Thursday, October 21, 2010

Here comes the dry

Greetings from a rapidly drying Oconahua!
Yesterday I was out walking around on top of a giant platform at the archaeological site here and noticed that the plants under my feet were starting to get brown and crunchy. The dry season is truly upon us. As I mentioned before, during the rainy season, which lasts from May or June until October or November, most of the annual rainfall falls. For much of the season it will rain for a while every afternoon or night, which really makes everything lush and green after a few weeks. The dry season, which covers the rest of the months of the year, sees very little rainfall and things get drier and drier until the area resembles a desert. The last of the regular rainfall here this year took place in the last week of September, so we are currently about 3 weeks into this year’s dry season.

My timing of my trip this year won’t let me observe the dramatic changes in Oconahua, since things will still be only about 3 months into dying off when I leave in December. The time to really get to see dramatic changes is when the dry season turns to the rainy season in what are the late spring and early summer month in the US. In 2004 I was here during those months and decided to take weekly photographs of the change from April and May before the rains started through my departure in July. When I left in July, things still weren’t as green as they would be later in the rainy season, but it still gave a really good look at the changes.

This week I’m sharing two of those photos. They were taken from on top of the largest pyramid at Los Guachimontones (the site I worked at in Teuchitlan) and look across part of the site and show the town and lake in the valley below. The picture where everything is shades of brown was taken at the end of the dry season and the picture with all the pretty green grass and trees was taken a few weeks in to the rainy season. The difference is amazing, isn’t it? At the time the site was occupied, things would have looked very different. The site was surrounded by pine forests and the natural springs on the hill hadn’t yet dried up.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Greetings from Oconahua!

I was so busy with my mom’s visit that I didn’t get a chance to post anything last week. We spent the first week of her visit living and working in Oconahua, then went to Guadalajara for the last few days. There were all sorts of interesting things going on in Guadalajara when we were there, and we took advantage of our time there to visit various attractions that one or both of us hadn’t been to before.

One of the interesting things that took place during our stay in Guadalajara was the Virgin of Zapopan’s holy day. This particular Virgin is a small idol that is said to have come from Spain and be made of corn husks. Her home is in the town of Zapopan, which is now a part of the city of Guadalajara. She spends much of the year out visiting other churches in the area, ending up at the Cathedral in downtown Guadalajara. Mom and I went to see her there on Monday, which was the day before her trip back home. The cathedral was full of people wanting to visit her before she made the trip. Most people just walked in and waited in the line to get up to the front to see her, but while we were there one woman was making the trip by walking on her knees. I’d seen that for pilgrimages to see the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City, but never in Guadalajara before. I’ve heard that sometimes people will travel their entire journey on their knees, but I’ve only seen people making the trip across the church yard or up the aisle that way.

On Tuesday morning, there was a big parade to move the Virgin to Zapopan. It is a big deal in Guadalajara—there were estimates that perhaps 2 million people would be lined up along the parade route. She begins her journey at sunrise, so by about 6am the festivities had started with church bells ringing, drums beating, and fire works being shot off. Mom and I didn’t make the trip to see the parade since Mom had to leave for the airport at 7. We did watch part of the parade on TV, though, as we were waiting for a cab to be able to make it through the traffic and closed streets to pick her up.

We did get to see a big parade on Saturday, though. My photos this week are from that parade. It was a parade to kick off the big annual October Festival that takes place in Guadalajara. This isn’t a German-inspired Octoberfest, but a celebration of the culture of Mexico and Jalisco (the state that Guadalajara is in). One photo is of some girls who I guess must represent country girls from the time of the Revolution? They are wearing some typical country costumes and dancing with prop rifles. I can’t imagine going an entire parade dancing in those boots, but there were some folks in the parade in even more improbable footware! The other photo is of some people dressed up in traditional Indian costumes. That’s not to say that it’s how the pre-Hispanic folks actually dressed, but it’s how they are traditionally depicted in modern times. You’ll find dancers dressed like this at in many parades, at touristy locations like the Zocalo in Mexico City, and at archaeological sites on the first day of spring (a traditional day to visit archaeological sites to pick up the good vibrations). Some of the costumes are very beautiful, and it’s fun to listen to the rattles around their ankles as the participants dance.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Party time!

Greetings from Oconahua. I hope everyone had a great feast day for the Angel Michael on Wednesday. We certainly celebrated it in style around here! My mom timed her trip perfectly and arrived in Guadalajara on Tuesday evening. After spending the night there, we headed back to Oconahua to take our naps to get ready for the evening’s fun.

We arrived at the plaza at about 9pm in order to find some food for dinner and find a spot to sit for the evening. Seating is at a premium when there are a few curb areas and a few benches and hundreds of people milling around hoping for a place to rest for a while. We ended up getting the last available curb space with a partial view of the plaza. We dined on treats like tacos, hot dogs, hot cakes, and churros from the various vendors at the festival. We also made a trip up to the church where we got to see the remains of a “carpet” made of colored sawdust that had been created outside the church and saw the crowds of people inside waiting for their turn to approach the town’s patron saint statue for their blessing.

The musical entertainment for the evening was a group of young people performing some banda music followed by a professional banda group to entertain us for the rest of the evening. We spent the evening listening to music and waiting around for the night’s main attraction—the castillo. They were still building this framework tower with fireworks attached to it when we arrived, and it wasn’t set off until 1am. The fireworks are set off right in the plaza, so the crowd occasionally gets to try to dodge stray ones that fly their direction or brush off the embers of ones that have fallen from the sky. It certainly keeps you on its toes! After that, we hit the candy booth to pick up several types of dried fruits and headed home for the night. The party kept on going without us, though. When I woke up at 5:30, there was still music coming from the plaza.

My photos this week are from the festival. One is of my mom eating a hot cake—she got hers with honey on top, while mine had cajeta (caramel sauce). The other photo is of the most impressive part of the castillo lighting. You can’t see it very clearly, but it has text asking for a blessing from the saint, the year, a picture of an angel, and a few other details.