Oaxaca and Mezcal

 

IMAG2351last March I went to Oaxaca City for a wedding, no big deal, it was my second time in that beautiful city, but this weekend I committed myself to get to know a little bit more of this amazing place in the southwest-centre-ish part of Mexico.

First things first, I took a bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca on a Friday. A bus trip surprisingly enjoyable, I must say.

I traveled with ADO as my bus carrier at the 23 hrs service to Oaxaca City, leaving from the Central del Norte (the Northern Bus Terminal in Mexico City), costing around USD25 to 45. The terminal was super crowded as it was prior a long weekend, but nothing to worry about.

We arrived to Oaxaca around 7 am, and from the bus terminal in Oaxaca it takes you no more than a 25 minute walk to get to pretty much anywhere in the city. And believe me, anywhere in the city, so if you are only carrying a backpack, well, before getting to your hotel  go and explore a little.

 

For instance, from the bus terminal to Oaxaca City’s main square (commonly known as Zocalo), it’s about a 20 minute walk, but a taxi could take you there in 5 minutes for USD$3.

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At the wedding there were plenty of friends from my hometown, Tampico, it was very interesting to see all these lads in this part of the country. The wedding’s reception was on that very day, at Tule, Oaxaca, a wee town located 9kms East of the city. Santa Maria del Tule is famous for a tree that lives there, according to a lot of studies, this tree could be up to 3,000 years old, 14 metres in diameter, and often referred to as the “Tree of Life”. IMAG2303Then, we finally got the Hacienda for the celebration, found my table and decided to enjoy a magnificent feast. As entré we had pork crackling, longaniza and Oaxaca cheese, while each table had at least two bottles of mezcal, which was “silky-smooth”, simply beautiful.

As a main we had mole negro (black mole), a typical local dish, which by the way, is the  Pièce de résistance in Mexican cuisine, and the most representative of Oaxaca’s gastronomy.

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On Sunday I woke up craving some market food after a wedding with plenty of mezcal, well, Oaxaca had just the right place for me: the Juarez and 20 de noviembre markets.

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There I had a quesadilla with pumpkin flower and a tlayuda with chorizo. Both markets were loud and alive, like any other market in Mexico, however, the ambiance was different as the aromas were unique and, regardless of the new look the food stands had,the cooking technique used there was refined as a result of years of experience.

Oaxaca City seems to be the right place where to go for a weekend off, a peaceful town where to forget, at least for a couple days, the loud and over polluted Mexico City. I highly recommend it, it has awesome food, great weather, but most of all, it gives the tourist a broader insight of Mexican identity and ethnicity.

Cheers…

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5 Types of Leadership – Why it Matters

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Leadership matters, because it’s a skill we develop thanks to three important influences in our lives: education, personality and challenges.

Education gives you the theoretical framework to evaluate each situation, teaches you to look around for solutions and implement a problem-solving flowchart in your head. Personality provides the attitude to face any particular challenge, and to evaluate how capable you are to resolve it efficiently on your own or helped by others. And the challenges you’ve faced in life take you to an empirical framework that leads to certainty, which is useful in order to resolve difficulties and problems with a structure.

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This said, there are at least five types of leaderships that use education, personality and challenges you’ve faced differently: i) Laissez-Faire, ii) Autocratic, iii) Participative, iv) Transactional, v) transformational.

I’d like to go and explain briefly each of them, and later I’ll tell you which one I think I’ve developed, and the one I considered, nowadays, very obsolete and negative.

i) Laissez-Faire

This person pretty much doesn’t give a crap about what the team is doing or planning. Confides the strategy in a very experienced group of people that needs close to zero supervision. He doesn’t get involved.

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ii) Autocratic

This guy is a jerk, just as an example, the Cuban government or the North Korean dictatorship represent this kind of leadership. An autocratic leader pretty much does as he wishes without considering others. He is extremely against creativeness, common sense and rewarding great performance.

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iii) Participative

This guy values the team’s opinion and everyone’s perspective counts. This keeps the group motivated and keen to do their best in order to collaborate to find a solution. He or she makes the team members to come together, as part of a bigger plan, focused on delivering great decisions and strategies for amazing projects.

