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February, 2010:

The latest trends in Lucha Libre souvenirs

As I have mentioned before, John & I are lucky to have the “inside track” on all-things-lucha here in Mexico due to a) a friend who has been training to be a luchador + b) another friend who is a lucha superfan. So while some of you may be familiar with lucha libre souvenirs for commoners, let me share with you a few of the lesser-known gems… We’ll start with items for “ambitious commoners” and work our way up to “wow, that’s hard core”.

KEYCHAINS:

Lucha mask keychains are a good low-key way to show you are a fan. (no pun intended) I purchased one of these for my mom, to help her seem "hip" when substitute teaching for junior/senior high classes in our hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska.

T-SHIRTS:

I've highlighted this "Lucha vs. Ninjas" t-shirt before; it was actually a gift to me from friend Kim, who purchased it off of best t-shirt website ever, Threadless. Distinctive in Mexico, since you'll have a lucha-oriented shirt that NO ONE else has (once I leave).

Hipster lucha T-shirts purchased in DF outside Arena Mexico. John is sporting one featuring Mil Masacaras (1,000 masks), a luchador with allegedly 1,000 different masks.

THUMB MASKS:

Thumb wrestling lucha masks: these take your thumb wars to a whole new level, and keep things sanitary as you go. (secret confession: purchased in Nebraska)

ANYTHING BLUE DEMON:

Blue Demon is one of the most familiar faces in lucha libre, so it should be no surprise to see how much schlock is available with his mask slapped on it. These souvenirs say "I follow the crowd" or "I like blue & silver".

HATS:

This hat reminds me of those kinds of butterflies/moths who have big eye-looking spots on the backs of their wings to scare off predators. If you are lucky, this hat will acheive the same effect when worn backwards.

Ok, now we’re getting into the more serious fan zone. Prepare yourself.

DRAWING FROM A LUCHA MATCH:

Tony is the artist who "live draws" (kind of like live-blogging, yes?) these pieces during the lucha matches at Arena Mexico. Purchasing one of these definitely shows commitment.

CHESS SET:

Superfan Alan purchased this lucha libre chess set, one piece of which is shown here. Photo courtesy artist's website.

For more detail on the lucha chess set, visit VIVE LUCHA LIBRE’s website here.   Also, check out all his other products (i.e. silver luchador jewelry, etc.) here.

BECOME HARDCORE FAN BY CREATING YOUR VERY OWN LUCHADOR:

Step 1: design your own mask. Think of cool name that isn't already taken. El Matador it is!!

Step 2: Design entire costume. Have manufactured by the talented folks at www.mtzwear.com, whose store is located just across from Arena Mexico on Avenida Dr. Rio de la Loza #229.

You can purchase existing luchador costumes at MTZWear as well, custom fitted just for you!

Step 3: Commission the design of El Matador, action figure. Arms & legs move realistically!

Step 4: Purchase display mount for mask when not in use. Commission design of pliable action figure!

Step 5: Commission painting incorporating El Matador into a spoof on hilarious old Lucifer Tequila ad campaign. (You start off as a tough guy, but by the end of the nite...) Note quote at bottom "With Lucifer appears your other self. Drink to resist reality". Love it.

Step 6: Purchase "portrait" of El Matador & display on wall with him being admired by Blue Demon & Santo portraits.

Step 7: Purchase portraits of all the cool luchadores (or at least, all the cool ones who wear masks). Purchase so many that the artist can't even keep up with frames for you! These will look pretty sweet all on a big wall.

Here's a close-up of some of the yet-to-be-framed dudes. Love the glittery paint!

So readers, what am I missing?? You folks got any lucha gear that can top what I’ve seen so far? :)

Two different approaches to Mexican tourism: Queretaro vs. Hidalgo

I constantly rave about Queretaro State’s Secretaria de Turismo (tourism board). They really have their stuff together, with amazing maps, good websites, great brochures, all of which serve to seduce people to a Mexican state that (to be honest) I initially thought didn’t really have that much going for it. (I have since reconsidered this stance– marketing helps me decide.)

