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Stuff Mexicans Like #16: 20 en la Casa; 10 en el Carro; 5 en la Cama

2 Jun
Headed to Rosa & Fernando’s wedding at the Rancho.
Mexico is a Catholic country. Very Catholic. It is also, like Catholocism, full of contrasts and contradictions. Ie; It is not ok to be gay. It is not ok to have sex outside of marriage. It is not ok to use condoms or other birth control. HOWEVER, if you are gay and do happen to be having sex outside of marriage, you fall into a lucky loophole which says that you, sir, can use condoms! Unfortunately, poor Sra. Fulana, with 8 small mouths to feed and an overworked, under-paid husband, cannot. Go figure. (Did I mention that it is also not ok to refuse conjugal relations with your mate, even if you are already sleeping 7 to the “matrimonial” size bed, with 2 on the sofa?)
Well, this is orthodox Mexican Catholic thinking, anyway.Which brings me to the topic: highly populated casas, coches, & camas. Thanks to extremely strict catholic sex rules and extremely lax Mexican seat belt laws, one can find 16-24 people in any small home or flat-bed pickup truck at any given time. I go to visit some of my Sanmiguelense friends and while they slip off to the bathroom, people- men, women, teens,  small children, and the elderly- begin seeping out of every nook and cranny like kitchen-counter ants.
“Ummm…. Who was that group of people that just came out of door #2?” I ask inquisitively. Seems like a logical question to me. What people, he says. “That family of 6?” I say. “Oh, probably just my brother or my cousin, Juana.” He tells me. “And the three elderly men out on the patio?” I inquire. “Es el primo y los hermanos de mi mama,” I am informed. (It’s the cousin & the brothers of my mother.)
EL COCHE
When it is time to take a trip to el mercado in Celaya, which we all know is the biggest and most ghetto-fabulous of all Guanajuato markets, anyone and everyone interested heads out to the family’s 3 cylander pickup for an adventure. “You sat by the cab window last time,” whines Tia Carla to Abuelita. Eventually, everyone is squeezed in, often with Popis, the family Terrier-Retriever-Poodle-Rot mix, and a handful of livestock. No one usually falls out along the way, due to Mexican Personal Responsability (see Stuff Mexicans Like #8), but if someone does happen to take a spill on the carretera hacia Celaya (the freeway to Celaya) or at the Pipila Glorieta (the roundabout with the Pipila monument), no te preocupes! (Don’t worry!) Everyone works together to pull Great Grandpa Pablo back to the safety of the truck bed and all cross themselves, giving thanks to La Virgencita (see Stuff Mexicans Like #2), for Seguro Popular (Mexican Free Public Health Insurance). (See Stuff Mexicans Like #6: Personal Responsability.)
I digress. Back to this Mexican Population Mentality. When my 15 year-old niece, Amanda, and I flew back to Seattle after her 6 month stay with me in Queretaro, my sister, Melodie, and younger niece picked us up at the airport. Walking to the car, Amanda and I were still in culture shock over the luxury one can encounter in the SeaTac Airport bathrooms. Things like toilet seats, locking stall doors, and soap had somehow eluded us for a great deal of time. “Oh shoot,” said my sister, looking at her four-door sedan with fatality in her eyes. “I didn’t think of all the luggage. How are all four of us going to fit in the car with three suitcases?”
Amanda and I silently turned to look at one another, then burst into laughter. “What?!?” challenged Melodie. “Actually,” ventured Manda, “I’m pretty sure this vehicle could hold at least 12 or maybe even 13 people. With luggage.” Our thinking had changed. When instructed sternly to “Get your seat belts on!”  by my sister, before even inserting the key into the ignition, Amanda and I exchanged yet another glance that said, “Do not let your mother become aware of the fact that you haven’t worn a seatbelt for 6 months.” Ni modo. (See Stuff Mexicans Like #12: Ni Modo.)
LA CASA
Some 6 months after arriving to Mexico, I found myself with two teenagers, a small dog, and no employment. I reluctantly procured a large room for rent at a local frat house from UVM (Valley of Mexico University) for half of what I was paying in our spacious home. My 15 year-old niece; 13 year-old son; Mercy, the yellow Pomeranian; and I hauled our suitcases and mattresses (no bed bases) into the room with the concrete slab floor and thus began our one-room, “Night, John-Boy,” adventure. (I had to explain to the teens where “Night, John-Boy” originated. They just stared blankly.)
It was fun! At night I would turn on my cell phone flashlight and read short stories and poetry to them from my corner of the room. Though no light shone from under our bedroom door, laughter and loud English could be heard throughout the casa every night. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves or out-of-place because all my kids’ friends in their new public junior high had the same living accommodations or worse! I did makeovers on my girl and homemade haircuts on my boy. We each dressed in the bathroom after showering. The occassional late-night mellow college party was a welcome distraction from our sparse living conditions; we all practiced our Spanish and dance skills. When we needed space, we headed out to the one of the front yard hammocks or up to the roof to bask in the sun. My now young adult babies still laugh, telling people about the time three of us and a small dog lived on floor mattresses in one frat house bedroom in central Mexico.
Whether it’s 20 to a home, 10 to a car, or 5 to a bed, Mexicans love Family and Togetherness (See Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia).  Night, John-Boy!
Exhibit A:
This family is waiting for the rest of the relatives to arrive so they can leave.    
 On the way to La Placita (Tuesday Market).
Exhibit B: 
Siblings of all ages often sleep together in the same bed.
It’s always nice to snuggle & keep warm on cold nights.
       
