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July 30, 2007
My Birthday

I loved my birthday. First, I met my friends in the morning and we went out to play beisbol at the park. Then, I went to the market with my grandmother to pick out things for my birthday dinner. She made her special mole sauce (made with chocolate, yum!) for the roasted turkey, and chocolate flan for dessert.

Did you know that chocolate was so rare and desirable to the Aztecs, that they used cacao beans (that's what chocolate is made from) as money? The Spanish explorers were the ones to introduce chocolate to Europe, once the Aztecs introduced it to them in Mexico. Chocolate really does grow on trees! Cacao beans are picked from the trees, roasted then ground into powder, used in everything from sweet puddings to savory sauces.

But the best part of the day was when my parents gave me a little silver cross on a delicate silver chain. They said I was no longer a little girl, and therefore should have something a young lady would have. I was so proud.  

Mexico is rich with silver, and is well known for silver-smithing. It is valued just as much as gold. I'm going to treasure this necklace forever!

  June 24, 2007
Fiesta in Puebla

School is out, and we are visiting my mother's family in Puebla. We come every year, and I enjoy spending time with my cousins. This is the town where my parents lived when I was born. In Puebla, there is a beautiful cathedral facing the central plaza, with towers that are among the tallest in Mexico. My parents were married in one of the chapels.

It is Sunday evening, and today there was a summertime fiesta in the square. Mariachi bands played, and young men and women (who have celebrated their
Quince, or 15th birthday) walked around the square in the streets, a tradition called a Paseo. Women walked clockwise, and men walked counter clockwise, and in this way, everyone can see each other and it gives them a chance to socialize. Parents keep an eye on their children from the edges of the square, to make sure everyone behaves properly.

Mariachi is a Mexican band. They play violins, trumpets and guitars. The name came from the French word for marriage, because small bands like these used to play at the weddings of French soldiers to Mexican women in the 1800s. Players wear white cotton t-shirts, pants, and leather sandals called huaraches. Sometimes, they wear wide-brimmed hats called "sombrero." The sombreros protect them from the heat and rain.

A fiesta dancer

Straw sombrero

I can hardly wait until it is time for my
Quinceañera, on my fifteenth birthday. There will be a special fiesta, and I will get to wear a new fancy dress just like my sister did at her Quince three years ago.

  May 22, 2007
Uncle Ramon has a job!

My uncle found a job today, working for Walmart. He is very happy because he will be able to go home to visit his family in a few months.
  April 30, 2007
Diego Rivera

Today we went on a school trip to the Palacio Nacional (National Palace) and saw the Diego Rivera mural. It is amazing. Señor Rivera is famous for showing the world the history of the struggle of Mexican peasants. He also painted in France and the US, and created murals that reflected the working class of that day in those countries.

In this mural, the "Epic of the Mexican People – Mexico Today and Tomorrow", Diego Rivera shows detailed images of Mexican history from the ancient Indian people to the arrival of the Spanish and French, the Mexican revolution and Independence and the struggle of the classes in modern Mexico.
The mural we saw

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1886, and died 50 years ago in 1957. Many artists today are inspired to create large murals in public places, and to create art that brings attention to social concerns, just like Diego Rivera. We are very proud that such an important world famous artist came from Mexico.

  March 12, 2007
Mystery Message!

My family is Mestizo, of mixed Indian and Spanish descent. Indians can trace their history back to the great Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They were pretty advanced and figured out a lot of things (such as astronomy, the calendar, accurate solar calendar, could predict eclipses) and built pyramids and great cities. They had their own system of writing language (alphabets and hieroglyphs) and numbers. 

My best friend is Marisol. Sometimes we write coded letters to each other. We use the Mayan hieroglyphs and number symbols to create secret messages. Here is one for you. Remember, the Mayan alphabet is phonetic and doesn't quite match ours -- we use "z" for the "s" and the soft "c" sounds!

The Mayan civilization existed before 1200 AD, and made great advancements in the arts and sciences. They are also believed to be the first civilization to cultivate corn, which has been grown in Mexico for over 7,000 years. One of the best preserved Mayan structures is the Pyramid of Kukulcán in Chichén Itzá. The pyramid is actually the Mayan calendar, with 365 total steps and 52 panels on each side. Also, the stones of each staircase are placed in such a way that during the spring equinox on March 21, the shadow of a serpent appears to creep up the steps on the northern staircase (it descends during the fall equinox on September 21).

Marisol and me!

Maya alphabet

What is this message?

Another great civilization was created by the Aztecs. My family went to the National Museum of Anthropology once and we saw the Sun Stone (Aztec calendar) that was discovered in 1790 where the Zócalo is today. It shows the Aztecs’ vast knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and is one of our national treasures.
  February 5, 2007
Time for school

We are back in school this week. I wear a uniform to school. I get up at 6:30 in the morning. After breakfast, we walk 10 blocks to school, past apartment buildings, a church and several street vendors. Cars are honking and people are shouting. It is noisy in the city. When we walk home, on the way we sometimes stop at a Mexican market and buy a snack or something from a list that my grandmother has given me. When we get home, our grandmother is there to greet us. 
Local fresh vegetables

I love science. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to be able to help people in
mi familia (my family). That is sometimes what we do – we choose professions that will help the family. We do not yet have a doctor in our family.

  January 6, 2007
Christmas is over

Today is Dios de Los Reyes (Day of the Three Kings). Tonight we will receive our presents. We traditionally give gifts on this day because it is the day that the three kings arrived at the stable to give their gifts to Jesus. I am sad that Christmas is over for another whole year.
  December 15, 2006
Feliz Navidad!