Just a smattering of Queretaro's trendy tourism brochures taken off their Flicker site! (look at you, Queretaro, hip to the photo sharing services; bien hecho)

To be fair, I think they might still be over-hyping a few things. For example, check out page 7 of this brochure (courtesy Burro Hall), which outlines a 5 day, action-packed itinerary around Queretaro… except most of the days’ schedules seem to end after lunch. But their main travel website http://queretaro.travel/english (available also in Spanish & French!) is solid, highlighting Queretaro’s wineries and cheeseries (a.k.a. “dairies” to you lesser fans of cheese) and the illustrious Ruta de Vino y Queso near Tequisquiapan. They’re also quite proud of their Franciscan Missions located in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful Sierra Gorda.

The well-executed map of Queretaro's Wine & Cheese Route (note to self: stick with the sparkling wines & cheese...other wines=a bit iffy)

Anyway, my point being: Queretaro’s tourism board is on it, promoting Queretaran tourism in a classy, effective manner.

Now, contrast this with Hidalgo. We drove through a large portion of Hidalgo on our way back from Las Pozas, and stopped randomly in Ixmiquilpan because we were starving. (This town is also known as Iximikkimikkipan…because that’s easier to remember.) We were excited when we spotted the tourism office, and quickly crossed the main plaza to see what wondrous information lay in store for us.

What we discovered was that Hidalgo is going for more of a “Sex Sells” tourism campaign. They had several small brochures, at least half of which were adorned with this chicky:

Come to Hidalgo and find me prancing through the woods!

Or frolicking among waterfalls!

Or using my chameleon skin to blend in with mosaic floors!

Hidalgo has a website too, but it seems a bit more heavy on downloadable photos than insightful tourism suggestions. Also, their tourism slogan “Hidalgo en la piel” seems to best translate as “Hidalgo on the skin”. And while I can understand some kind of figurative translation about feeling Hidalgo on your skin, I don’t know if that’s really what I want in a Mexican state.   That said, it’s not all bad– the one thing that might get me back to Hidalgo is this huge map of all the spas across the state:

Holy crap! That's a lot of spas!!

Outside of that, though, Hidalgo may want to take some tips from their Queretaran neighbors on how to truly sex up an oft-forgotten state. Because I just don’t know if this woman’s blue air-brushed breast is going to do it for me:

Just because hot girls in body paint like Hidalgo, doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to.

Tasty Capsu

Sometimes one comes across something in Spanish that makes me feel better about my language abilities, because it reminds me that on occasion, Mexicans have trouble with Spanish too. And maybe also trouble with colors.

Reference the below photo snapped by one of my eagle-eyed MBA classmates this weekend, as seen on the table of food we have catered during our 9AM-8PM classes on Saturday:

Mmmm.... tasty capsu...

Mmmm.... capsu....

The Spanish translation for ketchup (when it’s not simply ketchup) is either salsa de tomate or catsup. For some reason, the word catsup is inherently funny to me. But not as funny as when it is spelled “capsu“. OR better yet, when it’s spelled capsu and it’s served in a yellow mustard bottle. Hmm…

I hope the catering guy isn’t a graduate of our MBA program…

A Las Pozas preview…

If these images don’t at least pique your interest regarding a trip to Las Pozas in middle-of-nowhere, Mexico (a.k.a. Xilitla in southern San Luis Potosi state), then I don’t know what will. :)  More details to follow of our amazing weekend trip, a mere 7 hours north of Mexico City!!

Emily & I cautiously made our way up the crazy stairs...

Here I am, dominating one of the many crazy structures at Las Pozas

Sluggy McSluggerson recounts some Mexico Highlights!

Ok, so I’ve been a slug. Every now and then, I like to do a blog post outlining all the riveting topics I’ve been meaning to write about, promise you that I will actually write about them, and then never execute on this.  Which sucks, because we have been some really amazing places in Mexico that I would highly recommend, if I ever got around to recommending them. :)

As a temporary fix to this, I thought I’d quickly highlight the best of my “Haven’t Blogged About Them” Mexico spots (and then vaguely promise to elaborate on them at an unforeseen later date).

IXTAPA: When I was trapped at school one weekend, John abandoned me for a much more glamorous weekend with a former boss of his who was in Ixtapa for the week with family. They stayed at this crazy-pretty house on the beach called Casa del Sol. It is located right next to a ski-lift (essentially), so he didn’t even have to exert himself going up & down to the beach, and the live-in staff of 3 took care of every food & drink need. If you have money to burn & a week to spare, this sounds like a great place to do it.

