The question is not a new one.
People new to the area are often flummoxed at some Mexican custom or other. Noise for example. This question showed up on our local community Facebook page yesterday.
"Does anyone know why cannons are going off in Barra?"*
Of course, there are no cannons. The last cannons fired here involved pirates in the late 1500s. (The pirates won in a double-header.) What they are are the usual cohetes (the skyrockets that carry an M-80 wham). And the answer is always the same. A religious feast day is being celebrated.
This week's celebration is very special for Barra de Navidad because it celebrates divine intervention that saved the village from destruction. I am certain most of you know the story, but it is one that deserves re-telling.
The year was 1971. The night of 31 August-1 September to be exact.A hurricane by the name of Lily was headed straight for Barra de Navidad. It was obvious the storm would demolish a good portion of the town if it maintained its projected path.
And Lily did maintain her path. She came ashore near Barra de Navidad with winds of up to 85 miles an hour.
With disaster on their doorstep, the residents of Barra did what came natural to people of faith, and for people who have suddenly discovered a faith they did not know they possessed. They congregated in the church -- and prayed. As the winds battered the walls, they sought deliverance from the storm. The sailors on Jonah's ship could not have prayed more fervently.
And then it happened. A miracle. A standard crucifix of Jesus on the cross stood above the altar. For no apparent reason, each of Christ's arms fell to his sides. And the storm abated.
It was like something out of the gospels. Mark 4:39 to be exact. "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."
Ever since then, the congregants celebrate Jesus of the Cyclone (el Cristo del Ciclón) this time of year -- as a day of deliverance and remembrance.
As Ben Franklin once said in recounting a story about a fly reviving in a fifty-year old cask of Madeira, "Now, I do not know how scientific that tale is ... ." But it is an article of faith in these parts.
The story goes that the parishioners wanted to repair Jesus' miraculous shrug, but the priest informed them that God had caused the arms to drop and only God could restore them. The crucifix still stands in the church in its hands-down splendor.
This evening, the week's daily procession formed up on the main road into town. The guest of honor was carried ceremoniously to the church for evening mass.
A side note. After sparing Barra de Navidad, Hurricane Lily rumbled north like Attila the Hun to lay waste to Puerto Vallarta in the worst hurricane it had suffered in 20 years. Favors apparently have a limited jurisdiction.
So, that is why the non-cannons are sounding. To celebrate a miracle.
I talked to talk with Sara, a local realtor, who helps organize these affairs. She told me that Saturday will be a very special day -- involving the remnants of the cross that once stood in the shipyard that built the ships that left Barra e Navidad for The Philippines in 1564. As you might imagine, their is quite a tradition that has barnacled that small piece of wood.
Unfortunately, I will be flying north to Oregon on Saturday for my monthly check-in.
For those of you who are in town, I have been promised that this year's celebration will be something special.
Disfruta la fiesta. And look out for flying cannon balls.
* -- A friend from Alberta who lives here part-time refers to these questions as Canadrama -- closely related to their cousins Mexidrama and Ameridrama.