One of the things that Kai & I love about Mexico is that people here are always celebrating something. It seems like a week doesn’t go by without an event on the plaza or a parade marching through town. The San Andrés Fiesta, celebrated each year in November by the pueblo of Ajijic, is a great example.
Each year at the end of November the town of Ajijic celebrates their patron saint Andrés, who is the Christian saint of fishermen, boats and lakes. For almost two weeks the town joins together in prayer and very loud celebration.
To begin the festivities, a parade of floats, each created by different neighborhoods or local organizations, is followed by a band of drums and horns as it makes it way through the narrow cobblestone streets. Especially loud cohetes (sky rockets) follow the parade and are set off every couple of minutes. This scene plays out again each and every morning – usually around 6 a.m. – for ten consecutive days. Cohetes aren’t just set off in the early morning hours though. They echo off the mountains around Ajijic all day long and through the evenings as well.
Each day’s events are sponsored by a local guild and at dusk the guild leads the pueblo in a candlelit parade from one end of town to the church for evening mass. After mass, families gather at the town’s plaza, where vendors sell alcohol, food, candy, and party paraphernalia (like hollow eggs containing confetti which you break open on the top of the heads of friends and family). A travelling fair takes over the main street leading to the plaza, offering children the opportunity to ride a ferris wheel in addition to a variety of other rides. Bands play on the plaza and people dance and socialize. Families spend the entire evening there until they gather for the grand finale in the church’s atrium at around 11 o’clock.
Each evening the sponsoring guild displays and lights a Castillo they created earlier that day in the courtyard of the San Andres church. Castillos are extremely elaborate constructions in which hundreds of fireworks are painstakingly arranged on various moving parts which are then attached to a larger frame – a scaffolding of a tower made up of steel or wooden rods tied together by twine. The finished Castillo, like the steeples of the church next to it, reaches toward the heavens and the crowd gathers tightly around its base in anticipation of the show.
Building of a Castillo in Ajijic, Jalsico, MX
Finished Castillo waiting to be lit : San Andrés Fiesta, Ajijic, Jalsico, MX
Each section’s main fuse is lit, and one by one, they twirl around and around, driven by the force of the rockets attached to them. Sparks fly out and fall over the crowd squealing with delight. As the rockets begin to slow, a brightly lit image is revealed within the center of each section. Once the final and most tippity-top section has been lit, a cornucopia of fireworks are set off in to the night sky above the church in order to officially end the day’s festivities.
Kids climb the walls of the Church’s Atrium to get a better view of the show. San Andrés Fiesta, Ajijic, Jalsico, MX
Our video below gives you a peek of Ajijic’s San Andrés Fiesta. Pay special attention to the lighting of the last moving part on the top of the Castillo – you don’t want to miss seeing the town’s hero of the evening!
Next Up: Wrapping up December (and Another Year) in Mexico
After an extended break from blogging, I’m sure some of you are wondering where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing, maybe even if we’re alright.
The last time we checked in with you we were renting a place in Ajijic, Jalisco, in order to take a break from cycling. We thought we would only be staying for a few months at the most but life planned something altogether different for us. For one, we ended up staying through the end of the year for a much needed reunion with Kai’s parents.
Spending the holidays in Ajijic with Kai’s parents, Hans & Suzy
Kai & Papa Hans catching up while walking along Lake Chapala
Then we decided to rent a place for a few more months – partly because we wanted to try to finish our book and partly because we needed to work on some personal issues before we could continue onward with cycle touring (more on that in a future post).
Before we knew it, a year flew by.
And then we were offered a handful of opportunities that we couldn’t pass up. Like this one:
“Kai & Sheila, would you be available to pet-sit for a couple of months while we’re away?” Um. YES!
So, another year passed. Just like *finger-snap* that.
And a lot more happened too, but….
It’s a long story.
