Friday, December 28, 2012

Day of the Innocents

December 28th is "Day of the Innocents" in Mexico. It's a day for practical jokes, similar to April Fool's Day (April 1) in the US. "Day of the Innocents" commemorates the day that little boys were slain by King Herod in an attempt to to assassinate baby Jesus (and so King Herod was tricked? or because the children were innocent? I'm not entirely sure...). If someone falls for the joke, the standard line is "Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar" (innocent little dove, you let yourself be fooled).

I somehow completely missed the memo that this holiday existed (though in my defense, I had either been in the US or traveling the last 2 years on the 28th) until this year when I completely fell for a joke on Facebook (thanks Cindy and Carlos!). So.... now you (and I) know!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: December 24th and 25th

In Maltrata, there is much more emphasis on December 24th and the early hours of the 25th as opposed to the US where the Christmas celebration is on the 25th

Much of the day the 24th was spent preparing food for that evening. That night, family started coming over around 9:30 or 10:00 and we chatted and had some drinks and appetizers. Following tradition, the celebration would have started at midnight, but we bumped it up an hour and started at 11:00. We split into two groups, one with the baby Jesus dolls/figures (I think there were 3 or 4 that night), and sang the posada song to ask to come in and stay. After that there was a prayer, followed by singing a lullaby to baby Jesus. Everyone gave the baby Jesus figures a kiss and then they were placed in the Nativity scene. 

After that we had a toast and then had dinner (an all out feast!). After dinner we roasted marshmallows and then lit firecrackers outside. We never did get to the piñata. The last of the group went home and we went to bed around 2:30am.

my Christmas dinner

the chicken (which hadn't made it onto
my plate for the plate photo) 
roasting marshmallows

roasting marshmallows

roasting marshmallows

roasting marshmallows

In the past, children received their presents on January 6th for Día de los Reyes or Three Kings Day / Day of the Wiseman when the Wiseman arrived and gave their gifts to baby Jesus. However, Santa has become more and more popular (thanks to globalization, TV, immigration, etc). In the house where I stayed, Santa left a gift for each kid to wake up to on the 25th, but the bigger gifts showed up on the 6th.

presents from Santa the morning of the 25th 

The 25th was pretty low key. Family came over throughout the day to eat leftovers from the night before, but there wasn’t too much else going on. I did get to Skype with my family though (I love technology!). 

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: the Nativity Scene

The family set up their Nativity scene a few days before Christmas. 

Both muzgo (moss) and pascle (Spanish moss) are typically used in creating the scene. People used to go and get their own from the forest, but now it’s more common to buy it in the center of town and in the market from others who have gone out to collect it. 

The stable was made out of a cardboard box and covered with Spanish moss. Figures of Mary and Joseph were placed in the stable, though baby Jesus wasn't added until Christmas. There was a ladder leaned up against the table, covered with the muzgo and pascle to make it look like a steep hill. On the group there was a dirt path with the three Wise men arriving on an elephant, a camel and a horse. There were lots of ceramic animals throughout the scene, as well as some plants and cacti.

the Nativity Scene in the house where I stayed

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: Buñuelos

Buñuelos are a typical treat prepared in Maltrata around the holidays. They day we made them, a lot of the extended family came over to help. We had quite the assembly line going! 

The first step is to make the dough (I missed that part and can't remember what's in it either! Sorry!) 

buñuelo dough

Then, the dough is cut into balls, rolled, and stretched out. 

rolling buñuelo dough
stretching out the dough

buñuelo dough ready to be fried 

Then the buñuelo is fried. (The oil was changed right after the photo, so the buñuelos are a a little darker than normal in these photos)

And then they're ready to be eaten! They can be eaten plain or with honey and sugar or condensed milk.

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: Posadas

Posadas are typical Christmas celebrations held between Dec 16th and 24th. A group walks through the streets until they reach a house where they will pedir posada, or ask for lodging, representing Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay the night. They sing the posada song, which is call and response style between the people in the street and the people in the house. If there are multiple stops, the people in the house might join the procession after “turning the group away.” At the final stop they will all be welcomed in and that’s when the party begins.

I didn’t attend a posada in Maltrata, but I did pass one in the street. There was a girl playing María (Mary) riding on a donkey, a boy dressed as José (Joseph) and another child dressed as an angel. Someone was carrying a star – a wooden frame with a candle inside – on a pole. 

Holiday traditions in Maltrata: La Rama

La rama is a branch of an evergreen tree, which kids decorate by painting, adding balloons and tinsel, and a picture of the Virgin Mary. (Hey mom – remember that time I brought the Christmas tree branch home and decorated it as my tree??)

