m e x i c a n


m e x i c a n

Dani el le Gi l lespi e


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Copyright © 2023 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4681-8 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4675-7 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7140-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Gillespie, Danielle, author. Title: Mexican / Danielle Gillespie. Description: Hollywood, FL : Mason Crest, 2023. | Series: Customs, culture & cuisine | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2022002799 | ISBN 9781422246818 (hardback) | ISBN 9781422271407 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Food habits—Mexico—Juvenile literature. | Cooking, Mexican—Juvenile literature. | Mexico—Social life and customs—Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC GT2853.M6 G55 2023 | DDC 394.1/20972—dc23/eng/20220120

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K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this book. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field. Research Project: Readers are pointed toward an area of further inquiry that relates to each book and encourages deeper research and analysis. Introduction:............................................................ 6 Chapter 1: Poblano.................................................. 9 Chapter 2: Baja & El Norte. ..................................... 23 Chapter 3: Veracruz & the Yucatan Peninsula........... 37 Chapter 4: Oaxaca, Chiapas & Jalisco. ..................... 49 Chapter 5: Mexican Food in America........................ 63 Research Project. ................................................... 74 Glossary of Key Terms. ............................................ 75 Further Reading. ..................................................... 76 Internet Resources.................................................. 77 Index. .................................................................... 78 Author’s Biography & Credits................................... 80 CONTENTS

Looking at a map of Mexico, it is easy to notice that it has varied topography—with mountains, valleys, deserts, and tropical forests all in one. These rapid changes in elevation result in different climates throughout the entire country, which helps to create differing economies and lifestyles. Mexico is a biodiverse country, home to almost 30,000 species of plants—2,000 or so of which are edible. Due to the different climates, Mexico has various types of cuisine, with each region utilizing the resources from its unique environment to create a mezcla (mix) of seasonal local ingredients and imported agricultural practices. Mexican cuisine originates from these regions:  Poblano (Mexico City, Puebla, and the Central Basin) : Earthy ingredients like peppers, squash, and beans are the cornerstones of this region’s traditional dishes, with a combination of Indigenous and European heritage present in the food because of the mix of culture and the history of colonization here.  North and Baja: An area heavily used for ranching, the northern region of Mexico features lots of recipes with cheese and meat—usually beef and goat, often in burritos wrapped with flour tortillas.  Veracruz and the Yucatan Peninsula: Most foods in these parts of Mexico involve seafood of some sort due to their proximity to water. Fish is eaten in soups and sides, as the main course, and sometimes eaten raw.  Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Jalisco: In the southernmost part of the country, food is often cooked in banana leaves or corn husks; this area is where tamales originated, as well as the habanero pepper. Recipes have a more Caribbean and Mayan heritage, with prevalent flavors such as tamarind and citrus. INTRODUCTION



Mexico has a diverse culture to complement its food, bringing families and friends together around the table for major holidays throughout the year. Food is the way Mexicans express celebration, honor their ancestors, and show respect and reverence for special dates in history. With people and histories as varied as its landscape, Mexicans infuse heritage, tradition, and food into their way of life through celebrations, architecture, music, and more. Each region in this exciting and colorful country brings unique imports, traditions, character, cuisine, and storytelling together to paint a complete and vivid picture of Mexico.



INGREDIENTS: jicama, amaranth,

guava, fresh vanilla, cacao, grasshoppers, chiles, chile powder, squash, tomatoes, cactus, raisins, pineapple, cinnamon, and white pepper


Mexico City and Puebla Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, and the state of Puebla are located in the Central Basin, an area in the middle of the country known as Poblano, made up of valleys surrounded by Mexico’s three largest mountains. Puebla means “town” in Spanish, but the town of Puebla de Zaragoza (the state’s capital) has more than 3 million people and is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site. The most well known exports out of this region are Talavera tiles, traditionally blue and white; hand-stamped silver; and Cinco de Mayo, a holiday commemorating the Mexican Army’s defeat of the French on May 5, 1862. The people in this part of Mexico are called Poblanos—yes, like the pepper! In semi-arid, dry climates such as the Central Basin and the Northern desert, it only rains in the summer, which is a challenge for water conservation and growing crops. Plants that do grow here don’t need a lot of water and thrive in sandy soils. People even eat candied cactus as a sweet treat; it is sold in stores nationwide. Boasting fantastic architectural sights, this part of Mexico has hundreds of beautifully designed churches from the Baroque and Colonial periods. The Church of Our Lady of Remedies is a holy


The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is one of the hundreds of architecturally interesting churches in the region.

