I won’t say that wonderful events don’t happen downtown, because they do. But when things happen out in the neighborhoods they have a character all their own, an organic feel to them – like everyone just chipped in whatever they had that day and said let’s throw a party.
And they do.
It was the birthday of San Felipe this weekend – the WHOLE weekend, from Friday afternoon until 11pm tonight and they didn’t miss a trick. Carnival rides with six different kinds of loud music going all at once. Sirens go non-stop from about noon until it closes.
Little boys and old men set up tables of games and charge you to play. Mixed in with all it all are tables with people selling groceries, fruit, toilet paper, chips and plastic containers.
People come from all over to play games, ride the rides, eat, dance, pray, carry the saints around the neighborhood singing. They are outside all day and night talking to each other and sometimes you’ll find the tired ones against a wall on the street sleeping.
The neighborhood locos get dressed up and dance all day.
How can one resist buying one of these?
Works of art for only 40 pesos, the size of a pizza.
Or taking the neighborhood kids for a ride on one of these?
Here’s a little movie for the kids – sounds and all -
loco dance music and a banda in the background,
each ride has it’s own music and they are all going at once.
No one seems to mind.
Two sunday’s before Easter, Sr. de la Columna, the Virgin of Dolores and San Juan are removed from their places in the santuario, wrapped in silk scarves, covered, then carried in an all night pilgrimage to San Miguel for the upcoming Semana Santa celebrations and processions.
Last Saturday night, my friend Elvia, her son and daughter Roberto and Karen and I accompanied the statues from the church courtyard to San Miguel along with about 20,000 other pilgrims.
We arrived in the plaza at about 11:30 and waited for the ‘Imagenes’ to appear. At midnight, the bells rang, banners and luminarias were brought forth and the three Imagenes, carried on litters, came out of the church.
A short mass was projected over a loud speaker and the procession began following the route through el Cotijo, to the capilla on the highway for a 3am mass, proceeding to a small pueblo whose people had decorated the entry with a carpet of flowers and sawdust images with arches of palm and large paper flowers.
The participants were varied – elderly men and women, very very old people being held up between two family members, babies carried in arms and strollers, teenagers, adults, groups of men in white hats leading song, women who walked the entire route, 8 hours, all night, in bare feet.
After the rosay the procession wound it’s way, accompanied by singing to the top of Avenida Independencia where we were greeted with fireworks, and a mile of decorated street. People poured in from everywhere to watch the unveiling and procession to the San Juan de Dios Church at dawn.
Go HERE to view the entire slideshow on our old blog.
Today is the Virgin of Guadalupe’s day.
Last night, two streets down, our neighbors held the last novena for the Guadalupe and sang songs to her from 7PM until… well, they are still singing. I awoke several times during the night to the songs La Guadalupana, Paloma Blanca and las Mananitas. At six the rockets and fireworks took over and from the terraza you could see sparks of light and smoke and listen to some of the songs from last year’s videos below.
Today’s post is yet to be completed, but here’s what’s been happening the last few weeks.
Altars around town have been being cleaned, repainted and decorated. This year, neighbors down the hill built a new altar which sat unfinished for many months, most likely waiting for the funds to complete it for this day. (photos to come)
Further down, there’s a Virgin painted on a wall. Wednesday she looked like this, and later I’ll have a photo os what she looks like today.
Yesterday, most of the altars were still undecorated except for a few red pointsettas, candles and pots of flowers.
and the flower stalls are geared up for the major altar building that will be completed today.
Every public and private altar will be decorated, every mariachi and singer in town will be visiting the altars to pay homage.
If you want a feel for what it’s like, look at the link at the top of this post
Back on the subject of street musicians,
The city of Guanajuato has a wonderful minstrels
Who pass the day serenading those in outdoor cafes,
Singing while you sit in the shade having a cool drink.
He’s my favorite – maybe it’s the blue guitar,
Or the way he dresses to match his instrument,
But we never turn down a song from him.
You hear the din of battle next to the church, the sound of rockets booming and you feel the ground shaking from five blocks away. Each Carnaval, in the tiny town of San Juan de la Vega Mexico, there is a re-enactment of a 400+ year old battle in honor of a local farmer named Juan aquino de la Vega – on the side of the people – a Robin Hood type person who robbed from the rich to give to the poor against the Viceroy and his men.
(Photo Slideshow and youtube video at bottom of post)
From the surrounding ranchos, hundreds of men and boys arrive on horseback carrying banners and flags, tipping and waving their cowboy hats. They are part of the procession which is held in honor of San Juan Bautista, the town’s patron saint and are here to participate in a blessing and prayer for the ensuing battle.
