Sunday, October 19, 2008

Independencia Part 3 - Globos & Rebozos

And now for something completely different... The Globos Fiesta was one of the most unusual, hilarious, and sometimes hair-raising events I attended during Independencia week. I haven't been able to trace the early history of this event, except that it originated with local people making relatively small paper globos, or balloons, many years ago. Then, more recently, local artists started creating larger, more elaborate globos financed in part by local businessmen. It took off, literally, from there.

Cheerful crowd gathers for spectacular launches--and disasters--at Globo Fiesta. The globos were launched from the local futbol field (soccer to you folks from the US). Admission was free. The stands were packed, and the suds were flowing, as you can see from the giant inflatable Corona bottle. As usual in Mexico, informality reigned. Members of the crowd who couldn't find a seat, or (like me) wanted a closer view, wandered among the crews setting up their colorful creations.

Setting up the globo. Even a small globo takes about a half a dozen crew to launch. Big ones require not only a bigger crew, but some way to handle the tall globo as it inflates, hence the scaffold.

Scaffolding shows size of some globos. Some of them are huge, this one is mid-sized, but still required a three-level scaffold for successful inflation and launch. At this point, the equivalent of a large sterno can has been lit and the heat has inflated the balloon almost fully. The sterno cans are suspended in a wire framework inside the nozzle at the open base of the globo. Great care must be taken at this stage to avoid igniting the fragile paper sides of the globo.

And there she goes! With bated breath, crew and onlookers watch as the globo rises. They are watching for any tell-tale smoke which might indicate that the globo is catching fire from within. If the globo manages to rise a couple of hundred feet, it will probably make it. Some globos I saw burned up on the ground or after rising only a couple of feet, to the consternation and dismay of the crew.

A brass band helps keep the excitement up. The crowd was a mix of Gringos and local Mexicans, and both groups seemed to thoroughly enjoy the spectacle. The brass band, made up of local men and boys and not always entirely on key, gave a lusty performance. Their music blared at somewhat irregular intervals, sometimes competing with announcements from the microphone. It was all part of the offbeat, humorous atmosphere.

A flaming end to a dream. Sometimes, despite careful design, hard work, meticulous procedures, and the lusty cheers of the crowd at the launch, a globo plummeted to earth in a shower of flaming debris. Perhaps a third or more of the globos suffered this fate, drawing groans from the crowd in sympathy for the hapless crew on the ground. A fire marshal's nightmare, the flaming debris landed indiscriminately, sometimes in an empty field, and sometimes on power lines, or a roof, or the busy highway leading through town. It was all part of the fun. As I watched the launches, it appeared to me that the fatter and rounder globos fared better, while the taller cylindrical designs seemed to oscillate more, exposing the paper interiors to flames from the blazing cans suspended within the nozzles.

Up, up and away! When successful, the multicolored globos drifted majestically away against white clouds vivid blue skies. The crowd cheered the spectacle and to show appreciation for the hard work of the successful globo crew. As long as the hot air lasted, the globs kept rising and drifting, eventually disappearing from view and landing who knows where.

Rebozo Fashion Show celebrates a simple garment.

The serenity of a winner. One of the prize winners of the Rebozo Fashion Show serenely gazes over the crowd gathered around the kiosco in the center of the Ajijic Plaza. The show is a traditional element of Ajijic's Independencia Fiesta. Like much of Mexican culture, the rebozo has a mix of pre-hispanic Indio and Spanish elements, and dates back many centuries. The Indios, both men and women, already wore shawls made of maguey and henequen fibres when the Spanish arrived and introduced wool, silk, and other fibres for weaving. The Spanish insisted that women cover their heads while engaged in Catholic religious activity and from that the rebozo gained its name, based on the Spanish word rebozar: to cover up.

The red, white, and green fiesta banners in the Mexican national colors can been seen in the photo's background, and behind them the green volcanic mountains of Ajijic rise abruptly behind the town to heights of as much as 8,000 feet

Abuelas wait their turn. Abuela is Spanish for grandmother, and is a term of great affection and respect in the extended Mexican family. While waiting for the rebozo fashion parade, these abuelas chatted among themselves and granted photographic rights as if from royalty. Many of them wear white embroidered dresses to set off their colorful rebozos.

A young madonna. When I asked to photograph these two, they both agreed, but their responses to the camera couldn't have been more different. While her friend hovers a little shyly in the background, the bold young girl in front gazed at me levelly with easy assurance and a slight smile, reminiscent of DaVinci's model.

Wings surround an angel. One of the prize-winners of the show, this woman wears two rebozos, the pink one as a sash, and the white one as a wrap. When she spread her arms, she gave the impression of a lovely multi-colored swan. Her tiny daughter also participated in the show, with her golden rebozo criss-crossed as a sort of vest.

Rebozos on parade. The fashion show gets under way as local women demonstrate the wide variety of styles and colors of the beautiful but highly useful rebozo. The long rectangular garment is used as a wrap against the evening chill, a carrying device for packages and babies, a head covering, a fashion accessory, and who knows what else.

Showing off her handiwork. An abuela spreads her rebozo for the audience to see as she leads the rebozo fashion parade around the Ajijic plaza. Her creation obviously took a lot of work. While in this photo she expresses a grave pride typical of women her age in pubic situations, in more intimate settings among her family and friends, she smiled cheerfully.

A smile for all comers. I was utterly charmed by the beautiful smile of this local woman walking in the rebozo fashion parade. She could have strolled right out of the 19th Century with her clay pot and her hand-woven rebozo. The checked apron she wears over her pink dress is typical for the older Mexican country women one finds on the streets and in the stores of Ajijic and other small towns. Young women more typically wear skin tight designer blue jeans and tank tops and are rarely seen wearing a rebozo.

And the band played on... Mexicans love music and especially their mariachis. These two violinists were part of the band providing the musical background for the fashion parade. Like the charros, mariachis as we know them today were born in Jalisco State in the 19th Century. But, again like the charros, mariachi roots go back many centuries. Linguists think the term "mariachi" may refer to the wooden platforms that pre-hispanic musicians and dancers used for their performances. Originally, mariachi was the music of country people and was somewhat disdained by the classically oriented upper-classes. In 1934, Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas brought one of the pre-eminent mariachi groups to play in Mexico City as part of his program to help support native culture. They were a hit and the music rapidly spread from Jalisco throughout Mexico and became one of Mexico's national symbols.

This completes my series on the Independencia fiestas. There are more fiestas coming up soon, but in my next posting I will take you on a hike in the beautiful Bosque Primavera (Primavera Forest) located just west of Guadalajara.

Hasta luego! Jim

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