Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunday in the Park with Saint Joseph

On a recent Sunday morning, as we were finishing a leisurely breakfast on the Plaza Grande with our friend Roberta Smith, who was visiting from Salida, we heard music. A group of women and girls, festively dressed in brightly-colored embroidered blouses and aprons, danced toward us to the accompaniment of a small band. The ages ranged from early 20s down to girls of 5 or 6. Like most small bands here, there was a tuba, an enthusiastic drummer, someone playing cymbals,  and a couple of trumpets and clarinets.

A crowd gathered around the edges to watch the dancers, including one where young women took turns dancing around a torito (little bull), wielded by young men and boys. Someone passed the hat and the crowd contributed, and then the band led the dancers to the Plaza Chica, where they would dance again.

This little fiesta was to celebrate San José, whom we would call St. Joseph.

The next day, Monday, was Benito Juárez's birthday, and a national holiday. He was born a poor Zapotec Indian in a small village north of Oaxaca, with no prospects other than a life of poverty and manual labor. He walked many miles to Oaxaca in order to go to school even though he didn't speak Spanish, and found work in the home where his sister worked as a cook. His intelligence and interest in learning attracted the attention of a priest who encouraged him to pursue an education. He became México's first indigenous president, serving 5 terms (1858-1872) and leading the reforms that began the creation of modern México. His portrait is on the 20-peso note.

Some more photos and a video from Sunday.

Eagerly watching the dance with the torito
Heading off toward Plaza Chica
The youngest dancers and the torito

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