Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The Posada

Our block, nuestra cuadra--Calle Encarnación Rosas between Guadalupe Victoria and Constitución. We live about mid-block, left side, just past that blue car.
Yesterday evening my sociable wife and I met some of our new neighbors at a block party that featured my first ever posada. Literally meaning “inn”, the word also refers to a fiesta that includes reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter that evening long ago in Bethlehem. This is how that went down last night: a group of about fifteen vecinos trooped inside a casa just up the street from where we live, the one outside of which there’s always a Wednesday table with used clothing for sale. These were the “innkeepers”. An equal-sized party gathered in front of the "inn", on the cobbles in the street. They represented Joseph and Mary, or the “pilgrims”. A rhythmic six-part call-and-response ensued—the “Canción de Navidad”. 

This carol, in español, began with the pilgrims beseeching, “In the name of the heavens/I request lodging from you/ Because she cannot walk/My beloved wife.” The innkeepers responded, “This is not an inn/Go on ahead/I can’t open up for you/In case you’re a crook.” After several entreaties and rejections, all ended happily with everyone sing/chanting, “Happy is the house/That shelters today/The pure virgin/The beautiful Mary/Enter holy pilgrims…” Other posadas held around the village this week, to add an authentic touch, sometimes featured a burro which I’ve heard can be rented for the occasion.

For the rest of the event, along one side of the street tables were set up in a row for fifty feet or so, interspersed with several food stations. During the course of the evening we ate some incredibly tender strips of barbecued meat with handmade tacos, frijoles and salsa, drank tequila and guayaba fruit ponche.

When we had first arrived we were warmly greeted by Jose and Monica, who both work in social welfare, and Jesus, Jose’s brother and former delegado from the village. They introduced us to other neighbors including Carlos, a medical doctor, philosopher and raconteur, who regaled us with stories of Mexico City where we’re headed tomorrow for a short vacation. Catalina shared our table. She is Vicente’s granddaughter and an architect who presented her sisters and had a long bilingual conversation with mi esposa. Among the other acquaintances I made was Roderigo, a stone carver who invited me to visit his workshop next to Vicente’s zapateria. One tiny older woman, smiling widely, clasped our hands and told us how good it was that we were here.

It was a very friendly evening, during which we met a few gringos living on the block in addition to many Mexicano neighbors. A household here is usually represented by at least three generations, with that family’s history on the block typically going back as far as anyone can remember, and many families, of course, are related by marriage. Carlos is a relative newcomer to our cuadra, having “only” lived here for forty years. 

It was nearing midnight with no sign of the party winding down when we said our final mucho gustos and hasta luegos and buenas noches, and strolled home, which was nearly next door to where we'd spent the evening. Youngsters were still cavorting in the street as we left, burning off eager energy as they waited for time to break the traditional piñata.

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