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Showing posts from August, 2009

Marauding In Mexico

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I had no intention of traveling to Mexico to hang out with pirates. Cozumel was a popular hideout for pirates during the 17th century but this is the new millennium. Pirates are played out. So when I gazed at the Jean Lafitte floating slowly toward the Cozumel dock, I didn't know what to think. Until I spied Pork Chop or Chuleta, as I liked to call him, in his Mexicana pink shirt, brandishing a sword. I knew I was in trouble. El Capitain peered down from the ship's mast with a nefarious expression. He looked like he was sizing up people to loot. El Capitain climbed further up the mast with Sparky, hovering over everyone and everything in the ship. My stomach dropped. Should I jump overboard? Hideout in the lower deck? Break out my silk scarf, fashion it into a pirate doo-rag and join them? Then the whole motley crew descended upon us. They started going through purses, pulling off rings, hugging and kissing women and eyeing watches. El Capitain examined Laura&#

A Special Cozumel Celebration

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Few things thrill me more than a wedding. The happiness and romance never fails to whip me into a frenzy. So when I spied a suspicious little happy face next to "Marissa and Brian event" on my Cozumel itinerary, I suspected that some sort of ceremony was in the plans. Straight from the airplane, I pounced on Marissa and Brian. (shameless I know) Didn't matter that I didn't know who they were, where they were from or exactly what they were doing. Somebody was planning a ceremony and I had to be a part of it. Turns out they had no plans at all. They wanted to renew their vows and had no clue how they wanted to do it. That was my cue. High school sweethearts! Three kids under four-years old! They deserved a twilight, beach ceremony complete with flowers, music and private 5-course, romantic dinner. So I told Laura, a Royal Holiday account manager, that they should have candles and a flower strewn path. The chairs were elegantly covered in white and were guarded

Journey To Ixchel and San Gervasio

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One of the things that excited me most about Cozumel was the chance to explore the Mayan goddess Ixchel's shrine at San Gervasio. The 2,000 year old structure covers 125 acres in the Cozumel rain forest. Mimi, our authoritative guide above, showed our group the intricacies of ancient Mayan culture. San Gervasio is the biggest archaeological site in Cozumel and is located in the center of the island. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon and fertility and women made the pilgrimage to the shrine from as far away as what is now Belize and Guatemala to ensure that they birthed the average 18 kids expected of a Mayan woman. The structures were created from a mixture of stucco, honey, gum and crushed shells. Temples typically boasted a sauna and a steam bath with hot rocks so that followers could purify themselves by sweating, praying and meditating. The steps to the shrines are very small, forcing worshipers to walk sideways so as not to look the priest in the face, whic

Reading Down Babylon

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Caribbean culture brims with nuance. A rural Jamaican patois sounds flatter than a Kingston accent, which doesn't sound as British as a Trinidadian one. Bajan rice and peas typically boast coconut milk, which you'll never find in the same staple prepared in St. Croix. These details never quite translate to the broad, mostly off key caricatures that fill American media. There's a whole lot more to the region than smiling faces, jerk chicken and ganja. Trust me. If you can't travel to the Caribbean and experience the complexities, the next best thing is to read Caribbean literature that captures the richness of a specific island. Geoffrey Philp's Who's Your Daddy and Other Stories not only conjures up the sounds and images of rural Jamaica, it also reflects the Jamaican community in Miami, which is an element that I've never seen portrayed quite so vividly. I found myself enmeshed in the layers of Cuban and Jamaican politics with the riveting story, Joseph

Cape Verdean Summer Music

It's a steamy, hazy, August day in Chicago and for me nothing captures the listlessness of a hot summer day better than Cape Verdean music. The melodies skip playfully but the tone still manages to sound languid. I have quite a few favorites, including Sara Tavares and Lura. I saw Lura a few weeks ago, swirling around sensuously and raising the roof (figuratively) of Millennium Park with her dynamic vocals. Most of the audience was mesmerized, even though they clearly had no idea where or what, Cape Verde was. Save for the looming presence of Cesaria Evora and her powerful interpretations of classic Cape Verdean mornas, the music of this isolated archipelago off the coast of Senegal, West Africa is mostly unknown by the West. Colonized by the Portuguese and largely ignored for most of its 500 years of occupation, the 10 small islands are prone to devastating drought as well as constant emigration. Since the country’s independence in 1975, there are more Cape Verdeans living abroad

Taste Trippin' Part Tres

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*Mouth-watering food pix alert. Do not read on an empty stomach. Even though I was exhausted from the Blogher and TBEX conferences, my husband and I managed to skip out to Colombia to celebrate our anniversary. Of course, I'm talking about La Fonda Latino Grill in Chicago's vibrant Edgewater neighborhood. We were served up heaping doses of Colombian flavors and hospitality. Melodic rock en Espanol and Latin dance mixes filled the intimate eatery as we stuffed ourselves silly. The interior is washed in warm colors accented with fanciful paintings that invite leisurely dining. Colombian cuisine, like most South American fare, focuses heavily on red meat and I wasn't sure that I would be able to eat many things on the menu. It turned out not to be a problem, La Fonda features meatless dishes like spinach mushroom empanadas, arepas, and fish options like salmon and red snapper. We started with fresh fruit drinks whipped up with Colombian fruits that I had never heard