January 22, 2010

El Senor del Monte Procession

Last Sunday, a bright, mild late afternoon, Chuck, our RV neighbor Sonia and I went into Jocotepec to see the highlight event of the annual El Senor del Monte festival. The honored El Senor is removed from his position above the Cathedral altar and carried around the town in a grand procession. Participants include locals, residents of small towns near and far, and many “absent sons,” those who have left for work up north, but return to visit their families at this time.

We arrived in time to see one of two green arches erected on Matamoros Street.
At 4:00, El Senor would be carried out of the Cathedral by select church leaders and high clergy into the eager crowd waiting in the courtyard. Where we waited on Matamoros Street, venders walked the parade route selling candles, food, and toys as spectators gathered. Aromas of  flat, sweet grilled gorditas, crisp bunuelos (can’t spell that one) and roasting corn kindled our appetites.
                                                       We gave in.

As the light became rosy with the lowering sun, penitents and their helpers began to lay down folded blankets. Many would greet El Senor on their knees with extreme humility, in supplication, atonement, entreaty or thanks, progressing along the parade route towards the approaching icon.

Then, we heard drums and stamping feet and the clacking metal shoes of the blue-suited Indians, and saw the multitude of the procession appear. The Indian dancers, stamping their feet in a repeated rhythm, were surrounded and followed by a crowd of townsfolk carrying on the dance. This contagious emotion is my  favorite part of the event!                            

The street became thick with people, many with candles, some walking blindfolded, arm-in-arm with a companion. More Indians, a band, and then El Senor! Honored men maintained space with a rope barrier. The priests walked within, and El Senor del Monte was carried aloft. They were followed by a truck with loudspeakers. Prayers were read, an old woman with a rather shaky voice led a song, and the crowd joined in quietly and sweetly. To my ear, it is a haunting, somber chorus. Thousands walked by us.

When the huge crowd began to dwindle, we wandered the central streets, which were lined with plastic tarps and wooden tables set up by itinerant vendors who sold just about everything you can imagine. One booth might be thirty feet long, stacked high with kitchen goods, another a modest table with a few shoes.

This was a moving and fascinating experience. We went home for a late, light meal, but most folks in town would have a long night. The plaza and adjacent streets were crowded with people enjoying loud music, carnival rides and arcade games. Restaurants and bars set up in the street were selling snacks, beer, tacos, carnitas, and the local favorite – birra, or goat stew.

1 comment:

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Great post, well written and interesting. LOVE the picture of the plastic shopping bags!