Monday, November 24, 2014

kafka comes to barra

I had a Gregor Sampsa moment yesterday morning.  I awoke to discover that I was in San Miguel de Allende.

At least, that is what my social calendar reflected.  Sunday: Church.  Blog interview.  Install art.  Religious procession.  Jazz concert.  Final ceremony and more music for the Filipino expedition fiesta.

But, I was still in Barra de Navidad.  The cultural events, with the whiff of highlands culture, had come to me.

Let's start with that religious procession.  Usually, these church parades are nothing special.  Certain saints get their special day each year with a very predictable procession -- and sky rockets.

But this truly was a unique (in the real meaning of that word) event.  And I would have expected that.  After all, it is not every day you get to celebrate the 450th anniversary of -- well, anything.

Yesterday, it was the celebration of a homecoming.  A cross.  But not just any cross.  Here is the myth that accompanies this particular piece of wood.

The Spanish built a small chapel at the ship yard that launched vessels to carry a crown's fortune.  A cross blessed that chapel.

That cross was to have more misadventures than a Victorian school boy, including a couple of fires that cut it down to size.  Somehow, it ended up in a church in Autlan -- in the Jalisco mountains on the highway to Guadalajara.  On the same road that Chinese goods once made their way from Barra de Navidad to Vera Cruz.

But yesterday it came home to Barra de Navidad -- at least, for a short visit.  Any like any local chip that made it as a big block in the city, it was honored by a procession that only my new countrymen can provide.

Altar boys and incense led its passage.

The guest of honor was erected by the loving hands of priests in its procession home -- a cardboard boat pulled by a Massey-Ferguson.  And the cross's honor guard?  Pirates.  Monks.  Peons.  We do know our theatrics.

And what religious procession would be complete without a prepubescent Jesus on his way to be crucified, along with enough Josephs, Marys, angels, wise men, and assorted other characters to warm the hearts of grandmothers everywhere.

But there was more.  There always is.  Such as, the groups of mock Indian dancers, who would feel at home in a New Orleans krewe.

And they were followed by what seemed to be the remainder of the faithful of Barra who had not donned a distinctive costume.  Well, other than the costume of a faithful Mexican Catholic.

While the cross and its attendants headed to a climactic mass, I peeled off to attend the opening night of Barra de Navidad's Jazz and Blues Festival.

I have heard enough of our local Mexican and expatriate musicians to know there are a few truly outstanding performers.  So, why not jazz -- one of my favorite forms of music?

If last night was any indication of what the next four days will bring, we will have a hit on our hands.  The guest performer was Randy Singer, a jazz harmonicist, who had barely stepped off the airplane from Miami before he played for us.

It was an amazing show.  A very small venue -- just enough for a dozen tables.  And a crowd of people who knew and appreciated jazz.  Throw in the ocean view, and it was jazz with a tropical flair. 

My only complaint was including the overworked "Guantanamera" and "Girl from Ipanema."  The musicians were talented enough, though, to turn those two saws into something new.

Unfortunately, my social calendar is so San Miguel full this week, I may miss far too many of the jazz performances.

With an embarrassment of cultural references like this, we don't need no stinkin' highlands badges.


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