A poster on the Tristate board was curious about the origin of paletas.
Paleta means little shovel in Spanish. Paletas are Mexican fruit popsicles that are either water or cream based.
They can come in the usual orange, strawberry, lemon, etc. flavors or Mexican flavors like sandia (watermelon), jamaica (hibiscus flower, aka sorrel), tamarindo (tangy tropical seed pods), arroz (rice pudding), guayaba (guava, usually with seeds), nuez (pecan), cajeta (milk caramel), ronpope (eggnog), nance (a yellow, sour, cherry-like fruit), guanabana (soursop), pepino con chile (cucumber with chili). One paleteria sells over 200 flavors.
In Mexico, they sell changunga paletas. Changungas grow wild in the Michoacan countryside. This cherry-like yellow-brown, fruit gathered from shrubs is said to have a unique flavor.
It usually seems the name Michoacan is associated with paletas which I didnt pick up on until a few days ago. The link at the bottom has the best explanation of the origin around the mid 1940s in the town of Tocumbo in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
The town even has a huge statue of a paleta in the town square. There is a bite in the statue which has a spinning globe decorated with different colored paletas. Pictures of the monument and town are in this link.
There are a few Chowhound mentions about a Fiesta de la Paleta in December. However, tourist sites just mention the two week Guadalupe festival at the beginning of December. The Basilica in Tocumbo was designed by the same architect who designed the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Thanks to paletas Tocumbo is one of the wealthiest areas in Mexico and many residents live in large homes.
The first business is usually credited to Tocumbians Ignacio Alcazar and Augustin Andrade who are said to have introduced paletas to Mexico City in the 1940s. They helped other Tocumbians in setting up similar shops. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 independently owned and operated shops in Mexico that had some connection to the town. At least 1,000 shops are in Mexico City. One site said that only Pemex, the Mexican oil company, has penetrated the country so completely.
The latest problem seems to be that the original owners never trademarked the name outside of Mexico. La Michoacana of Mexico is challenging Paleterias La Michoacana Inc., of Cerces, Ca to the right to use the name and almost identical pink and white packaging with a drawing of a little Mexican girl (La Michoacana means "the girl from Michoacán,"). Theres the full story in a link at the end.
There seems to be conflicting reports about whether any US paletas are shipped from Mexico. The original owners say they dont export paletas.
I love fresh paletas made at a paleteria. Not so crazy about the stale, overly sugary, usually melted and refrozen, paletas sold in Bay Area Mexican markets or by paleteros pushing ice-cream carts (carritos).
Until last week I dismissed all of these as the same since I only noticed the word Michoacan. Now Im going to have to pay closer attention and see if one brand is better than another. I know I dont like Delicias De Michoacán of Obtario Ca and Chicago, IL. They are primarily flavored with corn syrup and too syrupy sweet.
It turns out that one company is starting paleteria franchises in the US.
No matter what the brand, it is never as good at that little independent shop making paletas by hand. It annoys me that there is not one such shop in the entire SF Bay area.
I can understand the large Metro areas like NY, Chicago, and Los Angeles having paleterias. I can understand paleterias in the South Western US near the boarder having paleterias. I cannot understand why SF cant support ONE paleteria when there are shops located in Nashville, Tennessee Missouri, Wyoming. Milwaukee, Wichita, Kansas Las Vegas, Sunnyside, Wa, New Rochelle and even recently . Port Chester, NY.
Its unfair. Ill just have to find the best supermarket brand sold in the Bay Area.
Aye Carumba !!!
La Michoacana of Mexico is challenging Paleterias La Michoacana Inc., of Cerces, Calif
The lives of paleteros are difficult and even dangerous. Heres a few such stories.