Pray first, fight next: Mexican style

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

What do you do on a religious day?

In Taxco, after the culmination of a catholic parade, people went straight to watch a wrestling match.


↑ Church of St. Prisca with a lucha libre arena next to it

Fiesta de San Sebastián

I prolonged my stay in Taxco because I had heard about the Festival of Saint Sebastian. It is a “very Catholic celebration,” I read on a website, “and a parade that culminates at Taxco’s central cathedral” in the honor of St. Sebastian, one of the patron saints of Taxco city (the other being St. Prisca).

↑ School band marching ahead of worshipers

The parade began with a group of priests leading the first group of devotees that were holding a large cross and chanting what I thought was a prayer. One by one, groups emerged from around the corner – some with an organised orchestra, others with a group of singers but every group was parading with some symbol of Christianity, such as as a wooden cross, or statue of Jesus on the cross or a coffin-like case or an image of Virgin Mary.


↑ Parade with religious icons

Taxco is supposedly a very religious town and I was told that seeing devotees practicing painful and bloody self-penitence is common during the holy Easter week. There are large number of churches and chapels scattered all over the town, but those might be remnants of the city’s colonial heritage. Nevertheless, I had never seen a public Catholic Christian celebration before, so I was delighted to see this one.

The parade ended after about 30 minutes and was promptly followed by the ringing of church bells and fireworks. The bell ringing was nowhere close to the melodious orchestra in Russian orthodox churches, but I understand its not the same tradition. It was surprising to see how the sleepy and empty streets, the very streets I was walking on earlier that day, suddenly came to life. Where did all these people come from? 🙂

Parades are intriguing. In Mumbai, where I grew up, we have a Hindu new year’s eve parade in Spring and in Toronto there’s the pride parade, santa claus parade, women’s day parade, and what not. I’m looking forward to see more such festivities when I visit Europe, backpack in Latin American or go for holidays to Cyprus and the Mediterranean where I’ve been wanting to go for a while.

Paloma


↑ Paloma. PS: Mom – I don’t smoke!

I watched most of the parade from the balcony of my CS host’s cafe while sipping one paloma after the other. Paloma is a popular Mexican cocktail made using tequila and grapefruit-flavoured soda (e.g. Squirt). My host enthusiastically prepared the drinks and liked the fact that I enjoyed a lime wedge and a salt-rimmed glass (according to him, only Mexicans like that). I felt it was wrong to drink alcohol while watching a religious celebration but my friend reminded me that people drink wine in a church, so it was okay to drink paloma outside the church.

Lucha Libre


↑ Fight fight fight!

In my tipsy haze, I followed the last marching troupe to their destination – the cathedral (Templo de Santa Prisca). The plaza in front of the cathedral was very crowded and chaotic. Kids were running around and parents were running after them. People seemed excited about something, and it wasn’t the parade. They were all looking at the lucha libre arena that was setup outside the cathedral.

I no longer felt guilty about getting drunk while watching a religious celebration. If people can watch and cheer for guys staging a fight right after getting out of the cathedral, I guess it’s okay for me to indulge in some alcoholic fun. (Does anyone else notice the irony?)

Lucha Libre is a form of professional wrestling (like WWF or WWE) that has crazy fan following in Mexico. Fighters wear face masks and colourful costumes, and fight on stage while the raging crowd cheers for them. I personally would rather watch a staged performance in a theatre than watching it on a wrestling arena, but people’s excitement did leave me fascinated.

Hauling a DSLR camera around might be cumbersome but does pay off some dividends. In this situation, the camera made me appear important, and people yielded as I tried to go closer to stage. Saying some words in English also seemed to help my mission and I was right in front of the stage in no time.

After the match, kids wanted to take pictures using my camera – pictures of them and the fighter, pictures of me and the fighters and pictures of everyone together. I thought it was funny because nobody gave me their email addresses.


↑ Fighters in action. The full moon and facade of St. Prisca cathedral in the background

So at the end the whole rationale of going to a temple to pray and following it up by watching people fight was lost on me. However, since I enjoyed doing both equally, I am giving up trying to find a co-relation between the two. Probably there isn’t any. What do you think?

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery