Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

                                                                                                                                                                         Alex St. Clair hails from the Lone Star State of Texas. Growing up as a teen, he dodged the local gangs called ‘pachucos’ and left the crime-infested streets of San Antonio for a rowdy elitist and tequila-infused college prep school in Guadalajara, Mexico. There he discovered the Huichole Indians of Nayarit and soon he and his bohemian class-mates joined the ‘marakame’ shamans in their annual pilgrimage to Real De Catorce for the scared peyote ritual emulating a Jack Kerouac ‘On The Road’ meets Hunter S. Thompson moment. It is here that he became enlightened to the spirit world….

In his twenties, he traveled throughout Mexico and Guatemala as a photo-journalist. He collected folk art for his curio shop Cuatro Caminos in Austin, Texas, voted the best Mexican Art Gallery by Texas Monthly Magazine. Throughout his life’s journey, he came to understand these indigenous cultures and share the secrets of their longevity. The Zapotec Indian tribe of Oaxaca introduced him to the healing and cleansing powers of psylocibin or ‘magic’ mushrooms called ‘La Familia’ for its small bunches. In the mountains of Olinala, Guererro, the Nahuatl Indian artisans taught him the use of cannabis sativa tea as a natural poltice and pain-killer, praising it’s therapeutic properties. Both tribal experiences resonate in his writings.

He later returned to study lingusitics at Cuahanahuac in Cuernavaca, Morelos, living with a Mexican family for one year to immerse himself in modern Mexico. This led to his fascination with Mayan culture; he travelled through the Mayan Highlands to Palenque and the rich exotic rainforest and lush jungles for several years. Later he fell passionately in love with the Mexican Caribbean and Yucatan where Tulum, Coba, Uxmal and Chichen Itza lie. He studied marine life and learned to scuba dive while learning local customs amongst the Mayans.

The locals shared their custom of the partaking of ‘El Abuelo'(grandfather) or Ayahuasca’, ‘spirit vine‘ of the Peruvian Andes, a legal powerful medicine derived from an Amazonian tree bark and vine. Botanists say it is the ‘Tree of Life’ and the Incas referred to it as the infamous Spanish quest for the ‘Fountain of Youth’. Ritualists claim it to release your inner body, soul and mind. He is currently researching the claims for a future book on psycho-tropics in the modern world of medicine.

His early literary and film influences include Charles Dickens, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Heinlein, Kahlil Gibran, Francis Ford Coppola, Isabel Allende and Carlos Castaneda. Philosophical influences include Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau and William Jefferson Clinton. He has bungee jumped, parasailed, co-piloted single and twin engine airplanes, survived the Chichonal volcano explosion, hiked on the Popocateptl volcano, canoed the Usumacinta river, been lost in the rainforest for one day and has scuba dived 60 ft. in the Caribbean, all in his younger days.

Alex St. Clair is now semi-retired Ex-Pat, residing in Merida, Yucatan. When he’s not writing, Alex can be found cooking Tex-Mex fusion foods and Mexican cuisine dishes, climbing Mayan pyramids and swinging in a hammock with a tropical breeze to his back.

His two concurrent writing projects include the second installment to the House Of Cartels Trilogy, American Beauty Destroyed, and La Cocina De Mi Madre E-CookBook, a collection of his memoirs and famous family recipes.

House Of Cartels Trilogy and La Cocina De Mi Madre publishing on
Corazon E -Books

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Direct contact: buddhakahn@rocketmail.com and on Skype @buddhakahns

Namaste

    It is hot in my kitchen. It is hot in Cancún, México. And it is hot in politics, as the newly selected President of México wins a six year term. Hope there is some great changes in this decade! Let the fiestas begin. If you have any questions while reading this:                                                            

Follow on http://twitter.com/alexxstclair                                                        

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Gracias!

