Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bah Humbug en Español

In the morning the school down the street has its speakers on full blast and I am awakened to the tune of I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. It doesn't matter that this is Mexico, that we are in the desert in the dry season. The tinny speakers wail and croon, following up with Rumpa Pum Pum, which is more appropriate but equally annoying. 

Piñata stall
That evening I watch as a man perches precariously on a rickety ladder, twisting the  electrical wires of his house to a string of lights. Across the narrow cobblestone street another man stands on the rim of the bed of a pickup truck, reaching upwards with a large tinsel laden star attached to the string of lights in his hands, waiting for the signal to let go. On the street below a woman watches, surrounded by children. Mas para alla, she points, directing the operation from the advantage of her viewpoint. Move it over a little. The children hold their breath. A piñata strangled with blinking lights hangs above their heads from the neighboring house, where a door is propped open and warm light floods out, revealing a circle of people with hot mugs of ponche, singing and laughing, practicing for the posadas. A young girl dressed as an angel leans forward in her wooden chair so as not to damage her feathery white wings. 

Tonight the posadas will amble down the cobblestone streets, the virgin Mary propped against a paper mache burro, her accompanying angel in prayer pose, and a bored young Joseph, breathing in the fumes from the flatbed truck upon which they are so precariously perched. Piñatas will drop from balconies and children will pummel them with sticks until candy rains down and they scramble for the treats as the traffic backs up behind them.

Cool stuff for your personalized Nativity scene

Every year the markets become a Christmas Bazaar where you can buy clumps of moss and lichen and bromeliads and cactus and a myriad of plastic animals and figurines for your nativity scene.Piles of wise men, sheep, cows, palm trees. Marys and Josephs and angels and pigs, yellow
ducks and cherubs and flamingos. And of course, baby Jesus himself, in every color, shape and size.

Baby Jesus in Bondage
In the shops the  tinny sounds of Christmas songs emitting from strands of blinking lights adorn plastic Santas, which share the shelves with the baby Jesuses. Burros and reindeer eye each other suspiciously. Snowmen grin from glitter encrusted Christmas cards, and all is merry and bright, even though most of the people here have never seen snow, and most likely never will.

And who am I to say it should be any different? 

The Piñata Song

Dale, dale, dale,
no pierdas el tino;
Porque si lo pierdes
pierdes el camino. 
Ya le diste una,
Ya le diste dos;
Ya le diste tres,
y tu tiempo se acabó

Hit it, hit it, hit it
Don't lose your aim
Because if you lose it 
You will lose the path. 
You've already hit it once
You've already hit it twice
You've already hit it three times
And now your time is over

Rooftop Santa



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Guad We Trust

"La Morena"

At the end of the tiny passageway of our street a crude Virgin of Guadalupe is painted on a brick wall. Here on a street called Refuge, between the roads called Hope and Treasure. 
What could be more auspicious?

You see her all over town; painted, carved,  baked onto tiles. Statues of her encaged in metal bars, peeking out from niches in the walls, adorning the marketplaces and churches, offerings of flowers and candles at her feet. Printed on T-shirts and shopping bags, keychains and tattoos. The blue robed goddess with golden rays, stars on her mantle, proudly perched on a crescent moon.

The theory is that if you have a Virgin of Guadalupe image on your house she will protect you from those who wish to do you harm, such as spray your walls with graffiti, leave their garbage on your doorstep, or rob your home. It is hoped that no Mexican vandal with an ounce of faith would commit a crime beneath her beseaching and compassionate gaze. The higher the fear of crime is in a neighborhood, the more Guadalupes you find. It seems that more and more of them are appearing on the walls and in the doorways of well built homes and pieced together shacks everywhere. In the richer areas she is carved and painted and decked out in all the glory money can buy. Outside the poorer houses she is painted crudely on the walls of unfinished brickwork with house paint. In all cases she carries the same message. I forgive you, she seems to say. But still, please don't tag my wall, break into my house or let your dog shit on my doorway.

And here, at the bottom of my alley, on the morning of December 12th, day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, someone has placed pots of blooming flowers and lit candles at her feet in a touching tribute to Our Lady. After all, no matter how she appears, how crudely or misshapen she is represented by well meaning artists, she still represents what we all long for; an all embracing and loving Mom who forgives us our flawed childish human ways and offers refuge from life's struggles and challenges. Someone who cares about us- who shares our suffering and offers mercy, who gives from the heart of hearts and shows us that there are indeed miracles in this life, whether you believe in them or not.


For more links to The Virgin of Guadalupe on this blog, 
click HERE