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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.
 
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Stuff Mexicans Like #4: La Television

18 May
Watching television is the #1 past-time for Mexicans, according to the super unscientific Garrison Survey of 2004- 2012. In fact, if you ever get out to the campos and ranchos where extreme poverty abounds (like, for example, say… my neighborhood), you may find communities with corrugated plastic roofs and concrete slabs for floors. There will be no refrigerator, no stove, and rudimentary plumbing. Children may be sleeping on a bean-filled mattress on the floor. But you better believe that every family has a television set! I’ve seen tin foil antennas, extension cords creeping out front windows to be rigged directly to the power lines, but it is essential in Mexican culture that every citizen be connected to every other Mexican via the medium of tv. Try to find a true Mexican restaurant or taco stand or tiendita or Mexican home that does not have a television on and blaring at full volume at all times. You’d be hard up to locate one. It is just common Mexican sense. It is good service and good entertainment. It is the most basic necessity of any business or casa. In the US, we might ask ourselves, “How can I open my new business without a phone line and a phone number so my customers can contact me?” In México the question is, “How could I open a business without a tv? What would I do when there are no customers? What would give my customers ganas to stick around and spend money?”  My friend here in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, informs me that at his last visit to El Seguro, (the “nicer” health clinics for people with insurance), there was no soap or toilet paper in the bathroom…. but there was a television set in the waiting area!
 
The Government Loves TV, too!
“La television es nuestra cultura. Leer libros requiere mucho trabajo y atención. La television hace el trabajo por ti.”  (Television is our culture. Reading books requires a lot of work and attention. The television does the work for you.) This is a common sentiment my Mexican friends have shared with me over my time here in México. One of my buddies in his mid 20s in Querétaro made the following comment upon learning that I was opening a bookstore in San Miguel,”Lo que pasa es que después de la conquista de los indígenas, el gobierno Méxicano le declaró a la gente, ‘No es necesario que lean Uds. De hecho, ni es importante que sepan leer. Nosotros vamos a ser sus representantes. Tenemos estudios y educación; nosotros leeremos por Uds. y les diremos lo que necesitan saber. No se preocupen por estudiar ni dominar el español. Lo haremos por ti.’ Así que la gente no tomó la iniciativa de aprender a leer y escribir y el gobierno no hizo nada para apoyar el aprendizaje del público.” (What had happened was that after the Spanish conquest of the indigenous, the Mexican government declared to the people, ‘It is not necesary for you to read. Actually, it’s not even important to know how. We will be your representatives. We have studies and education; we will read for you and we will tell you what you need to know. Don’t worry about studying or dominating the Spanish language. We’ll do it for you.’ So the people didn’t take the initiative to learn to read and write and the government did nothing to support the education of the general public.) Today we continue receiving information hand-selected by the government, via the television. 
 
Knowledge is Poder
In most Mexican homes, the television is located in the center of the sala as a kind of shrine, as the one consistent source of information. of Education. of Knowledge. of Power. If I have a 4th grade education level and still can’t read or write well, at least I have the faithful television to keep me in-the-know. Just as my insightful friend in Querétaro stated, the government/church (can we even make a distinction in México?) is still choosing and interpreting the information it deems acceptable for the average Mexican to know. Whereas in the US we may find important news on the front of a newspaper, magazine, book, public radio show; in México the culture continues to be anti-reading. But no fear, it’s all on the television set.  
 
Happy tv watching!  See below for recommended viewing on the Televisa/Telemundo channels:
  • Laura: talk show representing women and children’s rights: Televisa M-Th 3pm central Mexico (see photo above)
  • Por Ella Soy Eva: telenovela/comedia about a cross-dreesing man who does so to win back his girl: Televisa M-F 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • 100 Mexicanos Dijieron: Family Feud style celebrity game show: Televisa Sundays at 5or6pm central Mexico
  • Pequenos Gigantes: childrens Talent Show Competition: Televisa Sundays at 8 or 9pm central Mexico
  • Hoy!: Daily show: Televisa M-F 9am central Mexico
 

#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?)