So I have decided that my ZEN is to write a mosaic of memoirs and recipes from my Mother’s kitchen, La Cocina de Mi Madre. This E CookBook has a variety of affordable and super simple recipes. Most folks think you need an elaborate pantry of ingredients to cook up GREAT TEX·MEX and MÉXICAN FOOD! But with the advent of Whole Foods and the competition trying to catch up, the ingredients are not only easier to get, they are cheaper too! E-Publishing due out in August as we work on pictures and travel illustrations!

Here are some delish samples of what’s in the pipeline:

      La Cocina de Mi Madre

          By Alex St. Clair

When I grew up in San Antonio, Texas during the fifties and sixties, Méxican and Tex-Mex cuisine consisted of homemade fusion flavors. We were considered lower-middle class but our meals were first class. Simple but to die for. My point here at the beginning is that you don’t need to spend big bucks to get a big bang from these affordable recipes. And they didn’t take hours of preparation but rather depended on special secrets like fusing our herbs and spices with cooking oil and using freshly imported ingredients. So these are money savers and time savers (for the most part, lol).

Luckily my single-working mother waited tables for my Uncle George/Tío Cuco at his 24 hour restaurant at the San Antonio Farmer’s Market, Eddie’s Truckers’ Café, where the freshest ingredients were two minutes away. Every night trucks from México delivered the best Serrano chile peppers, herbs and spices, the ripest Roma tomatoes and the freshest garlic and onions. All of these are the basis for the Méxican and Tex-Mex kitchens.

Ours was a meld of Mexicans and Texans marrying and having families thus evolving La Cocina de Mi Madre. My Mexican step-father was a Matador Bullfighter who emigrated from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and became a milkman, yes that’s right, a milkman at Metzger’s Dairy in San Antonio. You could say it was a marriage made in food heaven for me.

His penchant for Serrano peppers taught us to try them raw to grilled to sautéed. Plus we got the freshest dairy products everyday (even ice cream to put out the fire)!

Hot off the grill corn and flour tortillas married to ‘Spanish’ rice which was added to hearty soups or paired to homemade pinto beans which later became refried beans.  Chickens, eggs and beef from my Tío’s farm in Somerset, Texas, south of San Antonio, complimented the staples to create an exciting epicurean event, though we didn’t know what epicurean meant back then. The kitchens’ warmth, aromas and tastes along with the bright food colors on the counters and the sizzling sounds in the skillets dazzled all of our five senses.

As a novelist, I dreamt of penning the best recipes that I learned to hone starting at the early age of thirteen, in both my mother’s kitchen, my Tío Cuco’s restaurant and later in life from my dear Méxican friends. While my easy going mother stayed busy working at the restaurant late nights; she took the time to teach me the passion and love of cooking for my anxious brother and sister at home while my overbearing father figure, Tío Cuco, endeared me to the timing of cooking for hungry, impatient truck drivers from the Farmers Market.

Fast forward to the present and the recipes I’ve collected to create a healthier level of simple pleasures, easy to prepare and yet that are complex to the palette. Keeping the tastes clean and crisp while the flavors fresh are the goals.

Great chefs like Rick Bayless have taken La Cocina to another level. Though I don’t even begin to compare myself to my idol, Rick’s travels and shows inspired me to combine these fantastic recipes to my travels, studies and trip tips to South Texas and the Mexican cities of Monterrey, Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, Puebla, Cuernavaca and the Mayan Yucatan and Guatemalan Highlands.

I spice up my Corazón E-Cookbook with my adult travel stories while peppering with childhood memories and finally adding just the right amount of salt to the recipes near and dear to my heart collected over the past 50 years.

Please enjoy preparing these simple meals while pampering your loved ones with love and passion and reading about my adventures that I experienced throughout Texas and México.

Try one of our most popular recipes for a breakfast salsa or Huevos A La Mexicana that are sure fire winners and one where you control the heat! Plus a bonus Tortilla Chip recipe!

Alamo Salsa Ranchera

When the Texans and the New Mexicans defended the Alamo provisions ran low but with a few resourceful women they managed to get by on some basic foods like eggs and hot salsa. Here’s a taste of the Old Alamo in my hometown San Antonio.