  Grandparents are no exception!

Stuff Mexicans Like #14: Los Payasos

2 Jun
In Mexico, clowns are not just birthday party entertainment or circus acts. They are an integral part of what I like to call, the zócalo mentality (pronounced SO- cah- loh. Remember the Z always says SSSSSS in Spanish). A zócalo culture/mentality places great value on outdoor fellowship, mass celebration, and community participation. The original Zócalo is the town square in la Ciudad de México, where initially the Aztecs gathered when it was the known as the great city of Tenochtitlan. Today it is often used to describe a town square with parks, benches, trees, flora, kiosks, statues, and central iglesias. It is a Latino town’s living room, as later recreated by American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, a place in the middle of a structure where all inhabitants spill into (out of bedrooms or elsewhere). Zócalo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%B3calo Clowns perform in town squares, even here in San Miguel de Allende in el jardín, on weekends and días festivas for adoring audiences ranging from 6 months to 96 years of age.
TRADICIÓN
There have been famous clowns in Mexico for decades that most Mexicans (age 20 and up) can recite quickly for you off the top of their heads:
* Nifu & Nifa
* Bozo (I asked my Mexican friend & his family if they were sure this wasn’t an American clown, and they assured me he was a full-blooded, chile-eating Mexican.)
 
 
* Cepillín
 
LOS PAYASOS de SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE
Here in San Miguel de Allende, clowns also receive the spotlight every weekend in el jardín (our village’s zocalo or town square). Our pueblos’s most famous, revered payaso is Don Bombonini. He is a unique combination of wit, sarcasm, physical comedy, adult-humor, and amazing tricks involving balloons and objects thrown in the air. He prefers to refer to himself as “Brahd Peet” and “Don Sexi.” Seen below, he is entertaining an audience of all ages in the jardín with one of his usual sensual poses. 🙂
* Don Bombonini
Don Bombonini has performed at at least 3 San Miguel 3 year-old birthday parties I have attended and I must confess, I am a huge fan. He is more like a stand-up comedian than anything else. Don B lives in la San Rafa (that’s “Colonia San Rafael” for outsiders), and his family generally comes along to his shows: children assisting and wife painting faces. I recommend you try to catch a show in the jardín if you haven’t already on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (beginning around 4-6pm). His audience participation is a crack-up.
¿POR QUÉ PAYASOS?
I once read a short story wherein clowns were mentioned with disdain as the most pathetic creatures on the planet. The character said tears welled up in her eyes each time she saw one because they are the definition of trying-too-hard desperation. What is the deal anyway? The bright, shocking make-up with either an exaggerrated maniacal smile or a depressed weeping frown and the jarring flash of outrageous hair… what’s that about? This is what makes us laugh? Why?
Imagen 3: Payasos espantosos                                 
Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Do we need a mask in order to give ourselves permission to be real? Is alcohol a mask? Anger? A round red nose and size 42 shoes? Is this the honesty serum we crave? Or is it just that life is so pinche triste that we have to laugh to keep from crying? 
Is the Mexican obsession with payasos  saying yet another something about the conquistador vs the conquistado syndrome (the conquerers vs. the conquered syndrome)? Chinga or be chingado? (Fuck others over or be fucked over yourself.) No sé. You be the judge.