Starting the evening of December 16th kids go around town stopping at houses and stores to sing La rama song in hopes of receiving money or candy, kind of like a combination of Halloween and Christmas. All the kids sing the same thing, a medley of songs, which begins asking permission to sing and ends with one of two variations, depending on whether or not they received money/candy. Kids can go out with their rama from December 16 through December 23, with some visiting the same places multiple nights.

I accompanied some of the kiddos out one night with their ramas

Holiday traditions in Matrata, Veracruz

Last year I spent the holidays (December 14th – February 5th to be exact) in Maltrata, Veracruz for fieldwork for my thesis. While this meant I spent Christmas away from home for the first time, I was fortunate to stay with a wonderful family who adopted me as one of their own. I enjoyed seeing, learning about and participating in the many holiday traditions in Maltrata. 

So a year later, since I never wrote about it last year, I'd like to share with you some of the holiday traditions in Maltrata including la Rama, Posadas, the Nativity scene, buñuelos, December 24th and 25th, los Viejitos, Huehueres, New Years, and Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day / Day of the Wise men) 

I'll be breaking it down into separate posts, so stay tuned! (You can click on the links in the list to take you to each entry. I'll try to update as I go.) 

To get started in the holiday spirit, here's a photo of a HUGE poinsettia bush (tree?) in Maltrata. I had no idea they grew this big!!

Poinsettia plant (tree?) in Maltrata

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cor-atl México

On Tuesday December 11th the choir performed for the release of Jorge Cózatl's Cor-atl México, a 5-disk collection which documents choral music in Mexico, including 34 children's choirs, university choirs, chamber choirs, and vocal ensembles. 

The event was held at the National Museum of Art and the guests included the choral directors from around the country that had participated in the project. The renowned directors Jorge Medina Leal, Óscar Escalada and Josep Prats were present and shared their comments and congratulations on the collection. Four groups were invited to perform: Schola Cantorum de México, directed by Alfredo Mendoza; Staccato, Coro Universitario Estudiantil, directed by Marco Ugalde; Túumben Paax, directed by Jorge Córdoba Valencia; and Coros Altus, directed by Noel Josafat García Melo. 

outside of the National Museum of Art
"Legend of the Volcanoes" 

The National Museum of Art

Where the ceremony was held

our choir rehearsing

our choir rehearsing

Here's the audiovisual presentation that was shown that night, recognizing many of the groups of people involved in the Cor-atl project. 

our choir performing


The directores of the 4 choirs that performed: Jorge Córdoba Valencia,
Marco Ugalde, Noel Josafat García Melo and Alfredo Mendoza

The directors that participated in Cor-atl

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mi Ciudad

The choir performing "Mi Ciudad" by Guadalupe Trigo, arranged by Jorge Córdoba Valencia. Conducted by Jorge Córdoba Valencia at San Ildefonso.

Samba de Verdade

The choir performing Samba de Verdade by Eduardo Gudin, arranged by Pablo Trindade. Pablo Trindade playing piano and conducting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe

Not only is today 12-12-12, but it's the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe). For Catholics, it celebrates the day that the Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to the indigenous man Juan Diego and the miracle occurred in which her image appeared on his cloak (or tilma).  The Virgen de Guadalupe is an incredibly important figure in Mexico, in part due to the strong Catholic influence throughout the country, as well as the ties to prehispanic heritage and beliefs.

People from all over the country make a pilgrimage to the Basilica. They start days in advance, with many people making the final approach to the Basilica on their knees. Apparently some people who, over the year have been granted requests made to the Virgen, prepare and give food to the people on the way to the Basilica. For those who don't make the trek to the Basilica, there are also celebrations in towns throughout the country.

You can see photos from when I joined the masses at the Basilica on December 12, 2010 here

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Verano Porteño and Libertango

The choir performing Verano Porteño and Libertango, by Astor Piazzolla, arranged and conducted by Óscar Escalada at San Ildefonso.


The choir performing Tangueando composed and conducted by Óscar Escalada at San Ildefonso.

Choir concert at San Ildefonso... with special guests!

On Sunday the choir performed at the Anfiteatro Simón Bolívar in the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. We were honored to have in attendance Óscar Escalada,  Josep Prats, Pablo Trindade and Jorge Córdoba Valencia,  all important figures in the world of choral music. 

