Las Posadas

Growing up in Veracruz, Mexico, the month of December was a very festive time of year for Reyna and Maritza. Not only was it a time of religious traditions, but a season surrounded by friends, family, and delicious foods and drinks. In Mexico, the holiday season includes several traditions, one of which we want to share with Austin this year. On December 21, the night of the winter solstice, we will celebrate the tradition of Las Posadas at Radio Coffee and Beer and we hope all of our family, friends, and customers will come enjoy a night of delicious treats, live music, and colorful decorations.

Las Posadas are traditionally celebrated in Mexico beginning on December 16 and ending on December 24; nine nights of traditions and parties representing the nine months of pregnancy of the Virgin Mary. The Spanish word posada translates to accommodation or lodging in English, alluding specifically to the Christian belief of the nativity. During each night of Las Posadas a group visits a home, or several homes. Two individuals in the group dress up as Mary and Joseph, and when the procession arrives on the doorstep they seek entrance, just as Mary and Joseph sought a place to give birth to Jesus in the nativity story. The residents of the home, representing inn-keepers, allow the procession to enter after singing songs, and once the procession has entered there is a celebration, which includes singing villancicos (Christmas carols), piñatas, and food.

Like many holidays we celebrate today, Las Posadas have their roots in more ancient traditions which have been merged together with Christian beliefs. In pre-Hispanic Mexico the native peoples celebrated two very important gods. On the winter solstice, Tonantzin Guadalupe, the mother of all gods, was celebrated, and continues to be celebrated today on December 12. Additionally, the sun god Huitzilopochtli was believed to be born during the month of December by the native peoples. As Spanish missionaries arrived in the Americas they used Las Posadas as a way to teach the native peoples the story of the birth of Jesus.

Today there are many parts to Las Posadas that have specific meanings. The poinsettia, a beautiful red flower native to Mexico, was called cuetlaxochitl in the pre-Hispanic period, and to the native peoples was a symbol of new life. They believed that fallen warriors returned as hummingbirds to drink the nectar of the poinsettia. The post-Hispanic belief is that the poinsettia was once a weed that turned into a flower suitable of a gift to the baby Jesus from a child. In Mexico the poinsettia is called la noche buena, or the good night, referring to Christmas Eve.

The tradition of the piñata also has its roots in Spanish proselytizing among the native peoples of America. It was a way for the missionaries to teach Christian beliefs in a non-literature way. The piñata represented Satan, adorned and decorated to deceive people, and holding within the treasures of the world. A traditional piñata hung during Las Posadas has seven points which represent the seven cardinal sins, and the stick used to break open the piñata represents the faith a Christian needs to overcome the temptations of Satan. Reyna and Maritza also tell me that the seven points on the pinata makes a star shape representing the star of Bethlehem which is believed by Christians to have led the wisemen to find Jesus.

There are a few traditional foods and drinks that are served during Las Posadas celebrations, two of which are ponche and buñuelos. Ponche is a hot drink made with seasonal fruits from Mexico, cooked with piloncillo (whole cane sugar) and spices including cinnamon, and commonly enjoyed with a shot of alcohol by adults. The buñuelo is a fried dough ball (also served in a disc shape) which is covered with piloncillo, cinnamon, and guava syrup.

So, we are taking some of our favorite posada traditions and making a night out of it, and although Las Posadas are a religious tradition, our festivities at Radio Coffee and Beer will be agnostastic as to allow all of our friends to enjoy our culture, no matter what your background. In addition to our normal food truck menu, we will be serving ponche and buñuelos, and a percentage of those sales will go to La Casa Marianella. Our decorations for the night will be beautiful poinsettias and piñatas, and our favorite local Latin band Cien Fuegos will be playing music for all to enjoy.

Visit our Facebook event page HERE for more party details.

 

Documentary

People around Reyna told her it would be impossible to start a business in Austin because she was undocumented. That did not stop her from pursuing her dream of opening her own restaurant. She enlisted her sister Maritza as her business partner, and together they rallied to overcome the odds to build a business that now has 5 locations, provides work for over 30 employees, and is recognized both nationally and internationally as serving one of the best tacos in America

Today, Reyna is a documented, permanent resident of the U.S. and is legally living the American dream, a dream in which she has always believed. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice for these two sisters from Mexico to get to this point. We hope you enjoy this short documentary about the founding of Veracruz All Natural.

