Monday, November 20, 2017

i love a parade

I really do.

For me, nothing captures the spirit of a small town as well as how people choose to celebrate important dates. And parades are perfect cultural mirrors.

I have now been in the local area long enough to witness a bushel of parades. Independence Day. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The feast of San Antonio de Padua. The Feast of San Patricio.

Today was Mexican Revolution day. Depending on which historian you prefer to believe, the revolution lasted either ten years or nineteen years. But everyone agrees, it all started on 20 November 1910. And, there is a story associated with that date.

President Porfirio Diaz had served almost thirty years as president of Mexico by the time the 1910 elections rolled around. Even though he came to power as an opponent of allowing Benito Juarez to be re-elected president, he soon became convinced that no one could rule Mexico as well as he could.

Under his presidency, the economy boomed, agriculture became far more efficient, and there was peace after almost seventy years of Mexicans fighting one another following Mexico's independence from Spain. But Porfirio Diaz was also a very nasty piece of work. There was no political liberty. New leaders were frozen out of the system.

A northerner, Francisco Madero, decided in 1910 enough was enough. He would run against Porfirio Diaz for the presidency. Madero was no revolutionary. He was a true Liberal in the Mexican sense of that term, and the scion of a very wealthy family.

In his campaign through the country, he preached the gospel of liberty and the evil of re-election. Porfirio Diaz's re-election in particular. But also the danger of re-election to any political office in Mexico. He would have been a fan of Cyril Northcote Parkinson -- had he lived that long.
Instead of letting Madero's campaign run its course, Porfirio Diaz jailed Madero. While in prison, Porfirio Diaz was re-elected in a rigged process.

Madero's father exercised his influence to get permission for his son to ride daily outside the prison walls -- accompanied by four guards on horseback. In an early precedent for El Chapo, the guards just let Madero ride off.

Like all good revolutionaries, he fled his country to organize what would be the Mexican Revolution from his refuge in San Antonio, Texas. He had a plan -- the Plan de San Luis.

That plan called for all Mexicans en masse to rise up against The Dictator at 6:00 PM on 20 November 1910. (Madero was a bit obsessive about such matters.) Fully expecting he would be met by hundreds of armed men on the Mexican side of the border, Madero crossed over the Rio Bravo with ten men and 100 rifles at the appointed time.

And there he found only another 10 men. Twenty men do not a revolution make. He returned to Texas hoping for a reset.

Eventually, the Revolution gained strength. Six months later Porfirio Diaz was no longer president, having fled to exile in Spain -- dying in Paris in 1915 during another great war.

So, that is what my neighbors were celebrating today. Not the belated start of the revolution, but the overthrow of the dictator and all he stood for. It was the "all he stood for" part of the revolution that would lead to the death of a million Mexicans during the subsequent years of warfare when various Revolutionary leaders would die at the hands of other Revolutionary leaders.

Even though the vendors who sell Revolution paraphernalia never showed up in our town, this was one of the most lively parades I have ever witnessed here. And I am not certain why.

All of the usual elements were there.

Enough cute children to peg a diabetic's glucose meter.

Lots of pretty girls and handsome boys from the local schools looking as if they could be rooting for their favorite high school football team in Texas. And you know which type of football that would be. Not the one with the round ball.

While the girls cheered them on, the boys would create some of the most improbable human pyramids.

Sometimes, walking the whole route is not the best option when a pickup is available.

And, of course, there have to be women with their traditional Jalisco butterfly dresses. This group has just drenched the audience with beer.

There was also an historical anomaly in the parade. I will let you guess.  Here's a hint. The parade honored the Mexican revolution. 
But it is rather obvious. (Even though the three Mexican friends I asked did not see it.)

What was different this year may have been me. I positioned myself away from the crowd to get the most unobstructed shots possible. Most of the groups just marched past me. But then one school's team stopped marching and clustered together yelling: "Foto. Foto."

Then another.

Then another.

And another.

There were more. But you get my point. And each time we went through this exercise, I had an opportunity to chat in my tortuous Spanish and the participants practiced their English.

One other factor was at play. Because of Barco, and my recent quest to practice my Spanish in the immersion program of my neighborhood, I knew several of the parade participants.

And that made all the difference. It almost made me feel as if I was in a place where I belong.

On that, I agree with myself.

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