Tradiciones Sanas

Ancestral Approaches to Health and Wellness

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Inventos Míos ~ Nixtamal-inspired poetry

My debut poetry collection is now available for pre-sale! Books will start shipping on August 15th, 2018. Click this paragraph to purchase your copy in my online shop.

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Come to the release in El Paso, TX, on August 15, 2018!

 

Inventos Mios Release Promo-4

In 2017, I proposed to develop a new body of poems based on the history of nixtamalization and its practice by borderland culture bearers. The City of El Paso’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department supported my idea; over the course of a year, I conducted research, interviews and observations of the practice of nixtamalization, and wrote and edited like mad with the thorough help of Roberto Santos. Cover art and inside glyphs were developed by the artists Christian and Ramon Cardenas of Lxs Dos. Photographs are by community activist and food justice advocate Victoria Quevedo.

I’m deeply honored by these kind reviews:

“Inventos Míos is a recipe for a timeless hunger. As Poet and Witness, Rubí Orozco Santos documents ‘where words do their sprouting.’ From Tlaltizapán, Morelos, to Barrio Chamizal —along with other sacred spaces spread out like kernels—a mestizaje of images, ingredients, instructions, illustrations, chisme, prayers, and humor is ‘cooked with frontera.’ This collection of poems is a radical Testimonio and an extraordinary Celebration. I was left craving ancestral meals as well as the vital tools to make them.”

– Richard Yañez, author of El Paso del Norte: Stories on the Border

“In Inventos Míos, Rubí Orozco Santos cultivates ‘a survival strategy’ for these bleak times as she recounts and recovers stories of nixtamal and its keepers, descendants from long-honored traditions that the state(s) labor to disappear. Rubí Orozco Santos, the quintessential observer, offers the reader an accounting, a ‘fine tuning / for generations.’ Her deeply engaging and thoughtful lines migrate between landscapes and languages; such movement is testament to the resiliency of her subject matter. In this affecting collection of poems and photographs, Rubí Orozco Santos emerges as a caregiver of the collective direction in the El Paso/Juárez borderland and beyond. Her work urges the reader to consider ancestral knowledge of our motherland(s) as an antidote to idleness of mind, body, and spirit.” – Andrea Blancas Beltran

“In Inventos Míos, Rubí Orozco Santos offers readers several routes on how to make our way back to our primordial roots: through our selves and our plants, a nuestra manera. Rubí invites us to nixtamalize our consciousness—to shed the skin of ‘white scorn’ and myriad fears and blinders caused by capitalist exploitations—to unleash our inner wisdom, our ancestral communal power. Inventos Míos is a ripening, an invitation to become who we are supposed to be, to restore our original relationship to the plant world. And through the plants, to the soil and the land; and through the soil and the land, to our ancestors. And through our ancestors, to our present selves, who reinvent us as we remember them. Inventos Míos is a living memory of indigeneity, of indigenous peoples, in all our floridity, that we are people of maize, somos los pueblos del maíz.”

– Arnoldo García, poeta from South Texas residing in Oakland, CA

 

 

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Tortillerías that use nixtamal (EPTX area)

Here it is, friends! The list I have been promising for some time: tortillerías in the El Paso area (U.S. side for now) that use fresh nixtamal to make their tortillas.

This is a working list, so please feel free to message me with any leads or updates via Facebook or IG.

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How did I arrive at these eight? I called all 22 tortillerías in the region to ask if they make their tortillas with nixtamal or Maseca. These eight said nixtamal. I haven’t yet visited each one to verify, but don’t see any reason they would lie.

In addition to these eight, three others reported using nixtamal only for their tamal masa (but use Maseca for tortillas) and one reported using a mix of nixtamal and Maseca for their tortillas. I didn’t include them in this list to avoid confusion but am happy to share their names if you’d find it helpful!

Be sure to support these local businesses keeping alive an ancestral tradition!

What is Toddler Yoga?

Toddler Yoga is a fun, bonding activity for children ages crawling through 3 and an adult guardian.

The 45 minute class is dynamic, fast paced, and offers toddlers many opportunities to engage in developmentally supportive play that can aid in their:

  • vestibular sense (sense of balance),
  • proprioception (sense of where our bodies are in space),
  • language development (for example, naming body parts and learning new rhymes),
  • gross motor skills (for example, rolling over, standing, and sitting),
  • fine motor skills (for example, the hand muscles needed as they begin to grasp crayons and other tools),
  • sense of coordination (moving different body parts at different times),
  • sense of community (socializing, sharing space and class props with others – read more on what types of props you can expect below)

I have been teaching Toddler Yoga at Carambola Community Music and Surya Yoga in El Paso, Texas, for over a year. Some of our parents also report that Toddler Yoga has helped their children with self-regulating, providing them age-appropriate tools that let them know they are safe, loved, and create space and prompting for deep breathing.

