Mexican Independence Day: A Brief History

September 16th is Mexican Independence day and it is right around the corner. Like many things in Mexico, the story of independence is long and complicated. Compare it to other countries such as the U.S., where the independence movement was basically a straight line, or others who simply had their independence granted to them, and the unique nature of Mexican independence can be appreciated. Now if you are a reader of this blog I assume that you aren’t a Mexican local, and we could all use a little history lesson to appreciate the country that has accepted us into its’ busom. So I am writing a brief account of the events to inform us all.

The story starts in the early 1800s as marginalized mixed-race peasants and some high-born Mexicans of Spanish descent (criollos) in New Spain (Mexico) had become disillusioned with the crown and its treatment of locals as 2nd class citizens and much worse. A well regarded priest by the name of Miguel Hidalgo had been having secret meetings in his home with other prominent men to discuss the possibility of revolt against the crown.

Hidalgo

Hidalgo

Allende

Allende

Ignacio Allende, a famed military leader, joined the secret meetings to discuss the validity of Spanish rule in New Spain at the home of Hidalgo. In the early morning of Sept 16, after discovering that loyalists had gotten wind of his secret metings, Hidalgo ran to the church in the city of Dolores and rang the bells to gather the towns people and asked them to join him in revolt. The “Grito de Dolores” or Cry of Dolores as it has been named, called for an end to 300 years of Spanish rule, redistribution of land, and racial equality in Mexico. By the morning of Sept. 16 he had a mob of 600 men, armed with whatever the could find, ready to fight. Most of his mob was made of the poor and mixed race lower class indians and mestizos who felt that the Spanish and New Spanish aristocracy treated them poorly.

His mob of the poor and neglected marched south from town to town killing all the Spanish and loyalists they could find and recruiting others to join their efforts. On Sept. 28th, numbering around 30,000 they reached the town of Guanajuato and killed some 500 Spanish and criollo loyalists that they found hiding in the Granaditas of Guanajuato (granary).

On Oct. 30th Hidalgo and Allende’s army encountered a small group of Spanish military, hastily organized by the viceroy (Spanish colonial governor of new spain), made up of 1,000 soldiers, 400 horsemen and 2 cannons and defeated them ouside of Mexico City at the Battle of Monte de las Cruces. He then committed what scholars roundly agree was his greatest tactical error and decided not to march on Mexico City. No one knows for sure why but most speculate that he wanted to spare the people of Mexico City the violence and plunder that he knew would ensue had he invaded.

He instead took on a defensive strategy and met the spanish army again in January 1811 at the Battle of the Bridge of Calderon and was defeated.

Hidalgo, Allende, and leaders Jimenez, Aldama were all captured in Coahuila, tried, and executed. All of their heads were hung from the four corners of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas of Guanajuato where they had slaughtered the 500 loyalists as a warning to those who dared follow in their footsteps.

Following the execution of Hidalgo, Jose Maria Morelos assumed command of the insurgency capturing key cities. In 1813, he convened the Congress of Chilpancingo to bring representatives together and, on 6 November of that year, the Congress signed the first official document of independence, known as the Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of North America. However in 1815 Morelos too was captured, tried and executed by the Spanish.

Morelos

by 1815 the revolt seemed all but squashed as most major factions and all major leaders had been defeated and captured. Between 1815 and 1821 most independence fighting was done by small bands and factions of rebels. The monarchy in Spain had it all but under control.

in 1821 the crown sent famed military leader Augustine de Iturbide, who gained his reputation fighting Hidalgo’s forces, to squash an insurgency force lead by Vincente Guererro in Oaxaca. Iturbide was a criollo (Person of Spanish descent born in Mexico) who was very conservative and staunch supporter of the established order and monarchy. When a liberal uprising in Spain overthrew the crown and forced King Ferdinand to reinstate the liberal constitution of 1812, establishing a constitutional monarchy, Iturbide saw it as a threat to the status quo in New Spain (Mexico) and called for a meeting with Vincente Guererro in Iguala to discuss joining forces and fighting for independence.

Iturbide

Iturbide

The “Plan of Iguala” established the “three guarantees” for Mexican Independence from Spain: 1) Mexico was to be a monarchy 2) criollos were to have equal rights to peninsulares (Spanish people born in Spain), and the Roman Catholic Church would continue its privileged position in Mexico. Mexicans of mixed or indian blood would still, however, have lesser rights. Guerrero and Iturbide’s forced joined and formed the Army of the Three Guarantees and defeated the remaining Spanish Royalist forces.

