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Stuff Mexicans Like #13: Los Santos & Angeles

2 Jun

Saints and angels are quite popular these days. Perhaps your colonia (neighborhood) in San Miguel de Allende is named after one: Guadalupe; Santa Julia; San Juan de Di-s; San Rafael; San Antonio, etc. In Mexico, they are more than just key chains, good luck charms, or statues in the church. They are a key component of the Mexican Catholic faith, worthy of worship and regular offerings and petitions.

 PEREGRINACIÓN
In addition to their adoración via offerings in the iglesia and at home, one may also worship, express gratitude, or make a request by completing a peregrinación (pilgrimage). This consists of walking miles, often for days or weeks in a group from your home town to another church or pueblo where you will visit, deliver, or pick up a relic of the saint or angel and leave it in another town’s church. One may also create a home altar for his or her saint or angel.
SANTERÍA
When the respect and adoration for saints and angels becomes worship, it is known as Santería. It is its own religion and is in the same category as la brujería (witchcraft). With origins from Nigerian faith, La Santería mixes Catholicism and Nigerian spirituality to form a union of the two. La Santeria originated in Cuba from slaves recently immigrated, where only Catholocism was permitted. Variations of the original Santeria are used in daily Mexican Catholocism. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santeria
SANTOS POPULARES de SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
* Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora_de_Guadalupe_%28M%C3%A9xico%29
La Virgen de Guadalupe is La Reina de México; Nuestra Señora; La Virgen Morena; La Madre de México. She came for the Indigenous of Mexico to represent the poor, undesireable, and downtrodden. She came to give them comfort and hope. (*Also believed by many to be an incarnation of Tonantzin, Our Revered Mother, Principal goddess of the Aztecs. See Stuff Mexicans Like #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe.)
San Miguel Arcangel is the Patrono de San Miguel de Allende and is a protector who carries a sword. He helps you when you need protection (physical, emotional, or from witchcraft).
La Virgen de los Dolores understands the pain of losing a child. Of watching one’s own child suffer and die.
San Francisco is the saint of animals and had stigmata.
San Benito y San Rafael protect against witchcraft, spells, and evil against you or your household. The ruda plant (rue) is also known to be helpful to keep at the entrance of your home and/or business as it absorbs bad energy and negative spiritual influences, as well as coconuts strategically placed throughout the home.
San Benito
Rafael Arcángel
* San Antonio de Padua: (Santo Patrono de la Colonia aqui en San Miguel): http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_de_Padua
San Antonio Abad carries a baby in his arms and helps you find a pareja (partner/boyfriend/girlfriend) for yourself or someone else. You must hang him upside down so he’ll get the job done faster. When he sends you your pareja, you put him right-side-up again. This is the rhyme:
“Tengo a San Antonio
puesto de cabeza,
Si no me da un novio,
Nadie lo endereza.”
“I’ve got San Antonio
Sitting on his head.
If he doesn’t give me a boyfriend,
He’ll be left for dead.”*
*Ok. I took my own liberties with my translation for the sake of rhyming. The Spanish version just says that no one will upright him. Pobrecito de todos modos.
San Antonio Abad is the saint of animals. When your cow or prize-fighting gallo becomes ill, this is your go-to guy. Here in San Miguel, he is the sponsor of the Blessing of the Animals day and Blessing of the horses, too.
* San Judás Tadeo: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Judas
San Judas Tadeo, saint of impossible situations, helps you get a job and maintain your finances. He carries a coin. You say the prayer of San Judas and light a green candle for him until you find and retain gainful employment.
San Juan de Di-s helps the sick, mentally ill, addicts, and downtrodden.
La Santa Muerte is a Mexican’s “best friend, his daily companion” according to revolutionary Mexican artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros. This idea is also well expresed in the book and movie, Macario, by Mexi-German, Bruno Traven. While death is regularly mocked in Mexico, it is also highly revered. With roots in Aztec faith, Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of death, now is combined with Mexican Catholic Santeria.The skeleton wearing a cape representing holy death is the saint and protector of criminals, gang members, those who do evil, and narco-traficantes (drug-traffickers).
 File:Muerte-Blanca 6.jpg

