Paying Bills and Playing Hide-and-Seek in Mexico

Perhaps it is because I am in a small village. Perhaps it is different in larger cities and municipalities such as Comala, Colima and Mexico City.  Paying bills here is a whole other world from what I was used to.

In the United States, paper utility bills are delivered to your home via the United States Postal Service. The bill usually arrives within a business day or two after it is mailed. Even across the country mail doesn’t even take one week. In these modern times, you can even arrange to receive and pay your bill online. Not so here, in Cofradía de Suchitlán.

We have neither a bank, nor a post office here in the village.  The electricity bill (or cuenta de luz – light bill) is paid every other month, beginning in February. The bills for electric for the entire village go to one person in one house. Hopefully, someone tells you when they arrive (fortunately for me, I have Lourdes).  Once the bills arrive, you have one week to go to that house and pay the bill. From what I understand, if you don’t pay it, then you must go to the main office in Colima to pay it.

When I moved into the house in December, the person collecting the bills lived on the next street over. She would post a sign on her house to let everyone know the bills were here and when was the last day to pay.  In February, things changed. No sign on the house and I was told by Lourdes that the bills were being delivered to ANOTHER house halfway to the crucero (the crossroads at the highway leading away from the village) and one street over, so it was not visible from the main thoroughfare.

So – fortunately, I went with Lourdes, since there was no sign on the house.  This is where the bills were paid for February and April, and hopefully it remains so – at least through the end of this year. By the way, for my house, the bill came to 595 pesos. That is about $30 USD for 2 months, or about $15 USD per month.

The water bill is turning out to be the serious game of Hide-and-Seek. I hadn’t received a bill and wasn’t sure how that worked. I asked Richard, the previous owner, and he told me that you pay the water bill once per year and, just as you do with the electric bill, there is one person in the village who collects the money.

Apparently, you just have to pay once per year, but they would prefer that you pay in the beginning of the year. I seem to recall that, in New York, you paid twice per year – or maybe that was the sewer bill. I can’t recall, and I haven’t owned a house since the year 2000, so who knows if it’s even done the same way anymore.

In any event, the search was now on to find out who collects the water bills. Apparently those bills also changed hands, but then someone told me that the owner of the local hardware store knows or is related to the right person. The woman at the store told me that the family in a house across the street were the proper people. I went there, the door was open, but no one answered when I shouted a greeting several times.

I then decided that I could try another time. Then I was told that it was the owner of the house next to the taxi driver’s house. Went there, and in her rapid-fire Spanish I THINK she said that the woman was no longer there, and gave me the name of the person who is now in charge.

Well, this morning on our walk, I mentioned the name to Lourdes, who knows this person and showed me the house – the same house across the street from the hardware store that I had tried before. So – this being the weekend, I will try again during the week.

When I finally pay the bill, I will let you know how much it is.  I do live alone, and it only takes me 5 minutes to shower, the kitties don’t drink a whole lot of water, but I DO do a lot of cooking, which entails a bit of water. And – most of all – I do irrigate the fruit trees, flowers, plants and vegetables daily (I will be using MUCH less during the rainy season, which begins towards the end of June). I was concerned about that, but Richard tells me that everyone is assessed the same amount for water. I don’t know if that is good or bad. Thanks to the filters and ultraviolet light for my water supply, I can actually drink the water straight out of my tap.  Everyone else has to buy their water.  I am also not sure how they figure the amount of water used throughout the village, but I am told also that we have greater water security (secure in the knowledge that we will have an adequate supply) than in the city.  I suppose it all evens out in the end for everyone in the village.

The phone is much simpler, at least for me. I do not have a landline, preferring just to use my smartphone.  I paid the Mexican company for a new chip for my phone – I don’t remember how much it was – and received a personal phone number. Now I just walk a few blocks to the “Ciber” and pay however many pesos I choose for more data when I run out.

So, that is about it for now. Sorry, no pictures this time. But I did get all of my white flowers, the frame is up for the ones that climb, and I will be writing a post about that soon, with lots of pictures of my beautiful moon garden.

¡Adios, y que tenga buen día!   ‘Bye and have a great day!


After Easter

Easter has come and gone, and I posted about Easter, complete with videos, last year. The story will be in the archives of this blog, if you care to see the celebrations and weren’t following me at that time.  After Easter was a celebration in the jardín specific to Cofradía de Suchitlán. There were vendors selling food and drink, speeches were made and poems read about the people who founded the village and were important in its history.  I recognized a few of the names, but my Spanish wasn’t good enough to understand the details and nuances, and I am not familiar enough with the history to understand the references about each of the people named.

There was also a dance troupe from Suchitlán – a different village than Cofradía de Suchitlán.  They had different colored costumes than the Cofradía dance troupe (Danza Azteca de Cofradía) but performed the same pre-Hispanic/pre-Columbian dances.  I was also impressed with the man who provided the music; he played the flute while simultaneously beating the drum, and he did this while walking around and through the dancers.

After the dancing, a group of men performed the ritual of the Paspaques. This was already performed throughout the streets on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – our version of Mardi Gras. It originated in pre-Hispanic times, and the word “paspaques” comes from the Náhuatl word papaquiliztli which means happiness and joy.

The mission of the gang of paspaques is to enliven the carnival with games, and the carnival in ancient times was to celebrate the coming of spring and rebirth of nature. Part of the ceremony is an effigy of a bull, which “runs” and tries to hit spectators and the gang with its horns.

Another part of the ceremony, in ancient times, was that the gang would go to the house of the Prioste (the steward of a brotherhood or confraternity) where they would do an offering of a song and offerings to different deities. If the wife of the Prioste was pleased, she would paint their faces with pinole (ground roasted corn), distribute gifts and then they would all eat stew.

