Saturday, December 13, 2014

chalk up another one

Yesterday was the Big One.  Mexico's Feasts of Feasts.  Honoring its national patron saint -- Our Lady of Guadalupe.

According to the legend, 12 December is the day Juan Diego, the Mexican peasant (or Aztec prince -- depending on which version you prefer to believe), opened his cloak before Bishop Zumárraga, expecting the rose petals he had gathered to fall to the foor.  They did.    

But, as they say on late night television: Wait!  There's more.  In this case, an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on his cloak.  That passion play was almost 500 years ago.  In 1531.

The Virgin became Our Lady of Guadalupe -- and that image has been present at several of Mexico's most important historical events.  Marching off to war in favor of independence from Spain is just one example.

The Mary cult is strong in Mexico.  Even though it is not a national holiday (after all, Mexico is constitutionally a secular republic), if you wanted to transact any governmental business yesterday, you would have been doing it on your own.

Some parts of the country go all out to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  And there were some religious celebrants yesterday.

But these school kids represent what most people were doing in town.  And it had little to do with Our Lady of the Painted Cape.  When I asked a Mexican friend why the students were drawing in the town square, he mumbled something about art and kids and a gallery.  I long ago learned the answer translated to: "I haven't the foggiest idea."

There they were, though.  Less interested in the Mexican caped hero than they were in American cartoon icons.

Yesterday was also a day to celebrate someone else's birthday.  This time, for Gary -- the owner of Rooster's and Papa Gallo in Melaque.  His staff surprised him with a cake.  They also surprised him with the Mexican tradition of pushing his face into the cake while he blew out the candle.

At least, he had the foresight to take off his glasses.

I then rounded the day out with dinner on the beach at Papa Gallo.  I had a superb lamb dinner there earlier in the week -- the best lamb I have tasted in the area.  But the draw last night was rabbit.

I love it.  And Cedric, the French chef, knew how to prepare it perfectly.  In a traditional red wine sauce with mushrooms.  What I would have called hunter style.

Unfortunately, I cleaned my plate before I thought of getting a shot.  What I did manage to capture, though, is JC, the restaurant manager, in the act of preparing a new offering -- Spanish coffee.  This is him doing his impression of Mrs. O' Leary's cow.

Somewhere Mexicans are celebrating their patron saint.  And, though it is tempting to say: not here, that is not entirely accurate.

I live in a community not overly-burdened by tradition.  But that is not the same as being ignorant of history.  And my neighbors will soon prove that when they celebrate their patron saint -- the British-Roman missionary who became the patron saint of Ireland (and the namesake of our largest village): San Patricio.  How is that for international inclusiveness?

As I drove home last night, the San Patricio square was filled with crowds watching what I thought would be a religious celebration.  Nope.  It was a group of flamenco dancers -- celebrating Mexico's defeated former imperial masters.  Our Festival of the Sea is in full swing.

And the theme through the day?  Life is simply too good here not to celebrate.

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