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Lucha!

Upcoming Random Events in Mexico City & beyond!

As part of my continuing “Live Vicariously Through My Friends in Mexico” program, I wanted to alert y’all to some upcoming events in DF, Quintana Roo, and Hidalgo state that I thought may be worth checking out. Rest assured I continue to keep my finger on the pulse of kitschy activities despite my absence from Mexico, all in exchange for the small request of merely a few of your cheesy photos to make me feel like I was there. ūüėČ

MORE LUCHA, MORE BETTER:

That’s right folks– the month of July once again brings us the annual Lucha Libre: La Experiencia!! The dates are July 23 & 24 at Centro Banamex. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder what it would be like if a bunch of luchadors and lucha libre super fans got together and hung out for two days at a tradeshow that also has a professional wrestling ring set up?” Now is your chance to find out!! For fond memories of LuchaFest 2009, check out my prior post.

Recall this photo of me with a veritable "Who's Who" of up-and-coming lucha libre stars.

Their Facebook site may merit a visit, as there seem to be some hot prizes & giveaways happening in the final feverish moments leading up to the extravaganza.

El Matador is on the right, accompanied by famous "mini" luchador Mascarita Dorada. (photo courtesy El Matador)

Since you folks let me down on live reporting from the Feria Nacional de Burros (which, btw, was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle online!!), I have already nailed down a correspondent for this event. Friend and luchador El Matador, who has also recently relocated back to the DC area, will be flying down to Mexico City for the craziness. Keep an eye out for the gentleman on the right– if you are lucky, perhaps you can get one of his action figures, which currently is gracing my cubicle at work. I have not yet inquired as to whether El Matador will be doing any wrestling here in DC, but I feel like come election time next year, there will surely be some enterprising politician looking for a popularity boost by taking on one of the rudos…!

MEXICAN MICROBREWS: Yes, Virginia, there is a beer besides Corona in Mexico

If you ask the average person about Mexican beer, you’ll probably get an answer restricted to either the Grupo Modelo brands (Corona, Victoria, Pacifico, Negro Modelo, ) or those of FEMSA (Dos Equis, Sol, Indio, Bohemia, Tecate). But a revolution has been brewing, my friends!! (pun intended)

Mexican craft beer festival? Sold!

A number of craft breweries have emerged around Mexico, and they will have their wares on display September 1-3 at the World Trade Center in Mexico City during the Congreso Cerveza M√©xico 2011: Por La Cerveza Libre festival. You will be able to sample more than 100 beers for a mere $150 pesos/day (with advance registration)! This event is part of the Gourmet Show that happens at the same time/place– check out last year’s pics here to see if it merits a visit.

WHALE SHARK SEASON IS NOW!! Come swim next to a fish with a 6-foot-wide mouth!

Swimming with the whale sharks off the coast of Isla Holbox in Quintana Roo state in Mexico is one of those wildlife-interaction experiences that I think you have to do at least once, just like a safari in Africa, seeing the giant tortoise in the Galapagos, and visiting prairie dogs in Nebraska. John and I made it down last June & stayed at the Holbox Dream hotel (thumbs up; great air conditioning, which quickly became my main criteria for a hotel on an island in the summer).

We were too cheap to pay for a guide that took photos of us underwater, but check out my friend Joy’s amazing photos or Kelly’s story & pics on their blogs. While the average whale shark is 25 feet long, they can be up to 40+ feet in length– they are the world’s largest living fish! Even the Washington Post is getting in on the whale shark action. They’re really an added bonus to what is already a lovely beach vacation.

The view from our hotel room on Isla Holbox, Mexico

M√©xico Desconocido has further tibur√≥n ballena details, for those who read Spanish, and if you search for “whale shark” + “Isla Holbox” or “Isla Mujeres” (the other jumping-off point for tours), you’ll find reams of additional details. In fact, el Festival del Tibur√≥n Ballena is happening July 15-17 on Isla Mujeres.

FERIA DE LA BARBACOA!!