Stuff Mexicans Like #8: Poco a Poco (Everything a little at a time/Little by little)

20 May
 
One of my favorite scenes as I drive or stroll through any Mexican town are the varillas (metal rods/rebar) that extend from the roofs of casas. These homes seem to be shouting, “You may think I look shabby now; but just imagine my potential!” House upon “finshed” house have these stakes protruding from concrete ceilings like cold shafts of HopeUn día… they whisper. Some of these rods go on to form the stable structural base for a second, third, or fourth level on the house. Others remain untouched, uncovered, until the day the homeowner dies and passes the house on to parientes (relatives) or sells the place. The great poet, playwright, author: Hughes, speaks of the latter situation as a Dream Deferred and holds bleak expectations for its outcome. Mexicans (as all Spanish speakers), however, believe to Hope to be synonymous for to Wait (esperar) and often seem unfazed by long delays and promised rewards. 
 
La Esperanza (Hope)
Poco a Poco is the expression used to plant Hope in dismal circumstances that appear to remain steadily unpromising. So you live in a concrete square with no furniture, appliances, or bedding? Poco a poco. You say your partner left you for another and now you are trying to repair the damaged relationship or move on? Poco a poco. You’ve dreamed of writing a book, getting published, and travelling the world doing book tours, changing lives along the way, but no one want to read your manuscript? Poco a poco. Poco a poco embodies an attitude of unwavering Faith that all things will get better en su momento (in their time). It is a relief, a respite from the need to control, to worry, to expect, to be impatient. It is a promise for a better mañana.  
 
El Apatia (apathy)
On the flip side, one may become so comfortable in his or her poco a poco mentality that (s)he no longer battles, no longer strives, no longer works toward the dream. Driven is perhaps one of the top adjectives I would use to describe my paisanos (fellow countrymen), the United Statesians. Mexicans are also driven, but they are driven to different motives: driven to maintain peace, to keep the family united, and to maintain status quo as another means of being united with all other Mexicans. Putting another floor on the house takes a back seat when money gets tight and is often forgotten altogether, like the silenced rebar on the techo. Other times it is more serious; a woman’s decision to leave her abusive partner by getting work, maybe returning to the family of origin for a season, becomes poco a poco instead of today it is too much. Today I will leave.   
 
While effort mixed with intention always produces change, sometimes it is slow or invisible to the naked eye. These are opportnuities to beef up your fe (faith) and to remain steady. Next time you find yourself in despair, RESIST alongside your Mexican hermanos by repeating your new mantra, Poco a Poco.           

#3: La Cleanliness

17 May
 https://i0.wp.com/images.travelpod.com/users/kupdegra/copper_canyon.1188405000.p1020554.jpg
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” had to have been originally quoted by a Mexican. Mexicans value cleanliness so much that it is the first thing one does after arising and the last thing one does before bed. During the course of the day, one needs helpers if things are to be kept adequately clean. First things first: the sidewalk in front of your house. You don’t want your neighbors seeing a surplus of fallen leaves just outside your gate or dog urine or an empty Coke bottle. This is what “not taking care of your house and family” looks like. As for before bed, well, there are dishes and teeth to be washed, faces to be scrubbed, and showers to be had by all. One person alone could never take on all the dirst that comes your way during the day. This is why my maid has a maid. And her maid has a maid. And I’m nearly certain that if I were to investigate, I would discover that my maid’s maid has a maid. Maid service in Mexico is like having a garrafón or basic cable. It is not optional.
A male Mexican friend of mine was watching my then 15 year old sweep and mop the tile floor of my bookstore one day. I felt proud and content, like Mother of the Year. Unfortunately my friend interrupted my self-satisfaction with, “Why don’t you teach your hijo to clean?” What?!? Was my son not there, sleeves rolled up, pushing a wet soapy mop around like nobody’s business? “He is cleaning,” I replied. “I mean real cleaning,” retorted the Mexican. I gave the Mexican permission to “teach” my son “real cleaning” and I stood back to take notes. A hand-held scrub brush was produced, as well as a bucket of fuming bleach water mixed with purple Fabuloso. I pulled out the camera as the two young men rolled up their jeans, hit their knees, and began to sweat profusely while manually removing any trace of dirt from the last 500 years from my antique floor. A Mexican taught me to clean a floor.
 
