Everyone got the message, from government officials, to the CDC and local health experts. It’s been well documented that Hispanics have suffered more cases of COVID-19 than any other minority group, including African-Americans. As of December 16th, 52,630 have died from the virus. And despite restrictions for non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico was extended until January 21st, it is not strictly enforced. Authorities from Reynosa to Tijuana routinely wave motorists through at the southern border, and customs officials at the U.S. entry points admit that there is little they can do to prevent traffic from crossing back north.

It’s estimated that about 100,000 “Paisanos” packed their cars with gifts and headed south for Christmas. That’s considerably less than nearly two million during the 2019 holiday season. But Mexico has pandemic problems of its own, and we won’t know for at least a week or two how many of those folks will return home infected. Christmas is over, although other fiesta days remain like New Years and Dia de los Reyes. So why not stay at home during those celebrations? Do a video chat or make a couple of regular phone calls to loved ones far away. You can even host a small gathering of eight or 10 immediate family members or close friends. Inside your home, open up the windows to let in plenty of fresh air, or hold the event in your backyard patio.

For just a small group of guests, you’ll want to make something simple. The problem is that those traditional tamales aren’t that easy to make. Nor are empanadas, even though you can find a nice recipe for that treat in a previous “Hispanic Kitchen” post. So check that out, or I have another idea you might want to consider.

Mexican Tenderloin Verde

Pork is king in Mexico and making this creation is both delicious and effortless. Here’s what you’ll need:

Two pounds of boneless pork tenderloin; three tea spoons of ground cumin; garlic salt; vegetable oil; large bunch of cilantro; 16 ounce jar (or can) of green chile salsa. Here’s how to prepare:

Rub pork entirely with ground cumin. In large skillet, add oil and brown pork for about five minutes on both sides. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cover pork all over with salsa, sprinkle with garlic salt, cover with foil and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove pork, sprinkle with cilantro and allow to rest for five minutes. Slice and enjoy. Suggested sides? Rice pilaf, pico de gallo and flour tortillas.

Ponche NavideƱo

Okay, Christmas is over, but this drink is a seasonal favorite and a must for any holiday gathering. You can cheat and buy all the exotic fruits in a can at most Latin American super markets. But it’s not fresh like the real deal, and kids can eat the leftover fruit as a healthy snack. Here’s what you’ll need:

For about eight to 10 guests, go to that same Latin market and buy the following… six pears, 10 red apples, two fresh pineapples, chopped guava, plus a package of cinnamon sticks and fresh sugar cane. You can also add some dried fruit like prunes and raisons. Cut up small pieces of each item (except the dried fruit) and mix them in a blender or food processer. In a large pot, add about a gallon of water. Put the fruit mix in a pot and bring to a boil. Punch should be served warm and for the adults, don’t forget a splash of rum or tequila in your cup.

By the way, I still have another idea if you don’t want to cook and just relax during your mini fiesta. Support your local restaurant that is hurting during COVID restrictions. Place a nice delivery order with your favorite establishment and they might cut you a deal. Just give the driver a generous tip and spread the kindness.

Have fun, be safe and Happy New Year. Adios 2020. I hate you!

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