Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Folklife and Learning
The weekend was as long as the work week, and fit a lot of experiences within it, so I think it is most worthy of being written about. I think that wherever I am, though it is sometimes a stretch, I am in a learning phase of my life. I am finding that despite or maybe because of my auditory difficulties, people like to talk to me and I am getting better at giving feedback to show I understand, maybe I should do more of also signaling that I Don’t understand, but that takes knowing someone a bit better. I found thisin one conversation where I was told a mixture of information, both about the EEOC and how labor rights got their start after the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist fire, in which seamstresses jumped or burned to death, and also about getting certified in MS Windows Server 2008. We agreed that the Microsoft books gave too much details on how to do things, and there were shortcuts and alternate ways that they didn’t present. It was a bit overwhelming but the different kinds of information all relate to why we do our jobs. I read an interesting article about the Arizona law for which it is being sued by the federal government. It showed a current issue that also affects how women can be exploited, in an environment where being illegal means you have no access even to basic police protection. 10% of Hispanic women work illegally in Arizona. They are also twice as likely to be below the poverty line. This combination of poverty and race means that there are very few resources to combat exploitation alone.
I was going to talk about my weekend but got onto this other but important topic. But I think I actually have quite a good transition to my ‘Smithsonian’ weekend. I went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 3 out of 4 of the weekend days, just skipping the 4th of July when I went to the fireworks. I wanted to go as much as possible because I love all the folk arts, and play the violin. The theme this year was both Mexico and Asian Pacific regions. I went to both, but I think I went to more of the Mexico part. They could have done all the Latin American countries, but I think its good they picked the narrow focus. It made me realize that in this one small country, there are really varied cultures. There are 11 individual indigenous languages spoken, but 350 different varieties of these languages! Some have kept many Mayan traditions just in their everyday life, like the Wixarika who have sacred shrines made of stones with roofs of corn, each one of which represents a different deity and which I, staying till the very end, saw taken down. I was grateful that with all these languages, everyone at least seemed to speak Spanish.
My Spanish is limited but I used every bit of it to communicate. I learned how to make Tamales(recipe follows), which had a translator, and also talked with the instrument makers, but there was no translator. I asked about the little guitars, I think they were called Jaranas, and the big ones for Mariachi, Guitarrones. I watched them carving the guitars and asked about the kind of wood, but only understood it was a kind of cedar, but not the same as we have back in Seattle. I listened to a musician test it, and then when he was done, a woman employee played quite well and I was glad to hear her part of preserving tradition. I went last to making Tamales and will try to write down what I remember them explaining, via translator. There were two women, and both had different styles though from same village in Yucatan. One rolled dough and everything up in the banana leaf. The other carefully flattened a perfect circle of dough and folded it up, and then folded the banana leaf on top. It probably both tastes good but it looked very pretty.
How to Make Yucatan Tamales
1. (Shortcut-> Make a dough with Maseca(corn brand name), lard(hmm), and water. Mix thoroughly with clean hands.
2. Boil chicken in broth made from annatto(to give red color), chile and garlic.(Didn’t catch all the spices) Remove from heat and remove grease or foam. Set the chicken aside.
3. Mix some of the corn dough with the red broth until dissolved and then boil until it thickens.
4. Use softened banana leaves or corn husks and pat the corn dough in a flat round circle on them.
-Put some salsa mixture on it
-Put some shredded chicken on it
-Put some of the red dough mixture on it
-Fold it all up in a package
5. Boil packages in salted water
6. Open to serve and serve with some sauce, either mole or one made from tomatoes, garlic and cilantro(and more spices I didn’t catch)
So I may not be the best listener but I tried to share things I learned. Happy Mexican cooking!