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  • Red dots appear on the mountain, is the Triqui women that arrive wearing their traditional Huipil dress with brocade patterns that represent myths, traditions and the everyday experiences of their community. Like other 80, 000 pilgrims, they have been walking for hours to get to Santiago Nundiche and worship the image of the Holy Infant inside it´s church. Today is the big celebration where we all come together.
  • Some people say that the little sculpture of the naked Holy Infant appeared on the forest around this town, someone found it and took it to the church, then another person stole it but the figure appeared back in the church in the morning. The priest said it was a miracle, they dressed the figure and people started coming to worship it on the third Sunday of January every year.
  • The Triqui women stay near a small chapel where they leave fake dollars and pesos bills asking for miracles, they also build little houses and stables with rocks and wood, using bottle caps to represent animals to depict what they ask for.
  • On the way down to the church of the Holy Infant there are three big crosses with an amazing view to the valley where visitors “clean” their souls by hitting themselves with traditional medicine plants.
  • The streets of town are full of parked trucks and buses with images of the Holy Infant, families come out of the vehicles and start mounting their tents. Some teachers from Tlaxiaco have come to the celebration, I find Rene, he´s very excited to see me again so we go visit Mr. Lorenzo to get some “micheladas”: spicy beer cocktails with lime juice. Our conversation is constantly interrupted by the loud explosions of the firecrackers.

    I also find Jorge, the housepainter who I met months ago and came back from the United States to be with his family. He hangs out with at the market that surrounds the church, formed by dozens of tents that sell, beer, schnapps and gifts with the image of the Holy Infant: keychains, tees, knitted necklaces and cheesy picture frames. Jorge is happy because he can buy traditional food like tamales and homemade bread but also American fast food like pizza and hamburgers.
  • Due to the amount of people, the main mass is offered in the church atrium, but inside the old building men and women pray to the image of the Infant for miracles, holding candles in their hands or crawling with their knees on the floor.
  • In the evening the Moors and Christians traditional dance starts, the princess of the moors is the one wearing a paper moon and star symbol on her head while the king of the Christians wears a paper crown. Other men and children dressed as Spanish and Islamic soldiers dance pretending they fight with swords to the rhythm of a brass band that repeats the same tunes over and over for hours.
  • By dawn everyone has set up their tents, Xixi looks at them with a long face seated on the porch, she´s not excited about the event at all, it´s been the same for her every year for almost 90 years now, she´s here only because she´s afraid that a drunk person would break into her little house and steal her things.
  • When the sunlight is completely gone the real fiesta is about to start; rivers of people walk towards the “Castillo”, a giant metal structure filled with fireworks. On our way we find Carlos, the Triqui boy who took me to the Cave of the Thunder, he helps Xixi walk slowly among the food stalls to see the show but the amount of people stresses her so we sit on the side and watch the fireworks from afar.

    Fireworks were first introduced in the indigenous towns of Mexico when the “pacification” process of the new Spanish colony ended. The storehouses were full of gunpowder and the colonial administration didn´t know what to do with it, so they asked the priests to collect money from the recently conquered natives by including fireworks as part of the expenses for the religious celebrations. I tell this to Xixi, who looks at me with total surprise in her brown eyes beneath the furry hat she wears on her head.
  • When the fireworks are over, people go back to their tents and gather around the fire to have dinner and get drunk to the tunes of “banda” music. Carlos goes back home on his own, he has to work the next day at 5 in the morning loading sandbags, but before leaving he tells me the authorities at his community tried to take the computer I gave him month ago in return for taking me there, assuming that he had stolen it because he´s poor and orphan. I hope I´ll see him again.
  • The next morning as the fog clears up, the bodies of drunk men appear on the streets of Nundiche. Xixi is obsessed with eating her favorite recipe: “macita”, corn dough slowly cooked in mud vessels buried in the ground and mixed with coagulated sheep blood.
  • As Xixi puts the spoon inside her mouth she stares at a little girl on her dad´s shoulders and says:

    - My dad didn´t want me to go to school, he was a man of customs not of reason, that was in the 30´s when Lázaro Cárdenas was president and ordered that every kid should get education so he got locked in jail for five days. Then I went to school but I was a very mischievous little girl and Spanish was difficult for me to learn so I refused to do my homework and only wanted to play with the little chicken, the sheep, the dogs.

    But then I had this teacher who was really interested in my education, he really loved to teach, he really loved us as students. I started to be good at school because of him but I ended up I repeating 4th grade because there were no more grades. I decided to take an adventure to Mexico City with two of my cousins, we rented a small room and found jobs as seamstresses. I loved the stores in downtown Mexico City, the cars, the shoes.

    I wander what would have happened if I had the opportunity to have a higher education, to learn more before jumping into life. Where would I be? What would have been of my children? Of Pablo who became a drunk because he was so sensitive to loneliness, of Javier who was involved in drug dealing and disappeared in the eighties, of Noé whom I beat so hard when he was a kid and left himself die after he got diabetes, of Domingo who nowadays helps me at home after living on the streets for almost ten years as an addict, of my daughters who get terrified when they have close relationships because I was an absent mother. I´m pretty sure things would have been different; I wander of all that could have been.
  • We walk back home among the drunk men waking up to the bright sun, families cleaning up the tents, kids happily taking their bags back to their packed vehicles with naive smiles.
  • As the smoke coming from the mud vessels buried in the ground rises, the faces of the old ladies selling their vegetables vanish in the whispers of ancient Mixtec, my grandma Xixi and I disappear into the breeze.
  • I´ve been wandering in the Mixtec Highlands for almost a year exploring Mixtec identity, discrimination and poverty. Visiting back and forth between Mexico City and Oaxaca to discover my indigenous roots. For me this place has become a constant reminder of the insignificance of oneself, a need for people to be attached to each other.

    I wander if I will ever be able to unify the pieces of my life that connect me with modern life and the ones of a civilization that has lasted for centuries. There´s a magical thinking in this mountains that I can relate to, a mystical way of perceiving the world, not in geographical terms but as a balance between spirits that inhabit the earth just like in the ancient Mixtec codex, a beautiful childlike mindset that gives meaning to the things that happen in life.
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