I will caveat this alert with the fact that I know nothing about this festival in honor of grilled meats except for the announcement on the M√©xico Desconocido calendar that is backed up by the announcement on the town of Actopan’s homepage.¬† THIS weekend, folks, in scenic Actopan in the state of Hidalgo, a meat festival (probably lamb) is awaiting your arrival. The website indicates the primary attraction at this festival is the competition to win the title of Best Barbacoyero of the Year. The word barbacoyero is not one I’ve come across before, but I will translate it loosely as “one who makes barbacoa“. :)

This photo seems to confirm the event actually exists, though according to this blog we still seem to be awaiting further details…but last year’s agenda was quite thorough!¬† So don’t let the silly logistical details keep you away! Commit wholeheartedly & with low expectations- this is my travel motto & it never fails. If you show up in Actopan on Saturday with the goals of eating barbacoa & meeting a talented barbacoeryo, I can almost promise your expectations will be exceeded. ūüėČ

The 2009 logo for the Feria de la Barbacoa was the best I could find, but I felt it lends a certain air of authenticity. Also, please note the ambitious "463rd anniversary". Just think what might be in store for the 465th year!!

In summary, have a fantastic time wearing a mask to wrestle a whale shark while drinking a Mexican craft beer and eating barbacoa. What a summer Mexico has to offer!!

Mexican Decor: more is more

I had an affinity for Mexican-themed decor at an early age, judging by this clay taco I just unearthed from my box of “Julie’s Elementary/Junior High School Stuff”.

One may wonder why I did not pursue my indisputable, God-given artistic talents instead of silly engineering.

For anyone wondering– no, this is not a rabbit poo taco. Those small brown pellets are obviously ground beef, accompanied by orange shredded cheese, thin pieces of green lettuce, and hearty cubes of tomatoes. (Please note that I was also way ahead of the curve on the whole “stand-n-stuff” taco shell concept.)

One might think that with this clay taco, the Mexican decor quota has been filled for our townhouse. Clearly you don’t have a sense of my enthusiasm for a good theme. Ever since John shot down my idea of a meatthemed bathroom a few years back, I have been yearning for some other way to liven up at least one of the four bathrooms we have in our townhouse. (As they say– rich in bathrooms, poor in square footage.) His resolve seemed to falter upon our return from Mexico City as we tried to distribute all our new acquisitions throughout our distinctly non-latino-feel home, and I somehow managed to convince him that a lucha libre-themed bathroom was a good idea. (He really brought it on himself by choosing a rust-orange Earthen Jug paint color for the half bath that simply screamed, “Transport me to Mexico!!”)

Before John could reflect any further, up went the plaster lucha heads & the Wrestle Pets:

Who doesn't like the feeling of being watched while you're using the bathroom?

And the lucha mirror:

"There are men who fight."

And the agave plant that even I can’t kill:

This agave is simply thriving in our half bathroom. The lack of sunlight does not appear to have bothered it.

I know, you are silently judging me right now. But let he who does not have a fish or nautical-themed bathroom cast the first stone. :)

I will, however, admit to being a bit overdue in taking down our “Back from Mexico” celebratory decor, but I’ve rather enjoyed the feeling of a constant fiesta in our living room.

Don't these papel picados liven up an otherwise borderline-classy living room?

In case you’re having trouble reading my homemade banner, here’s a close up:

It's only a matter of time before every party store is awash in these.

For those who aren’t fans of a little gallows humor, perhaps you will instead appreciate my Mexican recipe research (which counts as decor because it’s still hanging on the cupboard door in our kitchen). I realized how many of our favorite Mexican dishes we never actually made in Mexico, since great food was so cheap & readily available at amazing restaurants across D.F.¬† It took some effort to assess appropriate salsa & sangrita recipes, and many thanks to Lesley for several tips.

Consider a selection of these for your next Mexican-themed gathering! Our optimized sangrita recipe is in the middle column of the right-hand page in black, created after reflecting on the 5 recipes on the left. :)

And finally, some of my favorite more-subtle purchases found a home on the wall above the piano. We quite liked these lacquered photos from Michelle Westholm that provide some great snippets of Mexican life.

You can almost smell those pollos roasting...

What do you think– is it time to take down the papel picados? Should I start a business selling snarky party banners?? Does the phrase “half bath” by definition mean that it is too small to fit a life-sized mannequin wearing a Santo costume??? ūüėČ

Happy Halloween!

