A brief discussion of some of our experiences while living and traveling in Michoacán, Mexico.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
DRIVING ON NEW YEARS DAY
Our destination was a Michoacán Pueblo in order to watch a traditional dance but we took the slow road so as to maximize the number of small pueblos we passed through on route. We were not disappointed. In Pichátaro we arrived in time to watch a procession through the town with the baby Jesus. A number of small alters were set up throughout the town and the procession consisted of about 6 alter boys dressed in white and red carrying copal (incense) and candles, a large group of women with ribbons in their hair and lovely bouquets of flowers, two men carrying a beautiful image of baby Jesus seated in a chair (strangely, Jesus had an American 2$ bill pinned to his clothing) and in the centre a priest in white garments and ribbons. The alters consisted of pine boughs decorated with ornaments and shaped around a table, a large piece of fabric forming a backgrounds with at least one image of Guadalupe, a framed picture of Jesus as a small child and in front of the table four baskets of corn - black, red, yellow and white. Upon arrival the priest placed Jesus on the table and at each stop a few people (perhaps the family who had erected the alter) came forward to kiss the baby. The Priest then raised the chair high and turned to all four directions (at this point the men removed their hats) while the band again began to play and the group moved on to the next alter. January is a special month in the calendar for Jesus - the entire month is dedicated to him and he was also baptized in early January. Perhaps more important is the fact that in many communities the family, or families, who have taken on the task of caring for the image throughout the year, changes. Therefore the image changes hands and there is often a ritual associated with this. In some communities it is the special dancers of the community who take the image from the church on December 26 and return it to the custodian family and these dancers may also carry the image in a procession in early January from the home of one family to that of the new custodian. In this pueblo there were no dancers but perhaps the men carrying the image were the custodians and at the end of the day the image is turned over to the new custodian.
Back on the road and we note that many people are parked along the roads where small and large family groups have walked into the woods to have picnics, some having tied piñatas in the trees. In some locations, in what appeared to be park-like settings, hundreds of people had gathered. Into Sevina where a 3 day fiesta was underway with the usual small rides for children, markets, auctioneers and bands. The dance of the “black men” was to happen around 3:00 pm but our destination called and this would have to wait until next year. (More about this in a post titled "Black men of Sevina".) Into Chéran where we had been told at a Pemex that if we took a left turn just before the church we would find the Rancheros dancing through the streets. About to give up our search and feeling unsure of how to get back on the the road to our destination we stumbled upon the Rancheros - not dancing but moving from one location to the next. Again, no time to follow as the clock was ticking. Having asked for directions to ensure we were heading in the right direction we approached Capicuaro where we encountered large groups of dancers (viejitos, negritos and what could have been rancheros) walking along the highway, probably going to a dance location. Our destination was close and the time was rapidly approaching so again we noted this event in our calendar for a future year and continued on.
At last our desired pueblo of San Lorenzo approached and we found the church and having had a quick torta headed to athe square where people had begun to gather and a few dancers were standing in wait. We were about to see a spectacular event but more about this in a subsequent post.