A trip to Tuxpan near Colima in southern Jalisco.
Día de la Candelaria or Candlemass is celebrated in Mexico on February 2nd. It is a religious and family celebration. Throughout the country on this date people dress up figures of the Christ Child and take him to the church to be blessed, as well as getting together with family and friends to eat tamales. February 2nd marks the mid-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and this is traditionally seen as the best time to prepare the earth for spring planting. This aspect of the agricultural calendar is true also in the European countries with a moderate climate such as Britain where this date is the beginning of the Celtic Year and the first day of spring.
Día de la Candelaria is also a follow-up to the festivities of Three Kings Day on January 6th or Twelvth Night when children receive gifts (not at Christmas) and families and friends gather together to eat Rosca de Reyes, a special sweet bread with figurines of a baby (representing the Child Jesus) hidden inside. The people who received the figurines on Three Kings Day are supposed to host the party on Candlemass Day.
February 2nd falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin or as the Presentation of the Lord. According to Jewish law a woman was considered unclean for 40 days after giving birth so it was customary to bring a baby to the temple after that period of time had passed. Therefore, Jesus would have been taken to the temple on February second.
Above the church in the plaza where all this happens.
In central Mexico, people dress up a baby Jesus figurine and take it to mass before placing him in a niche where he will “live” for the remainder of that year. This can be in someone’s house or in a church and it is considered a high honor to be chosen as the baby Jesus guardian. The hosts for baby Jesus usually have to be open for visitors most of the time and have to share their food with those who come see him.
Inside the church the pews were packed with people most holding a baby Jesus.
Above and below – In the plaza as a preliminary were figurines showing the various costumes. Each neighborhoods spends much time creating the costumes, making masks, and practicing.
Below-In to the plaza enters the real thing.
Los Seneros the warriors.
These guys are called Chayacates wearing long sometimes blonde (in this case blue) “hair” with their Spanish faced masks and antlers. The horns represent evil (of the conquistadors) . In the the native Nahuatl language the word Chayácatl means “man wearing a mask.” These are thinly veiled references to the Spanish. It was a dance that was a way the indigenous people could safely ridicule their oppressors.
Great pains are taken in assembling these costumes and practicing the dance routines. The whole affair is NOT for tourists and seemed to be by, for, and about the local people. Apart from our group of eight I saw no other gringos at all and from my experience this is not unusual for these events to go completely unnoticed by the gringos who live in this country.
Above-the red costume is of Spanish origin in their battles with the “Moors”.
Below- all manner of devils and grotesques are at hand to clear the way. Usually a “Guegue” (gway-gway) goes before the dancers to drive away evil spirits.
Below– Saint Sebastian gets brought out of the church and paraded as the town patron saint.
After about an hour all the many groups with their distinctive dress were parading up and down the plaza before going back to their respective neighborhoods. Each group had tambourines, rattles and drums and even horns. Under the hot sun it was a cacophony of sound and swirling movement not captured well in these still photos. There is however a you tube video which shows highlights and how the quiet square gradually fills becoming a noisy swirling cacophony toward its conclusion.
For more about this event see mi amigo Jim Cook’s blog here.
As a footnote I would say that one would never see this kind of event up north. The traditions here are alive and well and those happily involved in them range from young children to grandparents. There is continuity and cohesion not just of traditions but also of the family and tribal or neighborhood groups.
THE FIRE BALL GAME- WINTER SOLSTICE
Pelota purépcha (Spanish for “Purépecha ball”), called Uárukua Ch’anakua (literally “a game with sticks”) in the Purépecha language, is a Mexican sport similar to those in the Hockey family. A common variant, distinguished as pasárutakua in Purépecha, uses a ball which has been set on fire and can be played at night. It is one of 150 pre-Hispanic Mexican games at risk of dying out. Balls not intended to be set on fire were originally made from hundreds of monarch butterfly cocoons but are now made from natural fabrics. The fireball version is made from wood and used to be dipped in pine resin to be made flammable though today petrol is substituted.