For enough salsa for a hearty breakfast that will feed two people you’ll need:

Four ripe plum size Roma Tomatoes

Four to Six (if you like it hot!) large Serrano Peppers (about an inch & a half)

One quarter cup of sliced white or yellow onion

Two to four cloves of garlic about the size of your pinkie finger tip

Three tablespoons of cold-pressed 365 Whole Foods Safflower oil

Quarter teaspoon of sea salt or salt to taste

Small pinch of fresh black pepper

Small sauce pan

Half cup of cold water to add at the end and Voila!

 

 

Directions:

Set the stove setting to low to medium and add the oil. Watch to keep from smoking. But you want it hot enough to get a sizzle going.

Dice the Roma tomatoes and set to the side.

Chop the Serrano peppers thinly. You may want to wear gloves or use a plastic bag to hold onto to them but if you’re nimble with the knife simply slice and wash your hands quickly with water.

Mince the garlic and set aside. You want it to get some air to bring out the flavor.

Slice the onion as if you were making onion rings, not too thick and not too thin. Or you can mince it. The onion ring look gives a nice look when you’re serving though.

Watch your sauce pan and drop the chiles, garlic and onion and sauté gently. When they get a light golden tinge sprinkle in your salt and ground black pepper. Important: You want to fuse the flavors here. It takes about 30 seconds. Keep heat low and now drop your tomatoes into the pan and make a roux or paste consistency. Don’t scorch or burn.

Here comes the magic, drop a few drops of water and if it sizzles then you can add the water and get a nice flash of steam going. The aroma should indicate that you’re close. Stir the water well and simmer. If you like thick sauces, you can reduce. If you want a thin sauce, which is how we cooked it in La Cocina de Mi Madre, then add another tablespoon or two. Taste and see if it’s salty enough.

This is now your ‘salsa ranchera’ that can be poured over eggs over easy or sunny side up and you now have the famous ‘Huevos Rancheros’ or scramble up enough eggs for two and pour over as well. A perfect pairing is with refried beans (see that recipe).

Serve with corn or flour tortillas and breakfast beverage of choice. We drank oodles of coffee and hot chocolate during winter and fresh cold orange juice during the sweltering hot Texas summers. Back then in the ‘60’s everyone used space heaters or water coolers respectively.

Oh yes, before I forget…Any salsa left over will keep at room temperature for a day. Otherwise put in a jar and store for another day or how we liked on those cold winter nights, we reheated the salsa and dipped homemade tortilla chips into it for a TV snack. Like I said, it was the ‘60’s so we watched Tarzan, The Three Stooges and I Love Lucy. Then homework…lol.

Huevos Á La Méxicana

No matter where I traveled In México, and I have traveled extensively by the way, I found one meal to be found prepared no matter where I landed by plane, train, bus, car or foot. I say foot because I once broke down in my VW Bug rental smack dab in the middle of the Mayan rainforest jungle on the Méxican Guatemalan border circa 1982. And I got lost taking the wrong road to Yaxchilan, a famous Mayan site. I was never more frightened in my life. This dish my friends is called Huevos Á La Méxicana. I will finish this little ditty of a cliffhanger story in just a minute. But every rancho, pueblo and town has their own version of Eggs Méxican Style. This simple dish, bar none, can be paired up with corn or flour tortillas and pinto or black beans. I would say the latter combo of flour tortillas and black beans, refried, are my fave served with a great pot of fresh Méxican coffee and a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. Sorry, honey will not work even though I swear by it therapeutic properties, especially Yucatan honey!  

Now let us get down to business. I love brown eggs. I don’t know why but the mere color and look make me think of the farm my Uncle, Tio Coco, had outside of San Antonio in Somerset. Whole Foods and most grocers carry them but yes, I know, white are everywhere so just make sure they are FRESH!

