Celebrating Mexico’s Hero: Vicente Guerrero

This month, we will be celebrating 205 years of Mexico’s independence.  The celebrations in honor of this day, which happens yearly on September 16, take place not only on this day but during the entire month.  We decorate towns and businesses in colors of our flag, organize fiestas, celebrations, and special events dedicated to the occasion.  You can be sure, there will be quite a bit of celebrating here at Capella Ixtapa as well!

In Guerrero, we feel especially proud during these festivities, because we proudly carry a name of a local hero who took an important part in the battle for independence of Mexico and the civil rights – Vicente Guerrero.  While we are getting ready for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations, I would like to use this occasion and share a piece of history with you, a story about our hero Vicente.


Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña was born on August 10, 1782, in the small village of Tixla in Guerrero.  He was of humble origins; his father  Pedro Guerrero was an Indigenous, and his mother, Guadalupe Saldaña, was an African slave.  He worked in his hometown when the War of Independence begun in 1810.  He joined the revolt against Spain along with the rebel leader, General Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon.  When Morelos was assassinated in 1815 by the Spaniards, Guerrero became Commander-in-Chief.

He made a deal with Spanish General Agustin de Iturbide, who proposed that the two join forces under what we refer to as the “El Plan de Iguala.”  This plan originally gave civil rights only to Indians but not to African Mexicans.  Guerrero refused to sign the plan in that form and demanded equal rights for African Mexicans and those of mixed heritage as well.  They incorporated Clause 12, which read: “All inhabitants . . . Without distinction of their European, African or Indian origins are citizens . . . With the full freedom to pursue their livelihoods according to their merits and virtues.”

As the history books state, Iturbide and Guerrero finally agreed that Mexico would be an independent constitutional monarchy; class distinctions should be abolished among Spaniards, Creoles, Mestizos and Indians; and Catholicism would be the state religion.  Iturbide was named Emperor of Mexico by Congress on 27 September 1821.  Though, when Iturbide’s policies supported the interests of Mexico’s wealthy landowners through exploitation of the poor and working classes, Guerrero turned against him.

Afterward, Guerrero served in a three person “Junta” that governed the then independent Mexico from 1823-24, until the election that announced Guadalupe Victoria as the first president of Mexico.  As head of the “People’s Party,” Guerrero called for public schools, land title reforms, and other programs of a liberal nature.

He was elected the president of Mexico in 1829.  As president, Guerrero went on to champion racial and economic equality.  He was the second president of Mexico and the first to come from working class background.  He is also the Americas’ first black and native president.  Guerrero abolished slavery on September 16, 1829 (40 years before Lincoln did).  In the end, he was betrayed by a group of reactionaries, and was executed on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1831.

From this summarized overview of life and actions of Vicente Guerrero, I hope you can see why we call him a national hero.  He is known as one of the leading revolutionary generals of the Mexican War of Independence, for his political discourse promoting equal civil rights for all Mexican citizens and has been described as the “greatest man of color” ever to live.  The state of Guerrero proudly carries his name, as well as several towns in Mexico.

¡Viva Mexico!

A Look Back: The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival 2014

They say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach.  And if you haven’t fallen in love with Mexico yet, our Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival, would have you in head over heels, guaranteed!

Sabor + Vino 2014, which we held this past May, was Capella Ixtapa’s first culinary festival, and with the amazing feedback we received from our guests and visitors, I can promise you it won’t be the last!

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

“This region of Mexico has so much to offer gastronomically, offering an authentic Mexican cuisine experience.  We gathered well known chefs from different towns within the region to participate in festival Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino 2014, which established a sense of pride and honor, as we presented diverse traditional Mexican dishes, combined with exquisite Mexican wine and spirits for all attendees, complemented with a wonderful culinary event.  The feedback we received was fantastic, and I hope to see you all again at Capella Ixtapa’s Sabor + Vino 2015!” said Eliezer Quinones, General Manager of Capella Ixtapa.

The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival ran over two weekends in May, and featured Guest Chefs,  Carmen Valencia, Ramiro Ortega, Karla Chápero, Jesús Ordoñez.  Hosted by Capella Ixtapa’s Chef Miguel Baltazar, guests were delighted by appetizers based on regional cuisines, cocktail events, cooking classes, two exquisite 7 course wine pairing dinners and a special breakfast where each of the chefs prepared their own signature breakfast dish.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Sabor + Vino 2014 was an incredible experience,” said Chef Miguel Baltazar.  “Four different culinary minds came to Capella Ixtapa with the same objective; to satisfy the palate of our guests, surprise them with the magnificent flavors and show them the best of their cuisine.  It was a great pleasure having them with us and creating the first edition of Capella Ixtapa’s culinary festival together.  For me personally it was also a magnificent opportunity to create, innovate and practice with these amazing Chefs for the Chef of the Year in Mexico contest, at which I will be participating in June, and representing the colors of Capella Ixtapa and our region.  Some of the unforgettable dishes from the festival for me were jack fish with black radish, scallops tiradito, jicama fruit infused with beet and mezcal, cocoa with meringue of salt from Zihuatanejo, and crystallized nopal.”

