Tag Archives: Uriangato

Playing Tourist–Uriangato, Guanajuato

Uriangato, Guanajuato is Moroleon’s neighboring town and also believes itself to be a city.  They are so close they share the Calle de Ropa (Clothing street) and have been involved in recent land disputes over the Moroleon/Uriangato border. However, the culture between the two is centuries apart. Moroleon is on its way to becoming an unimaginative merchandising metropolis while Uriangato still has bonfire festivities.  

The name Uriangato (which to me sounds suspiciously like something that translates as cat pee) actually comes from the original Purepecha name of the settlement which was anapu-nani-hima-huriata-hari-jatzhicuni-anandini.  This translates roughly as Lugar donde el sol se pone levantado (the place where the sunset occurs on top) and refers to the fact that the western surrounding hills do not allow the sun’s rays to reach the town center from the early afternoon on, causing it to look like sunset most of the day. Apparently, the conquering Spanish could not pronounce the name and dubbed the area Uriangato.

Back in the year 940 or so, the area was inhabited by the Chichimecas and Otomies under the general jurisdiction of the Purepechas of Yuriria. At the time of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Uriangato was considered a border area dividing the Chichimeca and Purepecha domains.  In 1529, the area and its inhabitants were gifted to Juan de Tovar.  In 1549,  Fray Diego de Chávez founded la Congregación de Nativos (The Congregation of Natives), with the supposed goal of bettering the lives of the indigenous left in the area.  On February 20, 1604, King Felipe the Third decreed that the area would henceforth be known as the town of San Miguel Uriangato.

The monument in honor of Hidalgo and his forces passing through on the way to Morelia.

During the Mexican Independence War, Uriangato’s only involvement was allowing Hidalgo and his troops to pass through on their way to Valladolid (Morelia) on November 14, 1810.  There’s a monument in the town center marking that they too were part of the “Ruta de la Independencia.” (Road to Independence).

The animosity that still exists between Moroleon and Uriangato apparently began in the early 1830’s. There were some issues with vendors from Uriangato who wished to set up stalls in the area that is now known as Moroleon and were prohibited by locals. Neither city has forgotten.

In 1918, Uriangato was attacked by bandits under the leadership of J. Inés Chávez García.  The town rallied and drove the bad guys away. Venustiano Carranza himself sent his congratulations to the town officials. The Aniversario de la Heroica Defensa de Uriangato (anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Uriangato) is commemorated on June 24.

1918 was also the year that the Spanish Influenza hit Uriangato. During the months of October and November of that year, 25 to 30 bodies were buried daily with an estimated total death toll of 1500 residents.

The town tradition of the Globos de Cantoya (hot air balloons) began in 1928 as part of the festivities honoring San Miguel the Archangel during La Octava Noche.  I have not gone to see this particular aspect of the San Miguel tradition, not being a big fan of balloons and all, but the sawdust artistry of the tapetes (carpets) is really amazing. This is a relatively new tradition begun in 2009. The other major aspect of these celebration days are the candiles (bonfires). Nearly every household has a burning ocote fire in front of their home lit to guide San Miguel through the town. It’s an eerie experience. (See also Fogatas, tapetes, and San Miguel Arcangel ) The Fiesta de San Miguel Arcángel runs from September 19 to October 6 culminating in a procession over the tapetes with the image of San Miguel the archangel to and from La Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel.

You can find something for everyone–zombie, Guadalupe and pot shirts for sale here.

The first rebozo (shawl) textile factories in Uriangato were opened in the 1960s leading to the eventual creation of 4 km of street vendor stalls that continues on into Moroleon.  I find the whole shopping experience overwhelming.  I mean really, 4 kilometers of clothing? However, this is a big draw for people from other areas who buy quantities of clothing and then resell it in their own stores.

During the Christmas season, which is observed from December 16 to December 30, Los Enanitos Toreros (midget bullfighters) never fail to make an appearance.  Not something you are likely to see in Moroleon.

So if you like shopping, pageantry and midget bullfighters, you won’t want to miss stopping by Uriangato.

 

  

 

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Fogatas, tapetes and San Miguel Arcangel –Bonfires, sawdust and Michael the Archangel

Uriangato, the neighboring town that also believes itself to be a city, has an incredible community festival in September to honor their patron saint, Michael the Archangel. It begins on September 19 and is followed by 8 days of activities, finishing with an event called La Octava Noche on September 29.

From September 19 to September 28, each household lights a small bonfire with ocote wood (a type of pine native to Mexico) in front of their homes each night. These fires are called candiles literally translated as lightings as they are said to light the path of San Miguel Arcangel during this novena (9 prayer days).

candiles

I have to say that the first time I witnessed this event, I was startled. It’s quite a sight, fire after fire, street after street. Of course, it’s origin is prehispanic.