You will need for two people:

Four large to Jumbo Brown eggs

Four Serrano Peppers

Two Roma or small Tomatoes

Two tablespoons of chopped White Onion

One Clove of peeled Garlic

Pinch of Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Two tablespoons of cold-pressed 365 Whole Foods Corn Oil (or Safflower) I like corn oil for this recipe, the taste reminds me of Mexico more!

Directions:

Use your frying pan that you always use to scramble your eggs in, you know, your favorite pan.

Put pan on very low heat and add the oil. Watch and bring to low medium after you have done the following…

Rinse the Serranos, tomatoes, onion and garlic.

Chop the peppers quarter inch slices, without the stem of course silly. Dice the tomatoes. Chop the onion. Mince the garlic. Let them sit a minute while you scramble the four eggs in a mixing bowl with a pinch of sea salt and the freshly ground pepper. Add a teaspoon of water if you like them a little runny. The tomatoes will also make them runny. If you like them drier then I suggest only one and a half tomato and no water.

Once you have brought the heat up to low medium drop your peppers, onion and garlic and gently sauté, watch the heat so as not to scorch. Get a nice translucence to the onions and that is when you know to add your tomatoes. Stir well and get them to brown slightly but firm. Don’t mash them up or you will wind up with a ranchero sauce. Good but not the texture you want.

Now fold in the scrambled eggs and fuse all the flavors together. They will cook in the same time as normal scrambled eggs plus or minus a minute. Just watch as you keep folding over every ten to fifteen seconds.   Voila! You are done. Now wasn’t that quick and easy.  Some folks like more salt and some less pepper. You may add these afterwards if you are shy to spices like in some parts of the US or Europe.

You can pair with refried pinto or black beans. Most people don’t keep these on standby like we did growing up, unless…you are a latino familia…lol. We love our fresh beans…So I recommend a can of Progresso Beans which you will need to prepare beforehand otherwise the eggs will get cold. Also, be ready to heat your tortillas on a grill or right on the stove burners carefully and quickly serve with the Huevos Á La Méxicana! If you like, whole wheat toast works and even French croissants. And if you are an English muffin fan then yes it is ok to cheat a little bit. Remember we like to make our fusion making fun!

Oh wow, I almost forgot my lost in the jungle story. First, don’t wear cowboy boots in the jungles of Chiapas or any jungle for that matter. Luckily, there was a makeshift road that I thought my map said to take. The proverbial fork in the road. I was trying to get to a lost Mayan ruin called Yaxchilan but instead I got to NOWHERE!

By the time night came, I was totally exhausted walking a few kilometers in my custom made cowboy boots in a hundred degree, hundred % humidity no man’s land. I stopped at a lean to makeshift hut I spotted. It was abandoned. I slept in it as the rain came down around me. I cupped my hands for a few godsend swallows and went to dreamland.

When I woke in the blazing morning heat, I continued on for several kilometers and came to a dead end. Actually it was a corn field (my luck and love of corn) and came upon two Mayan Indians. The first thing I asked for was water. They handed me a gourd and I took a giant gulp of MOONSHINE! From corn mash! It was out of a movie as the two laughed and I howled with laughter too. They told me just to go back the way I had come and to stop at the pig farmer’s house, Don Rosario’s, for food and water. I remember seeing the pig farmer’s house but no pig farmer.

In my frustration and anger at the whole situation, I took off my cowboy boots and hurled them at the road. I finally made it to Don Rosario’s and rested while his lovely, but portly, wife made me HUEVOS Á LA MÉXICANA with freshly made black beans! Oh my God, the food never, ever tasted so good. Better than the Four Seasons Hotel Restaurant in Austin or any fancy, schmancy eateries in San Francisco, México City, Dallas or Houston!

When I finished eating I rested in a hammock and soon saw three men on horseback arrive. They looked at me and my dirty, cut feet and laughed. They then pulled out my pair of custom made cowboy boots and asked “Are these yours?”

