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Bloviator

Nov 30, 2007, 7:27 AM

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November celebrations

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During the night when I awoke at 3:00 to the horrible screeching of the singers and the tom toms of the band in the plaza and again this morning when the cohetes went off at 6:00, I began to wonder about the celebrations that they represent.

I know I should know this, and I did try to research it, but I'm not sure why the whole thing happens. If I understand it correctly, for Ajijic, it is the celebration of the patron saint of Ajijic (November 22-30). It goes on for nine days. Is this correct?

I've heard various discussions of the cohetes. One is that they are a carry-over from the earliest times when the Catholic Church had to adopt pre-Christian practices in order to attract the native population to the Church. Since human sacrifice was a little too radical, the setting off of fireworks to "awaken the Virgin." was adopted.

I've also heard that the cohetes are a good money maker for the church as that is where they are purchased (This is very uninformed on my part, and I'm only positing it because it is something I have heard).

I'm curious as to when the whole celebration started. I'm also curious as to how much longer it will continue - not days, but years and decades.

When Ajijic was a simple farming (with the growing season winding down in November) and fishing village, the people could party all night, arise to the cohetes in the early AM, and then go back to sleep for the rest of the day. Nowadays, when people have to get up and go to work, it would seem that it might be a little difficult to continue the nine day schedule of non stop partying and religious celebrations and still work effectively.

Of course, some might just not work for the whole time and devote the period to partying and religion. It's sort of like workers in Lake Tahoe and many parts of the West and Northwest. When deer season, fishing season, or ski season starts, lots of construction and similar work just shut down because few workers would show up to work for a week or so. Many in those communities are motivated not by money, but by life style choices.

Again, in the simple farm and fishing village, money was relatively unimportant. Today, many need money in order to survive. In order to get money, they have to work. After all, cohetes and all night parties require payment. In order to work and to continue to have a job, they have to show up for work.

I'm not sure who stays up until 2-3 AM partying and who gets up at 4-5 to set off the cohetes or who goes to the church at 6 AM. I suspect the partying is mostly the young, the cohete firers more middle aged, and the church goers of all ages.

Nevertheless, I would imagine that a lot of the people who have to get up early and put in a hard day's work, are home trying to sleep through the din. Again, this is sort of heresay, but I've spoken to some Mexicans and heard of others who are a little weary of the constant noise during this period. For this and the above things, I am wondering if the tradition will continue into the future.

To be clear. I'm not complaining, making suggestions, or trying to change Mexico and its culture. I'm just wondering what the future will bring.



esperanza

Nov 30, 2007, 8:34 AM

Post #2 of 11 (3613 views)

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Re: [Bloviator] November celebrations

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During the night when I awoke at 3:00 to the horrible screeching of the singers and the tom toms of the band in the plaza and again this morning when the cohetes went off at 6:00, I began to wonder about the celebrations that they represent.

I know I should know this, and I did try to research it, but I'm not sure why the whole thing happens. If I understand it correctly, for Ajijic, it is the celebration of the patron saint of Ajijic (November 22-30). It goes on for nine days. Is this correct?

I've heard various discussions of the cohetes. One is that they are a carry-over from the earliest times when the Catholic Church had to adopt pre-Christian practices in order to attract the native population to the Church. Since human sacrifice was a little too radical, the setting off of fireworks to "awaken the Virgin." was adopted.

I've also heard that the cohetes are a good money maker for the church as that is where they are purchased (This is very uninformed on my part, and I'm only positing it because it is something I have heard).

I'm curious as to when the whole celebration started. I'm also curious as to how much longer it will continue - not days, but years and decades.

When Ajijic was a simple farming (with the growing season winding down in November) and fishing village, the people could party all night, arise to the cohetes in the early AM, and then go back to sleep for the rest of the day. Nowadays, when people have to get up and go to work, it would seem that it might be a little difficult to continue the nine day schedule of non stop partying and religious celebrations and still work effectively.

