Saturday, May 28, 2016

MEXICO: ITS FIESTAS, CELEBRATIONS, AND PARADES



Hanging out with the Mojigangas in San Miguel de Allende before the parade.

Even after living in México and other Latin American countries for twenty years I still feel as though I am in training. I realize that most people train to be recognized for their achievements in endeavors such as medicine, the sciences, music, sports, the arts, etc., etc. I think of people who are driven by such passions as long distance marathon runners with incredible endurance. I feel that I might also qualify in that category by the fact that I live in a culture which has a never-ending circuit of fiestas, holidays, and celebrations. Keeping up in this culture is no easy task. It requires a lot of endurance and I often feel as though I am also in training for a marathon run. Please join me in what I call my “Fiesta Run” and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The fiesta (festival or holiday) is a Mexican art form that takes celebration to a level that is impossible to ignore or to resist. Street theater and music, parades and fireworks, colorful costumes, food and dance combine to make religious observances, cultural festivals, and patriotic holidays uniquely Mexican. No visitor to Mexico should miss an opportunity to join in the spirit of fiesta and thankfully the country's calendar is packed with holiday events.




Many religious celebrations have their roots in the pre-Hispanic era while most civic holidays reflect modern historical events. Since Aztecs times, religious festivities have been a major part of Mexican life. With the arrival of the conquistadors from Spain, Catholicism found an especially fertile land for this new religion. It is interesting and often impossible to understand religious syncretism in México.

Syncretism (my new favorite word) simply defined is the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. It is the blending of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought. Upon looking closely at Mexico's fiestas you may be surprised to find very conservative or traditional people dancing to please or to ask favors from the Pre-Hispanic gods who are masked behind the image of Catholic saints.





Government offices, banks, schools, and some businesses close across the nation for major national holidays. Such closings may also occur during important religious celebrations in individual localities. Essential commerce, however, is rarely suspended so most market places, supermarkets, and small family-operated grocery stores generally stay open for business every day of the year. You definitely will not go hungry while enjoying the fiestas. 






The following are major fiestas, or holidays, in México and some of my favorite. I have included the links to my previously published posts for each of the following holidays for additional information and photographs. Just click and go! 


DANZA DE LOS CONCHEROS (DANCE OF THE CONCHEROS)







While “Concheros” is the oldest and most common name for the dance as performed today, other indigenous names such as Huehuenches, Chichimecas, Aztecas, and Mexica are also used. This dance and fiesta emerged shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. It is based on the old traditional “mitote” dance, but modified to include Catholic symbolism as a means of preserving ancient ritual. While the Spanish tried to eliminate as much indigenous culture as possible total eradication was not possible. In the case of the dance of the Concheros that which could not be suppressed or eliminated was adapted to Christianity to facilitate the evangelization process.




CELEBRACIONES PRIMAVERA (SPRINGTIME CELEBRATIONS)











Many festivals take place year-round in San Miguel, but the Spring season is especially colorful and entertaining with its great variety of festivals. The festivals commence with the flower fair of La Candelaria at Parque Juarez which is then followed by the pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations which take place in the Jardin, the main plaza of San Miguel de Allende. Following these two festivals are my two favorite Spring fiestas which are the Children's Parade and the Baroque Music Festival concert at the Botanical Gardens both of which are held during the Spring Equinox in March.


                                              LINK TO:  SPRINGTIME FIESTAS


SEMANA SANTA (EASTER CELEBRATIONS)








Mexico celebrates Carnival (which is known as Mardi Gras in the United States) with raucous parades and displays of great gaiety. Dates vary since the fiesta is linked to the Easter calendar. Mexicans also celebrate Semana Santa and Holy Week with festivals and religious parades on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But they also mark the season by heading to the beach or mountains for a family vacation. Semana Santa (Easter) is definitely the biggest and busiest holiday during the year in México.











DIA DE INDEPENDENCIA (INDEPENDENCE DAY)






Mexico's Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, the day in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish born ruling class. In towns and cities across Mexico citizens gather at midnight on Sept. 15 in their community's main square to hear the mayor or in Mexico City, the president, repeat Father Hidalgo's "grito," or cry for freedom. At sunrise on the 16th, military and civic parades kick off a day of celebration that includes fireworks, food and music which are the three key elements in any Mexican fiesta.