See? They are happy and celebrating with paper planes and stuff! Yeah!

iv) TransactionalBvQXa4ECEAIUdOS

This is a more traditional approach on leadership, this person performs as a supervisor of a few, driving his team on a scheme of punishments and rewards. So, the goals are set, and the employee has to accomplish those goals in order to be rewarded, if not, a punishment is expected. Usually employees do just enough, not looking for a reward, but trying more to avoid any kind of negative outcomes.

v) transformational

Finally, this lad pretty much likes showing off, but still, makes enough of an impact within his team to motivate them to perform above average. He requires a lot of the organization and high management’s support.

So, in the end, I reckon that, thanks to the great mentors I’ve had, the experience I’ve gathered and the places I’ve been, plus, the variables we already mentioned, I’m a very participative leader.

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My mission in life is to serve as a guide to my team, as a mentor, as a person that will encourage them to become better professionals, and more knowledgeables of their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. My goal is to boost my team’s productivity, making them feel important and relevant to the main objectives of the company. Because my team matters, and success is only achieved by teamwork and positive attitude.

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What about the Autocratic leader? Well, we ought to know how to identify this kind of “leadership” right away, as sometimes, it doesn’t encourage a productive environment. The Autocratic pursues a selfish goal of protagonism and power, their contribution to the group is weak, and their manners lack the basic “Thank you” and “please”, which seems forgotten in their vocabulary.

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I usually deal with this kind of leader with empathy, kindness, listening and a good attitude. Remember: smile. It confuses those around you.

What kind of leader are you? But the real question I reckon is: What kind of these types of leaderships will encourage you to become a better person? What would you like to be for others, just a boss, or a mentor?

A Top Morning Routine to Boost your Day

My mate Gabriel recently posted about things that he does in order to be more productive every day. His post “My Ideal Morning Daily Routine” was inspiring, so here I am, brainstorming.

While I was reading his list I did a mental exercise regarding the things I also do to get my day started. It wasn’t simple, but this morning, everything got clearer.

First things first, I stretch. Indeed, I put my yoga mat on the floor and I do a good 15 mins of old fashioned stretching. It clears my mind, brings plenty of oxygen to my lungs and it counts as exercise, right?

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Then I make my bed, it serves as my first “let’s solve something” task of the day. Recently there was a “scientific” post being shared around the web that tidying up your bed was actually not recommended and leaving your blankets and sheets all scrambled was  good for you. Well, screw that, I love coming back from work and finding a clean tidy bed waiting for me.

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Perfection

Then, the most important thing of the day, the one and only drink that indeed puts my day in motion: COFFEE. Enough said.

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If it’s a work day I check my email, personal and from work. For me it’s a must to glance at my Twitter TL to see how the day is coming. This is mostly done while I´m having coffee, looking through the window at the people walking down the street, rushing to get in time to their jobs.

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I shower (but of course I do)

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Not actual shower

Then, after all this happens, I go for a good walk.

Since I recently got hired at a new company, my workplace is about a 40 minutes walk from my place. This is my daily exercise and it boosts my day up. Walking intensely for 40 minutes somehow cheers me up, and while I do this I think about all the things I have to do, about my life, my goals, my family and friends, my fears and accomplishments, I talk to myself, and I get self-motivated to become a better person than I was the day before.

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Not my actual way to work…

So, by the time I get to the office and sit down in order to start “formally” answering emails and doing my best, I’m already keen to make the best out of this day.

This is so far how my morning looks every day. If you have your own way to boost your mornings, a certain routine that makes you more productive, please share it with the world, it should include at least two cups of coffee, black, 1 sugar.

Ps. It’s a shame what happened in Belgium and Turkey, it’s a shame, but that’s how this world struggles every day. If you feel like it makes a difference, go ahead and put a filter to your profile picture, c’mon, be my guest.

Ps2. Also breakfast, I mean, it’s important, but that’s part of a different list, I reckon.

Mexican Matriarchy and Gender Equality

The following is a social stance regarding gender inequality. 

I was born in a matriarchy, meaning that for the rest of my life women in my family will govern or influence my path. They gave me the illusion of free will and self determination, but, as Mexican women are, they were wisely pulling the strings of my life in order to become a good man.

