Veracruz Chronicles

Friday, September 30, 2005

Primer mes

Our first month in Papantla. We are feeling much more settled. The children are doing well at school, we are so proud of them sticking with it. We took a day to travel over to Tecolutla, a seaside town about 30k from here. We swam in a pool near the beach, the children hit the waves and we ended the day with mangos cut like flowers, some in our party have graduated to chile on their mangos already!

Impressions from the first month below:
Willa: WQ've been here a month and now the cold front has moved in, from 100 degrees to 99! Our friends are wearing jackets in the morning. I have seven friends now. They are all very nice. Three friends invited me to walk around the square with them. We fed the squirrels, which are black. One squirrel wouldn't come down so my friend threw a peanut at it and it got mad and threw something at us. One squirrel got a peanut off the ground and stuffed it in his mouth and ran and got one out of our hand.
Mexico approval rating: 10 chiles
Austin: Oklahoma probably gets the same temps as Mexico in the summer, but Mexico doesn't have seasons, well, maybe but they are hot, hot, really hot and hot...We found a good soccer team. We work out two days a week for two hours each time with a professional soccer player. I'm having my first game today.
Mexico approval rating: 8 chiles
Ansel: I like to eat chile on lollipops. I have a friend named Geraldo at school and he is on my soccer team too.
Mexico approval rating: 10 kinder eggs with chile on them

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Celebration:Independence Day

The photos are of the crowded square before the grito. The mural is a contemporary piece that shows the history of Papantla, from pre-historic to contemporary.

Our first Indpendence Day in Mexico with the children, as all our travels here happen during the school breaks. I do remember that when Mark called his parents (who live in Cuernavaca Mexico) to tell them the twins were born, they said the 'grito' had begun all around town. The first night we arrived, we sat in a restaurant over the square and watched as they place lights around trees, hung large portraits of heros (from Hildalgo to the niños heroes) above the streets and strung papel picados with Viva Mexico stenciled out of red, green and white plastic from the two story gazebo. It was the first of September, so I wondered if they were already getting ready for Independence Day. That was, of course, before I knew about el mes patria, patriotic month.
We promised the children an evening in the square, so they met up with class mates and ran around in the heat and humidity until they were wet. Ansel collapsed in my arms before the grito, we took everyone home and may never earn W&A's forgiveness for missing the grito...but what to do with a fifty pound soaking wet doll in a crowd of thousands.
Our experience was enlightened the next evening upon being invited to eat chiles en nogados with some friends we've made here. This is the traditional dish to eat for Independence Day, given the colors: green chiles rellenos, white nut-cream sauce and pomegranite seeds. It was delicious and the family was so kind to us. We met the extended family and now have many contacts for both our projects.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Our first week in the house is a success. Last week was big for celebrations, given the tenth anniversary of Willa and Austin's birth and Independence Day for Mexico.
W&A had a good time at school with their classmates. We ordered tamales, the teacher brought a cake and the class broke a piñata. We learned that tamales here are wonderful and suckers do not belong in piñatas (at least not with the big kids, they were in a thousand pieces by time they hit the ground).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Nuestra Casa

After a week of searching and living the the Tajin hotel, we found the perfect place to settle for the year. The director of the school remembered that a friend had mentioned having a house open for rent. We walked the short two blocks from the school to the house compound and knew we had found the place. Not only is the house close to the school (we are a sleepy lot in the mornings) but there is plenty of room (for all you that promised to visit) and to top it off, the owner had a storeroom of furniture for us to borrow. We only have to buy the fridge, a couple of mattresses and a few tables for desks. Truly good luck.
This is a photo of the compound.
The compound
The house is located in a small compound with two other houses and an apartment building. The owner and her daughter live in the larger house on the right and a family lives in the house above us. There are several children, so WAa have enjoyed being out at night, running with the others, kicking a ball. This situation is also good, as we do not have to learn the ´ropes´ by ourselves, the neighbors let us know when the garbage truck comes by (Monday and Thursday for this street, you have to listen for the bell and run to the corner to meet the truck), where to apply for a telephone (in the center of town, a fairly short line, an expensive fee and an open-ended aggrement to install it sometime before we return to the states...), where to buy water and hot tortillas. So the house situation has worked out well.
For other pictures of the house, click on the photo above to see our photoalbum at
We are still working out the bugs, literally and figuratively: the first fews nights the children complained about burros, roosters and chickens, but now they don{t mention the noises. We´ve held our breath and bought insecticide and mouse traps, the children want to know if we really have to kill the mice...Mark and I are in agreement here, though I did dream we adopted a cat last night.

