We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

El Día de los Muertos in Petaluma and Linda's Everyday Carnitas

The Memory Keepers by Linda

I knew a man who once said, "death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back."
                                                                                                      ~ From the movie Gladiator

This beautiful young mother-to-be is having her face painted just before sunset as the group of women ready themselves to join the procession of dancers headed to the Petaluma Arts Center.
The fact that I can see that she is visibly pregnant and smiling, for me is the perfect 
real life juxtaposition of the symbolism of this holiday. El Día de los Muertos is celebrated 
as a holy day in Latin America. It recognizes the fact that we humans have little choice but 
to honor the death of our loved ones, as we celebrate the living. Life and Death are 
inseparable, and death comes for all of us... no matter our station in life.
   El Día de los Muertos has carried a special place in my heart since I discovered the tradition when living in Arizona many years ago. In those years before death had come to claim my grandparents, sister and a son, the observance of the day was a novelty… full of lively mockery, painted faces, skeletons, and sugar skulls, but lacking the gravitas that the day carries for me now and for those who have lost someone dear to them.
   Last year in October, I took part in the local procession that takes place in my new home of Petaluma, California. I walked with friends from my neighborhood to the downtown near the river where everyone gathers for dancing and activities before the dancers begin the procession at dusk down to the Petaluma Arts Center which is part of the old train station. A large group of revelers fall in behind the dancers, and all make their way to the final destination where there is more dancing, and also vendors selling food and handmade wares. Inside the building the are several altars which pay tribute to lost loved ones which may be viewed by the community.

The dancers begin the procession by walking through the streets, and ending at the 
Petaluma Arts Center.
   The dancers who lead the procession are part of the Danza Mexica Ohtli Yoliliztli, which was founded in Santa Rosa, California in 2009. Its purpose is for the advancement and preservation of the Mexican culture through Aztec Dance. The members are inter-generational ranging in age from 9 to 50 and are dedicated to building a community based on the spiritual ideas of the ancient Mexicas. Teaching and learning the rituals and philosophies of Ancient Anahuac, Danza Mexica Ohtli Yolilitzli is actively engaged with a broad community to promote cultural pride and awareness. These dancers can be seen at many events during the year in the local area. 

One of my favorite dancers... she is absolutely stunning.
    Petalumans young and old turn out in great numbers to show their support and to enjoy the dancers and the festivities. A great number of them dress in costumes and carry momentos of their loved ones who have died, such as photos. Many of them carry their young children on their shoulders.

An old photo and flowers are carried by a family who is part of the procession. For me she represents the Universal Mother, Daughter and Sister and Wife.
At dusk the dancers begin the procession.
The procession culminates at the Arts Center of Petaluma where there are 
performances by mariachis and other dancers.
A whimsical maché calavera presides in front of the stage.

A mariachi wipes his brow in between lively songs.
Inside the Arts Center are many altars on display that have been built by members of the community
in the traditional and contemporary styles.

Glazed pottery for sale by a vendor.
Three Catrinas stop to look at the beautiful clay pottery.
There are various pieces of art and sculptures for sale inside the building.
And of course, this Virgen de Guadalupe with milagros came home with me.
A dancer bows his body at the end of the final dance performance 
by the Danza Mexica Ohtli Yolilztli.
   If your community has a local procession, I encourage you to go out and take part. It is a great time to celebrate your mortality, to honor those that came before you and to hold close in your heart those loved ones that you have lost in the journey of life.

Everyday Carnitas

   I have a carnitas recipe that I like to make for parties and special occasions. It involves making a special dry rub for the pre-cubed meat, and then soaking the meat in a citrus and pineapple infused marinade overnight. Then I preside over the final cooking for several hours, and the resulting tender and flavorful carnitas are amazing. But I also love carnitas that are braised in the oven or cooked in the crockpot. Both methods allow for long and slow cooking times, and they do not need to be attended by frequent stirring. In this pictorial, I use a large roasting pan and braise the pork butt for several hours at a low temp. Both methods work well. For this reason, this is the recipe that I refer to as my "everyday" carnitas. The prep work takes about 10 minutes. At the end of the day you have slow cooked pork that pulls apart with two forks. It is great for making tacos, tostadas, or having by itself with vegetable and a salad.

Carnitas ready to go into the oven or crock pot.
Carmelized and falling apart, this pork butt is ready to eat.
Buy a larger size than you think you will need. There is substantial shrinkage
 in the oven or slow cooker and leftover carnitas have many uses.

1 4-6 pound pork butt (cut strings before placing in the pan or crockpot)
Spice rub such as Santa Maria Seasoning
1 large onion
1 large orange
fresh herbs such at thyme and oregano

If the roast is tied, cut the strings just before rubbing with spice and placing in 
the roasting pan or crock pot.
If braising the roast in the oven, onions make a great base for the roast with is
cooked at about 325 degrees for several hours.
Season the roast well with cracked pepper, salt and powdered garlic, or a multi-ingredients rub.
For braising the roast in the oven or going in the crock pot, this is how the roast looks when
it it ready to be placed in the heat.
This pork butt was braised in the oven at 300 degrees for several hours. The roast should be cooked until brown and fork tender... until the pork has an internal temp of about 160 degrees. The internal
temperature isn't really a factor because the roast is cooked for a very long and
slow roast. It can be pulled apart easily with two forks when done.


  1. Such a fun post. Great Pics and the recipe sounds great too. Thanks, Christina

  2. Hello- I stumbled upon your blog while looking for beautiful photos of El Dia de los Muertos for my blog...I would love to use one of your photos as they capture this rich event so well. I have credited the photo to your blog, but please let me know if you would like me to remove it and I will. You can see it here: http://www.ourbeautifulbackyard.com/blog/2014/9/22/five-favorite-fall-activities-in-sonoma-county
    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica… I am flattered that you used my photo in your post and appreciate the photo credit. I enjoyed looking at your site and plan to use it as a resource since I live in Sonoma County. I would be interested in further collaboration since I can often be found with camera in hand shooting Sonoma County and the North Bay. Cheers!

  3. Ho Linda, I live in Yolo Co. and have followed Sisters for several years and thoroughly enjoy your blogs & recipes. Thanks Again Geno L.


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