The parishoners follow, clasping photos of the saint to their chests entering the battlefield which lies adjacent to the church, immersing themselves in the minefield of boys and young men who are dressed as devils, jesters, clowns, cowyboys, campesinos, soldiers, revolutionaries, cross dressers, gang members or sporting t-shirts with full body images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They are taping explosive packets by the thousands to the ends of sledgehammers and detonating them on rocks and metal plates.
At noon, after prayers to San Juan, the crowd is pushed into a large circle. At each end a small canon is rolled into place. Men with toy guns, swords and plastic coke bottles for weapons, assemble to fight the battle and circle around, crouched low, raising up and down, awaiting the first canon blast. The canon goes off with a loud boom and swoosh. A big wad of rolled up burning paper lands in the middle of the circle next to a discarded plastic coke bottle and the fight begins. It’s an enactment though, and as you watch, you see that these men, however menacing they may seem, are doing a dance.
Back on the sledgehammer field, a train passes slowly by, whistle blowing the entire time as packets of fireworks explode under it’s wheels. We meet a group of young men who are dressed like gang members. They befriend us and ham it up for pictures. As they load charges onto their sledgehammers, Ron asks them what the largest charge they use looks like. They pile the packets on in a big show of bravado, then hand him the sledgehammer and begin dressing him for battle – loaning him sunglasses, a hat and neck scarf for his face. He refuses the extra packets of ammunition but says ok to the normal charge then grabs the sledgehammer and heads out to the field. Click on the photo above to see the video of parts of the day and Ron’s rite of passage and his thoughts afterward.
There is one more video in the works. It will be done in a day or two, showing the battlefield, the re-enactment of the battle, the procession, the pueblo of San Juan de la Vega, and local stories told by women of the community about this historic celebration.
I guess I should mention that the celebration for us is our ninth wedding anniversary. We really don’t like those typical out to dinner for lack of anything better to do celebrations, so this was perfect for us and an anniversary we will always remember. We had to go on the internet to figure out which anniversary the ninth is. It’s something like pottery or china. Not liking formal table settings, we took the bull in the china shop approach. We changed it to FIREWORKS because that’s what works for us!
If you missed the photo and video links, here they are:
The Slideshow – fotos (which includes the first video – more videos to come)
Last week we found a luchador wrestler pinata and bought it thinking we would have one for the kids on our street at new years. Yesterday, we went next door and got 10 year old Ariel to come fill the pinata. When he was done there was still a half bag of candy left and lots of oranges so we walked down to the market to find a second pinata, locating the pink sister to go with our blue one. That not being quite enough, we wandered further down the street and found a drippy gooey cake with a jelly covered fruit top, (which turned out to be delicious in spite of how it looked,) and a couple of roasted chickens for dinner and headed home.
Ariel and Aron came over for dinner
We set up a stand to hold the rocket fireworks we bought last month and took Ariel all over the neighborhood to invite all the kids he knew for the pinata breaking at 7:30.
Thursday night, near the mercado Ignacio Ramirez, the final event of the celebration of the Virgen de Guadalupe was held. Vendors food booths and people filled the streets. The Virgin’s altar was in full bloom, the procession of women carrying a wood nicho on a litter of flowers, and singing Buenos días, Paloma Blanca, had just arrived, followed by a lineup of followers who are served tamales and atole. (Movie of the fireworks here)
Castillo fireworks, which in this case include the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe who will be burned up in flames at the end of the evening, are being assembled in the street, roped to the surrounding buildings. It is a raggedy but self assured group of men from Guanajuato climbing around these towers, tying rockets, whistlers and vueltas. Grupo La Tuna Provinciana de San Miguel de Allende, dressed in black velvet shakespearan costume continue on from the women carrying the litter with Buenos días, Paloma Blanca, one of the many songs written for the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is song you would probably recognize, widely sung by mariachis, norteno bands, school children and women carrying statues, whenever the Virgin is present.
Here’s the second post
In the series of Singing in Spanish,
Translated from Spanish to English below.
Sung my neighbor Lorenzo and his quartet,
On stage last night here in San Miguel.
The link below has a movie of their performance
Singing Si Nos Dejan
On the way into town yesterday,
at the bottom of our hill, we ran into a several groups of mariachis singing to a statue of Santa Cecelia, who was resting on a litter, garnished in flowers, carried by two modern young women, chewing bubble gum.
Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music,
Whose saint day is this coming Sunday, November 22.
We walked right into the beginning of a procession.
Santa Cecilia’s martyrdom and fame
Rest on the legend of her beheading, after which,
She sang and praised god for three days as she lay dying.
After many years, when her body was found,
Three fingers of one hand were outstretched
One finger on the other hand pointing,
A sign of her belief in the holy trinity.
Sunday morning. 10:30 AM.
Since midnight Friday night, the partying has been going on. The parade of the estrellas (stars) at midnight, followed by dancing and events in the Jardin until 4am when las mananitas – happy birthday song to San Miguel, the patron saint of the town is sung and the castillo fireworks are let off for an hour or so. People are fed punch and sweet rolls before they roll on home into bed for a few hours.