pilgrimage site in Cholula. Each year, Catholic patrons travel to the site to seek special blessings and healing. It is built on top of a Mesoamerican pyramid which is an interesting contrast in having ancient pyramid ruins and indigenous sites alongside distinctive churches and libraries. This site serves as a reminder of the colossal impact of Spanish settlers and global trade on the Mesoamerican populations. The Three Sisters...Plus One In addition to being hunter-gatherers, Indigenous Mesoamericans in the Puebla area cultivated what are called the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. The name comes from the benefits that each



crop gives to the others when grown close together. Corn stalks are great poles for bean sprouts to climb to reach the sun. Squash plants have spiky vines that fend off predators and keep the ground moist. Beans are nitrogen-rich and help to fertilize the soil. The fourth “Sister” could well be wheat, though it is not native to Mexico. After the Spanish-Aztec War in 1512, European trade brought in crops like wheat and sugar and domesticated animals such as goats, pigs, and cows. The Three Sisters remain present in modern Poblano cuisine. Maseca , or corn flour, is used to make corn cakes, polenta, and tortillas. Calabazas , meaning pumpkins, are often cooked with onions, spices, and cotija cheese. Additionally, a wide variety of beans are found in all kinds of Mexican dishes. Being able to import resources across its regions helps Mexico benefit from and take advantage of its climatic diversity. Ingredients found in Poblano cooking today could include jicama , a white root vegetable looking somewhat like a turnip, but with a sweeter taste; amaranth , a


Puebla is home to the first public biblioteca (library) ever built in the Americas. It was constructed in 1640 by Bishop Palafox y Mendoza. He donated more than 5,000 books from his own collection but said he wanted them to be read by anyone who wished to read, not just by upper-class patrons. The library is named Biblioteca Palafoxiana after the famous Bishop and features ornate staircases and gold-leafed details throughout its interior. It was designated a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site (2005) and a historic monument by the Mexican government.

Chapter 1: Poblano


Pumpkin is an example of the kind of squash that often appears in Puebla dishes.

plant with fluffy red fronds that produces a gluten-free grain similar to quinoa; guava and tropical fruits, often paired with cheese; fresh vanilla and cacao; and even grasshoppers, usually fried with some sort of chile powder or spice. History and Culture Mexico has had its fair share of conflict throughout its history as Indigenous societies rose and fell for 2,700 years. In 1521, the Aztecs fought and lost to Spanish invaders led by Hernán Cortés, who killed and captured natives, sold them to slavery, and destroyed the way of life of thousands of people for the pursuit of resources. Conflict continues today in the ongoing drug war, with cartels fighting



over territory, taking control over entire towns, and seating corrupt officers and officials. In the early decades of colonialism, it seemed that Mexico was constantly under occupation and in upheaval. Mexico also fought with the Allies in World War II and has seen several rebellions since then within its own borders. The country gained independence from Spain in 1821 after an 11-year war, more than 300 years after Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and the Spaniards arrived. In Puebla, Mexico was able to stave off invading French armies in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. France was determined to make Mexico one of its colonies, and though outnumbered by the French, the Mexican army earned the victory. This triumph is now celebrated on the Cinco de Mayo, or May 5 th , holiday. However, most of Mexico doesn’t really celebrate Cinco de Mayo. It’s not a federal holiday, and there isn’t much ceremony around it. Yet, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more in Puebla, with militia parades that attract almost 20,000 people and


Mexican cuisine includes more than 40 different types of tortillas. Examples range from sopapillas (a honey-drizzled donut-like dessert) to flautas , which are rolled tortillas stuffed with meat like arrachera (skirt steak) or cabrito (goat meat) and cooked, often topped with fresh avocado, crema, and vegetables. The tortilla is the foundation of several famous Mexican dishes. Sometimes they are served open-faced like a tostada on a corn tortilla or folded, rolled, etc. The key to making a great tortilla is a hot cooking surface. Sometimes this is a clay stove or brick oven—or just a really hot pan.

Chapter 1: Poblano


Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico, but it is celebrated to some degree in Poblano. This parade is part of the celebration in Morelia, the capital of Michoacán.

include dancing and fireworks. The traditional dish for this holiday is mole poblano —not the tacos or enchiladas found at US celebrations. The city of Puebla holds the International Mole Festival at this time of year as well, likely to honor the dish and its tradition in time for the holiday. Poblanos—People, not Peppers For many hundreds of years, societal norms have dominated Mexican culture. Two terms for gender classification, machismo and marianismo , have implied gender stereotypes that are expected in Mexican households. Machismo means a macho, manly attitude,



with a dominant role in making decisions and providing for the family. Unfortunately, this attitude toward “manly” duties and behavior has a correlation with increased sexual and domestic violence, especially in urban areas. Marianismo refers to the Virgin Mary and refers to a submissive, meek behavior in women. In a traditional Mexican home, the woman stays home, raising children, cooking, cleaning, and managing the household. Today, Mexicans have shown a societal shift toward feminist ideals. It is not as uncommon now to see women in roles such as lawyers, doctors, and government officials as it might have been 30 years ago. Regardless of the appearance of a more gender-equal society, familial relationships remain paramount to the Mexican way of life. The Poblano people are deeply tied to their ancestors and extended family. They trust in the adage of “it’s who you know” as people often find careers or opportunities through their extended family.

In Mexico, traditional gender roles persist, and women do most of the food preparation and cooking.

Chapter 1: Poblano


It is typical in a Mexican home to have an ofrenda , or altar, where they display pictures of Christ alongside those of deceased family members and offer gifts and pray for help and advice. Meet Daniela Soto-Innes Daniela Soto-Innes grew up in Mexico City in the 1990s, learning to cook with the women of her extended family within the walls of her home. She loved learning to make traditional Mexican dishes

Mole poblano may be the best known of all Mexican moles and is made with ingredients including chiles, sugar, and cocoa.



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