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Posts Tagged ‘El Día de Acción de Gracias’

It’s Thanksgiving Day (known as Día de Acción de Gracias in Mexico) in el norte and I’m thinking guajolote thoughts. When you sit down to your turkey dinner you will be following in the footsteps of the original inhabitants of the valley of Oaxaca. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of turkey domestication 1,500 years ago in the in the valley of Oaxaca’s Mitla Fortress.  And, according to Gary Feinman, Field Museum curator of Mesoamerican anthropology, “It’s a bird very, very similar to what a lot of people are going to eat on Thursday.”

An imperious guajolote at the Villa de Zaachila Thursday market.

Turkeys, or as they are commonly known in Oaxaca, guajolotes, continue to play a special role in many of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities. Turkey mole is prepared and served during religious festivals and weddings, among other special occasions. They are also given as gifts and the downy feathers under the wings are dyed and used to make penachos (headdresses) for the danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma.

Guajolotes looking cute at the Villa de Zaachila Thursday market.

So, to those in el norte, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey, give a little thanks to the Zapotecs of the valley of Oaxaca.  ¡Buen provecho!

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What an unusual yet lovely (and delicious) Thanksgiving 2020 was.

Cranberry/pear relish bubbling on the stove.

After the fact, I realized this was only the second Thanksgiving I’ve shared with just one other person. Childhood dinners were filled with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even the Thanksgiving I spent in Denmark, the international school I attended prepared a turkey with all the fixin’s dinner — to the delight of the American students and curiosity of the other international students and Danes. Once married, we hosted or joined family and/or friends — and that has been my tradition ever since, even here in Oaxaca.

Sage dressing with whole wheat bread, celery, onions, and carrots.

Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, Kalisa, my (now famous) friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire and I decided we would persevere in an attempt to carry on with an albeit downsized celebration of just the two of us on my terrace. For the main course, we ruled out turkey, discarded chicken as not special, and settled on repeating the success of rabbit — concluding it would go well with my cranberry/pear relish and sage dressing. And, who knows? The indigenous peoples may have proffered rabbit to the starving and clueless foreigners.

Roast rabbit à la Kalisa.

So, we made our own pilgrimage up to Pochote Mercado Orgánico in Colonia Reforma to again purchase the criollo rabbit Kalisa would be preparing. A couple of days later, at Mercado IV Centenario, we happened upon camotes/sweet potatoes to be used for her “pumpkin” cheesecake. Unlike my first several Thanksgivings here, when bags of fresh cranberries could only be found at Mercado Hidalgo, I was able to purchase all the ingredients for my cranberry/pear relish at Mercado Benito Juárez. As for the dressing, I still had some Bell’s Seasoning brought from the USA a couple of years ago, and the rest was easily found. Looking at our menu, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed something green. That was easily solved with some baby lettuce from my garden (alas, no photo).

Pumpkin cheesecake with caramel topping.

And so it was, a Thanksgiving where two friends gave thanks for our very present blessings — friendship, health, abundance, and being welcomed into the beautiful and loving arms of Oaxaca.

Two friends giving thanks on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca.

By the way, the place settings were for photo-op purposes only. We retired with filled plates and glasses of wine to the south end of the terrace where we could sit and eat 8 feet apart.

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Ya got your herbs, ya got your spices, ya got your smoker — smoked turkey, Oaxaca style!

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San Antonino Castillo Velasco delegation, Guelaguetza desfile, July 21, 2018

In addition to my fabulous family, friends, blog readers, and indigenous peoples who survived genocide, colonization, and other inconvenient turkey day truths, I’m also feeling grateful for guajolotes.  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

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Seating for twenty-two has been scavenged from around the apartment complex, tables (three of which are borrowed) are covered with oilcloth and set with plastic cutlery, cranberry sauce has been made, stock for gravy is simmering on the stove top, and the turkey has been stuffed and is currently roasting in my little oven.

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Turkey sellers on market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca – Oct. 26, 2014.

Neighbors, a former neighbor, and the latter’s Oaxaqueño coworkers will be bringing another turkey, more stuffing, potatoes (mashed and sweet), pumpkin pies, and beverages.  Now to put together a playlist which, naturally, will include Arlo Guthrie’s, Alice’s Restaurant Alice’s Restaurant Massacree — a turkey day family tradition since 1967.

Inevitably our guests will ask, “So what exactly does Thanksgiving celebrate?”  Do we continue to pass along the myth or do we explain the inconvenient truth, “that the first official Thanksgiving Day celebrated the massacre of 700 Indian men, women and children during one of their religious ceremonies.”

Then there is the question, “How is this holiday celebrated in the USA?”  The following holiday rituals will no doubt be described:  Many televisions will be tuned to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade of giant balloons and traditional turkey day football (North American) games.  And, as soon as the last piece of pie has been eaten, growing numbers people will be racing to the nearest shopping mall or computer to take advantage of early-bird “Black Friday” pre-Christmas sales.

However, in between the above, there is always dining table conversation — catching-up stories, old and new jokes, loving reminiscences, and the occasional arguments over politics and/or religion.  But, as the folks at the Presente.org Team wrote in an email to their subscribers this morning, for Latinos in the USA, “Thanksgiving dinner might be hard when you’re sitting across the table from a loved one who was left out of the President’s executive action. When the subject comes up, don’t drown your sorrows in a bottomless pitcher of gravy. We created a graphic to help you have that tricky conversation.”

Besides my wonderful family, friends, and blog readers, I am extremely grateful to be a guest in a country where, amidst the beauty and warmth of its people and land, it’s almost impossible to ignore awkward and difficult truths.  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias a tod@s!

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I’ve always liked Thanksgiving — and not just because, after I turned 12, my aunt would pour a little red wine in a shot glass for my cousin and me.  It’s one of the least commercial US holidays, if one discounts the whole “black Friday” and, now, “brown Thursday” (eww!) phenomenon.  And, it isn’t wrapped in flag waving.

Multicolored corn in basket

It’s a day set aside for a communal sharing of Mother Nature’s bounty, counting our blessings, and acknowledging and giving thanks for the assistance of the dark-skinned original human inhabitants of the Americas.  What a novel idea!

Corn stalks in foreground, El Picacho mountain in background

Besides being thankful for my loving and supportive family, wonderful friends (both old and new), dedicated and encouraging blog readers (Yes, you!), I’m extremely grateful for having the privilege of living among people whose ancestors first cultivated corn in this beautiful valley.

2 turkeys

“love
iz
a
big
fat
turkey
and
every
day
iz
thanksgiving”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

Now off to the kitchen to make the stuffing.  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

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