As a mom, everything I learned in my toddler yoga training with ChildLight Yoga has come to be an indispensable part of my parenting toolbox. I learned to find fun, creative ways to connect to my child, help him ease peacefully to sleep, and encourage mutual understanding and cooperation.

What sorts of props can you expect in a Toddler Yoga class? We play with some of the usual yoga props such as blocks and bolsters – but also others such as hula hoops, tunnels, scarves, stuffed animals, balls, glass-less mirrors, books, and more.

 

The first three years of life are incredibly important not just for physical and neurological development, but for social and emotional development.

Toddler Yoga provides a way for grown-ups to come into the child’s world – to observe how their children take to the multiple offerings the class provides, to engage without having to be ‘in charge,’ knowing that a trained facilitator is holding the space for  everyone to enjoy.

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Toddler Yoga: When my son was 1 year old

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Toddler Yoga: When my son was almost 3 years old

 

 

Yama and Niyama: Yoga’s Ethical Principles

Yama and Niyama, sometimes referred to as the Yamas and Niyamas, are the foundations of yoga. They are sets of ethical principles that comprise the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga:


Yoga master Srii Srii Anandamurti went so far as to say that “without Yama and Niyama, sadhana [spiritual practice] is an impossibility.” 

In ancient times, when yoga was passed down as an oral tradition directly from master to student, some masters would not teach postures (asanas), breathwork (pranayama), or meditation techniques (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana) until the student practiced Yama and Niyama dutifully for several years. 

It has been said that yogic practices can strengthen the mind and its tendencies. If we have tendencies to lie, to be hurtful, to deprive others of their fair share, these may be magnified. So, we practice Yama and Niyama to observe and identify these tendencies in ourselves, to tame them each time they appear until they are reduced to a seed, to remain kindly vigilant so that seed doesn’t sprout. 

If you look at the eight limbs of yoga as a continuum, you can see how they are a framework leading us gracefully from the external world to the internal world. Yama’s principles relate to how we engage with society – those outside of us. Niyama’s principles relate to how we engage with ourselves. Asana relates to our physical body. Pranayama relates to the breath. Pratyahara relates to removing the indriyas, or senses, from the outside world and bringing our awareness inwards. Dharana and Dhyana are concentration techniques that lead to sustained concentration and transcendence (Samadhi). 

Some schools of yoga call Yama and Niyama observances and restraints, respectively. I’ve also learned throughout the years that different yogic lineages may spell and interpret the principles in different ways.

Yama and Niyama are powerful limbs that have the potential to be revolutionary if enough of us practiced them at a global level. Here is a summary of each:

Yama

Ahim’sa‘. To refrain from harming others and ourselves in thought, words, and actions.

Satya. Truthful words with the wellness of others in mind.

Asteya. To refrain from stealing or depriving others of their due.

Brahmacarya. To see all beings and things as an embodiment of Brahma (of the creator, of the divine).

Aparigr’aha. Simple living; to refrain from over accumulation of resources. To walk lightly on Earth, using only what you need.

Niyama

Shaoca. Cleanliness of body and mind. 

Santos’a. Sense of contentment, to cultivate joy and mental ease.

Tapah. Unselfish sacrifice. Serving others in a manner that requires effort, discipline, in a way that transforms us and improves our character. 

Sva’dhya’ya. Study and understand spiritual subjects from different traditions. 

Iishvara’ Pran’idha’na. To surrender our egos and take refuge in the Divine.

You can read more about Yama and Niyama here:

I wrote this post to inform the #2017yamaniyamachallenge I am hosting on Instagram starting July 20, 2017. 

To join the Challenge, you must (1) follow @tradicionessanas, (2) post one picture a day following the schedule above reflecting on your practice of Yama and Niyama on or off the mat with the hashtag #2017yamaniyamachallenge, (3) follow at least one of the Challenge mentors who will be providing guidance throughout the Challenge, and (4) follow at least one of the Challenge sponsors. 
Special thanks to the #2017yamaniyamachallenge mentors: Morgan Mazza (@moryogi), Robert Leal (@livitwell), and Abraham Heisler (@abeheisler). 
Participants based in the U.S. who complete the ten day Challenge will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win a basket of yoga related goods and services from our sponsors: Surya Yoga Studio (@suryayogastudio), Eiehuia (@eiehuia), Ganja Pockets (@ganjapockets), Robert Leal (@livitwell), and Abraham Heisler (@abeheisler).
May you have a steady and fulfilling practice!

