Veracruz is alive with culture, history and music

Rich in culture, history and attractions, Veracruz was an obvious filming choice for Hidden Moon. 

Veracruz is Mexico’s oldest, largest and historically most significant port since European colonization. It has always acted as a main gate for Mexico, accepting many sea travelers and products since the 16th century. Hernan Cortes first landed in Mexico only 20 km northwest from Veracruz. Because Veracruz is the oldest standing city settled by Europeans, it is overflowing with historical sites. Visitors tour the San Juan de Ulua Castle, the last fortress of the Spanish Empire that was later used as a prison during Porfirio Diaz’s government. 

Veracruz is home to a blend of cultures from the indigenous Mexican, Spanish and Afro-Cuban. The mixture is showcased in the city’s food and music, which carries strong Spanish, Caribbean and African influences. The traditional vericruzana music is called “Son Jarocho,” which is the perfect example of the city’s blended cultures. 

The downtown harbor plazas are teeming with life.  The city rarely sleeps, with most of the locals listening to music in the squares late into the night, only to wake up in the early morning to sip coffee at sidewalk cafes. Music and dancing bring light to the city once the sun goes down, and the bustle of everyday activity springs back to life in the morning. Coffeehouses are a social center, the most famous being the Gran Café del Portal and the Café de la Parroquia. 

Every year since 1866, the Veracruz Carnaval is celebrated. Veracruz’s Carnaval is the largest in Mexico. It is based in the historic center of the city, and focuses on the Carnaval Parade of Veracruz. The event begins with the “Burning of Bad Humor” and ends with the “Burial of Juan Carnaval.” 

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http://mexicotoday.org The 11th edition of the International Balloon Festival was held in Leon, Guanajuato. With approximately 200 hot air balloons from 14 countries, this spectacular event was a must-see. Considered to be Latin America's largest event of its kind, over 350,000 visitors from the Americas and Europe came out to see the extraordinary hot air balloons.

Checo

Sergio “Checo” Perez finished in 11th place at the inaugural United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. However, he was clearly number one in the hearts of the many fans who turned out to cheer him on. 

The automotive blog Jalopnik summed it up this way: “You hear a lot of Mexican fans talking about Perez the way that Brazilians used to talk about Ayrton Senna. Mexico has been going through some rough times economically and socially over the last decade, but a lot of Mexicans are tired of their country only being in the news for cartel-related violence. The Mexican tourism industry has fought hard against that image.” 

Among the fans who travelled to watch Checo compete was Miguel Candia, a 52-year-old  engineer from Guadalajara, Jalisco. When asked by the Austin American-Statesman if Checo gave Mexico hope, Candida said “Of course. But so do the Mexicans who won the mathematics Olympics, the champions of the robotics competition and the winners of many cultural competitions out there. There are many brilliant Mexicans who make us proud, but today Checo is our ambassador.” 

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MexicoToday sponsored balloon

This year, the 11th edition of the International Balloon Festival was held on November 16-19 in Leon, Guanajuato. With approximately 200 hot air balloons from 14 countries, this spectacular event was a must-see.  Click here to check out our MexicoToday Flickr photo albumConsidered to be Latin America’s largest event of its kind, over 350,000 visitors from the Americas and Europe came out to see the extraordinary hot air balloons.  From colorful, standard shaped balloons with their sponsors name on it to balloons in the shapes of cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse, Pepé Le Pew, and many others, this year’s festival offered something for everyone.

The festivities began at 7am everyday with the inflating of the balloons.  As everyone gathered around them, trying to guess what they would turn into as they inflated, the guests were eager to see the take-off.  Following the exhibition of the colorful, fun-shaped balloons, everyone was ready to eat, watch the concerts, shop, and enjoy the rest of their day. 

At around 7pm, it was time for the much anticipated part of the day, Magical Nights (or in Spanish “Noches Magicas”).  Considered to be one of the main highlights of the festival, Magical Nights offered a unique orchestration between the balloons being lit and fire shooters with great music.  The festival ended officially at the stroke of midnight every night, allowing everyone to go home with a smile on their face, having witnessed such a unique and special event.

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Tiger Woods Diamante Cabo San Lucas Golf Course

Diamante Cabo San Lucas (Diamante) in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico will build a new 18-hole, 7,300 yard championship golf course, designed by Tiger Woods and his company Tiger Woods Design (TWD).

The new golf course named "El Cardonal" will be Diamante's second and will join the resort's championship golf course, Diamante Dunes, a natural links course that opened in 2009. The $12 million course is scheduled for a 2014 opening and will join a Davis Love III course already built at Diamante in 2009.