Of course, some might just not work for the whole time and devote the period to partying and religion. It's sort of like workers in Lake Tahoe and many parts of the West and Northwest. When deer season, fishing season, or ski season starts, lots of construction and similar work just shut down because few workers would show up to work for a week or so. Many in those communities are motivated not by money, but by life style choices.

Again, in the simple farm and fishing village, money was relatively unimportant. Today, many need money in order to survive. In order to get money, they have to work. After all, cohetes and all night parties require payment. In order to work and to continue to have a job, they have to show up for work.

I'm not sure who stays up until 2-3 AM partying and who gets up at 4-5 to set off the cohetes or who goes to the church at 6 AM. I suspect the partying is mostly the young, the cohete firers more middle aged, and the church goers of all ages.

Nevertheless, I would imagine that a lot of the people who have to get up early and put in a hard day's work, are home trying to sleep through the din. Again, this is sort of heresay, but I've spoken to some Mexicans and heard of others who are a little weary of the constant noise during this period. For this and the above things, I am wondering if the tradition will continue into the future.

To be clear. I'm not complaining, making suggestions, or trying to change Mexico and its culture. I'm just wondering what the future will bring.

Horrible screeching of the singers? Tom toms of the band? Bloviator, you've lived in Ajijic for some time now, but your information re your town is seriously lacking and your value judgments need a reality check.

1. The November 22 through 30 fiestas are in honor of San Andrés, the patron saint of Ajijic. This nine-day party is called a novena, and throughout Mexico a full-on fiesta patronal is always nine days. By the way, after the final festivities for San Andrés, you'll have a two-day respite and then the Ajijic fiestas for Our Lady of Guadalupe start. The Virgen de Guadalupe novena dates are December 3 through 12. The fiestas are held in the Seis Esquinas neighborhood, where the Santuario de Guadalupe is located. When that's over, there's a three-day respite and then the novena for Christmas starts. That novena is called the posadas, and it's celebrated somewhat differently--but that's another post.

2. The cohetes are not purchased from the church. The cohetes are purchased from coheteros (manufacturers) who live and work right in town or in other villages nearby. Each day of the on-going fiestas is sponsored by an Ajijic gremio (like a trade union) as well as by a specific neighborhood in Ajijic, and each gremio purchases cohetes and a castillo, hires the band or bands for the day/night, etc. The most powerful gremio in Ajijic is that of the albañiles (construction workers). The day that they sponsor is always the loudest, longest, and the most popular. Each gremio collects money from its members throughout the year to pay for the fiestas in November. The cohetes are set off by the professional coheteros, not by members of the gremio.

Here's a schedule of gremio sponsorship for this year's fiestas, missing the 22nd and 23rd, which I don't have:

24th: Profesionistas, Empleadas, Domesticas, Esteticas,
Artesanos, Costureras, Maestros, Negocios: Puerto del Lago and
Peluqueria Aguayo, Escuela Biblica.
25th: Comerciantes, Carpinteros y Panaderos. Barrio San Gaspar.
26th: Nueva Posada, Grupo de Misioneros.
27th: Agricultores, Ganaderos y Delegacion Municipal de Ajijic.
Barrio San Miguel.
28th: Construccion y Asociados - Barrio de Guadalupe.
29th: Jardineros y Trajajadoras Unidas - Barrio San Sebastian.
30th: Hijos Ausentes en Estados Unidos.

3. Your statements about what life was like when Ajijic was a "simple farming and fishing village" are shocking. People awakened by the cohetes and rolling over to sleep the day away, till the party started in the evening--because they didn't have to work? Farming and fishing are hard physical work, Bloviator. We're not talking about harvesting corn with a John Deere machine. Hand-harvesting corn is hell. And we're not talking about sitting on the lake shore with a cane pole and a worm, either. Fishing is heavy, hard work, done from a handmade boat, with a handmade net. Your post seems to assume that only MEN work--women have always worked, and that work is never-ending. There might have been some folks who went "back to sleep for the rest of the day"--and there probably still are some who do that--but fiestas or no fiestas, work goes on as usual.

