Monday, April 18, 2022

Quema de Judas, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: April 17, 2022

It's Easter Sunday and today's big event in San Miguel de Allende is called Quema de Judas which translates literally to Burning of Judas. Each paper mâché figure has a wooden ring around its waist with firecrackers attached to the ring. The event begins at noon, but you really have to get there early. We staked out our places in the Jardin Principal only to be moved back several feet as a safety measure. We still had a great view of the burning/blowing up. I recommend that if you go, you wear earplugs as we did.

In 2016, the paper mâché figures had names on them. Sometimes the figures stood for narcos or politicians or even Donald Trump. In fact in 2016, there were several Donald Trump effigies. This year I expected more Trump effigies, and for sure I thought I'd see Vladimir Putin represented. However, this year just the sponsors had their names on the effigies. It took some of the revenge fun out of watching the figures burn and blow up.

Before lighting any of the firecrackers, the street is cleared and spectators must stay behind the ropes at either end of the street. We were standing behind a rope just across from the hanging Judases. Only one Judas is lit at a time. The firecrackers pop and the figure begins to spin around eventually exploding when the last firecracker catches. Body parts fly in every direction. Firefighters are on hand to put out anything still burning when it hits the ground.

The paper mâché heads usually stay in one piece. Each head is collected and then sold at the end of the event to anyone who wants a souvenir.

Souvenir hunters can pick up body parts for free and kids run to grab the best pieces.

The devil is always a popular figure to blow up. 

That is the end of Semana Santa 2022. This morning before Quema de Judas we managed to get our pre-departure Covid-19 tests. We were negative despite all the close encounters. Tomorrow we take a shuttle to the airport in Mexico City and will be home that same day.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Corrida de Toros or Blood in the Sand, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: April 16, 2022

Matador (red cape and sequins on his suit) and Glorioso the Bull

When I visited San Miguel de Allende (SMA) in 2016 for Semana Santa, I went to the bullfight. I had never seen a bullfight and I wanted to see one. The highlight of the night was the Recortes. Recortes is a style of bullfighting in some regions of Spain. Bullfighters known as recortadores dodge and leap over charging bulls without the use of any props. They are acrobats and while if they misstep they might be injured, the bull is not killed and leaves the bullring intact and able to enjoy his remaining days. The low point of the night was the traditional bullfighting ending with the dead bull being dragged out of the ring. Despite bulls being killed, I thought Dan would enjoy the acrobatics so we went.

Bullfighting hasn't happened in SMA for several years and not just because of Covid, but the mayor of SMA brought it back. Grateful spectators had banners thanking him for the return of the bulls. The stands were packed. In Mexico City there is a movement to ban bullfighting. I can see both sides of the argument, but I also didn't want to see any bulls maimed and killed. 

The evening's schedule listed Forcados from Mexico City as participants at the bullfighting event. I confused Forcados with Recortadores. They are not the same! Forcados, like recortadores, don't have any weapons or any type of protection from the bull.  They are not the ones who kill the bull, but this is where the bull evens the score.

Forcados and Cavaleiros are unique to the Portuguese style of bullfighting. The Cavaleiros (horseman or horsewoman) ride beautiful, specially trained horses. From horseback the cavaleiro stabs the bull's back with small spears called bandarilhas. The bull tires from chasing the rider around while getting stabbed in the back. The rider will change horses multiple times so the horse is always fresh and he can buzz around like a mosquito annoying the bull. This night's bullfight seemed to be a hybrid style merging both Portuguese and Spanish styles.

Cavaleiro (horseman)

Banderilleros with gold and pink cape as a distraction (helper to the matador and cavaleiro)
Matador placing banderillas
The matador's performance is judged based on style, finesse, and proximity to danger
The second bull, Glorioso, faced the picadors. Picadors are riding padded horses who are also blindfolded. Picadors wear protective metal armor on their legs and carry long lances used to annoy the bull. 
Glorioso took an immediate dislike to the Picadors and their horses. He charged across the ring and upended the horse and its rider.

The Banderilleros got the bull's attention and eventually the bull charged the picador on the other side of the ring. While the bull was distracted, the horse was pulled from its upside down turtle pose into standing. Even though the bull was actually standing on top of the horse, all that padding kept the horse from being injured physically (not sure about mentally).

Then, there are the Forcados who have no apparent style. This is a group of eight men without any protection or weapons. The front man (wearing a green toque) first provokes the bull into a charge and as the bull charges him, he performs a pega de cara (face catch). He jumps between the bull's horns grabs the bull's head and his seven buddies surround and try to secure the bull until it is subdued. We did not see the Forcados subdue any bulls in the time we stayed although they gave it a good, old macho-male try. It should be noted that Forcados enter the ring after the bull is already very mad from his wounds.

Fresh, clean Forcados entering the bullring

Banderilleros distracting the angry bull
The Forcados lined up again to "Grab the Face"

And, then there were 7 Forcados. The injured Forcado left via ambulance
We saw no sacred processions today. We enjoyed a slow morning and a walk to a new neighborhood and a huge art gallery before our afternoon of blood sport.

Despite all the carnage, when we left the bullfight Michael walked us over to a wonderful restaurant called "The Restaurant." We hadn't had any excellent restaurant meals in SMA because of our long days and early mornings. The food at The Restaurant was amazing and a place to definitely return.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Between Sacred and Profane, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: April 12-17, 2022

Lucha Libre masks
Semana Santa wasn't all documentary, religious photography. The state of Guanajuato is beautiful and varied. San Miguel de Allende has always been a favorite place for me to return to. So, these are some of the scenes that caught my eye during the week.

Tellez Delgado Gas Pump Marker
The price of gas in 1943 on this gas pump was around 8 cents of the US dollar per gallon (38.8 cents of the Mexican peso per liter).
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
The church dates from the late 17th century but the pinacle towers were designed and constructed in the late 19th century. The Jardin Principal is across from the Parroquia. 

The Jacarandas were in bloom and they were exquisite. Near here is where egrets were nesting in the treetops. 

Casa de la Cultura

 Scenes from Guanajuato

Steps leading up to the University of Guanajuato
Colorful flagellation whips
Blue-eyed dolls
A Guanajuato Street
At Michael's suggestion, Dan and I went to the Guadalupe neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende to see the colorful wall murals. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was quite warm and few people were on the street so it ended up being photos of someone else's art. Next time ...

Our friend, Francoise, lives in SMA. We were lucky to meet up with her twice during our week in SMA. We met Francoise in 2007 on a Global Volunteers trip to nearby Queretaro. When she found out we were about to go to Georgia for a year, she gave us the name of a friend of hers who lived there. Arriving in Tbilisi we met Lali and enjoyed our visits. Near the end of our year in Georgia, Francoise visited Lali and us and we all took a vacation to the Svaneti region just a few days before the 5-day Russian-Georgian War began. Francoise is the founder of Amigos del Ballet Folklorico de San Miguel de Allende.

After one of the sacred processions, we were walking near the Jardin Principal with Michael when a pigeon crash landed on his shoulder. The bird stayed comfortably there for quite some time which was long enough for other people to notice. The next day when we were in Guanajuato, a young woman came up to him and asked if he was the guy with the bird in SMA. 

Michael Amici, photographer
Dan and I had a wonderful time in SMA during Semana Santa and Michael made it even better. We were his only two students during the week and I believe we both learned a lot.