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ONE OF SAMANTHA WOOD'S earliest childhood memories is of her grandfather giving her a wobbly rubber map of Mexico that pulled apart like a jigsaw puzzle. He told her of the nomadic Culua-Mexica, who built a great empire in the valley of Mexico and became known as the Aztecs. Suddenly, the wanderers were a people with a new identity, a home...


Like her ancestors, Samantha yearns to find a place she can call home. Raised on the enticing glimpses of a dark and magical land conjured up by her Mexican mother's bedtime stories - a land oozing Latin rhythms, full of passion and fire, from bullfights to family feuds and bloody revolutions, roasted iguana and beans, to sugar skeletons - what begins as a visit to her enigmatic grandmother becomes a quest to find out what it means to be Mexican.


But as she learns to embrace Mexico verdadero - the real Mexico - she discovers a people who give a new meaning to larger than life, the fabulous strong women who rule the roost, the colourful macho men who think they do, and the invincible bonds between family, food, and the spirit world.


Always an outside, this nomad at last feels she has come home.

By Samantha Wood

CULUA: 

My other life in Mexico

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