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.           

Stuff Mexicans Like #6: La Fiesta

19 May
There are few activities Mexicans enjoy more than la fiesta. La fiesta incorporates the most important aspects of a Mexicans’s existence: la convivencia; la familia; la amistad; la risa; la comida; la música; el baile; la pasión; los modales; la celebración; la tradición; la fe; el gozo; and la formalidad. (getting together; family; friendship; laughter; food; music; dance; passion; manners; celebration; tradition; faith; joy; and getting dressed up!) A party is all the best things in life wrapped in a brief 6 hour package. Why not celebrate more? 
 
Therapy
On the flip side, la fiesta is also a way of releasing suppressed emotions of la tristeza, la ira, la frustración, la impotencia, and la desesperación. (sadness, rage, frustration, powerlessness, and desperation). These emotions are generated when la corrupción wins in one’s life, when one works hard day in and day out, but still cannot get ahead, and when one is menos preciado in society for his or her lower socio-economic status (under valued). There is an almost drunken mania (and ofen accompanying violence) that occurs in the public during certain Mexican holidays/parades/bull fights that seems to reflect a long overdue release of powerful sentiment and/or resentment for the inability to produce change and/or have power or control over one’s own life circumstances.
 
Financial Effect
Some poor pueblos save all year long for fireworks, cohetes (rockets), street decorations, and food and beverage to accommodate the masses for their colonia’s or city’s Santo. (In my case, San Miguel Arcángel: 29 septiembre.)  But what about the more important needs of the village? you say. Paved streets? Running water? for example. Do not underestimate the power of the therapeutic role of la fiesta to a people who often feel so downtrodden that they wonder how to go on. Just one or two well-done fiestas can produce the morale needed to make it til the next one (or a change of government… or a change of heart… or an end to corruption…or…)
 
It’s a good thing there is never a shortage of reasons to celebrate:
Date English name Spanish name Remarks
January 1 New Year’s Day Año Nuevo First day of the year.
February 5 Constitution Day Día de la Constitución Celebrates the Promulgation of the 1857 and 1917 Constitutions (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: First Monday of February.
March 21 Benito Juárez‘s birthday Natalicio de Benito Juárez Commemorates President Benito Juárez’s birthday on March 21, 1806 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: Third Monday of March
May 1 Labor Day Día del Trabajo Commemorates the Mexican workers’ union movements (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
September 16 Independence Day Día de la Independencia Commemorates the start of the Independence War by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
November 20 Revolution Day Día de la Revolución Commemorates the start of the Mexican Revolution by Francisco I. Madero in 1910 (See also Patriotic holidays in Mexico).
Observance: Third Monday of November.
December 1 Change of Federal Government Transmisión del Poder Ejecutivo Federal Every six years, when a new President is sworn in office.
Next observance: December 1, 2012.
December 25 Christmas Navidad Christmas celebration; secular and religious holiday.

In addition to these dates, election days designated by federal and local electoral laws are also statutory holidays.


 This is me at my first Christmas Posada in Queretaro: Posadas are celebrated the ten days, hence ten fiestas, before Christ’s birth, when Jose & Maria looked for lodging, but found none. The pinata originates from posadas, not children’s birthday parties. A true posada pinata is star shaped, made out of clay, and should have 7 points, representing the seven deadly sins.

