This post is also available in: EspañolBy: Emmanuel Prieto
Without a doubt, things always end up happening the last way we imagined. September 15th was starting off to be a terrible day away from my family and friends, with an enormous nostalgia for Mexico that overcame me throughout the day and guided me to get up much earlier than usual. I toured the Balneario Camboriú Market (named after the town in Brazil where I live now), buying ingredients to prepare Mexican dishes.
In the afternoon I decided that I was going to celebrate the holiday in my own way. I bought a Mexican beer that, although not my favorite, was a good starting point. After lunch, I told all of my local friends that today was the Independence Day of Mexico, and that this year was the bicentennial anniversary. I boasted about Mexico with a big smile on my face, talking about how amazing the cuisine is. And I explained to my friends that despite the uncertainties facing the country right now, Mexico is a unique places that is full of customs, folklore, and tradition that are worthy of celebration and keep many people happy throughout the hardships and adversities.
In the short time that I have been here in Brazil, I’ve realized how important Mexican snacks are to me. Of all of the things that I love about where I come from, I think I miss the snacks the most. Of course, I would love to eat an elaborate meal like Chiles en Nogada, or visit Dulce Patria, the new restaurant of Master Martha Ortiza Chapa, (congratulations all the way from Rio de Janeiro, by the way!). Nonetheless, I now see the true value in dishes like sopes, chalupas, tostadas, tlayudas, tlacoyos and all of the others. They should not be judged, as their simplicity is a part of their charm. And best of all is how universal these dishes are– anyone can prepare them and have them as a snack. The taste, the combination of ingredients, the sauces, cheeses and added ingredients all make them so special, and after the true fortune to have travelled outside of the country where I was born, I am more proud than ever of my nation’s cuisine.
I finished preparing the Mexican dishes that I was eager to share with my coworkers on this special day. Unfortunately, there were no green tomatoes in the area that I live in, so I was unable to make a traditional green salsa. Instead, I made a red salsa with the so-called “chilies” here that, I must say, do not compare to the chilies that you can find throughout Mexico. The markets in Mexico are full of serrano, jalapeño, ancho, chile de arbol, and habanero peppers, among many others that make up the countless chili varieties of the country. I can tell you that all of my friends and coworkers were fascinated with the dishes that I prepared. I also made molletes with the obligatory pico de gallo sauce. They said they lost their minds over how good the food was. After their reaction to these snacks I think they might even make a statue of me the day that I make them chilaquiles.
After a very nice meal, I invited them to watch the parade in Mexico City with me after work. Thankfully, we had access to an international television network that was playing every minute of the celebration– the parade, the concerts, the uprising of El Coloso (which caused me a lot of problems because my friends kept asking me who he was), the fireworks, and finally el grito (“the cheer”). Of course, with the time difference, it was already two in the morning when this was happening, and to prevent my friends from falling asleep or getting bored, like any good Mexican celebration we opened a bottle of tequila that we drank between our cheers of “Viva Mexico!” with feelings of celebration and nostalgia.
Things, without a doubt, always happen in the last way we had hoped for, and never as we imagined. What I thought was going to be a terrible September 15th spent thousands of kilometers from Mexico, ended up being an unusual experience full of joy, flavor and tradition. I thought I would be sad and nostalgic on this date, but the reality is that regardless of the consequences of the tequila we drank and the little rest we got, the traditions, taste, celebration and love for Mexico that we carry inside is so big that we can share it and spread it in any corner of the world. It would be a lie to say that I did not feel a little jealous when I found pictures of my friends celebrating as I browsed social networks. The pictures of party, colors, lights, cheers and celebration made me long to be there for a moment. However, a smile grew on my face as I reflected on where the biggest carnival in the world is celebrated…
From Camboriú, with love,