Full moon in Tepoztlan

I’m sorry, I just can’t laughing at the absurdity, despite the lack of sleep. It’s full moon in Tepoztlan – a small ‘pueblo magic’ town about 60 miles or so to to the west of Mexico city – and boy, do I know that it’s full-moon here…

Yep, I have to say it – this town is crazy. But the right kind of crazy, perhaps – a happy kind of crazy, for the most part. My work for this trip is all but done here – a great workshop on the Labyrinth model of the skills-learning process yesterday evening, an identity/business-model workshop for an NGO today – but I’ll certainly be sad to leave here tomorrow.

The town square is usually invisible, hidden beneath the stalls of the market, with only the fountain discoverable seemingly by accident in the midst of the maze. For the past few days, though, it’s been cleared – I’ll admit I had no idea it was such a large open space – for a whole bunch of assorted ‘happenings’ vaguely centred around the town’s own centenary of its involvement in the last ‘viva la revolucion!’ a century ago. And that seems to have triggered even more not-so-quietly-joyous craziness than usual.

Sitting in the open square for a late breakfast we were interrupted by a small local equivalent of a mariachi band – one portable drum-kit, one trumpet, one rattle-player. Loud. My colleague’s toddler-age son wanted to join in – he’s all but obsessed by drums, he can hold a one-two-two-one-two-two beat consistently for at least a couple minutes before his attention wanders off to something else, which for a sixteen-month-old is pretty close to amazing – he jigged on the spot, and (this being Latin America) he was promptly invited to play the drums too. Enraptured. Then in the midst of that came a mad procession, looking like something only a bunch of hippies could cook up, with wafting incense-burners, various Inca-type figures, various mythical figures (including Pancho Villa, of course), most of them high up on stilts, some of them doing a synchronised kick-dance across the square to blaring music from the town band. But it wasn’t just a bunch of hippies – it was something that came from the town itself, in response to, well, just something, I guess.

Likewise when I walked back into town later to do some last-minute shopping before the evening’s work, I heard more loud blaring from the town square. Anyone interested in processes of ’emergence’ should see – and hear – something like this. Without warning, the square was suddenly filled not just with a seemingly random mixture of brass-bands playing at least two different tunes to slightly different rhythms in a raucous yet infectious energy, but also with ‘chinelos’ – a particular tradition of dance and costume parodying the arrogance of the Spanish overlords. Heavy black wrap-round ‘dress’, a high crown-like headpiece with dangling jewelry, a mask with a European-white face, staring eyes and upcurved pointed beard, and tabard with beautiful tapestry/beadwork panels front and back. Dozens of dancers, appearing from either side of the square and from anywhere within the rabbit-warren of the market off to the side, mostly men (though difficult to tell with the masks, of course), some children too in their own costumes, all shuffling to the beat in a strange mincing walk/dance, moving slowly around the square, other ordinary-dressed families joining in, all preceded by a guy wildly waving a local flag. Two or three times round the square, then it stopped as suddenly as it had begun, the dancers just wandering off into the crowd. Most of the costumes looked newly-made, but apparently some had been handed down through the families for at least a couple of centuries. Bizarre – yet also an interesting form of quiet rebellion, in the times from which the tradition arose – and a proudly held tradition at that.

The one big downside of Tepoztlan’s craziness is its inordinate love of loud noise. Particularly thunderflashes – wheeee-flash-booom! Which is why I didn’t get much sleep last night. Someone perhaps only a house or two away was still letting them off at 1:30am. I woke up again at 3am, to be greeted a few minutes later by another enormous explosion close by. And since the bright moonlight was bathing the town and the hills all round, the cockerels started crowing with the all-night dawn. And some other raucous bird that from the sound I guess was some variant on a peacock. And just after 6am – still before dawn – the whoosh of firework rockets followed by, yes, more enormous bangs. Then the drumming started from up the road… well, you get the idea. 🙂

Right now it’s perhaps a few minutes before dawn proper, when the sun comes peeking over the sill of the mountain-ridge directly in front of me in this office where I’ve been staying. The peak of Popocatepetl is just visible over another part of the ridge, the plume of the volcano just visible from this distance as a small white cloud drifting with the wind towards Mexico City.

An amazing place. I’ll be back here if I can.

But right now it’s getting close to the time when I need to pack up and be gone.

Sun up. Time to get to work. Another day in Tepoztlan.

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