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As for me, I was taught to look for strong and confident role models. And those role models my family thought were inspiring weren’t those of the stereotypical man obsessed with money and power, or the lad of many women, nor the bloke looking for an alcoholic enraged fight at a local bar.

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My role models were diverse and uncommon, honest and more realistic. As an International Studies graduate, names like Helen Clark (NZ), Rigoberta Menchu (Guatemala), Elena Poniatowska (French-Mexican), Frida Kahlo (Mexico), Vivian Malone Jones (USA), Margaret Thatcher (UK) and more recently, Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan), come to mind along with the names of other leaders and relevant international figures of modern human history.

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Strong women have been seen as a threat to the Mexican Macho culture, just because women are supposed to be submissive and mere decorative, devoted to her family, solely.

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I remember overhearing conversations where an independent women, or a working mother would be judged and blamed for her husband’s unhappiness, or that her entrepreneurship desires will become a cause of divorce, or the reason her husband went looking for a “better woman” (justifying infidelity seems like a standard in gender unequal societies).

Nowadays, I’m glad to see that many of my female friends have fought and worked for better jobs, better salaries, respect among their peers, and a more balanced family life. As for my male friends, most of them, not lucky enough to been raised in a family like mine, struggle with this “new” dynamic.

I don’t call myself a feminist, I’m more of an Egalitarian, where “equality reflects the nature state of humanity”. Hence, gender equality is something I value, whilst strongly disagreeing with gender roles, objectification of women, or gender discrimination.

Gender-Inequality 2014The point of the above is pretty clear, I’ll do my best to nurture and strengthen a more egalitarian society, while respecting each individual decision to make this place a better place for us and our descendants. Because, in the end, the expenses of living in this planet should be shared by both genders, the responsibility of raising children ought to be of both parents, and the possibilities of professional development must be the same for everyone.

Now, I leave you with the first part of a poem written centuries ago by an important Mexican poet (FYI):

“You Foolish Men” – Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (New Spain), 1651-1695

“You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame…”

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Continue reading here

Ps. Ohhhhh, and Princess Leia (Alderaan)

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“I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain”

 

 

2016 Resolutions

As a matter of fact, I did my research, and according to the “New Years Resolutions Act” of 1904, you have until the last week of January to publish your resolutions for the ongoing year.

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My biggest concern was, of course, not having a clear mind and the right amount of ambition to enlist what I really wanted to accomplish this 2016. First, going through my last year’s resolution post, I realized of how much I did and how my accomplishments improved my life and opinion about myself.

So, let’s get started, shall we, and please, if you feel I should add something to this list, well, I’m all ears.

Traveling

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I´m going to travel more, no questions asked. For one sole reason, I reckon that in life you should invest more in experiences rather than material things. But you knew that because you read plenty of that motivational literature you love to glance at while waiting in line at the supermarket, am I right? Where should I go now? I´m thinking Colombia, Panama, Belize, and, perhaps, California.

Comedy

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There’s only one thing missing there

This year is the year I’ll finally find the courage to take a stand-up comedy class. Maybe one day I’ll put my videos on youtube, you know, saying rubbish about non-important stuff, and making people laugh. That’s the dream.

Cooking challenge

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As on February I’ll announce my own Mexican cooking challenge. I’ll cook 31 traditional dishes from the 31 states of Mexico. I will be posting the recipes, pictures and step by step instructions, as well as uploading videos, so one day I will become famous, like Gordon, or Jaime! Hell yeah! Or at least this will serve as a good way to document my country’s diverse cuisine.

Savings

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I’m aiming to save up to USD10,000 this year. This number won’t sound as much to you, but I´m Mexican and this represents a considerable amount.  What will I do with this money? Don’t know yet, but maybe I’ll spend it on traveling, abroad investments or an upfront payment for a property here in Mexico. Who knows, it is just money, you know?

Well, those are this year´s resolutions, let’s see how the first half of this 2016 develops. In the meantime, my advise to all of you is simple: Be nice to others, take bullshit from no one, be kind to your loved ones, and smile a lot, there’s always a reason.

