Joy Goes to Zumba Class: ‘Exercise that’s a Party’

Zumba is basically Latin Dance aerobics. Cumbia, salsa, calypso, reggaeton, and some hip-hop/jazz/disco moves, too. I never twisted my torso so much in one hour. It was FUN!

Fortunately, I was not the lame gringa, and was able to keep up with my peers in class. And everyone was sweating and panting. But one profound difference between me and my Mexican dancemates? They stay tan, and I turn red. I kept joking “estoy como un jitomate!!!” so they didn’t worry that I was going to pass out in the middle of a back-step.

For a more visual explanation, watch this video. (I love the Midwestern accents in this “Today Show” profile of zumba — hilarious to yo, who attends zumba class in Mexico and must keep up with all the espanol!).

And here’s just a straight up workout (that’s bilingual! yay!), if you’d like to give it a try…(I struggled most with the spinny move they do at 1 min 40 seconds into the video.)

Things I Like about Going Home to South Texas

In a week, I head up north to South Texas for a full week. I love going to visit, it’s so relaxing. After living in NYC and now Mexico City, it’s like an escape to another, calmer world. Some things I like:

  • iced tea served everywhere, and refilled frequently
  • migas breakfast plates (scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, tomatoes and crushed up tortilla chips, served with refried beans and super-thick, warm flour tortillas)
  • the wide, quiet streets & overall lack of traffic
  • spicy, smoked beef jerky
  • the warm air, the high humidity and the gusty winds – always occurring together, always bad for hair.
  • the smell of the salt grass on the sand dunes of Padre Island
  • plush carpeting in my parents’ house
  • jalapeno hush puppies

Things I love even more now that I have lived in Mexico City for a year:

  • (relatively) safe tap water and ice
  • people who speak English
  • giant drugstores like CVS
  • breakfast burrito bars at gas stations
  • cops who are basically trustworthy
  • Old Navy and Target and Ross Dress for Less and all the oh-so-cheap clothes/shoestores.
  • anything you could ever need is at HEB


We saw one of Mexico’s most fantastic musicians last night, Julieta Venegas, who puts on a great show.

I especially enjoyed her duet with special guests, like Juan Son. Sometimes compared to Bjork, he’s quite the creative one (he wore a big shirt that looked like a giant slice of pizza and ran on stage late, fiddling with his microphone.)

She also played with Natalia Lafourcade, who didn’t dress like a duck onstage, but you can see the video regardless:

No Mas? Beloved Old-School VW Beetles in Mexico City

My father-in-law couldn't resist the lure of the vocho taxi and snapped this great shot.

My father-in-law took this great shot of a VW on the Eje Central near chocolateria el morro.

It’s with a somewhat sad heart that I read this: Mexico City set to kick out Volkswagen Beetles

I’ve always loved how Mexico City (and many cities of Mexico) are crawling with old-style VW beetles. As a pre-teen, I used to fantasize that my first car would be a red convertible VW bug. (That or a baby blue Jaguar. Teens are fickle). There’s something inherently cute and comical about them, and they definitely fit right into the Mexico City psyche — cheap, compact, efficient, noisy.

But it’s that noisy part that’s bad — those engines in the “vochos” (as they’re called here and also spelled “bocho”) are bad for the environment and not remotely fuel-efficient. So the city is planning to replace the vocho taxis with newer models. Proudly, I have already done my part for posterity — I’ve ridden in a taxi VW beetle in Mexico City not once, but twice.

It would be so cool if they auctioned ’em on eBay. A girl can dream, no?

My favorite VW Beetle I’ve spotted so far in Mexico:

It's a stretch bocho!

It's a stretch vocho!

Boozy Times: Drinking Pulque with Tepoztecatl

A mural showing how pulque is made, at a museum in Tlaxcala.

A mural showing how pulque is made, at a museum in Tlaxcala.

