Staying Healthy: Fruits and Veggies

by Judy King 28. February 2010 15:28

Stay Healthy and Enjoy Mexico's Fruits and Vegetables

 

10-22-2006 066 Our last blog answered concerns about drinking the water and consuming ice in Mexico. While those are two large concerns for newcomers, there are other new processes to learn when you move to Mexico or come for a visit.

Over the years, our writers have written a dozen or more articles about shopping for the beautiful fresh fruits and veggies in area tianguis (street markets) and grocery stores and central markets for the pages of Living at Lake Chapala.

While the bell peppers, green onions, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, peaches, grapes, pears and other fruits and vegetables are perfect when you bring them into the house – there’s one more step before they’re ready to eat.

10-22-2006 068 Because our tap water may not be absolutely pure, and because we are never sure where and how our fruits and vegetables have been grown and picked, we take an extra step to be certain that not bacteria lingers on the produce we will eat without peeling or cooking.

Just washing the produce is not enough – and if the tap water is not pure, you can do more harm than good.
Local grocery stores and pharmacies sell special drops with which you can purify water, and vegetables and fruits. When I get back from the market I immediately put all of the produce in a large dish pan, fill the pan with tap water and add five drops of the purification solution (iodine or silver colloid) to the water. According to the directions on the package, I let the produce soak in the treated water for 15 minutes, then let it all air dry.

Do Not Rinse the fruits and veggies with tap water!

10-22-2006 067 While you may be well advised to avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables that are not cooked or peeled in restaurants in other areas of Mexico, you don't have to worry about salads and fruits here at Lake Chapala.

Lakeside restaurants have been catering to Mexican and foreign tourists for many years and they know keeping diners healthy is vital to staying in business. Ajijic and Chapala restaurants serve only purified water, use purified ice and the fruits and vegetables they serve have been disinfected, so you can eat everything without fear of illness.

Mexico Insights Note: It's interesting to note that much of the produce we purchase here is exported to the US where customers don't take any special efforts to purify it. Frequently we discover that the lettuce, celery and other produce folks buy in their local Kroger and Food Lion is also being imported into Mexico from the US.



Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Don’t Drink the Water?

by Judy King 25. February 2010 19:08

Is there a traveler to Mexico who hasn't heard that warning multiple times from well meaning and concerned friends, co-workers and relatives as soon as they announce a south of the border holiday?

The warning is good – when it’s presented in the proper context. To be more correct, it would be better to warn folks by saying, “Be sure to drink pure water!”

 agua All residents and visitors of Mexico (yes, even Mexicans) always use bottled, boiled, or purified water for brushing teeth, making coffee and tea, making ice cubes and for drinking.

Here at Lake Chapala the water that comes into our homes is pumped from deep wells scattered across the area. The water pumped from those wells is pure and clean – but we assume that as the water travels through underground pipes to our homes and is stored in our home’s water storage tanks, it may become contaminated.

We choose to err on the side of safety, as do our Mexican neighbors and drink purified water.
Most of us use purified water that is delivered to our homes in five-gallon plastic jugs, similar to those you've seen back home.

When the water delivery truck passes my house every day or two, the driver cries, "AGUA." The driver carries the bottle into my house, wipes off the top of the bottle with a cloth, and puts the full garafon upside down in my ceramic dispenser. I pay him $26 pesos plus a two peso tip ($2.08 US at yesterday’s rate of 12.5 to $1 US).  That's all it takes to maintain my supply of drinking water.

If you are staying in a B&B or hotel, the management will provide you with a bottle of purified water a day. Some inns have a garafon of water in a public area so you can refill your bottle; others have installed water purification systems to provide pure water to the cold water faucet in your room. Always ask to be certain that the water in the sink is purified before you drink it or use it to brush your teeth.

Ordering Water in a Restaurant
If you order a glass of water in a Lakeside restaurant, let me assure you that you will be served purified water. The waiters won’t forget…they’ve never used water from the faucets for drinking. If you specify “bottled” or “purified” water, the cost of the bottle will usually be added to your bill (usually a bit over one dollar).

While I’m absolutely sure that a glass of water in a restaurant at Lake Chapala is safe to drink, when I'm traveling in other areas of Mexico, I am far more careful; I only drink water from sealed bottles.

