Mexican Time – Frustrations and Acclimation

There are always adjustments to make whenever you venture outside your comfort zone.  You may be trying new activities, learning a new language or any one of a number of things.  The adjustments required are even greater, progressively, when interacting with a different culture, a foreign country where they speak your language and the ultimate challenge to your comfort is when you are in a foreign country where the culture and language are not your own.

During the past few decades, I have traveled across the United States and traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. The English language varies greatly across the United States – for example that fizzy drink can be called soda or pop, depending on which part of the country you happen to be. In England, we were often separated by our common language, either by our accents or different words to describe the same thing – lift for elevator, boot for the trunk of a car, or Flat White American for a cup of “regular coffee.”

I’ve lived in villages with no electricity or plumbing, which included pit toilets and no running water in the dwellings (no tap in the kitchen, no shower, etc.). So I consider myself pretty adaptable.

Being a Professional Registered Nurse AND being from New York, I was used to a fast-paced life. Everything needed to be on time, if not a few minutes ahead of time. Days, hours, minutes and sometimes even seconds mattered. And this was my mindset when I arrived in Mexico.

The first thing I had to learn was Mexican Time. I guess many cultures have different names for this. There is Island Time, African Time, or an African Week, and all signify the same thing; time is much more fluid in these places.  If I am invited to a party here in Mexico, and they say it starts at 8pm, then it might start at 9pm or 9:30.

Another thing is driving habits. I almost never see a driver use a turn signal, and stop signs are more of a suggestion than a requirement. When crossing the street to get to the Equum ballet yesterday, there was a stop sign and we thought we had plenty of time to cross. A driver sped through the sign and never slowed down, honking his horn as he passed by and almost hit me.

For the first Equum performance we attended, the posters said the ballet started at 8pm. So we arrived a little early, and what we saw was an exhibition of horses that lasted an hour. So the ballet actually began at 9pm.

Last night’s performance was also supposed to start at 8pm. Judging from the previous week, my friend Magda and I figured we had at least an hour to go, so we had a nice leisurely dinner at a nearby restaurant, and brought our pillows (because the metal bleachers were painful to our bottoms after a while) and took our seats at 9pm.

We were assured by the people sitting behind us that we had not missed the ballet. And for an hour we watched as riders took their horses through their paces and were given scores. I have never been around horses in the past, so to me it was just people riding in circles with their horses. I did learn a lot, as Magda explained what the judges were looking for in the riders and horses.

However, as the hour dragged on, we were getting anxious about seeing the ballet. There were little children becoming restless, and Magda had to be at work at 7:30 the next morning, after having worked since 7:30 the  morning of the ballet.

Suddenly we heard a lot of whistling from the crowd. Now you may have noticed that when there is Mexican music and singing being performed, there will be whistling and loud cries which add joy and energy to the performance. People are smiling while they are either doing this or listening to it.

The whistles we heard last night were whistles of displeasure and frustration. It was quite different. The announcer heard it and responded that we should be patient and show respect to the performer and that the ballet would start in 20-25 minutes.

If that was accurate, then the ballet would start 2½ hours after it was supposed to. We decided to get out of our seats and walk around to see the tents. We saw beautiful paintings for sale, belt buckles, bags, hats, etc. for sale. Saddles for sale and a food tent that we had not noticed before.

On the opposite side from our bleachers, we saw some of the performers waiting until they were able to enter the arena. Many beautiful costumes which appeared to be Spanish from Spain, some men with hats specific to Colima, a woman in a beautiful Spanish dress,  all trying to cope with the long wait.

At 10:30p it still wasn’t time for them to start, so Magda and I reluctantly left and we noticed quite a few other people leaving also. Sometimes Mexican Time is too fluid and relaxed even for the Mexicans.

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So, yes, there are some cross-cultural frustrations. And you are a guest in their country so it is up to you to adapt, but with time and observation you can gain insight into what is acceptable and when even the locals get frustrated.

Eso es así (that is how it is), but I am still grateful for the way my life unfolded that led me to my new life here.

Until next time, adiós !

 

Cabalgata de Cofradía de Suchitlán

The cabalgata is a procession of horses. Each town and village here has at least one per year, and while it is exciting, I would not recommend having to drive through or conduct any business during this time unless you are going for the sole purpose of seeing this event. Roads into town are blocked out of necessity as the procession of horses will proceed down the highway and into the town for the festivities.

The night began with a procession of people bringing images of the Virgin of Guadalupe through the streets. You can see one large banner, and on a truck is being transported a large heart with a crown and a picture of the Virgin under the crown.

