Last night I flipped my calendar to Dec to see what day of the week Christmas falls on this year, and this is what it says on Dec 1:
NOTE TO SELF:
LEAVE TOWN NOW
LEAVE AT ALL COST
DO NOT COME BACK UNTIL THE END OF JANUARY
LIKE LIVING IN BAGHDAD
DOG HID UNDER THE BED AND PEED
Oh yeah. Groan. I remember now.
From Dec 1st to about Jan 20th it will suck to be me.
Here in Jocotepec rows of buses will arrive packed with pilgrims from the mountains and far away rural villages. There will be peregrinaciónes (pilgrimages) with the devout 'walking' for blocks on their knees. . .family members scurrying ahead laying down folded blankets for padding. Very impressive to watch, but it makes my knees ache.
There will be booths and puestos with every kind of food imaginable and portable trampolines, 'shooting' galleries, elaborate rides, and games for the kids. There will be parades and marches and kids with drums. A lot of them. Horns too! Often before dawn. Announcing the arrival of the parade will be barrages of cohetes (bottle rockets) to ward off any evil spirits lurking in the heavens above. Morning. Noon. And night. They make my adobe walls shudder.
Lets go back to those puestos and rides and stuff. Some of these folks can afford to pay the 20 or so pesos CFE charges per day to hook up their electricity, others will simply 'robo la luz' or steal it. When they are all set up and ready for power, they simply toss hot wires with giant metal hooks on the end of them over the live wires at the poles. Voila, let there be light! This is pretty impressive too.
HOWEVER, sometimes an explosion occurs and a transformer bites the dust. Which results in a complete blackout for the entire neighborhood. Which can last for days, if it happens on a weekend! I do not find this amusing.
About the time my neighborhood extravaganza is winding down, the entire town of Joco starts up and runs through pre-Christmas, then Christmas, then Año Nuevo, and finally a couple of weeks of celebration honoring El Señor del Monte (Christ of the Mountain) into mid January.
It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't let the whole el centro, including every square foot of the plaza, be taken over by a warren of out-of-towners and their puestos (temporary shops) constructed of tubing and black plastic and selling everything from Chinese plastic kitchen junk to Michoacán candies and beautiful woven rebozos (shawls), clothing, and jewelry.
Everything else in life comes to a crashing stop. God help you if you need a dentist or a mechanic during this time. Traffic must negotiate around and around in an often futile effort to get either into or out of town. Remember, I said this starts in Dec and goes full-tilt-boogie until mid-January!
On the day of the Señor del Monte fiesta, there is a huge peregrinación winding all through town. Most of the crowd will be carrying flaming tall fat candles that you can buy from roving vendors for 50 to 100 pesos. Floats, Indians from the south shore in traditional garb doing traditional dance, drummers and horn tooters, more pilgrims on their knees, prayer via megaphone, and then they take this beautiful statue of Jesus down from above the altar in the church and place it on a float guided by a number of very honorable and distinguished men of the village. Here is what El Señor looks like as it leaves the church:
I love to attend this very moving event and it always leaves me with goose bumps. Here is the pilgrimage and procession that leads El Señor around town:
Then I go home to my pitch-black house and root around in the cooler, where I'm storing all the food from the now room-temp fridge, for something to eat in the dark and pray the CFE gods will grant a repairman to fix the transformer tomorrow.