Tag Archives: Mexico

JUST LOVED READING: The School The Aztec Eagles Built

JUST LOVED READING: The School The Aztec Eagles Built



The School the Aztec Eagles Built

Non-Fiction/Middle Grade

Nicholson, Dorinda Makanaohalani. The School the Aztec Eagles Built. New York: Lee and Low Books, 2016.

            Relations between Mexico and the US were not always cordial especially when they fought over what were once Mexico’s northern territories. In 1835, Texas declared its independence from Mexico. This led to the US – Mexican War which lasted from 1846 to 1848. When it ended, Mexico lost Texas, Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

On May 13 and 22, 1942, German U-boats torpedoed two unarmed Mexican oil tankers off the Florida coast. Germany refused to apologize for the aggression and Mexico declared war on the Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan. Mexico had a small military and had never fought another country overseas.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mexican President Manuel Avila Comacho met to discuss how the two countries could help each other. By this time, Japan had attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The result of these discussions was the formation of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force. The flight operations unit was known as Air Fighter Squadron 201 or the Aztec Eagles.

The Squadron consisted of pilots and ground crew who took care of the airplanes. They trained initially in Idaho and then in Texas where they encountered prejudice from the locals and distrust from the American air pilots with whom they were going to work. Eventually, the American and Mexican pilots forged a mutual respect. The Squadron flew missions from the Philippines which ended when the US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the pilots and crew returned home, they were hailed as heroes and decorated veterans.

Angel Bocanegra was a school teacher in his village of Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Tepoztlan had a small two room schoolhouse that could barely hold a couple of the grades. Many of the children formed classrooms on neighbors’ porches, on the grass and anywhere there was space to sit and learn.

Bocanegra enlisted as one of the Squadron’s ground crew. President Comacho reviewed the men before they left for the US and asked if anyone had any requests. Bocanegra shouted out that he had a request for a schoolhouse for his village. President Comacho agreed.

When Angel Bocanegra returned to his village, he saw a brand new building named Escuela Escuadron 210.


This book narrated the little known story of the Aztec Eagles, Squadron 210 of the Mexican Air Force and how World War II helped to establish goodwill between the US and Mexico. The footnote about Angel Bocanegra was interesting, too. But the book also narrates an account of the Bracero Program brokered by President Roosevelt and President Comacho. The program allowed Mexican workers to enter the US on temporary work permits. So from 1943 to 1945, over 100, 000 laborers worked on farms and railroads. This helped to plug the hole in the work force left by enlisted soldiers and sailors and was another way Mexico, with its small military, could help with the war effort.

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El Dia de los Muertos+ A Banner Design

El Dia de los Muertos+ A Banner Design

El Dia de los Muertos Banner

                                                                El Dia de los Muertos Banner


The Day of the Dead celebration is a mixture of Catholic and pre-historic Hispanic beliefs about death. The Spanish conquistadors brought their religious faith to the Americas but their beliefs dated back to the early Christians’ adoption of the customs of the ancient Egyptians and Romans.

Over time, October 31st evolved into All Hollows Eve when the spirits of dead children came to visit. November 1st became All Hallows or All Saints Day, a day to pray for the innocent souls of the saints and martyrs and November 2nd became All Souls Day, a day to remember the spirits of sinners who had died.

Today, the Day of the Dead celebration is a family commemoration reuniting the living with their dead relatives. Each family and community has its own way of celebrating but several communities throughout Mexico observe many of the same customs.

October 31st is a day of preparations for the celebration. Families shop at the local market for supplies of food and items like copal (a resin-based incense), marigolds, candles and calaveras de dulce (sugar skulls).

Back home, children make an altar decorated with small baskets of nuts, hot chocolate in small cups, sugar skulls, flowers, fruit, and toys. They light incense and small candles that will light the way for the angelitos (little angels) to come to earth.

November 1st, families eat an early breakfast of pan de muertos (bread of the dead), hot chocolate, atole, and tlalludas (chicken broth served with large tortillas). Afterwards, the family does the necessary chores to prepare their house for visitors.

The women of the house make tamales de mole (mole sauce and chicken folded inside a tortilla which is then wrapped in corn husks and tied with string) which they steam in a large pot. Another family member makes a second trip to the market to buy sugar canes and more marigolds.

The family builds a larger altar on a table decorated with a colorful cloth, a crucifix, pan de muertos, fruit, flowers, cups of chocolate and atole, a small offering of cooked tamales, and the special things the deceased enjoyed during their life on earth. They light a bowl of lamp oil and a candle for each dead relative which they place in front of their photos.

The sound of fireworks and the ringing of church bells announce that the spirits of the dead are on their way to earh. The bells ring without stopping for twenty-four hours, rung by teams of young men.

Families wear their best clothes and visit through the entire day and night and into the next day, bringing empty baskets which they fill with items from the altars of the homes they visit. Host families visit friends and family, too.

On November 2nd, families visit the cemetery, cleaning and decorating the graves and tombs with flowers. They bring picnic food which is an offering to the dead. The families believe that the dead do not actually eat the food but “inhale” it.

