An encore for ‘Magic Made in Mexico’

Here’s an update on my book… We’re going into a second printing! This review was posted on the Imagine Merida blog a couple of days ago.

An encore for ‘Magic Made in Mexico’

Posted by Imagine on July 4, 2011 in All Posts, News

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado’s “Magic Made in Mexico” is magical indeed.

I’m not alone in my opinion. Favorable reviews abound.

Further evidence of the book’s popularity: Reader demand has forced the publisher to re-ink the presses. “Magic Made in Mexico” is officially in its second printing. It’s also now available on Kindle.

“Magic Made in Mexico” works on a number of levels.

I bought it because I wanted to gain insight into the city’s culture and the nuances of its society. Mérida is also a stage for an epic love story, and for a series of life lessons about virtues like love, patience and faith — and the power to adapt.

If it were fiction, the story would be implausible, but it’s true, which makes this narrative all the more romantic.  The story begins more than 35 years ago when Joanna, an adventurous young tour guide from Canada, encounters a handsome young man and subsequently takes a tremendous leap of faith. They marry, and she finds herself with a new life and a new family, all in pre-NAFTA (pre-Costco, pre-Sears…) Mérida. What follows are stories of happiness, tragedy and triumph.

But the book also feels like a gift to any English-speaking person considering a move to Mérida. Seeing late-20th century social history of the city through her eyes is enlightening. (She is rightly described as “an insider with an outsider’s perspective.”) The author’s life in Mérida has been a success because she possessed the virtues we were all taught since childhood. Here we see what we miss when we forget how to adapt, how to be patient and how to listen.  It comes down to this: We can embrace the positive, or we can let negativity overcome us. This book demonstrates what’s possible on the high road.

The book in its present incarnation first came out in December 2010 and I bought a copy right away. I appreciated its escapist quality as I paged through during a treacherous January snowstorm. I found the author’s blog and sent my accolades, and I’m happy to say our correspondence continues six months later.

Occasionally you will find comments written by her on this blog. I consider her remarks major contributions to the dialog here. This blog is partly the result of Joanna’s encouragement. Eventually, I had the pleasure of meeting the Rosados at a social event in Mérida. You know how sometimes you get to know someone from a distance, but it’s a big let down when you finally meet face-to-face? I’m relieved to tell you that’s not the case here. Her writing reflects an authentic voice –  she is every bit the sweet and engaging person you’d come to expect.

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The Mole Men

Hey everybody… listen up! Rich, a blogger colleague is calling our attention to an extremely important cause. In the wake of Friday’s massive 8.8 earthquake, we have the opportunity to help send Los Topos – the Mole Men – to Japan. There, they’ll join other Mexican and international rescue teams after.

Many readers will not be familiar with this extraordinary group of men and women who appeared spontaneously after the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. It has been more than 25 years, but I remember those tragic days as though they happened yesterday…

At 7:20 am on Thursday September 19th, 1985 I had the TV news program Hoy Mismo turned on. But something seemed to be wrong with the screen – the enormous light fixture above the newscasters was swinging wildly. María Victoria Llamas, Lourdes Guerrero and Juan Dosal, the three anchor were whispering urgently to each other…

The last image I saw was the obviously terrified Lourdes Guerrero improvising… “It seems that we are experiencing tremors, but please don’t be frightened because we think that it will be just a small quake.”

We soon learned the transmission ended because a nearby ten story building had doubled over and crashed into a section of Televisa’s studios.  News quickly spreads that the quake measured 8.1 on the Richter scale.

As they seemed to do during every crisis, the government ordered a news blackout. But the magnitude of the disaster was so great; the majority of the media, including Televisa and TV journalists like the now famous, Lourdes Guerrero, disobeyed the edict. She appeared non-stop on Channel 2, a reassuring, comforting, consoling presence… The authorities did not address the situation at all for thirty-nine hours after the event.

When the they finally gave estimates of the number of casualties, they vacillated between seven thousand and thirty-five thousand people. Consequently, most of the populace believed that the true numbers could be as high as one hundred thousand.

Eighty percent of the earthquake damage was confined to four of the city’s neighborhoods and nearly all the buildings that collapsed were located in a zone that included Tlatelolco. Once again, a tragedy of unfathomable magnitude had hit the largest housing complex of the city. Two apartment complexes, the Conjunto Urbano Nonoalco Tlatelolco and the Multifamiliar Juárez along with another thirteen story building called Nuevo León, completely collapsed. In other edifices, terrified people, trying to escape, jumped from high windows to their death. Still more people became trapped in their stairwells, elevators and apartments without any way to contact the outside world. Lines of fifty to a hundred men passed rubble by hand and with buckets, trying to reach victims.

In the days after the quake, the military and police evacuated unsafe buildings and thousands had to sleep on the streets.

