Happy Dia De Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day or Day of the Epiphany). Today is a major religious and cultural celebration for many in Latin America, and in my father’s homeland of Mexico.
Being American we had the best of both worlds. We celebrated Christmas on the 25th and had Santa bring us gifts that morning, and then again we got “regalitos” on January 6th from the Three Wise Men (Los Reyes Magos).
As a child I remember being so excited for Three Kings Day. My brother and I would write our letters to the Three Wise Men (just like we did to Santa), and on the night of January 5th we would go outside and pick grass and place bowls of water for the camels of the Kings, who would bring us our toys. On the 6th my parents would take us to the Three Kings parade on Calle Ocho in Miami.
It’s great to have these traditions passed on from generation to generation. Just recently I returned to Mexico to celebrate Christmas with my dad and his family. Mexico is truly a different world and especially my father’s hometown of Tlalixcoyan. Try to find it on google maps and all you’ll find is a dot. (But my father tells me on google earth the entire city is there, in all its humble glory.)
Tlalixcoyan is in the state of Veracruz, the oldest “municipio” in all the Americas which also houses the first birth certificate in all the Americas (it is the birth certificate of the daughter of Hernan Cortes. )
I hadn’t been to Mexico in some years. I talk to my uncles, aunts and cousins somewhat regularly via email, text message, phone and video chat. But being there with them was a different experience. Long gone are the days were you could fine the entire massive family within a few blocks of each other and spend hours playing on the ranch and swinging on hammocks. Most of my cousins are now married with children. Many have moved out of Tlalixcoyan and into the big city, Ciudad de Veracruz.
Christmas there is totally different from how we celebrated it in Miami (Cuban-American style). Starting on the 16th of Decemeber they start celebrating Las Posadas. The big celebration is on Christmas Eve ,which is geared on just being together and much less on the gift giving exchanges traditional in the U.S. In Mexico, only children receive gifts. On Christmas Eve there is a big feast and I ate my fair share of panbaso, tortillas, black beans, valovanes, and what I call “Mexican Spaghetti” (spaghetti with green chilli cream sauce – DELICIOUS!) in addition to other Mexican treats. After our meal came the best part, the piñata. Everyone tried to hit it from the 5-year-old to my 43-year-old cousin.
The traditional piñata has seven points representing the seven deadly sins. You smack it apart and tear down the “sins” and whack down the piñata to get your treats – lots of Mexican candy with flavors like tamarind.
Going with my father back to his homeland as an adult was an incredible experience. I think you appreciate things a lot more at my age, and with a new set of eyes. We slept in the house that by my great, great-grandfather Segundo Inclan built with materials he brought with him when he immigrated to Mexico from Spain. It’s pale blue painted wooden walls still hold up the tile roof that is over 150 years old.
My father was born in this house and so was much of my family. And though now its sits a bit torn and in desperate need of repair I can only imagine the secrets those walls keep with over five generations of Inclans who have lived there.
When my grandfather, my dad’s dad, lived here and it was a large farm with over 80 cows, 50 ducks, pigs, chickens, roosters and much more. He was the traditional cowboy and was even the President of the Cattlemen union.
Now we only have about 20 cows whose milk is sold to the local cheese producer. Every morning the roosters wake me up combined with the moaning of the cows. Quite different from my usual blackberry wake up alarm.
Out there my wireless Internet card didn’t work and Verizon wasn’t even a word anyone could pronounce, let alone pick up any kind of signal. It was surreal being completely disconnected – aka “off the gird” – from the world, especially a person like me who lives with my work blackberry surfing the net in one hand and my personal cell phone in the other as I read the news all day and tweet what I find interesting. (Though I did send a few TwitPics from Mexico.)
I’ll say one thing, I have never appreciated more being an American and the sacrifices my parents made to raise me in the USA. Whenever I leave my native country of the USA, I appreciate all it has to offer even more. As I talk to my family in Mexico I better understood the challenges they face. It’s clear they are significant, but in America, if you work hard, it doesn’t matter who your family is or where you go to school, all that matters is how hungry you are. This opportunity is a precious gift I received because I was born in the US. Thank you mom and dad.
In the next few days I’ll post more pictures of my trip and some reactions of what I saw.
In the last few months I have held back from blogging as its might be an occupational hazard. I am working for a campaign and writing too much about my life might be fodder for our rivals. So I will try to post every once while musings, political thoughts and pictures of the world as I see it. I hope you enjoy.