Tzurumútaro, Michoacán, Mexico — 25 December 2007
Here you see the corner of our town plaza today, Christmas. I offer this as an introduction. The guys on the left are the good guys. The guys on the left are the bad guys. Got it?
The bad guys are the demons.
It starts with girls dressed up carrying – well, what the hell are they – going into the church…
…followed by some good guys (saluting), some bad guys, and the band.
And people with various iterations of baby Jesus, presumably to be blessed during this most sacred ‘Christian’ celebration.
After mass, they re-emerge.
The good guys are ready.
The bad guys warm up by threatening onlookers.
They don’t seem all that formidable, until you notice the gear they carry – chains and hooks.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The girls pound their colorful stick thingies with bells on them, the band strikes up a distinctive off-key refrain, and it’s fun time – the good guys start taunting the bad guys…
…and the bad guys attack, lunging at their legs with the hooks.
And connecting – notice the state of the jeans. You’ll notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves. Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves….you’ll see why I repeat this in a moment.
The staged mayhem can get a little out of control…
..but it’s all an impromptu act, a play.
Everybody knows everyone else. Well, maybe, but hold a minute for that…
And besides, it’s Christmas. Ya know, Santa Claus’n’all…look again at this picture…
OK, a tad more WWE than Bing Crosby, but what the hey.
Then the girls and boys in white start doing a weaving in-and-out Maypole thing, and all seems kind of civilized. Wait, you say, Maypole? At Christmas!? Well, think about it: no actually, don’t…because just now,
…the band strikes up its monotonous discordance once again.
And the battle between good and evil continues, Maypole/whatever be damned.
Anyway, it finally wraps up and people head off to – who knows. Hours later, they’re still wandering around town in costume. At least the demons.
But first they rest a while…
…giving a gringo photographer an opportunity to take a photo of another gringo taking photos – our Canadian friend Gary, who brought his wife, daughter and 12 year old grandson Lucas (‘this doesn’t really seem like Christmas,’ he confided to our son Jesse) to make up the handful of gringos observing.
Oh, Jesse. Did I mention that he ended up being a total pain in the ass this morning? I won’t go into details. If you’re the parent of a teenager, no further explanation required. If you’re a teenager or above (but not yet parent of a teenager) just think how incredibly oppressive-retarded your cro-magnon parents can be (which, curiously, your friends’ aren’t).
That kind of day. We go to our friend Donna’s for lunch and games (her family tradition) but eating wonderful food and sitting on her patio overlooking Pátzcuaro, blahblahblahing with Jerry and Shelly and Harry and Judy and Betty (we have five times more friends here in less than a year than we had in Spokane in almost two), enjoying a glass of wine or two, we decline to play Scrabble in Spanish or Monopoly in Turkish (f’real – Betty lived in Turkey couple years), The shared horror stories of teenage children serve as a balm to our souls, and on the way home we stop to buy carnitas para llevar (pork’n’tortillas’n’salsas to go) because we figure Jesse will be hungry and, pain in the ass or not, he deserves to eat.
But he’s not home.
I don a dark sweatshirt/hoody (good local look) and walk five minutes to the plaza to look for him.
Halfway there, saying buenas tardes to one of neighbors, a horn blares, and I greet Rick and Deb, and their parents Rose Ann and Errol, cruising our pueblo Tzurumútaro on their way home from a dinner in the big city Morelia (they all – well, except for Errol, who doesn’t give a shit about such things – wear black; we haven’t achieved that level of sophistication yet ;-).
Lots of people in the square, all eating – communal feast of some sort, as the Posada couple nights ago, which I didn’t quite get around to blogging about – one of several we’ve attended last few days, – sowweee!; styrofoam plates and cups left in the street because the planning, which may involve bringing huge metal pots in wheelbarrows, doesn’t extend to disposal of the disposables – all of which nonetheless have disappeared the next day.
I wander by a cluster of giggly teenage girls, one of whom asks, ¿Busca Jesse?
Si, I reply.
Está en la tienda, she says, pointing, ‘the store.‘
Conosco ‘tienda,’ I reply with a wry smile (and giggles from them), gracias.
And sure enough, there’s Jesse, in the middle of couple dozen locals, several cradling cervecas.
One’s our immediate neighbor, others I sort of generically recognize. A slightly older (and slightly inebriated) guy affirms this is my son and asks my pardon for what has happened to him.
Meanwhile, Jesse clowns to a receptive audience.
Es un muchacho grande, I say to the ‘responsible’ guy, hoping that translates as ‘he’s a big boy.’
Jesse, I say, we brought you some carnitas. You hungry? Heading across the plaza, we (no actually Jesse: no, gracias) refuse a couple styrofoam bowls of food held out to us; all the way we entertain laughter, and at one point Jesse says to bystanders looking at his bloodstained trousers, ¡Pinches diablos! (Damned devils!)
So here’s the deal. In our absence, our son has been engaging the locals. How cool,
you must think, but consider that the locals whom he has engaged have hooks.
Is that blood? we ask. Yeah, he says, they cut my finger.
Then he shows us his leg. From the front …
… and from the back.
Remember my comment about the performers: Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves… Jesse has no gloves, hence his hand gets cut, subsequently staining his jeans. The claws tearing his jeans also tear his flesh, because he has only one layer of jeans.
The gringo kid joins the local fray, sin protection, gets his pants shredded by metal hooks, shows blood – which the performers don’t – all a bit interesting. Moments ago, as I edited photos and prepared this, he reappeared home, then took off again, on foot, to the plaza, five minutes away. I don’t wish I was in his place: I have no desire to be 19 again, but I look on in marvel, as perhaps my parents did, or as perhaps would have his birth parents had they lived that long.
Life manifests in remarkable ways.