Yesterday, Monday, May 10, was Mother's Day here in our neck of the woods. We went to Coatepec to buy a cake to take to our friends in Xico for comida. The sidewalks and streets were packed with people of all ages buying flowers and cakes for their mamís. Our friends had for the meal an enormous pot of caldo con camarones y jaibas -- shrimp and crabs -- in a delicious and very picante broth. The shrimp and crab are cooked whole, and after everyone washed their hands, we dove in, breaking shells off, cracking claws and sucking the meat from them and just generally pigging out. Shells and napkins piled up. It was a quieter meal than we normally have: someone said it was because it was more work to eat! Things got noisier with dessert: two yummy and creamy cakes. Somehow the conversation turned to talk of ghosts and our experiences with them. Jim was as always the reasonable skeptic, but the rest of us shuddered deliciously at each other's tales.
We also noticed that everybody had lost some weight, except Doña Gloria who doesn't need to. They were doing it as a family. The Mother's Day desserts were exceptions to their diets, just for that special day.
Which leads me to bring up the following article appearing in today's Diario de Xalapa. Problems with obesity are obvious in our area. They are starting to get attention, which is a good thing.
The picture below is captioned, "Obesity has become 'the mother of all pathologies'."
The article, on the front page of the online edition, is headlined, "A Crisis of Health Looms Because of Obesity"
Written by Miguel Zalazar, it says among other things, that "resources will be insufficient for treating hypertensives and diabetics within fifteen years. Our state, Veracruz, will be one of the most seriously affected because of its dense and large population.
The article quoted Pedro Antonio Lara Ruiz, head of a branch of the Health Department's program for adults and seniors. He pointed out that the problem can easily be reversed if and when people take it seriously. He pointed out that the two major approaches are not expensive but very necessary: "a break with a sedentary lifestyle and adoption of a healthy diet." He also pointed out that diabetes and hypertension were more and more frequently recognized early because of increased medical knowledge and attention to public health.
In Veracruz there are now policies which provide public education to people, which, according to the Sr. Lara Ruiz, is the best approach. He urged these policies be strengthened and extended.
I don't know if I know the culture in our area well enough to say this for sure, but it seems to me that people here don't rebel against such information, they don't feel that it is somehow treading on their individualism. They tend to take it to heart, at least believing it's true, though finding junk food a hard habit to break. Just as in the states, junk food is omnipresent and very cheap and easy for hard-working parents to provide for their kids. It's also, I think, seen as somehow fancier and better than the fruit which often falls to the ground uneaten in the countryside within a short walk from our house, and even in neighbors' yards. I am always reminded of the tragedy we watched unfold when we were in the Peace Corps many years ago: the school's bursar and his wife had a new baby that got sick. The baby's parents had succumbed to the advertising of Nestle and had bought powdered formula instead of having the baby nurse. The water used for the powdered formula probably was contaminated. The parents thought that orange soda, bottled and expensive, must be better for the baby than something made from local ingredients as a treatment. The baby died, at least in part, from malnutrition.
I notice that in the article, Lara Ruiz emphasizes that obesity can be combated with low cost diet. I hope people recognize that this means the complete protein provided by tortillas and beans, the vitamins and minerals and more protein in the fruits that hang on the trees and in the vegetables, fruits and fish and chicken easy to obtain in local markets.
As ex-pats, we and others like us recognize that by following local guidelines for a good diet, we eat better for less than many of us ever have.