Virgins and Cannons: in no way do these two things normally go together.  I mean, if you find a virgin old enough to legally operate a cannon, let me know, but…

I digress.

Here in Orizaba, Virgins, cannons, drums, parades, and small children dressed as peasants do, somehow, go together.

The story goes like this:



Native peasant Juan Diego walked from his village to Mexico City in December 1531.  Along the way, he was visited by the Virgin Mary.  She told him to build a church.  Unlike naive Juan Diego, the local bishop wasn’t immediately convinced (I mean, a virgin, alone, wandering  the hills, talking to strange men?  Seems unlikely).  So he told J.D. to ask for a sign.  The Virgin, apparently an obliging young thing, made roses grow on a bare hill and sent them to the bishop in J.D.’s cloak.  When they opened the cloak the roses spilled out and a clear and glowing image of the Virgin was left imprinted on the cloth.  Miracle in 1.  Thusly, every December, Catholic Mexicans flock on peregrinacion to pay tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe… in Orizaba(?).

An entire semi, beautifully decorated, managed to squeeze down our narrow streets.

An entire semi, beautifully decorated, managed to squeeze down our narrow streets.

No one can really explain this to me.  The actual relic is housed in a church in Mexico City.  The Iglesia Concordia here only holds a large painting depicting the image.  It’s NOT the actual cloak.  No one actually thinks it is. Almost every church, house, school, and freakin’ taxicab in Mexico has this image hung, resting, or stuck somewhere.  And yet, starting December 1, Orizaba is inundated with pilgrims.  Parades filled with school children, local workers, visitors, marching bands, trucks covered in flora, cars covered in balloons, and loud music wind through the streets day after day.  Local schools and businesses are given a schedule and every half hour another one gathers its employees and noise makers and heads to the church for mass.  Blissfully, several blocks before you get to the Concordia,  the scents of fresh churros, toasted coconut, roasted nuts, and every other form of  fried food fill the air, because it’s a faire down there.

la Igelesia Concordia

la Igelesia Concordia

Did I mention churros? Fresh, hot, crispy, perfect churros?  ‘Cause I should have.  Mmmmmmmh…

Sorry, back to the point: Cannons.

Every single one of the parades marching through town carry what I can only describe as potato cannons.  And on every block they set them off, shooting colorless, sparkleless, booms of  sound into the air.  If they were fireworks, with all their sizzle and color and wonder, I could get on board, but NO.  This is just noise.  This is just saying, “Here we are!”  This just makes the dogs howl up and down the street and Evies everywhere jump.  It also makes Pepita’s two neurotic pooches crawl, quivering, under furniture…or into my bed when I’m not looking.

Cute kids, but playing at my window on a Saturday morning.

Cute kids…playing at my window on a Saturday morning.

I’m not disparaging anyone’s religious practices.  I don’t care if people worship a virgin girl, a one-eyed old warrior, a raging blue destroyer, an airborne spaghetti lump, a reincarnate sacrifice, an icon of fertility, or the inventor of wine and debauchery.  But for the love of little apples, do they have to do it with cannons and drums directly outside my window at 8 a.m. on a Saturday?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Oh well.

At least I can get all the fresh churros I want.


One of many photo booths where you can have your children photographed as Juan Diego.

A photo booth where you can have your children photographed as Juan Diego on the mountain.

One of the many shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

One of the many shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe.