Saturday, December 24, 2016

Oaxacan second line

It was about 9:00 o'clock in the evening - pretty early in this socially active city. The streets were packed due to the annual yuletide Noche de los Rabanos festival. I was sitting at the bar with my three companions in a mezcaleria on Calle Cinco de Mayo.  A mezcaleria is a little place where you can sample mezcal by the glass and buy it by the bottle if you like. Some places are part of restaurants, and serve cocktails like any bar, but this little place only served mezcal.

We were sitting at the bar comparing different pours, sipping the smooth smoky liquor. There was a guy from New Jersey crowding my shoulder. He was drunk, and he was checking my Jersey bonafides by asking me whether I knew which town exit number 115 was.

"Turnpike or Parkway?" I asked him.

When suddenly from outside was a loud boom, following by the unmistakable sputtering squeal of a bottle rocket going off.

The drunk paid for his bottle and, twirling a set of BMW car keys on his finger, headed out the door.

"I sure hope he's not driving," said my friend Alice.

"Oh, he's driving," said the young woman behind the bar. "Look." We watched a black BMW roll slowly down the narrow cobbled street.

The fireworks continued, increasing in frequency and proximity, and suddenly there was one going off right out in the street. We could hear music. "What's going on?" said Janet.

"It's a calendaro," said the woman behind the bar. She explained it was a private celebratory parade people give for weddings and other occasions.

The mezcaleria was a tiny place, the bar just inside the door. We only needed to take a few steps to be out onto the sidewalk for a look.

A man had an apparatus set up in the middle of the street, and as we watched, he shot off another bottle rocket. The sparks glowed orange in the dark, the streets here being far more poorly lit than streets in the United States. The music grew louder, and in the darkness we could see huge fantastic shapes floating toward us.

They were papier mache puppets and spinning globes, held aloft by marchers. They headed up a cortege of parading people - women in flowered and feathered headdresses and others carrying glowsticks. Behind, a brass band blared, clarinets trilled, and cymbals crashed. Crowds of spectators ran alongside.

"Hey," I realized. "It's a goddam Second Line!"

The video I took is very dark, due to the darkness of the street, but the sound of the parade rings true.

I think I like this place!

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