El Cardonal golf course’s design will be reminiscent of the old-style California courses. The design firm plans to integrate Diamante's rolling hills and panoramic views into the design. Bunkers will be placed at various places to create definite strategic choices and carrying off the tees. The bunkers will have a traditional look while natural, irregular contours will be preserved in wide fairways. Various holes and strategic options will be featured that promote shot-making while still creating a playable experience for golfers of all skill levels.

Influenced by the old-style courses of Southern California that he grew up playing, Tiger’s vision is to create a course that brings back the need for strategy – with several options to navigate each hole. As you can imagine, the course will challenge expert players, but it will also provide options for those with higher handicaps as well. It will truly be accessible and fun for golfers of all skill levels.

Tiger explains, “I set up the golf strategy to make golfers think and make choices. Regardless of your handicap, there are going to be different ways to play every hole. Angles of approach are going to be very important and will dictate the type of shots you should consider. I love this kind of golf.”

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The narrow alleys of Guanajuato made the perfect settings for Hidden Moon

Among Hidden Moon’s filming locations was the beautiful city of Guanajuato, Mexico. With narrow, winding roads and alleys too small for cars, this historic city provided a visually appealing background for the international film. 

Unlike other cities, Guanajuato’s streets follow the extremely irregular terrain, with small alleyways and even some steep staircases up hillsides in replacement of normal paths. Juarez Street is one of the few streets a car can pass through – and the only one not underground! It is decorated with stores, restaurants ad a constant flow of people. The other streets of town are all either partially or fully underground! They follow old drainage ditches and tunnels dug during colonial times.  

Among these narrow streets is the Callejón del Beso, which is a setting for a pivotal scene in Hidden Moon. According to legend, Doña Carmen, the only daughter of a prominent family, was forbidden to see her true love. Fortunately, the boyfriend purchased a home directly across the street. The callejón (alley) was so narrow that he could reach over from his balcony and kiss his true love in the opposite window.

Many buildings were constructed of sandstone, adobe or other stone. Pink, green, ochre and red buildings paint across the city into a glorious, colorful view. 

The city’s most recognized tourist attraction is the Mummies of Guanajuato. The mummies museum, located on the side of the municipal cemetery in the Tepetapa neighborhood, contains a collection of specimens that mummified naturally in the cemetery. 

The city’s main event is the Festival Cervantino, which annually showcases the art and culture of Mexico. It hosts events such as opera, theater production, film showings, art exhibitions, academic conferences, concerts and dance recitals. Occurring in over 70 different venues, it stretches over the majority of October. 

A city of mystery and beauty, Guanajuato was the ideal location for Hidden Moon. A story about love, complications and secrets, the windings streets and bright buildings constructed the perfect scenes.  

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Hidden Moon premieres November 23 in Mexico. Director Pepe Bojorquez manages to capture the true beauty and complications of life. It intertwines the intricate feelings of love with the depth nature of truth. A talented filmmaker, Bojorquez says this story is not just his – it’s everyone’s reality.

“The story is easy to empathize,” Bojorquez said. “It’s about chasing your dreams, falling in love. Sometimes our goals and what we want to accomplish mask everything, such as love that’s right in front of us.” 

Hidden Moon tells the story of a beautiful woman, whose dramatic appearance at the funeral of a man in California shocks his prosperous family. The man’s son then travels to Mexico to discover the truth about the woman’s relationship with his father. Upon finding her, he discovers that she is living with another man, and refuses to admit knowing his father. What happens when true love appears twice, at the same moment? This web of emotions is difficult to unravel. Is it possible for everyone to have a happy ending?

Filmed in Guanajuato and Veracruz, Hidden Moon showcases the unparalleled magnificence of Mexico. Its accomplished cast includes Wes Bentley from “American Beauty” and “The Hunger Games,” Mexican actress Ana Serradilla, actor and writer Jonathan Schaech and Linda Gray, the star of “Dallas.” 

After its premiere in Mexico, it will come to European theaters, and then to the United States. A depiction of modern reality, Hidden Moon paints the exquisiteness and rarity of love against the background of gorgeous Mexico. 

Hunger Games actor Wes Bentley to star in new international film 

Linda Gray, star of Dallas, shines brightly in Hidden Moon

Ana Serradilla, one of Mexico's most recognized stars, to star in international film

Guanajuato plays one of the settings to Hidden Moon

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Ana Serradilla has stared in a wide variety of filmography

Ana Serradilla is one of Mexico’s most recognized actresses. One of her most recent ventures was Hidden Moon, her first Hollywood film. It is set to premiere in Mexico at the end of November and worldwide after that. 