                                    LINK TO:     INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS

   DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (DAY OF THE DEAD)













Dia de los Muertos is celebrated across Mexico with each region stamping its own cultural mark on the observance. On All Saints Day, November 1st, small children who have died are honored as "angelitos," little angels. The next day on November 2nd, All Souls Day is the day set aside for remembering older family members, friends, even the famous who have passed away. Family altars or public displays are set up and decorated with photographs, mementos and "ofrendas"--offerings of food, refreshments and symbolic gifts. In some regions, families hold vigils and feasts at the cemetery, while in other regions, candy skeletons or pan de muerto, a sweet bread, are consumed with family at home.

                                LINK TO:     DIA DE LOS MUERTOS CELEBRATIONS
                           

DIA DE REVOLUCION  (REVOLUTION DAY)




Dia de Revolución commemorates the start of the Mexican Revolution by Francisco I. Madero in 1910 and is celebrated annually on November 20th. The Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Mexicana) was a major armed struggle from 1910 to 1920 that radically transformed Mexican culture and government. The Mexican Revolution brought the overthrow of dictator Jose de la Cruz Porfirio Mori after 35 years of rule. Although recent research has focused on local and regional aspects of the Revolution, it was a genuinely national revolution.











                          LINK TO:      MEXICO REVOLUTION DAY CELEBRATIONS


DIA DE GUADALUPE (DAY OF THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE)




She is the patron saint of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the dark-skinned Virgin Mary who appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian convert to Catholicism, on a hillside near Mexico City in 1531. No one believed him until, after a third appearance of the vision, the image of the Virgin Mary was imprinted on his cloak. Deemed a miraculous work by the church, Diego's cloak now hangs in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City and each year on December 12, Mexicans honor their patron saint with parades and religious celebrations.






                                 
                                LINK TO:     DIA DE GUADALUPE CELEBRATIONS


CHARRERIA AND MARIACHIS (MEXICAN RODEOS AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC)







Charrería originally developed on the haciendas of Mexico where workers would try to outdo one another with their horse riding and roping skills which effectively turned these tasks into an art form. Workers from different haciendas would compete against one another at competitions. With the dissolution of the haciendas following the Mexican Revolution, charrería transitioned into a sport with formal competitions called charreadas.




Charreria is the official national sport of Mexico, but it is also much more than a sport. Charreria represents Mexican culture, tradition, and history as it involves equestrian competitions in which horse riding, roping, and cattle handling come into play. These photos were taken on my birthday while we were living in San Miguel de Allende which certainly made it a memorable birthday!






Mariachi music and charreria are very much intertwined. The two traditions developed concurrently in the west of Mexico. The traditional music at charreadas (Mexican "rodeos") is performed by mariachis who dress like charros (horse riders), but in brighter colors and with greater ornamentation.





Throughout the world mariachi music is a recognized symbol of Mexico. For Mexicans it is the musical accompaniment to life's most important moments. It is vital part of courtship and family events such as weddings, birthdays, baptisms, and funerals. Mariachi music and song is the emblematic sound of Mexico, which reaches into the hearts of its listeners evoking the history and traditions of Mexico.




In almost any city in Mexico you'll come across groups of mariachi musicians decked out in fancy suits with wide-brimmed sombreros. You may see them playing in a restaurant or bar or in a plaza waiting to be hired. Mariachis grace the stages of Mexico's most important theaters and stadiums and enliven gatherings of all types. In a Mexican neighborhood it is not uncommon to wake up in the early morning hours to the sound of a mariachi group serenading a young lady on her birthday, a mother on Mother's Day, or the Virgin Mary on her feast day.





Mariachi music has been recognized and added to UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring the better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. Bravo!


For an extensive list of annual holidays in México click on the following:
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN MEXICO


Oaxaca City celebrates their trash collectors with a special parade in their honor, This trash truck definitely has to be the cleanest and prettiest trash truck I have EVER seen!


Mexico and its people have an amazing energy which embraces all aspects of life including their many, many celebrations. Mexicans and their zest for life is truly inspiring and remarkable. Mexicans work as hard as they play and they certainly deserve my admiration. Now if I can only maintain a good showing in my "Fiesta Run" of marathons I will be very happy!  Until next time, wishing you happy trails and safe travels! Laura




                                                   Memories are just a "click" away!  
                                                         













Friday, May 13, 2016

XALAPA AND XICO, VERACRUZ



Now that we have thoroughly exhausted ourselves from the exuberant city of Veracruz I believe it’s time to get on the road and head up to the vibrant city of XALAPA! I believe that a little background information can be interesting and even sometimes helpful as an introduction to a new place. So with that in mind, did you know that XALAPA (AKA JALAPA) is the home of the well-known hot and spicy Mexican Jalapeno chili pepper? And it was here that the Jalapeno pepper was first commercialized? And that the residents of Xalapa also refer to themselves as Jalapenos? Maybe that is because they are also hot and spicy! So here we go....