You can see more photos from the festival here, and mark your calendars for May 2015, for the next Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino festival.  Our team is already hard at work planning next year’s festivities!

Overcoming Stress in The New Year

Did you write down your New Year’s resolutions?  What is on top of your list?   While I did write the entire list of resolutions, there is one thing that is most important for me this year – health and well being.  I already pay attention to the food I eat and cook, make sure to spend enough time in the nature, and workout regularly (my pilates lessons 3-times a week are one of the achieved resolutions from 2013!), this year I want to focus on living a stress-free lifestyle.

In these fast-paced times it is very hard to avoid stress.  And to so some point, I know that stress is necessary for life.  We need it for creativity, learning, survival.  Capella Ixtapa’s El Capricho Spa Director, Skarlette Castro, explains “stress only becomes harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that our nervous system needs to remain in balance.”

 stress free“To many, relaxation means unwinding in front of the TV at the end of a busy day.  While you do in fact get some rest, this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress.  To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation system,” says Skarlette.  And this can be done in several ways:

–  Practice relaxation techniques as deep breathing or meditation.

–  Attend Yoga or Tai Chi classes.

–  Take daily walks with your dog.

–  Enjoy a relaxing evening reading books from your favorite authors.

–  Schedule regular relax and recharge time for yourself at a spa.   Skarlette suggests “El Capricho’s Rain Drops Therapy, whose main focus is relieving your back pain and providing relaxation to your body and soul, with the use of essential oils and special massage techniques.”

Do let me know what are your New Year’s resolutions in the comments below.  And I promise to keep you posted how I am doing by taking my regular relax and recharge time.

For more information about El Capricho spa treatments or reservation, please visit the Capella Ixtapa website or send us an email.


Comienza El Año Nuevo Libre De Estrés

¿Has definido tus resoluciones de Año Nuevo?  ¿Cuál es la prioridad en tu lista?  Mientras que yo definía mis resoluciones, hay una que sin duda es muy importante para mí este año: salud y bienestar.  Ya desde hace algún tiempo pongo atención a lo que como y cocino, asegurarme de pasar suficiente tiempo en contacto con la naturaleza, y hacer ejercicio regularmente (mis lecciones de pilates 3 veces a la semana son una de mis resoluciones del 2013 cumplidas!), este año me quiero enfocar en tener un estilo de vida libre de estrés.

En estos tiempos donde todo es mucho más dinámico, es difícil evitar el estrés.  Y hasta cierto punto, se bien que un poco de estrés es necesario en esta vida.  Lo necesitamos para detonar la creatividad, el aprendizaje, incluso la supervivencia.  Nuestra directora del Spa El Capricho en Capella Ixtapa, Skarlette Castro, me explica “el estrés se vuelve dañino cuando se vuelve tan grande que interrumpe el estado de equilibrio que nuestro sistema nervioso necesita para permanecer en balance.”

 stress free“Para muchos, relajarse significa tumbarse frente a la televisión al final de un día agitado.  Aunque puedas descansar un poco, esto hace poco por reducir los efectos dañinos del estrés.  Para combatir el estrés de forma efectiva, necesitamos activar el sistema de relajación natural de nuestro cuerpo,” me comenta Skarlette.  “Y esto se puede conseguir de diversas formas:

– Practicar técnicas de relajación como respiraciones profundas o meditación.

– Tomar clases de Yoga o Tai Chi.

– Caminar diariamente con tu mascota.

– Disfrutar de una relajante tarde leyendo libros o textos de tus autores favoritos.

– Agendar regularmente tratamientos de relajación y recarga en un spa.  Skarlette sugiere la Terapia de Gotas de Lluvia del El Capricho, “el cual se enfoca primordialmente en sanar el dolor de espalda y relajar tu cuerpo y alma, con el uso de aceites y esencias así como técnicas de masaje especiales.”

Por favor hazme saber cuáles son tus resoluciones de año nuevo en los comentarios debajo.  Y les prometo que los mantendré informados de cómo voy con mis sesiones de relajación y recarga de energía.

Para más información sobre tratamientos y reservas en El Capricho Spa, por favor visita la página de Capella Ixtapa o envíanos un email.

Atlzazilistle: The Jaguar Fight Rain Ritual

I love Mexican traditions, and if you’ve read my previous posts, we have plenty of them!  Recently I learned about an amazing tradition, unique to our state Guerrero.  It is a rain ritual and I would love to share it with you.