Of Course You Can Have Ice in Your Drink
Far too many visitors and tourists think that they will become sick if they use ice in their soft drinks or water while they are in Mexico.

While that may once have been true, today you can safely enjoy ice cold limonada (limeade), iced tea, Coca Cola, or a mixed drink.

Mexican law governing the production of ice requires that all cylinder-shaped pieces of ice with a hole in the middle and other uniformly shaped pieces of ice must be made with purified water. The cylinders are the most commonly used ice pieces; they’re manufactured in the same plants where purified water is bottled.

Always avoid using ice that is being chipped or shaved from a large ice block. While most of those blocks are safely manufactured, it is impossible to discern the difference.

How it works: Mexican water systems We mentioned home water storage tanks in this article. Do you know the difference between a tinaco and an aljibe? Do you know why you should be sure your new Mexican house has both?

To answer these and other questions about Mexican water systems, be sure to read the Mexico Insights entry about Mexican Water Systems


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

February 24 Is Día de Bandera

by Judy King 23. February 2010 17:37

Hooray for the Red, White & Green!!

It was the only Mexican Emperor Agustín de Iturbide who degreed the approval of Mexico’s first flag in  in 1821 at the conclusion of Mexico’s war of independence from Spain. That first Mexican tricolor flag was replaced by another variation after about a year and the pattern of changing flags with changes of government continued until the current version of the flag was approved in 1968.

Many of the changes were small, the removal of a crown on the eagle’s head, The addition of ribbons beneath the national emblem, turning the forward facing eagle to the side, changing the type of leaves that crown the figure. Today’s banner was made official in a 1984 law of national arms which also set the protocol for the use of the flag and  officially accepted the country’s traditional national anthem.

The Symbolism of Mexico’s Colors

honor-guard The colors of Mexico’s flag are symbols to remind the country’s citizens of the valiant fight to obtain independence and freedom from Spain.  Green represented the Independence movement, hope and the land for which the battles were waged. White, the color of purity is also reminiscent of the country’s faith and of the peace fought for and won. Red remembers the blood shed by the national heroes on the country’s behalf and symbolized the union created here. 

Mexico’s National Emblem

The Mexican National Emblem or coat of arms is featured in the center white area of the flag, distinguishing Mexico’s tri-color from that of Italy (which adopted the red, white, and green colors well after Mexico). This emblem is also the Aztec pictograph which symbolized Tenochtitlan the island center of the Aztec empire, the site of modern Mexico City.

mariachi04 141Aztec legend tells of how the ancestors came from the white-covered northlands, walking, searching for a place to settle. They had been instructed to continue until they found the scene which would mark their new home -- discovered an eagle with a snake perched on a cactus plant growing on an island. 

Mexico Insights Lakeside Legend:

An old Lake Chapala legend suggests that the Aztecs overshot their intended mark by more than 300 miles. Area folks point out that the Aztecs evidently didn’t see their symbols and signs here and so continued on their weary way. They undoubtedly saw the two islands in the lake, but missed looking to the west from the top of Cerro Miguel in Chapala or the hillside now known as upper Chula Vista. From either vantage point, local folks say, the Aztecs would have seen the image of an eagle’s head (with a snake in his mouth) imprinted on Piedra Barranada—the bald mountain on the curves east of San Juan Cosalá. 

DCP_8638Flag Day Events

El Dia de la Bandera (Flag Day) on February 24 is not an officially mandated paid holiday for Mexican employees, but it doesn’t pass without a good deal of pomp and circumstance as national, state and local governments and schools take time from the day’s activities to salute the flag and to recall the wars fought to ensure the country’s independence and union.

Brushing up on Flag Facts

Are you thinking that approval of Mexico’s current flag makes it a late arrival for national symbols in North America? The 1968 approval of Mexico’s banner was later than flags of the northern neighbors, but not by much.

The Stars and Stripes – First on the North America Scene

three-flagsThe design of the current US 50-star flag was adopted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s executive order in 1959 with the flag first flown on July 4, 1960 – just eight years before Mexico’s tri-color was made official. Surprised?

