Soul Food Mexico’s Vision
We invite you to get to know a side of Mexico a bit less traveled. Tlaxcala is the smallest state of the republic, full of mystical legends, kind people, delicious native ingredients, and gorgeous landscapes. Tlaxcala was the gateway for the Spanish to achieve their conquest of Mexico, and here today you will experience the melding of colonial Spanish architecture, flavor, and culture with the prehispanic abundance native to this continent long before the arrival of the Europeans.
The mission of Soul Food Mexico is to introduce our guests to what we consider the Soul (and Food!) of Mexico. Through hands-on cooking classes with different expert Tlaxcaltecan chefs, tours of local markets, and additional excursions, our guests will learn what makes Tlaxcala – and its food – so special. As our guest, you will immediately find yourself immersed in Mexico’s rich cultural history. Your home during your stay will be a beautiful, restored 17th century hacienda. Your cooking classes will take place in the hacienda’s kitchen using ingredients grown within the property or sourced from our friends and partners.
Learn to make your own tortillas on a comal de barro made by potters in nearby towns of clay dug from the soil of their patios. Taste pulque, known here as the drink of the Gods – an alcoholic, medicinal beverage made from fermenting the aguamiel produced by great maguey cactuses. Meet local artisans who create beautiful work using the resources they have readily available. Close your week with us by taking a temazcal – a traditional steam bath ritual representing rebirth.
The food of the state of Tlaxcala is well-known throughout Mexico for its prehispanic ingredients. Much of Mexico’s culinary heritage stems from species of plants and animals brought to the continent by the Spanish. But the roots of Tlaxcaltecan cuisine are the incredible, diverse plant species abundant in Central Mexico long before the arrival of the Spanish. Traditional Mexican food was largely vegetarian prior to the Spanish conquest, as none of the animals now seen as essential to contemporary Mexican cuisine were native to Mexico.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, native indigenous tribes imaginatively utilized corn, rice, beans, and local fruits, vegetables, and herbs to compose their meals. Most noteworthy of these native ingredients is corn, for which Tlaxcala even takes its name. Representing our roots, Soul Food Mexico offers our guests a mostly vegetarian kitchen. However, we are happy to adjust to our guest’s specifications. Contact us: our kitchen and classes can easily be made vegan or can include meat dishes upon request.
For those joining us for cooking classes, each of our chefs will present a different side of comida tlaxcalteca and each class will culminate in dinner – you can experience the results of your work immediately, ask questions, and share feedback. You will return home from your trip with a book full of not only recipes, but also notes on the history of the dish, the ingredients, substitutions you can make at home, and Tips and Tricks direct from our chefs.
Soul Food Mexico is based at the historic Hacienda Santa Barbara, a restored seventeenth century agricultural hacienda. The hacienda sits between two tiny villages on the outskirts of Huamantla in the state of Tlaxcala. For the duration of your visit, you will feel like the hacendados of this hacienda. You will have access to all of our shared indoor and outdoor spaces including the kitchen, dining room, game room, patios, gardens, and our remarkable baroque chapel.
From the roof of the chapel, you will observe magnificent sunsets, the twinkling of lights from nearby towns in the distance, the majesty of La Malinche, the beautiful inactive volcano that is our neighbor, and on clear days your view will reach the Pico de Orizaba in Veracruz and Iztaccihuatl in Puebla.
Tlaxcala is located in the altiplano, or high plain, elevated from the neighboring states and surrounded by mountains. Tlaxcala shares borders with the states of Mexico, Puebla, and Veracruz, and therefore is easily accessible from both the Mexico City and Puebla airports.
The area is rural, agricultural, and rich with history, as you will quickly begin to notice ruins of colonial haciendas as you arrive to the state. Huamantla is also famous for its bull culture, as many Spanish hacendados dedicated their ranches to raising bulls and bull-fighting. Finally, the town even developed its own running of the bulls, the Huamantlada in mid-August.
The climate is temperate year-round. It is warm during the day but cool in the evenings thanks to our elevation. Our dry season lasts from November to April and our rainy season from May to October, with lovely afternoon storms. Our rooms are equipped with either a gas heater or a wood burning stove.
