Albuquerque is blessed to be the home of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. This seems to be the right place for such an institution as the Hispanic culture is very evident and generally embraced by this town. The native cuisine of Albuquerque and New Mexico, in general, is unique in its blend of Hispanic and American Indian and Anglo elements. I’ve heard visitors complain that they can’t get real Mexican food here like they can back home at Taco Bell. That’s possibly true but they just need to look around the malls and Wal-Mart stores. The South Valley and the Barelas neighborhoods are ground zero for Hispanic culture but this is an old city, founded in 1706, and it has a long history of Spanish and Mexican rule before it became part of the United States. The Spanish were here before the Pilgrims and the Jametown colonists arrived on the east coast. You need to gain an understanding of Hispanic culture to understand much of Albuquerque and New Mexico.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center, located in the southern part of the city, is an amazing mix of museum, theater, training space, restaurant and outdoor performance space. Each year the center hosts Globalquerque…a celebration of international culture, music and crafts…especially music. This event coincides with National Hispanic Heritage month.
The festivities last over a weekend and are accompanied by a longer film festival. We went to the Thursday night movie: The Tasting Menu and then stopped in the restaurant for tapas, wine, gelato and coffee. The movie was in Spanish with English subtitles and had a clever plot.
On Saturday we went back for the global fiesta, a free event that took up most of the day. We saw another movie: The Green Revolution. This film offers a serious indictment of globalization and multinational agri-business in the destruction of local farming economies around the world. It sounds as though Monsanto and ADM are attempting to starve the peasant populations of developing countries into submission solely to make obscene profits. Genetically modified crops are being forced on third world nations as a condition for economic aid.
The film was a little depressing but it was an eye opener. People in Haiti are reduced to eating sun-baked mud pies made of butter, honey and mud. The NAFTA trade agreement required a change to Mexico’s constitution to outlaw communal ownership of land which then favored corporate ownership. This is now driving farmers off their land and into cities or across borders.
The rest of the day was cheerier. We had some Indian and Thai curry for lunch. There were a number of performances and a vendor area where people sold hand-made crafts. I ended up buying a harp-like musical instrument made in Madagascar…I haven’t mastered it yet.
The performances included musical groups from Angola and Congo, Indian Hoop Dancers, some Russian folk dancers and a group from Colombia called Cimarron.
Cimarron made a noble attempt to teach people how to dance the local Jaropo dance from the region of the Orinoco Plains. This is a fast moving, foot-stomping dance that you might have seen before in movies or on TV.
My attempt at dancing started off badly and improved only a little. This is quite a workout and could be used as an aerobic exercise…but it is not “low impact”.
The Indian hoop dancers were very talented and also involved some volunteers from the spectators to join in. The hoops used in the dance represent different things, like the four compass directions (east, west, north, south) and the family unit. They take on that representation as they are incorporated into the dance.
I enjoyed the day and came away knowing more than when I arrived. I tried to show off my dancing moves at home but it was a disaster. I’ll go back next year and maybe learn a different dance…maybe easier.
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Moonless starry sky
peeks through a lace cloud curtain.
This is sort of an early ‘heads up’. Mark your calendars for August 12th. That’s my birthday and also the peak of the Perseids meteor shower. If God ordained that I should be born on the date of the annual Perseids meteor shower then the least I should do is give thanks and stay up to watch the show. I’ve been doing this every year since I was about twelve years old and I’m turning 68, if all goes as planned. That’s fifty-six years of watching falling stars light up the sky. I have friends around the country and in other countries, actually, who go out to watch the Perseids for my birthday. It’s sort of a gift that they give themselves for my birthday. I invite you to join in. Just let me know. This should be a great year.
I delight in the night sky.
(The title comes from the poem “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams, 1837 – 1868)
Once a year the city is pretty much taken over by craft beer enthusiasts. We are in the middle of the storm right now. I can’t begin to keep up with the craft breweries and brew-pubs that are opening here each month so I try to follow a few of the postings by local groups and occasionally attend one of the craft beer meet-up group’s get-togethers. I live fifteen miles north of Albuquerque so I’m not inclined to spend too much time in a brewery and then try to get home….it’s an occasional thing.
