La Calenda

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Women are not the only group in the procession for La Asunción.  There is also a group for girls, who also carry decorated baskets.  Boys make up a third group.  Margarita says that traditionally boys carried fresh carrizo (reed) stalks [yii] decorated with crate paper ribbons, and this is what she makes for Benjamin.

Benjamin Ready for the Calenda

Benjamin Ready for the Calenda

I see one or two other boys with this design, but most parents seem to have adopted a new tradition for boys.  Most now carry poles with some sort of decoration on top such as stars or globes.  Some have decorations depicting various aspects of town life, such as a burro carrying firewood or a petate bull loaded with fireworks.  Others have a religious motif, and some a distinctly secular, modern decoration—Winnie the Pooh decorates one carrizo stalk and there are two poles bearing Spongebob, who I had also noticed the last time we were here for the calenda, back in 2006.

Men don’t dance as a group in the procession, but instead play different roles.

A few walk ahead of the procession, launching off fireworks, while the procession proper is lead by the town band, which as seems typical of town bands from Oaxaca, is all male.  Two men do carry two large puppet-like frameworks (marmotas), one representing a man and one a woman, which they dance around in.  These don’t seem to be unique to the calenda, since I have seen them in other parades and processions, such as at a Mexican Independence Day parade in Los Angeles.  I am almost recruited to don one of the puppets—the woman one—when the man who will be dancing with it can’t initially be found.  But thankfully, he shows up and I am saved.

A Marmota

A Marmota

A couple more men go around performing a function that is also not unique to this particular event.  They offer drinks to participants, in particular offering mezcal, which is essentially like tequila, to other men.  One such man finds me just before the procession begins and gives me a healthy offering.  When he turns around I am amused to see that he is wearing a jacket labeled Policia Municipal—one of the duties of the [xiyaa] (local policeman) is apparently to pass out alcoholic drinks to the denizens.  He catches me a couple of times through the procession offering me more, which I dutifully accept, and he is pleased when after his third visit I give him a hearty xaruteccwa’ ‘Thank you.’

A few other men are around like me to walk their small children in the procession, but they have no formal role in the event.

Those who are going to participate in the procession gather at the church around 2pm.  Announcements are made on the loudspeaker and the church bells are rung to call people in.  People congregate at the back of the church, which has been decorated for the occasion, and visit, waiting for the procession to begin.  Some go to the front of the church to pray and reflect.

After a while, we are lined up in front of the church:  the band first, followed by the boys, then the group of girls, and finally the women with their baskets.  The priest [bexuudi] comes along and blesses the procession, sprinkling holy water on the group.  This is a special event, since Macuil is too small to have its own priest.  Instead, he serves many surrounding towns and it is not always possible to have him present in the town during feast days and other holidays, although he might regularly appear in Macuil for La Asunción since it is a particularly important festival in Macuil.

Dancing during the Calenda

Dancing during the Calenda

The band leads us out, playing along the way.  We make a slow march along some of the streets of the town, going in a circle around the church, down into the barrio below the main square and back up to the basketball court in front of the municipio.  At bigger crossroads along the way, we stop and each of the three groups dances around in a circle to various songs performed by the band.  They play two different tunes at each intersection before we move on.

When we arrive at the basketball court across the street from where we started, the dancing continues on for some time.  The boys and girls dance in small circles in front of each basket while the women dance around the perimeter of the court.

Eventually, the dancing comes to an end.  The cabildo (town council) [urtiisia] comes out and awards prizes for best decoration in each category (boys, girls, women) and gives all participants a little prize.  Unfortunately, Benjamin doesn’t get his, since he becomes more interested in coming up and sitting with me in the stands a song or two before the end of the calenda.  But overall I think he enjoyed the experience.

Later that evening, they set off a big fireworks display.  Instead of launching them into the air, a large wooden frame has been built—they call it a castle—with the fireworks attached to it.  As I recall from our previous visit, it pops, fizzes, glows, and sends wheels spinning, as the fuse ignites the display.  This year, however, my mezcal catches up with me and I am not able to see it.


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