   January
  • January 1: A�o Nuevo(New Year’s Day), is an official Mexican holiday.
  • January 6: D�a de Los Santos Reyesis the day when Mexicans exchange Christmas presents in accordance with the arrival of the three gift-bearing wisemen to Jesus Christ. This day culminates the Christmastime festivities.
  • January 17: Feast Day of de San Antonio de Abad is a religious holiday during which the Catholic Church allows animals to enter the church for blessing.
    February
  • February 2: D�a de la Candelaria or Candlemas, is a religious holiday that is celebrated with processions, dancing, bullfights in certain cities, and the blessing of the seeds and candles. The festivities are best seen in: San Juan de los Lagos, Jalapa; Talpa de Allende, Jalisco; and Santa Maria del Tuxla, Oaxaca.
  • February 5: D�a de la Constituci�n, an official holiday that commemorates Mexico’s Constitution. Observed Monday, February 7, 2011.
  • February 24: Flag Day, This Mexican national holiday honors the Mexican flag. Observed February 24, 2010.
    March
  • March 3 – March 8 (2011): Carnaval is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration of the libido before the Catholic lent. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnaval is celebrated exhubrantly with parades, floats and dancing in the streets. Port towns such as Ensenada, La Paz, Mazatlán and Veracruz are excellent places to watch Carnaval festivities.
  • March 18: La Expropiaci�n Petrolera, Oil Expropriation of March 18, 1938. Civic holiday.
  • March 19: St. Joseph’s Day, D�a de San Jos�, a religious holiday best seen in Tamulin, San Luis Potosi.
  • March 21: The Birthday of Benito Juárez, a famous Mexican president and national hero, this is an official Mexican holiday. Celebrated Monday, March 21, 2011.
    April
  • Semana Santa: Semana Santa is the holy week that ends the 40-day Lent period. This week includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is Mexican custom to break confetti-filled eggs over the heads of friends and family.
    May
  • May 1: Primero de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that is equivalent to the U.S. Labor Day.
  • May 3: Holy Cross Day D�a de la Santa Cruz, when construction workers decorate and mount crosses on unfinished buildings, followed by fireworks and picnics at the construction site.
  • May 5: Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that honors the Mexican victory over the French army at Puebla de los Angeles in 1862.
  • May 10: Mother’s Day, Due to the importance of the mother in Mexican culture, Mother’s Day is an especially significant holiday.
    June
  • June 1: Navy Day is an official Mexican holiday.
  • June 13: Día de los Locos Día de San Antonio de Padua (the closest Sunday to the date)
  • June 24: Saint John the Baptist Day is celebrated with religious festivities, fairs, and popular jokes connected to getting dunked in water.
  • June 29: Fiesta of Saint Peter and Saint Paul notable celebrations in Mexcaltit�n, Nayarit and Zaachila, Oaxaca.

 