A large part of the Beer Week experience is the “tap take-over” where an out of town brewery brings their beer and offers it at a local brewpub. Throughout the week we’ve had Ballast Point Brewery, Deshutes, Mother Road, Ska, Lagunitas, New Belgium and about a dozen others in addition to special releases from the many local breweries.
The “Battle of the Beer Geeks” is a brewing competition where five groups brew a special beer back about six weeks ago and then face off in an afternoon contest. The beers tend to be a little bit unusual. This year there was a Saison, a Breakfast Stout, a Ginger-spiced Ale, an Oak Aged Farmhouse Bret, and a Sage and Lemon Pale Ale. My group brewed the Farmhouse Bret. As it turned out, I’m not sure I could have more than a pint of any of the five but my choice was the Sage and Lemon Ale. It had an IBU of 19 and ABV of 9 but it tasted bigger — with a definite sage and herbal flavor. Each participant had to sample all five beers and then vote and they got a pint of their favorite. At the end of the day the Sage and Lemon Pale Ale ran away with the vote. Out beer was a distant second.
There are about five or six events every day and I have no intention of attending more than a handful. Today there was an interesting event at Marble Brewing’s westside brewpub. the brewery teamed up with Whole Foods and had a pairing of five of Marble’s beers with five distinctive styles of cheese. I like beer and I like cheese — so this was up my alley.
The selections and pairings were interesting….I’m not sure who did the pairing selections. A smoky Rauchbier was paired with Jasper Hills Landaff Holstein – a nice cheese from Vermont. A Maibock was paired with Uniekaas Truffle Gouda…a Dutch cheese with Italian black truffles. A Double White (wheat beer with some spice) was paired with Wensleydale cheese with Cranberries — from the UK (eat your heart out Wallace and Gromit – their favorite cheese). A Brett IPA was paired with Igor Gorgonzola — from Italy. An Oatmeal Stout was paired with Piave Vecchio — a hard and dry cheese from Italy. There were some Spanish almonds, Sicilian olives and some sweet Peruvian peppers along with some water crackers on the tray to help with the tastings.
I can only speak for myself but the Brett and the Gorgonzola should not be allowed in the same room together. I liked the cheese but the beer was not anything I would want. It was drinkable paired with the sweet peppers but only barely. I liked all of the cheeses and most were new to me. The Rauchbier and Vermont cheese was my favorite pairing. The Stout paired with the hard and flaky Italian cheese was my second choice. The Gorgonzola was a strong cheese and needed a beefy beer so it went better with the Rauchbier and the Stout than the Brett. Third and fourth place was really a tie in my selection. I was puzzled about the Maibock because it didn’t resemble what I thought the style should be. The Maibock went okay with the Truffle Gouda but the cheese really overpowered the beer. The Double White was an unusual beer (sweet wheat with spices) for me and the pairing with the creamy English cheese with cranberries was an improvement but it was an okay pairing. I was drinking a Wildflower Wheat on the side and some of the milder cheese went well with that.
As an added treat, Le Chat Lunatique performed as the beer/cheese pairings were winding down. I wasn’t familiar with the band but they were outstanding. I’ll be looking for them in the future. (http://www.lechatlunatique.com/)
Beer Week continues for another few days. if I go to any other events I might post an update.
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It’s Christmas day…So we drank our coffee and hot chocolate and ate our candy
…what should we do next?
Well, here we are — it’s Christmas Eve. The War on Christmas seems to be winding down — and since it never existed in the first place I guess that also is a false perception. I’ve not heard that much out of the weak-kneed Bible Thumpers this year about how poor little Christmas was being attacked from all sides. Oh ye of little faith. My Christmas is as strong and robust as ever.
There are a number of religious holidays and observances this time of year. There is nothing wrong with wishing someone Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings. Christmas doesn’t suffer a black eye because you wish the best for people of other faiths (or people of no faiths). I sent out a number of “Seasons Greetings” cards along with my Christmas cards. Happy Solstice.
So for my many Christian friends, I wish you a joyous Christmas and hope that The Dawn of Redeeming Grace enlightens your life in the year ahead.