The religious and cultural diversity of Mexico is a source
of continual delight and wonder for us. While Spanish is the national language,
there are 68 officially recognized regional languages. There were hundreds of
different indigenous peoples in the geographic area that became the Estados
Unidos Mexicanos (the United Mexican States – the official name),
each with its own cultural traditions, clothing, food, dances, rituals and masks.
Though Catholicism was adopted by the overwhelming majority
of these peoples, there remains to this day a fascinating syncretism
of indigenous practices and Christianity.
|Santa Cruz Church|
This past Shabbat, as we were strolling home from the
morning service, we heard drumming and chanting coming from Santa Cruz, the
church down the street from Shalom San Miguel. Dancers in brightly colored clothing
and feathered headdresses poured out of the church square, in processional
behind a Christian banner.
And as we returned from market on Monday, we encountered a
funeral procession coming down Zacateros, a street near our home. The
hearse was preceded by a man in black holding a crucifix banner in front of
about a dozen dancers and musicians maintaining a rhythmic beat.
Everywhere we go we see the image of the Virgin of
Guadalupe, a Mexican Catholic icon which incorporates layers of religious
significance for indigenous Mexican peoples. Here are just a few places where
she appears around San Miguel de Allende:
|in a restaurant bathroom|
|Our apartment patio|
|Good Friday in San Miguel de Allende|
This year the weekends of Pesach and Easter coincided. On
Friday April 3, which was both Good Friday and Erev Pesach, people lined the
streets for a parade through the historic center of San Miguel.
|Seder at La Fortuna|
We attended the Shalom San Miguel community seder, held inside and on the
outdoor patio of La Fortuna, a local restaurant.
|Quema de Judas|
|Quema de Judas|
And on Easter Sunday, in the Jardín Principal (the central
town square), hundreds turned out for La Quema de Judas (the Burning of Judas).
We first experienced this Latin American Easter custom seven years ago during
our sabbatical in Valparaiso, Chile, and it had left us feeling somewhat
squeamish to witness the public burning of dark-clad Judas (Jew-like?) figures
as the representation of evil. But here there were dozens of brightly colored
papier mache figures of both men and women, representing evil in the form of
everything from political caricatures to fictional characters, each containing
fireworks that were exploded one by one in a festive celebratory atmosphere.
We have had the opportunity to do a bit of travel this
month, first to Guanajuato, the capital city of the state of Guanajuato in
which San Miguel de Allende is located.
Like San Miguel, Guanajuato has a lovely, Spanish Colonial historic center, built on the site of former indigenous communities.
And then five days in Mexico City, including a side trip to the
pyramids of Teotihuacán, an ancient city pre-dating not only Spanish but also Aztec
rule, and once home to over 100,000 people.
|At the Templo Mayor|
We also stumbled across an incredible scene of dozens of
dancers and drummers outside the Templo Mayor, the ruins of the temple of the Aztec
capital city of Tenochtitlan, which lies beneath the center of present-day
Our spiritual home in Mexico has been the Jewish Cultural and
Community Center of San Miguel
(and its Shalom San
Miguel Shabbat minyan), housed next door to a tortilleria where people line up to
get fresh tortillas.
This past Friday, Jonathan led another challah-baking
workshop in a private home
and on Sunday, Linda taught a small group how to make simple
repairs to one of the community Torah scrolls. We have loved being part
of one very tiny piece of Mexico’s religious and cultural diversity.