I never felt so dirty as when I started dating Mexican men. The same scrubbing that applies to a Mexican floor is generally applied to the entire body, including eyelids, scalp, behind the ears, between the toes, etc. (I prefer to wash the hair once every other day to avoid dry-out.) My sidewalk woud shame even the dirtiest street person. I use only a standard mop from the tiendita when doing my twice a week rounds. My maid is called in for emergencies only, and that only being once a month on avergae. I do not wash my clothes by hand with the outside patio clothes-sink. (That is already occupied by Christmas items waiting around for next December.) It is a rare occasion that I stick my hand in the toilet, the obvious best way to get it clean, according to Mexican ways. I leave the cozy seat on my toilet, to avoid unintentional drownings. (Many-most Mexicans remove this seat with tools upon purchase so as not to pose any interference with typical hand-in-the-bowl daily cleaning.
(Note: I am pretty sure that this extreme cleanliness business ties in with the national adoration of La Virgen, also! What Virgin do you know who isn’t sparkling soapy clean?)

Stuff Mexicans Like #2: La Virgen de Guadalupe

17 May
All Mexican culture revolves around its core, its center, its lifesource, its sun: Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Actually she is such a staple presence in daily Mexican life that sometimes her effects go unnoticed by Mexicans. (But not by me.) 🙂
Present-Day Effects
Have you ever gone to a department store in Mexico wanting to purchase a new brasierre only to learn that trying on any kind of under garment is strictly forbidden in most states in the republic? Have you looked for tampons in a local pharmacy (outside of foreigner-laden San Miguel de Allende or la playa)? They are rarely to be found. Want to buy a transparent shower curtain? Think again, pervert! These kinds of behaviors and dry goods simply do not jive well with virginity.
How Can I Know La Virgen?
Who is the first person one should approach with a problem, worry, or confession? La Virgencita, that’s who! Light her a candle and take off a load! She can be trusted with everything from small decisions to heavy burdens. Most altares for La Virgen de Guadalupe are placed prominently in one’s entryway or in the sala for easy access. No one knows tristeza and angustia like the Mother of G-d, who bore the Jewish Messiah as a confused 15 year old virgin, only to watch her promised child die in his early 30s a shameful and agonizing death. La Virgencita does not judge or shame, she is all-accepting and all-forgiving.
Image
Tonantzin, Revered Aztec Goddess Mother
Not only is La Virgen the Mother of the new, Mestizo Mexico, but she existed long before as the central Goddess in Aztec society as Tonantzin(Toe-nant-SEEN, or Our Revered Mother/Mother Earth). Lupita, our Lady of Guadalupe, first appeared on December 9, 1531 (not December 12, as she is presently celebrated), the first day of the Goddess Tonantzin’s holy festival. Not only did Lupita speak with Juan Diego on the first day of Tonantzin’s celebration, but she also happend to make her appearance RIGHT ON Tonantzin’s worship shrine at the Cerro de Tepeyac (hill of Tepeyac) in the Aztec center of action, presently Mexico City (El DF: El Distrito Federal)!
Coincidencia? I think not. Whatever her true identity, she remains the central figure of Love and adoration by indigenous Mexicans, Mestizos, and Mexican-born Spaniards alike. She united the indigenous of Mexico with the Europeans, the conquistados or chingados with the conquistadores or los que chingan. She was and remains the Great Mediator of Mexico.
Feminist Brown Mother
Maintaining such high status as La Madre de la Tierra and La Reina de México, La Virgencita helps the poor and downtrodden, the brown-skinned, the lowly, the conquered. Guadalupe (aka: La Morena/brown-skinned) has elevated the female (and the dark-skinned female) back to the highest position of importance in Mexico at a time when the conquistadores had recently arrived with their machista sexist ways. It is no wonder that matriarchs are so common in Mexican society and that La Virgen is prominently mentioned in the most famous Mexican anthem: Cielito Lindo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVQGxFDINng
“Yo a las morenas quiero
desde que supe que…
morena es la Virgen
de Guadalupe…”