Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Visiting the cemetery

Since the Dia de Muertos is dedicated to remembering and honoring those who have passed on, it stands to reason that the cemetery would be the focus of attention. We walked down this small street which leads to a nearby cemetery. It had been transformed into a market selling flowers, food, and all manner of goods for the decoration of the graves.

Skulls, animals, food etc. made of sugar are a,popular item for decorating altars and graves. The variety was amazing!

They were holding a mass in the cemetery when we got there.

Click here for Mass in the cemetery

This grave had an elaborate arrangement of the traditional marigolds and sugar skulls.

The salt spread on the ground in the shape of a cross is supposed to have a purifying effect.

An incense called copal is often burned. It is a dried tree sap that has been used since the days of the Aztecs. I bought some in the market but haven't burned it yet.

Families were cleaning up around the graves, repainting, pulling weeds etc. There were mariachis walking around singing as some families sat picnicking and telling stories at the grave sites .
Click here to see the mariachis

Here are some pics of another altar went went to see in a home. It is slightly different since these people are from Oaxaca. It was in memory of his father and her grandmother.

Those are loves of bread along the front with a huge loaf at the back. It is believed that the dead consume the "essence" of the food. For this reason it is supposedly without taste when it is consumed by the family members at the end of the celebration.

More pictures from the home we visited (actually it was a beautiful B&B).

Day of the dead is a very colorful and interesting tradition. The emphasis is on family. There is no trace of the glorification of violence, blood and gore that dominates in the states. It recognizes death as a part of life, and not in a fearful way. Pranks, scaring people, and kids begging for candy aren't a part of the experience. I like this way of doing things very much.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day of the Dead

On November 1st Mexico celebrates and honors all those who have passed on. It is not like the trick or treat custom in the U.S. There is basically only one costume and that is the skeleton. The treats are laid out in altars to memorialize individuals who are being remembered. In the evening everyone meets in the town square to get their face painted and to admire the elaborate costumes. The ultimate costume is that of Catrina, who has come to represent the idea that rich or poor, we are all skeletons under the skin. .

For some reason I don't quite understand, some people only get half their face painted

Below is one of the giant altars constructed by a group of students.

Altars, also called offrendas, are everywhere. Here is one in a restaurant where we ate.

A store

Another thing you will find are the giant puppets called mojigangas.

They have a starring role in the parade of the Catrinas into the plaza. It was packed, as you can see. I never felt unsafe, didn't see any drunk people or any fights or scuffles, actually no obnoxious behavior at all!

Click here to see the parade

There was a competition to determine who had the best Catrina costume. This lady, a gringa named Claudia, won this year.

I know you are all wondering so, no, I didn't paint my face or dress up. Maybe next year! I think this is the coolest costume, all made out of paper plates, cup and plastic utensils. Wish I could have seen it in person, but actually just found it on the web. Maybe me next year!

Friday, October 30, 2015

More St. Michael's fiesta!

The day started off with a couple hundred vaqueros riding their horses into town.

The cowboys

Incredible sight! Mucho horse poop! They all rode through the arches made of flowers, cane, and yucca right up to the cathedral.

These guys really looked like they rode in from the campo (country).

In front of the church they stayed on their horses while a priest came out and conducted a mass in Spanish on the front steps for them. In all it lasted nearly an hour.

Then they all rode out.

The white part of the arches is made from the base of a plant.

Below is a mojigange which is a large "puppet" with a person inside.

They can be seen often down in the plaza. This picture is not in San Miguel but it gives you an idea of the size!

Later on this guy was hanging out in the plaza too. I think he let's you sit on his donkey for pictures in exchange for a few pesos.

Yet another exciting event during the fiesta was the exploding dolls made of paper mâché and stuffed with gunpowder or firecrackers. It was really loud!

Exploding dolls

The whole fiesta kicks off with a fireworks battle in the town square which started at 3am and went until 4 am. I did not attend since I was told it is a crazy and hazardous affair during which young men run all over shooting Fireworks at each other to reenact the battle to throw Lucifer out of heaven.
Here is a link to this years "battle" taken from the church's side. It's kinda long but just try to imagine this going on for a least an hour.

Fireworks battle between the angels and the devil

I woke up due to all the extremely loud fireworks and watched it all on the live webcam that streams from the plaza. Here's the link if you want to see what's going on there right now!

Live webcam in San Miguel de Allende

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Saint Michael the Archangel gets a parade

One of the biggest celebrations of the year takes place during the last few days of September each year. The patron saint of San Miguel is, of course, Saint Michael the archangel who is renown for driving the devil out of heaven. In his honor there was a huge parade featuring more than sixty groups performing indigenous dances in colorful costumes. They have a float featuring a young woman as Michael because apparently, according to what I was told, Michael was lacking certain "manly" body parts and so appeared effeminate.

Also in the parade were "devils" cracking real whips which I found pretty scary!

I somehow failed to get a video of the guys sword fighting with real machetes! Here's their picture, though. No, I'm really not sure why one guy has a banjo. Ya gotta love Mexico!

Even little boys were carrying real machetes.

Lots of colorful costumes!


Candy apples

Beauty queens

All the dancers danced up a steep hill probably at least a mile long in the afternoon sun. There were old and young, even moms with babes in arms. Their dedication was impressive.

People had constructed wooden objects which were decorated with flowers and yucca leaves. These were carried up to the church at the top of the hill and leaned against the fence around the church as a kind of tribute.

The whole spectacle was really amazing!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Mexican guy I fell in love with

I know this will be shocking to all of you, but on my recent trip to Mexico City I fell in love with a Mexican man. He's not very attractive, overweight and wears glasses. He has somewhat unruly hair and he smokes. They tell me he is a terrible womanizer, oh and brace yourself, he's a communist. His name is Deigo, Deigo Rivera. And I love him.

You may have heard of him and his wife, Frida Kahlo. I love her too.
We went to Frida's home Casa Azul. Learning the details of her life made me so wish I could have met her.

What an exceptional person. I'm still trying to understand why she and Diego held such extreme political beliefs. They seemed like intelligent people. I need to do quite a bit more research, clearly. Also, why did Frida not pluck her unabrow? And how does she feel about having her face plastered on every other shopping bag and drink coaster set in the tiendas?

I would be willing to bet she is turning over in her grave except I happen to know first hand she was cremated and stored in a pot shaped like a pre-columbian frog. It was her request because frogs reminded her of Diego, in a good way, apparently. In spite of these burning questions, I could not have enjoyed touring her home and studio more.

As for my man Deigo, well, we came across a few of his most remarkable murals in the national palace and I was hooked. The passion! The satire! The beautiful colors, not to mention the gigantic scale of his work, grabs you and pulls you in.

Needing another fix, we went to the Belles Artes theater and climbed three, or maybe four, unbelievably arduous flights of marble staircases, cuz you know the good stuff is on the tip-top floor and the elevator was "not working today". Anyway we earned the exquisite pleasure of seeing several of his most famous murals.

Still not satisfied, the next day we made a trek to the building where the national education offices are housed. That in itself was interesting, peeking in the doors to see what the secretary of elementary education in Mexico was doing today. But the real treat was the motherlode of Deigo's murals all around the three floors of courtyards. It was amazing and wonderful and if Deigo had not already passed into the great beyond over fifty years ago I would be stalking him at his hacienda today.