Last week I promised to tell you about an all acoustic rock show to be performed by some of México’s best guitarists at a local jazz club. It was not to be. At the last minute, the club had to postpone the show until later this month, leaving me with a free night to explore the varied music scene here in central Mexico.
But then I remembered – it is the beginning of Fiestas Patrias, the two week-long celebration of the launch of the fight for Mexican independence from Spain (not Cinco de Mayo, which is of little consequence here). Actually you can’t forget it because the entire town is festooned with papel picados – paper cutout decorations – and the plaza is respondent with streams and flags.
So, Saturday night instead of rock, we watched the Queen of Ajijic get crowned – a very big deal (actually it happens in almost every town in Mexico). The four high-school-aged contestants were chosen for their charitable projects, their ability to raise funds for the rest of the two-week celebration, and of course, their beauty.
Almost 1000 people crowded into the plaza waiving balloons, pom-poms and flags in the color of their favorite contestant. After speaking about their work, dancing together in skinny jeans and white tops, and then beauty walking in short, tight sequined outfits, the girls and their audience (and their stage moms) waited for the judges decisions. But not so fast – many important people had to give speeches, a local singer gave her (quite good) renditions of favorite songs, and the all- percussion band in the background held forth with drum noise barely drowned out by the almost constant cheering.
The Queen and her second were crowned, and then the party really began.
But the party or me continued the next night with Flamenco at La Cochera Cultural. Although this was not an official Fiesta Patrias event, it added to the celebration. La Cochera Cultural is a former auto shop beautifully transformed into an art center, living quarters for visiting artists, and music venue. Sunday was a night of Spanish Flamenco, which is different from the Mexican Flamenco I have seen at La Cochera in the past – it is more energetic, more theatrical, and uses the castanets. And the dancers -in this case two, and then 5 women, really, really hit the floor hard with their dance boots.
The exhibition was held in one of the intimate spaces at La Cochera, although extra chairs were added to accommodate the standing room crowd of 50 or more. I was in the front row center for video ( a little too close at times even for my wide angle), but the dancing and the music was thrilling.
Over the next two weeks there will be many more concerts, dances, dinners, celebrations – some of which I will try to bring you. The Fiesta Patrias culminates with the Grito – a recitation of the call to arms made on Sept. 16, 1810, that launched the independence movement. It all began when the Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla incited the people of Dolores, Guanajuato, to rise up in arms against the Spanish Viceroyalty, by summoning citizens by ringing church bells and shouting in an eloquent speech the reasons why they should fight. The Grito happens in virtually every plaza in Mexico at midnight on Sept 15, accompanied by huge crowds, mariachis, folk dances, rock bands, fireworks – sort of a two-week long fourth of July.
Next week, in the thick of it.
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