    September
  • September 1: Annual State of the Union, Though this date is an approximation, the President delivers the address in the autumn.
  • September 13: Los Niños Héroes, Heros of the Mexican-American War 1847. The President of Mexico commemorates their sacrifice at a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument to Los Niños Héroes in Chapultepec Park.
  • September 16: Mexican Independence Day celebrates the day that Miguel Hidalgo delivered El Grito de Dolores, and announced the Mexican revolt against Spanish rule.
  • September 29: San Miguel Arcangel Patron Saint of San Miguel de Allende
    October
  • October 12: Día de la Raza, This day celebrates Columbus’ arrival to the Americas, and the historical origins of the Mexican race.
    November
  • November 1&2: D�a de los Muertos is an important Mexican holiday that merges Pre-Columbian beliefs and modern Catholocism. Europe’s All Saints’ Day and the Aztec worship of the dead contribute to these two days that honor Mexico’s dead.
  • November 20: Mexican Revolution Day,This official Mexican holiday commemorates the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Celebrated Monday, November 21, 2011.
    December
  • December 12: D�a de Nuestra Se�ora de Guadalupe, or the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated with a feast honoring Mexico’s patron saint.
  • December 16: Las Posadas celebrates Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem with candlelight processions that end at various nativity scenes. Las Posadas continues through January 6.
  • December 25: Navidad, Mexico celebrates the Christmas holiday.
Date English Name Spanish Name Remarks
January 6 Epiphany Día de los Santos Reyes Celebrates the Biblical New Testament story of the arrival of the three wise men who each brought a gift to the Christ child. Traditionally, children receive toys, and people buy a pastry called rosca de reyes. Anyone who bites into the bread and finds a figurine of the Christ child must host a party for the Day of Candlemas (February 2). It is not a state holiday.
February 14 Valentine’s Day Día de San Valentín Celebrates amorous unions. On this day, traditionally, men give chocolates, flowers, jewelry, dinner and serenade to their special women, as well as to their female friends. It is not a state holiday.
April 30 Children’s Day Día del Niño Honors all the children. It is not a state holiday.
May 10 Mother’s Day Día de las Madres Honors all the mothers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
May 15 Teacher’s Day Día del Maestro Honors all the teachers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
May 23 Students’ Day Día del estudiante Honors all the students throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
Third Sunday of June Father’s Day Día del Padre Honors all the fathers throughout the country. It is not a state holiday.
November 1 All Saints’ Day (Day of the Dead) Día de Todos los Santos Honors dead relatives and/or friends (who were less than 18 years of age and unmarried) with candles, food and flower offerings, altars, and pre-Hispanic and Christian rituals. It is not a state holiday.
November 2 All Souls’ Day (Day of the Dead) Día de los Fieles Difuntos Honors dead relatives and/or friends (who were more than 18 years of age or married) with candles, food and flower offerings, altars, and pre-Hispanic and Christian rituals. It is not a state holiday.
December 12 Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe Día de la Virgen de Guadalude Celebrates the day that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on Tepeyac hill to the native Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. It is not a state holiday.
December 16–24 Las Posadas Las Posadas Commemorates the Biblical New Testament story of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. Consists of candlelight processions as well as stops at various nativity scenes.
December 24 Christmas Eve Nochebuena Celebrates the eve of the nativity of Jesus, as both a secular and religious winter holiday. The traditional treats for this holiday are buñuelos, tamales and atole or champurrado. Sometimes they eat gelatina de colores (different flavors of Jell-O and a milk based Jell-O mixed together to make a colorful treat) Las Posadas are celebrated nine days before Nochebuena, usually accompanied by a piñata party for children and dance music for adults.
December 28 Day of the Innocents Dia de los Santos Innocentes On this day, people pull practical jokes on each other. It is equivalent to the U.S. version of April Fools’ Day (April 1). People must not believe anything that other people say nor let them borrow any amount of money. If any person has fallen victim of the joke, the person pulling the joke will say ¡Inocente palomita…!, literally meaning ‘Innocent little dove’ (equivalent to saying April Fools!).
December 31 New Year’s Eve Año Nuevo Vìspera Mexicans celebrate New Year’s Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year’s, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. Another tradition is making a list of all the bad or unhappy events from the current year; before midnight, this list is thrown into a fire, symbolizing the removal of negative energy from the new year.[1] At the same time, thanks is expressed for all the good things had during the year that is coming to its end so that they will continue to be had in the new year.[2] Mexicans celebrate by having a late-night dinner with their families, the traditional meal being turkey and mole, a tradition which has now spanned worldwide. Those who want to party generally go out afterwards, to local parties or night clubs. If you’re in Mexico, you can still enjoy festivities in the street. In Mexico City there is a huge street festival on New Year’s Eve; celebrations center around the Zocalo, the city’s main square.[3] You can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: “Feliz año nuevo!” People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Will Take a Cup o’ Kidness Yet Auld Lang Syne.
 

Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia

17 May
Image
Stuff Mexicans Like #1: La Familia 
In fact, “la familia” (referring to anyone and everyone even remotely related), is so important and provides such a staple source of well-being and joy that Mexicans often forego matrimonio altogether and remain at home with the papás til age 35 or 57 or “til death do us part.” Mexicans can be compared with “pack animals” in the sense that they value the inter-dependence of a team and are happiest and feel most successful in a close-knit group whereas many native English-speakers are more solitary beasts, preferring privacy, autonomy, and independence or to surround themselves with 1 significant other and 2.5 children.. or a dog who is physically unable to comment on what “is not working” for him/her in the relationship. 
 
“Success” or “éxito” for a Mexican is measured by the state of your relationships, as opposed to monetary wealth or goal-attainment. This is why Pedro, your jardinero, is considered highly successful and is well-respected in his community in Mexico, while Doctor Felipe, on the other hand, may be ill-reputed and considered a fracaso, depending on the state of his marriage, parental/sibling relationships, and amistades.