It's Sunday night up here on Calle Manatial in colonia Allende. It's 8pm, and there are at least two amplified musical selections drifting over the neighborhood and through my open window. An unknown number of little girls are taking turns shrieking in delight not far up the street. A canine chorus keeps up a good racket. I'm tuning out most of this cacophony. Compared to this afternoon's goings-on I might be in a silent wood.
When I was a boy (he said sounding very much like his grandmother) the suburbs and towns around Hartford were distinct, separated from each other by cow pastures, tobacco fields and an occasional apple orchard. Those rural fields are all gone now, replaced by commercial and residential development.
They call this eating up of the countryside, conurbation. Separate towns grow together into a continuous residential-commercial sprawl, strip malls and condominiums. This filling in of nature also took place, albeit in a quainter way, here in San Miguel. This tiny neighborhood of Manatial was once on its own, an oasis in the dry countryside, a place where people lived, no doubt first the Indians, because of the spring (manatial) that still flows here, now into a pipe instead of down the middle of the road. Like Valle del Maiz, its cousin not that far up the hill, Manatial was outside of San Miguel, separated from El Centro by orchards and campo where sheep grazed and goats browsed.
We all know that people slow down to rubberneck at an accident by the side of the road. Interestingly, when there is nothing more to see, for a good while after everything has been cleaned up, the traffic continues to slow down at that spot.
In a way similar to this phantom traffic phenomenon, after Guadiana, Ojo de Agua and Cinco de mayo filled in the distance between it and the city center, Manatial yet retains its distinct identity. It is still somewhat isolated, for while there are various alleys providing ingress and egress by foot, if you're driving, there is only one way in or out.
With its orchards and campo gone, at first glance, Manatial looks much like a few blocks in any number of other colonias here in San Miguel. But if you linger and spend time walking around these very few blocks, as I have, you can feel the old spirit of this tiny hillside "valley". It slows you down, and you find yourself rubbernecking at something invisible.
Now, in the time that it has taken to compose this, darkness has come on, changing the sounds drifting in my window. The sidewalk fiestas have dispersed. The last ballad sung, the last ranchero favorite finished, the competing loudspeakers are all quiet. The little girls up the street, long since called inside by their mothers, have ceased their joyful screeching: tomorrow is a school day. Even the dogs seem to have settled down.
After ten years living in San Miguel, I have become much more tolerant of noise. But this afternoon up here on Manatial was trying even for a veteran like me. Today was the celebration of San Pascual Bailón. If I had stopped and read the poster down the block, I would have known what was about to happen. I should have guessed something was up this morning when our neighbors started stringing streamers from one side of the street to the other. I had heard that there would be a mini Los Locos parade in town today. But I didn't know that a large part of it would stop right in front of our periwinkle blue house here on Calle Manatial.
Still, all of a sudden, as they turned the dog-leg curve onto Manatial proper, trucks, with their banks of speakers and the beating of the Indian dancers' tom-toms, announced at some distance the approach of a celebration. But before I could get my ear-plugs in, pandemonium broke loose.
In the lead was a large truck brightly decorated with balloons and such, with people on its flatbed, like a float in a parade, which in fact it was. Then came a truck with speakers, then dancers, then an Indian troupe with drums, then another truck with speakers leading yet more costumed dancers. The float-in-a-parade truck stopped up the street a bit under the big tree that partially blocks the road. The first speaker truck followed it past, then turned around and crossed back in front of our house, then stopped as the other truck with speakers went by and took up its position on the other side of our house, not far from where the parade-float truck was parked. Each bank of speakers, pointing backwards off each truck, were aimed at the space directly in front of our house. Blasting their distinct music, not more than 10 yards apart, it was as if they were dueling and we were caught in the cross-fire.
This video lasts 17 seconds. ***
By this time, with my earplugs in, my hat on and my cellphone camera in hand, I went out, not so much to join the party as to marvel at it. Dancers, ate food and ice cream, drank to rehydrated themselves under the midday sun, but mostly they danced... vigorously. Veronica's poor dog was nearly out of her mind with all the noise, including those aerial quarter sticks of dynamite they call cuetes.
I've seen the Los Locos parade various times, but this was more intimate, more approachable. This contingent of the larger parade arrived in our neck of the woods at 3pm, having already been dancing through the street since 10am. I liked the dancing, the spirit of the dancing. These people had umph. But I more intrigued seeing the dancers on break, eating and drinking. I wish now that I had taken photos of the men painted red and in feathers as they drank beer and ate popsicles. But, like the dog, I was a bit overwhelmed. The activity was frenetic. The noise was impressive, even by Mexican standards. I retreated for a while, looking down from our third-floor veranda, but the sun and the hub-bub, even at that remove, were just too much, forcing me inside.
This video lasts 11 seconds. ***
Now, with night fully fallen, the show is over, The after parties, even those in the distance, have finished. The neighborhood dogs are as calm as they get. Drifting in through the window come the chirping of some patio crickets, the drone and wooshes of vehicles on the libramiento and, now and again, the explosion of a distant cuete.
The show is over, but an intangible something of it lingers yet. As glad as I am that the tumult is over, I am even more pleased that I can feel its spirit still resonating, out there in the night, drifting through this open window.
That said, I'm going to fix myself something to eat and give my good dog a bone. Mexicans as we are, she by birth and I by acculturation, Los Locos carrying on outside our front door for hours was a bit much for the both of us. These people know how to party.
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