This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico


April 28, 2018

Fiestas of

Tepoztlan, Mexico

The major factor that drew me to move to Mexico was experiencing it's fiestas. They are loud and colorful, a feast for the senses, with nothing like them in the US.

Many of my earlier Letters describe fiestas. My favorite is Day of the Dead, Dia de Muertos, which I detail here.

In this Letter, I show how fiestas are integrated with my daily life. How fiestas juxtapose with work is mentioned here. And I show how the noise of fiestas was overpowering for me  during the initial adjustment period after moving here.

The Fiesta of Tepoztlan, September 7 and 8

The indigenous inhabitants of this region paid homage to the god of “Pulque” with an all-night drinking festival. Catholic purists tried to discourage the practice by supplanting the date with a Christian festivity honoring the conversion of the inhabitants to Christianity. In keeping with Mexico’s proclivity to combine foreign and indigenous traditions, today the locals celebrate both festivals back-to-back, with the Christian version featuring theater performances and the re-creation of the seed-mural on the monastery’s main archway. An evening climb to the pyramid gives celebrants a taste of the indigenous. ‍

Independence Day, Sept. 18

Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence by issuing his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores.” The revolutionary tract, so-named because Hidalgo first read it in the town of Dolores, called for the end of 300 years of Spanish rule in Mexico, redistribution of land, and racial equality. Thousands of Indians and mestizos flocked to Hidalgo’s banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and soon the peasant army was on the march to Mexico City.

The Grito (“shout”) sounds forth every Sept.18, to mark this auspicious occasion, followed  by a parade.

The Mexican Revolution, Nov. 20

The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, ended dictatorship in Mexico and established a constitutional republic. Several groups, led by revolutionaries including Francisco Madero, Pascual Orozco, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, took part in the long and costly conflict. Though a constitution drafted in 1917 formalized many of the reforms sought by rebel groups, periodic violence continued into the 1930s.

A parade celebrates this day.

Carnaval, February 8th to 13th

Carnaval is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration of the libido before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Mexicans celebrate Carnaval with parades, floats, costumes, music and dancing in the streets beginning the weekend before Lent. Carnaval is equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

The town of Tepoztlan celebrates its own Carnaval season featuring Chinelos and other festivities. Chinelos are traditional costumed dancers associated with the local region. They wear decorative headgear that's a blend of indigenous and Catholic traditions. During its Carnaval, the town hosts a major market and fair, churches put on special services, and fireworks predominate throughout most days and nights during the week.  Local people from all the satellite towns and villages surrounding Tepoztlán come to celebrate during the Carnaval.

When I first moved to Tepoztlan, I used to attend parts of Carnival. In more recent years, I avoid going to Centro. Packed like sardines, the crowds inhabit the area during the five days of the holiday.

A Birthday Celebration in Tepoztlan

Every year, during the night between the 11th and 12th of December, Mexicans sing Las Mañanitas  to the honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe by the most famous and popular artists in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Las Mañanitas, translated as "little mornings," is a traditional Mexican birthday song sung in Mexico and other Latin America countries at birthday parties, early in the morning, to awaken the birthday person. They sing it before eating the birthday cake as the Mexican "happy birthday" song.

I’ve seen it sung beneath the sleeping birthday person’s window at sunrise, encouraging them to wake up and celebrate their day. Then the singers and others go inside to partake of sweets, and one time we indulged in hard liquor and beer.

Las Mañanitas, the Mexican equivalent of our "Happy Birthday" song, is featured in the first minute of this celebration video. Video by Don Karp.

Close-up of a mural composed entirely of seeds that's redone every year at the Fiesta of Tepoztlan. Photo by Don Karp.

Seed mural: Church entrance with seeds removed (left). Seeds restored (right). Photo by Don Karp.

I ndependence Day, the town plaza, Tepoztlan, Mexico. Photo by Don Karp.

Parade of the Mexican Revolution celebration, Tepoztlan, Mexico. Photo by Don Karp.

Carnaval de Tepoztlan. YouTube video: Chinelos Sin Fronteras .

Download: Fiestas.mp3 - Where Expats Blog

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