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Behind this part of the procession are the Danza Azteca de Cofradía, the Aztec Dancers of Cofradía. They are so amazing to me for several reasons. They dance vigorously in the street with sandals on their feet, and they are dancing on cobblestones and it is not a flat surface. It is a very bumpy road. In addition, it is dark, so normally I walk carefully so as not to slip on the rounded surface of these stones, and they are keeping step with each other in the dark.

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Then we see a car bearing the Queen of Cofradía – la Reina de Cofradía. Every year there is a new queen, and this year it is Jessi. It seems like just about every town and village has these royals. A neighbor joked to me that even though I am a foreigner, there is one election in which I can vote, and that is for our queen.

And oops! Shame on me. I did not vote in this election…..

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In addition, before we see the horses, there are very large mannequins (for lack of a better word), this night of a man and a woman dancing in the street.

And as you can see, the horses are about to arrive. Children start at a very young age to become accustomed to being around the horses. I saw a grandpa up the road at various stages of training his grandson. First, at least the first time I saw them, the boy was not alone on the horse. Then one day, I saw the boy on the horse, but grandpa was in a truck, driving slowly and holding the reins beside the horse. Finally, the boy could ride alone.

I’ve seen a photo of my friend’s grandson – all of 4 years old – alone on an adult horse. Here, this little boy has a pint-sized one to ride on.  Well, actually, it looks like he might be riding a burro.

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And finally, the men and their horses arrive.

This cabalgata is very small compared to other towns, but we are a very small village. When I was stuck in the event in Comala, the horses were about 4 or 5 deep and you couldn’t see from one end of the line to the other end.  Comala’s event was held during the day and it was like Times Square for New Year’s. You could barely move, there were so many people.

But I was happy that this was taking place in my village. I could walk a couple of blocks to attend, didn’t have to worry about where to park. And when I got tired, I could be home in 5 minutes. I guess with age, convenience means an awful lot.

So that wraps up the January 2018 Cabalgata de Cofradía de Suchitlán.

Adiós until next time.

 

Tamale Night in Colima

Today is February 2nd, which means it is Tamale Night, at least here in Colima State. Let me explain.  On January 6th, it is Three Kings Day – the day of the 3 Magi who visited Baby Jesus. On this day it is customary to eat the Rosca, a wreath-shaped pastry that has a plastic baby Jesus cooked inside. Whoever gets the piece with the Baby Jesus is supposed to provide tamales on February 2nd. When I was visiting the family of a friend in Mexico City years ago, I was told that whoever got that piece was supposed to throw a party, so I don’t know if the customs vary slightly in different parts of Mexico.

So, anyway, this year Lourdes’ 4-year-old grandson got the piece, but obviously he was not going to cook tamales. I asked Lourdes if she was going to cook them, but she decided to have other people provide them.

Now, there are several different type of tamales, all prepared within the corn husk. There are tamales de ceniza (ash tamales) prepared in singed husks, tamales de carne (meat) and tamales de elote (corn). We walked through the village to the woman who was preparing the corn tamales, and she delivered them to the Casita.

Once we arrived at the Casita, I had my usual cappuccino along with the corn tamale. It is close to Valentine’s Day, so there are decorations of hearts, etc., everywhere and the very artistic Nadia decorated my cappuccino with hearts and little silver edibles.

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Nadia’s artwork

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plain tamale of mashed corn

     After a while, Lourdes’ friends arrived from Tecoman with a bucket of different ones. I decided to try the tamales de ceniza first. I have learned to ask about any food when it is my first time to try it – Está enchiloso? Tiene chiles?  Is it spicy? Does it have chilies?  The answer was, no it was not spicy. So I tried it – and it was a bit spicy.  From experience I have learned that “not too spicy” for Mexicans is very spicy for me.

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Lourdes holding tamale de ceniza

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inside the tamale de ceniza

     So now I moved on to the tamale de carne. Not spicy at all and very tasty. The meat in this one, I believe, was pork.

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tamale de carne

     So after an evening of good food and good conversation, I headed home and am off to sleep now. There will be a few posts over the next few days, as I finally (with much help, thank you, Juanis) am now able to access my photos and place them in my posts.

And so, good night one and all and see you tomorrow!

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bucket of tamales

from Tecoman

EQUUM Ballet Ecuestre de México

     This past Sunday I attended the first of three different performances of the ballet, which combined the performances of horses and human dancers. This first performance was entitled “MÉXICO LINDO” – Beautiful Mexico.  The next performance will be “Dos Culturas” – two cultures, and the final one will be Fantasía – fantasy.

