Re: Romeria

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From: novela-harmon@bethel.edu
Date: Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 6:02 PM
Subject: Romería  
To: grace-k-nelson@bethel.edu

Well, I went. Alex, true to his word, picked me up ridiculously early. I felt really awkward about it at first because he got out and opened the car door for me. At least I was waiting for him in the garage so I was able to go out before he could ring the bell.

I thought he was exaggerating about how early we needed to be there but we almost needed more time. There were so many people already there when we arrived. I think some of them must have camped out since the night before.

We did manage to get a fairly decent spot along the route. Alex had the foresight to bring two folding chairs so we at least were able to sit while we waited for the parade to pass by.

I wondered at first how we were going to pass the time, but it went fairly quickly. I think Alex spent the first hour telling me the history of the Romería. I knew a little, but he gave me the complete backstory.

It is interesting how people can believe so fervently in things that seem so ridiculous to outsiders. It seems preposterous to me that people think this little wooden doll is actually capable of warding off storms by worshiping it (not sure if "worship" is the write verb - I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of saints, especially those that seem to be manifested in physical objects). But then I have to remember that I believe things that, though true, are thought of as ridiculous by others. So it's not as easy to write off as I originally thought.

And it's really interesting to hear Alex tell it. He seems to keep hovering somewhere between agnostic and atheistic, and denies Catholicism completely. But there is this tinge to his descriptions sometimes that seem to go a little beyond nostalgia.  I think he did believe strongly once, and I don't think it has completely left him. I think that, for whatever reason, he tries to suppress it. If I were still working with him, I would want to try to explore that more, but as it is I won't have much opportunity.

Anyway, on to the main event. There was group after group of Aztec dancers. At first it seemed really incongruous to have pagan dance in a Catholic event. But, thinking about Alex's thesis, maybe it's not. I mean, the whole reason we're here is because of one of the links between the Conquistadors and the indigenous people - supposedly the Virgin of Zapopan interceded between the groups and convinced the indigenous groups to convert to Catholicism.

She - I say "she" because everyone says "she" although to me it still seems like it would be an "it" - is a surprisingly small statue. Also, she/it was in a little case, which reminded me of a doll in a plastic box like you'd see in a toy aisle. Maybe she seems bigger up close, and being dwarfed in an enormous parade augmented the appearance of smallness, but it was still surprising.


It reminded me a little of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, where  you have all  this random stuff marching but everyone is waiting to see  Santa Claus  at the end. (I don't mean to be sacrilegious, but that was  the idea  that popped into my mind.)  Except this time at the end, I saw them carrying this tiny doll in a little box and asked, "That was it?" It seems so strange to me. I almost feel bad. I could tell I was the odd man out in that sentiment. I don't think my mother need have the least fear of me becoming Catholic anytime soon; I'm not sure I could be even if I wanted to.

But I got what I came for. My curiosity about this ritual is satisfied. As awkward as it was, it turned out to be really advantageous to have gone with Alex, because if I had gone alone or with Javer, aside from not knowing how to navigate the route, I would not have had access to all the insider information of which he seems to have an endless supply.

So, that was my adventure of the Romería. Tune in next time to see if Javier is still speaking to me.

Love, Novela

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