Wednesday, May 25, 2005

San Pascual Bailon

What do you know about San Pascual Bailon?
Me either. I didn't turn up much on Google about San Pasqual except about a Mexican/American battle in California, but the local English newspaper, Atencion, here in San Miguel, tells me that he is a dual purpose saint: The patron of shepherds as well as cooks and kitchens. Since rain is needed in May for good crops, it is time for prayers and prayers, saints and festivals always go together in Mexico. So what better reason to have a festival for Dia de San Pascual Bailon. Although the "Dia" was May 17th, the festivities took place on Sunday starting about 6 AM when we were awakened with the customary festival day fireworks and clanging church bells. This time a big part of the festival was happening at our Colonia church so the fireworks were close by.

After about an hour of intermitent barrages of rocket explosions, things quietened down for a bit. Then suddenly there was a band playing on our street. We ran up to the new terrace and looked over to see the band at a neighbors just down the street and they were playing Las must be someone's birthday. The band was invited inside but we could hear that the party had begun.

We gathered our things and headed for the San Antonio church. To get there we walked through the Sunday market which takes place on Heroes Street. We have first hand knowledge of this Sunday market. One of our neighbors is a vegetable vendor at the Sunday market and we have rented a house on that street. The vendors arrive about 5:30 AM and quietly set up tables, awnings and their wares.....vegetables, clothing, plants, CD's, toiletries, cooking utensils, spices, toys and food booths. By 7 AM the customers are arriving. The market is bustling but surprisingly there is a low level of noise, just soft voices making their purchases or sitting at tables having tamales, carnitas, tacocs and fruit drinks.


But today there was noise on Heroes from the Colonia San Antonio church which is just around the corner. In front of the church were drummers with a pounding native rhythm beating out the baseline for a circle of dancers dressed like Azetcs. Huge feather headresses and elaborate costumes, with shell ankle bracelets that rang in rhythm with their footsteps. It is strange to me everytime I see these dancers because it is always in front of the church and they often bring incense and go through a ceremony of raising the incense to four points....I don't know if it is to the four winds, the four directions or something else but it is a little different from what I have seen of Catholic ceremonies in the USA.

The source of the noise was also from a band on steps to the side of the church. I wish I could adequately describe a local Mexican band. In a way it is kind of a mix of a German Oompa band with a lot of brass thrown in. Add to that old well used instruments and semi-skilled musicans. For me it is different and charming and very Mexican. It doesn't seem to make any difference if you are 70 or 12, if you can play and have an instrument, you can participate. Oh, and there were also huge speakers set up and if the noise let up any, then disco music would be played. All of these things go on outside the church even during masses.


People were arriving in costume to be a part of the parade. Costumes are outlandish...could be daffy duck or Vincente Fox, or men dressed in outlandish women's clothes with huge breasts and behinds. These costumed participants are called the Locos. They appear at most parades and they dance for hours, hours thru the town in the parade, stop for a bit for some refreshments and then usually they appear again to dance some more in front of a church. Talk about an exercise this once a week and you could stay in shape. As the Locos arrived, they went into the church in their comical drag attire and made the sign of the cross, knelt and said their prayers. Everytime I see this I smile in amazement but no one seems to think there is anything unusual about men asking for God's blessing dressed as women.

Around noon a parade formed which left the church and went through town but I'll write about Mexican parades in another blog. While the parade was going through town, awnings or tents were set up in front of the church and after the parade, there were food booths, games for children, a trampoline, more music and more dancing. In front of the San Antonio church are lots of stairs and families gathered on them to eat or watch the children sliding down the stair railings and chasing each other. Friends met up and stood talking. About the dusk the awnings were taken down and things quieted down but not for long. About 9PM we had more fireworks.

Like I said, I don't know much about San Pasqual Bailon but the prayers said for his festival on Sunday were productive. We had rain on Monday.

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