A very Happy Halloween to all those here in the US this evening! Today marks our official re-entry into Normal Life 2.0, as we arrived this evening back to Arlington, Virginia after 2 years and 3 months living in Mexico City. We’ve been on a 2700+ mile road trip starting in Denver, Colorado on October 14, had the chance to see lots of lovely friends & family along the way, met lots of precious new babies/toddlers, and suffered only one car accident– luckily no injuries to anyone except my pretty blue Nissan Altima that my suegra had kept in fantastic shape while we were away. I think the Altima may be regretting his change in ownership… :)

Some dude turning left in front of me at the last minute in an intersection was a most unpleasant turn of events as we arrived into Chicago.

But you may really be wondering, “Julie, how did you know that you were no longer in Mexico?” I know, I know… it can be tricky to differentiate, but here are a few of the signs:

1) We had to pump our own gas AND wash our own windshield.

This was novel... for like 30 seconds. How can it be that having someone else pump your gas went out of vogue in the US??

2. We got to stand next to someone taller than we are, who also has blonde hair.

Cousin Kami & her darling 4-month-old twins, Lucy & Sam.

3. We were pressured by family members to wear Uncle Sam & Betsy Ross hairpieces/hats.

This was part of our re-indoctrination process, courtesy Uncle Ken & Aunt Kathy

4. We began seeing a lot of mashed potatoes & gravy and fried chicken. Not to mention corn off the cob that lacked a layer of mayo/cheese/lime juice/chile powder slathered atop it.

Obesity problem in America?? What could you possibly be referring to?

5. Cheladas are no longer made by thoughtful bartenders; they are sold in cans in the supermarket.

I was skeptical of this incarnation of the chelada.

6. The frequency of deer-based cured meat products for sale was markedly increased. Frankly, as was the sale of non-spicy sausage products in general.

John demos how the deer in question might have looked prior to death. Additional bonus of cheese curds in the lower right. Thank you, Wisconsin.

7. Speaking of deer, we saw a dead one riding home to dinner strapped atop someone’s SUV.

This is how middle America does "para llevar". ("to go")

In summary, we’re pretty sure we are back in the States, and now begins a couple weeks of intense home improvements to our townhouse here in Arlington. After two years of renting, there is plenty of work to be done– but we received a positive sign regarding our impending home repairs at the Chinese restaurant we stopped by tonight:

My fortune cookie promised us that "You will have no problems in your home." We're also counting on the "tasty fruit" promised in John's fortune cookie after we kill ourselves painting every wall in the place.

Lest you think that I’ve already forgotten the name of this blog, today’s touch of Mexico comes courtesy of my parents back in Nebraska. My Mom passed along the below photo of my Dad, who pulled a full coordinated outfit together for handing out Halloween candy this evening. I can’t wait to hear how it went. :)

El Matematico de Nebraska could easily compete with any professional luchador with this costume, accompanied by the giant rat that is actually a basket for candy. Well done, Larry!!!

Although my favorite part is how his eyes look slightly crazed, I would like to point out that that is due to the unevenly-sized eye holes of the lucha mask, and not because my Dad actually has uneven eyes. Honest. Larry’s eyes could serve as a level for hanging picture frames; that is just how even his eyes are.

Thanks to all for your well-wishes, and more Mexico anecdotes to continue after we get settled in!

Alert! Lucha Libre Expo next weekend in Mexico City!

I would like to be the first to alert all you closet lucha libre fans out there that the 2010 Lucha Libre: La Experiencia will be taking place next weekend here in Mexico City! For anyone who missed this last year, you can get a full run-down of the excitement at my blog post from last August.

In a nutshell, Lucha Libre: La Experiencia is a 3-day expo of all-things-lucha. Naturally there’s a large lucha ring set up that has ongoing bouts all weekend. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There are also loads of stands dedicated towards specific luchadores as well as lucha gear vendors, selling everything you could possibly think of that could have a lucha mask on it. Even if you are not a lucha die-hard, it is probably worth going for the people-watching alone. :)

Here are the relevant details:

Dates: July 23-24-25
Times: Friday & Saturday from 12PM to 9PM, Sunday from 11AM to 8PM
Cost: Tickets are $150 pesos, but you can get a 20% discount if you are old or a student and have valid ID proving such.
Location: Centro Banamex, Av. Conscripto 311, Colonia Lomas del Sotelo, Delegacion Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico City
Where the heck is that: Find some directions on the Centro Banamex website, or check out a map here. Basically, it is just west of the Periferico, just west of Polanco.
Website: http://luchalibrelaexperiencia.com/

Why should you go? Well, check out the old blog post; hopefully that + the chance of meeting these guys will be enough to sway you:

This pic is a little blurry, but how exciting to meet this lovely gentleman!!

