Wednesday, 9 November 2011

And then there was a goat on the dance floor

Nature conservation area

True story bro.
We went to Tehuacan for Day of The Dead celebrations. And by celebrations I mean doing-some-definitely-non-touristy-things-besides-that-cactus-reservation-bit and by "we" I mean my family and my friend Rachael who is in fact a real person and not a figment of my imagination or a piece of fruit. The sheer shock of going outside at all kept me quite busy for a while but the best bit was actually doing things outside. Like normal people things. Yes, things like walking and looking at stuff and talking to others. And that got me thinking: this is really nice, this talking to people bit. And being outside. Oh and this walking thing is simply brilliant! I must do this more often. Am I doing a Carrie Bradshaw monologue in my head? God I hated that character. There was so much "me" in her monologues it sounded like Beaker talking. Oo, shoes! No wait, a butterfly! Weee! YES I WILL HAVE SOME OF YOUR DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE! OMG WHY IS THIS TOILET NOT FLUSHING, FLUSH, FLUSH DAMN YOU!!
And then I calmed down and we took a look around Tehuacan.

The short version of how and why is that Tehuacan is little city about 4 hour bus ride from Mexico City with a population of about 500,000 people. It's tiny and quiet compared to Mexico DF. It also has a town hall with a mural that has dinosaurs in it. And the last time I was there I could've sworn I saw a hummingbird. Though with my eyesight, it might as well have been a giant mosquito...
But the real reason we went there is because my family's family is from the area and we wanted to show my friend a more traditional Day of the Dead.
Surprisingly the celebration doesn't include zombies. Not really anyway.

We started off with a toilet that didn't flush, just slowly filled with water and floated pieces of whatever you left in it on the surface. Then there was no shower. Hey, no problem as long as everyone in the company is equally stinky. By noon we had hiked up a hill at a nature conservation area, gotten bitten by mosquitoes and learned that one area of Mexico likes calling a plant Bad Woman while the same plant in another part of Mexico is called Bad Man. There might be a seed of an interesting socio-historical debate there. Or it could just be a case of "oh yeah, well we'll see how you like it!". The conservation area is gorgeous, btw. It's well worth the trip just to hug the Elephant's Foot Tree. Which we did.
There were also snakes in jars and some sort of a coyote-squirrel hybrid, that could very well be just a coyote with a fancy tail. What do I know. I can't even operate a toilet.
After the hike we spotted a school throwing some sort of a traditional fest for the holidays and sauntered in to secretly photograph the whole thing. Should've guessed there's no such thing as "secretly" in Mexico, not sure if there's even a word for it. What happened was that as Rachael and I were taking pics of the kids dancing, we got tapped on the shoulder and asked to move to the front. And by front, I mean we were asked to go sit on the front stage. And then our little troupe got introduced to the whole dang school by the two young ladies operating as MCs. AND and, then we were given tamales and told to dance. Yup, that happened. And there was a guy carrying a goat around on the dance floor.
It's tradition.
(sidenote: all of this was really quite lovely. The dances we saw were traditional to the area, depicting war and how important the goats are to the people there, mainly because they can thrive easily and  pretty much all of the goat is used, except for the balls. Thought I've heard that balls are usually the best, most meaty part in an animal, so I don't know if someone was just messing with me because they like saying "balls". Anyhow, the dances were wonderful, and us perfect strangers were treated with nothing but kindness. This is something a jaded westerner like me has sometimes trouble adjusting to: being treated like a welcome guest when you don't know the people from Adam. After getting danced around, we were offered traditional local treats. How mindblowingly hospitable are these people? Mind. Blown.)

There was initially talk of going to see some goats getting sacrificed.. I mean slaughtered.. wait, somehow that doesn't make it sound better. Um..  killed? Stewed? Ehm.. anyway, they have this thing where they "eliminate" goats once a year to cook their heads and use the ears and hooves for mole and that once a year happens around the time of the Day of The Dead. I swear it's a lot less macarbe than it sounds. The goats are delicious.
Eh, yes, well after carefull consideration, it was decided to nix the killing part and just go straight to the "eating goats" part. Which we did. There was also tequila. And then we got lost at a cemetary. Which is a lot nicer than it sounds (was actually really nice. Definitely the place to get lost in a cemetary at). And has a lot less to do with the tequila than it might appear. And since our little altar for the deceased was left in Mexico DF, we asked around and were invited to go in people's homes to take pictures of their altars. Yes, people were totally ok with us bumbling camera geeks coming into their homes and taking pictures of the altars they set up for their dead loved ones.
Us westernes, we know nothing about how to be open to one another.
After a day of hijinks, we got back to the hotel to find a working toilet. It's true when they say you don't know what you got 'till it's gone.

What it actually made me consider is that I really love this place. Even with the giant bugs and tree coyotes and the polution that makes your eyes sting. That's nothing compared to all the things Mexico has to offer. You want spiritual growth? Goa is for tourists looking for new alternatives to pot. Mexico is where you want to go if you really, truly, want to know how to open your heart right to the bone.

That's not to say the traffic still isn't completely deranged and that all this "emotional and spiritual growth" business means I have done sweet bugger all as far as drawing goes. Curses.
Eh, mañana mañana... Thems the seeds of wisdom. :D

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