Since launching her career in 1998, Ana has stared in a variety of television shows and movies. She has played a wide range of roles across romances, comedies, dramas, thrillers, plays and telenovelas. 

Hidden Moon marks the first time Ana has had to perform in English, which she said was one of the biggest challenges of her career – a challenge she graciously conquered. 

In Hidden Moon, Ana plays the young, stunning Miranda Rios. She attends the funeral of a man in California, whose widow is unaware of the late husband’s secret relationship with Miranda. After the funeral, the widow sends her son – played by Wes Bentley – to Mexico in search of Miranda. While trying to uncover the truth, he learns that Miranda is full of life, love, beauty… and secrets. 

Of the film, Ana says that sometimes people believe that it is dreams that will make them the happiest, and they do not realize that the root of the dream was perhaps not so real. 

In this story emphasizing the complications between life and love, as well as dreams and reality, Ana dominates the stage. Ana’s spectacular performance brings vivacity to Hidden Moon.

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Galia Moss Sailing from Mexico

Under bright blue skies on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, Galia Moss bid farewell to family, friends and a crowd of supporters as she departed on her latest solo sailing journey. The young Mexican adventurer (and Mexico ambassador) set sail from Xcaret Park to sail down and around Latin America on a trip covering about 14500 miles, concluding in Acapulco. The journey is expected to take about six months, bringing her to the Pacific shore of Mexico in April of 2013.

This is not the first solo trip for Galia Moss, the adventurous woman was the first Latin American to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 9000 mile trip from Spain to Mexico in 2006, completing the journey in 41 days. Her attempt to sail from Mexico to Israel in 2010 was abandoned because of hurricanes in the Atlantic, but that did not stop her from planning even bigger excursions.

The Latin America journey is not only an adventure, it is a means of promoting a social cause. Galia Moss is highlighting the needs of children in Mexico, particularly in education. For every 10 nautical miles sailed, one child will be sponsored, with the length of this journey, approximately 1450 children will receive assistance to help them further their education. Each child will receive school supplies, uniforms and books and money once a month, all of which will go a long way for children in need. For every 1400 nautical miles sailed, one school will receive much needed assistance, including upgrading of their very infrastructures. The dedication of Galia Moss not only to her own adventures but to helping children in Mexico is truly inspirational.

In the moments before her departure for her six month journey, Galia Moss spoke of being nervous, sharing that this is the longest she will have been alone at sea, away from family and friends and dealing with all challenges of the ocean and the climate. She spoke excitedly of her great confidence in her custom-built vessel, the “El Mas Mejor II”, constructed specifically to meet the needs of the Mexican sailor by the French designer Marc Lombard. The vessel is 10.4 meters long and 4 meters wide, with a light-weight hull and a 360 degree view from inside the cockpit, allowing for great visibility even in inclement weather. She will be in occasional contact with her family and team members, updating them and hearing the comforting voices from home.

The farewell was a joyous occasion, hundreds of people lining the shores and floating in the crystal-clear waters of the Xcaret lagoon to wish Galia luck on her journey. Family and friends and team members shared white roses with the brave sailor, as they hugged and kissed goodbye and shed a few tears. A Mayan blessing was performed, the scent of copal wafting on the breeze in the heat of the midday sun. Dolphins leaped beside the “El Mas Mejor II” and a flock of wild parrots flew overhead as the traditional Maya “canoeros” acted as escort, leading Galia to the open sea. A boat carried a few of us behind her as she departed and she joked about a lack of wind, before filling her sails and finding her rhythm in the waves.

You can follow this incredible journey and keep up with the great adventures on the official Galia Moss website, http://galiamoss.org/. Track her progress on the map and read about her experiences as she updates her blog daily. The world is watching this historic trip and applauding the dedication of Galia to exploration of the world and her social efforts in aiding the children of Mexico. Buen viaje Galia, we are all supporting you!

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Galia Moss Departs from Mexico

On November 6, 2012, Mexico brand ambassador Galia Moss began her solo sailing journey around Latin America. This beautiful sailor is currently traveling a seemingly impossible 14,500 nautical miles starting in Mexico's Riviera Maya, passing the tip of Argentina and back north to finish her expedition on the sunny shores of the Mexican beach city of Acapulco. Once Galia reaches her destination after approximately 180 days, she will proudly become the first Mexican woman to solo sail around Latin America.