Atlzazilistle (or the Jaguar fight rain ritual) is a petition for rain and fertility.  The festival takes place in the village Acatlán, about 6 hours from Ixtapa.  Each year the events begins with the blessing of the seeds on April 25, and the climax of the celebrations arrives in early May with festivities organized by the hosts and community authorities.

During the festival people offer birds, flowers, food, copal and wax figures at various hills and sacred places.  One of the most interesting and picturesque rituals happens on May 2, with staged fights among various masked figures.  Early in the morning the tlacololeros (men in masks, jute suits and with whips) visit mayordomo at his home, where they offer him pozole and mezcal as an invitation to the ceremonies and a signal of the start of the ritual.

"Jaguar Dance" by Susan Contreras.

“Jaguar Dance” by Susan Contreras.

After this, the entire community gathers at the church, where the tlacololeros, the cotlatlastin (men of the wind) and tecuanis (men dressed as a jaguar) are presented.  The church music is played by teponaxtli (a slit drum made of hollow hardwood logs) and the chirimía (a wooden flute), while the church bells formally announce the start of the festivities.  At that moment tecuanis (people dressed as jaguars) gather in groups of 22 and begin to fight.  This part of the ritual aims to bring rain and good crops, as it is an ancient belief that “The more the tecuanis (jaguars) fight, the more rain falls.”

The fights continue to the next day, when participants march to the top of a sacred hill Cerro del Cruzco.  This is the climax of the offering to the earth (huentli) to bring rains and good crops.

During the festivities each of the tecuanis keeps complete anonymity.  They dress and groom alone so their opponents – who can be their friends or even family – don’t recognize them. The tecuani use a skin mask made by craftsmen of Acatlán.  They are amazingly beautiful and considered a master craft, and can sell for hundreds of US dollars.

This tradition has been passed from generation to generation, and it is believed that every stroke of a wrestler over another is a prayer for good rain and good soil.

This is quite the festival!  And I look forward to seeing the results from this year’s harvest.

Pelea De Jaguares: Un Ritual Para La Lluvia

Me encantan las tradiciones mexicanas, y como han podido leer en mis anteriores artículos, ¡tenemos muchas de ellas! Recientemente aprendí sobre una sorprendente tradición, única de nuestro estado de Guerrero, y me gustaría compartirla con ustedes.

El Atlzazilistle (o Peleas Jaguar para el ritual de la lluvia) es una petición de lluvia y fertilidad. El festival tiene lugar en el pueblo de Acatlán, a 6 horas en carretera de Ixtapa. Cada año el evento inicia con la bendición de las semillas el 25 de Abril, y el clímax de las celebraciones llega a inicio de Mayo con las fiestas organizadas por los “mayordomos” y autoridades de la comunidad.

Durante el festival la gente ofrece aves, flores, comida, copal y figuras de cera en varios cerros y lugares sagrados. Uno de los rituales más interesantes y pintorescos sucede en 2 de Mayo, con escenas de peleas entre varios personajes enmascarados. En la madrugada los “tlacololeros” (hombres ataviados en máscaras, trajes de yute y latigos) visitan al mayordomo en su casa, donde se les ofrece pozole y mezcal como bienvenida y señal de inicio de el ritual.

"Jaguar Dance" by Susan Contreras.

“Jaguar Dance” by Susan Contreras.

Después de esto, toda la comunidad se junta en la iglesia, donde los tlacololeros, los “cotlatlastin” (hombres del viento) y los “tecuanis” (hombres vestidos de jaguar) son presentados. La música en la iglesia se toca con “teponaxtli” (un tambor prehispánico hecho con troncos huecos) y la “chirimía” (flauta de madera), mientras las campanas anuncian el comienzo de las festividades. En ese momento los tecuanis se organizan en grupos de 22 y comienzan a pelear. Esta parte del ritual busca atraer lluvia y buenas cosechas, ya que como marca la antigua creencia “Mientras más pelean los tecuanis (jaguares), más lluvia cae.”

Las peleas duran hasta el siguiente día, cuando los participantes se dirigen a la cima del Cerro del Cruzco. este es el punto más alto de la ofrenda a la tierra (huentli) lo cual traerá lluvias y buenas cosechas.

Durante los festejos cada uno de los tecuanis conserva completo anonimato. Se visten y preparan en solitario, para que sus contrincantes, que pueden ser incluso sus amigos o familia, no los reconozcan. El tecuani usa una máscara de piel endurecida creada por los artesanos de Acatlán. Son sorprendentemente bellas y consideradas una artesanía muy fina, e incluso se pueden vender por miles de pesos.

Esta tradición ha pasado de generación en generación, y se cree que cada golpe de uno de los peleadores (tecuanis) a otro es una plegaria para atraer la lluvia y la tierra fértil.

¡Vaya que es una festividad! Y espero pronto ver los resultados de la cosecha de este año.