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Monday, March 7, 2016

Passport to Flavor: Mexican Traditions

This month, we’re kicking off the new Passport to Flavor series that will explore different cultures and their food traditions. We hope you find this information useful in your work with children and families from various cultures, as well as a source of ideas on how to teach children about other cultures.

Our first guest blogger is Maria Paez-Sievert, a SNAP-Ed educator with University of Minnesota Extension who will be sharing her perspective on the Mexican culture.

Hola (hello), my name is Maria Paez-Sievert. I was born and raised and Mazatlán, Mexico, and came to live in the USA 21 years ago. Prior to working for Extension, I worked at Head Start for 14 years. My favorite food from Mexico is called “Mole Poblano.” It contains about 20 ingredients, including chili peppers and chocolate, which helps give the sauce its dark color.

Mole Poblano
Another food I enjoy is enmoladas (enchiladas with mole sauce).


Interesting Facts from the Mexican Culture

  • Mexican people love socializations and conversations. We are friendly people!
  • Mexican moms are always concerned about their child’s behavior at school. Don’t be surprised if they always ask you how their child is behaving. 
  • Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16. This marks the day Mexico separated from Spain in 1810. Cinco de Mayo is on May 5 and marks the Mexican military victory over the French in 1862. This happened in the Mexican state of Puebla which is in the center of Mexico (Mexico has 31 states and 1 Distrito Federal). An interesting fact is Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the United States than it is in Mexico. 
  • The three colors of Mexico’s flag hold deep significance for the country and its citizens: green represents hope and victory, white stands for the purity of Mexican ideals, and red brings to mind the blood shed by the nation’s heroes. 

The flag’s dramatic emblem is based on the legend of how the Mexicas (or Aztecs) traveled from Aztlán to find the place where they could establish their empire. The god Huitzilopochtli advised them that a sign — an eagle devouring a serpent a top a Nopal cactus — would appear to them at the exact spot where they should begin construction. On a small island in the middle of a lake, the Mexicas came upon the scene exactly as Huitzilopochtli had described it. They immediately settled there and founded the city of Tenochtitlán, which is now Mexico City, the country’s capital.
  • Every part of the world has holidays that celebrate special moments in history. Mexican culture celebrates holidays similar to the United States; however, there are different customs. Holidays in Mexican culture have extreme symbolism and importance. The holidays are rooted in religion and past events that resemble the Mexican culture. The Mexican culture preserves the meaning of their holidays through celebrations and traditions; for example, Day of the Dead. From what you wear to what you eat, it’s important in Mexican culture to celebrate holidays with festive gatherings. 
  • Christmas is an example of a festive holiday in Mexican culture that is highly involved. The celebrations are spread out over a period of two months, honoring pivotal moments with baby Jesus. In Mexican culture, children wake to find presents on January 6, Three Kings Day, rather than December 25. Christmas in Mexican culture reflects the “reason for the season” more than others. 

Helpful Ideas and Resources

  • Hold a “Show and Tell” with traditional Mexican foods. Consider asking a parent of Mexican child to help you — most people love to share foods from their culture. 
  • Taste-test traditional Mexican foods in your classroom. Guacamole and mango salsa are easy to make with young children. 
  • Include Mexican celebrations on classroom calendars or celebrate them in your classroom. 
  • Put pictures of Mexican foods around the room. 
  • Hang pictures of people gathered around a table celebrating. 
  • Learn how to speak a few basic words (including food) in Spanish so you can communicate with children. Spanish Flashcards is a helpful website to see pictures of food and listen to it spoken in Spanish (scroll down to Food Section and click on Introduction). 

Cooking and Playing with Children

It’s never too early to introduce children to new cultures. Sampling foods and playing games are fun ways to teach children about other cultures.

Cooking: Guacamole

Guacamole is a simple, quick recipe you can prepare with young children. The trick to the perfect guacamole is using good, ripe avocados. Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the fleshy part. Mash the avocado and add salt. Squeeze in a little lime or lemon juice — this splash of acidity balances the richness of the avocado. Chopped cilantro, chiles, onion, and tomato can also be added. Cooking Matters® has a quick and easy guacamole recipe you can prepare with children in the classroom.

Lime keeps the avocados from turning brown. Source: Cooking Matters®

Playing: Mexican Loteria Card Game

Loteria is played much like bingo. Each player has a loteria card that has 20 squares with a different picture in each square. Traditional images include fruits, vegetables, people, and other objects.

From la bota to la rosa. Source: andreanna

There is also a stack of the larger cards that contain a picture. The caller picks a card and calls out the picture on the card. The player covers the picture if it is on their card. Beans are most commonly used for markers, but chips, coins, and stones can also be used as place markers on the game cards. If you have four in a row, it is called “chorro.” A person wins when they cover the whole card and shout out “Loteria!”

Teachers can create their own cards in English or Spanish. At the beginning of the year, teachers can create cards with photos of the children in the classroom to help children learn the names of their classmates.

Young children are eager to learn. Take time this month to introduce children to the Mexican culture through food, games, and celebrations.

1 comment:

Karen Shirer said...

Thank you this blog post. I learned a great deal.

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