“Somos bien fiesteros” (We are certainly party people). When I was told that in December when I arrived in these communities in Puebla I didn’t quite believe it. Certainly there was a posada every night, mixed in with other celebrations such as the Virgin of Guadalupe. But in Advent it made perfect sense to me.
Now, after two months here I can testify to the fact that “fiesteros” is a very good word to describe the communities here. With Christmas behind us, the parties are only just getting started. Every town in the region has a fair on the day of their particular patron saint. Of course, all of these festivals have to get packed into a month and a half before Lent begins. Once Lent begins, different towns have celebrations for the second or third or fourth Friday, but of a slightly different tone as they involve shrimp rather than chicken. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that there are enough days in the year to fit in all of the requisite parties as celebrations of confirmation overlap with graduation parties, birthdays and baptisms.
At times, as I try to work on my research here, I have become frustrated with all of the parties. I go to a town expecting to do interviews but when I arrive I am told “but today is the fair in Tepetzingo” or, “no one is here – it is the fair in Bonilla.” I keep track of all of the parties in my calendar with the faint hope that I can schedule around them.
But I am not always a Scrooge. After all, as most return migrants have told me, one aspect of life in their towns that they missed while in the US were all of these traditions and celebrations. They are opportunities to gather with friends and relatives. It is even a chance to create solidarity between towns since the festivals of each town typically involve families from that town inviting everyone they know from the region to a meal at their house.
And yet it is no easy task either time wise or financially to cook for a hundred people or more, as often happens in the town festivals as well as the confirmation parties, birthdays and other celebrations. The trick is that the parties are about largesse in the midst of poverty – the idea that life can be enjoyed to its fullness even while living on very little. Knowing the average salary in these towns, I wonder whether the financial sacrifice is worth it and whether the money wouldn’t be better spent elsewhere. Are the continuous parties worth the expense? Is that even the right question to ask? Or perhaps for the moment it is ok to peacefully enjoy them, savor the delicious food, and cherish the joy of community in the towns I have the opportunity to visit.