Las Posadas is a Christmas tradition celebrated throughout Latin America commemorating the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Each evening from Dec. 16 ñ Dec. 24, CFCA sponsored members and their families from the community of Santa Teresita, Guatemala, hold a candlelit procession to a different home. They sing songs, pray and end the evening enjoying traditional food and refreshments, such as tamales and fruit punch.
In Latin America, the traditional Christmas fare is tamales. Tamales originated in Mexico but today, every Latin American culture has its own version. While tamales vary from country to country, all are made with a corn or rice dough steamed inside a leaf. Most tamales are filled with meat and sauce, but some are sweetened and filled with raisins. Making tamales is a labor-intensive process that can take several days. Watch how the residents of Santa Teresita make their tamales.
Allow two days for preparation.
4 lb. package of maseca for tamales (available at Hispanic grocery stores)
10 lb. chicken pieces
3 c. oil
4 T. salt
4 T. baking powder
1 package each of chiles anchos, chiles California and chiles de arbol
1 lb. corn husks
Prepare the chiles
1. Pour hot water over all the chiles and let soften for one hour.
2. Puree the mixture in a blender.
3. Strain through a colander to remove seeds and skin
You may want to wear vinyl gloves because the chile oil can burn your hands.
Prepare the chicken
1. Remove the skin and boil the chicken with salt until the meat is cooked.
2. Remove the bones and tear the chicken into small pieces.
3. Saute chicken pieces with the strained chiles in 2 T. oil and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.
Prepare the masa (dough)
1. Mix maseca, baking power, salt and oil with enough lukewarm water to give it the texture of playdough.
2. Knead the dough for one hour.
Prepare the corn husks
1. Soak the husks in hot water overnight.
2. Remove from the water and rinse.
Prepare the tamales
1. Spread one husk out flat.
2. Spread with a thin layer of masa, about Ω inch thick.
3. Add 1-2 T. of the chile/chicken mixture in the middle of the dough.
4. Fold all sides to the center, adding a bit of dough inside the ends to keep the chicken mixture from oozing out.
5. Steam in 2î of water in a large pot or tamale cooker covered tightly with aluminum foil for several hours on medium high.
6. Let sit for 1 hour
Enjoy with sour cream and hot sauce. Eat them anytime, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tamales can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator or for 3 months in the freezer.
In Mexico, tamales are eaten traditionally during the Christmas season with champorrado, a hot, spicy drink made with maseca.
Recipe courtesy of Martha Cromer
Sponsors Jack and Deanne Anderson visited their sponsored child, Jose, in Guatemala this year. Here Deanne describes the experience of meeting Jose.
When you listen to the words of Bob Hentzen’s song ìLove the Childrenî not much else needs to be said. Our trip to Guatemala proved to be one of the most beautiful and meaningful events we have experienced in a long time.
Jack and I have been blessed with three children and seven grandchildren. We are a close family and we have many dear friends. We have traveled all over the world, but nothing prepared us for what we experienced going to Guatemala to meet our sponsored child, Jose.
Immediately upon our arrival Bob and his staff made us feel like we were special. We had no idea what was in store for us. That night we met the people we would be spending the week with and got to know a little more about CFCA. Next morning we loaded into the vans and off we went on a three-hour journey to the CFCA project. The welcome we received was that of royalty or movie stars. The children were all cheering and their band was playing. It was unbelievable. That evening after dinner the sponsored children gave a performance. The first of a nightly event we all looked forward to.
Monday was the day Jack and I had been waiting for; we were going to meet Jose, our sponsored child. The emotions we felt the moment we saw him cannot be put into words, or if I did try it would take many pages of typing. His mom, dad, and little niece came with him so there was lots of hugging and tears. Then came the joy and excitement of getting to know each other through a great interpreter. Again, I wish I could share each moment of the time we spent together. All the sponsored children gave a little performance and Jose’s was a beautiful poem he wrote for Jack and me. Well more tears and hugs followed. We took lots and lots of pictures and loved each minute we had with him.