Taller de Bulgaros / Kefir Workshop

I am proud to be supporting Herlinda Squier in this fundraiser for Rayito de Sol Daycare!

Click this sentence to register!

 

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Carta a mi abuelita

Oakland, California, a 3 de febrero del 2007

Mamá Ame,

Tengo pena con usted por no estar mas conectada, mas informada de su vida, de cómo se siente día a día, como va avanzando el tiempo y con el creciendo su sabiduría.

Creo que en algún momento alguien – no sé si aquí en este país o en México – alguien me convenció de que la escuela y la carrera y salir de los apuros económicos son las metas que tengo que tener presentes.

Ha sido difícil para mi haber entregado diez años de mi vida a la escuela y a mi carrera, porque aunque me gusta, mi deseo desde que tengo 16 años ha sido estar a su lado como una sombra, mirando como hace usted las cosas con sus manos y sus ojos, como escoge flores en el mercado, como besa la verdura cuando esta bonita, porque viene de la tierra, y de ahí venimos todos.

He querido estar a su lado y ser su pluma, para que yo con mi mano rápidamente escribiera todas las poesías que usted decía de repente cuando regaba sus plantas o le daba de comer a sus cocoles.

He querido nutrirme de sus conocimientos desde que me enseñó a convertir el maíz en nixtamal y me puso a molerlo en el molino y después en el metate; desde que en su patio puso una estufa de leña para hacer buñuelos para todos los hijos y nietos, pasando horas preparando la harina, quemándose de repente con el aceite hirviendo, todo por la satisfacción de ver a sus hijos y los hijos de sus hijos alegres, disfrutando y llenándose los dedos de dulce.

La vez que la fui a ver a Can Cun le dije que con usted he aprendido más que en las mejores universidades de estados unidos. Usted me dijo, ‘Ay, hija, qué cosas dices” – porque no me creía. Y yo no supe como explicarle que era cierto. Que la escuela tiene sus cosas buenas pero llena el cerebro de soberbia. Y que usted es maestra de la humildad, de la generosidad, de la entrega de amor, de la poesía, de la honestidad, del cuidado humano. Que usted me ha dado la herencia más sagrada: el ser una mujer íntegra, honesta, humilde. No hay maldad en usted, y tampoco en mí. Usted me enseñó a amar hasta las cosas más pequeñas, a inspirarme de versos cuando camino en los montes.

Tengo mucha pena con usted porque he dejado pasar el tiempo sin explicarle todo el bien que me ha hecho, como es usted la raíz mía, mi maestra más amada.

Ahora estoy aquí con licenciatura y maestría pero sintiéndome atrapada por las deudas en que me metí para terminar la carrera. Y estoy llena de ganas de verla.

Y ahora que usted está enferma me siento tan mal de estar lejos. Quiero verla, platicar con usted, leerle algunas poesías, preguntarle de nuevo sobre las yerbas, sobre Puebla. Quiero ir por flores al mercado y escogerle unas bonitas. Quiero hacerle un atole. Tengo todas las ganas de verla y estar con usted.

Voy a hacer esfuerzos para ir a visitarla lo más pronto posible. Para decirle en persona lo mucho que la quiero. Para que usted me platique como se siente.

Mientras tanto la tengo presente en mi corazón y en mi altar, y voy a rezar por su salud, su felicidad, que Dios le recompense todos los años que usted entregó su amor, su esfuerzo, trabajo, y cariño para los demás.

Nos vemos pronto, abuelita linda.

Su nieta,

Rubí

 

Zucchini Halva

I prepared this recipe on August 20, 2016, for the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market as part of a series of local foods cooking demonstrations.

I first learned to make halva as a teenager from some Indian friends living in Mexico. Halva is a sweet recipe that is prepared in many countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The versions I have learned involve a starch (such as wheat, carrot, or yams), a ground seed  (such as almonds), dried fruits, milk and honey.

In this version, I used big zucchinis as the starch – the type that may have stayed in the garden beyond their tender stage. Because pecans were available at the farmers market, I used ground pecans as well. The folks who tasted this said it reminded them of oatmeal.