     So all the advertisements said the show would start at 8pm. We arrived a little early so we could walk around a bit. There was a hot air balloon that stayed tethered to the ground even after it was inflated. There were numerous tents for selling food as well as equipment for horses such as saddles, etc., as well as clothing for the riders.

As we took our places on the metal bleachers, we expected the ballet to start on time, either Mexican or hopefully Gringo Time. To our surprise, they first had an exhibition of the horses and 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize ribbons being awarded.

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This horse had the longest mane and tail I had ever seen.

     It was about 9pm when the ballet actually started. It had been advertised as free, but only the judging part was free. A woman and a girl came around to all of us in the bleachers selling tickets at 50 pesos apiece.  It was a cheap price (about $2.50 USD) but it would have been nice if we had known ahead of time.

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In the meantime, I guess some of the younger attendees were getting a bit restless…

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After we all paid for our tickets, it was time to start the show. First, the ladies and gentlemen paraded in on their horses.

 

 

 

 

And then there was the ballet, with the dancers and horses performing to one of my favorite songs Camino Real Colima

 

There were more performances to come, but by this time it was 10pm and we were tired, so we headed home. My plans are to attend the Fantasía performance on Sunday, February 4th, and we will know to dress warmly and bring pillows to sit on, as the metal bleachers were pretty hard on our butts.

We’ll also be more aware of the time frame, so hopefully we will stay longer. I hear the Fantasía reminds people who have seen it of Cirque de Soleil.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

 

Festival Internacional del Xolo – Celebrating our Colima Dog

As the title suggests, this weekend concluded our first international festival of our Xoloscuintle – otherwise know as the Colima Dog. The xolo is thought to be the oldest dog in mesoamerica and you can’t go anywhere in Colima without seeing it depicted, usually in red pottery, and even in a traffic circle in Colima City:

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To find out more about the history of this wonderful dog that was worshipped, used as food, used as protection and also sometimes buried with their owners to provide guidance in the next world, you can click on the link here:

http://www.mexonline.com/history-hairlessdog.htm

 

In the meantime, welcome to the Festival:

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When I arrived at the Jardín Libertad in Colima, I noticed an explosion of paper flowers, giant posters and photos and a proliferation of giant statues of the Xolo.    Flower-covered archways lead to the fountains and the gazebo.

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The plaque states: Colima Dogs. The figure is emblematic of the State of Colima. Significance: The transmission of knowledge from an older dog to a young dog. Generational struggle. 

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On Saturday, I did not make it in time for any events, but did see families walking with their dogs. Many breeds of dogs, but mostly the xolo, for whom this festival was named. I had never seen one in real life, only the pottery one and statues, so I was amazed at the fact that they truly are hairless, some only having wisps of hair on top of their heads or at the end of their tails.

Upon reading about them, I find that their body temperatures are higher than other breeds of dogs, perhaps as compensation for not having hair to protect them from the cold. They also make good pets for people with allergies; since they have no hair, they have no fleas or other vermin, nor, I imagine, dander.

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In addition to the displays, there was a small kitchen set up with chairs and tables where you could buy something to eat and drink, decorated with Catrinas, of course.

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One of the things I missed was the running of the obstacle course,  but it was still set up from earlier in the day, with obstacles of various sizes to accommodate the dogs who are also of various sizes.

IMG_5433   The next day, I left Cofradía at 6:30am to make sure I had plenty of time to find a place to park and then catch a taxi to the Jardín.

The first order of the day was a 3K race. You could race with any breed of dog that you liked, and after the race, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were presented with ceramic statues of the Colima Dog.

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IMG_5366And then photos were taken of all the participants, human and canine…It was certainly a job trying to get all the dogs to pose at the same time…..

IMG_5391IMG_5390IMG_5387After everyone had an hour to rest and have some breakfast, the xolos were exhibited and judged according to their behavior and body type. It was amazing to me, how they could hold a pose…

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And then they all posed for a final group photo…

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IMG_5425And –  group photo time!

So this concludes my experience at the Internation Festival of the Xolo.

Until next time, you all have yourselves a great week!   ¡Adiós!

Halloween and Día de los Muertos in Mexico

There have been a few celebrations one after another recently, so first I will focus on the most recent, well-known festivities – Halloween and Día de los Muertos. Yes, Halloween is celebrated here, with costumes appearing in stores way before Halloween (as a matter of fact, Christmas merchandise – such as artificial trees and decorations – have also appeared way before Halloween, too), but it is not as important as the Day of the Dead.

On the evening of October 31st. several young children came to my gate. Instead of ringing the doorbell, they were chanting something out loud, but I couldn’t quite understand the words. Candy was handed out, and a while later some older children appeared. It seems that witch costumes with pointy hats are very popular, at least for this year.