The game, which originated in Michoacán, is believed to have been developed up to 3500 years ago and something very similar to pelota purépecha is depicted on the murals of the Palacio de Tepantitla at Teotihuacan.The sport originated as a representation of a Purepécha legend of a battle between day and night with the flaming ball signifying the sun and the players representing the movement of the universe.
After the sun had set the game was played on the beach by the lake. First a ceremony as always to the four directions.
I was not sure of the rules but the pitch looks like this with a fire ring in the centre. The game is played with five or more players.
Ajijic is hosting visiting artists and performers from the neighboring State of Michoucan. Just prior to this event in the afternoon these same people from Michoacan had performed the well known The Dance of The Old Men. in the village Plaza. One cannot help but laugh looking at these senile bent over old men.
Then the women came out to help do a dance about catching the fish in Lake Patzcuaro.
Below- Everything about these cultures is colourfull.
Here a display of their wood carvings and in the background one of the vendors colorfully dressed.
Below more subdued pottery in the red and white style.
Below this mandala is made from reeds from Lake Patzcuaro.
Below– This is on a wall in Ajijic. Instead of the donors buying a brick here-you buy a skull with your name on it !
Below– You can tell the locals versus the visitors by the warm clothes they wear having to endure winter temperatures that may drop into the low seventies or sixties !
DAY OF THE DEAD 2016
They say in Mexico there are three deaths.
The first is when you die. The second is when they bury you. The third is when no one remembers you anymore.
All over Mexico this is the day when the dead are remembered.
The cemetary or Pantheon in Ajijic is packed with families. Outside the gates vendors are selling flowers and foods and drinks. It is bad form to be drunk by the way. The dead can drink all they want though. Families sit by the tombs having picnics and just talking.
One picks ones way in the gathering dark around the tombs -some decorated and illuminated profusely and some just a single candle. All the while there is a cacophony of competing bands playing as a background.
A little hard to take great photos in the dark but here are some. Scroll down further for last years Day Of The Dead photos.
Below life size cut outs of the deceased.
Below what greeted me as I entered the cemetary.
Above-After the Pantheon in Ajijic on to the town of Chapala where the streets were closed to traffic and VERY lively and festive with altars set up along the side and families out strolling.
Above a typical altar made for the great figures both local and national. The one above was for Neil James the original “gringa” who came here to Lake Chapala in the thirties and made it a place for similar minded souls to come to.
Above and below- these designs on the ground were all made from colored wood chips.
Below-A family in the Paris Cafe next to us while we were finishing the evening having hot chocolate.
The Day Of The Dead season kicks off (for the gringos at least) with a yearly Thriller re-enactment. See it here.
Below- Friends who were participants. Which one is more scary?
EASTER-No half measures for this event–except no real nails.
It was a beautiful day on Friday. One of the first of the “hot ones” we get before the rains. Clouds like mares tails brushing across the clear deep blue sky and a stiff breeze off the lake.
All week (and next week too) is the big holiday in Mexico. Santa Semana or Holy Week. Most businesses are closed and the streets are full of Tapatios (Guadalaharans) coming down to Ajijic to what is their “beach”.
Friday is also when the pageant of the Crucifixation is re-enacted. At noon after Mass in front of the church the entire cast of characters- Pontius Pilate
and the priests and the two thieves all gather on the front steps to re-enact the story.
Below the view from the coffee shop across the street.
Around them were four of what looked like gold plated statues. These turned out to be real figures standing stock still painted gold for several hours in hot sun.
It is an honor to be given to be the re-enactors for the crucifixion.
The procession winds through town and up to a hill above town for the end actual crucifixion. It’s hot and dry this time of year and so it is a real endurance for these performers.
