Monday, April 02, 2012

lent me your ears

I do  not understand Lent.  Let me say that up front.  It is simply not part of my faith.  But I thought it was part of Mexican Catholic tradition.

When I lived in Greece (admittedly neither Mexican nor Catholic), the day after Carnival, all parties stopped.  Pleasures stopped.  Night clubs were closed.  Until Easter when celebrations popped up in every village square.

I expected something like that in Melaque.  But I knew something was amiss when the next town over (Barra de Navidad) celebrated Carnival a full week after Lent started.  The excuse was that their celebration was so small, they wanted to put it on after the big one in Manzanillo.

Then came the eponymous San Patricio festival.  I know that the Roman Church allows celebrations of saint days to occur during lent -- and the big one is Saint Patrick's Day.  But eight days of full-blast partying seems to push the envelope of dispensation.

And no more did Saint Patrick get stuck back on his shelf in the church than the town started celebrating a week-long rodeo.  Complete with music that blasted over the town until the wee hours of the morning.

I thought things might slow down until Easter.  But I was wrong. 

Starting on Saturday, food trucks, amusement games, and assorted other vendors set up in the jardin.  And the carnival rides that have been here since the San Patricio fiesta were up and running.

This last burst of activity was to empty as many pesos as possible from the semana santa crowd that stared showing up this weekend.  Thesetwo weeks are the life blood of the town.  The church was filled with Palm Sunday worshipers.  But, almost to a person, they filed out into the jardin to party.

All of this struck me as strange for a Catholic village.  The week of the rodeo, I talked to a woman from Guatemala who now lives in a very conservative city in the Mexican highlands.  She was a bit shocked at how much celebration was going on during Lent. 

And if you have read Babsblog recently, you know there are places in Mexico with strong Lent and Easter customs and tradition.

But not in my little fishing village by the sea.  We do not even celebrate Day of the Dead here with any fanfare.  Sure, the students put up stalls in the jardin that end up looking like science fair projects. 

But nothing like the highlands.  The attitude here seems to be summed up by a Mexican friend: "Why would I go out there?  They're all dead."

And death is not what my village is about.  It is about celebrating the good things of life.  It is almost as if Blackpool, Las Vegas, and New Orleans were dropped into a Waring blender and then filtered through a copy of Good Times in Mexico.

On my way home from dinner tonight, I saw families walking and laughing together.  I heard a mariachi band playing in my favorite vegetable store where patrons young and old were dancing to the blare.  And I ran into two tailgate parties in front of Jiggs's first veterinarian's store -- with plenty of music and joy filling the air.

My blogger pal Laurie over at Honduras Gumbo wrote about the people of Tegucigalpa going about their lives celebrating on Sunday.  She correctly pointed out: "For those of us who are using Lent as a season of fasting and praying, let us not forget to include feast days to be glad and rejoice.  After all, we have the Giver of Life in our midst, who wants us to display his love and joy to a suffering world."

Jesus was not only the great teacher of his day, he was also a guy who enjoyed a good joke and a good time amongst the people with whom he shared his life and ministry.

Perhaps that is the tradition my neighbors are keeping alive.  This is a life to celebrate -- and to share with one another.  It is hard to love your neighbor unless you are spending time with him.



John Calypso said...

"Lent me your ears"  hmmmm.

Probably the fact that taking a 'Lent posture' does not lend itself to getting an influx of tourist dollars is at issue here. The celebrations have started in earnest around here.

Prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial will not fill the coffers.

Personally I would not want to spend six weeks or so before Easter or any time for that matter in some of the qualities of Lent. Now celebrating the fact that He has risen should be fun - let's ROCK!

Jack Brock said...

Not only in Melaque.  I was in San Antonino Castillo De Velasco on Palm Sunday.  They were selling mixed drinks and flavored mezcal in front church during Mass. This is not a tourist town. Hundreds of people were there and I saw only five gringos.

Andean said...

I was brought up with lent and remember doing both--a time for prayer, and celebrating. Love the smell of fresh palms so did get some yesterday Palm Sunday. It was good to clear the mind and reenergize the soul. Later there was an anniversity party at a restaurant on the beach. It was a great celebration the view alone was worth celebrating.

Steve Cotton said...

And there was certainly a lot of celebration last night.

Steve Cotton said...

 And rock I shall.

Steve Cotton said...

Then it must be Mexico. Of course, it is a big country. What really looked out of place to me was the almost-naked Jessica Rabbit painted on the back of the ball toss booth. But it is a time of celebration.

Laurie Matherne said...

This year I am doing some things differently to celebrate lent. I am eating very consciously and cheaply, and the money that I save will help someone in need. I got the idea from a new book, A Place at the Table. The author has a great chapter on Feasting as well. Fasting and penance is good for our soul, but if it helps no one else, it does little good. Fasting is about breaking bonds of injustice, according to Isaiah. That's the fast I am choosing this year. 

Babsofsanmiguel said...

Having been raised "strict" Catholic until my mid 30's, I can assure you that Lent in the US is no longer as it was back in the "olden days" when eating meat on Friday or not fasting or giving up something for Lent was de rigeur.  And with that said, Catholicism in Mexico is unlike Catholicism in the USA.  Very few similarities other then the Mass, and the Saints.  So many more indigenous customs are integrated which gives it such a nice patois, as we used to say in Louisiana.

San Miguel is PACKED with tourists.  They started arriving on Saturday and will be here til the processions begin on Wednesday through Friday.  On Sunday, Easter, we have, of all things, the blowing up of Judases made out of paper mache made to look like politicians and other individuals that people want to get rid of!  Bizarre.......

Theresa Diaz de Gray said...

 I was raised Catholic and one of the things I remember about my childhood was giving up something for Lent. If it was candy for example,I'd save the money and on Easter Sunday it would go into a special collection for the poor.

Here in Merida, it seems like eating fish on Friday is the thing to do during Lent. The fish restaurant down the street had at least 20 people in line where normally it's just one or two. The odd thing is that fish is not cheap,so no one is saving money to give to the poor.

Of course, I remember all Fridays as either pizza, mac and cheese or fish
sticks at school lunch through out most of my childhood ,even when I
attended public school. I think my mom gave us an additional meatless
day and we saved that money for the collection box.

It's the form that survives not the substance. Like saying the words to songs but not listening to their meanings.


Laurie Matherne said...

I am from South Louisiana. Every Friday is a day for feasting, not fasting during Lent. It's a day to overindulge in seafood. And as you say, it's not cheap. However, I have noted a growing trend in evangelical circles to observe Lent again. I am hopeful we can recapture the spirit of fasting and helping the poor as a true means to be godly, not just something religious or for show. Or as it is now, just an excuse to overindulge, the very opposite of what Lent was supposed to be.

jennifer j rose said...

Here's what I learned from a lawyers' listserve today:

I have to confess to contributing to the fall of some officemates by
pointing out that Sundays are not part of Lent, and therefore, they
could eat and drink to their hearts delight from Saturday night to
Sunday night. It turns out that one break in the fast and that was
that for the season.

Now, since those words were uttered by a respected Catholic lawyer, they've got to be Gospel. 

Steve Cotton said...

 I knew I would eventually find The Highest Source. 

Steve Cotton said...

 And a great example of how a tool of faith can be used as a tool to help others.

Steve Cotton said...

 Capturing the substance is a great goal.  And it starts with individuals.  Count me in.

Steve Cotton said...

Blowing up the Judases. Another custom we lack. We simply blow up our pockets with pesos.