The Days of Guadalupe

In the fall and through the end of the year, we enjoy many traditional events in México. Right now, during the first two weeks of December, there are events leading up to the 12th happening all over the country — when the Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe is held. In Cueramaro, we have the “Tradicionales Calles Compuestas de Centro de la Ciudad” from the 1st to the 11th. During this period, each street in the central district of Cueramaro is designated for an evening of celebration.  Our houses are decorated, families make large pots of posole and fruit punches, and the street is strung with traditional paper banners in anticipation of the special day.

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For each street, the day starts early in the morning with a procession bringing the Virgin and a priest to a host home to bless the celebration. The procession always includes several school children, a band and members of the community who join the Virgin as she is taken to the next street.  Then, starting around 7:30 in the evening, people from all over (many returning from the US) begin to come. We walk and greet friends we haven’t seen for ages. We stop at homes to wish each other well and are invited in for something to eat, punches, perhaps some tequila and much conversation. In the streets bands play, vendors offer tamales, roasted fresh garbonzos and other foods that can be eaten out of hand while you walk. Christmas lights twinkle on all the houses and families put elaborate displays honoring the Virgin in front of their homes. It is a wonderful tradition, rooted in Christian hospitality and community, that I always enjoy.

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The photos with this entry are from my trip to Cueramaro last weekend. As always during the street fiestas, I got to spend time with family and friends I haven’t seen for quite a while. Unfortunately, my little camera refused to take pictures of friends when I wanted it to but it was happy to oblige when I was just out walking. I forgive my camera though — it has lasted through many fiestas and moments and now that I have its replacement on the way — I understand if it carries a bit of jealousy. I won’t retire it completely. It is still useful and unobtrusive because it looks retro now. When everyone’s cameras are slim and colorful or part of their cellphones, a boxy, silver digital camera from seven years ago is just quaint.

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Cueramaro, like México itself, has changed a lot since I first visited many years ago. A branch of the Coppel department store has opened in Centro and a smaller version of the supermarket Bodega Aurrera has appeared within walking distance of the jardin. In the pictures you will also see Librado’s new cocina economica on the road leading to Irapuato, a sign from a new “grill” on the street behind the mercado and a large new taqueria near the jardin.  There is something new every time I visit now.

Morelia, where I spend most of my time, is continuing to build and enhance its quality of life for a growing middle class population. We have a growing economy and a lot to be thankful for. So, I was jarred to hear a report about “Mexicans living fear” on NPR Friday morning. Yes, we are as appalled at the violence the drug trade has brought to México, especially to our states on the Northern border with the US. Yes, it is a major concern nationally. But frankly, it isn’t the first thing in my mind when I walk down the streets of Cueramaro at night with my friends. It doesn’t stop me from going to the mall or a restaurant in Morelia when I want to. Just like anywhere, I am careful but, “living in fear?” Please… There are parts of Los Angeles or Washington, DC that have a great deal more crime and violence than we do. But this past weekend, talking to friends in Cueramaro, I noticed the same phenomenon in reverse. They asked me what I knew about the treatment of immigrants in the US because of YouTube videos they had seen of the police harassing and beating a young Latino. I wonder if we are entering a time when there is so much misinformation between México and the US that we are unable to have any dialogue at all about our shared problems.

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But enough of that. I’m in the cruel grip of anticipation now. I have more than a week to wait for my first digital SLR camera. I’ve been involved with photography for much of my life, but the last 20 years have been something of a dry spell as I pursued a career in technology (when I think of it, the 1,000’s of pictures in my photo directory say otherwise…). Our company has an annual fiesta for the end of the year in Morelia.  At the end of the year, I will again be in Cueramaro to celebrate and spend time with people I love. I’m like a kid, waiting for that special toy at Christmas.

I will be back with some pictures from the new camera and a special Christmas card for everyone soon. Until then…

Happy Holidays – Feliz Navidad!

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