Of course, you really can't top Super Raton-- note actual rat casually perched on his head. Eeewwwwww.

Enjoy!!

http://www.centrobanamex.com/ubicacion/

Visit to Boston: 1st day highlights

I scheduled a trip many moons ago to finally get back to Boston¬† (where I lived from 2002-2006) to visit friends & hang around for Patriots’ Day, better known as the day of the Boston Marathon! I flew out of Mexico City on Wednesday at 9AM & got in last nite. Here are a few highlights from the first 24-ish hours (as if to imply that my life is so fast-paced & riveting that you need daily updates):

  • having an Auntie Anne’s pretzel at the Houston airport– touch me salty, buttery, doughy goodness
  • listening to a sales pitch from this Sony VAIO sales rep on the plane:

OK, just kidding; he wasn't actually giving a sales pitch but I have no idea why he was using his airplane seat as a desk

  • randomly ending up sitting next to a guy from Mexico City on my flight from Houston to Boston who turned out to be really nice & friendly, and not only having my first FOUR-HOUR-LONG conversation on a plane, but having my first FOUR-HOUR-LONG conversation on a plane IN SPANISH! Was both very proud of self & pleased to meet total stranger who was amusing to chat with & not crazy (since the risk of a crazy seatmate increases exponentially corresponding to the length of your flight)
  • going to a Wednesday nite show at ImprovBoston, where I used to take improv comedy classes when I lived in Boston. One of the best things I did during my time in Boston, FYI. For any of you out there who haven’t yet heard my “Everyone should take improv classes! Seriously! Even you! No, I promise you will like it & learn amazing new skills! Just do it!” rant, please let me know & I will happily spend 30 minutes extolling the virtues of improvisational comedy.

The stage at ImprovBoston's new home on Prospect Street near Central Square in Cambridge, MA. The props were for the "Magic & Misdemeanors" show put on my one of my former improv troupe cohorts-- see more details at http://magicandmisdemeanors.com/!

  • going to my fav clothes store, Nordstrom, and having the chance to buy a few pairs of shoes from a man with a faux-hawk AND a Boston accent!¬† (ahhh the memories…)
  • reminding myself that sometimes Macy’s has great deals on really nice clothes, but sometimes, it doesn’t:

This is not the formal dress I will be wearing for my graduation dinner at Thunderbird, in part because I would have had to stitch two of them together.

  • introducing New Englanders to the glory of lucha libre & its ability to strengthen father-son bonds:

You know what they say-- the family that wrestles together, stays together. Here, Matthew & Mike do a valiant impression of a tender moment between Blue Demon and Nacho Libre.

  • and finally, teaching my friend Tanya that the young, cool, hip moms no longer want to be known as the tacky/offensive term “MILF“… Instead, they would like to be known as “MILW”– Mom I’d Like to Wrestle:

You will note that Tanya followed the first rule of Lucha Libre (make sure your mask matches the rest of your outfit). Here, she is shown just after having unmasked her competitor (her 3-year-old son).

It is unknown whether Tanya & her son Matthew were engaged in a mascara contra mascara competition, or the more intense caballera contra caballera battle (review the difference here). I will be checking in the morning to see whether Matthew’s head was shaved as a result of his heartbreaking loss.

Differentiating yourself via Mexican-themed packaging

Guess which present at the baby shower was from me?

No, it's not the amazingly-wrapped blue tiered number in the front, but thanks for even thinking that I could wrap something like that (even if you were just being polite).

It’s not the prettiest, people, but it did get a laugh. As I wrote to Tricia on the card, what says “new baby boy in Mexico” more than a box decorated like a lucha mask? Alternatively one might say, “When has one carried a novelty interest too far….?”¬† NEVER!!!¬† :)

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? :)

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 Bah√≠as 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 Mam√° 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. ūüėČ

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-mach√© 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! ūüėČ

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Lucha Libre: La Experiencia

The grand entrance to...THE EXPERIENCE!!!  yeeeee-haaawwwwww

The grand entrance to...THE EXPERIENCE!!! yeeeee-haaawwwwww

In the US, if you told me that there was a WWE convention going on next weekend, you can pretty much bet your ass that I wouldn’t be there. For whatever reason, though, professional wrestling in Mexico City = entertainment gold. Hence, I was all over Lucha Libre: La Experiencia, the lucha expo that came to town the other weekend.¬†

Mexico City never seems to lack for interesting expos. This year has seen The Chocolate Experience at the World Trade Center in January, as well as a Travel Expo in July filled with people in a ticket-buying frenzy for trips across Mexico and beyond, and the International Tattoo Convention is next weekend. But the lucha-fest has to rank as the most entertaining one thus far.