4. Have you ever wandered down to the Ajijic plaza during a fiesta night? You'll find people of every age group, from the tiniest babies in arms to the elderly great-grandparents, everyone out milling around, eating at all the food booths, having a canela (hot cinnamon tea, sometimes with a shot of liquor added), riding the Ferris wheel, poking around in the fiesta markets, and just generally enjoying a night out with their families, friends, and neighbors. People of every age stay till the last cohete is fired, till the last dance is danced, till it's time to go home to sleep and get rested for the 6AM procession (hosted each day by a different Ajijic barrio, where the daily procession starts), the day's work and the next night's party.

Primeramente Dios, the traditions of the fiestas will last till the end of time. It might be bread and circuses to you, but it's a way of life that shouldn't disappear.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









(This post was edited by esperanza on Nov 30, 2007, 8:37 AM)


Bloviator

Nov 30, 2007, 9:21 AM

Post #3 of 11 (3605 views)

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Re: [esperanza] November celebrations

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Esperanza, thanks for the information. It was part of what I was interested in learning. However, it really wasn't necessary to include a personal attack.

I have been here listening to the music for the past nine days. I find it to be very repetitive and lacking in quality. That is my opinion. You are welcome to a different one, but that doesn't make my value judgements wrong. I could just as easily point out that if you find the music pleasant, you have a tin ear. But, to each his own.

My reference to the simple fishing village in no way indicated that I consider the work done in those days to be easy. Obviously, the fishing was done from boats and required a lot of rowing and a lot of tossing of nets and cutting of fish for those who were successful, as well as a lot of maintenance for nets and boats. As I indicated, the growing season is largely over by November and the main work is winding down. My only thought was that life in those days was not on a rigid schedule required by employers (Though I have to admit, I was having a hard time figuring out how the fishermen could perform without being out and on the lake early).

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I think that only the men work. That is utter nonsense and not worthy of a response other than to point out that I am very aware of the difficulties women had with large families, little support in their labor from the men, and no modern labor saving devices.

Your response that after the end of dancing at 4 (according to what I have heard lately) they go home and rest until the cohetes go off (5 or 6) and then get up and have a normal day after one or two hours of sleep (assuming as you seem to do that they don't take time off for siestas - perhaps those are not a Mexican custom. I just thought they were). Continue this schedule for nine days, take off three days and then continue again for another nine and one would be a little worn down before it's all over. I doubt the farmers or fishermen were super efficient if they adhered to that schedule. I especially doubt that today's workers are likely to keep their jobs if they go for that length of time with little or no sleep and lots of cerveza every night - unless they are truly supermen and women.

You further indicate that the custom should not change. That is your value judgement. I make no judgement in that regard, but suspect that it will diminish or change as time passes. I know that Mexico is eternal, but it is subject to some of the changes the rest of the world experiences. Hopefully if change does come, it will improve the lot of the poor.

As to "bread and circuses," again, you are assuming something that I did not say and do not believe. You have lived in Mexico a long time and therefore can presume to understand everything Mexican. I have lived here three years and cannot begin to know why the celebrations are held. That is the main reason that I started this discussion, to find out more.

I know that there are some who believe that Mexico is wonderful, all Mexicans are perfect, and that anyone who thinks different needs to leave on the next burro. That is nonsense. Mexicans are people. People are imperfect, some good, some bad, most both good and bad, but imperfect. Mexico is far from an ideal society. The poor have a difficult existence, there is corruption at all levels of government, and there are many other problems. There are a lot of wonderful things about the country, but it is far from utopia.

Now, I still want to know how the custom started. I also am interested in why they fire off the cohetes. I have heard that they are fired along with the ringing of bells is to call the faithful to morning mass. I've also heard that they are fired to awaken the Virgin to answer the prayers and help those who ask for help.


