Friday, May 24, 2019

Original Villages: Carnaval in Santa María Aztahuacan

As we wrote in our recently published post, Discovering the Pueblos of Eastern Iztapalapa, we have been intrigued for the past year by a group of originally indigenous pueblos we virtually stumbled across in the eastern portion of that large delegación/alacldía (mayoralty, borough). There are five in the group:
Santa María Aztahuacan;
San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla;
Santa Martha Acatitla; 
Santa Cruz Meyehualco and
Santiago Acahualtepec.
In researching their history, we learned that Santa María Aztahuacan has been a village almost continuously for some 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest in the Valley of Mexico. San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla and Santa Martha Acatitla go back about 2,000 years. We made it first to Santa Martha Acatitla's Carnaval a year ago. It was so grand, colorful and full of ánimo (spirit) that it motivated us all the more to want to visit its sister pueblos. We got to San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla for its patron saint fiesta this past January and also saw a parade of charros, Spanish-style, fancy dressed cowboys. 

Then, this April, we hit the jackpot. We learned that three of the pueblos, Santa María Aztahuacan; San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla and Santa Martha Acatitla were joining together to hold un gran cierre, a grand closing or finale to the Carnaval season in April. We just had to attend. It was to start in Santa María Aztahuacan and march on to San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla and Santa Martha Acatitla. There was no way we could follow it that whole way, but we could witness its start. So on the appointed Sunday morning, we called a taxi and headed off along the Calzada Ermita-Iztapalapa boulevard to the far side of the delegación. Now somewhat familiar with these pueblos, we quite easily found the parade participants gathering on Avenida México in Santa María Aztahuacan. 

Carnaval, in general, is famous for being a grand parade, lavish, full of people in diverse costumes, an almost over-the-top extravaganza. This one fulfilled all such expectations. When we arrive, we find huge carros alegóricos, motorized floats, decorated with all kinds of themes ready to carry elegantly dressed princesses representing the various pueblos and their comparsas (parade marching troupes). 

Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent,
a major indigenous god.

The comparsas consist of two types. Several are composed of Spanish charro cowboys in their elegantly embroidered suits. 

The others are comparsas de disfraces, people in disguises of all kinds (think Halloween).  

A carro de disfraz, Alice in Wonderland,
with the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit and Alice!

And, of course, for each comparsa there is a brass banda to set the tempo and rhythm. 

Una banda

While all the comparsas parade in an orderly manner, each in its place in the line (while there is some beer drinking among spectators, there is no drunken revelry), the sheer number and variety are almost overwhelming to our senses. But then, that's what Carnaval is supposed to be — taking us to the limits of stimulation. We hope the photos that follow convey that. 

The "Pheasant" charros of Santa Martha Acatitla


The designs, embroidered in gold thread on the backs of the charro suits,
are a virtual art gallery, here mostly of mythical themes.
From top left, clockwise: a pheasant, Hercules slaying the Nemean lion (the first of his twelve labors), a royal crest with griffins, a cobra, a fairy creature, a nymph, a geisha, two centaurs battle.


A float....
...and its princess, Vanessa.

Another float...

...and its princess.

Disfraces, disguises
Los Morenos, the dark-skinned ones.

We particularly like this one
for its ingenuity of theme and execution,
and its timeliness:
The Donald carries a Mexican on his back.
A classic of Mexican political cartooning.

Dragon float
Yaneli ("the 1st) is the name of the princess.

Princess Yaneli
with a Chinese theme.

The Sparrow Hawks,
another comparsa of charros

Life and Death together
is a common theme in the Mexican imaginario, world view.
Charro masks are often of skulls (top, second from left), or half skull-half flesh.
Death brings even los de arriba (those above) down;
making them equal to los de abajo (those below).

Another Mexican joining of opposites is portrayed in bottom row, second photo from right:
The left half of the face is a blue-eyed Spanish conquistador;
the right half is that of an Azteca warrior.
Here a hooked chain has been run through the nose and mouth,
sealing the lips of both. 

Float with its princess

Charros, The Eagles

Azteca Sun Stone,
Portraying the Five Suns or Worlds created by the gods.
Four attempts 
(symbols in rectangles around the center)
to create a world that worshiped them failed.

The Fifth Sun, whose Sun God, Tonatiuh is at the center,
was the world of the Mexica/Azteca.

Matador and Bull Float
(We think this is the most amazingly executed float, with thousands of mirrors and

the dynamically sculptured charging bull.)

Karime is the name of the princess.


Disguises of the Barrio

A rather more gruesome group

An American Bald Eagle?
The Mexican Eagle is the Golden Eagle.

Princess Daniela
What "SGM" stands for we don't know.
Our guess is,
"Señorita de la Gran Marcha"

More charros

Even the underside of this sombrero is elaborately embroidered.

More dragons, a popular theme.
(The man with the pole is there to raise overhead electrical wires that could catch on the float.)


The float is a stunner!
So is Princess Thayli!
Although it is a bit anomalous: a Conestoga wagon pulled by a buffalo,
with a Native North American (not an Azteca) at the rear.

And, of course, some onlookers.
The bib on the baby (far right, below) says,
"I am a reduced and authentic copy of papa."

So that´s Carnaval in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. Hope you enjoyed it. 

Iztapalapa is the large, medium green delegación on the mid-east side of the city.

Pueblos and Colonias of Delegación/Alcaldía Iztapalapa

Pueblo Santa Maria Aztahuacan is orange area to upper right of green/yellow star.
Pueblo Santa Martha Acatitla is large, dark blue area to the northeast.
Pueblo San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla is bright green area west of Santa Martha.

Black line is the Calzada Ermita-Iztapalapa

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