that completely captured our attention.

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Latin America’s largest and oldest cathedral, the imposing structure is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico and one of the country’s most treasured architectural masterpieces. Built on the site of Templo Mayor, an ancient temple in what was the centre of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, it includes much of the stone from that original structure. Construction of the cathedral, which incorporates several different architectural styles, spanned three centuries from 1573 to 1813! The bell towers house a total of 25 bells, the largest one weighing 13 000 kilograms!

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After a quick peek inside the Cathedral, we moved on. The Palacio Nacional, home to the offices of the president of Mexico as well as the federal treasury, is located on the east side of the Plaza de la Constitución. The palace’s main courtyard is surrounded by a three level arcade and has at its centre an enormous fountain topped by an elegant bronze statue of Pegasus, the winged stallion of Greek mythology.

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It was the Diego Rivera murals, painted between 1929 and 1951 and depicting the history of Mexico from the Aztec era to the early 20th century that drew us to the Palacio Nacional. The enormous staircase murals, located between the first and second floors, are sometimes compared to an epic poem including the legendary pre-Hispanic past, the Spanish conquest, and the more recent past. Tucked into the mural over the left staircase is an portrait of Rivera’s wife and fellow artist, Frida Kahlo (wearing a green dress and a star necklace).

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Nine more murals chronicling indigenous life before the Spanish conquest of Mexico cover the north and east walls of the second level. This series of panels was intended to go all the way around the second storey, but the project was incomplete when Rivera died in 1957.

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After leaving the Palacio Nacional, we wandered the nearby streets enjoying the sights and sounds of this small part of one of the world’s largest cities.

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To the north and east of the central plaza, we discovered the remains of a portion of the Templo Mayor that was excavated between 1978 and 1982.

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Continuing our walk, we eventually came across a long pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants that included a number of American chains such as Old Navy, Starbucks, H&M, and Forever 21. Though it was a midweek day at suppertime, the street was full of people. Photos hardly do it justice as without sound they fail to fully capture the festive atmosphere. On one block a young boy played an accordion, on another a trio of men in traditional costume played lively music on stringed instruments, on yet another a boy played guitar and sang. In each case, of course, they had a hat or container out to catch the coins of passersby.

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We stopped for a quick bite to eat in a tiny Mexican restaurant and dessert from Santa Clara, a Mexican ice cream shop chain. Then as the sun slipped below the tall buildings surrounding us, we headed back toward our hotel. We had to be up very early the following morning to catch our flight home.

And that’s a wrap folks! After a fantastic visit with our friends in Mexico, we’re back home on the frozen Canadian prairie revelling in the memories of another wonderful trip completed.

Churches of Coatepec

Everywhere we go in Coatepec and the surrounding area, the colour and architecture of the churches practically insist that I stop to take photos! Over 90% of the population of the area adheres to the Roman Catholic faith, so Catholic churches are everywhere.

In the nearby city of Xalapa, the Catedral Metropolitana de la Immaculada Concepción, or the Xalapa Cathedral as it is more commonly called, is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

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Every small town has churches that are equally spectacular. Santa Maria Magdalena is the patron saint of Xico and the church that bears her name is absolutely stunning.

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A little further away, this beautiful church overlooks the central square in the smaller town of Teocelo.

Here in Coatepec, the stately church of San Jéronimo is located in the central core across the street from the Parque de Miguel Hidalgo which is always a happening place.

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I don’t know the names of the other churches that I’ve stopped to photograph, but there are many!

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We specifically walked up a steep hill to take a closer look at this one this morning.

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But this is my favourite of all the ones we’ve seen in Coatepec. Not only is the architecture exquisite, but I love the Calvary motif high above the entrance.

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By contrast, less than 10% of the population is evangelical Christian and they meet in much more modest buildings. The Pescadores de Hombres Compañerismo Christiano (Fishers of Men Christian Fellowship) congregation meets in this building a few blocks away from where we’ve been staying.

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A church on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, it’s a cochina economica (cheap kitchen) the rest of the week where you can buy tacos for 10 pesos (69 cents CAD) apiece.

 

Hiking in January!

The last time we came to Mexico, we took a taxi about 9 km from Coatepec to the smaller town of Xico where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. Today, we went a little further past Xico and down a very rough cobbled stone road to go hiking. Hiking, in January! What a treat!

The last time our friends went hiking in the area, they were able to take a trail down to the bottom of Cascado de Texolo, but today that trail appeared to be closed. Instead, we crossed a suspension bridge and took a trail that climbed to a ridge high above the valley.

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Cascada de Texolo

In many ways, the hike reminded me of hikes we’ve done at the BC coast and in the Rocky Mountains except that the plant life was entirely different. Instead of forest, we were hiking through jungle.

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As we climbed higher, we could see a building perched on the edge of the ridge above us. Could it be a restaurant? If it was, we decided, we’d have lunch there.

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Sure enough, it was and we did! The food was delicious and the view was amazing.

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I had to pinch myself and remind myself that it really is January as I enjoyed the brilliant flowers along the trail.

Museo de Antropología de Xalapa

When I registered for my first year of university I intended to take a sociology course, but it was already full. I had to find something else that would fit into my timetable, so I registered for introductory anthropology. The study of human societies and cultures sounded interesting enough, but I didn’t anticipate it capturing my attention to such an extent that I would take as many anthropology courses as I could over the next four years and if money had been no object, I would have gone back to school after earning my education degree to get a second one in anthropology!