Zucchini Halva

Grate one large zucchini and sautee in a medium pot or pan with about two tablespoons of butter. When the zucchini softens, add about 1/2 cup finely ground pecans and about 3 cups of milk (I used almond milk this time, but a good quality cow’s milk works as well!). Add about a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cardamom. Stir occasionally as the mixture simmers. You can enjoy it as a porridge or allow it to simmer all the way until it becomes a dense cake. Either way, be sure to drizzle it with some local honey once it is served.

I hope you enjoy this zuchinni halva as a breakfast or dessert!

Photo by EP Downtown Artist and Farmers Market

zucchini-halva

Desert Pad Thai & Lemon Mint Water

I prepared this recipe on June 11, 2016, as part of a local foods cooking demonstration at the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market.IMG_20160611_131721

The local items are listed in bold and came from the following vendors: Healthy Harvest, Bowie Garden, La Semilla Farm, DWedge Creations, Sunflower Power Sprouts, Barbara’s Produce, Loco Tote Jerky, and RMC Farm.

Please note that I did not use measuring cups or spoons, so all of the measurements below are approximate. I always say everything is ‘to taste’ – do you love carrots? Add more carrots! Do you fancy more pecans – then so be it! Follow your intuition and preferences. You really can’t go wrong with these fresh, local foods.

Desert Pad Thai

  • 1 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 hen eggs (optional)

Sauce:

  • ½-¾ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 limes (juice only)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 chopped leeks
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil leaves
  • 1/8  cup shelled and crushed pecans

Garnish:

  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh whole or coarsely cut basil leaves
  • 1 chopped leek
  • 1/8 cup shelled and crushed pecans
  • 2 purple serrano peppers, sliced
  • 1 banana pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • 4 limes, cut in fours

Turn the yellow squash and zucchini into noodles (“zoodles”) using a spiralizer. Set aside. If you will be using eggs, scramble the eggs in a pan and set aside. Slice the carrots in thin diagonal cuts (or shred them) and sautee them in a large pan or wok with two finely minced garlic cloves over medium heat. After the carrots have softened a big and the garlic is fragrant, add the zoodles to the pan and cover for 3 to 5 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the sauce by mixing the water, Braggs, hoisin sauce, lime juice, honey, and corn starch; once the corn starch is diluted, add to this mixture the chopped basil leaves, chopped leeks and crushed pecans, then set aside. When zoodles have softened a little, pour the sauce over the entire pan of zoodles and carrots and cover for two minutes. Mix with a wooden spoon and fold in the scrambled eggs. Sauce will thicken after a few minutes. Serve hot and sprinkle with the garnish items to taste: fresh basil leaves, leek, crushed pecans, peppers, sunflower sprouts, and a squirt of lime.

 

Lemon Mint Water

  • 1 package dehydrated lemon
  • 1 bunch mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 ½ gallon water
  • 5-7 lbs ice

Place the lemon at the bottom of a large water dispenser. Add the remaining ingredients, and allow to set for an hour or two. The flavor of this infused water is very subtle and refreshing.

Keep up with the latest from the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market by following their Facebook Page.

 

First Foods for Baby: Some Key Ingredients of the Mesoamerican Tradition

Excerpt from presentation First Foods for Baby: A Guide for Families and Culinary Leaders Based on the Mesoamerican Tradition given at the 2015 Native American Culinary Association’s Native Foods Symposium in Tucson, Arizona – Nov 12, 2015.

For a human being in infancy, each milestone is a step away from mother’s womb towards more autonomy. When it comes to feeding, the introduction of solid foods is a practice that awakens the digestive system and prepares the body for eventual weaning.

Our ancestors were thoughtful about feeding infants (and postpartum women) foods that were easily digested; in some regions, this meant avoiding ‘cold’ foods, though this does not refer to temperature, rather to the nature of food. However, there is no agreement on what foods are considered cold or hot; no definitive list exists.

Zero to Six months: Breast Milk

From ages 0 to 6 months, the best food for baby is breast milk. Breastfeeding should continue beyond six months as solid foods begin to be introduced. In the Nahua tradition, breastfeeding occurred on demand (not on schedules) for a minimum of 18 months and usually lasted from 3 to 4 years; if a mother was unable to breastfeed due to illness, breast milk was donated by another lactating mother (Lewis, 1960; Shein, 1992).