Hot and spicy Jalapenos chilies from the city of Xalapa.
            
The City of Xalapa (pronounced ha-La-pa and which is also spelled in the Spanish manner of Jalapa) is the capital of the state of Veracruz. Xalapa lies near the geographic center of the state about 60 miles from Veracruz and is the second largest city in the state after the city of Veracruz.

The name Xalapa comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) language which approximately translates to “spring in the sand.” The spelling Xalapa (like the name Mexico) reflects the archaic pronunciation. Xalapa is referred to as the “Athens of Veracruz” because of its many cultural offerings and because of the strong cultural influence of its major university, Universidad Veracruzana. Xalapa is also called the “City of the Flowers” which will become obviously evident when you visit.




Xalapa, the capital of the state, is colorful and lively! Xalapa is a hilly city with many parks, gardens, and charming streets to explore

The climate in Xalapa is classified as semi-humid subtropical, but the city is relatively cool being located in the mountains over 1400 meters (3500 feet) above sea level. A real difference from the hot tropical climate of Veracruz city on the Gulf of Mexico! Very early in the morning, Xalapa often has a mist which gives it a characteristic mountain atmosphere. The greatest rainfall occurs during the summer months. The city of Xalapa is located beneath the volcanic peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and is surrounded in lush tropical vegetation. Xalapa is one of the most important places for the production of coffee in Mexico due to its ideal climate.


 The area surrounding Xalapa offers great outdoor activities from hiking to river rafting.

Xalapa/Jalapa is an exciting city with a vibrant urban center and a lot of high energy! The capital of the state of Veracruz is well-known for its cultural heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere. The city center is home to countless historical, natural and cultural sites such as parks, public squares, colonial buildings, churches, universities and other institutions of learning. Xalapa has a young and happening vibe since it is home to not only the University of Veracruz, but to other universities and colleges also. This city, located in the land of mountains, has a country air to it and is definitely one of the most charming Mexican capitals in Mexico.


Callejon Diamante (Diamond Alley) with a cool Bohemian vibe with lots of cafes, galleries, music, and entertainment day and night!



Xalapa has many art galleries to satisfy every taste and budget.

Xalapa has made the most of its hilly streets and abundant lush vegetation which provide a perfect landscape for the creation of a large number of green areas in the city. This is the case of Parque Juarez (Juarez Park) which is the city’s main square and center of the city’s social life. Parque Juarez is a park in central Xalapa with a terrace-like appearance. The southern side of the park looks over the valley below, offering scenic views of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in the distance. The square’s central garden boasts many trees, art galleries, workshops and cafes. Under the Juarez Park, the Paseo de los Lagos (walkway of the lakes) has winding paths along the lakeshore attracting cyclists, joggers, families and romantic spirits.



Xalapa a city of parks and nature - lovely!


On the other side of the Parque Juarez, the visitor finds City Hall, a building constructed in 1885 in the neoclassic style. The Government Palace, seat of the state government, is home to a set of murals painted by the Mexican muralist Mario Orozco Rivera. Opposite City Hall is the Cathedral of Xalapa which was built in 1773 and is highlighted by its yellow facade and white detailing. The Cathedral, consecrated to the Immaculate Conception, patroness of Xalapa, presents an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including Gothic. Built in the 18th century, it was consecrated as a cathedral in 1864. Highlights are its Gothic altar, its pipe organ and choir stalls.



The construction of the Cathedral of Xalapa dates back to the 1700's.

City Hall in Xalapa was built in the Spanish colonial tradition with Mexican color.

With its natural beauty, gardens, and a large variety of cultural venues, the city of Xalapa reminds me in many ways of the beautiful city of San Francisco in my home state of California!

The most impressive attraction to me in Xalapa, however, is their stunning Museum of Anthropology! This fantastic museum was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, a New York architect, and was reopened after a complete remodel in 1986. The Museo de Anthropology de Xalapa is home to the largest collection of artifacts from Mexican Gulf Coast cultures such as the Olmec, the Huastec, and the Totonac with more than 25,000 pieces. The most notable pieces in the museum are the giant Olmec heads and the smaller Totonac heads. Some of the pieces in the museum date back to the Early Preclassic Period from 1300 BC −900 BC. I would sincerely revisit Xalapa if for no other reason than to spend more time in this wonderful building with its amazing collection. It’s a MUST!


One of the stunning giant Olmec heads in the stunning setting of the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa.



