Preserving Traditions in San Sebastian
She caught my eye because she looked just like a dear friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. I was walking through the Olas Altas Farmers Market on a recent Saturday and her booth was filled with an array of enticing bottles and goodies. Her name is Alexa and she was there representing a group of women from San Sebastian and Mascota who have been making herbal tinctures, perfumes, jams, cookies, and other traditional items for the past four years.
This group is called Sierra Magica from San Sebastian, Mexico. They want to preserve the family traditions and recipes passed down through generations before they disappear. They use all natural ingredients most of which are grown or harvested from the surrounding area.
Alexa specializes in making herbal sprays, insect repellants, and perfumes. She uses local raicilla as her alcohol base since the modern process of using vodka is not local nor natural. Her main ingredients include flowers like calendula and rose along with essential oils of lavender, ylang ylang, tea tree, citronella, and others. Each product includes a list of the ingredients. She first tests them on herself and on her 4-year-old son, both of whom are sensitive to what we know of today as industrialized cosmetics. One of her most popular is a disinfectant spray for today’s Covid masks. Her perfumes also come in small roll-on bottles that easily fit in purse or pocket.
Her jams are made of local fruit grown around San Sebastian. Alexa only harvests in season to capture the best essence of the fruit. Since she has lived in San Sebastian all her life, she knows many locations for obtaining her fruits, even which neighbors are happy to help contribute from their gardens or orchards. Her selection is small. Guava, tamarind, arrayan, guanabana, mango, and platano pera…a small banana that has a slight pear flavor. She prepares these using only agave sugar syrup.
You will also find candies made by Lupita from Mascota of local mango, guava relleno, and sweet potato. The gluten-free cookies are baked by Rosalva and are a mix of corn flour and local cane sugar. The corn is an ancestral variety grown in San Sebastian.
These women are part of a larger organization of over 100 people centered in and around Mascota. Called Biocultural Landscape of Sierra Occidental de Jalisco their mission is to protect and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Members include those who make cheese, raicilla, cookies, candy, and ranchers raising fields of agave, grass-fed beef, and sheep. Protecting the beauty and diversity of the land is also part of their mission. Interested in learning more, visit their website www.paisajebiocultural.com. I will be visiting this area and talking to the people who live there. Keep watching for more of my stories!
Visit Alexa’s booth at the Olas Altas Farmers Market in Vallarta. Her retail shop is on the plaza in San Sebastian at Calle Amado Aguirre #20-A. Here you will also find her jewelry which she fashions from leather, silver, pearls, and natural stones. She is open 7 days a week from 11-7. Contact her via her WhatsApp +52-322 103 4989 or just stop by on your next trip to San Sebastian. She has many stories to tell and loves to share them with anyone who is curious.
Sandra Cesca, Your Cultural Insider.