Mexico has at least four major alcoholic beverages to its credit:

Like tequila and mezcal, pulque (pool-kay) is made from the fermented juice of the maguey, a type of agave (which is NOT a cactus but a big aloe vera-like plant — and a classic symbol of Mexico. We even own one.) These plants grow into giant monsters, by the way. Sotol is made from a yucca-like desert plant.

Until last weekend, I had not tried pulque. It made me a little nervous. Why? Brendan tried it not long after we moved here, and declared the texture “similar to snot” (think: aloe vera gel). And most traditional pulquerías are kind of dirty and gross — the pulque is ladeled out of big plastic buckets and the conditions are not exactly what you might call sanitary.

Yeah, not selling points for Joy. But to not try pulque is pretty lame for someone who lives in Mexico. So I had slowly been working up my nerve.


For a long time, this was a drink of the poor. Originally, before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, it was a fancy traditional drink for the Aztecs and other Mexican cultures. Tepoztecatl, in fact, was the god of pulque, drunkenness, and fittingly, fertility. Then, once the indigenous people were treated to hundreds of years of brutality by the Spanish, their favored drink started to disappear and thrived only in a few, shabby pulquerias.

In recent years, pulque has made somewhat of a comeback, as college students here in Mexico make it fashionable to drink pulque. As a result, there are now sanitized pulquerias perfect for leery patrons like me. Pulqueria La Tia Yola in Tlaxcala was upscale, clean, cheery. I ordered a flavored pulque made with pine nuts. Brendan got the pistachio.

I'm drinking my pulque out of the traditional green-glass vessel.

I'm drinking my pulque from the traditional green-glass vessel.

How was it?

Fortunately — very fortunately — it was not snot-like. More like sipping a watery yogurt (Brendan, who now considers himself a pulque expert after having tried it exactly one more time than me, branded Tia Yola’s pulque “weak.”) It tasted healthy, which is a strange feeling when you’re in a bar.


Overall, I’m not exactly eager to try it again, but am glad I worked up the nerve to tie one on with Tepoztecatl.


A saying about pulque -- basically, that pulque drinkers first turn a little red like a turkey, then you're all chatting and animated, like a monkey, then you're an over-aggresive lion..and lastly, a pig.

Viva Mexico – Feliz Dia de Independencia!

Tomorrow is Mexico’s Independence Day. Tonight is the fiesta grande, with almost every community holding its own special celebration. In every village, a local leader will come out on a balcony and scream el grito

¡Vivan los heroes que nos dieron patria! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Hidalgo! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Morelos! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Allende! ¡Viva!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros! ¡Viva!
¡Viva nuestra independencia! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Mexico! ¡Viva!

This has been tradition for almost 200 years.

Tlaxcala was in full party preparation mode this weekend, and tonight we’re headed to Coyoacan for a special dinner (and yep, I’m having chiles en nogada!) and festivities. Across the country flag vendors are out and about…

There's one of these on practically every corner in Mexico City right now!

These vendors are all over Mexico City.

The federal government building in Tlaxcala.

The federal government building in Tlaxcala.

A Visit to Mexico’s Tiniest State: Tlaxcala

About two hours east of Mexico City is Tlaxcala, Mexico’s tiniest state, and its capital goes by the same name. We took the bus there (via ATAH bus company, which leaves from the TAPO bus station on the east side of the city) and stayed at the Hotel Alifer, which is pretty basic but has a nice view of the city.

The view inside the Museo de Tlaxcala.

The view inside the Museo de Tlaxcala.

We climb up the stairs to a church on a hill (seems like every town in Mexico has one -- a church on a hill).

We climb the stairs to a church on a hill (seems like every town in Mexico has a church on a hill).

Brendan enjoys the view from the top.

Brendan enjoys the view from the top.

A traditional dancer's cape at the folk art museum.

A traditional dancer's cape at the folk art museum.

I try my pulque for the first time (more on that later in the week!)

I try pulque for the first time (more on that later in the week!)

We danced the cumbia to a Nortena band (Banda Maguey!) in the centro.

We danced the cumbia to a Nortena band (Banda Maguey!) in the centro. As you can see, the town is all dressed up -- tomorrow is Independence Day.