We recently attended a carnival event in a small pueblo, an almost immediately I said, “now this is community”. Quite different than the block parties I am accustomed to. The event began with many members of the community gathering in the centre of town and then forming a parade of sorts with the mandatory band keeping everyone on track and bottle rockets telling everyone else to get a move on or they would miss the festivities. At the head of the parade was a burro, nicely adorned with ribbons and balloons and more importantly, carrying the beer. The destination was a dusty and rocky intersection about 500 meters from the pueblo.
|The men unload the beer.|
At this intersection a small slice of community life was enacted. Women had brought food, tables were set up and those who wished could sit down to eat. Since carnival in this region is often about cross-dressing there were a number of men in tight dresses, pantyhose and high heels. Two or three of the men wore masks. The women too assumed roles of men although they didn’t really cross-dress. Instead they carried hand-carved wooden swords whose symbolism said -”we are men”. Other women acted like the male cargueros of other events in that they wore cowboy hats, had the essential woven bag over their shoulders and carried and distributed the tequila to all assembled. Aside from eating the main event was dancing. The male-women went into the crowd and brought other men to the dance floor, young women did the same and it was in this way that we were invited to the dance “floor”. My partner was a young woman who had flown home from Los Angles just for this event. The old women stood together in their dark clothes, with colourful confetti in their hair, rarely smiling and talking quietly among themselves. There were very few old men.
|Did I mention that the dresses are tight.|
|Here we see the women with their swords.|
After an hour of dancing the group returned to the pueblo, gathering in the basketball court where the local farmers had arrived with wheelbarrows full of fruit and vegetables which they distribute to the crowd. Everyone then went home for a while before reassembling for a dance which went on late into the night. If the men became too drunk the women, perhaps the ones with the swords, were entitled to lock them up for the night.
So, we saw elements of many Michoacán carnival events - the torito and cross-dressed men taunting the bull and then forcing men to dance with them. But, more importantly for me, we saw all of this performed in a community setting. All were linked together through some connection to this little place, all categories of the community were present and a strong sense of making things happen for their own entertainment and fulfillment of traditional responsibilities.