Time…

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As you know, time is a priceless asset, we ought to take care of it and do the best with the time we got here.

So far I reckon I’ve done my best to enjoy my time here. These have been interesting days, and I usually don’t tend to share these sort of thoughts openly but…

  • I’m glad my dad had almost fully recovered from the stroke he suffered
  • I’m certain that adversity had brought my family closer together, we are now much stronger and caring for each other
  • I’m happy for the new challenges I’ve brought to my professional life
  • I’m smiling because I keep on dreaming and following these dreams
  • I’m motivated because I’m surrounded by amazing people every day, my family, my friends, and colleagues
  • I’m healthier and accomplishing my fitness goals
  • I’m at peace with my past

I’m happy and keen, can’t wait for whatever is next, I’m ready.

I don’t know about you, but discouragement is not an option, so, embrace what’s left of your time here and make the best out of it.

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Ps. The World Health Organization recently published a research stating that processed meat causes certain types of cancer… I have one thought about it: I REGRET NOTHING

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Double Standards and Human Rights

On the second week of September, a picture taken by Kerstin Langenberger went viral as it showed a really skinny polar bear. This is the picture everybody was talking about:

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Sad looking image, and as it has been said by scientists and the international community, global warming is a real threat, regardless of the sceptics who keep on cherry picking information to justify the argument that this isn’t more than a conspiracy theory.

Global Warming 2

“I felt total pity. What a horrible sight! “We all love the bears, I don’t think there’s anyone who does not feel sympathy for them. Seeing a bear on the brink of death is a horrible sight, no question about it.” said Kerstin to Daily Starfish

Friends of mine posted this picture on their social networks, with quotes like: “This really makes me sick” or “This is so sad, and this happens very often and most of us are just indifferent to this outrage”. Must be said that the social media activists reacted immediately to the picture, with anger, sadness, broken hearts, disappointed on humankind.

Anyway, so that was that, and this is this: On Wednesday dozen of pictures of dead Syrian refugees started to be shared by the international media. These refugees drowned close to the coasts of Europe, where their bodies were found on the shores of Turkey, in front of the resort Bodrum.

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According to The Guardian they were part of a group of at least 12 Syrians that were trying to get to the Greek island of Kos. They were running away from the military conflict held in the Syrian town of Kobani, where ISIS and the Kurdish forces struggle in a fierce battle.

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As said by The Guardian: “The UNHCR calculates that some 205,000 Europe-bound refugees have entered Greece, mostly via its outlying Aegean isles, this year alone. The vast majority (69%) are Syrians, Afghans (18 %), Iraqis and Somalis fleeing conflict in their countries.”

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The Greek government states that this is the biggest migration crisis in living memory. So, there you go, 200,000+ have fled these middle eastern and northern African States, willing to risks their lives to find a better place, or at least, one less worse. But social media, and Western Society aren’t willing to share their thoughts on this, nor to express their concern towards other human beings. We rather “feel sick” and say “shame on you, humankind” because of a starving polar bear, than to love and care for our neighbours.

How are we going to “save the planet” if we aren’t capable of helping our own kind?

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5 Tips to Become a Better Person

1 “Please” and “Thank you” 

Don’t be an arse, so every time you ask for a favour don’t forget to say please. Personally, I do remember those who kindly ask for my help or assistance. If you are under a lot of stress and you ought to get something from someone and you just forgot to ask politely, after you have finished, come back and nicely acknowledge his/her help. And always, always, always, say thank you.

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2 Help people out

You don’t need to go all “Mother Teresa” about this one, just be kind. Last Saturday I went for a long walk, I usually walk 3 kms from my place to my favourite taco stand (Hey, it’s a great 6km workout!) and out of the sudden I heard a wobbling sound, turns out a truck got a flat tire. I signaled the driver, he pulled over, as soon as I noticed that flat tired I knew I wanted to help him out to change it. Helping others is awesome, it feels good, it’s rewarding, and for me, every time I do something good for somebody else I know I’m getting some extra Karma points.

"You can do it!"

“You can do it!”

