Proud to Join the M! Magazine Team!

12038127_1008170239214747_3588621137447150322_nWe have loved M! Magazine pretty much since we moved to Mazatlán full-time. It’s a great publication for tourists as well as locals, snowbirds and expats, providing a broad range of stories and insights. I very much respect Janet’s professionalism and editorial skills; she’s an incredibly talented, delightful person who has done so much for our local community, including via the magazine and the Farmers’ Market. Thus, I am proud to announce that I will have a monthly column in M! Magazine. October was my first issue, and my first column—on Mazatlán’s three islands in the bay—made the cover!


You can read Janet’s first column of the new season and her introduction to my column here.


Please join us at M!, and be sure to have your friends join us both there and on the blog, to learn what’s new and exciting in and around our gorgeous city.

The Importance of Roots


IndiaFest Milwaukee 2015

The life of an expat or immigrant involves integrating oneself and one’s family into a new home, while also maintaining ties to family and heritage. We all need roots to give us strength, help us grow lush and flexible. Thus, each summer, we do our best to return from our home in Mazatlán, México to Wisconsin, USA, where I was raised, to spend time with extended family and strengthen those root connections.

This weekend, we were looking for something to do with our nephew and his son—something that would be enjoyable for three generations of family. We read an ad on the internet that sounded too campy to be believed—in short, right up our alley: Bollywood and classical Indian dance, food, and the election of Mr/Miss/Mrs Wisconsin Indian…” Green Bay Packers and Bollywood dancers? Cheeseheads and rangoli-makers? It sounded like too good a combination to be missed! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slide show.

While we went to the third annual IndiaFest Milwaukee expecting to have fun, which we indeed did, the experience was so very much more than I expected. To witness these immigrants and expats maintaining their connections to their heritage, while we were doing the same, was a huge blessing. To watch my nephew dance on stage with a large portion of southeastern Wisconsin’s Indian-American community, to see the joy in my husband’s face as he wore a turban for an hour and spoke with local Sikhs about their experience, and to witness my great-nephew fall in love with chaat after having turned up his nose at it, was a privilege indeed.

I have written before on this blog about the pleasure I get learning how parents pass their traditions on to their children, and IndiaFest is no exception. We saw multigenerational families dressed in traditional garb. We ate our fill of homemade food. And we felt the swell of pride as parents and grandparents watched their youngsters sing and dance to classical and modern Indian songs.

IndiaFest was held on Saturday, August 15th—Indian Independence Day, which in 2015 happens to be the 69th anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain in 1947. It was held in Humboldt Park, Milwaukee.

Over 25 million Indians live abroad, according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. In contrast, the US State Department says only three to six million US Americans live overseas. My nephew and his family don’t even have passports, and friends and family in the States frequently ask us if we are still US citizens—they are so incredulous anyone born here would willingly choose to live outside the USA. The expertise of the Indian diaspora was evident on Saturday as we experienced the local Indian-American community’s talent at involving those of us who attended the festival in their culture, motivating us to feel joy at their presence in Wisconsin.

Empathy-building was perhaps best created in the innovative yet simple turban-wearing opportunity offered by a few Sikh men who had set up a booth with a dozen or so lengths of cloth. They encouraged festival goers to let them tie a turban on their head, and then wear it for an hour. My great nephew Caleb and husband Greg participated, learning about mesh—the Sikh religious practice in which men do not cut their hair or beards, to show respect for the perfection of God’s creation. They also learned that not all Indians wear turbans, as they saw several Indian men do so for the first time in their lives.

The free blood pressure tests offered by Muslim hospital staff were another subtle empathy builder. When I was a younger interculturalist, I often would mentally poo-poo festivals like this as fun, but as not having enough depth to build real intercultural competence or empathy. However, my family members don’t know much about India or Islam, and like most US Americans are sadly taught via the media and society to distrust those who are different than them. So, to see them talking and joking with, respecting and thanking, Muslim nurses who helped them, was powerful.

My personal favorite activity was the rangoli-making, that gorgeous folk art we see created in courtyards during festivals, using colored sand, flower petals or dyed rice. Rangoli have different names in the different regions of India—kolam, mandana, muggu, alpana, among others. These decorations are welcoming areas for the Hindu gods and are thus thought to bring good luck. At IndiaFest, the rangoli were drawn on tarps with colored sand and white salt.

