Thursday, November 22, 2007

Viva la Revolucion

Here comes La Revolucion! I was in the shower when I realized el Dia de la Revolucion was erupting in my neighborhood. A rhythmic, thumping base vibrated the painted tiles in the shower stall. I couldn’t quite zero in the source or direction, so I quickly dried and dressed, realizing as I did that the sound was very close--on the street in front of my house! Then I remembered reading that this was November 20, Revolution Day, and that the parade would come through Seis Esquinas (Six Corners), a small plaza just down the street and pass in front of my house on its way to the Parroquia along Hidalgo Street.

Our new Canadian neighbors, Clarence and Gail, were already peering out the gate as I raced up the stairs to the broad terrace of the apartment above ours to get an elevated view of the festivities. Dan, our other new neighbor, strolled out to join me in his bathrobe. At this point the drum and brass noise of the marching band was deafening and we could see rank after rank of children formed up in the uniforms of the schools they attend. School children appear to make up a large proportion of marchers in Ajijic fiesta parades.

Grabbing my camera, I headed to the street for a close up view. I quickly realized that each group of identically dressed children was not only going to march, but most would carry on some sort of performance along the way. A photographic gold mine!

Paddling for La Revolucion. The first group carried semaphore paddles, making it appear for a moment that they were propelling invisible kayaks. Given their youth, their synchronization was surprisingly good.

Hoola Hoop review. Other groups carried jangling crescent-shaped tambourines, or multicolored flags, or hula hoops which they twirled on their arms or over their heads.

Charros on parade. Charros are Mexico's gentlemen horsemen. On their beautiful horses, they were dressed to the nines in tight-fitting pants and short jackets, stitched in striking patterns. These two looked like they could have ridden with Zapata.

Proud Papa. This proud charro father brought his lovely daughter, who seemed as much at home on a horse as him, even in her full skirts.

Eat your heart out, Mister Ed. Charro horses are noted for their skillful dancing in tune with the mariachi bands, something that must be seen to be fully believed.

Viva los ninos de la Revolucion! But the stars of the show were the tots from the jardine de los ninos (kindergarten). Everyone I talked to, Mexican or Gringo, remarked upon their wonderful period costumes, and the carefully choreographed dances they performed every time the parade halted. Heavy with their responsibility for carrying the essence of the day, they wore grave expressions, and their tiny voices periodically piped out Viva la Revolucion! The boys waved their carved wooden weapons in the air, crossed bandoliers sparkling on their chests, while the girls flourished their full skirts.

Painted Pancho Villa mustaches gave the boys fierce expressions. The girls were a little more demure and flashed shy smiles a the cameras of hovering parents and entranced onlookers.

As I examined the photos later, I realized that the parents had gone to great trouble to create these obviously handmade costumes. The boys’ clothing closely matched photos I have seen of the actual revolutionaries. The girls wore long colorful skirts and beautifully stitched cotton tops, with miniature rebozos over their shoulders sometimes containing a doll, dressed in identical fashion. These were not plastic-velcro-polyester creations, picked up on a rushed trip to the local Walmart. They were lovingly hand-sewn, with many personal touches, by parents who, for the most part, cannot afford the Walmart shortcut.

Spectators jammed the narrow sidewalks so tightly along the half-mile from Seis Esquinas to the Parroquia that I had to take a parallel street to reach the main Plaza where the parade would end and I could get a good vantage point for photos. At one of the most crowded points, I suddenly saw the packed mass start to heave and jump. People were shouting, laughing, and shrieking, barely able to move but scrambling to get out of the way of...something. I was baffled until a Mexican woman standing next to me explained with a grin, “ratta!” Somehow a confused rodent had raced around the ankles and over the feet of bystanders, certainly an unsettling experience for them with nowhere to go but up. They were remarkably good-humored about it, but that’s Mexico.

For the record. Mexico has had a long and tragic history of conflict, much of it in struggles against foreign domination, especially by the United States which expropriated half of the country in the 1840’s in a war that many US citizens at the time felt was illegal and shameful. Mexico’s Revolution began November 20, 1910, and officially ended in 1917, but armed conflict and revolts persisted until the late 1920’s. The real end was probably in 1936 when Gen. Calles, the last of the revolutionary generals, was arrested and deported by Lazaro Cardenas. President Cardenas nationalized the oil industry, taking it away from foreign control, and established a wide array of social programs and reforms which helped keep his party in power for the next sixty-four years. For wonderful period pictures of La Revolucion, click on this link and for detailed information, click on this link.


  1. Love it! Great photos and commentary. You are really hitting your stride as a cultural journalist.

    Keep 'em coming!


  2. I think that it is great that you are so enthusiastic and interested in the historical and cultural legacies of Mexico, your adopted home. Maybe it will dispel the image of the 'ugly American.' So interesting to read. Looking forward to the next episode in your adventure!

  3. Golly! This is gorgeous! I will have to study in details - many of 'em.

    I do notice you always seem to have this great big grin on your face in photos...

  4. Jim,

    Great work on the Patzcuaro pictures and commentary! We definitely enjoy vicariously viewing your ongoing adventures.

    Keep 'em coming!!

    John & Lisa


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