Friday, February 24, 2012

The carnival

February 18th the internationally famous carnival of Huejotzingo began.  Tourists from Peru, Columbia, and other countries came to see the annual reenactment of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo and another local battle fought between a group of bandits and a magistrate and his army.  The carnival began in 1869 and has been celebrated every year since during the four days before Ash Wednesday.  Throughout the carnival, battalions of "warriors" - called huehues or zacapoaxtlas - fight mock battles, expending tons of gun powder, rocking the air with the constant explosions.  There are also dances, accompanied by lively music from local bands.  In addition, there is a "wedding" held between the daughter of the magistrate and the bandit, Agustin Lorenzo, and there are several parades.

Many of the participants also pass the days drinking heavily, often choosing cheap liquor.  Accidents and even deaths are common.  This year the low estimate of accidents recorded was 50, although other news sources report more than 60.  The excellent news is that no one died.

Although thousands of locals participate, and tourists also flock to see the mock battles and reenactments, Abraham and I decided to steer as clear as we could of the festivities.  The extreme noise, the danger of injury, and the amount of drunks wandering the streets with their loaded rifles helped us decide to stay out of the main part of the festival which was held in the town square (zocalo).  There was no way to avoid all of the commotion, because groups of costumed participants constantly passed the house, and we did go out every now and then. 
On the last day of the carnival, a group of huehues had brunch at a home near ours

Children often begin participating when they are very young

The huehues use masks and wigs along with their highly embroidered costumes

The cheapest costumes cost around 25,000 pesos, while more expensive ones cost around 50,000

In one day, around 10 tons of gun powder were exploded

Horses take part in the parades and battles

There are 5 different types of costumes: zapadores, turcos, zuavos, zacapoaxtlas and indios

The rifles are elaborately carved and hand painted

The schools let out during the carnival, although school bands join in parades

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love never fails

Happy dia de amor y amistad to everyone.  I like Mexico's emphasis on love which includes friendship and family in the celebration, rather than just the romantic love of couples.  I am daily thankful for my Valentine, the best friend and companion that God could have given me.  We will be celebrating with dinner at home today.  

Yesterday we had a wonderful blessing from one of the girls who has been coming on Sunday afternoons almost as long as the mission has been open.  Her home life is one of the most tragic I have personally seen, and sadly Abraham and I recently learned of a new tragedy in her immediate family.  She doesn't know about it yet, and we are praying for her and her family.  
Her heart has been very wounded by the problems she has suffered, and her attitude is often harsh and difficult.  She once told Six that she doesn't believe in God, because if he existed, she wouldn't have suffered as she has.  Up to this point, she continues to feel this way.  We have, however, seen some encouraging advances, and yesterday was one of those.

A couple months ago, we told the children that they could win a Bible if they memorized 1 Corinthians 13.  We offered to help them memorize if they came by the house during the week.  This girl and her cousin were the only ones who did, but they only came a few times, and then both decided they didn't want to keep memorizing.

After a time, Abraham set the deadline of February 14th for those who wanted to memorize the passage and win the Bible and another prize.  On Sunday I asked the girl if she was ready to say the chapter, and she said not really, that she had forgotten all she had previously memorized.  I told her that if she reviewed a few times at home, she would probably discover that she still remembered most of what she had learned.

Yesterday she came.  She reviewed the passage a few times, and then she was able to say the whole chapter from memory.  We discussed what the verses meant, and then she received her prize.  Our prayer is that this scripture will take root and grow in her heart, and that she can let go of her sorrow and bitterness to run to the arms of Love.  We also pray that other children will be encouraged by her example of success and that they too will commit scripture to memory., hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love!