Sunday, July 2, 2017

Original Villages | Coyoacán: Barrio San Mateo Receives the Lord of Compassion

Barrio San Mateo Announces a Visit by The Lord of Compassion

Last spring, in April of 2016, we had the remarkable good fortune to come upon el Señor de la Misericordia, the Lord of Compassion, in his home pueblo, Tres Santos Reyes, Three Holy Kings, as he was being prepared for a series of visits to other original pueblos and barrios in Coyoacán and some neighboring delegaciones, boroughs. His visits are symbolic acts that maintain and renew the ancient ties between these villages that existed before the arrival of the Spanish and the Conquest. The visits are an action manifesting centuries-old communal identity and pride.

We spent the summer following el Señor from Tres Reyes to San Lucas (St. Lukes) and Niño Jesús (Child Jesus), on to Candelaria and beyond, and finally His return to Tres Reyes the first Sunday in September. Not included in his itinerary were the two original barrios closest to where we live in Coyoacán, San Mateo Churubusco (St. Matthew) and San Diego Churubusco.  At the time, we wondered why this was, but assumed there just wasn´t enough time in His schedule and/or these barrios chose not to participate (mounting a fiesta involves a lot of expenses).

So a few weeks ago, we were surprised and happy to see an announcement that this year el Señor was going to visit San Mateo, three blocks from our apartment. He would be coming from San Lucas, just across Division del Norte boulevard, but He would only be staying for an hour or two for a Mass on a Saturday morning, before returning to San Lucas. The next day, Sunday, He would move on, as He had last year, to Niño Jesús.

"The most cordial invitation
is made to you for the reception
of the Lord of Compassion
to be carried out Saturday, June 17,
at 10:00 AM
in the Church of San Mateo Churubusco.
Don't miss it!"

Hence, when that Saturday arrives, after breakfast, we walk the three blocks to the Parish Church of San Mateo and enter the atrio, atrium.


A traditional tapete de aserrín, sawdust carpet, is being prepared:

The hummingbird is the traditional symbol of Churubusco,
whose Mexica/Aztec name was Huitzilopochco ("Wee-tzee-lo-POCH-ko",
from the náhuatl huitzitzilin, "hummingbird"; and yopochtli, "left or southern direction"
—hence, "hummingbird from the south") after their primary god, Huitzilopochtli, god of war.
Hummingbirds were also symbols of blood sacrifice.

The church sits on the site of a former Mexica temple.

San Mateo, St. Matthew, writer of one of the Four Gospels,
waits on his anda, (from andar, walk ahead).
Curiously, it is bedecked, not with flowers, but vegetables:
ears of corn, Romaine lettuce, green onions, carrots,
bell peppers, radishes. Makings of a great salad!
We haven't seen this before at a fiesta.

A mariachi band plays as the priest and acolytes prepare for the procession.

We love the lyrical, ebullient music of mariachis

We are delighted by the mariachi band, which replaces the usual brass banda.

The Procession

The procession prepares to start off 


Cohetero, shooting cohetes, rocket-style firecrackers,
leads the way, announcing to the community the coming of the procession.

Turning from the narrow side street on which the church is located, onto the barrio's main street, we are met with another delightful surprise.

Los Viejitos

A group of costumed, masked people, adults and some children, are waiting in the street to join the procession. They are another type of comparsa, fiesta dance group—one we haven't seen before in Mexico City, but very familiar to us from our time living in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. They are los viejitos, the little old men (and here, women, including men dressed as women).

In Michoacán they are the quintessential traditional dancers, indigenous Purhépechas, burlesquing Spanish colonists. There, they all wear a single style of traje traditional, traditional dress of white cotton shirts and pants embroidered with indigenous designs. They also wear the traditional Purhépecha flat-topped sombrero with ribbons. Their masks portray güeros, pale-faced, blue-eyed Spanish.  

Purhépecha viejito dancer;
wooden sandals, split across the arch,
make a unique, forcefull clacking sound on hard pavement.

Comparsa de los Viejitos de Santa Cruz Xochitepec, Xochimilco

Los Viejitos are lead by a drummer.
His rhythm, and their movements
are much like the Aztec dancers
often seen in Mexico City.

Walking, and dancing, the two or three short blocks to Division del Norte, the procession stops and waits. We are awaiting the arrival of el Señor de la Misericordia from Barrio San Lucas, just across the wide, busy boulevard.

The couple in the center top identify themselves as the parents of one of the Viejito dancers
from the Pueblo of Santa Cruz Xochitepec in Xochimilco.

El Señor Arrives

Soon cohetes can be heard from the other side of the avenue. Shortly after, the procession from San Lucas comes into sight, with the flower-bedecked anda bearing el Señor prominent. In a few moments, traffic is stopped and the parishioners of San Lucas cross, bearing their venerated representation of Jesus during His Passion of Holy Week.

The Lord of Compassion,
accompanied by His host of the week, San Lucas.

San Mateo and His parishioners welcome el Señor and San Lucas. There are many cohetes to mark the meeting. The merged processions return to the Church of San Mateo.

San Mateo greets the Lord of Compassion

As the guest of honor, el Señor leads the way.

Los Viejitos enter the sanctuary first, with a Carnaval-like energy.
El Señor follows in a much more somber mood.

El Señor (far left) and San Mateo (far right) in their places of honor.

Parishioners follow and Mass begins. 

The party continues ...

The mariachis play.

A banda follows them,
playing U.S. dance tunes from the 

People relax in the shade of the atrio's large trees.

The quieter time gives us a chance to take some retratos, portraits,
including some faces behind the viejito masks.

Despedidas, Farewells, and Bienvenidas, Welcomes

When Mass is over, el Señor departs for San Lucas.

While watching the departure of el Señor and the ending of the fiesta—savoring all that we have been privileged to experience in one short morning, just three blocks from our home—a man about the same "senior" age as we approaches and asks if we are "press". We say that no, we are a neighbor from Colonia San Andrés who is encantado, enchanted by the original barrios and pueblos of the city. We add that we have a blog where we post our photos and stories of fiestas such as this one that we attend. We tell him that last summer we followed el Señor de la Misericordia in His visits around Coyoacán and wondered why He didn't come to San Mateo.

He says this is the first time el Señor has visited this parish in some forty years. The parish feels very honored and happy that he has come, if just for a couple of hours. He introduces himself. He is Sr. Sergio Garcia. He has lived in San Mateo all of his seventy-four years, a true oriundo, native. He is on the committee responsible for the fiestas. As he is a printer, he is in charge of all the advertising. We exchange cards and emails, and I tell him I will send a link to all the photos when I have edited them. We agree to stay in touch, including telling him that we would like to have professional quality business cards made for Mexico City Ambles, which he happily says he can do. 

So the day has led, not just to another delightful experience of the ánimo, spirit, of the people of a traditional city barrio and the proud display of their communal identityright in our own backyardbut also to meeting another muy amable, very considerate, native of a barrio who opens the door to our further getting to know him and his community. Saying mucho gusto en conocerlo, very pleased to make your acquaintance, and hasta luego, until the next time, to Sr. Garcia, we head back the three short blocks but long historical and cultural distance from San Mateo to "modern" Parque San Andrés.

Delegaciones of Mexico City
Coyoacán is the purple delegación in the center.

San Mateo Churubusco is small, green area just to right (east) of star.
Parque San Andrés is Mexico City Ambles' home base.

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