The bells stop ringing at 3 p.m. signaling that the dead are departing. Celebrants eat, sing, laugh, visit with their neighbors, and children play. When night falls, candles are lit on the tombs and graves.

Families exit the cemetery, too, until they begin next year’s celebrations all over again.



Ancona, George. Pablo Remembers the Fiesta of the Day of the Dead. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books: New York, 1993

Coleman, Miriam. The Culture and Crafts of Mexico. New York: PowerKids Press, 2016.

Krull, Kathleen. Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York, 1994.


El Dia de los Muertos Banner Design


Felt in various colors

Puffy paint in bright and metallic colors



Glitter glue (optional)

Hole punch

Paper in various colors (optional)

Scraps of material (optional)

Decorative gems (optional)



White glue


  1. Select a piece of felt for the background of the banner. Decide if you want to hang the banner vertically or horizontally.
  2. Using different colors of the felt and using the letter stencils, trace and cut three E; one A; two L; one D; one I; two O; two S; one T; one U; and one R.
  3. Arrange the letters on the felt background. Glue. Allow to dry.
  4. Some objects associated with the Day of the Dead are skeletons, marigolds and skulls. Draw and cut flowers, skulls and skeletons out of the remaining felt or use paper or another material. Glue and let dry.
  5. Add sequins, glitter, beads, etc. to the overall design or add starbursts, the sun or other symbols proper to the holiday. Let dry.
  6. Punch holes in the top corners of the felt. Pass a piece of string longer than the length of the banner through one hole, tie a knot and then pass it through the second hole. Glue a strip of cardboard that fits between the holes and glue it to the back of the banner at the top. Let dry and hang up. Celebrate El Dia de los Muertos!


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My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Photos II

My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Photos II

Click on any image to view the slide show.









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Click on an photo to view the slide show.

Christmas Tree Mariner of the SeasPool Deck Mariner of the SeasChandelier Mariner of the SeasShow Mariner of the SeasGlass Art Mariner of the SeasThe Port of Roatan, Honduras
Native Dancers Roatan, HondurasTropical Flowers Roatan, HondurasPier and restaurant, West End Village, HondurasDance performance West End Village, HondurasWest End Village, HondurasVegetable cart, West End Village, Honduras
Boats docked at the pier West End Village, HondurasOn the way to the Cameo Factory, HondurasCameo Art, HondurasThe floral beauty of the Western CaribbeanOn the way to the Mayan Ruins at Lamanai, BelizeThe critters of the Rain Forest, Belize
The Mayan Ruins, heading to the pyramidsPyramid at LamanaiMayan Ruins, Lamanai, BelizeAt the foot of the Mayan pyramid, LamanaiMayan Ruins, Lamanai, BelizePyramid, Mayan Ruins, Lamanai, Belize


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My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Part VI

My Big Fat Caribbean Vacation Part VI
Shopping in Cozumel

One of the shops in Cozumel


Cozumel, Mexico

We scheduled a hike through the jungle in Cozumel for this morning. We got up early but not as early as yesterday and met the group at the port of Cozumel. The port is chock full of shops, restaurants and bars, and quaint like the port at Roatan only bigger. 

We were told by the guide to wait at the local pharmacy but we didn’t recognize anyone from our ship. Another ship was docked next to ours; we were the only ones from the Mariner of the Seas. The driver almost left without us until the tour guide realized the mistake and came back and got us.

We reached the jungle by bus. We were given a backpack and a rice crispy bar and ser off for a fairly rigorous walk in 80 plus degree weather. The group tramped over planks, logs, and a suspension bridge. We walked a fair distance before our tour guide stopped and lectured us about the dietary habits of the ancient Mayans.

 One thing they liked to eat, because of its availability in the jungle, was termites.

Termites build nests – similar to beehives – over a period of years. The Mayans would take a stick, poke it into the nest, and the termite would attach itself to it. The hungry Mayan would take the stick out and eat the termite.

Our tour guide called himself a “descendant of the Mayans” and actually demonstrated how to eat one. I looked over at Andrea, another descendant of the Mayans, but she didn’t seem interested in trying to eat one. Maybe she just wasn’t hungry. (Unlike!)

The ancient Mayans also built plant boxes above the ground on stilts. This prevented the wildlife living in the jungle from sampling the plants. Several boxes were strewn throughout the jungle growing different vegetables as demonstration models. According to our guide, it doesn’t take long for veggies to grow from seed in the jungle.

I’m not surprised considering the weather.

There is a tree that has a sap that has been used as a binder for bubble gum. The Mayans would set up camp by these trees because gathering the sap was an overnight process. They would place a receptacle under the tree and wait for the sap to fill it up.

Our tour guide told us that the jungle was home to various birds, cats (not the domestic kind) and other animals. We didn’t see any. I was hoping we would see more monkeys because Andrea loves them.

I enjoyed the walk but it was so hot that my backpack stuck to my back.