The area most severely damaged by the earthquake also had the highest concentration of hospitals. Patients were evacuated from the damaged medical facilities. Many were critically ill. In just four hours, one thousand, nine hundred patients were successfully moved without any deaths. Despite the loss of five thousand hospital beds, there was never a shortage of space for the injured because the public and private medical facilities completely cooperated during the crisis.

The first day, more than four thousand people were rescued alive from the rubble. Heavy machinery was not used at the site until five days after the earthquake. No one wanted to cause any cave-ins that might bury survivors. An amazing number were rescued up until ten days after the event. Most of the injured had contusions and suffered from dehydration.

After fifteen days had elapsed, only corpses were recovered, although one miraculous event was the unearthing of a man, still alive after more than a month buried under five stories of debris.

There was tremendous solidarity among the citizens of Mexico City. There were countless acts of heroism…La Brigada de Topos de Tlatelolco – The Mole Brigade of Tlatelolco was a group of young people who spontaneously volunteered to risk their lives, crawling into collapsed buildings to look for survivors. They had no equipment, training or knowledge of rescue tactics but they were instrumental in saving countless lives.

By far the most moving story to come after the earthquake was the Topos live rescue of nearly all the newborns in the nursery of one of the city’s largest public hospitals. They survived without nourishment, water, warmth or human contact for seven days.

Interviewed by the press, one of the Topos explained how they had been walking silently through the hospital wreckage when one of them heard a faint whimper. Immediately the entire group began digging – some with their bare hands. No one who was present or who watched the coverage of the rescue on TV will ever forget the sight of the scrappy, scrawny teenagers pulling baby after baby from the rubble…They became known as the “Miracle Babies of Hospital Juárez.” And the Topos became national heroes.

If you can help, with a little or a lot, you can make Direct Deposits within Mexico to:
Cuenta Santander: 92-00070929-4
Sucursal: 0479 San Fernando. Referencia: Brigada de Rescate Topos Tlaltelolco, A.C. CLABE: 014180920007092942

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A book event at the beach…

From the Yucatan Times : Tuesday March 1, 2011

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado, a woman well-known in the International community will present her book “Magic Made in Mexico” to Yucatan’s beach residents on Friday March 4th from 10:00 am to noon at “Mar-mex” on Calle 40 and 27, midway between Progreso and Chicxulub.

Joanna has resided in Merida for 35 years and has experience dealing with many sorts of issues.  She says that if asked to, she will discuss current events including the recent concerns brought forth by Internationals to the Yucatan Government.

These issues have created quite a stir within the community and need to be addressed with all concerned.  The book presentation will be a good opportunity to raise the issues that directly concern the integration of the International residents and the Mexican community, especially those in Yucatan.

Her recent tour for the promotion of her book took her throughout Mexico and even into Oaxaca during the recent protests that developed there.

Her experiences help her to discuss the current issues at hand.  The cooperation of each resident can bring about the betterment of Yucatan and all it`s residents.  She will use many examples that she has encountered in her travels through Mexico to support this idea.

Joanna`s opinion is highly regarded among the residents of Yucatan. Her background in teaching inspired her to write “Magic Made in Mexico” In her book you’ll read how to survive not only the climate in this State, but the everyday cultural clashes.

Anyone who wishes to live in the Yucatan will gain a lot of insight into the culture, the language, and how to cope with and without things that International`s are “used” to having access to.  Her specialized view into the hearts and minds of the Yucatecans has been gained through years of living side by side and hand in hand with these beautiful people.

Posted by Yucatan Times on Mar 2 2011

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A warm embrace in San Miguel

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A lovely day in Ajijic

Diane, Myself and Lorraine the - Sol Mexicano . Galeria del Arte owner

Today’s book presentation at Sol Mexicano – Galeria del Arte in Ajijic was great fun. Thanks so much to Lorraine, Diane and Patrick for setting everything up for me.

I look forward to returning to this lovely spot on the shore of Lake Chapala!

Those who were unable to make it to the event can purchase “Magic Made in Mexico” at the Ajijic gallery on Calle Colon Number 13. And while you’re there, I just know you’ll not be able to resist the temptation to buy some of the wonderful paintings, jewelery and decorative items at Sol Mexicano – Galeria del Arte

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Come hear about the book

This month I will be doing several book events in the central region of Mexico. I would be so pleased if you could attend one of them. Underneath the title “Magic Made in Mexico”, there are several subjects listed… open up “Coming Events” for information about the one nearest you.

On Saturday January 15th, I spoke with a large group at the Merida English Language Library. It was very interesting for me to find out what everyone had to say about living in Mexico and the challenges of cultural adaptation. As well as reading selected passages from my book, I led a few role-playing activities that those in attendance seemed to get a kick out of!

Merida’s international community is growing a lot. I asked what could be the cause for this.

The feeling amongst many of the participants is that living in Mexico allows them the opportunity to experience adventures they would not be exposed to in the places they come from.