10th Anniversary

I feel extremely fortunate to know Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, sisters and owners of Veracruz All Natural. I met Reyna on a humid Sunday afternoon in September of 2013. I had just moved to Austin earlier that summer in July, and had immediately started my quest to find the best Mexican food in the capital city. I love Mexican food! I had done my research, made my list of destinations, and was methodically making my way around Austin on my delicious quest.

The day I met Reyna was not actually my first visit to the East Cesar Chavez taco truck. It was my fourth. I had visited a couple other Mexican restaurants and taco trucks in Austin, but once I found Veracruz All Natural in August I was hooked. It immediately became my Sunday afternoon ritual; go on a morning bike ride with the Austin Ridge Riders at Walnut Creek and exhaust myself in the extreme Texas heat, and reward myself with tacos and an agua fresca after the ride.

I had learned about Veracruz All Natural from a blog called Taco Journalism, authored by Mando Rayo, now author of two books about tacos in Austin and Texas. In his post he raved about the flavor and freshness of the food, and posted a video showing a young woman named Reyna Vazquez in the tiny kitchen of a food truck walking viewers through how she made a migas taco. The video hooked me; the migas taco looked incredibly delicious, the ingredients the chef was using were fresh, and the young woman chef was extremely confident in what she was doing and portrayed a sense of love for cooking and an eagerness to share her love with people.

Like I said, I was hooked, and Veracruz All Natural moved up my list to next destination. When I went for the first time in August I ordered that migas taco that made me drool in the video, and when I unwrapped it, it tasted and smelled how I had imagined. The woman at the window, Maritza, was kind and friendly, and I was excited to speak Spanish to her. I didn’t know she was an owner; but just a kind person who humored my gringo Spanish and helped me make up my anxious mind with the menu.

The next few times I visited, Maritza was there. I started to feel like a regular. I liked that feeling.

So, Sunday afternoon on September 8th was an anticipated regular visit to my favorite taco truck, but on this afternoon I spotted the young woman from the video I had seen on Mando’s blog. Maritza was at the window, like usual, and Reyna was in the back cooking. As I began to give my order, Reyna turned around, and I said, in so many words “I recognize you…I saw you in a video online cooking a migas taco and it made me want to come eat…” I realized shortly thereafter that what I said was not only lacking in eloquence, but could probably be taken as creepy. That was not my intention, I promise, and luckily Reyna did not take it that way either!

Reyna and Maritza are role models to me, and I consider myself blessed to know them. They are strong, talented, courageous women, and I am excited to have this space on the internet to tell you more stories about them, their culture, and their food.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Veracruz All Natural, and what Reyna and Maritza have accomplished over these 10 years is exceptional. It was in April of 2008 that Reyna asked her sister Maritza to be her business partner. Maritza already had a family to support, so going into business was risky as there was no guarantee they would be successful. They both kept their other jobs and worked nonstop to get their business going, often times taking turns sleeping on the trailer floor while the other sister attended customers in order to keep it open. Reyna puts it this way:

The place where I put the trailer for the first time on Cesar Chavez was a very hidden place, very small. We would stand there on the sidewalk with a sign so that we could get attention so that people would buy our fruit. Honestly it wasn’t a very good location because we were hidden in this corner, so when cars would drive by they would drive by too fast and they wouldn’t see us. It really wasn’t a good location, we sold very little. I think our highest sale in that location was maybe eighty dollars. All day from 7am that we opened to 9pm that we closed. It really was a lot of work in that location to gain customers because there wasn’t a lot of visibility.

It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice for these two sisters from Mexico to get to where they are today, so to celebrate we are throwing an Anniversary party on Sunday, August 26th at Radio Coffee and Beer from 6pm-12am. There will be food, drinks, live music and more! Please visit the link below for more details.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2047478318657611/