Sunday, October 5, 2008

Independencia Part 1 - 16 de Septiembre Fiesta

Fiesta means party in Spanish, and Mexicans do know how to party. In Mexico, the fiesta celebrating independence from Spain lasts more than a week, culminating on September 16, the day Father Hidalgo set out from Dolores Hidalgo in Guanajuato State. Hidalgo led a rag-tag mob of untrained but fiercely determined campesinos against their Spanish overlords. At that time, Spain had dominated Mexico, sometimes with barbarous cruelty, for almost 300 years.

I took the following photos at the 2008 fiesta in Ajijic, where Carole and I live. While these shots were taken at the Ajijic Plaza on the 16th, I took a number of others on other days and at other events. These will be displayed in two following posts over the next two weeks.

Ajijic "gets down". A huge crowd turned out for the main day of events in the Ajijic Plaza. I managed to get this shot by climbing up onto the third floor roof of the Centro Cultural. The atmosphere in the crowd on this beautiful, sunny day was upbeat and friendly, with events and activities happening in almost any direction. A photographer's paradise!

A vision in red. While photographing the fiesta crowd, I ran into Gladys (in red on the left) who was our property manager for our first apartment in Ajijic. She very graciously agreed to be photographed and rewarded my efforts with a lovely smile. Later, she confessed with a grin that her skirt was actually from India. Gladys is a member of the Mexican Bhuddist community in the area.

Charros are Mexico's cowboys. A silver-maned and highly decorated horse, ridden by a charro, delicately steps through the thick crowd. Mexico was once primarily an agricultural society, based in large haciendas of wealthy landowners who employed large numbers of men to run cattle. Many elements of traditional American cowboy culture originated with Mexican charros, including the lariat, chaps, saddles with high pommels, broad brimmed hats, and rodeos--locally called Charreadas.

Crowd parties while metal deer sculpture looks on. The crowd milled and eddied around the kiosco--the bandstand centered in nearly every Mexican plaza. Ajijic's plaza is filled with metal and wood sculptures.

Bandana dancers. Wearing beautifully embroidered white dresses, a group of young women performs a traditional dance involving fluttering bandanas on the stage in front of the Centro Cultural at the Ajijic plaza.

Awaiting their moment. A group of mariachis stands quietly by, waiting their turn upon the stage. Like charros and tequila, mariachis originated in Jalisco, one of the most traditional of all Mexican states. While the music of the local neighborhood bands is of uneven quality, trained professional mariachis are a wonder to behold and to hear.

Strutting his stuff. A handsome young charro canters down the street in front of his fellow horsemen, happy and proud of his appearance and his horse. If a single word can describe the carriage of these expert horsemen, it is "proud".

Ballet Folklorico dolls. These dolls spread their skirts just as the Ballet Folklorico dancers do in their performances. The costumes closely match those of the early 19th Century. Many contemporary visitors to Mexico at the time of the Independence War commented on the vividly colored dresses of the Mexican women.

The beautiful and the mundane. The dresses of these folklorico dolls closely match those of the folklorico dancers performing in the fiesta. I thought it was a nice touch to make the dolls carry clay water jugs and bowls of maiz just as they would have in real life. To give you a sense of perspective, these dolls are about six inches tall.

How much for that balloon on the stick? A Mexican mom negotiates with her kids over which balloon she should buy them as the balloon seller waits patiently for the result. One can find balloon sellers in the plaza almost every day, fiesta or not.

Bring on the dancing horses. A brass band of neighborhood boys strikes up a tune on the cobblestone street next to the Ajijic plaza as a charro encourages his well-trained mount to dance to the music in the back ground. Dancing horses are a very popular part of the celebrations and have to be seen to be believed.

Listen, can you hear the ocean? A young boy is transfixed by the large tuba of the neighborhood band.

Proud papa. His legs stretching barely as wide as his horse, the young son of a charro joins his dad in the Independencia parade.

Squirt. A tough young charro sits lightly on his mount, preparing to "toss off a stiff one" as any self-respecting charro would do at the end of the day. Mexican kids growing up in the country learn to ride almost at the same time they learn to walk. This boy expertly guided his 700 lb horse through the crowd. The horse always seemed to know who was in charge.

19th Century meets 21st. Dressed as if he had stepped right out of the 19th Century, a charro chats on his cell phone as he rides by in the Independencia parade. This picture is a metaphor of what we find so fascinating about Mexico. The past and the present exist side-by-side everywhere we look.

This completes my posting about Independencia Fiesta events on 16 de Septiembre . The next two posts will cover some of the events which did not occur on the 16 of September, but are within the general time framework of the fiesta. The Charreada is the Mexican version of a rodeo and my posting will contain, as you might imagine, a lot of action. The Globos Fiesta celebrates Independencia by launching huge, multicolored paper balloons over Ajijic. The Rebozo fashion show exhibits the wonderful sewing and embroidery talents of the local woman. Enjoy!

Hasta luego! Jim


  1. Thanks for sharing these Ajijic pictures. They bring great memories as I grew up going to Ajijic every year during my summer breaks. My mom was just there last week!

  2. Hi Jim, Thanks, once again, for some more wonderful pics. Cheryl and I are looking forward to finally meeting you and Carole. We feel like we already know you. Thanks, too, for always responding to Cheryl's e-mail questions regarding life in Mexico.
    Hasta luego,
    Bill Pearson


If your comment involves a question, please leave your email address so I can answer you. Thanks, Jim