When I learned, after our first visit to this part of Mexico, that nearby Xalapa is home to the second largest museum of anthropology in the country, seeing it immediately took first place on my list of things to do on a return visit. With more than 25 000 pieces, the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, also known as MAX, houses the world’s largest collection of artifacts from the ancient cultures of the Mexican Gulf Coast including the Olmec, the Huastec, and the Totonac.

The most notable amongst these pieces are the colossal Olmec heads that date back to at least 900 BC. That’s hundreds of years before Alexander the Great! Sculpted from huge basalt boulders, 17 of these heads have been discovered to date and 7 of them are housed in the MAX. The heads vary in height from 1.47 to 3.4 metres and weigh between 6 and 50 tons. All of them depict mature men with flat noses and fleshy cheeks.

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There are also tiny heads like this one depicting a newborn baby.

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Also Olmec in origin, this 55 cm tall sculpture is thought to depict a priest holding a limp child, either sleeping or dead.

I won’t bore you with all of the 80+ photos that I took today or too many details about ancient culture, but as a lover of anthropology, I was absolutely amazed by the collection.

A few pieces even reminded me of the masks carved by the natives of the Pacific Northwest.

MAX is also noted for a series of small Totonic faces, called “caritas sonrientes” (little smiling faces) in Spanish. The first one shown here makes me laugh!

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In contrast to the little smiling faces, this poor fellow looks terribly sad.

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For Mesoamerican people childbirth was considered a form of battle, therefore, women who gave birth were revered as heroes and great warriors. Losses on any battlefield are inevitable, so women who died as a result of childbirth were given the same honour as men who fought and died in conflict. I was very impressed with the sculptures, like this one, representing these women.

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Here’s one of a series of tiny sculptures showing an ancient culture’s concept of the ideal female form; tiny waist, abundant hips, and voluptuous breasts. Clearly, with my boyish figure, I’d have been one of the ugly ones!

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The colours of Coatepec

The last time we came to Coatepec, Mexico to visit our friends, Richard M and Colleen, I fell in love with the Spanish colonial architecture. On that visit, I wrote a post about the amazing doors and windows, but another thing that stood out to me was the vibrant colours!

img_3579Living in Alberta, we spend the long winter months in a mostly monochromatic world. With the trees bare and the ground covered with snow, we live in shades of black, grey, and white. Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to this colourful culture. Today, we spent several hours walking around the central part of town.

Just off one side of Miguel Hidalgo Park is the beautiful San Jerónimo Church.

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Homes and businesses are equally as colourful. Come walk with me.

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It’s been cloudy and fairly cool since we arrived, but the colours of Coatepec are definitely a welcome respite from our Canadian winter!

Café Finca La Cañada

My Richard is a coffeeholic. Coatepec is known as the coffee capital of Mexico. Visiting a coffee growing operation seemed like a no-brainer.

Through another expat friend, Richard M was able to arrange for us to tour Café Finca La Cañada yesterday. Located just outside of Coatepec, up one of the roughest roads we’ve ever traveled, is the beautiful canyon estate owned by retired University of New Hampshire professor, Clifford J. Wirth, where he has now been producing organic, fair trade coffee for several years.

At first glance, the lush valley appears to be wild jungle, but on closer inspection one can see not only coffee trees but macadamia, banana, lemon, orange and tangerine trees growing on the steep hillside.

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Coffee “cherries” ripening

Cliff started our very enjoyable and informative tour by walking us through the coffee harvesting process. The “cherries” are all hand picked by the Mexican family that works for him and lives on the estate. He explained the two processing methods that can be used, a wet method and a dry method. He uses the wet method. First, the freshly harvested cherries pass through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean.

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Then the beans are placed in a cement tank of water. The lighter unripe beans float to the top, while the heavier ripe ones sink to the bottom. The husks and unripe beans are  composted.

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Ripe coffee beans

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Composting the husks

After separation, the tank is again filled with water and the beans remain there for 3 or 4 days to remove the sweet gluey layer of mucilage that is still attached to the beans. While resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes cause this layer to dissolve. When this process is complete, the beans feel rough to the touch.

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Drying beans

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At this point, the beans are placed on outdoor drying racks where they are turned regularly until most of the moisture has been removed. The racks are tented with plastic to protect the drying beans from rain.

Once the beans are ready, they are sent off-site for roasting and packaging. In addition to selling his coffee in a number of local shops, Cliff supplies several hotels and shops in the Cancun area. According to his Facebook page, his coffee is “Cultivated naturally below the tall trees of the Veracruz cloud forest without using agrochemicals, thus protecting the delicate ecosystem of the Suchiapa River, its flora and fauna–particularly the birds that migrate between Mexico, the United States, and Central America. The cultivation and processing methods protect the environment and workers’ welfare.”

Sadly, a fungus called coffee rust, or roya, has swept across Central America in recent years, withering trees and slashing production everywhere. Cliff told us that his trees are slowly dying and the estate now produces only 40% of the coffee that it did before the roya hit. When he took us hiking down into the beautiful canyon, he showed us examples of leaves that have been affected. He is now in the process of planting a new hybrid variety that is resistant to the blight.

I don’t drink coffee anymore because the acid bothers my stomach, but we bought a kilogram to take home and I’ll definitely be tasting it. I’ll just have to be careful to leave most of it for my coffeeholic husband!