Our friend & lucha die-hard Alan, seen here with Silver King, perhaps better know to many as Ramses from the movie Nacho Libre

Our friend & lucha die-hard Alan, seen here with Silver King, perhaps better know to many as Ramses from the movie Nacho Libre

This was a 3-day lucha extravaganza at the Centro Banamex convention center, located conveniently near our apartment. As a disclaimer, I will note that we have 2 friends who spent almost the entirety of the 3 days at the expo, so my amusement level may be slightly biased by these strong¬†external forces. Despite my husband’s claims of being “lucha-d out”, I convinced him that since I’d spent half my weekend in class, I TOTALLY deserved to go see shirtless men in external underwear prancing around on Sunday afternoon. It worked.

The main event lucha ring, set up inside the expo center & lined with adoring fans.

The main event lucha ring, set up inside the expo center & lined with adoring fans.

The expo had a big lucha ring set up with stadium seating on four sides in one corner of the event hall, supplemented by loads of booths featuring both vendors & luchadores, and then 2 smaller rings– one where kids were flopping all over the place and another where young men were trying to learn the tricks of the trade. Needless to say, I think a few photos will do this much more justice.

MTZ is *the* premier maker of mascaras (lucha masks) here in Mexico City. www.mtzwear.com

MTZ is *the* premier maker of mascaras (lucha masks) here in Mexico City. www.mtzwear.com

MTZ Store online

I don't think I fully considered how popular this might make me back home when I decided not to buy this hoodie. I may have to reassess

I don't think I fully considered how popular this might make me back home when I decided not to buy this hoodie. I may have to reassess

How have I not known until now that there is a luchador called Matimatico?? My math-teacher parents will be so excited... (photo courtesy Alan)

How have I not known until now that there is a luchador called Matematico?? My math-teacher parents will be so excited... (photo courtesy Alan)

Additional details on Matemático available here, and also the most mysterious blog I have ever found written by someone seemingly masquerading as a luchador-for-good in Richmond, VA.

John tried to get in on some hot Corona-on-Corona action...  You have to love any expo that sells beer & advertises it heavily to attendee of all ages...

John tried to get in on some hot Corona-on-Corona action... You have to love any expo that sells beer & advertises it heavily to attendee of all ages...

Speaking of Corona, this man was most certainly NOT a professional luchador... but he was ripped & I didn't have to pay to take a photo with him. (Most of the pro luchadors were charging $20-30 pesos per photo.)

Speaking of Corona, this man was most certainly NOT a professional luchador... but he was ripped & I didn't have to pay to take a photo with him. (Most of the pro luchadors were charging $20-30 pesos per photo.)

To be fair, John also got a pic with the scantily clad Corona chickie...

To be fair, John also got a pic with the scantily clad Corona chickie...

I am unclear how intimidating you can really be when your costume includes angel wings sewn to your back... These seem to almost beg to be ripped off.

I am unclear how intimidating you can really be when your costume includes angel wings sewn to your back... These seem to almost beg to be ripped off.

In the above photo, note the creepy looking guy in the scurvy outfit inthe upper right corner. I need Alan’s help on his name, but let’s go with La Rata (the rat) for the moment. In case you can’t see his, uh, mascots, let’s get a good close up:

That's right, folks. He has an actual rat hanging out on top of his head. (At least to his credit, I am pretty sure that is a wig...though I'm not sure what would be easiest to wash rat wee out of...)

That's right, folks. He has an actual rat hanging out on top of his head. (At least to his credit, I am pretty sure that is a wig...though I'm not sure what would be easiest to wash rat wee out of...)

Alan got a sweet photo with Blue Demon as well, one of the more popular luchadores down here.

Alan got a sweet photo with Blue Demon as well, one of the more popular luchadores down here.

Blue Demon seems intent on flooding the market with every piece of crap known to man that could possibly have a Blue Demon image on it... A business-savvy luchador, to say the least.