From what I understand, this local tradition was associated with the god Curicaueri, whose name in Purepecha means great fire, and who was credited with the foundation of the state of Michoacan. (Uriangato is a mere hop, skip and jump from the present day border of Michoacan.) Curicaueri was considered the oldest of the gods and was honored by the lighting of bonfires with ocote wood.  Some of this long ago origin remains in the form of indigenous dancers that perform during the events.

There are peregrinaciones (pilgrimages) over several days usually in the form of parades made up of local civic groups.  The parade route takes the pilgrims to the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the main Catholic church in Uriangato.

The other major event associated with this festival is the creation of tapetes, floor mats. These are labourously created with colored sawdust, seeds, and flowers along the roads in Uriangato. They usually take the form of a variety of Catholic images and are tread upon by the passage of the image of Michael the Archangel on October 6, known as La Octava Noche (the 8th prayer day in the novena). The tapete tradition is said to have begun in 1966 and each year becomes more and more elaborate.

The custom to take out the image of San Miguel and walk through the town at night, in a similar fashion to El Senor de Esquipulas in Moroleon, began after the Spanish conquest. It seems that only the Independence War and the Cristero War kept the procession from well, proceeding. It starts and ends, naturally enough, at La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel and covers an area about 5 km long.

The image is carried by different groups of volunteers with rest and prayer stations found along the route. This year, the image has been covered in protective glass, which better protects the 50 ornate vestments from the elements.

Here are some of the outfits.

It really is a unique festival and should you happen this way during the holy celebration, it is definitely worth checking out.

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Shopping El Buen Fin–Mexican Black Friday

El Buen Fin is the third week in November in México.

El Buen Fin is the third week in November in México.

With commercial conglomerates like Wal-mart invading Mexican soil, it was only a matter of time until Black Friday arrived which it did with the invention of El Buen Fin in 2011. This was started by merchants in an attempt to stimulate the Mexican economy, but the true benefactors are the merchants themselves.

Banks and loan agencies offer advances on the aguinaldo (end of year bonus) to shoppers during the marketing period.

Banks and loan agencies offer advances on the aguinaldo (end of year bonus) to shoppers during the marketing period.

The advertising propaganda was intense last year. I even started to feel anxious as the big weekend approached. And the fact that it fell on a payday didn’t help that hole my money was burning in my pocket.

Well, I reasoned, we did need a few things. So with that weak rationale, we headed out to the commercial shopping center complex in Uriangato. It’s the first shopping center with a movie theater in the area and was built only about 2 years ago. Not that our income allows for much movie going, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

The first stop was to look for a cell phone for my husband. His last phone died several months ago when it fell out of his pocket into the ajibe (dry well). We went to Coppel, but couldn’t get close enough to the display cases to see if there was anything he liked. He’s pretty particular. It must be a folding phone so he can carry it in his pocket when he is out with the goats and it won’t turn on and discharge because you know charging is a bit of a challenge without electricity. Then it needed to have buttons, not a touch screen and large buttons at that. His hands are coarse and unwieldy from daily manual labor. But like I said, we couldn’t get close enough for a good look, so we went to the TelCel store. We were able to see most of the phones, however, there were only two options, cheapy phones and touch-screen options.

We wandered up the corridor to the Iusacell store, but there were only 3 models. Then we headed to Soriana, but again, there were so many nalgas (backsides) blocking the glass display cases that we gave up. Instead, we headed to the bedding section. We needed some sheets as our last fitted sheet tore down the middle some week ago and we were sleeping on the bare mattress. $350 pesos or 7 English classes for those! Then we headed to the choni (underwear) section since everybody needed chonis (underwear) and socks. $150 for a pack of 4. Yikes! We picked up a stick of butter and a bag of sugar and headed out the door. In all, with the Buen Fin sales, we saved a whopping 50 centavos on the stick of butter.

Retailers sometimes raise prices right before the shopping weekend and then lower them to create an artificial savings for consumers.

Retailers sometimes raise prices right before the shopping weekend and then lower them to create artificial savings for consumers.

So, when I got home, I checked those enticing ads out again. Those deals were really too good to be true. The phones that were on sale did not include the calling plan, which tripled the original non-discounted price. The motos on sale were only available through payment plans, with hidden interest rates that negated any savings you might have by buying this weekend. Other big ticket items advertised such as computers, entertainment centers, and bedroom suites had the same credit promotion. Thus, the fact that we used cash insured no great “discount” for us. I was disappointed but wiser as a result and next year will swear off any store that advertises a Buen Fin discount.

Buying on credit is never a good idea.

Buying on credit is never a good idea.

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Safety and security (or lack of) in these parts

 

Masked persons may or may not be members of the official police force here in Mexico. Numerous crimes are committed daily by those dressed much like those pictured here.

Masked persons may or may not be members of the official police force here in Mexico. Numerous crimes are committed daily by those dressed much like those pictured here.

