Semana Santa- Mexico Celebrates Spring

Semana Santa- Mexico Celebrates Spring to Hit the Beach

by Tara A. Spears

Semana Santa

Just when the majority of snow birds and international winter visitors have journeyed home to northern climes and  the beachside villages return to a sleepy pace, the Riviera Nayarit rebounds with the energy of the national two week Easter holiday season. Holy week, Semana santa, and the week after Easter, Pascura  brings thousands of families from all over Mexico to enjoy the Jaltemba Bay beach.

Semana SantarespadosApril tends to be a hot and dry time of the year throughout Mexico, making the beach a magnet for those wanting to escape the city.  The area goes into party mode: exuberant children and adults fill the beaches to bursting, crowds dance along the clogged streets to strolling musicians and celebrate with fireworks, traditional foods and lots of beer! No one can out do the Mexicans for enjoying life with impromptu fiestas for fun-in-the-sun.

As with so many of its delightful customs, Mexico originally started Semana Santa as a solemn religious occasion from the Spanish liturgical calendar but added a spirited Mexican interpretation that celebrates spring and renewal. While many parts of Mexico observe the holiday with passion plays and processions, the more secular west coast area is a feast of popular cuisine. Thirsty revelers guzzle aguas frescas– water flavored with local tropical fruits or coconut, vast quantities of tequila and beer; and the abacoa and cerviche tacos from the roving vendors are in high demand. 

Semana SantatentsHoly week is the traditional start of Mexico’s ice cream season: pushcarts that are loaded with tubs of ice cream or the popular fresh fruit ice bars on a stick, called paletas, roam the beaches and village streets calling out “nievees”. Vendors also sell snow cone-like shaved ices known as raspados. The dulces regionales-candies made from coconut, tamarind and other regional ingredients- are sold by industrious vendors trudging with wheelbarrows through the sand.

Other favorite foods include the delicious pambazos, which are filled rolls bathed in a spicy salsa that are prepared with a choice of chicken or cheese filling. Plátanos, fried plantains (a type of banana) are topped with sweetened cream make a wonderful snack.  The pleasant smell of the ever-present Buñuelos, fried sweet dough balls topped with marmalade or rolled in powdered sugar, carry on the ocean breezes. Recipe follows.                                                      

Semana Santa bandRelax and people watch:  with every hotel and bungalow overbooked for the two weeks of Easter/Semana Santa, the hordes of out of towners will naturally be utilizing the area stores and restaurants, so expect to wait in lines.  Grocery stores have staples fly off the shelves as quickly as items are stocked; tour buses stake out parking places throughout the residential areas; and all other types of shops have brisk souvenir and hat sales making it a good idea to shop early to avoid long lines. In spite of the congestion, the atmosphere is jubilant. Celebrate spring break by enjoying Mexico’s natural bounty and wonderful cuisine.

Bunuelos:    These traditional Mexican desserts make a perfect sweet snack. . It is thought that funnel cakes, churros, doughnuts, waffles, and cream puffs may be variations of the simple bunuelo. Easy to make at home or get them from street vendors in Mexico.  Finished bunuelos are similar to fritters or Bunuelos can be made several different ways. Some people roll them flat; others cook them in the shape of a ball or cut them in strips and twist them. Regardless of the shape you decide to make them, finish with a topping such as jam, cream, sugar, honey, or melted cheese..

Recipe for Bunuelos

This sweet pastry is good anytime!

What You Need

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • sunflower oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

How to Make It

Add the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the mix and use your hands to incorporate it into the dry ingredients until the mixture feels like coarse corn meal. Add the egg and just a little milk at a time until you have a dough formed. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 even pieces. Roll them into balls. Place them on a baking mat or on a floured surface and flatten them into a small circle. Use a rolling pin to roll them out into a larger circle. You want them about the size of a tea saucer. Do not roll them too thin.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a 4 inch skillet over medium. When the oil is hot, add one piece of dough at a time. Let it fry until lightly golden before flipping over to cook the other side. When both sides are golden brown, drain it on a paper towel.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a large ziplock bag. After the cooked pastries have cooled a little but not completely, place into the bag and shake until it is covered in the cinnamon sugar. Remove. They can be eaten warm or after they have cooled.

Makes 6.

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