©1996 by Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger (Lynn@ColorJoy.com)
A Carnival Party
The first night we were there, Maria and Miriam Teresa took me to a party. We had arrived in Mexico during Carnival, which is similar to Mardi Gras in some respects. There were many special events we got to experience because we were there at this time. The party that Friday night was one of these special Carnival events.
The women in Tizimin have a special party during this time which raises money for a local home for the elderly. It is a very festive event. All the women dress in costume. There were groups of women who came together, dressed alike. Some of these groups also take turns entertaining the crowd, with dances, plays, singing acts and the like. They even had a magician scheduled this night. The only men in the building were hired to help, such as the sound technicians and the magician.
[Photo: Maria, Miriam Teresa and Lynn in costume.]
Since I had not brought a costume, they had to find something for me to wear. Maria decided to dress me as a mestiza woman, in traditional dress for that area. The hand-embroidered dress and under-slip were absolutely beautiful and I was honored to wear them. I looked silly, though, with my pale skin and light hair in that dress! It was very cold for being outdoors (the party was at something like a fairgrounds), it felt to me about 65°F. I put leggings and a long sleeved top on under the dress. Maria dressed in her house robe and put curlers in her hair. Miriam Teresa wore a wild dancer's outfit to match those in her performing group. She looked fabulous, but she got cold fast!
I was fortunate when we arrived at the party. Sylvia, an English teacher in Tizimin and a friend of Maria's, came to me and explained in English what was going on. This helped me understand a lot more of the event. It was such a relief to speak a little English. By this time, I was getting pretty exhausted from straining to remember Spanish and looking up every third word in my dictionary. You can be sure I took the dictionary with me everywhere I went, including this party!
When the event finally started, there were the usual introductions by the emcee. Then there was the election of a "queen" of the event. It was funny, the woman who was chosen as queen was wearing a shark costume for the dance she was going to perform. She had told her friends she didn't want to be queen dressed as a shark, but it happened! Laughter rang through the building when they announced her name! You could see her crown peek out through the mouth hole of the costume, teeth framing her face. It was amusing.
After the election of the queen, they had a processional of all previous queens of this event (some not young at all, and none "beauty queens"). After the processional, the entertainment started. I liked the dancing. Some groups obviously had practiced hard, many hours, and were very professional. Miriam Teresa's group was one of these. Others danced for the fun of it (like the shark) and it was still entertaining.
One group in particular stood out for me. There were about seven young girls in fairly sexy outfits, doing a complicated dance in the middle of the floor. Besides these girls, however, another part of the same dance was four middle-aged women, standing on the corners of the dance floor. These women were doing simple arm motions to go with the young girls' routine. I felt great about the fact that these women, not in great physical shape, were able to be part of the dance. I feel that in my community they would have been relegated to backstage roles rather than being able to perform. I really enjoyed watching the señoras do their limited but enthusiastic part of the dance.
After several groups had performed, they switched gears and women from all tables got out on the dance floor to dance together. It was fun. A woman at our table asked me if I wanted to go down and dance, too. I said of course, though I barely knew enough Spanish to understand her invitation.
While I was dancing, a young woman next to me said "Where are you from?" I couldn't believe my ears. She was very nice and explained more about the event. I don't remember her name, but I believe her husband was from the United States and so she knew English. She asked me about our trip. It was heartwarming.
[Photo: Abuela Nelly in costume at the Carnival party.]
At this dancing part of the event, Maria took me to a table of much older women (I had noticed them earlier, looking self-confident and dignified). At this table was Abuela Nelly. This was my first introduction to Pedro's grandmother, and she was a delight to know. At 87 years old, she invited me to dance: "Baile!" We danced together for a while. She is instantly likeable and we had a great time smiling at each other and dancing. I finally asked if I could take some photos of her in her great costume (sequins and ostrich plume in bright pink) so Pedro in Michigan could see. She agreed immediately. She looked mighty fine. I hope I look that good at her age!
After the social dance, women returned to their seats and the entertainment resumed. There were a few more dances and then a play, to be followed by a magician. I was so exhausted from climbing Chichen Itza that morning that in the dark, and understanding nothing of the play (in Spanish), that I kept nodding off. At 2:00 a.m., Maria nudged me and suggested we go home. I had to agree. I found the next morning that Miriam Teresa and Abuela Nelly had been there until 3:00 a.m.! We all had a grand time. I was happy to be included.
Next: Family Children
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