Pilgrim’s Progress

Let’s talk about faith. Faith and Mexico. Faith in Mexico. A conversation that implies discussing mine as much as theirs. They’re Catholic here. Yes, there are Mormons living out a Romneyesque exile and Evangelicals and a Baptist mission just moved into the town down the road. But they’re Catholic here. So am I, and that makes things for me easy. Easier, at least, than for the handful of Jews and Protestants and the profusion of atheists in our group. I mentioned in a much earlier post the strange lack of overlap between granola crunchers and rosary fondlers and that holds true still.

Being Catholic, I know the dance if not the song, and with a scrip in hand I’m well enough at home. I can enlighten my fellow Volunteers as to why a statue of a saint is not a sacrilege and why fetishizing Mary is more or less kosher, even the reasoning behind the pantheons of virgins that hold sway over the countryside and Guadalupe who rules the whole.

Uncontested Comandante en Jefe

Uncontested Comandante en Jefe

I can reassure Lupe time and again that I’m baptized and confirmed if not recently shriven and that I’ve taken the body and blood. My Catholicism comforted and comforts both of my host mothers. I know that the one in Querétaro, no matter how the Peace Corps has accustomed her to the Orientals and Hebrews that she previously prejudged, took pride in that I went to Mass when she invited.

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Courtesy of Incarnate Word Ministries

I walk to Lupe’s house at eight, happy that the weather’s cooled. Easter Vigil feels long enough playing American rules without worrying about pit stains. We start a half-hour late, but I don’t mind. Lupe has been talking about the procession and the Mass as if they’ve got no time limit, as though they only end when you give up and walk out. ¡A ver si nos aguanta! She screams at intervals.

We start the walk across town without our friend Elvia, who’s running even later than us. Women with canes and rebozos trundle alongside, candles at the ready. I ask Lupe if only women go to the procession. No, she tells me. It’s for everyone.

The fair starts tomorrow and half the town is already partying. The frantic one two one two polka sound of banda music pours out of trucks and houses. Stoops are full of young men drinking from forty-ounces and eyeing us in the wary way that young people have here.

We make it at eight forty for an eight thirty curtain, but the priest is nowhere to be seen and neither are most of the people. Don’t worry, Lupe says, they’ll be here. And see, guys come too, she adds, sweeping a hand at the few stooped and silent men. I nod and keep looking around when she taps me again. Esta vela se prenderá para la Pascua, she says, as if it were a secret.

I know, Lupe, I say. I’m Catholic, remember.

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