Mexico Today had the honor to witness the Galia Moss sendoff ceremony, hosted by the incredible Xcaret nature park just south of the city of Playa del Carmen. It was a picture perfect Tuesday afternoon as dozens of press members, hundreds of Xcaret guests and a small crowd of family and friends gathered around the park's extensive bay to say their farewells. A tearful Galia mentioned that even while out at sea, she was thrilled to have consistent contact with family members around the world during her upcoming exodus. She appeared a bit hesitant when her team told her it was time to go, but Galia bravely strolled back to check out the sailboat's equipment before the final goodbye. While she sat by the boat with her feet dangling off the dock, she looked a little lonely as I realized that she had dared to spend several months of her life on previous solitary journeys, and this probably wouldn't be her last.

Several of Galia Moss' friends, family members and supporters joined her on the dock, each handing her a white rose. I spotted several of her loved ones crying as they stepped away, reminding us all that Galia's travels would last far beyond this beautiful goodbye ceremony.

In true Riviera Maya fashion, a Mayan ceremony on the bay prepared Galia Moss for her trip with traditional shaman blessings while colorful macaws took flight across the skies. Xcaret's famed canoers rowed up to the sailboat to escort her out of the bay and into the Caribbean Sea. Dolphins jumped and flipped alongside the three canoes, thrilled to be part of the celebration. Dozens of white roses were thrown into the turquoise water as Galia's sailboat pushed off while a small crowd of family and press members looked on. Within seconds, the sailboat and its Mayan canoe escort had disappeared passed the rocks of the bay. Anxious for a better view, I found a higher ridge and was able to see the large white sail far out into the water with Xcaret's canoes close behind and the island of Cozumel on the horizon. 

Mexican sailor Galia Moss' solo journey around Latin America won't just help to achieve her personal goals; the trip also funds her "Miles for Education" program to fund schools and students across Mexico. Through the aid of numerous sponsors, every 10 nautical miles sailed by Galia helps one child, and every 1,400 nautical miles helps an entire school. Children receive school supplies, uniforms and books while sponsored schools will have access to improvements on their infrastructure. 

The beautiful sailboat that carries this Mexican hero on her journey has been named "El Mas Mejor II" (roughly translating to "The Most Best II"). Built in France and designed by architect Marc Lombard, this sleek 35-foot vessel features a well-lit and comfortable cabin with its own kitchen and living area to help Galia feel at home throughout her six month experience.

Want to follow along on Galia Moss' sailing journey around Latin America? Her website (http://galiamoss.org/) features a daily blog post written in Spanish by Galia herself, along with maps and live video feed to track up-to-date progress. 

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Hidden Moon's all-star cast includes Linda Gray

Linda Gray is a true star. An award winning actress and accomplished director, she has quite the impressive resume. Now 70, Linda is making no plans to retire. Her most recent venture was Hidden Moon, a film by Universal Studios International Mexico, which is to premiere November 23 in Mexico.

Hidden Moon is a complicated love story that features an all-star cast. Linda plays the role of Wes Bentley’s mother, Eva Brighton. When a mysterious woman appears at the funeral of Eva’s husband, she is shocked and appalled. Demanding to know the truth, Eva sends her son to Mexico to discover the exact nature of relationship the woman had with her late husband. 

The television series Dallas made Linda unforgettable, which aired for over a decade. The role won her nominations for prestigious awards such as the Golden Globe, Emmy and Soap Opera Digest Award. In 2012’s reboot of Dallas, Linda has outshone her younger co-stars and has kept her audience captivated. In Hidden Moon, Linda shines as brilliantly as ever. 

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Chris Kostow in a market in Mexico City

In the last decade there has been a serious food movement in this country. Cliché menu items no longer satisfy chefs and foodies alike. American’s plates have started to fill with interesting and foreign ingredients like nopalitos, kimchi and injera. Top chefs from across the country are always looking for that new ingredient or technique that will set the country a buzz. 

This is why Christopher Kostow - world-renowned chef, whose restaurant Meadowood in Napa Valley has three Michelin stars – decided he wanted to travel to Mexico to sample the depth and diversity of flavors in real Mexican cuisine. A unique draw to a chef of this caliber was the variety of new fresh ingredients like gray oysters from Baja California, lychee-like hairy rambutan from southern Chiapas, and bags of red flying ants from Oaxaca. 

"I don't know if you come to Mexico to learn what's new, but rather you come to Mexico to learn what's old," said Kostow. "There are flavors of great depth, and there are techniques that are pretty challenging." These are due thanks to Mexico’s ancient cooking traditions that stem from its many indigenous groups and its diverse terrain, which goes from deserts and coastlines to cloud forests and jungles.