Finally, it was time to say goodbye. Again, more hugs and tears of joy when we knew we would be back again to visit this very special child the Lord brought into our lives. One thing I must share are the words of Jose when he looked at Jack and I with tears in his eyes and said, “I’ve been waiting a very long time for you.”
Mission Awareness Trip
Aug. 9-16, 2008
Since the early days of CFCA, the children, elderly and families of Guatemala have been close to our hearts. Currently we are blessed to have over 90,000 sponsored, including children, aging, scholars and vocations. In turn, these families have been blessed with a loving and devoted CFCA staff. Cristina and I are most grateful to call this CFCA community home.
Featuring Manuel Santizo
Manuel (Meme) Santizo is one of those strong and faithful servants who seem to enjoy working hard, but usually very much in the background. Meme is our site manager and handles everything related to maintenance and improvement of the CFCA facilities. Our place in San Lucas Toliman hums with activity, either staff workshops or mission awareness trips or welcoming our neighborhood children in their Ecological Club. In every instance, youíll find Meme quietly getting things done, and always with a smile. Meme is married to Claudia, a Mayan woman of the Kakchiquel ethnic group and a career elementary teacher in the nearby village of El Naranjo.
Welcome to my worldÖpotential
All over the CFCA world, we endeavor to present the most positive side of Godís humble people. CFCA Presenter Fr. Jim OíToole radiates excitement when he says, ìWe see potential.î Focusing on dignity and potential, we try to avoid shock treatment on our sponsors. The daily reality of our sponsored families is shocking enough.†
Mission awareness trip
July 12 – 19, 2008
Alcida and Kevin
Sunday morning in Guatemala City finds us hosting not only the arriving sponsors but a special sponsored family as well. Alcida came to thank the sponsors and especially sponsor Sylvia for all they are doing for her youngest son, Kevin. Alcida has a good husband who works as a stockman in a warehouse.
This loving family has also been confronted with challenges. Kevin, enthusiastic and likable at 14, was diagnosed at age 10 with a serious kidney problemóserious enough that the doctors are currently considering a transplant, with the mother as donor. During his nine years of sponsorship, Kevin has continued to excel in his studies. His hope and dream is to go on to higher studies. Kevinís mother expresses that he is an inspiration to her and to the family.††
At home in Iximche
At the Mayan Ruins of Iximche, we were blessed with a cool and breezy morning. The children, mothers and staff from the CFCA project in Patzun had prepared folkloric numbers. They seemed to fit naturally in our open-air theater. The outfits, dance numbers and songs demonstrate great love and creativity.
Sponsors were able to visit the ruins and then enjoyed a hot lunch under the high pine trees. We take our leave and make our way through the highlands and on to San Lucas Toliman in time for the 5:00 p.m. Mass. We are fortunate to have Father Greg Shaffer here in San Lucas.
My estimate is that over 400 sponsored children, youth, aging, staff and sponsors spent this July day with us. The day was as they sayÖìAlegreî (happy). Every sponsored person was present and accounted for, traveling from many corners of this country. The sponsored shared about their home areas, their families, their hobbies and their studies. Several sponsored children stood before this audience and recited poems they had composed for their sponsors.†
Mission Awareness Trip
May 10-17, 2008
Just within the last month, we celebrated the April 2008 Mission Awareness Trip to Guatemala, the Latin American Staff Encounter, the Organizational Audit of Project Hermano Pedro and a week’s trip to Chile. I am filled with gratitude and pleased to bring you this news of our May 2008 MAT trip to Guatemala. In spite of the recent loss of his daughter, Renee, sponsor Jerry Menard is here with us. We are inspired by his spirit. On May 15, the Feast of San Isidro Labrador, Father Greg Schaffer offered Holy Mass for Renee, Jerry and their family, with all the sponsors and the elementary school children in attendance.
