Just before Mexico's Independence Day holiday, a spur-of-the-moment email ("Show me real Mexican food, show me your part of Mexico!") from a fan inspired a whirlwind Mexico Cooks! morning tour of Morelia's Mercado Independencia and an afternoon visit to Pátzcuaro. Jeffrey Jones, in Mexico City for a business conference, hopped on a bus and arrived in Morelia on Saturday evening. We met at ten o'clock on Sunday morning and were off and running for the day.
Touring Pátzcuaro is second nature to me. I am always overjoyed to show its pleasures to someone who has never experienced them: the entrance to town, lined by huge eucalyptus and cedar trees; two bustling plazas, the daily market, the Museo Regional de Artes Populares, Doña Ofelia's corundas for breakfast, the several glorious 16th Century churches, extraordinary crafts to purchase, nieve de pasta (almond and honey ice cream) under the portales, and Super Pollo Emilio's enchiladas placeras for supper.
Once in a while, Mexico Cooks! is surprised and delighted by a new discovery in long-familiar location. Not only had we never seen this traditional way of making pine garland, we'd never even heard of it. To say that we were absolutely floored is putting it mildly.
Using huinumo (the Purhépecha word for pine needle), machetes, coarse twine, and a tool made for twisting, a few men worked to create 1000 meters (that's over 3900 feet, for you who are metrically challenged) of pine garland to adorn all four sides of Plaza Don Vasco de Quiroga.
Mexico Cooks! chatted with some Pátzcuaro natives while we all watched this process. All of them were as open-mouthed with awe as I was. Lifelong residents of the area, none of these people had ever seen guirnalda (garland) made from these simple components.
The gentleman supervising the work assured me that no trees were harmed in the collection of these millions of pine needles. "We don't take them all from just a few trees. We're very careful to take some from here, some from there, so that the trees don't miss them at all. The process is ancient, and the trees still thrive."
Next, a man walks from one end of the pine needles to meet another man walking from the other direction. While he walks, the wooden tool (in the right hand of the man in the white hat) spins to fasten the needles between the lower twine and the upper twine.
Jeffrey was so taken with the process that he filmed it. He graciously allowed me to publish his video on Mexico Cooks!. Thanks, Jeffrey!
View the video: Pine Needle Garlands
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