I learned three great lessons that trip. First, people everywhere like to drink alcohol, even if it’s in the middle of the jungle and even if it’s moonshine, corn liquor to be exact. Second, people are honest most of the time. Those men didn’t need to give me back my boots. And third, even the simplest of Mexican food can be amazingly tasty especially when it´s farm fresh and you are starving. Ok, and I will add a fourth…wait for the pig farmer to arrive and ask for directions, it will save you a lot of anguish and hurt feet.  

This is one of my favorite stories to recant. I am just glad I can now write and laugh about it. I have never been so lost in my life!

Eventually, I got a farmer to pull out the VW Bug with a tractor and I made it to Yaxchilan. I later use the ruins as a setting in my novel American Beauty: House Of Cartels for the Valley of Lost Souls coming out this fall on Amazon and other sites. Boy how I love MÉXICO!

Stay tuned for another fantastic story of when the Chichonal Volcano of Chiapas exploded during this trip and I was caught in a rain of volcanic ash.

 

Alicia’s Red, White and Blue Tortilla Chips

Every 4th of July our family reunions were a mix of Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Texans (a whole new breed of new Americans or so we thought). My little sister, who was nine at the time, Alicia, and I, fifteen, came up with a novel idea to bring all three together with our take on fried corn chips. These took very little time but were big hits with our dips and salsas.

We found blue corn tortillas, red chile corn tortillas and the traditional white corn tortillas already made in packages of a dozen at H.E.B. stores in San Antonio. Instead of cutting them all into triangles we took the white and red tortillas and cut them into long one and a half inch wide strips and let them dry out for four hours. Those would represent the stripes on the American flag. We tried making stars out of the blue corn tortillas but that didn’t work out too well so we opted to do the traditional triangular cuts of eighths and let those dry for four hours as well. You get the picture, don’t you?

We used our deep fryer and started with cold-pressed canola oil, pouring about two and half inches worth into it and heated it to about 275 degrees so we wouldn’t scorch the chips.

We flashed fried them for a few minutes until we had a nice bright color. The long strips of red and white were about four to five inches long and about an inch wide after flash frying. We dried them onto paper towels and then arranged them standing in blue wide mouth coffee cups. The blue chips we simply flashed fried then dried and put on the saucer that held the coffee cups. Last year, needless to say, our family thought they were cute until we brought out our new hits: the bacon black bean and roasted garlic dip, chipotle pinto bean dip and smoked cheddar and Jalapeno Monterrey Jack Cheese dip and left them speechless, especially when they double-dipped to combine the flavors. To this day, I always cut all my tortilla chips lengthwise and can stand them proudly like little soldiers on any occasion. They’re easier to hold, dip with and don’t break into bits and pieces. I made sure to salt them as they dried to have a bit of nice flavor until I discovered, like on popcorn, that garlic, onion and barbeque flavored salts took them to a whole other level.

I remember when we were in LA one Xmas and ventured into Susan Feniger’s Ciudad, now Street,  that served upscale Mexican food and were speechless when they brought the same corn chips but the blue ones were lengthwise and we decided not to chide them. I dedicate these to her. For my little hermana, Alicia.

Want more and have a special request? Email me direct and I will send you more sneak peaks at some of our faved familia recipes from La Cocina De Mi Madre: My Mother´s Kitchen!

Now on Amazon.com and for Prime Members  http://t.co/SamcFCL

Prologue

Good  Friday                                      

“Hola Valentin, Cómo estás?”  El Junior shouted right into Valentin’s face, like a barking angry dog, “You think you are a hot shot, eh?”  Valentin’s face became blood red with anger, hating the man now shouting in his ear.

“I have no quarrel with you Beltrán,” rasped Valentin, “The people will choose who they want to represent them. I campaign on trust and honor.”

“What are you saying,” bellowed El Junior, “that I am not to be trusted, that I am not an honorable man?  I own this town and I will own your wife. I can kick your ass right here like a cheap soccer ball.”  El Junior represented the very worst of the modern Mexican culture that he was trying to change.  The only problem was that he was not alone.  Two known sicarios, paid assassins, stood at his back and were closing in like wolves on a kill.