Where Mexican cuisine was once considered to be simple, cheap and one dimensional, in the last few years it has eared the respect of chefs, food bloggers and critics who now place it alongside top culinary nations like Italy and France. "A lot of people that I know are sort of turning their eyes to Mexico as a new place where a lot of innovation is going to happen," said Lars Williams, the research director of the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen. "It's going to be a very strong player in the culinary world."

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Wes Bentley shows his love for Mexico

Universal Pictures International Mexico will premiere the film Hidden Moon on November 23. One of its stars, BAFTA nominee Wes Bentley, is eager to discuss how he loved the opportunity to film in Mexico. 

Wes, 34, has appeared in a wide variety of films. You may recognize him from the 1999 movie American Beauty, where he played the artistic next-door-neighbor Ricky Fitts. Or perhaps, you saw him in this past year’s blockbuster hit The Hunger Games, in his role as the game-maker Seneca Crane. Now, get ready to see him as a man deeply in love with an unavailable woman in this international feature film about the beauty of love, and the complications of life. 

“I love Mexico,” said Wes in an interview with Mexico Today.  “I love the people, and the food, and it’s a beautiful country.”

Originally from Arkansas but now residing in California, Wes truly enjoyed his time in Mexico. The director of “Hidden Moon,” Jose Pepe Bojorquez, said that Wes loved filming there so much that he insisted on extending his stay. Instead of taking the quick flight back to Los Angeles, Wes drove back from Veracruz, and visited every town in Mexico along the way. 

“The drive from Veracruz through Mexico was one of the best drives I’ve ever taken,” Wes said. 

Hidden Moon was filmed in Guanajuato, Mexico City and Veracruz. Parts were also filmed in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, but Wes’s time in Mexico was unique and extraordinary. 

“Come to Mexico to shoot,” Wes encourages producers. “I love Mexico!” 

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MexicoToday presented the Day of the Dead Festival organized by the Embassy of Mexico in the UK and the Mexican restaurant in London, Wahaca. Mexico's vibrant Day of the Dead celebrations took place in London as part of a four-day festival (31st October to 3rd November) of music, food, art and film hosted at The Old Vic Tunnels by Waterloo Station.

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Day of the Dead: Food and Recipes

San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas Celebrates Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos, also known as “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday celebrated in Mexico from November 1- 2. The first day celebrates the children that passed away and is often referred to as Día de los Angelitos, meaning “Day of the Little Angels” or All Saints Day. The second day which celebrates the adults is known as All Souls Day. On this holiday, families remember and celebrate their loved ones that have passed away. Although it is associated with the dead, it is not a morbid occasion but rather a happy and festive one. Families prepare for this annual holiday weeks in advance to ensure that the departed have everything they could possibly want and need.

Skeletons, skulls and marigolds are the main symbols of Day of the Dead. Marigolds are the official flower and are known as the “flower of the dead” because they only bloom for a few weeks in October. The gorgeous orange color and sweet smell of the flower is said to attract the souls of the dead. Skeletons and skulls of various sizes can be seen in windows, dancing in the streets, and as sugar sculptures.

Each year, the families build a special and private altar for the deceased that will include elements that symbolize earth, wind, water, and fire. How each element is displayed depends on the individual, but each altar always includes a container of water for the souls who traveled a long distance to be with their living relatives. Earth is represented by food because it is believed that the souls are fed by the aroma, wind is represented by a moving object such as tissue paper and fire is represented with a vast amount of candles. In addition, the altars include a mirror so that evil spirits won’t eat the food, a picture of the deceased at the highest point of the altar, and offerings that include favorite foods, pillows and blankets, toys for the children and alcohol for the adults.

Food is an important component of Día de los Muertos. “Pan de muerto”, moles, tamales, candied pumpkin and sugar skulls are just a few of the delicious items that are prepared. The delectable pan de muerto or “bread of the dead” is a soft sweet bread that is often made in the shape of a bun and decorated with pieces in the shape of bones. Food items such as moles and tamales are extremely popular because they are typically only made on special occasions. Sugar skulls, better known as “calaveras de azúcar,” are inscribed with name of the departed on the forehead and are decorated with icing to enhance the features of the skull. Calaveras are one of the main symbols because they represent the past ancestors of Mexico and are thought to be the source of energy.

Although different regions of Mexico celebrate Día de los Muertos in various ways, the underlying theme remains the same. Some families choose to celebrate by cleaning and decorating the gravesites, bringing picnic items, and socialize with others. Other families choose to build a private altar in their homes. Some families do both. This holiday is a spectacular two-day event full of history and meaning.

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