Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sacred and the Profane

The solemn pilgrims bearing the bloody "Lord of the Column"
arrives at dawn in San Miguel to church bells and fireworks
after an all night pilgrimage from the sanctuary of Atotonilco.

Later the same day, a parade of costumed "locos" dance and march down our street
to the lively blaring of a brass band to celebrate who knows what.

In Mexico, everything is a contradiction. Or maybe it just appears that way to those of us who are accustomed to a logical order to things and a predictable, insulated life. In order to maintain one must learn to be in the moment and remind oneself over and over that everything changes constantly. Because it does.
Not only in the external world, but in the emotional world as well. Moods swing from elation to sadness to frustration to tenderness in a heartbeat.

Easter is coming and the suffering of Christ is celebrated with elaborate ceremony. Thousands of pilgrims carry the bloodied and beaten image of Jesus several miles through the desert arriving at dawn in San Miguel to fireworks, the clanging of church bells and beautiful carpets of scented flowers releasing the scent of chamomile, fennel and oranges as the dusty feet of the pilgrims trample them on their journey to the church. Clusters of shawled grandmothers sing hymns and battered trumpets play a sad and mournful tune as the hunched figure of the 'Lord of the Column' wobbles by above the dark heads of the faithful.
We sip chocolate atole and munch tamales from the sidelines as the sun rises into the lightening sky, casting macabre shadows on the nearby crumbling walls.

In the afternoon I run out of my house to the sound of oompa music, only to see doorways opening up and down the street from which dozens of costumed people emerge wearing masks and feathers, dancing and wiggling down the street followed by a brass band. Old ladies and children dressed as birds, aliens, rabbits and devils. The 'Locos' bumping and grinding and twirling down the cobblestones under plastic banners, surrounded by clouds of dust and crazy joy.