Enjoying SMA’s May

Here in SMA we are enjoying the moment of relative tranquility between Easter and the upcoming month-long celebration of the Cross.  Touring with countless visitors and residents, and annually performing at May’s festivals, I’ve learned a valuable lesson that will vastly improve a foreigner’s enjoyment of faith-based festivities.

ladies dancingFor many Northerners parades are experiences enjoyed at Disney, Dollywood or my hometown’s Hershey Park where the timing, route and other details are meticulously planned, promoted and executed.  Here processions are done for, and by, the local Catholics to express their history, culture and faith.  Whether a foreigner comes, or doesn’t, likes it, or doesn’t, really matters not one wit.  You are most welcome to participate but as every parent as told their children countless times, “It’s not always all about you.”

Even residents frequently complain to me about events not starting at certain times, altering routes and alike.  I’ve seen events change for mundane reasons (participants are getting tired and would enjoy live music now, not when scheduled) to tragic ones (a priest has died today and his funeral takes precedence over the celebration of Mary’s birthday).

valle de maiz daningAs performers, my students and I simply know our scheduled 4 o’clock dance presentation may well be at 8.  Luckily, if I pay attention there is plenty else to distract me and make for a pleasant experience.  For instance, while once in the Christmas procession in a small town south of SMA the Fool of the Festival was announced and I was surprised to hear my name, Joseph, broadcasted.  My thinking was “Odd there would be two Josephs here”.  There wasn’t.  Fool indeed!

By the way, never call a faith based procession a parade.  Parades are civic or military presentations.  It’s a small matter of wording that goes far in making you appear more culturally sensitive and well educated.

cool indian with shellI’ve been mortified watching my fellow foreigners yell at clergy because a procession has a late start or change in venue.  Even the Atencion states they aren’t responsible for changes in times and locations for good reason, life changes on a dime even for devout Mexicans that madly scamper to organize these events.

Instead while up in Valle de Maiz this Mary enjoy the sudden surprise of being in the middle of reenactment of torch bearing Chichimeccas versus gun-trotting Conquistadors while a man in his skivvies climbs a greased pole towards prizes, a church choir sings and I’m doing a danzon on center stage.  I promise that though you may not know when or where stuff is going on, you will know when you are in the middle of it!