Now where were we....
December 12 is the Feast Day of La Virgén de Guadalupe all over México. She is also the patron of our Colonia which is why it is an especially big deal here. Now if I mention Catholic, Virgenes of the mother of God sort and Mexico, you might imagine something exceedingly solemn and reverent. A visit to the Latin American collection in the San Antonio Art Museum, for instance, would lead you to the conclusion that this is a heavy-duty seriously religious, seriously serious place, especially where the Church is concerned.
Well, it is, but it's not just that. La Fiesta de la Virgén is also like the 4th of July only much much noisier. The only time I remember being so up close and personal with violent noise was on New Years' Eve in Rome many years ago when we took to hiding under our covers as Romans filled the night air with the sounds of gunshots, gunpowder bombs and old furniture crashing to the ground.
A week or so before the actual Fiesta, people started putting together two arcos, one for La Capilla Azul, one for the main capilla in the Colonia. Local guys worked on them up the street from us in a cul-de-sac.
The arcos are all different from one community to another, but they all incorporate this strange plant: itlooks kind of like a fingernail on the end of some kind of prickly succulent: Arcos in some communities are pretty much covered with these things. We are still not sure what they are. THe arcos were put up on Saturday, December 9th. You can see the one in front of the Capilla Azul and the one over the main chapel. The Capilla Azul is only open for the fiesta of La Virgén, the big capilla is actually the community's church. When we took these pictues, the Capilla Azul was still being readied for the arrival of La Virgén on the night of the eleventh. Here you can see how the job was going. In the foreground you see the chair in which the Virgen will be carried.
In honor of La Virgén´s fiesta, there's a good ole fashioned carny complete with rides and including a bull riding contest: a bigger bull for the men, a smaller one for boys. Yes, this fenced area was to be the bullring. The bullring is in an open area that you can see from the photo from the steps of the capilla. We can only show you these pictures from the setting-up. We can't show you any from the actual festival night because I at least was too scared to go out. See www.vivaveracruz.com/blog to understand why. NEXT year Jim and I will have to brave the fireworks to join the fun.
The whole weekend preceding the Fiesta was filled with activities. There were tons of church services with baptisms and first communions and so on. Jero's daughter was among those celebrating their first communion. You can see the back of her head in the left line of communicants -- the shortest person with her hair up and a little crown.
Jero and Ave had a party to celebrate Jaquelyn's first communion as many other proud parents did for their children. It was a lovely party and Jero cooked a really delicious meal. At parties in our Colonia, people come and go and have a really good time. They last for hours so we could arrive four hours late and still enjoy everything. Here, the food is not served buffet-style, but individual plates are prepared in the kitchen and brought out. Jero and her two older daughters must have worked like slaves to prepare the feast we had. Jaquelyn had changed from her white communion dress into a lovely pink one for the party.
Runners in many communities (everyone celebrates this most important Día de Fiesta even if La Virgén is not the patron saint of the community) go to Mexico City to have torches lit at the Shrine of La Virgén which they bring back to their home towns relay-style a la Olympic torch the evening before or day of the Fiesta. But, contrary to gloomy images of Mexican catholicism that a lot of people in the States have, this is not such a serious undertaking. From our colonia, a bus full not of quietly reverent young men dreaming of being priests, but of partying guys departs. Very sadly, this year, on the trip home, the bus had an accident in the fog leaving several injured, I think two seriously.
Nonetheless, the show must go on and did.
Now we are into Las Posadas season -- more on this in another post.