Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week 5 - Celebrations! Queretaro

Historic Center of Queretaro
Let the festivities begin! On Monday night after work we walked from our house in Los Alamos Segundo to the plaza outside of the Templo La Cruz. We crossed over from the new side of town to the historic center - wide, busy avenues lined with shops, gas stations and two-story walled-in concrete homes gave way to narrow cobble-stone streets, colorful walls, iron gates, and ornate churches.

As we approached the plaza, the drums in the distance became louder, and the crowds grew bigger. We were going to festival that commemorates the founding of Queretaro. Vendors lined the streets selling different street foods; tacos, helotes, aguas frescas. People poured into the road, stopping traffic. When we finally entered the plaza,  traditional indigenous drums echoed loudly through it, their rhythms bouncing off the colonial walls of buildings enclosing the plaza, mixing with the sounds of crowds gathered to watch. Hundreds of half-naked dancers, known as concheros, dressed in traditional outfits with headdresses of tropical feathers and shells around their ankles paraded through the crowds.

As the sun disappeared and darkness settled in, the bells atop the Templo La Cruz began ringing louder, the drums in the plaza grew stronger, and the concheros moved faster. The crowds came closer, and some joined in the dancing. The plaza stirred with energy and heat.


Suddenly, the plaza grew silent, the crowd grew still. After an ominous silence, the inconspicuous tower in front of us burst into flames - it was the castillo, or forty-foot tower of fire. Colorful firecrackers exploded in lines up and down the castillo. Wheels of flames spun around, and rockets flew into the sky and into the crowd. People ducked to avoid the sparks and choked on the smoke and ash that filled the air. Finally, after several rounds of explosions, the top of the castillo launched a hundred feet into the air, spinning with colorful flames. Large fireworks began exploding above us, illuminating the Templo La Cruz, the plaza, and the crowds. When the fireworks ended, the crowd grew silent and slowly left the plaza. The celebration was over as quickly as it began.

Templo La Cruz


The indigenous peoples of Mexico, like the Aztecs, Chichimecas, nahuatl, and and many others, were never really wiped out by the Spanish; most Mexicans are mestizos (a mix of indigenous and spanish ancestors), and the indigenous culture is part of every-day life, the food, the language, and the way people look; it can even be seen in the architecture of Catholic churches.

This week is also the commemoration of Mexico's independence from Spain. Most people in the US don't know this, but Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's "4th of July", or Independence day. Instead, this September 16 was Mexico's bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of their independence. They celebrate with "el grito", or the shout of independence. In all major cities, the mayor, governor, or president walks onto a balcony overlooking a crowded plaza, rings a bell, and shouts "Viva los heroes del pasado! Viva Morelos! Viva Allende! Viva el centenario del la Revolucion! Viva (many others)! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!" With each shout, the crowd responds with "VIVA!". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1nQZvrzB4M

As silly as blind patriotism is, el grito is an exciting showing of raw emotion and culture. Maybe its just the tequila talking, but VIVA MEXICO!

This year is also the 100th anniversary of Mexico's revolution (November 20), a separate event from their Independence. It seems that every 100 years there is a revolution in Mexico; maybe this time the world will end? The build-up to 2012 in Mayan Mexico will be interesting!

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, another major conflict is occurring now, albeit much different in scale and nature.