I did it, I did it! Sure I finished the walk... but I'm talking about trying huitlacoche! After I read Jill's comment on yesterday's post, I spotted this item on a menu when I went to my favorite restaurant for dinner. It was served as an appetizer, three quesadillas, one with mushrooms, one with cheese, and one with huitlacoche. It looked liked a slimy black fungus nestled in with cheese inside a corn tortilla. It tasted mushroomy only more 'earthy'. It actually didn't taste too bad (if I didn't look at it) and I ate the whole thing! Thanks Reader Jill for opening my mind and palate to new gustatory experiences!
Now back to the walk. Previously it was three days and I trained for it as if I were training for the Olympics. A couple of years ago it was shortened to half a day to get more people (and more donations). It's not nearly as big a production, and the walk was still challenging for me. The walk itself is more than 100 years old. The Mexicans walk over a nine day period from San Miguel de Allende, Guanujuato to San Juan de los Lagos in the neighboring state of Jalisco. It is a spiritual pilgrimage from one holy shrine to another. The part of the walk that I participate in, the 3 day or 1 day version is a bunch a gringos who get in at the end of the line and walk for a much shorter period of time to raise money for the organization, CASA. So the walk is actually 8-10,000 Mexican Pilgrims, and then about 50 gringos walking as a fund raiser.
This morning at 6:30 am we gathered at the Parrochia (cathedral) in the town square. There is a special Mass to bless the Pilgrims. It is very festive as the townspeople gather to see the Pilgrims off on their journey as they parade out of town. There are native Indian dancers in colorful full costume including head dresses, who lead the parade, then a municipal brass band, and then the Pilgrims. They march by village, each carrying their town banner and hoisting on shoulders, their own statues of La Virgin (you know, Mary), and giant crucifixes of Jesus. The villagers sing as they march, and one group after another heads through the town streets with well-wishers looking on. Since we are guests to the march, we gringos go last, just ahead of the 'medicos' the ambulance corp. The crowds press food into our hands (its considered a blessing to give something to the Pilgrims as they pass through) such as oranges (great for low blood sugar during a long walk), and atole, my much beloved corn-based beverage that reminds one of hot chocolate, bottled water, and small loaves of bread. I say muchos gracious even if I don't accept their offerings to show that I recognize their hospitality and generosity. We walked through the town and into the country-side and into the next small village, just a few kilometers, before we were bused backed to CASA for a tour and lunch. A group of six of us including two midwives who live here part-time from Massachusetts, are offered a ride from a Mexican in a pickup while we wait for our van. We cheerfully accept and pile into the back of his pickup (don't tell my kids!) So there we are 6 or 7 old gringos merrily riding in the back of a pickup. He drops us at the edge of town and we tip him a few pesos. He tells us its the most money he's had all week. We soon hitch another ride to CASA from a professional driver who hands us all his business card as we exit his shiny spacious red sport utility vehicle. The gringos I walk with have made their home in San Miguel, mostly retired expatriates and come from all over the globe, US, Canada, and various places in Europe. They are a delight to get to know and make the walk most pleasant. I'm a mild star, since I have traveled the furthest to participate. The view in the countryside is spectacular as the arid mountain pastureland stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions.
I can't wait to return next January with family and friends. Hopefully we will repeat my agenda of a time of shopping, a time of service, a time of rest and reflection, and of course a time walking. Pictures to post when I return!