Last weekend, my husband and one of his friends A, went to Cerano for the weekly tianguis (flea market). On the way home, they were stopped by los cappuchis (masked ‘policemen’) who examined their papers, searched the vehicle and ended up demanding a mordida (bribe) which was all the cash the two had on them.

This is just another case in point in a long line of problems with the police or supposed police, it’s hard to say which is which these days. So why is it that those paid to serve and defend are in the midst of this sort of activity?

Perhaps because we live less than an hour from the Michoacan-Guanajuato border. The ‘police’ arrive in town, accept these not-so voluntary contributions, make off with parked vehicles, even as far as targeting wealthy-looking persons for kidnapping and head back to Michoacan, outside the Guanajuato jurisdiction.

I can’t even begin to list all the times my husband has been charged a mordida, which translates a “little bite” as in little bite of the apple. On the moto, in the truck, and even while on horseback, police have stopped, searched, and relieved him of cash or other easily transportable items like tools or cds.

We once made the mistake of reporting a particularly big mordida to the chief of state police several years ago. We filled out the report and had it sent to Guanajuato. The police involved were suspended 2 weeks, but had their revenge. My husband was out and about and had a flat tire one day. While waiting for the tow truck, the same police that we had reported stopped and arrested him on a pretext of obstructing traffic or something or other. Two years later, he gets a summons and we make the trip to Guanajuato where his license was suspended for 180 days. In the scheme of things doesn’t seem like much, however there were the expenses of the trip there and back and the nuisance of 6 months without a license, then having to pay to have it reissued. So it seems there isn’t anything else to do but pay up.

Things can be much worse than a mordida. Kidnapping happens on a regular basis. Typically the kidnapped victim is an adult male whose family has money. I suppose women are not kidnapped because there is some doubt whether a ransom would be paid once her reputation is compromised by being in unchaperoned, unknown parts with unknown (probably male) kidnappers. Male victims on the other hand, have a plethora of female relatives that will pull out all stops and get the money for the ransom together.

My husband was kidnapped our first year in Mexico. We had gone to Cerano to visit his relatives (seems a dangerous corridor to drive) and were stopped by the ‘military’ on the way back. They searched our vehicle and asked some questions and saw that we had cash on hand. My husband had some 2000 pesos in his wallet to buy a door for the house. From me they gleaned that we had some land (although its only 2 measly lots) and our vehicle was luxurious for these parts as we were still driving our 2000 GMC Sierra. After all that, we went on our merry way back to La Yacata.

Someone on the ‘military’ team alerted the kidnappers that we were potential victims and they followed us to La Yacata. Otherwise, remote as it is, no one would think to look for us there. Additionally the address that was on my husband’s license and registration was that of his brother’s house since La Yacata had no street names yet. Unsuspecting, my son and I got out at the house and my husband took the truck up the hill to cut some inquierta (a vine plant that grows in trees and has orange flowers and black berries) for the goats to eat.

About 30 minutes later, his parents and I were outside talking and saw the truck attempting to come down a road that was not finished. We wondered aloud what on earth my husband was doing since he knew that road was closed and went back to the conversation. A little while later, a green van came down the road, again with little comment from us.

But my husband didn’t come back. I sat at the door all night and waited for him. His brother thought he might have gone drinking and stayed in town, but I knew him. He would not leave us alone all night.

Around 5 a.m. he pulled up and practically fell out of the truck. He had awoken in Uriangato, a neighboring town, dazed and disoriented.

He doesn’t remember much, but says that when he had jumped down from the tree, there were about 5 or 6 young guys. There must have been one behind him with something on a cloth to make him pass out, because he said the next thing he knew, he was lying on a bed in an unfamiliar room. Gathering his wits, he broke the window and jumped out. Someone entered when he was jumping and tried to restrain him, but he shook him off. Then he spotted the truck parked down the road, took out the spare key which was hidden under the front bumper, opened the door and revved off, relieved of his wallet and, of course ,the money, and various little things that had been in the truck. It took him some time to orient himself and find the road back to Moroleón, but find it he did.

For a time he was shaken up, but then he was angry and wanted to go and try to find the guys. That phase passed too. We were fortunate. Several other persons of my acquaintance have been kidnapped. Its quite an ordeal, no water, no bathroom, physical and emotional abuse, calls and messages to family members to pay up. The physically and emotional trauma is intense and causes life-long problems, both in terms of health and psychological issues. And emotionally, if it happens in your own home, how does one recover the sense of security lost? Not to mention the monetary aspect. The current going rate is $500,000 U.S. dollars, not exactly chump change.

For our part, we sold our nice truck and bought a 1980 model with a few bangs in it already. Looking as poor as we are, perhaps trying to blend in, has relieved some of our anxiety. However, the random stops and searches, valid pretext or not, the mordidas, kidnappings, robberies have not been halted and makes a daily trek to the store a voyage frought with unexpected dangers.

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