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

A glimpse of the pool & house that John had to suffer in for 3 painful days... :) So jealous!! (see the house website for more pics)

GOOD VIEW OF MEXICO CITY + GOOD TACOS: To enable friend Kim to experience the monstrosity that is Mexico City, we drug her up to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana, which holds the impressive distinction of “used to be the tallest tower in Latin America”! What excitement!! But, they have a good viewing platform (once you get outside so as to avoid sweating to death in the greenhouse portion). We recovered by stuffing ourselves with beer and tacos at El Huequito, top contender for “best tacos al pastor” in DF.

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE: During the swine-flu frenzy, we escaped town to check out San Miguel de Allende, generally known as “Hub of Retired Gringos”. This place has some of the most beautiful B&Bs I’ve seen in Mexico, but know that you will be paying US prices for the privilege of staying in them. :) The town is lovely & rife with tasty restaurants and trendy galleries. Food was amazing at a spot called “The Restaurant“.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

GUANAJUATO: The second half of our swine-flu trip, we stayed in Guanajuato– town of crazy tunnels & colorful houses. It was cute & felt v. European with loads of plazas to lounge about outside. If you drive, abandon your car at first apparent parking garage below the city & walk everywhere.  Stayed in Hotel Casa del Agua & were v. pleased with it. Employee walked with us to get our car & rode with us back to the hotel parking lot (a standard service at that hotel, which gives you a feel for how much of a cluster the roads are in Guanajuato. This hotel also created our new Mexico travel requirement of “hotel bathroom must have solid toilet that flushes plus a vent that vents outside of the room”.  During the 1.5 days of food poisoning aftermath, we realized how lucky we were that Hotel Casa del Agua had exactly that.

I ate at La Capellina repeatedly while John was MIA; food was great. Go to the fancy-pants Hotel Refugio Casa Colorada on the hill for drinks but no need to spend the money/effort to stay there.

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

HUATULCO for our ANNIVERSARY: Huatulco, aka Las Bahías de Huatulco, is made up of 9 bays along the Oaxaca coast. Some of the bays are part of a National Park & hence untouched by development, resulting in some of the most amazing, pristine beaches I’ve seen in Mexico. (e.g. if you’ve seen the Mexican movie “Y Tu Mamá Tambien“, its famous beach scenes were shot here on Bahia de Cacaluta“). You can rent a small boat at the marina, and the captain will take you as many bays as you want & stop as often as you want to snorkel/check out the beach. I recommend getting one with a roof or the sun will roast you. Not sure how much we paid, but I want to say around $800-$900 pesos for as long as we wanted to be out? But I could be way off. The very last bay is developed & has loads of restaurants where you can eat amazingly fresh shrimp cocktail & fish.

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco & its trusty captain.

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

We stayed at a gorgeous house called Villa Escondida located on the eastern-most beach (La Bocana). Whoever designed/built this house did an amazing job– infinity pool, hot tub on the roof, water feature in the entry way, master suite w/amazing views, a secret bar down on the beach. It’s a bit spendy, but we lucked out negotiating a deal due to post-swine-flu tourism slump. This place would be brilliant to rent out w/8 people, though you would have to battle for who gets the Mar Vista suite.

The couple, Elsa & Armando, that care for the place are super friendly & accommodating, picking you up from the airport in an air-conditioned SUV (so you can slowly acclimate to the humidity) & whipping up welcome drinks once you arrive.  Armando’s mango mojitos & hamburgers are both to die for– best hamburger I’ve had in Mexico to date. This beach was only marginally developed when we were there in May 2010, so it was v. quiet & private, yet had a great “meat & booze” restaurant around the corner. Only caveat– the Copalita River meets the ocean here, so it’s not a great beach for swimming- more for surfing, so if you are a “must be able to swim in ocean outside my door” type, be forewarned. But I personally found the beach to be absolutely beautiful.

