Easter Procession in Santa Clara del Cobre

Santa Clara is about an hour’s drive south of Morelia, just south of Patzcuaro. We had intended to spend Easter Sunday here in the city, but after attending Mass at the cathedral, we felt small town life calling us (as usual). We wanted to see copper making, since I grew up with it in Arizona, so off we went.

What a charming small town! I absolutely fell in love with the young boys, ages 3-8 or so, who were dressed as typical Michoacán viejitos for the Easter procession. More on them later.

One of the two main churches in town is home to Jesus of the Resurrection, so Easter Sunday is, luckily for us, a big feast day. Later in this post you’ll see video footage of the very community-engaged, charming Easter procession.

We noticed a sign outside the church here that we found so interesting we just had to take a photo of it, left.

Also, I made a new girlfriend, who was more than happy to pose for a photo for me.

When we arrived in town, about 11:00 am, people were just putting the finishing touches on some decorations. Those included assembling beautiful red-and-white-arches in the center of the street, in front of each of the barrios of Santa Clara del Cobre.

When we asked what they were preparing for, we were told there was going to be a procession. Where? When? “Right here. Ahorita.” Well, we’ve lived here long enough to know that ahorita doesn’t mean “right now” in any gringo sense of that word. So, we knew we had time to check out the town.

The decorations also included crepe paper flowers and streamers in front of nearly every house in town. It was truly a community event, and involved all ages.

We saw a long line in front of the newer church, the one that’s in the plaza. We figured it had something to do with Easter.

Approaching, we saw the priest signing a booklet for the children in line. Well, that looked all too familiar! In asking, a mother told us that the children who want to receive First Communion this spring had to attend the 9 o’clock Mass on Easter, and they had to have the priest sign their booklets attesting to that fact. Gotta love legalism.

We figured the procession would start after the noon Mass, so we took a look through what appeared to be the old original church. It was gorgeous! Everything here in town was so well cared for.

There were quite a few braids of human hair pinned to the cloth behind the crucifix, along with quite a few small milagros.

Every building was occupied, every curb was maintained, there were sidewalks and people sweep them on a daily basis. It was terrific to see.

Beside the old church was what seemed to be a community center. There were obvious party preparations going on, and during the mid-day people kept streaming in with food, food and more food. And music too, of course.

Still no sign of a procession to begin ahorita, we walked through the copper fair that was going on in the main plaza. There we met Pito Pérez, reincarnated, selling DVDs of movies about his life.

Coming back to the other side of the plaza, we saw that the crowd was gathering to view the procession, so we took our place on a curb.

Once the fireworks launchers were in place, we knew it was time. They used really handy iron stands to launch 6-14 bottle rockets in a row. I think Mazatlán needs these!

The video above is about three minutes of the procession. It lasted a good 90 minutes or more. It involved so many people, as we’ve witnessed in so many other small Mexican towns during Semana Santa. It included a Santo statue from each of the barrios of the town, I believe, plus the town patron, the Jesus of the Resurrection. This is not a performance so much as a community-wide event, as are our beloved Carnavál parades in Mazatlán.

The most charming part of the parade, for me, were the children dressed up as typical Michoacán viejitos, or old people. Normally this is a folk dance, but this time they merely walked in the parade. By the end they were pretty hot and tired.

After the procession I saw a group of four boys sitting in the plaza. They were obviously the viejito boys, though they had removed their hats and masks, and several of them had even taken off their zarapes, because they were hot and tired. They looked so cute. I asked them if I could take their photo, so that of course ruined the spontaneity of the moment. But, marvelously, they called all their friends over, they all got completely re-costumed, and they gleefully posed for me to take their photo. I will post this blog to a few town sites, in hopes that the kids might see themselves. Thank you, niños!

Afterwards people seemed to go into the community center to eat, and to take home the leaves from the arches, and many of them also took home large sugar cane stalks. We hadn’t seen those till now, so I’m not exactly sure where they came from.

Thank you, Santa Clara del Cobre!!! We were very blessed to be able to share our Easter Sunday with you! We appreciate you including us in your festivities.

Lenten Program at School

 

Danny’s now gone to two different Catholic schools here in Mazatlán, and they both have required parents to attend meetings or retreats in order for the kids to get a better grade in religion class. I have trouble with that, but that’s not what this post is about. I do see that it motivates parents to attend and to learn.

I am a Christian and I love this time of Lent. This year I’m doing some social justice meditations along with Bible reading.

But, tonight as I was heading to school to the first of THREE required Lenten meetings, I was not in the best frame of mind. I also have a horrible cold, and am at the point where a tissue needs to constantly be in my hand, and a lozenge in my throat, so I felt very sorry for my neighbors sitting near me.