Then that was the end of it. I had bought 4 bags of candy, and only used maybe one bag, so a few days later, I donated the remainder to Project Amigo to be used during the Christmas Fiesta week.

The Day of the Dead was celebrated on November 2nd. Ahead of that date, the cemetery was cleaned up. During the actual day, people come to the cemetery, a mass is held there and people put wreaths and the deceased’s favorite food or drink on the graves. I was unable to attend the ceremony in Cofradía, as I had to help out a friend, but I was able to celebrate in Colima that night. There is a narrative and photos of the Cofradía celebration from last year in my blog posts for November 2016 if you wish to see photos and read about it.

Currently, there are 6 nursing students and a nursing instructor from Canada at the University of Colima participating in an exchange program. My friend Magda and I went with them and some of the Mexican nursing students to Colima, where the Día de los Muertos was being celebrated at a local cemetery and sponsored by the local funeral home.

 

There was singing outside of the funeral home and bottles of water were handed out. There was a couple dressed as skeletons and many people were taking photos with them. Beyond that was the cemetery.

Also inside the cemetery was a stage, where we were entertained by singing and traditional dancers, plus a live mariachi band providing the music.

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Altar of Griselda Alvarez – former mayor of Colima and the only female mayor of Colima

 

More altars

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A very fancy hearse. I was really impressed with the art work.

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Two women in the cemetery dressed as La Catrina

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The stage in the cemetery

Azteca dancers

The Old Man’s Dance

 

All in all, it was a night full of activity and I am sure the Canadians were very pleased to have been there at this time of year and I was also very happy to accompany them.

 

 

 

The Magic Zone – Zona Magica

For today, I am going to introduce you to a local, mind-bending illusion called the Zona Magica, or Magic Zone in English. This road is on the highway between Nogueras and Comala, and I have heard of this phenomena in other countries, such as Ireland where it is called the Magic Road.

Basically, it is a road where the angle of the road is in the opposite direction from where it appears to be going. It is so enthralling that the government here constructed two side roads parallel to the main road because people were stopping their cars in the road to observe the supposed contradiction to the laws of nature. On my personal videos, you can see a grassy median between the road we are on and the main road.

Before trying my experiment, I watched some videos on YouTube, which explained that the effects of the magic roads are an optical illusion, but even knowing this, my eyes and my sister’s eyes could not discern the true nature of the angle of the road.

My experiment consisted of taking a cup of coffee and a carpenter’s level to the road. We got to a spot where it appeared that we were in a depression, with the road rising both in front of and behind us. When I put the level down on the road in front of the car, the bubble rose in the direction of my car. Since bubbles rise, that meant that the end of the level closest to the car was higher than the opposite end, meaning that the road was actually progressing in a downward direction. (Note: I was nervous and trying hard to make sense of what I was seeing, so I initially misspoke on the video and said the bubble indicated that the road was going up, which it was not. The road only appeared to be so.).

To further enhance our understanding, I poured some coffee onto the road, and the coffee proceeded to travel forward, also indicating that the road was heading down instead of up. But again, even though the coffee and level indicated that the road was going down, our eyes were telling us that the road was going in an upward direction.

Next, I got into the car, put it in neutral, and the car proceeded to roll forward at a rapid rate, but to our eyes, we were rolling UP hill.

In the second video, the situation was the reverse of the first, where the road appeared to be going downhill, but the level indicated that the road was actually rising, a fact that was confirmed when the car rolled backwards and seemed to be rolling uphill to my senses.

So, in conclusion – I guess there are things in this world , whether ghosts or alien space ships, or whatever odd mysterious things you can think of, that are seemingly magical and otherworldly, which can be explained by scientific inquiry, but still boggle the mind.

A Nature-Filled Halloween in Mexico (a post not for the faint-of-heart)

First a reader/viewer advisory. If you are creeped out or scared of spiders, maybe you shouldn’t read this. I joked with Lourdes that she has cotton spider webs and plastic spiders decorating her Casita when she could just come to my house and gather plenty of the real thing.20171009_193632

There are many types of spiders here, from very tiny ones that you can barely see to large, scary-looking ones about 3 inches long – my best estimate as I refuse to get close enough to one to accurately measure it.  There are webs spun all over my property and outside my house and unless they are covered in dew or you see them at just the right angle, they are basically invisible. So – there have been quite a few times that I have walked right into one, and then frantically brushed the web off my face and run my fingers over my face, hair and upper body hoping there is no spider there and hoping if there is one, that it quickly gets brushed off.  So now, before I venture into my property, I carry a rake and probably look a bit unhinged waving it into the air to catch any spider webs that might be there.

