Monday, February 09, 2015

Our Lady of the Candelaria

As if our Tlatelolco visit had not been enough, the huz took me next day (last Sunday) to yet another intense cultural experience, to the Town of (our Lady of) the Candelaria, known in Spanish as Pueblo de la Candelaria. Now, in the past it was a town indeed, but the city's grown exponentially and now this "town" is firmly within city limits, in the southern side of Mexico City.

Anyhow, why there and then? Because February 2nd is the day of Our Lady of the Candelaria, a a Catholic celebration that commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. And where else to see a colourful celebration than at the town that bears her name?

I was about to write that you should make an effort to see this. But then I realized there are tons of religious and pagan festivities all over the country all the time, so I guess the recommendation is try and get to see any? And here's why you should:


After walking a bit through narrow streets to the centre of the town, where the Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria stands, the very first thing we encountered was... a band! a loud, big, fun band! It was a big surprise, and most definitely set me in the mood for exploring this alternate world of ritual, tradition, sound and colour!


No Mexican celebration could be called that unless there is an abundance of colour! (OK, maybe there are some that don't use colour, or use somber ones, but I've never heard or seen such)  And oddly reminding us of Tibetan sand Mandalas, the patio of the church was covered with bright patterns made of painted sawdust!  And again reminding me of Tibetan prayer flags (I can't help having Tibetan traditions as my reference for all these religious things, I've lived 7 years in China!) there were numerous of these beautiful white and blue papel picado (perforated paper) ones fluttering above us against a gorgeous blue sky!  

The peculiar

So, this commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, right? Well, so, what do people do? They bring their Jesus dolls to be blessed! Everybody was carrying Jesus dolls dressed all sorts of ways to take inside the church (itself adorned with countless blue, white and pink flowers) for spraying with blessed water, and then to touch and pray to Our Lady of the Candelaria. It's enthralling to watch, really.  

The food

Of course, where there's celebration, there's food, right? Funnily, though it's tradition in most of the city to eat tamales on February 2nd, we saw all types of food, but I didn't spot a single tamal! (yes, the singular for tamales is tamal, in Spanish). But what I did see and have was absolutely perfect!

First, this ginormous thing, called a tlayuda. It's originally from Oaxaca, but it's become very popular in the centre of Mexico too. It's a huge tortilla (in this case from blue corn) that is baked (not fried), and on which you shmear refried beans, and top it with nopales (cactus), cilantro, onion and salsa (and also cream and cheese, but obviously I prefer mine without!). Huge. Good. Nom nom. 

And afterwards (dessert?) a gigantic pink and blue cotton candy! And since I had read somewhere that the caloric count of these things is actually very small, I guiltlessly got one and happily proceeded to eat it all up. With some help from the huz, of course. 

It's a shame I had breakfast that day, 'cause there were countless snacks and yummy things to try! Alas, my breakfast, the tlayuda and the cotton candy (by the way, that's called sugar cotton, or algodón de azúcar, here) were all I could handle.

The other stories

I'm not sure what the rationale behind their presence here was, but at some point a group of people dressed in indigenous-inspired attire arrived. What were they doing here at such a Catholic event? Was this the place of an ancient Aztec town or temple? Is Our Lady of the Candelaria associated with some Aztec deity? I mean, that wouldn't be rare, and when the Spaniards brought their Catholic beliefs it was very common for the native population to identify saints and virgins and stories with their own belief system... Whatever this was, it was unexpected, and very interesting! 

So. What a big surprise! When the huz says "let's go see/do", I better listen, eh?

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