Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Equality in Mexico?

People are often confused by Mexicans' seemingly playful attitude towards death, but la Catrina, a sexy skeleton often cast in provocative poses, was originally intended as a political statement.  The curator of San Francisco's Mexican Museum, David de la Torre, says, "Catrina has come to symbolize not only El Día de los Muertos [Day of the Dead] and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself, but originally catrina was an elegant or well-dressed woman, so it refers to rich people. Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded."

In a land where the wealthy are very rich indeed, the poor struggle to earn a few dollars a day, and the middle class is almost non-existent, it is crucial for everyone to remember that there are certain aspects of daily life that are the same for everyone. Death may be the major equalizer in Mexico, but it's not the only one.

When it's time for garbage pick-up in the centro, the historical center of San Miguel de Allende, a young man runs ahead of the truck with a metal musical triangle that he rings with a mallet.  Whether you live in a five-bedroom mansion or a humble one-room shack,you must scramble to get your garbage to the curb.

Rich or poor, if you need a five-gallon drum of purified water, a sign is posted on your door. With luck, the agua truck driver will see it on his rounds and drop off what you need.

If knife sharpening is required, just listen for the pan pipe music that the knife sharpening man makes to advertise his services as he travels down the street. Here's a video that explains his work in both the rich and poor neighborhoods alike.

These men are about to join the parade for Saint Michael.
The church, of course, if where all people, from all social classes, are united in one goal. On this day of San Miguel de Allende's celebration of its namesake, Saint Michael, everyone comes to watch the parade that will escort the "Saint" to all the churches in town before returning to his home church.
Saint Michael tours the town churches before returning home.
So the next time you see a skeleton figure, please remember that it is not a reflection of a Mexican's macabre fascination with death, but, rather, a subtle reminder that although the socioeconomic differences in Mexico are great, the end result for all is the same.  Everyone, rich or poor, experiences the same fate in the end!

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