3. Call your family 

Yes, you owe them big time, they have put up with your craziness, literally, all your life, so give your parents and siblings a bloody call. Since my dad had a stroke I’ve been calling home more frequently than before, just to hear my mum and dad’s voices, to tell them I love them, to talk about life, about food (obviously) and just to tell them how proud I’m of them.

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4. Cook for others 

I know, that’s my passion and I love cooking, but,  without hesitation, doing something from scratch, like cooking, writing or crafting, that was meant for others, feels good. When I cook for my mates I think about what they might be craving, what they like and enjoy; I become extra careful with those details, I want them to have an amazing experience based on what I’ve crafted for them.

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5. Smile

Because, it sounds like a cliché, but when you smile, the world smiles with you. Give it a try, if you begin your day as an optimistic person, smiling at those who interact with you, suddenly something amazing will happen, it’s call mirroring, people will smile back at you. Smiling boosts your optimism, and let me tell you a secret, it confuses your enemies.

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There you go, give it a try, you can put all these advices to work today, tell me how it goes, or not.

Cuba and the US – The Musical

The relationship among the US and Cuba is in its course to full improvement and complete restoration. Today the US flag flies again on the Cuban sky, at the same time John Kerry, Secretary of State, arrives to Cuba to reopen their diplomatic representation in the island.

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John Kerry greets the islanders with a message of optimism and solidarity, with a very promising statement given to Univision recently: “More people will travel. There will be more exchange. More families will be reconnected. And hopefully, the government of Cuba will itself make decisions that will begin to change things.”

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“Cuba Libre? Yes please”

Must be said that this moment was certainly led by plenty of good will meetings, most of them arranged by the Vatican, specifically the Pope, Francis 1st.

As the bilateral relations settle, the investors will find their way into Cuba, and plenty of economist and financial analyst outline the fertile land ahead for entrepreneurs, but I can´t help to wonder that we are in front of two different Cubas. One, befriending the US (and all what is involved with the US abroad), and another where Fidel is seen with Maduro and Evo Morales, hanging out, unaware that the “empire” has reopened its franchise right in the heart of Cuba.

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As for the island, Cuba will have to reconfigure not only its immigration and economic borders, but its political doors as well. It is well known that the Cuban community living in Florida can’t wait to reclaim what is theirs, and are willing to expand and strengthen their sphere of influence into the island, waiting for the Castro family to weaken.

About Guantanamo Bay, well, the Pope had to be a hell of a negotiator to leave that topic pretty much untouched and barely addressed by the Cubans.

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As Huffington Post recently summed up: 

  • Cuba wants the United States to end its economic embargo of the island, return the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba and halt radio and television signals beamed into Cuba.
  • The Americans will press Cuba on human rights, the return of fugitives granted asylum and the claims of Americans whose property was nationalized by Fidel Castro’s government.

Overall, this is indeed a historic moment and, as a Mexican columnist wrote today, the “most democratic” country in the world restoring its diplomatic ties with the longest dictatorship in The Americas can´t go unnoticed.

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I’ll be going to Cuba this year, late November, with some awesome New Zealand friends, can´t wait to see how this event has evolved. Yet again, as an international relationships and human rights graduate, this is the “What if” that they used to teach us at university, now we are witnessing it.

Which I'm sure these lads never imagined their revolution would lead to this.

I’m sure these lads never imagined their revolution would lead to this.

Paella by Mexicans

As part of many things The Americas inherited from the Spanish settlers, I reckon, the most important one was new ingredients and cooking techniques. Not only we got some great Spanish recipes, but this “Mestizaje” resulted in new and thrilling cooking methods, the incorporation of exotic ingredients, flavours and textures. The The Latin American cuisine was born as a rich, exuberant,and voluptuous (I always wanted to use to that word to describe food, far out!) pallet of flavours and emotions.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

… Anyway, so, a few days ago, we decided not to go for the traditional Mexican dish, nor a North American craving (remember, we are from the north, close to the border with the US and A, so, aye, we love HEB and Texan massive portions), instead we went for freaking Spanish food.