Here’s another bit of forgotten trivia…the title of designer of the flag of the United States is up for grabs! In fact, so is the name of the person who stitched the new republic’s first flag.

Yes, the beloved Betsy Ross was a friend of George Washington, and is confirmed as the artist of the 1777 Pennsylvania flag, but there were several other flag makers at work at the time and any of them could have sewn the first banner. In fact the “Betsy Ross Flag” (with its circle of 13 stars) was not in use until the early 1790s.  

The Maple Leaf – Another 1960s Flag

The maple leaf has served as a symbol of the nature and environment of what is now Canada since the 1700s but Canada didn’t always use a red and white flag. In a 1921 proclamation, King George V set Canada’s colors as red from St. George’s Cross and white from the French royal emblem.

The maple leaf flag didn’t become the official symbol of the country until the stylized leaf designed by Jacques Saint-Cyr was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II as the flag of  Canadian, replacing Union flag on February 15, 1965.

Why was the 11-pointed version of the leaf chosen over the 13 or 15-point? Tests proved it looked less blurry in a strong wind than other maple leaf graphics. 


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Chose One: Walk, Talk or Gawk!

by Judy King 22. February 2010 12:47

sidewalk There's a lot to get used to when you are visiting or Living at Lake Chapala and it’s not all about drinking bottled water, speaking Spanish and learning new customs and traditions.

Soon after I arrived at Lake Chapala, a Mexican friend asked, "Why do all of you Norteamericanos walk around all the time with your head up in the sky like this?" He assumed a ramrod posture, with the head held high and looking straight ahead.

"Because our mothers told us to stand up straight and not look at our feet," I answered.

His reply was lightning fast and accurate, "But, you all fall down!"

We All Fall

We do, we all fall down. Sooner or later we forget to watch our feet and the surrounding terrain, and just like in the cartoons, "Splat, Blam, Boom!" cleaning-fish

We're stretched out on the sidewalk, the parking lot or the street, hoping that nothing but our dignity is damaged.

There are plenty of opportunities to fall here, especially when you are newly arrived from north of the border and still assume that sidewalks will be free of hazards. The truth is that there are plenty of perils everywhere.

Look at the obstacles that I avoid daily, just in my own block:

  • A tree root has raised a large chunk sidewalk
  • A man hole in the sidewalk has been partially filled with bricks, but there is no cover on it.
  • The sidewalk has been replaced by cobblestones set in cement in front of one property. Cobblestones sound charming, and look nice, and have lots of positives. BUT, it takes a while for your ankles to get strong enough to withstand the twisting and turning.
  • The sidewalk in front of the small office complex is almost two inches higher than the one next door. I broke a finger when I stubbed my toe on that little “tourist trap.”
  • The sidewalk ends in one spot and a weedy dirt path stretches out the length of the empty lot
  • There are always at least five empty 5-gallon buckets waiting to be reclaimed at the mid-block spot where the garbage is picked up six days a week.
  • The grand property on the corner put in a series of new planters. Each has a small raised decorative edge just tall enough to catch your toe.
  • There's a spot near the curb where s large dog passes each day. Obviously the dog is wandering without an owner or a plastic bag for pickup.
  • At every driveway, there are uneven places where you must step down, or up or walk on an awkward slope.
  • Down at the far corner, across from the laundry, some of the sidewalk is there, the rest has been removed, still other pieces have pushed down into the earth and roots have raised up through the soil.

You are Responsible for Your Own Actions – Even When You Fall

Newcomers assume, that if they are hurt in a fall on one of these hazards, their medical expenses and pain and suffering will be paid by the property owner's liability insurance.

That’s not the way it works. Very few homeowners or renters carry any form of property insurance coverage. Even if there is a policy in effect at the time of a fall, the injured person would probably be unable to collect.

Mexico has a wonderful concept that affects us all in many ways. Individuals are expected to be responsible for their own actions. In other words, watch where you are walking and don't stub your toe on the cobblestones, the driveways and please don't step in the hole – the buck stops with you!

If you're thinking you could just sue the homeowner, and be awarded damages in court, don't try, that’s been done and it doesn't work – not when the law expects you to be responsible for your own actions. A woman who did file that suit nearly 20 years ago stood in front of the judge and explained how her ankle had broken when she stepped in the hole. The judge's decision was instantaneous, and clear, "Why would you want to step in a hole? Case Dismissed."