*** “In Merida I’ve had the chance to attend the symphony and go to art galleries and see wonderful outdoor performances. All this was beyond my budget in the USA.

*** “Learning Spanish has not been easy for me but at my age, it’s good to be challenged a bit. I feel like I’m shapening my mind.”

*** “I’ve loved being a part of the renovation of my house. I’ve seen it turn from a ruin into my dream home.”

*** “People are so kind… Never before have I been in a place where everyone seems to really care about MY happiness.”

Recently, my daughter Maggie and I went to Santa Elena with a group a group of international students who are spending their winter semester at our college. Ten retired Canadians and Americans who live part-time or full.time in this area also came along.

Santa Elena is a contemporary Mayan village about 100 kilometers from Merida. Like most rural areas, there is an extreme shortage of employment and many are forced to relocate to Merida or even to other countries. In order to be able to stay in their community, the residents are developing  new ways to earn income.

“Walk the Maya Way” is a tour they have developed that shows visitors the Yucatecan countryside and a glimse into the way of life for the rural residents of Yucatan. As well, there is a group of women who sell the hand crafted items. Both of these activities have made a big difference to the home economy of several families in Santa Elena. It is hoped the project will continue to grow and give more residents the benefit of self-employment.

Returning on the bus to Merida, one of the young students said, “The families we visited look poor when you first see how they live. They don’t have a lot of the nice things we have. But they have a richness we don’t see so much… they seem so happy!”

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Shopping in the Market…

As the Holiday season gets into high gear, I’ve heard some concern about the difficulty of finding the “things I’m used to at Christmas time.” I thought you might enjoy reading an excerpt from the first part of “Magic Made in Mexico.”  When you’ve finished, you’ll realize that shopping in Merida has come a long way!

In the 1970s, what an adventure shopping was! My mother-in-law, Doña Bertha and I would head off four blocks up the street, each carrying two empty sabucanes – Maya for shopping bags. In Yucatán, Mayan words and expressions are used in everyday speech; just as Náhuatl ones pepper the central and northern Mexican lexicon. We’d always be greeted upon our arrival by a young boy, Manuelito, whose broad smile showed his excitement at seeing Doña Bertha. Out of the depths of her purse, she’d pull out a huge napkin-wrapped meat sandwich or some other food item. The poor boy would devour whatever she gave him. She’d smile and tell him to look for us again in an hour or so.

This is something my mother-in-law has successfully taught me—the importance of       kindness and charity. Doña Bertha could not tolerate seeing anyone in need. Her kitchen table often had hungry strangers sitting around it and she unfailingly made them feel like welcome guests.

The market excursion always began with her errands. Often she needed to pick up something from the shoemaker, the merchant who repaired metal pots, the lady who sold natural beeswax candles or the flower sellers. In the produce section, we bought onions, chilies, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, other vegetables and luscious fruits such as pineapple, papaya, marañon – cashew fruit (we make juice out of the fleshy fruit to which the nut is attached. The nut itself is encased in a thick skin and is poisonous until roasted) – and zapote – sapodilla, a native Yucatán fruit now grown world-wide in the tropics. Then we’d move on to the spices & herbs: achiote – annato – cilantro – fresh coriander leaves – yerbabuena – fresh mint, etc. She liked to purchase other ingredients like smoked ham, spicy sausage and beans or grains from a special marchante – a vendor in the market. Our last stop (my least-favorite) was to the meat, fish and fowl.

There, on display, lay whole fish with bulging eyes and red- red gills. A few stalls over were chickens hanging from poles with their heads still attached and entrails oozing out. Still further along slabs of pork, beef, and organ meats were laid on open counters and sometimes there would be venison or other game. The flies swarmed all over the place and the smell…¡Díos mío! Doña Bertha didn’t seem to take any notice of the blood and entrails, and I tried to be equally stalwart. However, it was extremely trying for me because I could see no evidence of refrigeration, or standards of cleanliness and food sanitation in the meat displays of the market. Doña Bertha claimed that as long as we bought early enough in the day, all would be well. She knew I wasn’t convinced that she was right but I had to admit no one ever got sick from any kind of food poisoning in her house.

Nonetheless, I seriously considered becoming a vegetarian and I certainly wasn’t going to buy any meat to take to my house. I would continue to patronize the butcher in the town’s one and only sizable supermarket. Fortunately, food handling has improved greatly since my early days in México. If I choose, I can now buy FDA approved cuts of meat at our nearby Costco! Eventually the meat ordeal would end, and at this point, our bags groaning, Manuelito would miraculously reappear. Doña Bertha would give him a few centavos and he would heft the bags in his two spindly arms and carry them to a waiting calesa. We’d get up into the horse- drawn taxi and clip-clop back to the house.

Do you want to read more? Under the header, you’ll find information about where you can purchase the book.

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