By Antonio Ramblés AKA Tony Passarello
Fiesta! Día de la Candelaria
No less than for county fairs north of the border there’s both a sameness to Mexican village fiestas and yet always some feature that uniquely ties each to a single place.
Cajititlan’s fiesta del Día de la Candelaria proves itself no exception.
As the ceremony on the plaza ends we plunge into a street fair which begins at its edge, lining the curbs of a dozen or more square blocks that slope gently down to the lake.
Canopied booths line both sides of the cobblestone streets and the crowd threads its way through the narrow passages between.
The crowd is a mix of villagers and day-trippers from nearby Guadalajara; I seem to be the only gringo within eyesight and the sense of total immersion is a refreshing break from gringi-fied Ajijic.
Market stalls feature the predictable mix of street food, artisan crafts, household items, bootleg CD’s and DVD’s, and clothing.
Diners sit family-style at long tables where women hand-form tortillas from masa ground on-the-spot using stone metates and grilled on clay comals over wood fires.
Tacos don’t get any fresher than this!
The very last of the Roscas de Reyes – the King’s Day sweet bread – sit forlorn on a baker’s rack in their final day-old sale of the year.
A street vendor cooks bright, unshelled garbanzo beans over a gas-fired griddle. I buy a small bag and pop the steaming beans free of their pods, eating them by handfuls. Delicious!
We pass a centuries-old building that once housed a convent. It’s closed to the public on this holiday, but I make a mental note to see it on a future visit.
Corn roasts over glowing embers curbside.
Under expansive canopies pitched in the soft breeze along the malecon at the water’s edge, a guitarist strolls among families singing ranchera as his listeners share the season’s traditional tamales.
At the pier along the malecon families board small launches for leisurely cruises on the lake.
Nearby a musician absently fingers the keyboard of his accordion, squeezing out tunes so often played that his fingers move unthinkingly over the buttons and keys.
I can’t help but smile in satisfaction as we retrace our steps to my parked car, passing the now deserted plaza.
This fiesta has been a perfect ending to a perfect day spent driving the villages around Lake Cajititlan.
The bright lights of cosmopolitan Guadalajara are but 30 minutes’ drive away, but here in the country villages along the lake traditional Mexico is alive and well.
Made-from-scratch tortillas on a wood-fired, clay comal
A young fathers cradles his infant son
An artisan prepares to apply color to plaster masks
Freshly roasted corn cool on a curbside grill
A street vendor cooks unshelled garbanzo beans
Roscas de Reyes, King’s Day bread
Parish church on the plaza in Cajititlan
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com