The program was: 

I. Conducted by Marco Antonio Ugalde
Alleluia. Dic nobis, Maria - Francisco López Capillas (1608 - 1674)
Locus iste - Anton Bruckner (1824 - 1896)
Agnus Dei - Samuel Barber (1910 - 1981)
Benedictio - Urmas Sisask (1960)
Bogoróditse Djévo - Arvo Part (1935)
O magnum mysterium - Morten Lauridsen (1943)

II. *Conducted by Óscar Escalada
Tangueando - Óscar Escalada (1945)
Verano porteño - Astor Piazzolla (1921 - 1992), arrangement by Óscar Escalada
Libertango - Astor Piazzolla (1921 - 1992), arrangement by Óscar Escalada

III. Conducted by Marco Antonio Ugalde
Del corazón del hombre, from La Señal - Guillermo Álvarez Navarro (1952), text by Jaime Sabines
Se equivocó la paloma - Carlos Guastavino (1912 - 2000), text by Rafael Alberti *Conducted by Josep Prats
Tres epitafios: I. A Don Quijote, II. A Dulcinea, III. A Sancho Panza - Rodolfo Halffter (1900-1987), text by Miguel de Cervantes
Song of the Plains - Karl Jenkins (1944)
In caelum fero - Karl Jenkins (1944)
Eleanor Rigby - John Lennon (1940 - 1980) and Paul McCartney (1942)
I'll Follow the Sun - John Lennon (1940 - 1980) and Paul McCartney (1942)

Samba de Verdade - Eduardo Gudin, arrangement by Pablo Trindade *Conducted by Pablo Trindade
Mi Ciudad - Guadalupe Trigo, arrangement by Jorge Córdoba Valencia *Conducted by Jorge Córdoba Valencia

Óscar Escalada was our guest of honor and the guest conductor for the three pieces we performed that he had written and/or arranged (TangueandoVerano Porteño and Libertango). His explanation of the pieces and passion in conducting brought new life to the pieces that had already been staples in the choir's repertoire. I think I can speak for the choir when I say we were in awe working with him and it was an incredible experience. When we finished one of the pieces, he made the gesture of a fingertips kiss (think Italian - bringing the fingers and thumb of the hand together, raising to lips, kissing lightly, and joyfully tossing fingers and thumb into the air) and told us "Fantástico!"

with Oscar Escalada after the concert

Josep Prats, Pablo Trindade and Jorge Córdoba Valencia participated in the concert as well. Prats conducted Guastavino's Se equivocó la paloma and for the 2-song encore, Trindade played piano and conducted his arrangement of Samba de Verdade and Córdoba conducted his arrangement of Mi Ciudad. It was very interesting working with different conductors and experiencing their distinct styles. 


after the concert with friends from my Master's program 
Thanks Xóchitl, Tania, Tatiana and Ana for coming to see me!! (And taking photos / videos! )

The choir goes to Tlaxcala

Last week we went to Tlaxcala to participate in Tlaxcala Canta (Tlaxcala Sings), Tlaxcala's 1st International Chamber Choir Festival. The festival ran from December 1-8, with choirs from Venezuela, Nicaragua and various parts of Mexico. There were workshops and concerts throughout the week, though we only participated the 6-7th.

Here's the preview video (in Spanish) where we appear for a split second around 00:21

We were invited to give a concert Thursday December 6 at the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción Cathedral. We opened, followed by the group Voz en Punto.

We sang:
Tangueando - Oscar Escalada (who was in the audience)
O magnum mysterium - Morten Lauridsen
Benedictio - Urmas Sisask
Bogoróditse Djévo - Arvo Part
Salve Regina - Lars Jansson
Eleanor Rigby - John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arrangement by Paul Hart
Louva a Deus - Milton Nascimento, arrangement by Sergio Sansao

rehearsing before the concert

Voz en Punto
Voz en Punto performing "Negrito Bailarín"

Voz en Punto performing "La negra"

the choir after the concert with Oscar Escalada

at dinner after the concert 

Friday morning we wandered around Tlaxcala a bit (though I'm glad I had been once before with Karen, since going in a big group is always more complicated! You can read about my previous trip to Tlaxcala here).

pretending like I went to the archeological site Cacaxtla

After lunch we rehearsed with Óscar Escalada: professor, composer, director, writer and editor of coral music, and Vice President of the Argentine Association for Choral Music, "America Cantat." We rehearsed his piece Tangueando and his arrangements of Astor Piazzolla's Verano Porteño and Libertango, which we would be performing under his direction during the concert at San Ildefonso on Sunday. It was an incredible experience working with him, as he brought so much knowledge and passion to the pieces.

rehearsing with Óscar Escalada
After rehearsal we had a brief meeting and then headed back to the DF, to continue preparing Saturday for Sunday's concert.