Sosnabar, the hardscrabble rancho where Félix and his family live, doesn’t have any landmarks except for a white church with a lonely dissonant bell that clangs on special occasions when the blue crosses atop its three domes also light up at night.
|Felix’ youngest, Jessica.|
Last Friday was one of those special times, when the town shook off its quotidian drabness to celebrate the graduation from kindergarten of 29 of its five- and six-year olds, including Félix’ own six-year-old Jessica.
Boys wore matching light-brown jackets, most of them ill-fitting, and brown shoes. The girls, though, were elegant, with elaborate gowns sprinkled with sparkly details. Many of the girls had their hair done and wore tiaras.
Let’s pause now for a few awws and ahhs: Yep, the kids were adorable.
Most parents, and the godfathers and godmothers that accompanied the kids, put on a show of their own. An all-cleaned-up version of Félix, beard trimmed, wore a black-felt ranchero hat, pointy lizard-skin boots and a shirt with a large blue paisley pattern.
Noticeable too was that the girls far outnumbered the boys in the graduating class. No one I asked made much of this demographic quirk. Felix says that some years the disparity is just the opposite.
Like all Sosnabar’s celebrations, this one began with a noontime mass. Once again, I wondered about the disconnect between the government’s protestations of secularity and independence from the Church, when in reality almost all to-dos here—civic, religious, or whatever—begin at the doorstep of the local church, and are marked by its clangy bell.
Even the annual Sosnabar fiesta, a raucous, boozy affair, begins with a ritual lineup of guys on horseback on the small plaza in front of the church and a mass, followed by a comida attended by the parish priest.
|Is it over yet? We’re sooo bored.|
The Sosnabar church was nearly full on Friday, and the first two or three pews were reserved for the graduates, who fidgeted and played with each other during the service like over-caffeinated gerbils. The godparents didn’t do much to shush their charges.
The abbreviated mass, with a brief communion with pre-consecrated wafers, was a led by a dour priest whose rambling sermon included several references to death.
Fortunately, no one in the church paid much attention to the apocalyptic message. It reminded me, though, of George W. Bush’s quip to his wife Laura, at the end of Trump’s inaugural speech and captured by an indiscreet microphone: “Boy, that was some weird shit, wasn’t it?”
The crowd then drifted to the playground of the kindergarten building which, according to a tarnished bronze plaque, was built in 1995 with a donation from Procter & Gamble, presumably during a time of gentler, friendlier relations between Mexico and the U.S.
Then it was time for more aww’s and aah’s, as the ceremony began with an honor guard of five- or six-year olds saluting the Mexican flag and pretending to sing the musically acrobatic national anthem. After that a waltz-like dance started, with the kids holding champagne flutes filled with apple soda, and the klutzier boys pretending to lead the girls. The choreography was complicated by the uneven boys-to-girls ratio, which left some of the boys left to dance with two or three girls.
|Jessica and her dancing partner.|
From there we drove to Félix’ house, for one of many celebrations in several homes all over town. Felix’ wife, Ysela, served roast goat, pozole and tinfoil-wrapped chicken cooked on a barbecue, with the usual fixings of various salsas, moles and tortillas.
Stew and I had tasted goat only once, in Jamaica, which was prepared as Jerk Spice Goat Stew that was memorably delicious. The Mexican version was disappointingly insipid, clamoring to be seasoned with a slathering of various salsas and condiments.
Adults dined on tables under plastic tarps Félix had borrowed from us, while Jessica and her friends shrieked and jumped incessantly inside an inflatable plaything that collapsed and had to be brought back to life periodically.
Stew tried his best Spanish to engage the Mexican guests in conversation, with limited success. Félix’ jumbo speaker played scratchy Mexican tunes, while close to the tables, in a small enclosure, five sheep, one of them pregnant, and two young goats bleated non-stop, either keeping up with the music or demanding that it be shut off.
Beer was served but sparingly, and we didn’t see Félix partake. I don’t think he’s drunk any alcohol since his come-to-Jesus moment, about two years ago, when he got drunk and crashed up our Nissan Frontier pickup—with his boy Edgar aboard. We made him pay for half the damages, which set back his finances several months.
We waited for a cake that never arrived while we were there, because Félix got caught in traffic on his way to pick it up at the Soriana grocery store.
My experience is that Mexican fiestas are flexible, ongoing feasts without a firm beginning or closing time. Typically they begin an hour behind schedule and go on until whenever, when guests leave and Sosnabar returns to its usual somnolent pace—until the church bell clangs again, to summon residents to Sunday mass or another fiesta.