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Why Spanish? Well, I’ve recently bought a “Paellera”, which is a special pan for paella, as shown bellow:

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I got the rice and the spices, then my youngest sis and I headed to the “San Juan” Market, which, I reckon, needs a post of its own, as it is an impressive place full of the most exotic ingredients, meats, veggies and a wide high quality charcuterie stands.

Colours... edible colours ...

Colours… edible colours …

Among other things we needed for the paella, we also went there to get the seafood, as northeast Mexicans from the Gulf of Mexico we do value fresh, high quality seafood. So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Utensils:

  • A 30 cms paellera
  • Cooking tongs
  • 1 medium size pot (for a 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock)
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • White piece of cloth

Ingredients (usually for a 4 to 6 people paella):

  • 600 grams of rice (preferable the “bomba” or “calasparra” variety)
  • 300 grams of chicken meat (I used chicken thighs, deboned)
  • 200 grams of pork in cubes (I recommend pork chops, deboned and leave some fat, always leave the fat)
  • 300 grams of large shrimps, skin and head on
  • 200 grams of white clams
  • 200 grams of squids (ask your vendor to clean them up before weighting them)
  • 100 grams of fried chopped tomatoes (I used two, and worked great)
  • 50 grams of sliced Spanish chorizo
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp of saffron
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ chopped onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock

Now what?

First, turn on the heat to meadium, on the paellera pour some olive oil (2 to 3 spoons are fine), level the paellera, you want to cook rice evenly, always. Next, throw in the pork and the chicken, you want to brown the outside of these meats before moving to the steaming process needed for the rice. Add the chorizo, the onions and the garlic, then the tomatoes, and the rest of the spices (saffron, paprika, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper).

Bomba-Rice

All set? Awesome, now, the secret of a great paella rests in the stock you use. Please, put as much love to make the stock as you do to prepare this paella. Oh well, screw it, you can buy chicken stock too, so anyway, where was I? Aye, put a good amount of large spoons of the stock in the paellera. As soon as the stock touches the hot pan your kitchen will be filled with amazing aromas, sounds and excitement (not the same sort of excitement we all felt while watching the first trailer of the upcoming Star Wars movie, but pretty close). Cover just half of the paellaera with the stock, let it boil.

Is it boiling now? Add the rice, distribute it nicely along the paellera, use your wooden spoon and distribute the hell of that rice, oh yeah, distribute it good… you are loving it aren’t you? Now pour more stock in it until you entirely cover the rice, lower the flame, and let it cook. Regarding the saffron, some put it while they stir-fry the meat, whilst others add it right after covering the rice with the stock. I used the first technique.

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Ok, so your rice is cooking, your stock is simmering, you’ve poured yourself a good glass of Tempranillo (because cooking and drinking is always mandatory), now, what’s left? Oh right, the seafood! Start arranging the shrimp, squid and clams in the paellera. Gently push the ingredients into the rice, they’ll cook fast, that’s the reason we didn’t cook them with the meat at the beginning. Pour a little bit more of that stock, you don’t want to burn your rice (unless you like socarrat, which is super delicious).

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At the last phase, when you notice the rice is almost ready, the seafood cooked (just check if the shrimps turn into that lovely pink colour) turn off the heat and cover the paella with that white piece of cloth you were wondering why I listed it in this recipe. Let it rest for good 15 minutes, it helps to settle and finishing cooking the rice.

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There you go, now take some nice pics, upload them to Instagram, use a nice filter, and share it with the rest of the world.

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Ps. Did you get the chance to watch the Republican debate yesterday? I didn´t, but it seems that Trump is doing his best to keep on surprising us. He is a jerk, but really popular, the lad might have a chance to compete against Hillary for the US presidency.

Ps2. Veracruz, that Mexican state in the shape of a wrinkled banana, by the Gulf of Mexico is now the one most dangerous places on earth for journalists. Javier Duarte, governor of that state, during an event with journalists warned them that the authorities knew which one of them were hanging out with the bad guys. Last Friday, Ruben Espinosa, photographer, allegedly threaten by Duarte’s administration, was found murdered in Mexico City. “Espinosa was the 13th journalist working in Veracruz to be killed since Governor Javier Duarte from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) came to power in 2011.” published The Guardian, regarding this event. Shame on you, Duarte.