About eleven o’clock this morning I wandered down the steep steps that descend from our house to the shops of Cerro de Gallo. I needed some veggies for supper and I was going to pick up some chicken from the carniceria—the butcher shop. When I arrived, it was shut tight. I asked one of the young men leaning against a nearby wall why. “Friday, Dia de la Virgen,” he said. Nobody eats meat.
Of course. I’d forgotten. This is the first day of Semana Santa. I wrote a bit about this last year as well. No chicken, so I nipped into the fruteria to buy some broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and a couple of mangoes.
While I was choosing my produce, I saw the proprietor handing out popsicles to kids.
Gifts? I asked as she was weighing my carrots. She nodded. Dia de la Virgen. She bagged up my purchases and gave me a popsicle.
“No, that’s okay” I said.
“They’re for the kids.”
“Para grandes tambien,” she said—for grownups too— and put the frozen juice-on-a-stick into my bag. It’s a very busy little produce shop. She must have a lot of popsicles in that cooler!
There’s a second carniceria in the neighbourhood, and since I’m not a devotee of the Virgin—and even if I were I don’t think she’d care what I ate—I figured I’d stop in there for some chicken. From some distance away, I saw that the garage-type doors to the shop were open. But wait. No meat. The cooler was empty. In front of the shop was a traditional altar honouring the Virgin of Guadalupe (under a no parking sign)—and two big green tubs of ice cream.
Could I take a picture, I asked. Sure…said the proprietor as he handed me a little spoon and a plastic cup filled with a fruit-flavoured ice cream. I felt a little guilty because I almost never buy my meat there.
But that was just the beginning. I went out a bit later, just to look at the altars being constructed in our little part of town. Every time I asked if I could take a photo, I had to turn down another popsicle. By that time–just an hour or so later–I guess they’d run out of ice cream at carniceria no. 2. It was locked right up.
One of the more elaborate altars in the neighbourhood.
We were downtown last evening, and everywhere people were selling (and buying) the white flowers that are used to decorate the altars.
There is a city-wide competition for the best altars. Judges wander through all the streets and callejones (walkways, really, like ours) examining the handiwork.
Just to the side of that last photo, a crowd gathered to collect their popsicles.
As I recall from other years, she will be handing out cups of juice later in the day. She’s shaded it with a sheet and decorated our part of the street with paper banners. (The red house on the left is ours.)