“Now you are disrespecting my wife,” said Valentin clenching his teeth. “All of the Beltranes are the same. Always disrespecting the town, the women, the children, even the mangy dogs that run rabid like you.”

“So I am a mangy rabid dog?” mocked El Junior, “I can show you how rabid I can be. Look at me!” El Junior spat in Valentin’s face. “A rabid dog foams at the mouth and bites and kills!”

Valentin glanced nervously around, but it was almost two pm and most of the towns people had gone into their hot, humid houses to eat the main meal of the day.  The streets were nearly empty and the bank was closing.  A taco vendor scurried away to hide from the bloodshed he knew was soon to come.  The mid-day rain had soaked the area just enough to make it steamy and sticky.  Valentin began to sweat.  His throat was dry and parched, not from thirst but from fear.  Panic set in, paralyzing him like the day he was stung by the red scorpion as a child in the sugar-cane fields his father once owned.

Valentin’s elbow hit the jeep as he reached for his derringer.  The three men surrounded him and grabbed him tightly, choking and tackling him to the ground.  Valentin valiantly struggled against the hard grips, but was no match against the three of them.  El Junior pulled a 9 mm Beretta from his boot, putting it against Valentin’s right temple.  As the shot rang out, Valentin’s thoughts flashed to his wife Rosa and his four beautiful children: Karla, Eliza, Stella, and little Valentin.  The military issue bullet pounded through his head and the pictures faded.  Blood gushed everywhere, spilling like freshly cut watermelon.

The sicarios laughed like jackals before kicking his bloody body behind the jeep, out of plain sight.  Rosa’s paycheck from the Technological Agronomical University, part of the family’s weekly deposits, lay on the ground and El Junior picked it up, placing it into his pocket.  He pulled out his Blackberry to call the Policia Judicial in Zacatepec to come clean up his mess. 

Word of Valentin’s murder reached Rosa at 5pm as she was teaching in the middle of the senior’s agriculture class at the Technological Agronomical University.  A student from Zacatepec had heard the cover story concocted by the Policia Judicial from a bank employee that there had been a robbery attempt at the bank and Valentin was gunned down in the crossfire. 

“Señora, Señora Ríos!  Your husband is shot.  They have taken him to Cuernavaca in an ambulance.”  Rosa stood there, stunned.  Her usually calm and relaxed demeanor suddenly eluded her wiry five foot five frame.  She trembled as her legs stiffened with fear as shock crept into her body.  She pulled her curly reddish brown hair back as she glanced into a mirror, seeing her pale complexion.  She straightened her white gauze blouse. 

Her voice trembled as she finally spoke, “But how?  He was just with me!  We ate at one pm and he was off to deposit my check.  I don’t believe this!  It must be a mistake!”  The student said he saw her husband’s yellow jeep at the bank but not her husband. 

Rosa rushed out of the classroom, still in disbelief, hailing a taxi on the curb.  As she got in, she pleaded with the driver to drive quickly to El Hospital Civil de Cuernavaca, the local general hospital.  Her stomach churned at the thought of her husband lying in the filthy and wretched Hospital Civil.  She recalled the birth of their only son and the stench of urine and feces that had permeated the warm summer air flowing through the hospital.  Valentin, now six, named after his father.  The taxi arrived at the general hospital and she snapped out of her daze to pay him and stepped out onto the curb.

The tears she had felt as a child began to roll down her cheeks, burning her skin.  The sidewalk seemed to move forward but she stood in disbelief, thinking, “This can’t be happening.  Valentin and I have been through so much.  The birth of our three daughters and son, his losing his job as an agricultural engineer, and finally the running for office has come to this end.”