On August 24th, the viceroy signed the Treaty of Cordoba which agreed to make Mexico an independent constitutional monarchy. Since no European monarch could be found, Iturbide was named emperor. However, his reign was short lived as in 1823, republicans Santa Ana, who would become the famed general, and Guadaloupe Victoria, another independence leader, overthrew the monarch and established a republic with Guadaloupe Victoria as the first president.

Independence day is celebrated on Sept. 16th as the first day that arms were risen in Mexico against the crown and Hidalgo is considered by all as the “Father of Mexican Independence”. So this weekend when the festivities kick off, this date will mean more than just beers and barbecues to those visitors and ex-pats from afar. Enjoy and VIVA MEXICO!!

Locals Spotlight #3

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This edition of Locals Spotlight we are reaching waaaaaay back in the bag of locals and Talking to Evan Mckenzie, the well-known and long established owner of Nacional Beach Club, a great hotel, restaurant, and all-around hang out spot on the malecon, to find out about himself, his lovely family, and his business. Evan is an “O.G.” of Mahahual, if you will, and has seen a lot of changes to our little community. Let’s dig in…

CML: Thanks for sitting down with me Evan. Let’s jump right in. How did you discover Mahahual and when did you come here for the first time?

Evan: It was the glorious year of 1998 the first time I visited Mahahual with my father.  A neighbor of ours in Playa del Carmen told him about a quiet little fishing village located in the South of Quintana Roo called Xcalak. He bought his first property there in 1997 but it didn’t take him long to decide that Mahahual would probably grow first as a tourist destination. So I came down with him in ’98 to check it out.

CML: What were your impressions of the town? What was it like?

Evan: I remember telling my father when he asked me what I thought about the town of Mahahual as we stood on one of our first 9x18meter lots in the center of Mahahual overlooking the ocean “ Well Dad it is certainly beautiful here but there is not much going on”. To which he replied “You will see that will change with time”. He was absolutely right.

CML: When did you decide to come live here? What was your plan and what did your friends and family think?

Evan: I decided to move to Mahahual in the fall of 2005 once I graduated from Arizona State University with a double degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management & Business Administration. My Family was really very supportive and happy to hear I would be moving to a country full of culture & wonderful people that we all  thoroughly enjoyed visiting throughout my youth.

CML: And at some point you met your wife Ana, who is heavily involved in conservation and recycling with her group “Menos Plastico es Fantastico en Mahahual“. Tell me about that.

Evan: I met my beautiful wife Ana on the beach in Mahahual where else haha? We met while I was having breakfast in the Spring of 2007. The moment I laid eyes on her I was absolutely in love. 

I had just started my first little bohemian restaurant “Cosas Naturales” which only served fresh juices, smoothies,  breakfast, salads & wraps while Ana was working on her first restaurant with one of her best friends which served typical Chilean dishes beach side. 

CML: And then some point later you guys opened Nacional Beach Club right?

Evan: Ana and I decided to develop Nacional Beach Club once FONATUR finished developing the first stage of the malecon in 2008. We started with very basic drawings using our imagination and before long found an architect in Chetumal for the finalized plans & licensing, right where “Cosas Naturales” stood. 

We started with 3 bungalows, a restaurant/bar and three locals to service the beach.  It did not take us long to figure out that there was demand for lodging in the sleepy little village as eager tourists arrived from all over Mexico and the world to visit these tranquil white sand beaches with glistening Caribbean water at is edges. And we’ve been growing ever since then!

CML: So you guys got married and have two beautiful daughters. What is it like raising a family here?

Evan: I have only raised one family and only in Mahahual but could not imagine doing so anywhere else on earth. Many guests at our establishment truly admire us for this as it is such a peaceful place to raise children. 

CML: What are the biggest changes you have seen here, good or bad? How would you like to see Mahahual grow in the future?

Evan: Growth is inevitable but I feel that the condo developments change the image of Mahahual. We should undoubtedly grow green with more emphasis on sustainable tourism, growth & education within our community. We must all agree that no one comes to Mahahual for large shopping plazas or to visit monstrosity hotel chains but simply to enjoy pristine beaches, coral reefs, and to support small business models. 

I strongly believe that Mahahual sells itself, simple as that, and that we the entrepreneurs need to preserve the natural beauty as much as possible.  Hence the less impact we make the more of a niche we will create for a eco-tourism that will vary from our neighbors to the north.  Though many of us complain about the Costa Maya Port we must also all thank this industry for providing us with a very steady supply of tourism throughout the year.  We should also be thankful to the National & International tourism that the highway brings us constantly thanks to the Chetumal & Cancun Airport.

