IN THIS BLOG–I REMINISCE ABOUT MY WALK ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO A YEAR AGO
Yesterday’s Holiday Book Sale event at Humanities Texas went well, and as I shared with several folks there about El Camino, I realized how few people really know about this incredible experience. Talking to Manuel Medrano from UT-Brownsville and Jeremi Suri from UT-Austin was worth the trip to Austin, of course, it was a fundraiser for Humanities Texas, and so I was glad to be there. It was great to see Jim Veninga and so many old friends, too. Although I was sad to miss two social events in San Antonio: Lisa de la Portilla’s wedding and La Raza Holiday party at Jesse Zapata’s. After the Humanities Texas event, we went to REI, in part to revisit the place where I had been a year ago. But we went to the one on Lamar not the one we went to a year ago. Still, just walking in and seeing all the equipment brought me back to when I was buying my back pack last year. REI is the place to go for lovers of outdoors sports. Any and all gear for hiking, swimming, biking, etc., you name it, they got it! Since I can’t drive at night (In my youth I used to prefer to drive at night– on the long trips to Nebraska or even as recent as five years ago, we often took off in late evening to arrive in Port Aransas by midnight; now, I get migraine headaches driving at night! So, we spent the night in Kyle with friends María Fránquiz and Cinthia Salinas–loved it! But I missed lighting the candles for my Virgen de Guadalupe altar. The pets had a good caretaker, though, Rose Rodriguez Rabin who loves animals, and enjoys ours, graciously spent the night with our animalitos…
Tonight, we had dinner with Rose and my tocaya Norma Alarcón at a Thai restaurant. The food was good as was the conversation. It was a new restaurant for them–Sawsadee on Blanco Road. Tonight, I spruced up my altar once again–the roses and flowers I bought on December 2 still fresh for the most part. Tonight, Elvia lit all the candles–about 20 or so–and I wept tears of joy to see my grandmother’s image of La Virgen in the glow of the candles. Elvia’s mom gave her a bulto of la Virgen, and that too is on our altar. Tonight, I remember being in Toledo a year ago and having mixed feelings: Should I have stayed to go to the Matachines? Should I even be walking the pilgrimage?
For several years, on December 11, I could be found in procession with the Matachines de la Santa Cruz; at least that was my practice for the last 20 years or so until I moved to San Antonio. Margie Layton sent me a photo of the group in procession por las calles del Barrio de la Ladrillera tonight. Tonight in parishes all over Mexico and Greater Mexico the matachines are dancing and serenading Guadalupe. I remember when I lived in Washington, DC, we went to Mt. Pleasant to a church where the mañanitas were sung by Mariachi Los Amigos. In Lincoln, Nebraska, I witnessed a reenactment, with children portraying Juan Diego, the Archbishop, and of course, La Virgen. Here in San Antonio, various parishes will hold a prayer vigil tonight with matachin dancers, but it is San Fernando Cathedral that is the center of many of the danzas. They sell champurrado and buñuelos and antojitos in the café right next to the cathedral, while the various groups from around town dance outside. Not just matachines, but Azteca and Conchero dancers all gather to dance through the night. Two years ago, my sisters Leticia and Elsa and I went and had a great time. But last year, I was in Toledo and far away from such celebrations. I prayed a rosary on my own and remembered the fiestas. Mexican television has programming with famous singers and actors making an appearance. But in Spain hardly anyone notices the feast day. In Santiago, though, there is an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe in a side chapel as there is in a side chapel at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. One could say that La Morenita, as Our Lady of Guadalupe is known, gets around!
A year ago, I was in Toledo dreaming about el Camino; yet, I was homesick for los matachines and the celebrations in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe.