Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, 1999 -- CHICHEN-ITZA (CONT.)

There's a press of people. Most of the tables & chairs have adverts on them. They're wood or metal or plastic, usually folding. There are a few trees in this "park", but the sky is open. The many lights are a bit overwhelming. Everything is packed in here. There's the smell of fried & grilled meat. The air is not so fresh; that's from motor exhaust.

Another group of kids arrive with a torch, this time on bicycles. The runners are clapping & cheering. They're having fun. Off to one side is a fire engine and an ambulance, waiting for a need. There's the smell of mosquito repellent. There's a little wind, a fair breeze. Even though it's evening, it's not too warm, and not too cold.

As people exit from the last mass, I sneak into a side door of the church for a peek, with a nod from the guy guarding the door. Inside the church, a woman dressed like a nun is singing a sweet song, but it's a pop tune, over the church's public address system. There are lots of fans whirring. There's orange-fake-brown paint on the simple wooden pews. Ropes rope off the aisles.

Behind the podium there's a huge wall-hanging in the simple colors of the Mexican flag. One big banner above it all says "Acaso ? no estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?". The Cathedral is huge and white, stucco walls with huge murals -- most of the Virgin of Guadalupe appearing in the sky with "shinies", star streaks, all around her. Small stained glass windows are high up in this cavernous worship space -- perhaps 3 stories tall.

Girl scouts serve as ushers as a new crowd files in, which is my cue to leave politely. Nuns in pure white, with the head cowl thing, and a black rope belt with a black string necklace with a cross. There are national flags of many South American nations on the walls: Chile, Cuba, Honduras. One banner says "2000 ano de la santisima trinidad y de la sagrada EUCARISTIA".

There's church music as the new group comes in, but it's Muzak with a rock beat and an organ-synth tune. On one wall, a banner in red block letters cut out from shiny metallic material says "Jesus yo confidenti". In one corner there's a full-size mock-up of priests, including a dead Jesus. The people sitting are serious, even before the ceremony begins. There's only a little talking with each other.

Outside, the teens and youths are all smiling. These ones have long-sleeved Maria shirts, with red collar, red elbows, and red cuffs on a white shirt. The Maria pic has the traditional blue dress and "shinies" coming out of her. One vendor has a rolling toy attached to a stick, and when he moves it across the ground, it makes a "skritch skritch" noise to attract customers. I get a sense of jubilation from being here.

These people really love the Virgin. And they're having a good time here in this small community. Apparently, Dec 12th is the real holiday, but this party started tonight and will go for more than 24 hours! Finally I run out of notebook to write in, and just relax and enjoy the proceedings. I even buy an orange soda, although I don't dare eat any of the vendors' food.

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