CML: Well put. What is your favorite part about living in Mahahual? 

Evan: Definitely always looking at the Caribbean Sea and feeling a fresh clean breeze.

CML: Is this home? Are you planning on being here forever?

Evan: Forever and ever!

Stop by and see Evan and his family the next time you are in town at Nacional Beach Club!

Mexico Eliminated from World Cup: Mahahual to Return to Normal

serveimage (14)Well it was fun while it lasted! Today “el Tri”, the Mexican national soccer team, was eliminated in the first round of the knock out stage of the world up by Brasil.

For the past two weeks, early morning cheers, screams, horns and whistles have sounded out the emotion and passion of Mahahualenos as they cheered for the boys half a world away in Russia.

The tournament started out on a high note as El Tri scored a big win over defending champs Germany in the first game of the group stage. Then another victory over South Korea had our little town floating on air as the light tourist season allowed time to watch and revel and local bars and restaurants. The normally busy pedestrian streets were empty as locals gathered to watch.

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The third match was something of a cardiac case as the national team took a 3-0 walloping from Sweden, putting Germany in the position to knock us out if they were to merely tie in their match with the much weaker South Korea. As the games were taking place simultaneously, Mahahual collectively held its breath as the clock wound closer to the 90th minute and the score remained 0-0 for the Germans and Koreans.

Then one minute into extra time Korea scored the first goal sending roars into our tiny collective atmosphere, but there were 5 minutes left to play and the German soccer machine is a titan not to be counted out. at 5:51 into extra time Korea sealed the deal, sending a wave of celebration across the lower portion of North America, local celebratory tequila shots, and sparking international displays of praise and gratitude for any Korean seen by a group of Mexicans (see some hilarious videos here).

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But everybody knew today would be a tough ask of the boys in green as they faced the South American soccer juggernaut Brasil. Neymar, Brasil’s best player, or actor depending on who you ask, did what he does best and put on a Lebron’ing showcase that would make the Lakers’ newest acquisition proud.

serveimage

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Meanwhile Ochoa, Mexico’s revered goal keeper, put up a brick wall, blocking 8 attempts on goal and drawing the admiration of soccer fans for the second straight world cup in the 2-0 loss.

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End the end El Tri did well. The win over Germany will not soon be forgotten in the minds of Mahahualenos and Mexicans everywhere and making it to the round of 16 is an accomplishment in and of itself. Maybe in 2022 we will finally see the team to the quarter final match that has eluded them since 1986. For now, Mahahual can return to normal.

 

 

Local Knowledge #3

rumor

Mahahual is  very small town. I don’t know how many of you grew up for spent any time in small towns but I have come to realize that they are very similar to one another in many ways, regardless of culture or language. I am from a tiny farm town in eastern North Carolina and I have been serendipitously reminded of my formative years more than once since moving here.

The local knowledge for this post applies to the Oxxo post and to most small towns that I know of. There are always lots of talk and rumors about things going on in town, most of them erroneous or innocently misinformed. If I had a chicken strip for every time my childhood friend Nick told me that Taco Bell and Bojangles were coming to our small town I would have a lot of chicken strips.

When you hear these rumors, you should know that you’ll never really know until the rumor becomes a reality! Don’t waste your time and hope speculating. Just wait….and see…

The Legend of Oxxo in Mahahual

There has been a rumor circulating in our small town for quite some time. A rumor about a sacred place that where goods are exchanged for money, bills are paid, money is wired, and the pueblo gathers under the glow of incandescent light. Late at night on the street you hear whispers of it. Once in a while you will see a flyer for it. One day Mahahual will become the chosen home of the newest Oxxo! Dum dum duuuuuummmm…

oxxo

Oxxo, if you don’t know what it is, is probably the most popular chain of convenience stores in Mexico. Think of it as the Mexican 711. That might not get you very excited but no matter how you view it, will be good for our little town. It will bring some much needed services that aren’t available here under its own banner and may even attract a few other businesses that are sorely needed in this part of the world.  We surely don’t necessarily need another place to buy cerveza and chicharones, but sending and receiving money and paying bills more easily would be a breath of fresh air.

The only thing is that, Mahahual being a tiny town, the rumor abounds but nobody seems to know quite where or when it will be. Judging by the lack of certainty I wouldn’t even be completely sold on the fact that it is actually coming if I hadn’t seen the flyer a few months ago looking to interview employees. That sold me, but I can’t for the life of me figure out the mystery.