Valentin had made the decision to run for office, in an attempt to help everyone in the town and most of the townspeople loved him for it.  His father had employed many of them at the old sugar mill.  She remembered his father lingering there ten years ago in this same dirty hospital.  She was there to hold his hand until his death.  The peso devaluation had left Federico Del Valle a broken penniless man.  Now she would be seeing his son, her husband, perhaps dead.  The thought was too much to bear.  Her mind raced with anxiety. “Oh my god.  I can’t do this. What will become of my children, our children?  Oh my God noDios Mío, Dios Mío…” she cried inside.

On Good Friday, the day of her mother’s 60th birthday, Rosa Ríos Del Valle became more closely acquainted with these murdering dogs than she cared to be.

 Zacatepec, Morelos

      “Los Perros!” as the locals called them, “If you complain too loud, you wake up in a hell hole.”  “Those dogs will take your bones,”one elder slyly grumbled.  They called themselves La Campaña Contra Drogas.  They were the Narco Drug Cartels and the dirty, greedy local politicians, police, and military who all played an extremely dangerous game meant to fool the Public into believing everything was under control.

Narco-Fosas became the new vernacular for what the newspapers used to call makeshift wells used as burial grounds.  Throughout the country, dozens of Narco-Fosas were found filled with the beheaded, mutilated bodies of men, women and even children.  No one was immune from the wrath of themillennium’s Mexican Drug Wars.  The battered and dismembered bodies of illegal immigrants who were trying to escape the country were found buried on remote desert ranchos, piled up to a hundred deep.  Sometimes, only bare bones and leftover vats of acid were found.  Mexico’s idyllic countryside landscape became the bloodstained palette of the drug cartels.  The battles over drug smuggling routes and distribution throughout Mexico had escalated into a civil war zone.

 

                                                 ***********

 

Valentin Del Valle was campaigning to be the next mayor of Zacatepec, Morelos, a small, sleepy sugar cane growing pueblo deep in Mexico.  Valentin’s father was deeply admired for how he had run the sugar-cane mill and helped the town progress.  His father’s legacy was a vision of schools and clinics in Zacatepec.  Valentin’s campaign included not only the promise of progress but also of a new era in the town, free from the local corruption in government offices.  His aggressive campaign alarmed the old guard of corrupt politicians and his opponent for the upcoming election, the son of the notorious Oscar Beltrán.  They watched angrily as the people backed the new upstart and his idealisms.  Young and charismatic, Valentin was short and lanky, barely weighing 150 pounds and had big brown eyes to match his wavy dark brown hair and thick moustache.  He stood out in his bright plaid cowboy shirts and larger than life smile.  He emanated an aura resembling Emiliano Zapata, the locally beloved revolutionary.  

Oscar Beltrán Junior’s nickname was El Junior.  He was the polar opposite of Valentin.  He rubbed everyone the wrong way with his brusque, six-foot tall, 250-pound, sweaty body and loud mouth.  His greasy black shoulder-length hair and piercing jet black eyes scared little children behind their mothers’ skirts.  He wore gaudy gold chains and rhinestone encrusted T-shirts.  His python snake skin cowboy boots were hand made in South America.  Both sides of his family were infamous in Morelos.  The Beltráns has migrated from the notorious neighboring state of Guerrero, the Spanish word for warrior, bringing the drug war and corruption with them.  They used this corruption and fear to gain power in Morelos, becoming known as the intocable or the untouchables.  All the sons led local gangs throughout the state.  Kidnappings, beheadings, extortion, torture and bank robberies, were all routine to them.  They paid off the politicians, police, and military, who could be bought, with money, drugs, cattle, and land.  They killed off those who would not take bribes.

One of the bribed groups was the Policía Judicial Federal, known by citizens throughout Mexico as the new Gestapo.  The agents were black-hearted killers waging a Reign of Terror that hung over Mexico like a dark, choking cloud of diesel gas fumes from the rickety transport buses.  They were a brutal group of government law enforcement officers and a frightening force to be reckoned with, more powerful than the state police.  They always wore plain clothes so no one ever realized they were present until it was too late.  They carried out the assassinations of anyone who got in their way, including their own family members.  In five years, over 100,000 people had died and thousands more simply disappeared.