The entryway into Villa Escondida

The entryway into Villa Escondida

And a view of the house from the beach

And a view of the house from the beach

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: This is not in Mexico. However, they did have lucha wine.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

THE PYRAMIDS a.k.a. TEOTIHUACAN: In June, I finally made it to the pyramids with visiting friend Emily. If you come to Mexico City, it is totally worth the trip. Teotihuacan is located about 45 minutes north of the city, assuming no traffic drama. You can take a bus from the Terminal Central del Norte (reachable via metro to “Autobuses del Norte” on Yellow Line #5 ), just confirm it’s going to the Zona Arq. Teotihuacan or Teotihuacan ruinas or Piramides. Rumor has it tickets are ~$70 pesos for return trip. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for the day for maybe $600 pesos to take you there, wait for you, and bring you back at your convenience. Obviously more spendy, but not bad split amongst 3-4 folks.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Other tips:

  • Bring water with you, as it isn’t sold within the ruins (just at stores outside).
  • Wear a hat/sunscreen; there is *no* shade out there & you will burn the crap out of yourself.
  • Leave early to beat crowds & the heat– I recommend leaving DF at 7:30AM.
  • I like to start near the Pyramid of the Sun (Puerta 5, if you drive). You can climb all the way up this one, which is much cooler if done before every other tourist & their pet dog arrives. Here’s a good map.
  • If you’re not going to pay for a guided tour (they do have them in English), I strongly recommend reading up a bit before you go or buying a book. Otherwise you will have 5,000 questions that the 10 plaques will not answer & you might not find the experience as interesting.
Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

OAXACA: It’s pronounced Wah-ha-ka for anyone wondering how that combination of letters can possibly form a word. The drive between DF & Oaxaca City through the mountains was actually quite beautiful– duration of 5-6 hours depending on time required to escape Mexico City. The town is lovely, the food/mezcal are fantastic, and the archaelogical site (Monte Alban) offers sweet views over the whole valley. Another town with lots of cute B&Bs/hotels. We stayed at Los Pilares Hostal, which was very nice & cost ~$1000 pesos, but is a few blocks away from the action. The Centro Cultural Santo Domingo (an ex-convent) is worth checking out. For food, hit La Olla for comida & La Biznaga for dinner; Los Danzantes is good for the mezcal but I’d skip the food… not amazing for the $$ (except for the magical Hoja de Santa appetizer– a crazy-big leaf stuffed w/cheese). Also, La Farola was a great cantina for further mezcal sampling.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IN COYOACAN (SEPT 16): The festivities for Dia de la Independencia start the nite before (Sept 15) at 11PM with the El Grito (the cry of independence). If I teach you nothing else, let it be that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day. :) Instead of joining in the craziness in the Zocalo, we went with some friends to the plaza in Coyoacan. In a nutshell, there is much excitement, food, carnival rides, fireworks, music, dancing, yelling, etc., though all of these to an even greater degree when it isn’t raining out. (boo) It is worth experiencing at least once– though try to learn some of the relevant songs/chants in advance to better blend in. 😉

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of the spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of some spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

ALEBRIJES ON REFORMA: If you’ve been to Mexico, you’ve likely seen for sale crazy-looking, multicolored animals made of paper-maché or wood. These are called alebrijes, and were originally conceived of by a guy in Mexico City in the 1930s. For the last two years during October, Mexico City has had an impressive display of gigantic alebrijes along la Avenida de Reforma (the main east-west drag through town). I hope they do it again this year, because these things are the coolest.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

Ok, now we’re marginally caught up through the end of October 2009…. Please comment if you would specifically like to see more details/photos on any of the above topics, & I’ll see what I can do! 😉

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Flores de Calabaza (aka Squash Blossoms)

On almost every trip to the mercados or grocery stores here in Mexico, I find myself admiring the flores de calabaza, a.k.a. squash blossoms. Not being a fan of actual squash, I consider these guys by far the best thing to emerge from the squash family:

These flowers are begging to be purchased.

These flowers are begging to be purchased.

I never got around to actually buying them due to a lack of brilliant recipe ideas. The flores de calabaza are beautiful, but I’ve tried them in a couple soups at restaurants where they didn’t do much for me… But then, somehow I caught wind of the phrase Flores de Calabaza Rellenas de Queso (stuffed w/cheese). This sounded much more promising. I bought a bunch of flowers 6 months ago with hot plans to research this, but learned the hard way that the flowers should really be used within a few days after purchase. (i.e. when stored in a plastic bag in the crisper for a week, they turn into arse.)