Every new construction in town is assigned to Oxxo by one person or another. At the beginning it was going to be at the beach beside the Mahahual Cigar lounge but that didn’t make sense because that lot is huge and beach front. Way too much for a tiny Oxxo. One guy says it will be where they are building new condos on Calle Chacchoben in Casitas but I asked the contractor and he assured me that he was building condos. Everytime ground is broken, someone says it is Oxxo.

The only thing that we can do here is watch and wait. One day it is certain that a touch of modernity will land in our area but where and when we won’t know until they turn on the light! Which leads me to local knowledge #3…

 

Local Knowledge #2

Here in Mahahual there is a serious lack of first world comforts and conveniences. This is a big part of the charm but it can also be frustrating when you are looking for frozen raspberries or power sander papers. There aren’t any big box stores, not even a bank, and you are limited to what you can find in the various “mini supers” around town. Most of these charming little stores have the essentials…fried plantains, glass bottled coca-cola, bleach and a tomato or two. You get the idea.

Being from a more developed part of the world you can become frustrated from the urgency you feel when you need or want something you don’t have. Heck, you know the days of instant gratification are here when drones dropping things off at your house 3 hours after you order them online is not a thing of science fiction. But as time goes by and you begin to really settle in to the Mahahualense way of life you realize that, if you are patient, most of the things you need will just come to you!

One of the great things about Mahahual, and Mexico in general, is that the budding entrepreneurs of the area begin their businesses by piling their wares in the car, bike, or triciclo and peddling them down your street! Everything is available, from bread and water to plastic trash cans, even fresh made furniture, and all you have to do is wait for the sound of the bell or horn, look out your window, and see what is coming down your street!

trici

trici2

So unless you have an emergency, take a breath and breathe in the beauty of waiting for the special day when the thing you need comes beeping down your street. It is like Christmas!

 

 

 

Is it Safe to Eat Barracuda?

Barracuda is an oft caught fish in Costa Maya and can be really exciting due to their size and ferocity when they hit your line. They are also a really neat looking fish. But if you are like me, the fight that ensues when reeling in a creature from the deep blue is only a small portion of the excitement. I get REALLY excited when the fish that surfaces is not only big but something that I can feed to my friends and neighbors as I soak in the ooo’s and ahhh’s and tell the tall tale of how I landed the beasty leviathan.

Barracuda is a tough one and it seems that, like many things in life, there is no definitive and clear black and white answer to the question of whether or not they are safe to eat.  They are a predator fish and like most predators that are near the top of the food chain, they have a higher mercury content in their bodies than the fish they feed on. This alone puts then on the “consume less often” list along with Tuna, Swordfish, Grouper and Mackerel.

But they also can be infected with a toxin called ciguatera. Ciguatera is contracted from reef fish that consume it from contaminated coral, algae and seaweed and pass it up the food chain through biomagnification, the same process that the tops dogs get the mercury concentrations. Ciguatoxin is odorless and tasteless and cannot be cooked out of food with high heat. The symptoms of toxicity in humans include gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurological effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, numbness of the extremities, vertigo and hallucinations. The symptoms can last from weeks to years in some cases.

So with these two spooky possibilities lurking out there how do we know which of the fish are fine to eat and which will have us seeing little green men? Like we said earlier the world isn’t black and white so not all fish are going to be affected and you don’t want to miss out on a potentially tasty meal right? You would think someone would have come up with a good scientific test to see if your barracuda was poisonous but alas, all we have are good old folk tests like these to rely on…

One test is to cut off a piece of the flesh and lay it by an ant hill. If the ants eat it, it is fine to eat.

Another is to do the same with your cat. If your cat eats the flesh it should also be fine.

Another is to place a silver coin under the scales of the fish, an fish that is not good to eat would turn the coin black.

Some say not to eat a barracuda that is over 10 pounds because the bigger the fish, the older it is and the more other fish it has eaten.

And finally, some say not to eat barracuda during months that don’t have and “r” in the name. Basically May-August. Locals say this is the season where the barracuda dine on a particular seaweed to cleans their system and makes them more toxic to us.

So we may not have the most exact answer to the barracuda question but these folk tests have passed the test of time. I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on any one of them but I think that using them all together as a guide leaves you on the good side of safe. I have eaten barracuda and it is a lovely tasting fish. I would certainly hate for anyone else to lose out on it out of fear. Besides, what’s life without a little risk?