The short of it is, we’re still together and thriving. We’re still working on that book about our beloved tiny house. We’re planning to continue our cycle tour sometime in 2015. And we’re loving the lifestyle that has resulted from our simplifying and being open to the possibilities the universe reveals to us on a daily basis.
So Much to Share
As you might suspect, we have a lot to share with you in upcoming posts. Here’s just a bit of what we’ll cover:
- Sheila’s new bicycle frame and fork from Rodriquez Bicycles
- An ingenious addition to Kai’s bicycle transmission (of specific interest to cycle tourists)
- Why we carry a pressure-cooker with us as we cycle-tour (Yes, it is heavy but…)
- Our travel budget and how we sustain our lifestyle
- A break-down of our expenses for the last three years
- How to live rent-free while travelling
- More details on how we built our Tiny House on Wheels (and how you can too)
- Our S240 to an Eco-Fiesta (Ecology Party) in Mexico
- Videos showcasing Mexican activists – from anti-GMO marches to women’s rights advocates
- And a lot more……..
Where we left off
But for now, let’s begin with where we left off. November in Chapala. The video below gives you a glimpse of what that looks like. If you prefer photos instead, check out our Flickr site.
So, are you still out there or did we lose you during our blogging break? Wherever you are in the world, we’d love to hear from you.
Day of the Dead, Chapala, Jalisco, MX
El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd is a ritual rooted in indigenous beliefs of an afterlife and in a belief that death is simply a continuance of life on another plane of existence – nothing to be feared but, rather, something to be celebrated.
Each year families and communities gather to remember their loved ones who have passed by creating elaborate altars inside their homes to honor their relatives. These altars are set up on tables covered with colorful tablecloths and papel picado (“perforated paper” – a decorative craft made out of paper cut into elaborate designs) and are often decorated with sugar skulls, candles, margigolds and paper mache skeletons. Plates of favorite foods and drinks of the relative are placed around the alter, along with clothes and/or items that represent the deceased’s occupation or hobbies or, if a child, their toys.
“La Catrina”, also known as death. Catrinas, in different costumes, line the streets of Chapala for Day of the Dead.
Family Altar, Day of the Dead
On November 1st, the ritual to honor the Angelitos (little angels – children that have died) begins early in the morning and you can hear church bells ringing in pueblas as early as 6 a.m., calling the souls of the departed and their living relatives to begin the ceremonies. Families gather at the cemeteries throughout the morning to clean the grave sites of their loved ones. They decorate the tombs similarly to the the altars in their homes, covering them with flowers, bread, fruits, and gifts they’ve made. Candles and incense are lit, to help guide their relatives souls back to visit with them.
Lighting Candles around altars, Day of the Dead
The next morning, on November 2nd, the ritual to honor deceased adults begins. Throughout the day and in to the evening, cemeteries are filled with people coming to honor their relatives, to clean sites and to decorate the gravestones. They spend the day sitting around the gravestones, often sharing the favorite foods and beverages of the beloved deceased.
The Day of the Dead is not a sad or quiet ritual. Throughout the day children run around playing, laughing and eating. Vendors set up in front of cemetery entrances, selling flowers and a variety of foods and drink. And the sound of music is everywhere as bands play to honor the dead.
Children with faces painted and playing music around a family altar, Day of the Dead.
Check out our video below f the Day of the Dead celebrations in and around Chapala and Ajijc and find more photos on our Flickr site.
El Día de los Muertos :: Day of the Dead from 2 cycle 2gether on Vimeo.
Three years ago this month, after building our Tiny House, we left Vermont and headed out in to the world on our bicycles, anxious to build upon a dream to live simply and intentionally. As we put the kilometers under our wheels our lives began changing in ways we never could have imagined.
Today we celebrate not only three years of successfully navigating a new kind of lifestyle but also the revival of our blog. Thanks for hanging in there with us over the years. We’re anxious to share more about our adventures in upcoming posts but for now we’re simply saying hello and acknowledging a major milestone for us – THREE years ‘on the road’.