Our next stop was the Grand Beach Resort. We ate a buffet lunch there under an open air tent: chicken; oranges; mangoes; fries; rice; tortillas chips with salsa; fish and desserts. As usual, everything was delicious. I’ve been to Central America several times and I only remember one mediocre meal. A friend and I joined a tour to Mexico shortly after college during Thanksgiving week. Our hotel served us a Thanksgiving meal that was consisted of tasteless flat mashed potatoes, some kind of pumpkin pie, stuffing and corn. The turkey was okay.

We rushed to the beach to work on our winter tans. You’d think we’d never been to one. I don’t know how much was made by Nature and how much was created by humans but the beach was absolutely beautiful. The sky was cerulean, the sand was white and the sun shone brightly. Sailboats, paddle boats and swimmers dotted the blue sea. Parasailing was popular. Andrea found a large shell with barnacles which I almost poached but decided I didn’t have room for it in my suitcase. We walked along the sand for a while but spent most of the time sun tanning.

The staff was setting up a bingo game when we started to leave. There were shops and a water park, too.

We stopped to shop at the stores and kiosks by the port. The store clerks practically strong-arm you into their stores and get mad if you decline to buy anything they try to shove down your throat – especially anything expensive. (They fussed when they learned we were from Pittsburgh and professed to be Steelers fans.)

One employee personally escorted us up a flight of steps to a row of shops.

 “I don’t want an escort,” I told him. “I can go up by myself.”

“If you don’t want to buy anything, that’s ok. I’m just doing my job,” he said.

I didn’t want to contribute to Mexico’s unemployment rolls so I relented. Another store clerk tried to sell me a ring for a couple of hundred dollars. I’m not expert enough to know if a stone is genuine or not.

“I’ll give you twenty dollars for it,” I offered. Of course, he got mad.

Andrea looked at the less expensive jewelry. You can buy any quality at any price. I told her that if she didn’t buy a piece of jewelry from Mexico, she would regret it. So after a lot of dickering going through many stores, she bought a silver bracelet. By then we were tired of shopping.

There was a strip of beach with beach chairs not far from Senor Frog’s restaurant. We lay out there until it was time to go back to the ship.

Later, Andrea got her first-ever massage at the ship’s spa. The appointment lasted well over an hour because it included a consultation. For those who may want to know, the ships’ special for that day was $99.

This was the Mariner’s second formal night. The fashions this evening weren’t any different from the previous formal night but this time, many people seemed inclined to change after dinner.

Any time there was a college football game, especially a Bowl game, (actually any football game) it was shown on the giant TV in the pool area. It was hard to watch any of them at length because of everything that was going on.

Royal Caribbean neglected to show the Cotton Bowl on the big screen so they had to show it at the Internet café to mollify the crowd. It was a little awkward since the computer screens weren’t big. The staff fed them cookies and pizzas to keep them happy. Since many of the passengers were fromTexas, it was fitting that Texas won.

 Dinner time included another show where the restaurant staff was introduced to the guests. The workers come from all over the world.

I ordered chilled peach soup; lobster tail with shrimp and mashed potatoes; low fat cherries jubilee (minus the flambé; I found out that that isn’t done anymore); coffee and the rest of the wine. Andrea had Caesar salad; lobster tail and shrimp with mashed potatoes; rainbow sherbet with a cookie and a Coke.

We went to the Whitney Houston Tribute afterward. The singer wore a one shoulder blue sequin gown with diamond cuff bracelet and dangling earrings. She channeled Whitney Houston very well and the audience responded loved her singing.

The Quest Game show at Studio B was next on our events’ schedule. The ship’s activities director divided the audience into six sections. We were in section #5. Two people from each section volunteered to be the section leaders for the “team.”

Then she would say something like “I want five belts from five men in your team.” And five men would race to give the group leaders their belts who would rush up to the activities director to show her the belts.

Her requests didn’t stop at belts. At first, the director asked for innocuous stuff like women with piercings; a woman who can do a somersault (Andrea showed her

prowess for our team); the hairiest male back; a woman with a tattoo (Andrea showed her “Dream” tattoo on her wrist); etc.

Then, she requested four people from each team to participate in a race but they had to row on their bums. Andrea was one of the rowers for #5.

Another activity involved five women giving up their bras. Then the group leader or team member had to wear the bra preferably on top of their clothing.

Everything was timed so the faster, the better or you could run out of time.

Another request required two men from each group taking off their trousers and putting them on backwards. They had to face away from the crowd when they did this because one participant on a previous cruise wasn’t wearing any underwear.

“One of my staff is still undergoing therapy over that one,” the director declared.

The finale required that one male dress like a female complete with make-up, clothes, stockings, shoes, jewelry, etc. Members of the team were allowed to help with their transformation.

These “Drag Queens” were asked to give their names and occupations. The responses, of course, were funny.

“My name is Sweet Tits and I drive a rig,” one man responded.

At the end, they paraded the stage, dancing, strutting or trying to strut and singing.

There was party at the Solarium by the pool. I don’t remember what Andrea ordered but she liked it. I had a Brandy Alexander. (Unlike!)

Tomorrow: A Day at  Sea

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