It is important to note that breastfeeding requires abundant community support. Even in older times, it was seen not as something dreamy, but as a practical sacrifice that women made for the health of their babies – and the social norms supported them through it. In modern times, some women lack the information (e.g., benefits of breastfeeding), sociopolitical support (e.g., maternity leave), or social support (e.g., assistance with latching) needed to breastfeed and must rely on formula to nourish their babies.

Six months and beyond: Three Key Foods

At the age of 6 months, solids can be gradually introduced to baby, one ingredient at a time. Once a food is introduced, one should wait 3 to 5 days before introducing another food to monitor for allergies. Following this method, between 6 and 10 foods can be introduced each month.

Three key foods of the Mesoamerican diet that greatly benefit infants are spirulina, amaranth, and chia.

Spirulina 

Spirulina is a blue-green algae known in Nahuatl as tecuitlatl (‘rock excrement’) that was once harvested from Lake Texcoco. It is an excellent source of iron, protein, antioxidants, and all Omega fatty acids (3s, 6s, and 9s), including the fatty acid GLA, which is also found in breast milk. Because of it chemical composition, it is especially easy digest. Spirulina can be started at six months. Serve in smoothies, teething pops, and sprinkled on cold foods. Pair with Vitamin C, as this will help the body absorb the iron it provides. Start with an eighth of a teaspoon and work up to half a teaspoon by age 1.Aztec_spirulina

Amaranth

Amaranth is an ideal first grain – started around the seventh month. It’s Nahuatl name is huautli; it is widespread across Mesoamerica, with over 40 varieties.  Its grain is high in protein, calcium, magnesium, and a good source of iron. Grind the grain to make a course flour and boil it with filtered water to make a simple atole. The grain can also be puffed and eaten alone, sprinkled on fruit, or as an ingredient in smoothies.

Chia

Chia (Chian in Nahuatl) is a seed high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and many more nutrients. It can be added to smoothies and teething pops.

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Follow the hashtag #indigenousbabyfood to find out more ingredients and recipes for baby food based on the Mesoamerican tradition.

A fuller feeding schedule based on the Mesoamerican tradition will be published soon. Stay tuned!

Herbal Poultice for Menstrual Cramp Relief

I recently gave a workshop about how to assemble an herbal remedy book. I learned how to do it from Doña Vicenta in Amatlán, Morelos, more than ten years ago. As I browsed through my own herbal remedy books in preparation for my workshop, I found a gem of a recipe in one of the back pages:

Cólicos menstruales: tamalito de hoja santa, epazote, y hierbabuena. Calendar en el tlecuil. Poner en el vientre.

It is a short and lovely recipe for a poultice for menstrual cramp relief. Very often, while instructing us on an herbal medicine recipe, Doña Vicenta went on marvelous tangents about plants or remedies. I began to keep a working list of miscellaneous notes in the back of my herbal remedy book where I would quickly scribble the information. It was in one of these lists of miscellaneous notes that I found the poultice recipe.

A poultice is one of many ways herbs can be used as medicine. It involves the external application of warm fresh or dried herbs either directly to the skin or wrapped in cloth. This poultice calls on the healing properties of hoja santa, epazote, and hierbabuena. The English translation is as follows:

Menstrual cramps: tamalito (bundle) of hoja santa, wormwood, and peppermint. Heat in the tlecuil (fireplace/stove/skillet). Place over the womb.

I couldn’t help but do a little bit of research to see why this poultice might help relieve menstrual cramps. Hoja santa is traditionally used as a culinary plant, valued for its licorice- and pepper-like taste. Medicinally, it boasts analgesic and antiseptic properties. In English, epazote is known as wormwood. It is a bitter herb traditionally used in culinary doses (e.g., a few sprigs in a pot of black beans for flavor and to reduce flatulence) and in medicinal doses as a de-wormer or to encourage menstruation. When used externally, epazote’s anti-inflammatory properties shine through. Peppermint is an antispasmodic (eases spasms or cramps in the body), anti-emetic (eases nausea), nervine (‘stimulates the body’s innate vitality’) and can also ease psychological tension (Hoffman, 1989).

I’m excited about the opportunity to try this remedy. Because I don’t have access to hoja santa where I currently live, I will only use epazote and peppermint.epazoteyhierbabuena

Do you have access to hoja santa where you live? (If you live in California, you probably do!) What is your experience with these plants? Feel free to share your own knowledge or recipes in the comments section below.

Hoffman, D. (1989).  A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, Vermont.

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