Notes From Nestipac
By Phyllis Rauch
I Love a Parade
Loving parades, I am lucky to live in Mexico. But if you see large groups of people on the streets, with floats, dancers and music it could be for a wide variety of reasons, with Spanish words to indicate the differences.
Desfiles, such as the one on November 20, Revolution Day, usually feature students of all ages in sport uniforms, turning somersaults and forming complicated pyramids. Desfiles may be political or for other secular reasons.
A peregrinacion, however, occurs to honor the villages’ patron saint. Music, dancing, and floats with religious themes are dedicated to the sacred event, and a different mood prevails..
The festival culminates with the procession, candlelit, and quiet except for the murmuring of rosaries. Those with a manda (promise) complete the route of the procession on their knees, friends and family running to place rugs in front of their painful paths.
Finally, the acompañamiento includes long lines of family and friends following a casket to the graveyard.
I have been a sideline participant in all of Jocotepec’s desfiles, peregrinaciones and procesiones. Taking photos, tapping my foot to the Indian drumbeats, running blocks ahead to catch a second view of something like the Penachos (enormous headdresses) from Sahuayo and quietly following the January procession honoring our Señor del Monte, - always on the curb, never in the street.
Recently I was invited to a celebration in honor of the Reyna de la Tercera Edad. (Roughly translated: Golden Age Queen). Recovering from a minor operation and still bound up with a fractured rib, I hadn’t been out of the house for two weeks and felt wobbly and fragile.
I snapped a few photos of our special Nextipac float, featuring a painted Chapala landscape, a traditional fishing canoe with nets, and a large, papier mache flower, centered with a chair for our candidate.
Then I chauffeured my Nextipac family to town, driving with just one arm. Mari said, “I’ve already reserved a chair for you Señora, on the plaza, in front of the stage.”
It was early, and I went to check out the competition. Our float was by far the best. I was distracted however, when I spied a donkey (now so rare in our town) with flowers between his ears, pulling a little wooden cart. The owner, a mustached Señor with sombrero wandered over. After admiring and petting the burro, I discovered that they were from Potrerillos.
“Aha, I should have known,” I said.
“This is the way we are,” the Señor grinned. “Why should we pretend to be anything different?”
The candidates were now mounting the floats. Nextipac’s slim Doña Luz dressed in a white knit with seed pearls, her long hair swept up into an elegant style looked exquisite. Seated in the middle of her large blossom, she was every inch a queen.
The Nextipac contingent was the largest present, carrying balloons, felt butterflies, tin cans with coins and wooden matracas as noisemakers.
Suddenly I said to Mari, “I’m not going back to sit down, I’m going to walk in the desfile.”
I was thinking this is perhaps the craziest thing I’ve ever done, recuperating and with a fractured rib. But so long just a witness, I suddenly had to become a participant. With my barrio, the lovely Doña Luz , and old enough to be a candidate myself…. if not now, when?
We marched, yelled porros (cheers) waved balloons and butterflies, rattled noisemakers, sang Cielito Lindo. I was wearing a large visor and sunglasses, and fancied myself invisible. Not so.
Richard, my mechanic, spied me, as did many others who know me well. Others asked, “Who was the gringa in the Nextipac delegation singing Cielito Lindo?”
At first I was embarrassed, but then proud and happy. It was high time I finally joined the parade, and suspect this one won’t be my last.