At 5 in the afternoon there is the parade of the Xuchiles – which includes dancers from all over Mexico who perform dances that have been remembered for centuries, wearing colorful costume, in the manner of old but with modern materials such as velvet, shiny tin, upside down decorated lampshade hats, masks, war paint, gourds, clacking shoes and paper flowers. They have all been brought here by the city to perform for the town celebration, one of the largest events of the year.
They stay in schools, are fed by the town, and carry their supplies in trucks – mattresses, pillows, clothing and costumes.
I am a fan of watching the getting ready part of parades,
I asked several dance groups for their stories
Here is what I was told:
The dances have been being danced for centuries,
Babies dance in their parents arms to learn young,
Some brought the dances back into being during this century,
Others say they have been dancing the same dances over 300 years.
That’s a long time.
When you see something like this
On a street corner in town
You just know there’s going to be a parade
Three Mojiganas, bigger than life
Two devils and a skeleton
Are ready for the alborada ‘rehearsal parade.’
I think this is one of those cases
Where you begin to believe
That any good old reason
Is reason for a party here.
I mean, how wrong can you go
With a parade that you need a rehearsal?
Further down the street,
Young girls gather on the bridge of the Fabrica Aurora
Putting on dresses, makeup and hats,
Twirling their home made stars,
Waiting for the festivities to begin.
At 5:30 a man runs down the street to the bridge,
Tells them to move up the street to his doorway to begin.
They refuse, saying the parade has always begun here.
Dressed in the traditional festival clothing
Of Michoacan and the state of Guanajuato,
Like the man who sells these
At his little stand at the bottom of Calle Hidalgo.
He let me take a video of his song last week.
I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired
Of the miriad of unique ways
People get their messages across here
His is one of the best.
Part of my daily routine
Is to video the various sounds here.
This time we have:
The knife sharpener
Who walks around the town
Sharpener thrown over his shoulder,
With a whistle you can’t miss.
But first, here’s a clown on his motorscooter
On the way to work, I guess
Then 6pm Saturday evening in the Jardin.
Full of people, a beautiful evening,
The estudiantinos on one side,
The mariachis have a captive group on the other side.
Back home, the cutting of a lone Eucalyptus tree
And finally, the call of the milk truck.
I finally caught a good long honking -
Fresh, unpasterized milk
From the rancho.
Here is the movie of the sounds
As you’ve seen from the previous posts,
Parties are a really big thing here.
Even the 5 month old baptism party
Is equal to or greater than all the others.
Little Diana was baptized on a Saturday,
In Atotonilco, in what they called
A very special place to be baptized.
Atotonilco is a very special place
Which you can read about and see photos here
I was unable to attend the baptism,
But I have been to Atotonilco on other baptism days.
Where families with young babies,
Dressed in the typical white flowing gowns
Wearing white garlands of fabric flowers on their heads
Line up across from the church to register their children.
This is followed by a ceremony at the church,
Where a nun at the front,
shoos everyone who is not an immediate family member,
To the back of the church, so there is room
For the families
To watch the blessing of their babies
By by the priest.
Upon the return to the house,
There is food first,
Exactly like the description in my previous post
While the family was awaiting the musicians,
The ice cream truck arrived.
The padrino yelled for all the kids to go outside,
Order an ice cream, and he would be out to pay.
So, before cake, there is ice cream all around.
Ice cream trucks here don’t sell the packaged bars.
It is home made ice cream and nieve,
Served out of big metal milk cans
In flavors of mango, limon, guayabana, pina, chocolate.
When in season, there are the unusual flavors,
Zapote, chirimoya, and others.
Kevin hogs the ice cream cup
While Ramon patiently waits,
A worried look on his face,
Wondering if he will get some too.
Little Lupita loves hers and shows me what flavor.
Everyone is quiet, for a moment
while they eat their ice cream.
While this is going on, the musicians arrive.
This time, four of them.
The father, accordian player,
Two sons, on guitar and drum,
A friend with the bass fiddle.
They walk right in,
Set up along the back wall,
Under the white balloons and streamers
Which Barbara spent the morning setting up.
You know the rest.
They started playing at 5pm today.
And ended at 5am tomorrow.
Everyone kept chipping in by the hour
So they could dance all night.
It was the all out baptism,
That’s for sure.
At 11 pm
I went home to rest a while
John returned from a trip to the states at midnight.
We returned so he could eat some mole,
Send his good wishes to the family,
Ended up dancing until 2:30 am,
When we pooped out.
The party went on until 5am
When everyone either ran out of money
Or lost steam, I’m not sure which.
Parents of little Diana, the first dance
Grandma Petra and uncle Nabor,
The second dance
And the movie…..