Last evening, we attended fund-raiser for Caminantes Brillantes, an organization that sponsors the university education of bright young people whose families could not afford higher education. The event was a wonderful and rare mix of Mexicans and North Americans at the home of a couple from Ohio. The students put on a Pastorela — a short seasonal comedy/drama that is an integral part of Christmas celebrations here.
Here’s a quick look at what I found when I googled pastorelas:
“Pastorelas are plays that recreate the biblical passage where the shepherds follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the Christ Child. In order to reach the birth place of the Redeemer, they have to experience a series of changes in fortune and confront the Devil, who will do everything possible to prevent them from completing their mission. It is at that moment that the Archangel Michael intervenes to defend the shepherds on their journey…
“Well, that’s the general idea of the pastorelas…
“Today, pastorelas are very different. Very rarely do the personages of Jesus, Mary or The three Kings appear in them. The shepherds may be a band of street urchins or rural workers from the North, and there is a huge variety of settings; besides the jocular language, the content may be highly sexual or even vulgar.
Nonetheless, the basic theme continues to be the struggle between Good and Evil, with the outcome always favouring Good. And although the message is not solely Catholic, it is evangelical in that it brings good news and is a time for renewal. Implicitly, it carries a collective desire to start over and to imbue all of society with good intentions.
The pastorelas of today are laced with political irony, mockery, or at least funny allusions to public figures, and a strong dose of the typically Mexican double-entendre that we call the ‘albur’. Without this non-exportable ingredient, the pastorela would be somewhat like a taco minus the salsa.”
For more, see http://www.inside-mexico.com/pastorelas.htm
Well, without the plot summary provided in English, I’d have missed the plot entirely, and even with it I missed the double-entendres and hilarity that was apparent from the gales of laughter from the Mexicans and others who are more fluent than I am. But it was good fun.
The story began in heaven with an evil young angel, moved on to hell featuring a virtuous young devil, both of whom were banished to earth where the story played out, involving–yes–shepherds and the holy family.
This evening is the beginning of the posadas that I wrote about last time, where people play out the “no room at the inn” scenario. I’ve been reading a bit about the origins of this custom, and find it interesting that both this and the pastorelas began as religious celebrations but became so rowdy and irreverent that, for a time at least, the Church expelled them into the street.
Walking through the city to and from the event last evening, more evidence of the Christmas season. Pinatas are the decoration of choice. According to tradition, the Christmas pinatas have seven points, representing the seven sins. Once the “sins” are destroyed with a stick, candies and goodies crash to the ground. A kind of confession and absolution exercise. Apparently there’s some discretion about the deadliness of sins, though. I’ve been counting points on pinatas in restaurants, shops, and on the street. Very few actually have seven. Some as few as four.
On the left, an upstairs window decorated for the season.
On the way home, we almost took a different route to avoid a crowd on our usual way home–glad we didn’t. In one of the main plazas of the city, a group had gathered to attack a pinata. We saw several children take their turns, and then rush to the candies—which spilled out even though several of the sins remained intact!