Enthusiasm reigns in Mexico
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series of travel stories from Edwards residents Dennis Jones and Yolanda Marshall about their journey through Mexico. Jones is a professional photographer. View more of his work at http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com.
I sometimes feel that, compared to Mexico, we live in a sterile, homogenized culture. In San Miguel de Allende, any minor saint’s day provides reason for a festival. At any time, you can be surprised by a parade or procession disrupting traffic.
One afternoon a raucous parade of 15-foot-tall dancing puppets and crowds of masked, costumed characters followed a solemn procession of young girls dressed in white. Another day, thousands of fantastically costumed children paraded past the Jardin. Another, a circus parade clogged the streets. Almost daily, fusillades of rockets celebrating lord knows what, are heard from some corner of town.
There is a peculiar joy to being rocketed out of a sound sleep early on a Sunday morning by a fusillade of bombs bursting overhead immediately followed by a band and a chorus of bells. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!
Close to noise it is and clearly joyful. From the squealing clarinets, the out-of-tune trumpets, the blaring trombones projecting their hearts through their instruments, to the punctuating blasts of a sousaphone, enthusiasm reigns.
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How can I not smile, a former orchestral musician, at the joyful cacophony of a band playing in multiple keys. Charming though, is not an adjective I would use before sunrise. Add roosters startled into an early crowing, roof dogs barking their counterpoint, the joyful songs of hundreds of birds and how could it not bring a smile? Nobody I ask has any idea what occasion it is. It goes on for hours.
I love Mariachi music. There is no more joyful sound as when a Mariachi band strikes up the moment a newly married couple exits the church. So, don’t get me wrong … If you have a Pride of Lions, or a Gaggle of Geese, or a Shrewdness of Apes or an Exaltation of Larks … what do you have when, on a typical Saturday night, four to five Mariachis bands are playing different tunes in different keys simultaneously at one end of the small central plaza? Why a Cacophony of Mariachis of course!
I was told to get up at 5 a.m. and follow the crowds. The streets were dark, practically empty but for groups of people closing the bars. Couples, arms wrapped around waists, waver unsteadily down the cobbled sidewalks.
Rounding a corner suddenly presented an amazing spectacle. Under bright lights, carpets of fragrant herbs and elaborate, colored designs, stretched for blocks. The street was a mosaic of paintings and designs.
Columns crowned with arrangements of fresh flowers line the route. Overhead, thousands of intricate paper ornaments shrouded the street. People worked all night, putting great effort and skill into the artwork composed of dyed sawdust and wood chips. Finishing touches were still being applied.
With the dawn, bursts of rockets approached along with the procession. Fireworks exploded overhead. A band and hundreds of voices, singing hymns, got louder. Girls, dressed in frilly, white dresses led the procession followed by Jesus in a purple robe and a squad of Roman soldiers. Next came the statue of the Lord of the Column and two other large, heavy figures, each born on the shoulders of eight men. The procession left the shrine of Atotonilco at midnight, walking the eight miles to arrive at dawn.
Thousands lined the route, crossing themselves as the figures passed. The procession stopped beneath my rooftop perch as mass was said, then moved toward the Church of San Juan del Dios, home to the figures through the Easter holidays. The pungent aroma of crushed herbs filled the air. And this was only the first Easter procession.
I have never been to a place where I have made such fast friends. You could say there must be something in the water, except it’s all purified. The gringos coming to San Miguel are unlike others I have met in places around the world. Frequently, when one meets an English speaker while traveling abroad, there is a bond and often quick friendship. But I have never experienced it on this scale. Where ever I was, after a lecture, in a restaurant or sitting in the Jardin, I met people who were sincerely warm and open. Frequently, deep conversations developed leading to shared meals and more time together. Of all the memories, the people I met will be the most lasting.
San Miguel de Allende is a very special place. A place of warmth, hospitality and culture. A place where cultures co-mingle, creating a synergy benefiting each. A place of deep history and rich sacred traditions. San Miguel is not just a place to vacation, but a place to learn, to grow and to experience life on a level outside our sometimes pale homogeneity.
Dennis Jones is a local photographer and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.