February 22, 2010

Carnival in Cholula, Pueblo

Yesterday, February 21, was so much fun that we'll have to delay telling you about Queretaro, Teotihuacan & Mexico City! Now, our first day in Cholula.

In 1519 when Cortez arrived here, Tepanapa, the second largest pyramid in the world, had already been abandoned to strife among indigenous tribes. Cortez and his 500 men killed 6,000 people, gained control of 100,000 indigenous inhabitants, and built a church atop Tepanapa, now known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula.

It was an easy drive from San Juan Teotihuacan on 40D, and we got to Las Americas Trailer Park in San Pedro Cholula  in time for lunch. It’s a number of blocks out of town, but we could hear loud booms and explosions from all around the el centro area. What in the world? While we were eating, Mike & Terri Church came walking back from town and told us that Carnival was going on! It is a week late here, lucky for us. They also warned about the extremely high noise level, caused by gunshots! Oh. As soon as lunch was over I set off to investigate, earplugs in pocket, while Chuck did projects at home.

Things had quieted down around 3:00, but random shots were still being fired, so I followed the sound. Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, after a parade, marchers go to their own gang’s home base to eat and drink. Many men carry elaborately carved muzzle-loading weapons. Some of the guys kept playing with their guns in between refreshments, so I watched.  After painstakingly pouring powder and tamping, they move into the road, execute a sudden, three-step turn, and send a shot to the ground or the air. KaBOOM! I quickly put on  earplugs!   
Then I found my way along mostly empty streets to a cluster of churches lining a huge plaza and even larger central garden. People flowed from the churches into the already crowded plaza.

Families and paraders who had dropped their masks were eating lunch on the grass and watching clowns, musicians and entertainers. Vendors sold souvenirs and food. Candy and gunpowder aromas mingled. I worked up the nerve to ask, and maskers were delighted to pose for pictures!

As I left the square, there was a parade coming toward me – they’d started up again! I chased gunshots and parades down street after street for some time.
Heading home I got lost, mixing up my Nortes and Orientes! I asked a counter guy in a tienda/store for directions to a panteon/cemetery I’d passed; then a family on the street in front of their house for directions to a green-walled panteon (I’d found a white one). Three women working at a pharmacy had too many ideas, and at last a policeman set me straight. Though our conversation was in Spanish, he enjoyed writing out directions in a complete sentence – in English! Tiredness had elevated my concern level somewhat, but I knew I’d find my way eventually. I sure got a walking workout, and next time I’ll take notes!
This pix was not my idea, but theirs!
I've never seen costumes like today's. Does anyone know their origin?


- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Good post, GREAT pics. Made me feel like I was along with you. Enjoyed it. Except for you and a couple of other people in the pics, they could have been taken 100 years ago.
Buen viaje!

janet said...

I'm catching up on your blog and I'm delighted to hear about you adventures.