My grandmother just brought home poinsettias from our church. They are the bright red star shaped flowers that decorate our homes at Christmas time. It makes our house so festive. Did you know that poinsettias came from Mexico? There is a legend that a child wanted to give the Christ child a gift and could only find wildflowers. She was embarrassed by her humble gift and started to cry, and the pureness of her heart turned her wildflowers into a bright red bouquet that made a splendid gift.

It is just over one week before Christmas and I can hardly wait. My family places a nativity scene on the window sill of the dining room, to remind us of the importance of faith. I also have a little nativity scene on my desk in my room. I love this time of year.

Starting tomorrow night,
Las Posadas begins. This year I get to carry the statue of Mary. We will march from our church through our neighborhood, going to nine neighbor's apartments asking for a place to stay. Half of the procession plays the part of the innkeepers, and half of the people will stand behind us – the ones who are carrying the statues of Mary and Joseph. My friend Dora will play the angel that leads the procession. At the last apartment, the innkeepers allow us to enter and we go in to have a party. The most exciting part is when we get to break a piñata and collect the candy. We also have songs, prayers, food, dancing, and games. We do this every night at a different neighbor’s house for 9 nights, until Christmas Eve.

Then on Christmas Eve will have my favorite – tamales! We will go to church for
Misa del Gallo at midnight, and after mass is over, there will be fireworks!

It is a wonderful time of year.

  November 2, 2006
The Day of the Dead

Yesterday and today we celebrated my favorite holiday festival. My US penpal thinks having a holiday about dead people is spooky. But in Mexico, it is about remembering and honoring relatives who have passed on. It is our special way of keeping the past alive.

Marigolds (known as the flower of the dead, and believed to guide souls to their home) are often used in
ofrendas (offerings). We eat pan de muerto, filled with raisins and little icing crossbones decorating the tops. Friends and neighbors give us candy skulls, and little toy skeletons. This year in school I made a skull mask and a skull piñata out of paper mache. My brothers made paper skeletons, that we hung on our front door.

Candy skull
Families have different traditions for this holiday. Here is our family tradition. When we are able to travel to Monterrey, we visit the cemetery where many members of my father's family are buried, including my grandparents. We bring ofrendas, with my grandparents' favorite foods, and vases of marigolds. We take turns sharing favorite memories of my grandparents. I like to sing "Cielito Lindo" which was my grandmother's favorite song (it means "Beautiful Heaven"). When we are able to travel to Puebla, we do the same thing for my mother's father. However, when we are in Mexico City, we create an altar area in our home, and ofrendas with candles and incense are placed in this area, honoring all of our relatives who have passed away.
  October 24, 2006
St. Louis just might win!

Many people in Mexico like fútbol (soccer), but my favorite sport is beisbol (baseball). I want to go to the US someday to watch a beisbol game. My friends Juan, Andre, Dora and Marisol like to play, and we formed a neighborhood team that sometimes plays on Saturdays.

We have been watching the World Series on TV. The St. Louis Cardinals are playing the Detroit Tigers. We always support the Texas Rangers, but we are supporting St. Louis in the World Series. They've now won 2 out of 3 games….and now they will be playing again in St. Louis two nights from now.  It's getting pretty exciting! Go Cards!

I play
beisbol in school, and sometimes after school I go out to the park with my brothers, and I pitch to them until it gets dark.

The local team is
Mexico Diablos Rojos (Red Devils), and my friends and I have been to a few of their games. But beisbol is not as popular as fútbol in Mexico.
  October 2, 2006
Come and visit me!

I speak Spanish at home and at school. But I am also learning English. Most people I know learn English, but it is especially important if I want to go to University of El Paso in the US like my older sister, Juanita. I also can consider the University of Mexico here in Mexico City, which is one of the oldest universities in the Americas, founded in 1551.

I live in a 3 bedroom apartment on the ground floor of an apartment building. I live with my mother, father, grandmother, my younger brothers Antonio and Mario, and my uncle Ramon. My uncle is living with us while he is looking for a job. If you think that our house is crowded, you should visit my uncle Eduardo.  His family has ten people in their small farmhouse.

Since our home is not very large, on Sundays we spend time outside. Sometimes we go to the
Plaza de la Constitutión, or central square in Mexico City, especially when there is a festival like this one, with colorful traditional Aztec dances. The plaza is also known as the Zócalo. It was built using rubble from the ancient Aztec city of Teochtitlan. It's strange to think that there used to be a completely different city here on this spot, over 500 years ago! 

Come and visit me! I could practice my English, and teach you some Spanish. Our home is very cozy, and there is always room for one more.

Aztec dancers
Plaza de la Constitutión

  September 18, 2006
Hóla, amigos!
Hóla! Me llamo Maria Elena (my name is Maria Elena), but everyone calls me Elena. I am 11 years old and I live in Mexico City. Mexico city is the second largest city in the world after Tokyo!

Most of the people in Mexico live in the city. Like my father, they came to get jobs. We learned in school that only one out of every 4 people in Mexico are farmers and less than 20% of Mexico's land is used for farming. We also learned that half of Mexico's workers are in the service industry, like my dad who works at a hotel down the street. Lots of tourists come to Mexico. Tourism is very important to our country. My sister used to work in a local souvenir shop and she would tell me about all the different people she met.

Many workers in Mexico work in factories. My mother works in a factory that makes tortillas. Sometime she brings them home. We eat tortillas at every meal.

At the end of the day, we eat dinner together, around 9pm. Dinner is the one time that the family eats together. My favorite dinner is
tamales which are made from corn meal steamed in corn husks or banana leaves. It is usually mixed with pork or chicken.

That's all for now!
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