I write this listening to day 2 of round the clock fireworks and firecrackers. They reach a crescendo when the local air raid siren goes off at 6:00 and midnight. Thankfully I have never been in a war zone and could not compare any moment in my life to such a situation. However, using my imagination and the long list of war movies I have watched last night sounded like "a war zone". More on that later.
There was a service in the cathedral and we could hear it over loudspeakers but the main door was closed. This was a part of what was to come. I was just wandering around taking it all in. Suddenly the church service ended and the crowed got eerily quiet..all at once but for some sporadic whispers of "are you ready", "it's exciting", "I am so happy", "look, that guy (nodding towards me) has no idea what's happening". Sad but true, worse yet was that I understood him and smiled back like a big dork. It was the strangest non drug induced large crowd thing I have ever was a part of.
Have you ever had general admission to a concert? You know that exact moment when the main band hits the state the crowd surges forward. Mix that crowd with religious fervor, modern technology and a lone white guy pin balling around not knowing what was going on you could appreciate that at that moment i was just a little bit scared for my life.
It was at this moment that I felt something in my hand. A little girl of about 7 who was standing next to me with her family had her hand in mine. As I looked down, she looked up and smiled her 7 year old smile. Then just like that she let go and moved forward with her family. The Blessed Virgin now had my full attention.! Damn religious symbolism really creeped me out for a good minute.
KaBoom! Firework explode behind the now spotlit Virgin Mary, the air raid sirens start wailing full tilt and more fireworks explode all around. Total sensory overload. People are cheering, crying, smiling and generally enjoying the moment. When the sirens died down the drums of the El Tamborilero started. These kids were impressive
La Gigantona represents the tall white Spanish woman that came with the conquistadors. El Enano Cabezon is a small dwarfish figure with a big head symbolizing the intelligent mestizo. El Coplero is the person who recites the popular folk verses and the Tamborilero is the one who plays the drum.
Its a fun sight when a group of 4 of them perform for the tourists. When there are twelve Gigantonas and Enano Cabezon flailing in multicolored unison while all 12 drummers hitting it with perfection it's somewhat awe inspiring. I had no idea what El Coplero was doing during the chaos. This chaos went on for no less than half an hour. Fireworks, sirens, screaming, drumming, dancing and lots of smiles and laughter.
I had my fill and after watching the guys light the fireworks for a bit longer I headed home what I thought was the quiet sanctity of my neighborhood. As with most things in the country I could not have been more wrong. The next phase of the night was about to begin. The viewing of the personal montages, memorials, displays and alters in peoples homes.
Remember this?"Quien causa tanta alegeria" . Now people ran from house to house yelling it and in response the home owner yelled back "La concepción de María!" the gave out candy. It was fairly sane downtown. At this location a lady walked up while I was grabbing my candy to go (you know I got right in there for free candy) and started singing. What now caroling? Within seconds people ran and joined in. I am talking young kids, teenagers, adults and the elderly all singing. I did not get everything they were singing but it was a tribute to....you got it. The Blessed Virgin. It was quite amazing and solemn. When the singing stopped the magic of the moment was crushed by the sudden insanity to rush for candy. This house also gave out large plastic cups which I could see were being used by the candy wolverines to carry their loot. A nice gesture to be sure.
I ran back to the hostel, grabbed Brenda who was a few rum and cokes in and off we went. The first house we went to gave us little plastic bags of some type of raspberry puree. Gringo lump of coal, until we saw kids gorging on them. We wandered the streets in awe at the spectacle. We got candy, noisemakers, a packet of coffee and a comb. I was jazzed on candy and had slurped a Pepsi on the way home. It was going to be a sleepless night to be sure.
Midnight comes and so does the ever present Air Raid siren. However this time is was signalling "GO TIME". A full frontal beach landing of fireworks and firecracker. I went out into the garden and just stared in every direction including over my head. Streams of colors, hisses, bangs, pops and tat a tat tats! There was no sleeping now. Each minutes getting louder and a bit more nuts. 12:30 and no end in sight. 12:45 and bang, pop hiss....silence. Nothing but the sound of everyone in their rooms mumbling "oh thank god". And with that, it was over....except for the sugar buzz.
Here are a series of clips during the initial sensory onslaught. At :35 what sounds like a long buzzing is the air raid siren. The audio is loud so turn down your volume.
Quien causa tanta alegeria"
"La concepción de María!"