Today we work on the telephone connection and we are preparing for the children´s birthdays tomorrow-Thursday. They will have a pinata, cake and tamelitos at school with their class. Hasta luego.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nuestra escuela

School is going so well. W, A & a are enjoying themselves. Today, in Anselmo{s class they celebrated a birthday. So Ansel got to swing at his first authentic pinata. They played soccer in the schoolyard and true to character, Ansel took out a couple of friends...they said he can come back tomorrow.

Elena (Willa) and Agustin are in the fourth grade class together. Willa did well on her first spelling test, she showed it to me in the evening. Austin said, "We had a spelling test." This is going to be a great year! He took me seriously that I don{t care about grades this year...

Their class mates follow them around and touch their hair. Austin said they pick up anything they drop on the ground. I think we could make money if we charged people to touch Austin{s hair.

Here is a picture of our wonderful school.

News from the niños:
Willa-Today in English class, my teacher corrected me. She a swim suit is a swim suite. So far I have been doing good in school. We have had a spelling test. I met the sixth graders today and they gave me three bracelets and they invited me to a fiest they are putting on for Mexican Independence day, the day after our birthdays.

Austin-We found a soccer league. They name themselves after the professional teams. The team is Barcelona. Tomorrow we go to the first practice. I{ll play with my classmates.
Big news this evening! We found a house and we{ll move in tomorrow morning. I{ll post about the casa and move over the weekend.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Ya llegamos...We are here!

We arrived in Papantla after a long trip from OKC. We need to revise our previous suggestions to friends to just catch the bus at the border. We now recommend finding the best plane ticket into Veracruz City...

We are staying at the Hotel Tajin here in Papantla, looking for a house. It is a bit slow going, as the process includes walking around neighborhoods, asking people sitting out on steps or in little stores and following up on suggestions. We hope to be in something by the weekend. We have enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. After arriving Thursday afternoon, the children all started school Friday morning. Friday evening, we caught a lecture but the anthropologist Victoria Chenut, who has been a great help to me in setting up research. She just happened to be lecturing at the city auditorium, on laws during the Porfirio era here in Papantla. It was a great lecture, gave me a few more questions to ponder, especially in regard to the role of women and household autonomy. Also, we were able to meet many anthropologists-social/scientists.

Saturday we house hunted all day and Sunday we went to Tajin to see the ruins. Although these ruins are not clime-able, like many piramids in Mexico, the children were impressed with the jungle.

This photo is of the Pyramid of the NIches, an unusual architectural style for mesoamerica.

Below are comments from the family after the first day in Papantla:
Willa- Our first day of school was great. I now have six new friends. The trip from OKC to Mexico was long, I did not like that part but now I am happy that we are in Mexico. Right now, we are looking onto the zocalo (the town square) and they have papel picados (little banners) in the colors of the Mexican flag. They are getting ready to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. I accidentally touched chile and touched my face. I do not recommend this if you visit.

Ansel- Now I really like Mexico, There{s a soccer ball at my school and we play with it on the playground at my school. There are people that I like to play with.

Austin-Today was a good day. School was fun and I made a lot of friends.

Mark- This is like the calm after the storm, as we sit on the picturesque plaza, eating bocoles (Veracruz version of gorditas) and enchiladas, after a grueling trip with too much luggage. It feels great to be here and I am so proud of the children for adapting so well.