(This post was edited by Bloviator on Nov 30, 2007, 9:36 AM)


esperanza

Nov 30, 2007, 10:13 AM

Post #4 of 11 (3590 views)

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Re: [Bloviator] November celebrations

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The music at the fiestas is, for the most part, what's known as banda. It is repetitive, it isn't usually played very well, and what I heard last weekend was no exception. I don't care for it and didn't say that I did, but banda is arguably the most popular music in Mexico today. It's what people want to hear (well, not you, and mostly not me, but a lot of people), so it's what's hired for this sort of event. Neither "screeching" nor "tom toms" are part of it. When I said you made a value judgment, you did. Those are value judgment words. I wasn't attacking you, I was simply stating a fact.

In your original post, you mentioned only men's occupations when you talked about working. Hence my comment.

The music from the plaza probably lasted till 4AM on Thursday, having started earlier in the evening on Wednesday. Wednesday the 28th was the day sponsored by the construction workers. They always have the most cohetes, the biggest band, the most elaborate fireworks and castillo, and the latest night--precisely because they have collected the most money during the course of the year for these expenses. If you haven't gone, either on their night or any other night, it behooves you to experience the fiestas at least once. You'll have a much better understanding of things if you're actually in their midst. Don't go tonight, though. It's the last night of the fiestas and will be a total crush of thousands of people, many who travel from Guadalajara and other points just for the fun of the parties.

There's a saying in Mexico: 'una vez al año no hace daño'. It translates to "Once a year doesn't hurt." And once a year, there are fiestas patronales in Ajijic. And yes, some people miss work once or twice during the fiestas. Some people miss a lot of sleep. Some people don't go at all, and that would include most of the foreign community.

You're right, I've lived in Mexico for a long time. I'm actually a Mexican! I know this country isn't perfect, there are things that need to change, advances that need to be made. But to suggest that modernization would include the dilution or extinction of a really good party? Nah. The party is part of what makes the bad things bearable.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









Bloviator

Nov 30, 2007, 11:59 AM

Post #5 of 11 (3580 views)

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Re: [esperanza] November celebrations

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Of course we have been to the various celebrations. We enjoy them, but as you say, once a year is enough. Again, I'm not advocating changing the system. I'm just saying that I suspect that things will change over time.

I think this has been interesting but enough is enough. Any further back and forth between us on this might be better done by PM or over lunch the next time you are in town unless the comments are likely to be of general interest and are not personal.

Thanks for the information that it is banda music. I really wish I knew the names and sounds of all the various Mexican music types.


esperanza

Nov 30, 2007, 12:24 PM

Post #6 of 11 (3576 views)

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Re: [Bloviator] November celebrations

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Your wish is my command. Look here:

http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico_cooks/2007/07/and-the-band-pl.html

It's a whole article about types of Mexican music, including links to Youtube that will let you listen to an example of each one. Have fun.

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









beatricemor

Nov 30, 2007, 3:50 PM

Post #7 of 11 (3562 views)

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Re: [Bloviator] November celebrations

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I just realized who "Bloviator" is and, as I have the utmost respect for both his mind and that of Esperanza, I take neither of them on here but thank them for an entertaining and educational exchange. I must admit, to my disgrace, that this is my sixth November in Ajijic and I have yet to attend the festivities associated with Ajijic´s patron saint. Even once.

I simply have two "learned" comments (with tongue in cheek please):

The key to understanding the "banda" music Esperanza and Bloviator refer to is to understand that the bands are not playing actual musical notes. They are simply blowing wind through various "musical" instruments assigned them at random as they arrive at the staging area and none of them has ever practiced playing any musical instrument of any kind at any time nor is that considered a desirable endeavor since even one real musician would humiliate all other participants and destroy the charm of the event.

