Saturday, March 15, 2008


MARCH 15, 2008

The parade of artisans poured through Uruapan like a current of pure poetry manifested in the flowers splashed across their white cotton dresses glistening in the morning sun. They came from throughout the state, from Santa Fe De La Laguna, Cocucho, San Felipe de los Herreros, Pamaticuaro, and myriad other communites.

Women from San Juan Nuevo wore straw hats covered with colorful papel picado; the green sequins and jeweled flowers covering their red blouses punctuated their movements to the flute music fluttering about the dashing trumpet lines that raced down the street. The pleated red skirts waving about the forms of the Ihuatzio artisans kept time to the rhythm of their feet, while the needlepoint flowers covering their aprons rippled as if tossed onto a quiet pond. The Tzintzintzan artisans, bearing burdensome clay pots with dreamy green flowers, strolled along to the music. One woman wore a blue apron with impressive splashes of yellow flowers; another had magenta flowers that shimmered about her neck.

Everyone seemed captivated by the spectacle.
''Welcome to Uruapan!'' shouted one woman.
A man in a blue denim jacket hugged and kissed a dancer from Ihuatzio, who carried a straw basket as her sandled feet flew about the pavement to the shrill flute music behind her. Purple, magenta and orange flowers awakened the life enshrined in her cotton dress, transforming the morning sunshine into an ecstasy of celebration that rushed into the air, invigorating everyone on the street.

Even before they began moving toward the crafts fair in Plaza Morelos they impressed those who saw them.
David Scarratt, a tall fellow in a green jacket, watched from a sidewalk as the dancers gathered in front of Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio.
''I think they are just fantastic, colorful, imaginative,'' said Scarratt, 72, a British expatriot who divdes his time between San Miguel de Allende and Nova Scotia.
''You get sort of lost for words. There's not enough vocabulary to describe the dynamism that exists here, the incredible energy, such incredible variety. So much of it is clearly traditional, but you can see the times have changed in their handwoven hats to manufactured products. Nevertheless, tradition persists. It's very very exciting. The energy is palpable.''

As the dancers made their way through town now, crowds on the sidelines tossed confetti at the dancers who accepted it goodnaturedly. A dancer handed out gifts - one woman gave me a small plastic cup of juice. A man in an Office Depot shirt scanned the dancers with a point-and-shoot camera looking for the perfect shot.

Suddenly, the jagged face of a red devil appeared, his nose soaring in front of his face, horns spiraling into the air, ears flaring back. He strolled down the street wearing a black cape with red and amber sequins, while a masked man with a huge sand-colored roiling beard pouring over his costume spun about pounding his wooden sandles into the pavement. His massive straw hat whirled about, the sinister grass cape rustling with erratic cracks and whistles. He poked the pavement with his cane, as though to keep time, or perhaps to summon the devil who had already appeared. Behind them, a young woman in a pleated dress the color of Christmas waved a white cotton flag slowly and rhythmically. Nearby, a man with the image of a cow mounted on sticks over his head ran about about, the rows of blue, red and yellow tissue paper fluttering as the tiny horns thrashed the air.

A woman from Tzintzuntzan, her shoulders bobbing as she danced, grasped her red pleated skirt and blue apron as she loped about. With her other hand she held a glazed bowl with blue flowers on her shoulder while the sun rushed across its surface. The wide panels of orange and red flowers about her neckline and sleeves seemed a perfect match to the confetti in her hair.

A band in butterscotch corduroy moved down the street. Directly in front of them, a young boy in a white cotton costume and a blood-red sash about his waist took off his hat, stooped over and whirled around, slapping his wooden shoes loudly into the pavement as the crowd erupted with loud clapping.

This was the first time Ken Peterson and Roberta Rich had seen the parade. The Vancouver, Canada couple spends its winters in the nearby Mexican state of Colima, and their friends had strongly recommended they see the parade.
''The display of civic pride is so touching, so wonderful,'' said Roberta Rich. ''They have such interesting faces. They have Indian faces, and you also see some Spanish faces. It's a very interesting variety of facial types.''
Rich observed that Indian faces seemed to get more interesting as they aged.
Ken Peterson cut in, ''You are aging fine, dear. Don't worry.''

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