It's easy to get so absorbed in exploring and seeing all the new sights that you forget to watch where you are walking. As you wander the villages, chatting with your friends, you aren't checking what's under your next footstep. When you least expect it you are temporarily airborne, and then splattered all over the sidewalk.

Make this your constant mantra while in Mexico....

Gawk, Talk, or Walk – choose just one!.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Las Mañanitas Lyrics:

by Judy King 20. February 2010 22:09

lupita-duo   The Birthday Song…As we discussed yesterday, here in Mexico, and most of the rest of Latin America, the repeated lines of “Happy Birthday to You” loses, hands down to the lovely song for special events “Las Mañanitas.”

In yesterday’s post there are three links to You Tube and sound tracks of “Las Mañanitas” performed by various musicians including Mexico’s best mariachis and 1940s movie heart throb Pedro Infante. Today’s favorite music greats also sing and record  “Las Mañanitas.” Even Alejandro Fernandez, one of today’s favorite singers and the son of another Mexican great, Vincente Fernandez. (Alejandro is here.)

Las Mañanitas Lyrics:

Here are the lyrics of this lovely song, in both the original Spanish and in a non-literal, more song like translation.

Only these first two verses are usually used for area birthdays – both at the beginning of the party and again just before the cake is cut. Below, I’ve included some additional verses that are occasionally sung, particularly when the song is performed by mariachis, or on Mother’s Day or Saints’ Days. 

mariachis-in-tlaquepaqueEstas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo**, te las cantamos a ti,
Despierta, mi bien*, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,
El día en que tu naciste, nacieron todas las flores,
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores.

These are the beautiful psalms that King David sang
Because today is your saint's day we're singing it for you
Wake up, my dear, wake up, look it is already dawn
The birds are already singing and the moon has set

How lovely is the morning in which I come to greet you
We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you. 
The day of your birth, the flowers were also born
At the baptismal font, the nightingales sang. 

**día de tu santo (saint’s day) is often replaced with cumpleaños (birthday)

* Mi bien (my one) is often replaced with the name of the person who is being celebrated

Learning the Song

Ajijic-TrioIf you are serious about learning the words, you may want to print this page and sing along with another old-time Mexican movie star, the Charro Cantor Jorge Negrete (1911-1953). His version is slower and the words are clearer than some of the others.  (Sing with Jorge Negrete)

Additional verses:

Here are some of the other verses, with the translations: 

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

The morning is coming now, the sun is giving us its light
Get up in the morning, look it is already dawn

Quisiera ser solecito para entrar por tu ventana
y darte los buenos días acostadita en tu cama

I would like to be a sunbeam to enter through your window
to wish you good morning while you're lying in your bed

Quisiera ser un San Juan, quisiera ser un San Pedro Restaurant-Mariachis
Para venirte a cantar con la música del cielo

I would like to be a Saint John I would like to be a Saint Peter
To come to sing to you with the music of heaven

De las estrellas del cielo tengo que bajarte dos
una para saludarte y otra para decirte adiós

Of the stars in the sky I need to lower two 
One with which to greet you and the other to wish you goodbye

Con jasmines y flores hoy te vengo a saludar,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te venimos a cantar.

With jasmine and flowers, today I come to greet you  
Today for your saint’s day we come to you to sing. 

mariachis And More Mariachis for my birthday

I’ve lived in central Mexico for nearly 20 years…my Mexican friends say that by now I’m media-Mexicana (half Mexican). There’s nothing my “Mexican half” loves any more than good mariachis – well ok, maybe even slightly off-tune mariachis…I think it’s the blend of male voices…they remind me of the Men’s Chorus performances back in high school.

So, since today is my birthday, here’s one more sound track…this one of mariachis playing “Las Mañanitas” on the November 22 feast day of Saint Cecelia, the patron saint of musicians. This group, The Mariachi Real de Azteca de Zacatlan, is performing in the plaza de Santa Cecelia in Puebla.  Enjoy and Sing Along!

Want to Know More?

Be sure to read the February 19 post, Skip “Happy Birthday;” Give me “Las Mañanitas”


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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