Blowing up the Judases

Well, if you’d like to know how they celebrate Easter in San Miguel de Allende, it’s probably not what you’d expect. Today the street was filled with people and the sky right above the people was filled with the villains….the betrayers….the Judases. They have a ceremony in the town square on this day where they “blow up the Judases.” They make papier mache figures of all the people that need to go, and then they blow them up, one by one. If you spend any time in Mexico you soon learn that blowing things up works on almost any occasion. Fred and I managed to time our arrival perfectly and I found a wonderful place to stand, watch, and photograph. The crowd that gathered today seemed to have a lot more gringos than the crowd on Friday (for the Crucifixion parade), which was mostly Mexican.

I asked the Mexican guy standing beside me, “Who are these people?” His answer was, “they are corrupt politicians.” And, guess what…it seems that everyone agreed on who needed to be blown up. Of course I was hoping that Mr. Tiny Hands would be one of the explodees, and I did spot a blonde guy, hanging with the rest of them, waiting for his fate.

Each of these figures wears a  belt of explosives, and they are lit one at a time. A few of them fail to explode,  I think maybe 3 or 4 didn’t blow up. But, most of them went out with a bang. I didn’t know who any of them were, or what their error had been, but I kept my eye on the Mr.T one. (He, by the way, was the only non-Mexican that was blown up. That gives you some idea of how much he is hated here. I’ll tell you what….if I were in this country and I was supporting that jerk, I would sure keep it to myself.)

There was a bride. She didn’t explode. There was a dark-skinned woman with red hair…go figure on that one. Most of them were men. Nearing the end of the ceremony, which took about an hour, the crowd started chanting, “Donald Trump. Donald Trump.” It was in a good-humored sort of way, but the crowd was  as ready as I was. Then, sure enough, Mr Blonde Hair got set on fire. He spun around a few time, and had a couple of little booms. I had a quick thought of how much of a bummer it would be if he were one of the ones that didn’t explode. But, then…Yes!!! He went out in a blaze of glory.

I am including a few more pictures. First we have the bride who survived. Then we have Mr. T set on fire. The third is of his demise. The last two are just two random, but really good, explosions. All in all, a great event. Fred thought it was a little barbaric. I thought it was quite cathartic. Got a Judas in your life? Blow that sucker up!!DSCF7519web.jpg


Let’s Make FaceBook Great Again

I don’t know about you guys, but I am so very tired of seeing a certain very repulsive person, who will go unnamed because I’m even tired of seeing the word in print, when I look at FaceBook. You know the one…the ugly, nasty guy who is in the lead for the Republican nomination. I want to have fun again with FaceBook, and not get depressed about US politics. My friend, Edward Tomlin, put up a picture yesterday of his precious pups and suggest we should all work together to put the fun back into FaceBook. You know—selfies, pet pix, beautiful landscapes, tales of what we’re all up to, movie and book reviews—anything but stuff about Mr. Tiny Hands.

So, I’m going to kick this off by telling you about what happened in San Miguel yesterday. It was the Festival of Our Lord of the Conquest. This has to do with Indian conchero dancers dancing in front of the Parroquia from dawn until dusk to celebrate the acceptance of Christ by Mexico’s indigenous people. (Thanks to my friend Linda Bacon for all the info). The good news about this conversion is that the people of Mexico, while accepting much about Catholicism, also managed to keep their own traditions, as these dancers fully illustrate. It always makes me happy to see this wonderful mix of cultures, and to see the people holding tight to the beauty of their ancient rituals.

I am including some shots I took yesterday morning…I didn’t have the stamina to watch this until the end, but could hear the drumming all day. It was pretty wonderful. The guys taking a break in the last picture here were part of a very interesting dancing group of guys in drag, wearing very stylized masks of painted caucasian women. I have seen this before at festivals in Mexico…where men take the opportunity to dress as women. Drag seems to be a part of every culture. DSCF6975webDSCF6990webDSCF7015webDSCF7021webDSCF7129web

The Day to be Free in Your Body

This week I am thinking of unusual holidays, and the definite winner is a day this past February. Fred and I were staying in a suburb of Oaxaca City, and we were enjoying not only exploring the city itself, but also the surrounding villages. There are no finer craftspeople in Mexico than the Oaxacans. They have so many ways to express their creativity…rugs, pottery, clothing, glass, and, of course, mezcal. On this particular day we went to the village of Tilcajete, about an hour’s drive from where we were staying. In this village we looked forward to seeing the work of the artists who make the painted wooden animals. Sebastian, our wonderful guide, took us to the workshop of Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda who are perhaps the most renowned craftspeople for these animals in the entire country. (I have much more to say, both about the wood carvings and our guide, but that isn’t what this post is about.)

After we saw that workshop we became very aware that a festival was going on in that village. While we were in the workshop it had really cranked up. I have seen carnival twice in the Yucatan, and many festivals in San Miguel de Allende, but never had I ever seen anything that could begin to compare with the otherworldliness of this one. Since it took place in a very small village where everyone knows each other, there was a sense of intimacy involved between the participants. The light that day was so intense and the air so clear and the surroundings were so unfamiliar to me that it truly did seem like another world and another place in time. Some of the men and boys had dressed as demons or evil spirits. Since all the people in this village are woodcarvers, the masks were absolutely works of art. Most of them had some sort of noise makers attached to their bodies, so that whet they moved, they made a lot of noise. The noise was added to by random fireworks that sounded like bombs, which made Pinky and I a bit uneasy. But, we maintained. The men in the costumes were just flitting around without any seeming plan or purpose. They had all covered their bodies with some sort of thick, greasy paint. They were scary-looking, but amusing to watch. Their vibe wasn’t frightening, it was funny. I was happy that they took great delight in having their pictures made.

While this was going on, in another part of the square, something even more remarkable was happening. It seems that what ever else this particular festival is, it is known as the day to be free in your body. This means that it is totally cool for people to change their gender identity for this day. To top this off, they have a little play about a wedding, with an evil intruder who tries to steal the groom from the bride, and a full wedding party with a brass band. The thing is that all the women in this play are men in drag. And, on the street as well, people are free to express any gender identity they like. Sebastian told us that when all the festivities came to an end, the mayor of the town was throwing a party for everyone.

I have heard for a while that Southern Mexico is quite tolerant of people who are transgender. There certainly didn’t seem to be a problem that day in the state of Oaxaca. The whole day was almost too much to believe. I would have been satisfied with a visit to the woodcarvers, but I also got a trip into another world. DSCF9575web