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Albuquerque Innsights

Former New Mexico innkeeper knows secrets and tells anyone who will listen.

Dia De Los Muertos, Calaveras and La Patrona

October 8th, 2014

Day of the Dead figurinesIn certain areas of Mexico in November they hold an ages old tradition of honoring family and friends who have passed. This is became very important in Mexican culture because it was believed that we experience a second death when all who knew, honored and remembered us have also passed. Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a very important day to remember and honor deceased loved ones. It began as a joining of the beliefs of the indigenous people of Mexico before the Spaniards arrived, and the Catholicism they brought with them.

La Patrona CalaveraAs tradition goes, on or near All Saints Day, families of a village or town have a procession to the local cemetery with flowers and offerings of the deceased’s favorite foods, trinkets, photos, etc., and their final resting place is decorated with these items. It isn’t a mournful time, but rather a celebration of the lives of all past ancestors. Candy skulls are decorated, special foods and sweets are shared and the atmosphere is generally upbeat, but respectful. Calaveras, (skulls/skeletons), are used to represent the past ancestors. Celebrants may even paint their faces like calaveras.

As will often happen with these kinds of heartfelt traditions, they know no borders, and New Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos too. Since most people no longer live near the resting place of their ancestors, Albuquerque celebrates with a Marigold Parade, (marigolds being the most official flower used for this holiday), and people will paint faces and carry alters that honor their passed on loved ones to place along the parade route. This was once primarily a Hispanic celebration, but now everyone is welcomed to celebrate Dia de los Muertas.

Calaveras had become very trendy stating in the early 1900’s in Mexico, and today they are even more popular, especially during Dia de los Muertos. Pictured in the tin frame is La Patrona, a very important calavera. She represents all women heads of households; our mothers, grandmothers and aunties passed. She holds the keys to the cupboards, and runs the home and everything tied to it. Everyone in the household defers to her. She is loved and respected. I made this La Patrona for my daughter’s new mother in law, to celebrate the joining of our families.

marigoldParadeAlbuquerque has its own Dia De Los Muertos celebration, the Marigold Parade. This year the date is Sunday, November 2nd. If you are interested in participating or just viewing the parade, be sure to visit the official Muertos y Marigolds website for all the details. For information about previous Marigold Parades, Dia de Los Muertos and calaveras visit my past blog post from 2012, it’s full of more history and details.

I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!


It’s Getting Chile in Albuquerque, and Dragons Roar

September 8th, 2014

Dragons roar and grown men weep. Both are signs that Fall is upon us in the Duke City, and that means it’s Green Chile Time. We are lucky to have chile sold and roasted right in our Adobe Nido neighborhood, and the aroma when they’re roasting is heavenly. If someone made incense that smelled like roasting chile, I would buy it.

child watching chile roastingThe chile is generally sold in 40lb burlap sacks, but you can buy it in the produce section one at a time just like bell peppers. The produce section has green chile year round, but the big crop from New Mexico chile farms comes in only in the fall, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so you can’t wait too long if you want your year’s supply put up in the freezer.

My son in law saw fit to buy us a roasted sack of chile this weekend. He’s a keeper. I wasn’t quite prepared for this so it required me to get brutal with cleaning out the freezer, which usually doesn’t happen unless there is a reason, so that was good too. The house smelled wonderful as soon as the boxed up sack of freshly roasted green pods came through the door. Heavenly.

The picture is of my grandson, and this was his first experience with the big iron, fire breathing dragon that is a chile roasting cage. He was mesmerized. The roaster sounds like a dragon when the propane burners are lit. It feels like a dragon too so you really have to step back, hence his distance from the action. It cooks like a dragon too.

The dragon has a small electric motor that spins the cage to tumble the chile past the burners. It’s a simple yet ingenious machine, and I have to think it must have been invented in New Mexico, because where else do people feel the need to have one? They didn’t have these when I first moved to NM in 1978 so if you bought a sack back then, you spent the weekend roasting it on the patio grill. The machine takes about 10 minutes.

bags of green chiliWhen the chile is finished roasting it is dumped onto a shoot and slides easily into a box lined with a food grade plastic bag which is then promptly sealed so the hot pods can steam themselves. On the ride home you leave the windows closed no mater how warm it is outside, because your car has just transformed into an aromatherapy spa. Once it arrives at it’s destiny, (my kitchen), people will usually knock heads trying to get their face into that bag for a big sniff, or several.

The bagging begins after the pods have steamed for 30 minutes or so. We bag roasted chile skins-on because they are really easy to peel after they thaw; so easy the skins nearly just rinse off. Some folks like to peel them first, but I am not that brave. That’s too much chili on my skin and it last for hours. Don’t scratch your eyes, don’t touch any tender parts, don’t change the babies’ diaper, and be careful when relieving yourself.chile tortilla

After the process is over you just have to eat some right away! And you are always so chile crazed at this point, the simpler, safer delivery method is to throw a whole roasted chile on a warm flour tortilla and dive in. We restrained ourselves long enough to chop several chiles, added a little cheddar and grilled it into a quesadilla. A little taste of heaven on earth. It was pretty hot stuff and I’m pretty sure I saw a tear in my husband’s eye. Joy or burn? Both.

I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!

points of interest :: abq to do list

copyright 2009 :: sarah dolk, adobe nido bed and breakfast, albuquerque nm :: photos by susan see, abq, nm & marianne groszko, mariannephotography.net