The good thing is that the web-spinners come out during the rainy season, so they are not to be found – or at least very few – during the 8 months or so of the dry season. During the dry season I see a different type with no web. If you blow on them they scurry away, and while I would not touch one (large and round), I am not afraid of them.

So first, the least scary one. It is fairly small but very strange-looking. I have never seen a spider that looks quite like this, as if it had some dark crystallized sugar attached to its body – a spiky brown lump that would appear to be the source of its web material.

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A closeup of the little creature

See? It seems more strange than scary, and not only likes high places such as attaching its web from my roof, but also doesn’t mind starting a web from the back of one of my porch chairs….   Hmmm, guess I definitely have to take a good look at the chairs before I grab them and sit down…

Next, the large, nasty-looking ones. I haven’t gotten close enough to do an accurate measurement, but I would estimate them to be about 3 inches in length and their webs I have seen have been as large as about 3 feet. Definitely don’t want to come into direct contact with this type. So here it is – the current stuff of nightmares and horror movies:

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I do have to admit, as creepy and scary as it looks, it IS fascinating to watch how it spins its web. 

 

So I guess that should be enough about the spiders. On to something a little more palatable now – like pumpkins. A few months ago I planted at least 10 pumpkin seeds in anticipation of a large pumpkin patch from which would grow mounds of pumpkins just waiting to be decorated or turned into pumpkin pie.

It was a good thing that so many were planted, as it turns out there are male and female vines. Eventually the vines grew and decided that they want to have their pumpkins high up in the air, and began climbing the peach tree, and up and over the brick wall alongside the patch. One of the vines wrapped itself around an electric wire before forming a pumpkin. The weight of the pumpkin started putting a strain on the wire, so I bought some shelves and placed the pumpkin on top of the shelf. Days later I was horrified to discover my poor pumpkin covered in larvae busily drilling holes into its skin.

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It literally looked like someone had taken an electric drill to it and created tons of holes. So I hosed it down, washed it with detergent, but the darn things kept coming back. I even wrapped it in a plastic bag, but they still managed to get in.

Finally, I was directed to a local homeowner who told me about a poison that I could mix with water and spray it on. He gave me a capful and I used it as he directed. So far the destructive creatures have not returned, but I no longer think this pitiful looking thing is suitable for eating in any way, shape or form.

However, I DO have a healthy specimen growing and hopefully the pests will not discover it before I can harvest it…

In the meantime, grocery stores are a wonderful thing, and I have purchased two store-bought pumpkins (imported from the U.S.) with which I will make some pies until mine are ready for the kitchen. IMG_5187

In addition to the store-bought pumpkins, my coffee berries are starting to turn red, so hopefully I will have enough to process and make at least one or two cups of coffee, my green chayotes are starting to be ready to pick in numbers greater than one or two at a time, and I found some fabulous pale spiny chayotes that I will plant before very long.

So – all is well here South of the Border, and I wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWEEN and a Happy Pumpkin Season !!!!!

 

 

 

 

Independence Day 2017 – part II

After last night’s festivities and a good night’s rest, there was a parade through the streets of Cofradía – not a very big parade by many standards, but still a chance for the children and social organizations of the village to celebrate and show respect for the independence of the United States of Mexico.

And my battery died at the point that this video ended. In the first video you can see the newly crowned Queen of Cofradía riding on the hood of a car. At the end of the second video, my battery gave out again just as the little Princess of Cofradía came around the corner, riding on the hood of another car.

Changed the battery of my camera and caught the end of the parade

Independence Day – 2017

Once again it is Mexican Independence Day, which starts on the night of September 15th with the Grito – the cry of freedom. We had a wonderful celebration last night and since I am sure I have already posted the history of this celebration in another blog posting on this site,  I will cut the narrative short and mainly post videos and photos.

This is the true Mexican Independence Day – not Cinco de Mayo, which only celebrates the people of Puebla’s victory over Napoleon’s forces. The evening started out with a parade of the flag, speeches, prayers and suggestions to help for the victims of the recent natural disasters in Oaxaca and Chiapas and the toro, an effigy of a bull surrounded by fireworks. The fireworks were lit and a man ran around the village square with it. I still don’t know if or how many times someone was burned from holding it as fireworks shoot off.

There was singing and dancing and between 11pm and midnight fireworks were set off into the sky. So enjoy the videos and  photos (including some taken on more artistic settings) and have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Cofradía version of the Running of the Bulls

Mariachis playing Camino Real Colima

Children watching the performances