Sunday, February 4, 2018

Original Villages | Culhuacán's Barrio San Antonio Atípac, Part II: A Gathering of the Saints of Culhuacán

Yesterday, we visited Barrio San Antonio Atípac, in Pueblo Culhaucán, Delegación Iztapalapa, to experience its patron saint fiesta. In every barrio we have visited on our Ambles, the people, el pueblo, have been muy amable, very kind, and open to our presence and picture-taking, but we were especially touched in San Antonio when la banda played not one, but three John Philip Sousa marches just for us! We were also touched by an offer to introduce us to the cronista, historian of Culhuacán. So today we return, looking forward to experiencing more of the hospitalidad, hospitality, of this humble barrio.

While, yesterday, it was a challenge to find the street the church is on, today we are familiar with the way. So, rather than have our taxi driver wind his way from the Calzada de Taxquena to Eje 3 Oriente (Axis Road 3 East), we get out where the two roadways cross but don´t connect and take a pedestrian footbridge across Eje 3, descending one of its several exits to the corner that puts us nearest the entrance to San Antonio.

Receiving the Saints of Neighboring Barrios 

The printed program for the fiesta says there will be a reception of Saints from the other barrios of Culhuacán (there are seven others) and their respective parishioners at this corner at noon. The attendance of saints from other barrios at a patron saint fiesta is a primary, symbolic way of  expressing their shared identity as original communities of Mexico City. The community of saints and their parishioners will then proceed to the church for a Mass. It's about a quarter to twelve, but we see no signs of any Saints or their bearers. So we walk a short distance up Eje 3 to Avenida San Antonio and on to the church.

La banda, "La Poblanita" ("Little One of Puebla")

Our beloved banda, "La Poblanita" ("Little One of Puebla"), is playing in front of the church. When they finish a tune, we greet one another and we tell them, again, how touched we were yesterday by their playing John Philip Sousa marches for us. They smile warmly.

Just about then, as happened yesterday, some parishioners emerge from the church, carrying San Antonio and the demandita of el Señor del Calvario, the miniature Lord of Calvary in His glass coffin. 

San Antonio and la demandita del Señor del Calvario
head for Eje 3 and Calzada de Taxquena.

Three men, the leader with small red flag, step into Eje 3
to direct traffic to move aside for the procession.
It is standard practice for processions to take over even the busiest of roadways.

The small procession heads down Eje 3.

Under the Calzada de Taxqueña viaduct, which passes over Eje 3,
a gathering of Saints and some of the faithful of Their barrios

await the arrival of San Antonio

In the middle, we recognize San Andrés from the neighboring Pueblo Tomatlán,
as we were at His fiesta in November.

(The stairway in the rear is the one we descended not many minutes ago.)

All the Saints head back up Eje 3.
No matter the size of a procession, the flowers are always profuse and beautiful.

Some of the Saints of Culhuacán
 From upper left, clockwise:

  • Virgin of Candelaria, will be celebrated soon, on February 2. She is from Barrio Santa María Magdalena, Culhuacán;
  • Virgen de la Bala, Virgin of the Bullet (demandita in glass container). She is a santo popular, saint of the people who travels from home to home in Culhuacán and neighboring Pueblo Iztapalapa. (We have yet to learn why she is "of the Bullet". Meanwhile, we love the real parasol protecting Her.);
  • San José (St. Joseph), holding the Child Jesus, from Barrio San José Tula; the Tolteca from the city of Tula (north of the Valley of Mexico, now in the State of Hidalgo) were the first Nahuatl-speaking tribe to enter the Valley of Mexico; they took over Culhuacán in about 600 CE and then dominated the east side of Lake Texcoco.
  • Apóstle San Simón, from the Barrio of that name.

Banda La Poblanita follows at the rear. 
(Love the bass drummer, whom we didn't see yesterday.)

The saints enter the sanctuary of San Antonio.
The bald monk is San Francisco, St. Francis, from the barrio of that name.