Anyway, tonight ended up being really interesting. I am so glad I went. There were four married couples on stage, all different ages, from married 8 years with young children to married 36 years with grandkids. The theme of the evening was “weathering economic crisis in your marriage.” The couples each took turns answering a series of three questions on the topic.

Each of the four women said that, when they married, they expected to not have to work. And the husbands all said they expected to be the family provider. All four of them then went on to describe that times have changed from our parents’ days, and nowadays both spouses need to work to maintain a family; it’s the reality and most everyone has to learn to adapt. The couples all told poignant stories about the emotions they went through, and the blame or judgment they heaped on each other, as they worked through to the reality that they would both need to work.

The answers to the first question were pretty astounding to me. I have a couple of girlfriends here who work, and both of them keep their money separate from their husband’s money. The idea seems to be that the man’s duty is to provide for the family, and any money the women makes is her to use as she pleases: things for herself, special items for the kids, etc. But, I’d always figured my friends were exceptions to the rule. Greg and I have always pooled our money, and I figured most Mexicans must, too.

All four of the couples who spoke this evening, however, shared that same perspective as my local girlfriends: that the wife’s income should be for “extras” and the man’s income for the basics. The men want to be the breadwinners; the women want to be provided for. This shocked me. Though I know it’s true in a lot of places, to experience it so blatantly and close to home, when it’s so completely different than the assumptions I grew up with, was interesting for me.

Then, three out of the four couples proceeded to explain that this solution of keeping incomes separate was not a sustainable or constructive one, that pooling the two incomes was better. The fourth couple had actually pooled their money for a while, and then decided to go in the reverse direction, to the “Dad pays for the necessities and I pay for the extras” route, so that the wife could still feel that her husband was “taking care of” them, and so that Daddy could feel he was doing the bread (or tortilla) winning.

The other questions involved how the couples had weathered unemployment, and whether they had ever lived beyond their means and how they’d gotten “out from under” if they had.

The beautiful thing, for me, was that these couples all spoke from the heart. They shared the anger and doubt they’d gone through, they shared that they’d made poor decisions, they put themselves in a vulnerable position in front of hundreds of other parents, many of whom they know. It was so powerful, and so moving.

Just a little reflection and personal anecdote on a Tuesday night.

 

Rite of Passage

 

Rites of passage. What images does that phrase bring to mind? Masai warrior rituals? Debutante balls? Walkabouts? Bar mitzvahs? Uros Indian boys knitting hats so tightly that water won’t leak through? Menstruation? Graduation? Marriage?

We moved to Mazatlán four years ago. Since that time, Danny and I have attended church every Sunday. Same church each week. Same Mass each week. Same people we see there each week. Four years. I love Sunday Mass. Love to sing. Love communal prayer. Love the people we celebrate with each week.

During that time, we have gotten to know the priest. We greet the greeters: those women at the entrance handing out bulletins. We sit in the same pew, pretty much, every week, too. There are about three women who will sit in our pew and greet us. I like them. They help me feel human, not just gringa. There are lots of other people who will sit in our pew and act as if they’ve never seen us before, even though of course they have seen us every Sunday the past four years. And, there are loads of people who avoid sitting anywhere near us. Maybe they’re afraid we won’t speak Spanish, or know the rules, or…

Now, it’s a Catholic church, and anyone who knows Catholicism will tell you that good Catholics don’t fraternize at Sunday services (written tongue in cheek, but true). You come, you pray, you leave. No small talk. The priests basically have to order us to shake hands with the person beside us in the pew.

Well, a few weeks ago we had something going on in the morning, and we went to the Sunday evening service instead. Lo and behold, the altar guild lady asked me if I’d do the collection! Wow! A rite of passage! I had never been asked to take up the collection before. I was becoming a regular part of the parish after all!

But this was not “my” Mass. It was the evening Mass, which I rarely attend. It was a welcome invitation, for sure. Now, in the parish’s defense, I have made no effort to get involved in the church outside of Sunday Mass. My schedule right now doesn’t allow it, my preferences right now aren’t prioritizing it. There are people who attend our Mass that I know outside of church. They of course greet us.

Well, unwittingly this am, as Danny and I knelt in prayer before the service started, the altar guild/greeter lady at OUR service, our church, came to our pew, and asked us if we would be so kind as to take up the gifts! “Would you take up the wine, and your Mami take up the bread,” she asked Danny.

Wow! How cool is that!

As if that wasn’t cool enough, one of the “friendly” ladies sat down beside us. She actually KISSED me during the giving of the peace.

Four years, people, but we feel included. We have received our rite of passage.

I will say I attended church in Tokyo and in the US longer than we’ve been here, and was never ad-hoc included in this way.

Now the Episcopal Church, where Danny used to serve Mass every Sunday morning, and I was the greeter, that’s a different story… 🙂