High in the Sierra Norte region of the state of Puebla in Mexico lies the market town of Cuetzalan. Cobble-stoned streets, colorful handicrafts, and the aroma of street tacos abound. This pueblo mágico is known for the cultural influence of Nahua people, descendants of the Aztecs and the largest indigenous group in present-day Mexico.
Since 2003, Xperitas has partnered with an organization in that brings together 100 indigenous Nahua women from six communities in the municipality of Cuetzalan and operates an eco-lodge with the mission of sustaining the organization, protecting indigenous culture and the environment. Victoria “La Coyota” Contreras, also known as Doña Viky, is the Head Chef of the eco-lodge. This past spring, Doña Viky’s culinary expertise was featured in Fogones MX’s documentary series "Sabores de México," which is dedicated to documenting the oral knowledge of traditional Mexican cooking. She is joined by Luis A. Llanos Legorreta, professional chef and Director of the series.
Note: This content is in Spanish.
Doña Viky's Story
In the video, Doña Viky shares how she learned how to cook from her mother and grandmother. From a young age, they taught her to use a metate, a long, rounded stone tool for grinding ingredients, such as corn. She describes how, at first, she didn’t like using the metate, as it was difficult and made her hands sore. However, with time and practice, she became skilled at using it to prepare her ingredients.
Sadly, Doña Viky’s father passed away when she was about 14 years old, leaving her mother and three siblings in a difficult economic situation. Doña Viky had to discontinue her education, having only completed primary school, and was tasked with selling her mother’s embroidery.
As she grew older, Doña Viky deepened her knowledge of different dishes thanks to her aunt, who always encouraged her to “Put a lot of love into your cooking.” Reflecting on her aunt’s words, Doña Viky says “And the truth is, when I cook, I feel like I do that... I put everything into my cooking and up until now, I see that people enjoy the food I prepare.”
Doña Viky's Culinary Skill
Throughout the video, Doña Viky explains and prepares mouth-watering dishes including pork rib with salsa verde, mushrooms in pipián, meat-filled tlacoyos, chicken in pipián, bean-filled tamales, Cuetzalan mole, and more! Doña Viky’s pipián is a sauce made with sesame seeds, chiles, and chiltepin pepper. Although some mole recipes may contain many ingredients, Doña Viky’s is a simpler recipe for this brown sauce, containing a dried poblano pepper, a roasted banana (skin and all!), tomatoes, clove, and cinnamon.
Her cooking reminds us of not only the richness of traditional Mexican cuisine, but also the importance of transferring that culinary knowledge to generations to come. There are more episodes available from Fogones MX’s "Sabores de México" series here: https://www.fogonesmx.com/sabores-de-mexico/
If you choose our Cultural Immersion Program with the Nahua People in Mexico, you and your students will get to experience Doña Viky's amazing cuisine first-hand! She is the head chef at the eco lodge where our Community Immersion groups stay and is always willing to share her wealth of knowledge of indigenous cooking techniques and recipies. She welcomes participants into her kitchen, teaching them how to make tortillas or other traditional foods of the Nahua. Check out the images below!
Sharing the secrets of Nahua dishes passed down through the oral tradition.
The art of making tortillas from scratch.
Doña Viky sharing her culinary traditions with student participants
Doña Viky creating her delicious foods.