Blue Demon seems intent on flooding the market with every piece of crap known to man that could possibly have a Blue Demon image on it... A business-savvy luchador, to say the least.

The cutest little girl ever was getting her face painted in one of the league booths. Here she looks on intently as the color decisions are being made to turn her into a budding little luchadorette.

The cutest little girl ever was getting her face painted in one of the league booths. Here she looks on intently as the color decisions are being made to turn her into a budding little luchadorette.

Here's the final product. We attempted to get a decent photo without looking like the creepy strangers taking photos of a young child... but how could you resist a photo of this glittery, pink masterpiece!

Here's the final product. We attempted to get a decent photo without looking like the creepy strangers taking photos of a young child... but how could you resist a photo of this glittery, pink masterpiece!

¬†Side note: what young girl DOESN’T have a t-shirt with an image of Death on it?

I found this photo slightly hilarious. This little boy is either incredibly intent on becoming a painted luchador (maybe dad wouldn't spring for a mask?) or is simply bored out of his mind.

I found this photo slightly hilarious. This little boy is either incredibly intent on becoming a painted luchador (maybe dad wouldn't spring for a mask?) or is simply bored out of his mind.

Apparently these bimbos are the promotional models for a BUS company here in Mexico. That's right, Autobuses AU knows how to bring in the dudes. I feel like there should be a disclaimer after there performance of "Warning: the odds of a girl like this sitting next to you on one of our buses are slim to none."

Apparently these bimbos are the promotional models for a BUS company here in Mexico. That's right, Autobuses AU knows how to bring in the dudes. I feel like there should be a disclaimer after this performance announcing, "Warning: the odds of a girl like this sitting next to you on one of our buses are slim to none."

However, odds of THIS dude sitting next to you on an Autobus AU bus are super high. This, my friends, is the aptly named "Super Porky". Photo credit to Alan

However, odds of THIS dude sitting next to you on an Autobus AU bus are super high. This, my friends, is the aptly named "Super Porky". Photo credit to Alan

This one's a little blurry, but I just enjoy the montage of a midget + dude both wearing black/neon pink bodysuits with insect wings, a shirtless Super Porky, La Parka in a crazy skeletor-costume, and possibly a homeless man in jeans & a black t-shirt.

This one's a little blurry, but I just enjoy the montage of a midget + dude both wearing black/neon pink bodysuits with insect wings, a shirtless Super Porky, La Parka in a crazy skeletor-costume, and possibly a homeless man in jeans & a black t-shirt.

I scored a pic with some of the AULL's (Alianza Universal de Lucha Libre) up-and-coming stars... I ducked down so as not to impinge on anyone's manhood.

I scored a pic with some of the AULL's (Alianza Universal de Lucha Libre) up-and-coming stars... I ducked down so as not to impinge on anyone's manhood.

There was also the opportunity to test your mettle while standing on an unstable foam pillar & batting each other with foam sticks...

There was also the opportunity to test your mettle while standing on an unstable foam pillar & batting each other with foam sticks...

This is a textbook example of why kids grow up terrified of clowns.

This is a textbook example of why kids grow up terrified of clowns.

And finally, here's our other superfan Mark, posing with a stellar collection of masks including my fav in the lower right, Super Panda.

And finally, here's our other superfan Mark, posing with a stellar collection of masks including my fav in the lower right, Super Panda.

In closing, I have to give a shout-out to my friend Kim for giving me the one-of-a-kind (in Mexico at least) Luchadores vs. Ninjas shirt that I wore to the event. I had multiple inquiries of where I scored such a unique gem. :) If you are around for La Experiencia 2010, mark your calendar, break out your best lucha-wear, and starting saving up pesos for those photo opps now!

Luchadores in the Fight Against Swine Flu

This photo of up-and-coming luchador El Matador protecting two of his young, swine-flu-avoiding fans made my day today. Join El Matador’s fan club on Facebook to be kept in the loop on all his crazy shenanigans!!

Now that I may have more free time thanks to finally FINISHING MY 2nd TERM MBA FINALS today, also keep an eye out for an upcoming interview of El Matador, that will shed light on what everyone has been dying to know: How to Become a Mexican Luchador!!

El Matador takes on TWIN potential pig-flu carriers!! Down with influenza!!

El Matador takes on TWIN potential pig-flu carriers!! Down with influenza!!

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