Jim and I sat on the veranda of La Ceiba to work on our lithographs last Wednesday. It was during the four hundred seventieth year of the hacienda’s existence. That’s an awful lot of years. A lot of USAer’s brains don’t have cells that can process that many years of history. There was history going on all over the place in the former British colonies that now are the United States of America, but I suspect most of us don’t tend to think of ourselves as coming from anything that far back. Or thinking that it matters. We’re more a cut and run kind of people. Here in our corner of Mexico, and in much of Mexico, history is part of the soul, the past all tangled up in one’s blood and bones with the present.
Las Pastorelas is a good example of this mixing. Las Pastorelas is a dramatization of the trip of the three kings, shepherds, and various others to see the newborn Jesus. Along the way, they encounter Lucifer and his disciples and the Angel Gabriel and his Angelitas who battle each other for the soul of the world, as they often do. As one would expect, evil in the form of Lucifer is ultimately defeated and the pilgrims make it to Bethlehem.
Las Pastorelas is said to be one of the products of the Catholic Church’s efforts to mix Aztec custom and Christianity to make the latter palatable. Specifically, from something like the 7th to the 26th of December, the prehispanic Aztecs celebrated the arrival of Huitzilopochtli, who was their most powerful god, a god of the sun and of war, and patron of the capital, Tenochtitlan. Incidentally, Huitzilopochtli means humming bird in Nahuatl. Here is his image as seen in Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Now this is a very unfair summary because it doesn’t go into Huitzilopochtli's journey through history. I’ll mention that he was one of the Gods that the Mexicas, and then the Aztecs made sacrifices of captive warriors to. To be sacrificed in this manner was considered a noble death, equal in nobility to death in war and death in childbirth. There are legends that those who died in these ways returned to earth as butterflies.
But back to Las Pastorelas. Another pre-Columbian tradition among the Aztecs and their predecessors was to have dramatic presentations of their historical successes. Thus, the Catholics constructed a story of the coming of their god and presented it as an historical success in the Aztec mold.
With time, Las Pastorelas took on its own local flavors and in fact the Church distanced itself from its presentation. Freed from the official oversight of the church, Las Pastorelas permuted into all kinds of local forms, often irreverent. At La Ceiba Grafica, we saw a mix invented by community folks from La Orduña and staff from La Ceiba. Unfortunately, the evening of the performance, it poured cats and dogs. The show started maybe an hour late as cast and crew frantically worked to restage it on porches and balconies and in the lobby instead of the courtyard. But in the end, a good time was had by all.
Here are some pictures of what we saw.
When it was clear there was going to be a substantial delay, people wandered around, some inside to look at the new exhibit, some actually just out in the rain. Note the raindrops caught by the camera.
This is the giant piñata, forlorn in the rain. It never got a chance to get cracked open. For some days after the performance, it hung limp and sad in front of the hacienda's entrance, but then finally someone decided it just looked too bedraggled and took it down.
On with the show! (Sort of.)
Somehow, the rest of the show dissolved into an undistinguishable mix of audience and actors. It was lots of fun. We ended up trooping upstairs to the kitchen for bunuelos and ponche.