Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Pageantry and the 99%

And we're off... Vamos, pastores, vamos...

by Melinda Palacio

I am a member of El Corro del Presidio de Santa Barbara. Each year, singing in Las Posadas feels different because the weather affects our route. We always start in the Presidio Chapel and continue up and down State Street to La Casa de la Guerra for more singing, tamales, pan dulce, champurrado, and a piñata for the kids.

Checking it twice

Last year, the rain cut our route short and it was too cold for the donkey. On Saturday, everything fell into place with the exception of the little girl, playing the Virgin Mary, who was a little uncomfortable with the idea of riding on a miniature donkey. I can only imagine how the conversation went at the little girl’s home. Her mother was probably excited that her daughter would play Mary. She was dressed elegantly with golden slippers, a blue dress and a lace white mantilla on her head. She was probably told of the honor of playing the holy virgin, riding on the donkey, and being the first to have a crack at the piñata. When her mother put her on the donkey, she wanted to ride sidesaddle, but she kept slipping off. Finally, she agreed to mount the donkey and we were off. First an angel, followed by Joseph and Mary on the donkey, flanked by two adults, and the donkey’s owner who led the miniature animal on a leash like an overgrown puppy.

Pidiendo Posada, State Street, Santa Barbara

People shopping on State Street stopped and sometimes joined in the familiar songs, “Vamos, Pastores, Vamos,” “Humildes Peregrinos,” or “Pastores a Belen.” We mad two stops to ask for room at the Inn. Our first stop in front of Aldo’s restaurant was greeted with applause. Usually, diners don’t know what’s going on and are very surprised. This time, more seemed to be hip to what was happening.

I enjoy participating because the tradition is fun and more important than exchanging gifts or cookies. I love seeing the faces of unexpected shoppers as they see our choral group follow an angel and a child, unmistakably representing the Virgin Mary on a donkey. The sight melts the heart of any cynic or non-believer. We even picked up a few outsiders who were part of the Occupy Santa Barbara Movement. They shook their tambourines and followed us to La Casa de la Guerra, where they enjoyed warm food, music, and new friends.

This year was unusual because the economy was on everyone’s mind. As we walked down State Street, we were reminded by how many businesses from past years are closed or gone. Even at the chapel in introducing the first song, “Kyrie,” Luis Moreno mentioned the Occupy movement and the appropriate analogy of separating us, the 99%, representing pilgrims seeking shelter from the one percentile.

Dos. Two events for next week
December 30, La Bloga publishes its best books of 2011 list
December 30, Registration begins for the Las Comadres teleconference with Melinda Palacio, Julia Amante and Lyn di Lorio, register and join the conversation


Irma K said...

Good article Melinda! I should join you next year. I haven't done that for several years now. When I was a child, I was living in Mexico City at that time and we did the Posadas every year. It was really fun.
I hope to see you soon in SB.
Have a wonderful Year 2012!

Anonymous said...

Lovely story of the old tradition. I also remember walking the streets asking for a "room at the inn," in Mexico City and on Lake Chapala.Finally, a real inn , CALLED LA POSADA, let us in after Joseph tapped with staff and we sang the request for lodging. Wonderful this goes from the MIssion to DeLaGuerra!
Thanks. Katie Ingram