KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
One of the most important figures in Mexican Catholicism is Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, a dark-skinned version of the Virgin Mary who appeared in Mexico City in 1531 to an Aztec potter. The Virgin of Guadalupe bridges the divide between the Catholic spirituality and the indigenous traditions of the entire country. Her image, cloaked in a blue robe, appears everywhere and her name is invoked in religious ceremonies. December 12th is the day when she is most honoured and there are parades, celebrations and pilgrimages each of the first twelve days of December leading up to the Dia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.
In Manzanillo, we witnessed local citizens dressing up in traditional clothing and parading and dancing from their places of business and their homes to the nearest church. Musicians accompany the gaily-dressed participants and it seems new mothers and fathers especially love to present their young babies, outfitted for the first time in miniature versions of adult traditional clothing and hats.
We rode the bus into Manzanillo Centro in order to visit the cathedral and witness the full extent of the celebrations. People were amassing in the narrow streets leading to the church. We followed along and when we heard the singing coming from the chapel, we climbed a long flight of stairs to peek in to see the service. A priest was giving communion and a long line of worshippers was waiting their turn. I was surprised to see that there were stairs leading from a small courtyard at the back of the church. These stairs led up into the homes perched above the cathedral, in fact, the church was built right into the hills around which Manzanillo Centro sprawls.
As we walked out the rear of the church, we passed down a long sloping cobble-stoned street lined with food stalls. There was a distinct carnival-like atmosphere. On either side of the street, I noticed toy horses placed in front of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It suddenly dawned on me that these were there for parents to have photographs of their children, wearing their holiday outfits, sitting astride a horse in front of the Holy Mother. Not unlike our custom of taking children to sit on Santa’s knee.
At the bottom of the street, we turned towards the Plaza and found the square alive with families and other holidaymakers. There were Christmas lights everywhere placed to form Santas, poinsettias, candy canes, and the Three Wise Men. It was hard to imagine Christmas just around the corner with the warm, humid air enveloping us, but I thought to myself, at least this is a Christian country, not a Buddhist one like Thailand.
As we walked through the square, we saw clowns, popcorn machines, and in one corner, dozens of people painting unglazed pottery green ware with shapes of reindeer, Santas, Christmas trees and teddy bears. Two young girls were busy working on their reindeer but agreed to smile for a photo. When they smiled and said a very clear “Thank you”, I asked them if they were learning English in school. They answered “Yes”, not “Si” and I told them I hope to go to school to learn Spanish one day soon.
Just as we were about to leave, we passed by the bandstand and an elderly man dressed, entirely in white, asked Audrey to dance. She joined him for a little spin but when he realized she didn’t speak Spanish; he danced a little longer and took his leave. “Rats” said Audrey as she returned to join us, “I thought I found a man to take home with me to Denver”. We laughed and assured her we would find her someone considerably younger, even though we only have three days left before her flight.