The reason for the the cohetes and church bells at the crack of dawn is simple. That is to awaken the slaves so they can come into the church and kiss the padre´s hand before going into the fields to plant or pick the corn and frijoles according to the time of the year. This is not dissimilar to the steam whistle calling the mill hands to process timber or miners to extract coal.

The drunkenness and revelry allowed by overseeers in orderly fashion traditionally when the work necessary to sustain the village had been accomplished, was and is a release for villagers whether they labored in the Amazon Basin, the Mexican haciendas or the Mississippi Delta cotton fields. To be cynical about it, the post-harvest revelry assured the future supply of slaves.


(This post was edited by beatricemor on Nov 30, 2007, 3:52 PM)


skelleyhoutex

Nov 30, 2007, 6:40 PM

Post #8 of 11 (3538 views)

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Re: [beatricemor] November celebrations

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I live two blocks from the Plaza, have been to these events, had lots of fun but tonight I am opting for a sleeping pill. Two nights this week with only three to four hours of sleep is enough.


Bloviator

Dec 1, 2007, 4:41 AM

Post #9 of 11 (3516 views)

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Re: [esperanza] November celebrations

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I owe an apology to the musicians. I was confusing the music of the current celebrations with that which inundates us every week-end from local bands. I stand behind my comment about the quality of that music. It seems to be all drums and maybe a base, with all other instruments drowned out.

As I was sitting on my terrazza listening last night, the music was quite pleasant. The singer was excellent and the music, which was sort of in tune, included other instruments than the drums. I wish that my wife were well and that my recuperation was far enough along to allow us to join in the festivities, at least a couple of nights. We'll be out there during the December events for sure.

Esperanza - Thanks for the posting. I really am interested in learning about the different types of Mexican music. This is most useful.


(This post was edited by Bloviator on Dec 1, 2007, 4:42 AM)


Oscar2

Dec 1, 2007, 9:50 AM

Post #10 of 11 (3485 views)

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Re: [esperanza] November celebrations

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Cristina, in my lifetime I’ve taken for granted, thought and felt Mexican music as something foreign because as a northerner, it is. The emotional thrust of the Rancheras have always stirred me in ways intended but I know the true understanding of each word wells tears in deeply understood lyrics by those born and who have lived it deep in their hearts since they first opened their eyes.

The soft melodies of the Bolero, and its dance is so romantic and yes, its lyrics have lived long and true in its country, its people and around the world. Your website was an excellent, brief, but very honest window, which captures the true feeling of the Mexican soul. I loved the written insight, which cued the intro to the powerful delivery of U-tube.

As I watched the traditional Mariachi performance, the Mexican people in adoration to what they’ve known and been raised too, waved and swayed their arms in rhythm to what they truly felt inside at that very moment of which we too can enjoy but the Mexicans soul at their core has been fed and driven from it since birth.

I know you’ve mentioned living in Mexico for twenty five years but in the time that I’ve known you, the truth is, Mexico shines, shows and lives in you. You are indeed fortunate.


Oscar2

Dec 2, 2007, 1:54 PM

Post #11 of 11 (3423 views)

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Re: [esperanza] November celebrations

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Past performers are a timeless piece memory sways with, such as I heard as a youngster listening to Andy Russell sing Besame Mucho in the 40’s. Today that swaying continues and it flows with such current brilliance as Andrea Bocelli. This international latin voice is one of my favorites today.

Andrea Bocelli sings 'Besame Mucho'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsmWzFNw0_o

This is a piece you mentioned, “It’s Impossible,” or in Spanish, “Somos Novios.” It was recorded, I believe in Mexico with one of Mexico’s popular singers, Alicia Villarreal. This same piece is recorded with such stars as Christina Aguilera, Katharine McPhee and others.


Alicia Villarreal y Andrea Bocelli - Somos Novios

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJogieoJ3UE


And of course, the silky voice of Celine Dion and Bocelli in another memorable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmscFwj22vg

(This post was edited by Oscar2 on Dec 2, 2007, 2:45 PM)
 
 
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