The feria is on here in Jalpan, and it’s the best one there’s been in a while. This is an election year, and it’s the last chance for the outgoing municipal government to do things up big—whether or not the pesos could have been better spent elsewhere.
It’s something like what I imagine a small-town fair might have been in yesteryear in the US. Carnival rides, music venues, and half a hundred small eateries and bars cover our big soccer field-rodeo complex (my favorite bar name so far is Alcoholegio, something like Alcohollege; they’re ersatz establishments and they get to re-do the nomenclature every year).
I’m told the musical lineup is great, and there’s a concert every night, from older-timey Recodo:
Through stoner-rap band Cartel de Santa:
To the huge banda act Kommander:
To the lucha libre fight than ends proceedings this Sunday.
The enthusiasm makes it all work. Last night the warm-up band wouldn’t have made it through five minutes in any other concert I’ve seen, but people from all over the Sierra have come down to LISTEN to MUSIC, even if it’s TOO LOUD and REALLY BAD, so no matter who’s onstage, everyone’s dancing and singing and carrying on like it’s the last night they’ll ever get to go deaf.
The carnival rides remind me of the ones my mom used to tell me about from the fairs in Texas when she was a kid.
Motors clearly extracted from heavy equipment sit on sawhorses and power merry-go-rounds through open-air crankshafts. Carnies in various states of wakefulness and inebriation make every ride unique—length, intensity, competence are all doubtful, and it makes the whole thing terribly fun. I’ve been told it’s been years since one of these things fell apart or exploded—another mainstay of the stories of my mother’s Texan youth. It’s strange that I’m terrified of safer-than-airplanes roller-coasters and hate riding them but love riding these visibly-about-to-tear-themselves-apart carnival things.
The feria’s rolling right along with campaign season this year, which really started with the election of the Queen of the Sierra, not anyone from the PAN or the PRI.
The whole region is covered with their posters now, though, and the massive faces of the candidates are on every free wall. A politics of image leaves little room for nuanced rhetoric, and every day is a new treat. The PRI candidate for mayor has put together a legally-actionable campaign song from Enrique Iglesias’ latest hit, while the woman running on the PRD ticket has an original number—which is good—that she sings—which is bad. Both PAN and PRI have incredible slogans—“It’s coming!” and “We believe what you believe!” respectively. The atmosphere would be electric if daytime temps well over one hundred weren’t cooling everybody’s jets before evening’s fall.
It’s my last feria in Jalpan and it might be my last in Mexico, so I’m enjoying it, even though a full week of early-morning school visits is turning me and my coworkers into daytime wrecks. Octavio Paz says that the only true expression of Mexican culture is the fiesta, especially in the campo and away from the capital where no-one is trying to ape the cultural output of the outside world. If you want to see Mexico, this is it—raucous, colorful, a little bit guanga, but life-affirming and infinitely optimistic, food and light and sound until your ears can’t hear, your lips can’t drink, and your feet can’t dance.
It’s the feria, and it’s oh so good.