Search and rescueóCFCA style
When sponsor Laina visited Guatemala in May 2005, her sponsored boy Cesar had dropped out of school—this in spite of a good academic record. As the oldest boy, he had gone off to the capital city in search of work in order to help his family. We struggled to locate Cesar during the MAT and the effort really paid off. Laina and I talked with Cesar and his mother. Laina offered to help his family during these years of schooling. Happily Cesar returned home and went back to school. Cesar will graduate as a young professional accountant later this year. Laina wants to make an Individual Sponsor Visit to attend his graduation.
Touching Mother’s Day story
During our first Sunday morning in Guatemala City, we were deeply touched by the testimonies of a single mother, Mari, her sponsored son Kevin, 11, and little daughter Kimberly, 6.
A few years ago, the family moved to Guatemala City from the countryside. In her poverty, she was able to attend only two grades of elementary school. Mari married young. She found herself facing life alone when the father of the children left and remarried. In the last six months, Kevin had two surgeries to correct herniasóthis with the loving help of his sponsor. He is a confident boy. He offered an emotional dramatization of a poem about his grandmother. Lively Kimberly spoke, too, thanking the sponsors for helping her brother and sadly lamenting the split up of her parents.
When I mentioned to the sponsors that Kimberly was not yet sponsored, it took Jerry Menard about three seconds to step forward and sponsor her. Tomorrow, we will bring Kimberly out to San Lucas to spend the day with Jerry.
Thanks for your solidarity and prayers. Cristina and I now head to Venezuela for another mission awareness trip, then to the Nicaragua Staff Encuentro meeting, followed by a Colombia MAT and then up to Kansas City for our exciting annual gathering. We look forward to seeing each of you. God’s blessings.
By Charlotte Willenborg, CFCA sponsor
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail about the World’s Largest Coffee Break to be held May 10 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Hoping to break the record of 3,000 people taking a break at the same time, the Fair Trade Organization wants to educate people about fair prices, fair labor conditions and direct trade agreements. This brought back memories of a CFCA Mission Awareness Trip to Guatemala that I took this past December with my daughter, Dawn, who works for CFCA in the Kansas City office.
During the trip, we met our sponsored children and their families. It was a wonderful experience and it truly gave me an appreciation of the simple beauty and the richness of the Guatemalan culture.
In Guatemala: Charlotte, CFCA-Guatemala staff member Claudia, and Charlotte’s daughter Dawn
While visiting the San Lucas Mission on the third day of our trip, we listened to Father Greg Schaffer talk about the Juan Ana Coffee Project. He told us how Juan Ana coffee, though not part of the famed “Fair Trade” program, is very similar in the respect that it provides a fair price for the farmers of San Lucas Toliman area. The producers in San Lucas actually determine the price they will need for producing and selling the very best coffee they produce. He explained that every aspect of their coffee production: from picking the coffee fruit, drying, sorting, roasting and finally packaging the coffee is done by small independent farmers. These families take great pride in what they produce and are directly involved in deciding how the extra funds they receive will be used to benefit their community.
That day we saw how CFCA partners with the San Lucas Mission to empower people to use their God-given talents to provide a decent standard of living for their families. We left the mission that day with 10 bags of coffee, envisioning how we would invite our parish back home to build a real and lasting relationship with these coffee producers of Guatemala.
Now, on the second Sunday of each month, we sell Juan Ana coffee and “Fair Trade” decaffeinated coffee, tea and chocolate to our parishioners. Our parish takes pride in the fact that we are making choices that respect human dignity and promote economic justice while building a true sense of global solidarity.
I see a great connection between CFCA and Fair Trade. Both organizations are about living out the Gospel call to serve the poor. Both focus on building relationships and recognizing the God-given dignity of each person and their gifts. Both CFCA and Fair Trade provide hope for those who are trapped in poverty.
So on the weekend of May 10, you may want to consider being a part of the World’s Largest Coffee Break by drinking Fair Trade coffee. You can purchase Juan Ana coffee, the best coffee available from Guatemala, through the San Lucas Mission office in New Ulm, Minn. Or you may want to celebrate Mother’s Day by giving a gift of tea, chocolate or flowers (available through “A Greater Gift” Fair Trade).
Thank you, CFCA and Fair Trade, for helping me learn to build relationships.