Saturday was my first opportunity to watch a rangoli created from start to finish. I was fascinated at the three different styles used. Rohini had hers drawn on a piece of paper. First she set down a reddish orange background, and then “painted” over it with white. She was expert at using her hands and fingers to put down fine lines. When she crowned Ganesha in a way she didn’t like, she swept the sand aside with her hand and did it over. She was the first person finished.

Rohini put a swastika in her Ganesha design. I was really proud of Caleb (a high school freshman), because he knew the history of the swastika, its importance in so many Eastern spiritual traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism), its auspicious origins, and its appropriation and transformation into evil by the Nazis. A big shout-out for public education in Racine! Far too many westerners have no idea about this.

In contrast to Rohini’s rangoli, there were two women (sorry I failed to get their names) who worked together on theirs. They worked from a very rough, impressionistic sketch on paper, and began by using crayon and yarn like a compass, to draw concentric circles on the tarp. They then shook different colors of sand through a sieve, filling the center circle with blue, and creating a tie-dye effect in the outer circle. Once they filled the two circular areas, they drew designs in white on top of their blue and multi-hued backgrounds. They added in purple and blue circles surrounding all this at the end, and after drawing on it in white they finished their rangoli with various candles. If I were to choose a style of rangoli-making as my own, this would be it: highly spontaneous and emergent.

I was happy to see a man creating rangoli. Unlike the ladies who sketched their designs on paper, Hemendra had his design on his cell phone. He drew the design in crayon on the tarp, and then filled in background color around it. Like the ladies, he used a sieve to apply color, and also used his hands and fingers to draw fine lines of the design. Unlike the others, he used a stick and his fingers to “cut” designs into the colored sand, and he sprinkled colored sand over the top of the design as a final touch on his creation. Hemendra was very methodical, and the last to finish.

All three rangoli turned out beautifully!

No festival is complete without food, and there was plenty of it at IndiaFest! Our family ate non-stop, it seemed, from the time we got there to the time we left. Homemade Indian snacks, main dishes and drinks definitely helped us enjoy the hot afternoon.

Another activity we very much enjoyed was taking our family photo in front of a green screen. The guy charged us $10 and said he’d email us ten photos: our family in front of the Taj Mahal and in various other iconic Indian locations. How absolutely cool is that?! We haven’t yet received those photos, so I can’t share them with you here. There was also a guy selling bubble blowers to the kids, and I tried to get some photos of the bubbles, something that is always challenging. Below I share with you a couple.

We noticed so many commonalties between Indian and Mexican cultures, including the love of: family, joy, color, dance, visual arts, “bling,” makeup, food, music, and singing; respect for tradition and the embracing of modernity; the ease with which cultures, languages and religions are mixed; and the inclusive hospitality.

Words don’t suffice to extend my gratitude to the Indian-American community of southeastern Wisconsin. Thank you so very much for allowing my family this opportunity to feel “at home” in a community I grew up in, that you have helped make richer, more multicultural and inclusive. Thank you for teaching us and sharing with us as a family so generously. Happy Independence Day!

Part of the My Global Life linkup

Mazatlán in the World Series SemiFinals


Colt World Series’ Mexican National Team and host families as well as families

We won nationals; Mazatlán was first in all of Mexico.

We travelled 55 hours by bus to beat Vietnam. We beat Michigan and Lafayette, the host team. Czech Republic lost, as did Texas. We made it to the semifinals.

Today, 3-2, Puerto Rico bested us. We gave it our all. PR had played three games in five days, we’d played five. Their fielding was incredibly sharp; they’re good at the double plays. We played very well. César and Pedro both pitched wonderfully. Puerto Rico, however, well deserved the win. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Sadly, we are out. We congratulate PR. We congratulate all those who travelled so far to be here, as well as the host teams. We thank all the host families, two of whom have hosted for five years in a row! We thank the interpreters, and the local Mexican-American community, who showed up every day (till past midnight twice over) to cheer us on. Bless you!

5-year host family

5-year host family

Today we were visited by Larry, a Mazatlán snowbird for the past 12 years.


Only Puerto Rico’s cheering section rivaled ours, and they didn’t come close ;) Mazatlecos know how to make noise, how to party, and how to play baseball! And, we are all tired!

Job well done!

Puerto Rico will play in the championship tomorrow. We are not yet sure who they will be playing, but it will be either North Carolina or California.

