28 January 2008

Eating minnows...

Yesterday my gal Gina and I visited a Mexican town named Moreleon where they manufacture clothing and you can get some pretty good bargains at the factory outlet stores. On our way back to Irapuato in the afternoon we decided to stop in nearby Yuriria to get something to eat. There is a large shallow lake at Yuriria that is called a "laguna". It is ringed with water plants and it is full of little fish called "charales". The fishermen catch the charales with nets and the ladies deep fry them along the shore along with other types of fish and there is no better meal than a shoreside lunch of charales and fillet of mojara or robalo. The first time that I saw people eating charales I thought that they were eating minnows like the type that we used to use for bait in the rivers and lakes of Illinois where I am from. As a kid I always wondered if you could eat minnows. These little fish, however, are not minnows. They are a different species of fish and their English name is "Silversides" of which there are many sub-species all over the world. The species commonly found in central Mexico in the Rio Lerma basin is Chirostoma Aculeatum Barbour although there could be several other species mixed in. In any case they are a slender minnow looking fish about one and a half to two inches long.

Laguna Yuriria, as the lake is called, has an interesting history. It is a "man made" lake and one of the earliest hydraulic engineering feats by settlers in the New World. The town of Yuriria was establish in the
year 1540 and in 1548 there appeared on the scene a very energetic Augustinian friar named , Fray Diego de Chávez y Alvarado. He immediately noticed that there was a large swampy area north of the town that gave rise to foul odors and he thought that the swamp might be detrimental to the health of the people. He gathered together a bunch of native people and dug a twelve mile long canal from the Lerma river to the swamp which promptly filled up with water forming a lake about four miles wide and ten miles long with a maximum depth of twenty-three feet.. It took him and his men two full years to accomplish this. This was not the last of Frey Diego's work either. In 1550 he began work on a monastery church called San Pablo Apóstol. He used three hundred men to gather the limestone rock from a quarry ten miles away and then twenty-one Spaniards and seventeen native stone masons took nine years to build the church. It is an incredible building on a grand scale and all that you can do is marvel at the skill and energy of the people who built it over 450 years ago.

I cannot think
of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It was so peaceful and relaxing sitting in the shade of a thatched roof eating fresh fish, watching the boats out on the lake, and chatting with the local people. For me this is what living in Mexico is all about.


Anonymous said...

I'm from Yuriria, raised in Chicago most of my life, traveled and lived across the Western US. Now settled in AZ.
Thank you for your Yuriria blog. Even though I haven't visited since I was 9yrs old, it brought back fond memories of the "laguna" and charales.

Bob Mrotek said...

You are welcome, neighbor. I was born and raised in Chicago and lived for a time in Arizona too. We probably have seen each other some time. Come on down and I will treat you to a plate of charales :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.