Dance like there’s People Around

Well, inside today. The winter I mentioned a couple of posts ago has lasted through vacation and I can more than see my breath in my house, even after running the stove for 90 minutes making stew. When the sun’s out in Jalpan, it’s obnoxiously hot and when it’s cloudy it’s goddamned frigid. I haven’t seen the sun in three weeks. Like I think I’ve mentioned, there’s no indoor heating here, so it’s cold everywhere when it’s cold anywhere. Trey and I have taken to wearing our hobo cutoff gloves at work because it’s the only way we can keep our hands warm enough to type. Anyway, let’s keep catching up on Christmas.

This would be the view if I were outside and there was blessed warming light

This would be the view if I were outside and there was blessed warming light

The day itself here isn’t quite as important as back home; the general sense of festivity starts on the 12th, which is the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and it continues all the way to yesterday (at the time I wrote this), the 6th of January, the Day of Kings (specifically the three of the nativity story). Christmas Eve is the bigger date, at least in Jalpan, and it was definitely more eventful for us volunteers. I spent most of the day running around trying to get presents for Trey and Janessa (a bottle of Jack and a coffee-maker, respectively) and pecans to make pie with later in the week. Pecans are one of the few things in Mexico that would qualify as expensive in the United States, but both Trey and I felt like since we hadn’t made one for Thanksgiving, I’d have to put one together this time around.

After that was all done, I went to a rosary prayer service at Trey and Janessa’s Mom (Lupe)’s house for her more-or-less recently deceased mother. After that was mass and then we got down to the spiked ponche (pretty much like our punch with different fruit), spiked coffee, spiked fruit tea, and an asada, which is like any American cookout if you had it on the 24th of December.

Lupe introduced (and shoved me bodily into) her daughter Monica, back from college, earlier in the day, and we ended up getting tapped to rock the infant Jesus for awhile in a ritual I wasn’t curious enough to inquire after (when we did later, we got the answer we should have expected—’you rock him because he’s a baby, obviously‘).

Right, of course, why'd I even ask

Right, of course, why’d I even ask

After the meat and tortillas ran out, we headed for the plaza for what was supposed to be all night huapango.

I spent most of my time during this bit running around with Monica getting more punch and meeting her friends and just generally getting dragged by the wrist (in the friendliest of ways). She’s just as excited and energetic as her mom (although Lupe says ‘loca’ for them both), and I think it would be pretty fair to say that after two weeks, she’s one of my better friends here, for all that she’s back in Toluca in Mexico State now. Which I’m all the more happy about because she’s got virtually no English.


Top left. Moving on up.

Anyway, after a bit of running around, we abandoned the other Americans to go hang out on top of a hill with a few of her friends, and when it got too absolutely frigidly cold, we headed back to listen to Zeppelin and Macklemore in her older friend’s psychology consultorium. You know, how people do.

A few days later there was a town dance for the paisanos. Paisano can mean a few different things, but in Jalpan it refers to all the guys who work in the States and come back for the holidays. They all meet up at the border and they caravan down with a government escort through the rougher northern states, and when they get here, the town throws three different parties. The 28th is the Día del Paisano and there’s a parade where all the caravaners drive through town in their trucks and that night we have a big old dance.

These are the kinds of things that Northerners imagine they have in small town West Texas. Everybody shows up in cowboy hats and their best Levis and plaid with giant belt buckles and rodeo boots, and they all crowd into the giant basketball court outside the auditorium and dance and buy six-packs and carouse until four or five in the morning. As long as I’ve got some local friends to go with, I’m in love with these things. Huapango’s easy enough to fake, and banda and cumbia are simple enough to dance if you don’t get too ambitious with the spins, and either I’ve gotten to be a better dancer than I remember or folks are just happy to have a turn with the newer gringo in town, so I’ve no problem finding partners inside of our high-school-style dance circle or out.

So Monica and the friends and the other volunteers and I went over to her house and got the culturally appropriate amount of lit and then we headed for the dance, plaid and all. We danced, those of you who know me won’t believe, until five in the morning, turning and stepping and jigging and trading partners and spinning and even knocking down a square dance to the tune of Achey Breakey Heart that’s as obligatory as the Cupid Shuffle used to be.

Friends, these people are as warmhearted and welcoming as everyone in the South pretends to be, and I’m having one hell of a time.

Still sitting on this bucket though.

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