Saturday, November 11, 2017

Original Villages | Benito Juárez: San Simón Ticumac Celebrates Its Continuity Surrounded by Modernity

In September, we discovered and visited Santa Maria de la Natividad Tepetlalzingo, the church of an original pueblo in the predominately middle-class Delegación de Benito Juárez, just south of Centro, where remains of original indigenous villages are few and far between. Santa Maria stood in plain sight on a main avenue, Eje Central, the Cental Axis of Mexico City.

Well, in October, we discovered another one, San Simón Ticumac. It lies a bit more hidden, between the Calzada de Tlaplan, the wide highway that leads from the south of the City into Centro, and the Eje Central. Our reliable Facebook "friend", Fiestas Mágicas del los Pueblos y Barrios Originarios del Valle de Mexico,  Magical Fiestas of the Original Villages and Neighborhoods of the Valley of Mexico, was once again the source that alerted us.

Announcement of the Fiesta de San Simón Ticumán
(the spelling of the original pueblo name varies between ending in 'c' or 'n'.)


San Simón, St. Simon, known as The Zealotwas one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus.
Believed to have been martyred along with San Judas TadeoJudas Thaddaeus,
they share the feast day of October 28.
(See our post on the veneration of San Judas at the Church of San Hipólito.)

So, as is our custom in Ambles to these pueblos, on a late October Sunday morning, we take a taxi to the neighborhood, which is not far north from our base in Parque San Andrés in Coyoacán. We want to get there before 10AM, when the procession of the saint through the streets is scheduled to begin. Heading once again up Eje Central, we soon find the side street leading into Pueblo San Simón Ticumac. After a couple more turns, we see the signs of a fiesta in front of us on Calzada San Simón: papel picado, cut paper designs, hanging above the street and fair rides and food puestos filling the street.

Two Churches of San Simón


Getting out of the cab, we walk up the block to the entrance to the church atrio (atrium). An obviously very old building sits at one side. It is the chapel built by the Franciscans in the mid-16th century to bring Christianity to this indigenous village. But it is closed! We are initially disappointed that we can't see the interior.

Original Church of San Simón, ("The Zealot")
one of the Twelve Apostles.

But on the opposite side of the rather large atrio is another church building.

The new Church of San Simón,
features the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Inside, Mass is in progress,
with a sizeable congregation in attendance.
The abundance of flowers attest that it is a day of fiesta.

A young and handsome priest administers the Sacrament

Reenacting the Unresolved Spiritual Conquest


Outside, we find two comparsas, fiesta dance troupes, preparing for their participation in the fiesta: conchero (lute playing) Aztec dancers, and Santiagueros, Warriors of St. James. We have seen various groups of Aztec dancers at many fiestas.

Most recently we saw los Santiagueros in August, at the fiesta at Santa María Tepepan in Xochimilco, and we recounted at length their "Battle of the Moors and Christians". The two comparsas are contemporary representations of the two sides of the military and Spiritual Conquest of indigenous Mexico by Catholic Spain, and the still not totally resolved combination of the two cultures which is contemporary Mexico. 

Conchero (lute) players and dancers,
one style of "Aztec" dancers.
(Note the modern dress being replaced by indigenous traje, dress.)

"Moors",
i.e., Muslims in Spain from 711 to 1492 C.E.,
the antagonists in the Battle of the Moors and Christians.

We had a chance to solve a mystery we encountered in their performance
at Santa María Tepepan:
Why is a Spanish captain with them?
As he was preparing to begin the drama, we had a chance to ask him.
"Because there were Spanish who fought on the side of the Moors."

We recalled the story of El Cid, the Arabic name for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar
(c. 1043 – 1099 CE),
who fought on both Christian and Moorish sides in numerous battles
that had as much to do with political power as religious faith
 at stake in the multicultural Iberian peninsula.
Of course, El Cid would not have been dressed as an 18th century Spanish captain.

Santiagueros, Warriors of St. James, the Moorslayer

The Battle of the Moors and Christians begins. 
Behind them is their fife and drum accompaniment.

(For the full drama, see Santa María Tepepan, Xochimilco)

La Procesión


At this point, Mass is over and the procession takes shape.

San Simón is brought forth from the church.
His mode of transport is a new one for us to see in a procession:
 on a tricycle usually used to peddle products door to door.
A lot less work than carrying him on an anda, platform, on the backs of parishioners.
This is Mexican ingenuity!

The standards are those of 
San Simón (in red and green)
and other pueblos joining in the procession.  

The essential banda arrives.

A comparsa de chinelos, "disguised", Moorish-style dancers, also arrives. 

The Queen of the fiesta is joined by
representatives of various parishes.
We have not previously seen una dama señora, a senior lady, as a fiesta queen.
Being of the same generation, we love the demonstration of pueblo respect.

Queen for a Day.
We think she could give HRH Elizabeth II
a run for her money.

The priest blesses one and all.

The procession moves out into the streets of Colonia San Simón Ticumac
for the patron saint to bless his parish and his pueblo, his people.

The queen maintains her properly serious royal demeanor.

Los Santiagueros continue their battle with the Moors.

Los chinelos jump and spin.

And the banda keeps everyone moving along.

Meanwhile Back at the Church...


We follow the procession as it winds through the streets of the colonia, but as it is scheduled to last two hours and we get tired, when it recrosses the Calzada de San Simón, we take the opportunity to take the short cut back to the church.

Concheros in Full Form


There we find the conchero dancers in full performance for those parishioners and others who chose not to follow the procession.



A New Life Opens an Old Door


Then we notice that the doors to the original chapel are open! The opportunity that we had hoped for—to see its interior—is "miraculously" made available.

A baptism is about to take place.
Another priest greets the parents at the chapel door.

The simple Franciscan interior
is prepared for the sacrament of baptism.

In a side alcove sits the base of the original baptismal font, which 
portrays the first baptismof Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.

Today's baptism of an infant and the old carving of the baptism of Jesus
represent the 2,000 year-long continuity of the Christian faith.
The coming together of both baptisms in this 16th century Franciscan chapel
represents the continuity of el pueblo de San Simón Ticumac for at least 500 years.
In this sacred space, we feel this living history. 

La Procesión Regresa


At this point, we hear the banda approaching, signaling the return of  the procession to the atrio.

San Simón returns home.

The rather tired Warriors of St. James.

La Banda

The culmination of the procession

The congregation enters the sanctuary for Mass honoring their San Simón.

San Simón,
back in His place of honor.

Some of el pueblo, the people, of San Simón Ticumac

Delegaciones of Mexico City
Delegación Benito Juárez is bright yellow in the center.

Colonias of Delegación Benito Juárez
Colonia San Simón Ticumac is marked by green/yellow star.

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