Wow! Words cannot express how amazing the architecture and the displays are at the Xalapa Anthropology Museum.



Now this is one giant Olmec head!


The outdoor gardens are also fantastic at the Xalapa Anthropology Museum.



Xalapa Museum of Anthropology entrance hall:  light, space, simplicity, and lovely!


Well I don’t know about you, but after visiting the fantastic Xalapa Museum of Anthropology, I am feeling like an excursion outside of town to visit a small and enchanting town in the lush coffee-producing countryside outside of Xalapa. The name of this special pueblo is XICO and it is only a thirty minute scenic ride away on a local “chicken bus" so let's go!



A stop in Coatepec on the way to Xico is a nice and worthwhile stop.



Time to get back on the bus for Xico. We are almost there.


Hello and welcome to Xico! Founded in the year 1313, Xico’s original name was Xico-Chimalco in the Náhuatl (Aztec) language meaning "where there are beehives of yellow wax." Xico is a small town of pre Hispanic origin related to the Totonaca, Olmeca, Toltec,Ttlaxcalteca and Aztec cultures. What a pedigree! With it’s eighteenth century colonial architecture set off with white high walls on cobblestone streets, Xico exudes an enchanting charm.

Xico’s main street ends at a mosaic-tiled cathedral which glitters in the sunshine. The high mountain of El Cofre de Perote (Naucamapantéptl in Náuhatl) serves as a spectacular background, Xico’s residents are fun loving and friendly with every reason to be since they live in a lovely town with colonial charm, a mild climate with year-round flowers, beautiful mountains, and coffee farms producing rich Veracruzano coffee!


             The lovely church on the plaza in Xico.



A great mural for the local carniceria (butcher shop) in Xico.



Terrific woven palm baskets in Xico to carry home your purchases and they sell MOLE here!



Slow down, amigo! What do you have for sale?

The surrounding area of Xico produces coffee, tropical fruits, wines, and handicrafts. Many locally owned tiendas (small stores) proudly sell their homemade products including their famous moles (spicy and rich sauces), jellies and marmalade, and fruit liquors. Also sold is their locally grown coffee and crafts made of wood from the coffee plants which are hand painted with scenes of the area. There are many small and charming family-run restaurants in Xico where you can enjoy the local specialties and meet the friendly and hospital residents.



Wow! This tienda has it all including moles, licores, jellies, marmalades, and family memorabilia.




This is the "host" of a local restaurant where we have chosen to re-energize ourselves with lunch.

Having had a good and filling comida (lunch) I have the perfect idea of what next to do in Xico. And that is to take a lovely walk through the lush countryside to the nearby CASCADAS DE TEXOLO (Texolo Waterfalls). These beautiful waterfalls are less than two miles outside of town and are reached by an easy and leisurely walk. So follow me! 
 

A nice stroll to the waterfalls of Texolo just outside of Xico.



Looking down on the gorge at beautiful Texolo Falls.



One of the ponds formed from the Cascada de Texolo makes you want to just dive in!



Here we are. The gorgeous main waterfall at Texolo.



The main Cascada de Texolo (Texolo Waterfall) is a 264 foot (80 meter) waterfall that drops into a lush canyon which is home to numerous animal species. There is a bridge over the gorge connecting the dense woodland together. On the other side of the gorge are two smaller waterfalls that can be seen from some of the footpaths in the area. A mere 365 steps below the falls is located the local power generating plant. What a gorgeous set for creating electricity! When we visited, we had the entire area to ourselves and it was magic.



Crossing the gorge at the Texolo waterfall reserve.


Because of the beauty of this area, the falls and the surrounding area have been used in several movies, including Romancing the Stone and Clear and Present Danger. For all of you movie buffs here is a bit of trivia: in “Romancing the Stone” the jewel was hidden in a cave behind the Texolo Waterfall. There are also a number of nearby cabanas and posadas (cabins and inns) where you can stay if you wish to spend a night in this enchanting paradise. What a perfect way to really absorb the enchantment of XICO!


The mist and the sound of the Texolo Fall is magic. 



I hope you have enjoyed your trip! And thank you for joining me and visiting these special places in the state of Veracruz. I have really enjoyed re-visiting Veracruz with you and I think it just might be time to return and explore more of this great Mexican state. I hope I have also sparked an interest in your visiting the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico where there is so much more to see and experience.

I remember many, many years ago hearing that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is a link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting.


I sincerely appreciate hearing from my blog visitors.  Please don't be shy or hesitate to contact me with your comments, suggestions, or questions.  Until next time, many thanks. Laura

                                         Memories are just a click away!