As you see yourself, I once saw myself; as you see me now, you will be seen.
      Mexican Proverb


México is the most populous Spanish-
speaking country in the world. According to the latest statistics, México's total population is over 99 million. Mestizos, of Indian and Spanish blood), make up 60% of the population, followed by indigenous peoples  (30%), whites (9%), and other ethnic minorities  (1%).

Carnaval in Mazatlan

Visitors and locals scream, sing, shout and dance amid confetti and ribbons. Bands of all kinds play the infectious rhythms of the State of Sinaloa. And the food–oh, the food–camarones (shrimp) prepared in every way possible, washed down with ice cold Pacifico beer, for it’s Carnaval Time, Mazatlán’s biggest pachanga (fiesta). 
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March 12, 2006

The Night No One Sleeps
The Huamantla Fair
by Bob Brooke

Each year, the second Saturday in is the night no ones sleeps in the town of Huamantla, Tlaxcala. For it’s on that night that local artists, working for several hours from sunset, create a magical "carpet" of flowers and colored sawdust over approximately 7 km. of the streets leading to the main church, which will become the path of procession of the Virgin of Charity the following morning. But what surrounds that night is almost as wonderful–the famous 133-year-old Huamantla Fair.

The festivities–and there are many–begin the first weekend in August and end 17days later. In between lies the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and it’s for that feast day that the townspeople create the street carpets.

The floral carpets of Huamantla originated from the pre-Hispanic celebration in honor of Xochiquetzalli, the goddess of Fertility. Centuries later, the people of Huamantla continue this tradition decorating their churches and streets with flowers, in order to honor their patron saint, the Virgin of Charity. Workers by day, it’s necessary to wait until the business day ends before work on the carpets can begin. While the artists decorate some of the streets with fresh cut flowers and moss–usually those closest to the church and in the direct path of the procession–they decorate most of them with colored sawdust which they sieve through stencils to create fantastic floral and geometric designs and borders.

The focal point of the celebration is the main church in town, which the more artistic workers decorate with intricate paintings by gently pouring colored sand into a design drawn on the surface. Most often, these contain figures or tell a story.

But the highlight of this religious weekend is the solemn religious procession, which begins between 11 P.M. Saturday and 1:30 A.M. Sunday. A young woman, chosen to represent the Virgin Mary, leads the procession over the newly-created carpets to the church. The procession thus consecrates the work. The best viewing time is late afternoon and evening when townspeople, pilgrims, and tourists view the carpets.

As the Virgin passes by, followed by the faithful who accompany her, the sound and color of fireworks fills the sky. The flowers, booms of the rockets, dazzling lights, singing and prayers full of hope and faith, create a truly memorable scene. When the Virgin finally enters the church at around 7 A.M., the faithful celebrate a solemn mass to confirm their faith and love for her.

With the religious celebration as its focus, the Humantla Fair offers traditional attractions and rides, plus cockfights, concerts, art and cattle exhibitions and a large market featuring local products, as well as food stands serving delicious Tlaxcalan dishes and snacks. There’s a donkey race, a charreada or rodeo, and a race of souped-up old cars–although I’m not sure what any of these has to do with the Virgin Mary.

One of the special events is the 30-year-old Huamantlada, the Tlaxcaltecan version of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, held on the Saturday following the procession. Here, as there, young men challenge death in order to feel the danger and to prove their ability as bullfighters.

Approximately 10 to 25 fighting bulls and hundreds of young men from Tlaxcala, as well as from all over the country who have longed to be bullfighters, meet in the streets of Huamantla. A few minutes before Noon, after setting off two huge rockets, they free the bulls, Young men carrying bullfighter's capes anxiously await the great moment. Then they fire a third huge rocket and shouting indicates that the bulls have been let loose. Crowds of young men provoke them running in front of them and dodging them. Many wannabe matadors confront the poor animals. Some of the young men are lucky enough to maneuver out of the path of the bulls, but others aren’t so lucky, as the bulls charge them. By 2 P.M., the hot Tlaxcalan sun overtakes the bulls, and they soon go away tired and stunned by the number of "bullfighters" during the running.

The Huamantla Fair is becoming increasingly popular. While the second Saturday is the most popular day, the fair runs two weeks. Last year more than 350,000 people took part in the festivities.


All contents copyrighted@2004, Bob Brooke Communications
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