The Season of Lent in Mexico

Greetings once again from Colima, Mexico. My subscribers have probably noticed that there are longer and longer stretches between each post. When I first moved here 6 years ago, everything was new and I had so much to talk about and many experiences to share. Now there are fewer and fewer new experiences, so fewer things I can think of to share. Therefore, if any of you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to send me a message.

Meanwhile, the season of Lent (called Cuaresma here) has started. The activities leading up to Ash Wednesday is called Paspaque. It is an ancient custom in this area of Mexico which began as an agricultural festival among the Nahuat indigenous people, but in modern times it lasts for nine days ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Men walk the streets singing a song welcoming people to Cuaresma. Here in Cofradía de Suchitlán they carry an effigy of a bull and throw flour at the people they pass. This year I either saw them down the street or I was in my house when they passed by, so I avoided receiving a face full of flour.

Paspaque from 2017

The day after Paspaque was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. There were 4 Masses held in the village Catholic church and distribution of ashes. Mass was said several times in each village, with a notice going out ahead of time with the necessary information regarding all the villages.

Different cultures have different foods they prepare for special occasions and here it is no different. During Cuaresma, there is a dish called Capirotada – a type of bread pudding. Lourdes taught me how to make it, and now I will teach you, so get ready for this wonderful cooking lesson.

The first thing to do is gather the ingredients, which are:

4 bolillos – you can use a hero or sub sandwich bread –

A bag of bolillos

1.5 liters (6 cups) of milk

1 can of Nestle Lechera (condensed milk) – 14 oz

4 whole cloves

2 TBS vanilla

1 handful of raisins

1 large stick of cinnamon

1/2 cup of sugar

almonds and walnuts to taste – chopped

Queso seco – a type of dry cheese – optional

Tortillas – enough to cover the bottom and sides of the cooking pot

Note that the capirotada will be in layers, as if you were making lasagna. Okay, now first line the bottom and sides of the cooking bowl with the tortillas. Cut up the bolillos into thick slices.

Toast them and line the bottom of the cooking pot.

In a separate large pot on the stove, boil the milk, Lechera, cloves, vanilla, raisins, cinnamon stick and sugar. While it is boiling, chop up almonds and walnuts. After boiling for a while, the raisins should be more plump than when you put them in. Pour some of the milk mixture over the bread through a strainer, then pick out the raisins and also put them on the bread. The slices of bread should be saturated with the milk.

Straining the milk mixture over the bread. Make sure you only add the strained milk and the raisins to the pot – not the cloves or cinnamon.

Sprinkle some of the almonds and walnuts over the layer, and also sprinkle the crumbled cheese if you desire.

Sprinkling nuts and cheese over the layer of bread, milk and raisins

Repeat the process until the baking pot is almost full and you are ready for the final layer at the top.

Lightly fry the remaining pieces of bread in some oil in a frying pan, and then layer them at the top.

Pour the remainder of the strained milk on top and sprinkle the raisins, almonds, walnuts and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Centigrade (392 F.) for 10 minutes, then 180-160 C. (356 – 320 F.) for about 30 minutes.

And then – enjoy !!!!!

Capirotada – ready to eat !

Don’t forget you can modify this to meet your dietary needs or flavor preferences. Instead of white or morena sugar, you can add a delightful, different cane sugar called piloncillo – brown compressed cones of sugar that melt easily when heated. It is made by compressing the sugar cane, then heating the liquid until it is brown with a thick consistency, then putting it in molds to dry.

Here is a photo of small cones of piloncillo, and they also come already granulated or in large cones.

Here is a short video you might enjoy showing how it is made, beginning with squeezing out the cane juice. Don’t forget, Colima is an agricultural state, with, among other produce, many miles of sugar cane fields.

Unfortunately, the best video I could find is in Spanish, but you can understand what they are doing even if you don’t speak Spanish – from cutting the cane, putting it into a mill to squeeze out the juice, boiling the juice, putting it into a mold, and finally wrapping the finished cones.

Well, this is a curious thing that just happened. I wanted to link a Facebook video about making the piloncillo, and it said they cannot play this video in my country (Mexico). Perhaps if you are watching this in another country, you can see it. Otherwise, you will still be able to see the Mexican Kitchen video about it. Please let me know if you can see the Facebook video – I’d appreciate it.

And last but not least, I would like to add a few thoughts. This blog was never meant to be political, and I am not about to begin doing so. It has always been meant to introduce people to life in Mexico and anticipate situations in which visitors might find themselves and how I handled those situations. You don’t always know what you don’t know.

With the war in Ukraine and many other horrible things going on in the world, I’ve been hesitant to write cheery posts about what has been a normal life, so I am doing my best to strike a balance. I would just like to end this post with the same suggestion at the end of the previous one – be kind. There are all kinds of situations happening in the world far away, but also in our communities.

Even if you can’t physically help, investigate organizations to which you can donate – Charity Navigator and Global Giving are two examples which vet charities. Visit a neighbor who might need some help, or might only need some company. Remember, we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.

So, until next time, stay safe and remember to take care of yourselves….

One thought on “The Season of Lent in Mexico

  1. Great post, Pat!

    ******************* Susan Hill Huizilacate #6 Cofradia de Suchitlan, CP 28460 Colima Tel in Mexico: +52 312-395-4146

    In USA: 302 Hannan Ranch Lane Petaluma, CA 94952 *********************

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    Liked by 1 person

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