All the saints:

Center is San Antonio, St. Anthony,
(Noting the black pig with him, we learn later that
He is associated with pigs because he evidently worked as a swineherd to make a living.)

Second left is a Lord of the Miracles, from which barrio we don't know.

Far right is San Juan Bautista, St. John the Baptist, from the barrio of that name.

El Señor del Calvario
, the Lord of Calvary, as the Saint of Culhuacán,
the major guest Saint of honor, rests in the rear corner.

To His right is the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Mother of Mexico.

Santa Anita,
St. Ann, the Mother of the Virgin Mary,
arrives a bit late to join the gathering.
She is from the barrio bearing Her name.

Standards of some of the Saints and their barrios.

The Mass

Music for the Mass is provided by a trio playing
what appears to be a type of dulcimer, plucked with the fingers,
an accordian and a simple, wooden drum.
It is another new combination of instruments in our experience.
The two women sing parts of the Mass.
It is very gentle, folk-style, melodic music.

The priest celebrates the Eucharist,
the Transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Some of the faithful of San Antonio Abad
and the other barrios of Culhuacán.

Passing of the Mayordomo

At the end of the Mass,
the mayordomos (head caretakers) of this year's fiesta, a couple (right),
pass a candle to the new mayordomos, also a couple (left), putting them in charge
of next year's fiesta.


With Mass over, and many attendees leaving, we assume this part of the fiesta is over and we will head home. Going out the door, however, we encounter another musical group entering, mariachis.

Mariachi musician entering the church, singing.

What appear to be two mariachi groups, one in dressed in gray, the other in black,
play and sing as one.
They do not face the "audience" of parishioners;
they serenade the Saints!

Although the lyrical music is a gift to the Saints,
it is also another wonderful gift of the fiesta to its attendees and to us.

From Mexico, with Love
The young trumpeter, lower right,
played what we could only describe as a jazz riff worthy of the best.

La Gente, the People

We end, as always, enjoying and sharing los rostros, the faces of some of the people.

The couple, bottom right, are the new mayordomos.

And the Band Plays On

When the twenty-minute or so serenade of the mariachis ends, everyone finally leaves the sanctuary and as a group heads east on Avenida San Antonio. There is now a communal comida, meal. As frequently happens, one of the parishioners invites us to join them. As usual, we have to say "Thank you, but we are quite tired and it is time to head home." 

La banda plays on!

Not everyone joins the crowd headed to eat, at least not immediately. La Banda la Poblanita remains sitting in front of the church and once again, they begin to play. We wave goodbye. They nod and smile. And they go on playing, even though everyone else has left. Apparently, that is part of their contract for the fiesta. We trust they will soon get to join everyone else at comida, which is usually part of the exchange for their contribution.

The young mayordomo de la banda, whom we met yesterday, should be very pleased with his choices. All the music, from la banda, to the musicians at Mass, to the two mariachi bands have been absolutely wonderful!

We leave San Antonio de Abad Atípac feeling emotionally full and blessed. It has been another witnessing of how communal ties between the barrios of Culhuacán are maintained via their saints sharing in one another's fiestas.  And it has been another marvelous Amble to one of Mexico City's original barrios.

See: Culhuacán's Barrio San Antonio Atípac, Part I: A Humble Barrio With a Big Heart

Delegaciones of Mexico City
Iztapalapa is the large, medium green area on the east side.

Delegación Iztapalapa
with its pueblos and colonias.
Pueblo Culhuacán 
is marked by the green/yellow star.
Delegación Coyoacán, which 
contains four of the barrios of Culhuacán,
is immediately to the west.

The five barrios of  Pueblo Culhuacán of Iztapalapa are outlined in black.

Barrio San Antonio Abad Atípac (pink) is marked by the green/yellow star.
Its western border is the National Canal.
Its southern border is Calzada Taxqueña.
The line up its middle is Eje 3.

The dark green area to the far right is Cerro de la Estrella,
site of the Mexica/Azteca Temple for the Binding of the Years.

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