This week marks the New Year for the Purepecha people of Michoacan, Mexico. I had the unqiue pleasure of witnessing the festivities as they´re undertaken in the pueblo of Tocuaro, outside Patzcuaro, Michoacan.

Listen to this:

Trumpetrumpettrumpetclarinetclarinetclarinettrombonetrombonetrombone

Flapping rows of redwhitegreenredwhitegreenredwhitegreen plastic papel picado strung across the plaza in front of the main iglesia.

The nasally P.A. system´s version of the Catholic priest´s Padre Nuestro as the pueblo prays the rosary in front of an altar stacked floor to ceiling with bouquets of white carnations and red roses.

The rain, falling ever harder, (and ever stranger – this is the dry season) from the church´s gutters to the red flagstone of the plaza.

The occasional brief but shocking explosions of cuetes (homemade airborne M-80s essentially comprised of toilet paper rolls stuffed with gunpowder and strapped to slender branches), lit by non-chalant cowboys using the glowing butts of their quickly dampening cigarillos.

Immediately thereafter, the chorus of car alarms shaken into action by the first round of cuetes.

The winding of an industrial hand crank by the young men of the pueblo as they winched one 10-foot block of wooden scaffolding after another, adding them to a growing tower whose skeletal structure already surpassed the height of the church. Later, this would become an entire castle of fireworks. (Unfortunately, this portion of the festivities were postponed to the rain, when still 7 blocks had yet to be added and the tower was easily 75 feet high).

The wings of umbrellas slapping open and closed as parishioners hustled into the church from the gathering storm outside.

After the service… came the dancing!
25 masked characters overtook the plaza, wreaking havoc on each other, but all within the confines of a roped off square area about half as big as the plaza. Bumbling caricatures of Tarot card readers, superpederastic Michael Jackson chasing every small boy crying Quiero los niños!, murderous clowns, toucans, devils, the gamut of popular media figures and traditionally fiersome characters, each with an intricate wooden mask, the artesania for which Tocuaro is famous.

Until we couldn´t take the rain any longer, and the crowd raced back under the semi-shelter of a huge tarp set up wisely in the patio next to the church.

Immediately, shouts of Cumbia! Cumbia! Cumbia! Got us all dancing all over again. Until the rain entered the tent horizontally on the wings of a cyclone wind and ya! It was postponed.
But, for a brief moment, I, with my 6-foot gringa stature clad in a bright yellow raincoat, was huddled next to Frankenstein, Michael Jackson, a toucan-headed man and the only male trio wearing snake masks, black velvet capes encrusted with sequined flaming skulls and cowboy boots I´ve seen outside of Burning Man.

As we followed the flooding cobbled streets to the elote stand for hot roasted corn (with your choice of chili, lime and salt or mayo and powderd cheese – I prefer the former), the pueblo loudspeaker pardoned us all, ¨Nadie tiene la culpa… con este clima muy horrible… mejor venganse por tacos!

¡Viva México!

Road Trip, Chuquiapan

Here, the sand is the softest I’ve felt, the water at night is bath warm and no one else is camped on this beach. The water is shallow with strong waves, not great for swimming, but excellent for watching and tidepooling. Pichilinguillo is perfect for swimming – deep, clear, protected. Every once in a while, all the waves pause and the sea holds a moment of silence. It’s perhaps the loudest moment – no wave breaks, no stones crackle against each other, no seafoam explodes forth. Just for a breath.

Pichilinguillo

Arenas Blancas

I love sleeping in a hammock on this beach. This morning, I was perfectly warm, stretched out and just kept sleeping more and more, till nearly 10:00 (I’d been waking before sunrise all week). And I only got up then because our sweet neighbors came all the way from Pichilinguillo to share a hug tub of fresh ceviche de sierra they’d made this morning, bien picado and complete with carrot and chiles, even aguacates and toastadas. Wow! Certainly worth rolling out of the hammock for. The most delicious breakfast I’ve had in a while and such a generous gift, especially from a family that has hardly enough to feed themselves.
My broken toe has improved, I’m convinced it’s because of all the salt water it’s been swimming in this week. No longer tender, finally (it’s been 3 weeks). Beyond that, I feel bien salada. My skin carries crystals of the sea’s flavor and I liken my hair’s new coarseness to that of a land-based sea horse. All of my is browner and I fear the sun less. The ocean and I are still in communication and I’ve re-discovered the endless treasure chest of the sand.
These days, I’ve noticed I move in 7-day cycles. 7 days in Puerta Vallarta brought Joe and I to our natural day of departure. 7 days in Guadalajara, the same, and, as of tomorrow, 7 days on the sweet beaches of Michoacan (Chuquiapan, Pichilinguillo and Arenas Blancas).