The climate and soil fertility here ensure that our gardens are productive all year long. We are always able to offer our guests that which we harvest in house: fresh seasonal fruit from our main patio, salads featuring homegrown lettuces, spinach, arugula, herbs, and vegetables, hearty eggs from our fabulous hens, and fresh teas prepared to order from our medicinal herb garden. Our philosophy within the hacienda is to utilize everything that we have available at our fingertips without wasting anything. And we want to share with our guests the joy that comes from seeing exactly where your food comes from.
Maria Alejandra Mila Juarez
Maria is the heart of the hacienda, and our amazing chef. When her mother passed away, Maria was only 12 years old. Her father taught her to cook complicated dishes and make handmade tortillas from what he learned watching his wife. Maria has mastered these techniques, though still feels more comfortable cooking mole with her father looking over her shoulder. Maria is originally from Chapultepec, worked several years in Mexico City, but is back home now. She looks forward to meeting you and sharing her knowledge about the traditional Tlaxcalan cuisine with you. With her, you will also learn popular Mexican dichos (sayings) common in the pueblos in this region of Mexico.
Carlos Hernandez Juarez
Don Carlos is the night-watchman, gardener, and soul of the hacienda. Also from Chapultepec, he first began working for the hacienda when he was only 12, after losing his father. At this time, he worked taking care of the hacienda’s calves. He has worked in various capacities over his life, including on the City council of Huamantla. But he has returned to the hacienda since it re-opened to the public in the last decade. Carlos not only maintains our expansive grounds and lovely gardens, but he also regales our guests with delightful local legends of la llorona, el nagual, and the legend of el patron – the hacienda’s very own ghost story! He has a wealth of knowledge and information about the hacienda, and can’t wait to answer your questions!
Gabriel Luna Victoriano
Gabriel is the treasure of the hacienda, our maestro of construction. He handles all repairs within the property as well as all new construction projects, such as the new temazcal currently under construction. Gabriel has absorbed a lot of knowledge around the uses of local herbs for medicinal remedies. Gabriel is the proud guardian of the hacienda’s flock of sheep and one female donkey who will give birth soon! He also serves as our resident veterinarian. He can help you identify any critters you see wandering around on the grounds, too. Gabriel is around to assist with any issues which may arise during your visit.
Galo Hernandez Martinez
Galo is a modern day renaissance man, and a living testament to how traditions and knowledge are preserved. This 21st century shaman is a temazcalero, trained in the art and science of giving a temazcal, and expert in local medicinal herbs and plants. He learned the temazcal from his father and is now teaching his son, Tavo. He is also a creative chef, who loves to play with the ingredients which grow in abundance in his backyard. Galo will welcome you to a temazcal in his house at the foot of the mystical mountain Cuatlapanga, in the structure built by his father, and also will travel to the hacienda to deliver cooking classes for those wishing to learn from more than one chef.
Javier Zamora Rios
Javier is the owner and operated of the Hacienda Santa Barbara, without whom none of this would be possible. He opens the doors to his house to welcome our guests and will speak with charm and authority about the history of the place and how his family came to be modern day hacendados. Originally from Huamantla, Javier loves to chare his enthusiasm for and knowledge of his home with our visitors. You may even be fortunate enough to meet his exceptional children. Javier is a temazcalero, passionate about the healing ritual of the ancient bath, and will guide our guests through their experience.
Joel was born in Nealtican, Puebla, and lived many years in New York City. There, his interest in the vegetarian cuisine initiated. Brought back to Mexico by a desire to reconnect to his roots, he now calls Tlaxcala home. Joel works tirelessly to ensure that the hacienda is moving closer to self-sustainability. Realizing the abundance of ingredients that are unique to Mexico, he began to experiment more with the vegetarian culinary art. He finds soul healing from sharing his salads and creations with our guests and seeing their happy faces. He is also the unofficial leader of our tribe of dogs.
Originally from North Carolina, Ambien lived many years in New York before arriving to Tlaxcala. Mexican culture (and flavor) fascinates. Here, Maria always has new dishes and techniques to excite her. Ambien helps design and execute the hacienda’s gardens and outdoor spaces. She and Joel have also developed a community development branch of the business, supporting with English classes and community cleaning days in Chapultepec. She also serves as a guide and translator for the duration of our guests’ experience. Ambien is also the resident animal psychiatrist of the hacienda and will happily explain the inner-workings of our critters.