For folk art lovers in Mexico, few dates are as anticipated as Palm Sunday in Uruapan, Michoacán. "El Tianguis de Domingo de Ramos" (the Palm Sunday Market) is a true celebration of folk art and indigenous culture in all its many forms. Although many consider the folk art "concurso" (the juried folk art contest) the highlight of the weekend, the Parade of Villages is not to be missed!
Annually, on the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday, this joyous parade proudly marches into Uruapan’s central plaza. The "Concurso de Traje Regional" (the contest for regional costumes held during the Palm Sunday market) celebrates its 25th anniversary in April 2006. The indigenous dress (and customs) of central Michoacán are derived from four main ethnic groups: Mazahua, Nahuatl, Otomí, and Purépecha, resulting in a great variety of styles. The costumes are distinguished by their decorations, the dyes and colors used, and by intended occasion (such as a special wedding dress)—and in years past, villagers could easily determine from where another villager came by their manner of dress. The concurso of costumes will not only award prizes for elaborate examples, but also emphasizes and awards prizes for the most-traditional and humble costumes. It is this rich costume heritage that is revived and celebrated in the glorious Parade of Villages.
All parades require rehearsal and organization, and this one is no different. The costumed participants gather at the entrance of the Lic. Eduardo Ruiz National Park and begin getting into formation. As host city, Uruapan will lead the parade. But as to who comes second, third, or fourth in order seems to change with the arrival of each costumed group. Lining up for the parade takes easily more than an hour providing ample time for the band to warm up…and to practice village dance moves!
The leader of the Uruapan delegation was a gyrating, red "torito"—one of several scattered throughout the parade route. The torito and band wisely moved to the shady side of the street while parade participants SLOWLY formed a line.
Patiently waiting for their cue, the colorfully-clad señoras of Uruapan demurely sat in the shade until the torito charged directly at them (to their complete delight!). Suddenly they were on their feet, giggling, and corralled the mischievous torito inside a wall of rebozos—the blue shawls of the region.
Next, the "comadres" of Uruapan decided to practice the Dance of the Fishes, and yelled for the band to strike up a song. Waving their colorful nets, the "fish man" began dancing around the señoras with a silvery, reflective "pescado" made of spandex (yes, sequined spandex!). Surrounded by many, many señoras, the "fish man" did not stand a chance! The fish was promptly grabbed away, and Señora Gloria demonstrated how a silver fish properly undulates and dances. "Ah, men!" she seemed to say with her "this is how it’s done" attitude. The entire delegation was doubled over with laughter. It seems that Señora Gloria is renowned for taking the bull—or fish—by the horns! With rehearsals completed, everyone was now ready for a parade.
The Uruapan delegation (and the torito) took the lead, and the parade headed towards the plaza with crowds of admiring on-lookers lining the route. Like the Olympic parade of nations, each Michoacán village also has a standard bearer proclaiming the village name to all by way of a homemade banner.
The joyous procession marched on towards the plaza, where the largest crowds await.
Mysterious and wondrous masks, ribbon-festooned braids, and the display of crafts of each village are all a part of this dazzling parade.
The crowd burst into applause at the sight of the intricate beading, embroidery and magnificent masks and head dresses from the villages relocated after the volcanic explosion of Paracutin.
And the youngest participants were the most adorable of all.
At last, the procession entered the central plaza for a triumphant march around the square. Hot and tired, the participants reluctantly disbanded and scattered to their respective booths, eager to sell their many folk art treasures. The Uruapan market is the most-lucrative of the year for most artisans.
And those exuberant toritos? They finally came to rest in a market stall…and yes, they were for sale. Rick and I immediately purchased three for our own collection—perfect mementos of Uruapan 2005.
It is only my opinion, but I truly believe that Uruapan’s Tianguis de Domingo de Ramos cannot actually begin until after The Parade of Villages. After all, this market is a parade of culture, a parade of tradition, and a gigantic public celebration of these very people.
And celebrate we did—villagers and visitors alike—for The Parade of Villages was only the beginning of many days of cultural festivities.
March 28, 2006