In this town they call the town square the “jardin” and we say ” hardine”. It’s an interesting place. People come and sit on the infernally uncomfortable benches and talk to each other. Vendors sell hats, balloons, beads or scarves. There are a couple of shoe-shine men. In San Miguel, you need never feel alone. Perhaps I should say you need never lack for company. Feeling alone is another matter.
This weekend it was different on the jardin. Many Mexicans dressed in the most stunning regalia and they danced and danced to drums for many hours. Men and women, old and young danced to the drum that inhabited my sternum for the time I was there. They danced with rattles and with rows of large seed pods on their ankles. On their heads sat elaborate head-dresses. Long feathers swayed and bobbed with the dance. Sometimes as they swooped by they caressed my arm and it felt like a blessing. Some danced with modified and decorated modern shoes and others danced barefoot.
The Hardine is presided over by the parish church of San Miguel and sometimes groups went into the church to sing and to pray. They never turned around to leave but backed out of the church. They carried two crucifixes on a bier decorated with flowers. There was a white Christ and a black one. They played their mandolins and danced and sang in church. I understood very little of what was going on. They danced and danced.
They set up altars outside the church and lit inscence and laid out flowers in front of images that were incomprehensible to me. The old people wore magnificent robes and headdresses. The young gloried in neon colors, sequins, or skulls, dried crocodile heads, animal skins. The motifs on the costumes were as old as the feathered serpent and as innocent as flowers.
A little way off from the serious dancers were people disguised as Cowboys, whores, the devil and one as a bull who chased all these “bad guys”. It was like a Medieval miracle play and whole families laughed or acted startled as the bull rushed imto the crowd.
It is still a big mystery to me. This is Lent, after all in a city where such things matter. You could never persuade people to do this. The hours of drumming and dancing were done for the love of it. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.