The Pony League was founded in 1951 in Washington, PA at the local YMCA. “Pony” stood for “Protect our neighborhood youth.” It has nine age groups, from 4-19, and is in 21 countries. The US is divided into four zones, plus internationally there are the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean, European, and Mexican zones. The Pony League hosts seven international World Series each summer for the varying age groups. Mazatlán won the Mexican National Title in two age categories in 2015: Colt (age 15-16, which took place here in Indiana) and Pony (age 13-14, which took place in Pennsylvania). Congratulations!

Mexico Beats Vietnam 6-0!


We have new best friends, and they are terrific! The young men from Hanoi were excellent, friendly and courteous athletes, and it was truly a pleasure to meet them! In contrast to the empty feeling after our hosts, Lafayette, beat us last night (in their defense, it was midnight, and everyone was tired), as Mexico won 6-o today, our boys thanked and cheered the Vietnam team in heart-felt Mazatleco style, and took mixed group pictures. We were told repeatedly that Vietnam is hoping we go on to win the Series. Viva international friendships! The Vietnamese team told us that one of the Mexican jerseys we gave them would go into their “Hall of Fame” in Hanoi. Cool, huh?

It was a sunny, warm and humid day here in Indiana, and everyone was in good spirits. The crowd today was much smaller, no doubt because the local team wasn’t playing today (they only play every other day as long as they keep winning). Our boys played very consistently, scoring in four of the seven innings. Various bases were stolen, and after the game, several of our players were asked for autographs by young fans. It was wonderful to see.

Pedro was our pitcher today; he pitched the entire game, and he did a great job. Considering Mazatlán played the last game yesterday, the first game today, and travelled 55 hours to get here, our boys did not show any fatigue. Congratulations and job well done!

You can view the full game here:

Remember that from that same site you can watch all games via live-streaming.

We will play again tomorrow, Sunday, again at noon. We will play the loser of the game that is going on as I write this—either Puerto Rico or Michigan. Click here for a link to the updated bracket.

DSC_0367PS: Puerto Rico won vs. Michigan 3-1, so we’ll play Michigan tomorrow at noon. Go Patasaladas!!!!!

Mazatlán Plays in the World Series!


Thanks to so many of you who chipped in to help support these teenagers to reach their dreams! National champions, Mazatlán’s own Muralla Pony League (Colt) team travelled 55 hours—yes, FIFTY-FIVE HOURS! The Vietnamese team in this tournament only traveled 36!—to reach the World Series in Lafayette, Indiana. Teams that earned the right to play include Vietnam, Czech Republic, Mexico and the USA.

Greg and I are very excited to be with our local Mazatleco boys and their families, cheering them on. Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow.

The team arrived one day later than planned, so didn’t have much time to get unkinked or settled in before the tournament. They arrived at the ballpark excited and raring to go! César Aguilar was the starting pitcher, and pitched a terrific six innings of the seven inning game, leading 3-2 over Lafayette’s All Stars. The seventh inning saw us go through two pitchers in the quest to find a closer, and led to a most discouraging 9-3 loss at midnight last night.

Mexico played their first game last night under the lights, which of course kids in Mazatlán are not accustomed to doing. The Mexican team had by far the loudest of any cheering section, complete with tricolor shirts, hats, face paint and flag.

We still have the opportunity to win the Series, though we have to win all the remaining games. While we played the last game last night, we play the first game today—not exactly thought-through scheduling, to my way of thinking.

A really cool thing yesterday was that all the players from all the teams in the Series went out onto the field, surrounding the in-field. Two teams of physically challenged kids played two innings of baseball, with help from the boys in the tournament. Talk about a tear jerker! The parents in the stand of these kids were bursting with pride and joy, watching their kids hit the ball and run the bases. A wonderful event to behold!

Long-time Mazatlán snowbird Valerie Bird’s niece and family live in Indiana, and drove two hours to join our cheering section last night. Mazatlán was well represented by the families that travelled north, and also by several dozen local Mexican-American families who showed national pride to turn out and cheer us on. Many thanks to them! Many of those families are also hosting our boys, so they don’t have to pay hotel.


Wish us luck today! It looks to be a hot one, which should help us. We play Vietnam at noon. Should you want to watch this live via video streaming, or see yesterday’s events, click here.

Here’s video of tonight’s game: