Everywhere and without hesitation there is gratitude and celebration in San Miguel de Allende this Easter. Bursting inside of Mexico is a boisterous blend of sounds and sights trapped between the poverty of a place once unnoticed and the unmistakable thumbprint of the next boomtown. Women and children wear purple for mourning and walk almost dancing past dogs content napping and guarding the horses standing patiently nearby. That patience resonates from man and beast alike, born of a people’s faith that is centuries old – assured of its place and purpose. Here it is beautiful to be still, feel the sun, smell the chamomile, and sense the power of family and salvation.
Face after face fill a great parade with eyes that have cried for their God. Statues are shrouded in the same sorrow as those who understand suffering’s secret. Spectators stare at the somber processional but barely glimpse the devotion of its soul. A thousand miles away, lives of comfort await them where faith is just fear in hiding and pain is painted over. Joy has withered from neglect because for them it comes at too high a cost. Now here it is at the tips of their turned up noses. It is death by candlelight, crushingly held upon leather brown shoulders, sung by the lips of night-haired children, and embraced as a part of life. It is a reality not anesthetized by privilege.
A portal to this truth is there before me. But, I cannot get in. The space is too small a fit for me with my ego, my distraction, and my “on to the next thing”. I am comfortable in my delusion. I am one of the masses removed from the moment by a camera lens and thinking I know it all. I do not feel a stirring. The parade is nearing its end. Twenty men at least strain to hold the bulky wood beams upon which sits the clear glass casket of God. Sadness reaches itself inside me and binds me to my conviction. The sky is red, purple, then black. My body aches from an old injury that plagues me. This makes me dizzy and mad. I think I know about suffering. I tell myself as I walk away that I understand it all. I avoid having to feel ashamed.
The sun rises in San Miguel to try again with me today. The mood is lighter, more jovial, and the poetry of community fills the air. Loud booming fireworks make children scream and giggle with fingers shoved tight in their ears. Young and old gather in celebration as I slip away to breathe and just be. In a few steps the street is as clear as the sky above me. The voices, not ten feet away, sound like whispers. My feet crunch below me, keeping me rooted in now. I pass a wooden door and my world becomes yellow. It is suddenly soft wool with fringe at the edges. My whole life is tucked in a doorway on a stone step bursting with yellow and begging. I am frozen and staring.
Her hands are mangled and terrifyingly small. Without saying a word she is asking for money, for compassion, and for me to realize that she wants to eat so that she can continue to live this suffering and joyous life. I cannot escape her message to me. She is the frailty that still finds strength. She is the peace while feeling the pain. Her yearning for life knows all about mourning, sorrow and poverty and yet wraps itself in an unwavering and absolute yellow. Her hands, warped and motionless, simply convey that death is a spectacular reason to live. They assure me that it is worth it to have one more day despite hardships I will never know. I want to cry and am filled with confusion. I take her picture and hurry away.
She is reality not anesthetized. And, I do not even give her a peso. I am afraid.