Thursday, February 18, 2010


This and other post with this title are an attempt to simply capture a moment which will perhaps fall into a larger picture in the future, or perhaps not.

#1 During a fiesta for the Virgin of Immaculate Conception in Cocucho two things struck me. First, while watching a group of viejito dancers in a vigorous performance I noticed a teenage girl holding what looked like a Barbie doll. I concluded it was really an image of the Virgin and began to pay more attention to the crowds on the street. Indeed, many people had these small Virgins and young girls often compared their images, perhaps commenting on the way they were dressed. On occasion a man was seen carrying a larger image. There were countless images on the streets. Later on entering the church we found the pews all pushed to the sides. A moment later we heard the band approaching and the viejito dancers entered following an image of the Virgin and an incense burner. After vigorous dancing they left the church and it became apparent that many people were gathered at the front of the church where they appeared to be praying or touching a large image of the Virgin. Those that did received a gladiola flower. Some recipients then took part of the flower and ran it over the image, others tied their flowers to a stick and lifted it high to pass it over the glass protecting a painting of the Virgin, some ran their own image of the Virgin over the larger image and others just touched the images. A stranger approached us to tell her story. She had been badly injured in an accident and it was thought she wold not walk again. She prayed to this particular image (she said you have to also have faith) and indeed here she was walking into the church. She no longer lives locally but makes an effort to return to the church to pray and say thank you.

#2 A second fragment is perhaps related. We entered a village to find a main street blocked and tables being set up. We learned a wedding celebration was in the making and in talking to a friend who lived next door we were told something of the local traditions. One part of this tradition that struck me was the practice of “bendici√≥n” (the blessing). This portion happened the day before the wedding when the bride and groom could be found at home kneeling on a straw mat.
Their parents and godparents (and presumably others) enter the home and there make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the new couple. What was this about? Was it just the community acknowledging the new family being formed? In a very real sense giving their blessing to the union. Was it the community making it clear to the couple that what they were doing was before the eyes of God? Was it just a blessing (our way of saying good luck)? An unrelated part of the tradition was that on the morning after the fiesta which was about to begin the new couple was obliged to rise very early and make fresh atole (a local corn based hot drink ) and deliver it to their parents and godparents since it was assumed they may have had too much to drink and needed this assistance in starting their day.

#3 And a third fragment, also a wedding ritual. After the wedding the young couple are required to stand on chairs while their friends gently attempt to knock them off the chair. The two have to try and save the other from falling since it is believed that if they fall the marriage will not last. Perhaps a good metaphor for an enduring union.

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