There was flour on the faces of the performers, but they did not throw the flour at us, as they did the day before Ash Wednesday.  Unfortunately, I also have no idea what they are singing. Perhaps if I play this back enough, I will be able to understand most of the words…





Finally, at the end of the evening was the fireworks – after all, this IS Mexico !!  A rope was strung across the jardín from which an effigy of a man was suspended, surrounded by a frame of fireworks. The man was in a suit and had a piece of paper visible in his jacket pocket.

We were all ushered away from the effigy and the fireworks were set off, and nothing was left of the poor “man” in the end. My friend Gloria explained to me that this represented Judas. In olden times, he was wearing biblical dress, but these days he was dressed in modern clothing.  The story Gloria told me is the note in his pocket represents a note that he wrote before he hung himself after betraying Jesus. I suppose the fireworks represent his destruction.


Effigy of Judas suspended in the comisaria (town hall) before it is brought out into the jardín

And so ends the celebrations. Good night to all and to all a good weekend !!!

Making Paletas

Okay – so this will be more of a cooking lesson today, which should interest any of my readers out there who are foodies.  Paletas are frozen treats and can be made from fruits, nuts or other foods. They can have a milk base or a water base, and therefore can be described as a popsicle or a frozen fruit bar.  With the heat during the day reaching the 80’s, and the availability of a tremendous amount of fresh fruit, I decided to start making paletas.

The initial flavors were strawberry, blackberry, guayaba, jamaica (made from hibiscus petals and it tastes like a slightly bitter fruit punch, so it is loaded with sugar), lemon and peach.  As different fruits come into season, I will experiment further and flavor them to the local taste. I am told the milk-based paletas contain milk, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla.

Whenever I find lemons, they are imported from the U.S. I believe some lemons do grow in Mexico, but much further north, as the lemon trees need cooler weather to thrive. My lemon paletas were basically frozen homemade lemonade, and I label them lemon-ada to differentiate them from limonada, the local drink made from what we gringos call limes, but are called limones in Spanish.

One thing my friend Lourdes told me to do was to put a little green food coloring in my lemon-ada paletas. I thought this was very strange, but she said they associate the yellow color with pineapples and are used to their limones being green.  So in order for them to coordinate what they are tasting to what they are seeing, green they must be. I guess it would be equivalent to us suddenly having to eat green or purple mashed potatoes – it just wouldn’t be comfortable emotionally.

So far I have been doing water-based paletas and the recipe varies slightly according to what food you are using. With the strawberries, you just blenderize the fruit with hot water mixed with sugar, put it in the molds and wait several hours for it to freeze.  With fruits that have a large quantity of seeds, such as blackberries and guayaba, I strain the fruit to get rid of the seeds after the fruit is blenderized with the sugar water.IMG_4301

Here are the raw materials I started with last week. From left to right: strawberries, jamaica petals, lemons and guayaba.  To condense the post, I will be concentrating on the preparation of the lemons and guayaba. First the lemons:

The first thing to do is to obtain lemon zest by grating the rind to obtain the proper amount for the batch of paletas.


Then mix water, sugar and the zest into a pan and heat, simmering for 3 minutes after it comes to a boil.

Slice the lemons and squeeze out the proper amount of juice for the batch, then pour the juice plus more water into the sauce pan and mix.  The recipe I found on the internet calls for the fluid to then be strained, but I do not strain the liquid and only take care to pick out any stray seeds that might have found their way into the liquid. I do this because the Mexicans seem to like a lot of pulp in their paletas.

Next, don’t forget to add green food coloring to cater to the Mexican clientele. Pour into the mold and place in the freezer.  I have found that watery solutions such as this take about two hours before it is mushy enough to hold the popsicle stick upright, so after 2 hours I pull them out of the freezer and insert the sticks. Then they go back into the freezer for at least another 4 hours.


After they are frozen solid, I run hot water over the mold for a few seconds, pull out the paleta, wrap in plastic and Voila! – a nice green lemonade popsicle!!!!!

For the fruit pulp-based paletas, it is a slightly different process. Many of the fruits here have a tremendous amount of seeds, such as the blackberry and guayaba, so it is a little more involved.

First the guayaba is peeled. Now this can be a bit tricky and messy because they are fairly small – maybe the size of a ping pong ball – and get really soft in your hand. I have a very good potato peeler, so the skin comes off pretty easily, but as I said, the fruit gets very soft as it is manipulated and frequently splits open with soft fruit and seeds oozing out as I try desperately to finish peeling off the skin.

Meanwhile, water and sugar is heating on the stove. Once the fruit is peeled, into the blender it goes with some of the warm sugar water, after which you have pureed guayaba with tons of seeds.

Slightly more fun than peeling the fruit is separating the pulp from the seeds. Into the strainer it goes, a few spoonfuls at a time.  Once the seeds are out, you are left with something that has the color and consistency of applesauce.


Into the molds they go. For the pulpy fruit paletas, they only need an hour to harden enough to hold the sticks, so at that point they come out of the freezer, the sticks are inserted, and back in they go.


Several more hours, and we now have a fresh batch of guayaba paletas.

Beginning yesterday, I am now making batches of paletas with sugar and batches with Splenda, due to the high incidence of diabetes in this country. From my experience, Splenda tastes closest to real sugar, and I notice that it is often offered along with real sugar. In fact, many times when I order coffee, I have to ask for real sugar, as only Spenda has been offered.

Here ends the tour of my kitchen and the tastes of Mexico – and so, Dear Reader, I wish you buenas noches/good night until next time….