Well armed Spanish Soldiers under Hernan Cortez arrived In South America in 1519 to conquer the Aztec Empire and for 300 years Mexico was named ‘New Spain’. Today Mexico’s customs are a mixture of Spanish and native cultures - the language, music, dances and religion have evolved to be colourful, flamboyant and exciting.

I have dedicated this pou to my mother - Bertha Yolanda Russell Coutigno. She first arrived in New Zealand when my father Bobby Russell brought her here as his new bride in 1952. Life back then wasn’t easy for a Mexican woman trying to adjust to the New Zealand way of life, a different climate, food and language. Phone calls home to Mexico were difficult and expensive. This pou represents some of the things she left behind - the colours tastes and customs. Mexico has got much to offer with its vibrant culture and love of life, family and friends. It’s no wonder we often had to support our mother during the times she missed her country.

At home she specialises in cooking special Mexican delicacies - stuffed chili, tortillas with delicious fillings and sauces, wonderful spicy soups of every colour. There is a special salad made from cactus - very delicious! On the pou you will see the Patron Saint Guadalupe. A candle is always burning in my mother’s house at her little makeshift altar. She regularly prays to the virgin to deliver miracles, a safe journey for someone or that an operation goes well for someone else. Once a year she lights her candle so that this year’s kiwifruit crop may deliver better returns than the last.

Because of it’s special climate and topography, Mexico can boast maize, chocolate, vanilla, chillies in hundreds of varieties, avocados, tomatoes and many exotic plants and flowers as it’s own. The snowy mountain smoking away is Popocatepetl, which can be seen on a clear day from Mexico City. The little skeleton playing the fiddle represents the celebration of the spirits of the dead people which takes place on the 1st and 2nd of November. Bullfighting, religion, dancing and music are from the mix of Spanish and native Mexican cultures. Ancient Aztecs built wonderful pyramids and great cities. They invented and carved a calendar out of stone which was based on the exact observation of the stars. It is believed that when the first Aztecs found the valley of Mexico City they came across a great eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its talons, they saw this as a sign and built a great city. Mexico’s flag is green, white and red with the eagle in the centre.

On 24th March 1981 my mother became a New Zealand Citizen and today though she remains a true Mexican at heart she is proud to be a kiwi.

Designed and created by: Ngaire Hannay

Contributed by: pp Bob and Berth Russell and Ngaire Hannay

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