Mexican Traditions — First Friday

This morning I was awakened before dawn by airworks – those booming cannon shot sounding fireworks (with no fire.) They continued throughout the day culminating in special church services, bandas parading through the streets, people singing, jumping into fountains, and other festivities.

Street band, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoWhen I asked why, the only answer I would get is, “First Friday,” like I should know what that means. Since I am not Catholic and the only thing I know about Lenten traditions is that it is a time of penance, that follows the all out debauchery that is Carnival/Mardi Gras, and lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, I decided it was a good time to find out.

In Mexico, the word for Lent is Cuaresma, which comes from the word for 40 representing the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. With Mexico being one of the most Catholic countries in the world, Lenten observances are an important part of the culture, filled with solemn observances, processions, and merriment. It is a time of church and family activities, sobriety and abstinence, with most Mexicans giving up eating meat on Fridays.

So what is this First Friday all about? On the first Friday after Ash Wednesday,  processions of “The Lord of Mercy” goes through the main streets of town, imploring mercy for sins. Rag tag bands of all sorts, wander the streets, which usually attract more of a Pied Piper following than any kind of solemn observance.

Street band, Taxco, MexicoMy first year here, before I knew about First Friday and all the other Fridays that follow, I was told that the bands were to remind people that it was a holy time, which was really amusing considering they came marching over the hill playing Roll Out the Barrel, a quintessential drinking song.

I now know that each Friday from now until Easter I will be awakened with airworks and serenaded to sleep by brass bands, each marking a special observance such as Dia de la Samaritana or Viernes de Dolores, the Friday of Sorrows, observed on the last Friday before Easter week in recognition of Mary’s loss of her son. All of this leads up to the influx of thousands of penitents and onlookers for Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Taxco.

Holy Week in Taxco de Alaracon, MexicoEnough of a lesson for now. More later. Or visit the GoMexico Website.

You don’t know what you are missing

It is said, “That you do not know what you have until its gone.” In other words, take nothing for granted.

I was very aware that I could not see the sunrise in Ocotito, mostly because I did not know where to go to see it. Lil’s parent’s house was on the wrong side of the hill, the house was dark until well after sunrise, and the yard was too obscured by trees to see much of anything anyway.

Even the one sunset I managed to catch was a bit mild mannered.

So imagine my joy and wonder as the sky welcomed me back to Taxco with riotous color this morning!

There was even color over the Zocolo!

Sunrise over Zocolo, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoOh sunrise, how I have missed thee!

Makes me realize just what a wonderful vantage point I have to view this glorious show each morning.

I will never take this view for granted.

Mexican Traditions – Ash Wednesday

I arrived back in Taxco from my week in the country (in El Ocotito with Lili’s family) and the first thing I noticed after stepping off the bus was that a guy had a smudge of dirt on his forehead. As I continued home, I saw another person, and then another but this time the smudge looked like an X.

Ah, it dawned on me, it is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season for Catholics around the world. That’s why there was so much coverage of Carnival (in Rio), Mardi Gras (in New Orleans) and party celebrations in other locations on the television last night! (Not speaking Spanish I had no idea what the announcers were saying, I just recognized the partying and city captions; it didn’t even dawn on me that it was Tuesday.)

Though, in Taxco, there were likely some parades and partying, church bells and airworks (fireworks with only the boom) until midnight, then church bells and more airworks at dawn…

Night life, El Ocotito, Mexicoit was amazingly quiet in our little town.

I didn’t even see any ashes on foreheads until I came back to Taxco. And that is saying something since I traveled through Ocotito, Chilpancingo, and Iguala, in a truck, two buses, and a taxi.

Tonight the church bells are ringing and the airworks booming but when the day is done, it will be quiet at least until Friday when parades and bandas will roam the streets to remind people that it is a sacred time (see photos and read more about Fat Tuesday traditions here). This scenario will repeat itself every Friday as it all leads up to what a student of mine calls “the big show,” semana santa or holy week, when it is really crazy in Taxco.

Stay tuned. As my student says, you really do not want to miss the show.


For the Birds

“Our thoughts and feelings have wings—paper birds that fly from my house to yours.”

I am not sure where this quote came from. Something similar is attributed to Terry Tempest Williams in Refuge and there is also a similar line in a Seekers song. You decide.

I just like the thought and have been waiting for a day when I could use it. Today is the day. For this day there are flower birds flying from my house to yours.

Bird of Paradise. Aptly named, don’t you think?

Bird of Paradise, Taxco, MexicoReminds me of a crane.

The beauty of creation never ceases to delight and amaze me.

Do you have a favorite flower?


That’s gift in Spanish.

Last night, just as I was heading to bed, I heard a deep rumble. There was a flash of lightning and all of a sudden the sky opened up and it poured. Listening to the sound of the pouring rain is a very soothing way to go to sleep. A gift.

Perhaps even better was the gift for my eyes that the storm clouds presented this morning.

Sunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoSunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoSunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoSunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoRegalo glorioso!

Becoming Mexican

Because I wrapped a bright colored Mexican shawl around my waist to dress up an outfit, someone accused me recently of becoming Mexican. Yeah sure, with my command of the language. That’s funny.

But then this cool front came in… Cold front, axco de Alarcon, Mexico

and the temperature dropped to the mid-sixties. I had to laugh as I found myself rolling my pant legs down and reaching for a jacket.

65 degrees of frio (do I sense a book title there?) Yep, I’m turning Mexican alright.

Well sort of, I am not wearing a winter coat like some people.



Simple Pleasures

It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Sunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico

The water has been “falling” for long periods of time for three days. Every day I would turn on the bathroom faucet hoping to see water come out.

No, no, nope!

This morning I turned on the faucet and, lo and behold, water. Hooray! No more heating water in the kitchen (which adds 20-25 minutes to my morning routine), or carrying a bucket of hot water up to the fourth floor to take a bucket shower.

With an extra person in the house, who I just learned shares the water in my tank, resources are still scarce so I compromised. I got wet, turned the water off and soaped up, then turned the hot stream on again to rinse off. OK I luxuriated an extra moment under that heavenly stream of hot water (do you blame me?) but not much. I want this tank of water to last awhile.

Funny thing is, I just got my shower back here and I am going to the country for a week and it is back to a bucket shower.

Will give you a full accounting of my trip when I return.


Hermoso del amanecer!

A friend sent me that text to say what a lovely dusk it was. That is what they say here since the sun sets long after it drops behind the mountains. Only rarely does Taxco get a glimpse of color like this at the end of the day.

Dusk in Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoSo I went out on my balcony to see and not only did the sky have a nice blush behind Santa Prisca and the Ex-convento, but it was filled with cometas (kites) high and low;  dozens of them from the Zocolo to the Cristo statue.

KIte over Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico

KItes over Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoLook closely and you will see at least 4 in this photo; many more are in the shadows below.

What do you think Mexicans would make of the expression, “Go fly a kite!”

Sunrise Rainbow

Good morning!

Sunrise, cloudless sky, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoAnother cloudless sky  — the norm for this time of year.

Though the rainbow of color the sky generates when there are no clouds to add accent is pretty, seeing it day after day in a photo without the whisper of the breeze or song of the birds to enhance the experience might get rather boring for you.

With this post, I think I have shown you just about all the variations of a cloudless sunrise that are possible, and I will revert to just posting the spectacular images or maybe the week in review. What would you like?

Besides there is much more to write about than sunrises. Stay tuned.