Tuesday, September 17, 2013
hey, kids -- let's put on a parade
Sunday night was the warm up for Monday's Independence Day celebration. Starting with The Big Parade. Mexicans celebrating their independence from Spain -- even though there was little of that on offer.
At least, not at morning parade. After Sunday night's rain, I was not certain about the weather. But it looked clear -- and stayed clear. In the morning.
So, I pulled The Stupid Northerner trick. I showed up two hours early to stake out my spectator space. But there were plenty of Mexicans doing the same thing. And it gave me an opportunity to take a few pre-parade shots. Most of which were far more interesting than the parade itself.
Such as this refreshment cart. Refreshments are served at parades the world over. But where can you get a plate of tropical fruit to start the day?
Or ice cream. Because this is not the United States or Canada, this little girl's mother let her run across the street on her own, and to return with a treat that she was going to enjoy -- more than a bowl of fruit.
This photograph appears to be an international phenomenon. The selfie. Or, in this case, the twosie. (Is there a groupsie?) And so dies another photographic tradition of relying on the kindness of strangers. The refrain "Excuse me. Would you mind taking our picture?" may never be heard again.
This is what I call an accidental shot. I wanted a photograph of the vendor. But circumstances turned it into one of those three generations shots. There is at least two chapters of a novel embedded there.
And what can I say about this grouping? Out-of-towners would be my guess. They certainly seem to be bemusing the young man at the left.
I wanted a photograph of the baby all dolled up for Independence Day. But the framing and the colors made the grandmother the far more interesting subject.
But I did not stand there for two hours merely to shoot people. I came to be amazed at the wonder of Independence. Even though I know better than that.
I have been to enough of these parades to know that they are not a celebration of liberty. They are an opportunity for the government to show off all of the goodies it supplies to its citizens -- with their tax money, of course.
As a result, every school --and they make up the lion's share of the units -- presents a marching unit. Usually in the following order.
First, two students march along with the school's banner. I chose this pair because they were one of the few young participants who actually seemed to be having a good time.
A color guard follows the banner. For some reason, this color guard unit was a crowd favorite. Funny. I have no idea what school they represented.
And then there are rows and rows of children. Most of whom just seemed to be bored with the whole process. (My Mexican neighbor commented, when I asked him about all of the marching I see in school yards: "Sure, they can march. But ask them if they can spell 'Querétaro.' Or find it on a map?") I think that young lady has the answer.
Maybe this Yoda-like Miguel Hidalgo could help the rest answer the question. He appears to be filled with wisdom. Maybe it's ennui.
Now and then, there will be a drum and bugle corps -- with the emphasis heavily on drum -- associated with the school.
No parade -- especially,a Mexican parade -- is complete without horses. These men would be making a return appearance in the evening.
Or beautiful women on horses.
Or the Army.
But my favorite government service unit came from senior citizen services. Two princesses (for all I know, the one on the right might have been a queen -- she was carrying a scepter) carried a sign, in front of a pickup, announcing their agency.
And, in the pickup, riding far above the pedestrian peons, was the king of the seniors. Nothing could have been more Mexican. And the spectators obviously enjoyed the joke.
This fellow sums up the reason for these little parades. For a moment, I thought he was a local politician proffering benefits to the lady who was doing her best to avoid him. That must be the reason the DIF truck is in the background.
This post is already too long. But I could not leave out the best part of the day.
You need to know a little bit about the Mexican War for Independence for the rest of this post to make any sense.
After Miguel Hidalgo roused the rabble in Dolores Hidalgo, a small force of Mexican-born Spanish officers joined the Indians Hidalgo had incited. Along with some regular troops brought over by the officers, the entire mob, under the captaincy of Ignacio Allende, made their way to San Miguel, where most of the town's people greeted them. The mob murdered the Spanish, who were not as enthusiastic.
Every year, San Miguel de Allende re-enacts a rather romanticized version of the myth. (But aren't all national myths romanticized?)
Unfortunately a torrential rain arrived just before the horses did. But that did not stop them from twice racing around town on wet bricks.
They were also joined by the mob, who marched with sickles, bloodied machetes, and rifles, who shouted slogans of Independence. Along with a few rogue shouts extolling Zapata and the Revolution. Anachronism always has its place in myth.
The climax was when the mayor invited the conspirators onto the town hall balcony to address the assembled throng. The microphone was a nice post-postmodern touch.
No one noted that the insurgents went on to Guanajuato where their forces butchered the Spanish (including women and children) to the unease of Hidalgo and horror of Allende. Within the year all of the men on that balcony would be executed as traitors and their heads would hang from cages on a building in Guanajuato.
Not until 1821, when a Spanish general (1810 or 1821?) saw a great opportunity to climb the greasy pole as the first emperor of Mexico, did Mexico obtain its independence. The fact that General Iturbide (known as, Agustín I) ended up in front of a firing squad reminds us that this period of Mexico's history contains more tragedy than the Ring Cycle.
But those ruminations are miles away. This a day to celebrate the hope and promise -- not to dwell on the tragedy and despair.
Happy Independence Day, Mexico!