Meanwhile back in the village a festive atmosphere prevails. The streets of the village are taken over by restaurants and bars and cars are banished. The lakeside has lots of music and kite flying and dogs and kids rolling the lake water. Families encamp for the week in a makeshift village along the lakeside.
Fat Tuesday parade at Mardi Gras this year. (Scroll down for past years).
This day is always fun in the village.
This cast of characters precedes the parade showering the onlookers with flour.
Below-All that was left after was the confetti in the street.
El Dia De Muertos -The Day Of The Dead-is perhaps the best known of Mexico’s festivals.
For several weeks beforehand one starts seeing Marigolds in the streets and children dressing up.
Last night (Oct 31st we were in the plaza and it was packed with families, kids, young boys and girls eyeing each other up and of course dogs all strolling around in a giant circle.
At sunset there had been a parade through town with rockets and loud bangs along with brass bands of dubious accomplishment. Then the plaza fills up.
The dancers were superceded (no in addition-on top of ) by a band on the stage which I can barely describe. About twelve of them doing the most frenetic nervy jangling music that sounded like it belonged in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Then the fireworks began in front of the old church.
Above-A Castillo or metal tower is built about forty feet high. On it are Catherine wheels of fireworks. Unlike the U.S. which would have you cordoned off at a safe distance this was right over our heads almost.
Innocence and playful exuberance sits below the surface at all times. Mexicans work very hard for very little pay but a Saints Day or a fiesta of some sort is never very far off and it is where they blow off steam. Below-Fat Tuesday or the beginning of Lent when flour (ashes) is thrown liberally around.
BUENA NOCHE-CHRISTMAS EVE
In the church plaza here in Ajijic on Christmas Eve there is an assortment of still life tableaux depicting the nativity. It is all very sweet.
THREE KINGS DAY
Yesterday was Three Kings Day which is when Christmas semi officially ends here in Mexico.
(Twelfth Night is what we used to call it). It culminates at least two weeks of festivities around Christmas.
In the neighboring village of Cajititlan over the hills to the north and with its own lake they REALLY celebrate it. Melchior -one of the Kings has a niche above the main front door of the ancient church and this event has been going on here in this village for five hundred years. Yesterday was the ultimate day of festivities with food stalls lining every small street, streamers and banners hanging between the houses and a carnival complete with a ferris wheel and spooky rides.
The Kings are wooden crowned statues and are usually kept in the church but on this day every year they are brought out to be paraded through the garlanded and flower strewn streets to the lake where they are carried aboard three launches and are then paraded around the Lake to bless everything. This is all accompanied by a flotilla of launches with local dignitaries, mariachi bands of various flavours and every boat sporting banners and more Mexican flags than I have ever seen. After an hour or so the movie plays in reverse and the Kings are carried back into the church and then balloons and confetti are released from the roof of the church over the throng in the plaza. All the while fireworks are exploding in that usual cacophony that accompanies Mexican events.
Below-This guy ahead of the parade cracks his whip to (a) drive away the bad spirits and (b) make way for the Three Kings as they pass by.
There was us two plus Dee a winter visitor from Canada and Jim a local who has guided us to many a Hacienda and local hikes. We got there early at around nine to find parking and get ourselves situated to photograph. Walking downhill into the town my first photo opportunity came up with a stall selling the special breads for this occasion. Brightly colored knotted circles and every one has a “gift” inside for the kids. At this point I realized that although I had charged up my battery I had neglected to actually put it in the camera. So I have no of ny own photos to show of what was a most unusual and fun filled day. Thankfully Jim Cook is allowing me to use some of his photos here
Below- The clown
We managed to actually get in the parade of launches out in the lake under clear blue skies and it was hard not to feel the exuberance and joy and veneration these people have for something which to us may be quite unknowable.
Below- the Kings make their way around the Lake.
Below-the holiday bread mentioned above where I realized I had no camera batteries
See Jims blog about this same event from another year here….
The festivities culminate in a shower of balloons and confetti.