Hmm, I thought I posted this yesterday but it's not showing up so I must have hit the wrong button (and forgive if this is indeed a repeat...)
Really enjoying your posts from Morelia...
When I read about the guys in the funny masks in Morelia it jogged a memory. Last year, Mexico was the featured country at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. These "Chinelos" from MOrelia were one of the participating groups. I'm a bit fuzzy on all the details but thought you'd be interested in what I can remember about them. During the colonial era, the Spanish aristocrats would not allow the locals to participate in their fancy celebrations. So the locals created their own tradition to mock them. The big pointy chins on their giant head masks were intended to represent the Spaniards. They would play raucous "music" -- lots of banging involved -- and dance, with intricate and slightly agressive-looking arm movements, outside. In Washington, DC in July, their performances were especially amazing since the temperatures were above 90 degrees and the costumes are made of wool and those giant heads are heavy!
For the past several years, I have been a volunteer host at the nightly parties held for the Smithsonian Festival participants at the hotel where they stay. It goes from about 9 to 2 or 3 am, so not much sleep for two solid, and wonderful, weeks! Last year, traditional Mexican musicians, dancers, and crafts people from all region of Mexico participated. Since they were from different regions, they didn't know each other. On the first few nights, they would jam in their separate groups during the party. But after a while, they started playing and dancing together. And some of us gringos would join in the jamming and the dancing! In previous years, the festival has featured musicians from more than one country -- and after a few days this same blending occurs. Music truly is the universal language!
And as you might imagine, this hosting job is one of the highlights of my year. If you're thinking about a trip to Washington, DC, try to make it during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival -- always the week before and week when July 4 falls.