Then a few months back, while trying to find something I liked on the menu at Villa Maria (traditional Mexican restaurant in Polanco that is popular with locals & tourists alike; great atmosphere but the food often leaves you wanting), I spotted “Crujiente flor de calabaza alegría tropical” which was described as being filled with a cheese mousse. Sold. This dish was quickly added to my list of “The Only Thing I Like to Eat When We Take Tourists to villa Maria”, as well as to my “Must Learn to Make” notes-to-self.

The cheese-stuffed flores de calabaza appetize at Villa Maria in Polanco. Be forewarned-- when we visited most recently, we only got 3 on a plate vs. 4 a few months ago. Weak, Villa Maria. Weak.

The cheese-stuffed flores de calabaza appetize at Villa Maria in Polanco. Be forewarned-- when we visited most recently, we only got 3 on a plate vs. 4 a few months ago. Weak, Villa Maria. Weak.

Finally last nite, I was inspired to give the cheese-stuffed squash blossoms a shot. To get in the Mexico cooking spirit, I decided to use a recipe off a video from some kind of morning show on Mexican TV. (If you don’t want to watch the slightly-annoying male host dance in place, you can find the ingredients listed here sans-video, but they got a couple of the Tablespoon/teaspoon labels wrong.)

First I rinsed the blossoms & clipped off their stems & stamens. After mixing up the cheese filling, I stuffed all the flowers with it.

First I rinsed the blossoms & clipped off their stems & stamens. After mixing up the cheese filling, I stuffed all the flowers with it.

Here are the flowers waiting to be breaded with flour, egg whites & bread crumbs. The one in the upper right is ready to be fried!

Here are the flowers waiting to be breaded with flour, egg whites & bread crumbs. The one in the upper right is ready to be fried!

Here are the final results, after about 6-7 seconds in the hot oil. Don't be fooled by their fried-chicken-foot-esque appearance! They are quite tasty, and nice served with a little salsa verde.

Here are the final results, after about 6-7 seconds in the hot oil. Don't be fooled by their fried-chicken-foot-esque appearance! They are quite tasty, and nice served with a little salsa verde.

Our first flores de calabaza endeavor was quite a success, as verified by a few neighbors we called over to avoid eating 12 cheese nuggets by ourselves… :) I would definitely make them again as an app for a dinner party… though they are perhaps a little too futzy for your average Monday night.

Below you can find the recipe I used in English. In the future I might try a recipe like this that has more of a batter coating vs. breadcrumbs, but I like keeping the breading pretty light/minimal. I may also have to test out this tasty-looking quesadilla recipe with my new squash blossom friends!

Flores de Calabaza Rellenas de Queso (Cheese-Stuffed Squash Blossoms)

  • 12 squash blossoms, rinsed & dried (can remove stamen if you want, but not critical)
  • 100 grams (~1/2 cup) goat cheese (recipe calls for queso fresco, but I like the stronger flavor of goat cheese)
  • 80 grams (~1/2 cup) cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon green onion, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon epazote, minced (if you can’t find epazote, substitute some oregano or coriander or leave it out entirely)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 egg whites
  • 100 grams (~1/2 cup) bread crumbs
  • ~2 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • I ignored the 150 grams of chopped mushrooms ingredient, but add it if you wish!
  1. Mix the two cheeses together along with the green onion
  2. Sauté the garlic & epazote together in the butter for a few minutes; let cool briefly & mix into cheeses.
  3. Put the cheese filling into a small plastic sandwich bag, and cut off one of the corners to use it as a pastry bag.
  4. Fill the blossom with the cheese mixture, and wrap the petals around the cheese on the open end.
  5. Roll the filled blossom in flour, then in egg whites, then in bread crumbs.
  6. Fry briefly in the hot oil, turning it, just until golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately while still hot!

Notes– a candy thermometer would be nice to maintain a hot oil temp of ~375F, so it doesn’t burn the breading.  Also, I think a process of: egg -> flour -> egg -> bread crumbs might be more effective than the recipe’s directions of flour -> egg -> bread crumbs.

Anyone out there have any other flor de calabaza recipes worth a try??

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