We’ve been in Mexico for about five months now and we have yet to find a single person who needs more than the vaguest excuse to throw a party. First, second, third or fourth Wednesday of the month? Good enough. Got to the gas station before the morning rush? Let’s celebrate. Cat had kittens? Party at my house!
The only thing that seems closer to a Mexican’s heart than a good party is his or her hometown. Between the family ties and fond memories, Home has an almost cosmic pull on most Mexicans. So when your hometown throws a week long fiesta you clear your schedule.
We were lucky enough to get invited for the first weekend of the 188th Anniversary celebration of a puebla called Union de Tula which is where our friend Iliana’s father, Cosme, was born and where his heard still lives. Cosme has built up the virtues of Tula quite a bit and our expectations are pretty high, but Tula does not disappoint with a gorgeous and extremely well-kept plaza lazy, sunny streets and an ever-growing crowd of revelers–many of whom have returned home from other places in Mexico or from the US just for the party.
The party does not disappoint either. A general air of fun (and the 90+ degree pre-rainy season weather) inspire us to grab a refreshing michelada (a mix of beer, spice, salt and lime juice over ice–like a Mexican bloody mary) at El Torreo, a bar and restaurant right on the square. Properly hydrated we head for the La Loma neighborhood where a central street has been blocked off and filled with folding tables and chairs, a stage and shade canopies.
Late night Banda music in the plaza of Union de Tula.
Everybody knows Cosme and his beautiful wife Cristina but Eric and I are strangers. However, we soon have a heaping plate of birria (a sort of slow cooked delicious stew) and rice and beans in front of us–not to mention an entire case of Sol beer. It’s delicious and loud and friendly and hot and all the best things about Mexico rolled into one mega street party. If only we could do it like this in New York City!
Just when things seem as festive and colorful as they can get, a group of women dressed in layers of colorful skirts and shockingly white blouses arrives. They are escaramusas, or cowgirls, who are expert in Mexican rodeo events which they perform riding side-saddle. They are Karen’s new heroes, by the way–pretty, talented, proud.
A small portion of the formidable horn section of Banda Nueva Union.
We all talk and laugh as the band, Banda Nuevo Union, plays loudly (even without using amplifiers). Banda music is an offshoot of military bands and retains a relentless marching rhythm that, love it or hate it, gets the feet moving-. One tiny cowboy plants himself in front of the band and dances is little heart out. And he’s GOOD.
This kid’s got moves!
Full and happy and Banda’d out we leave La Loma and head for the rodeo, or chareada, where entrance is free for the whole week of the fiesta. Our hosts from La Loma are not far behind and the chareada kicks off with them taking to the ring and hurling candy and oranges into the stands. Dangerous, but fun. By the end of the weekend we are exhausted but happy.
Church bells gone wild in the plaza in Union de Tula.
If we ever forget what we love so much about Mexico, we’ll book a return trip to Tula during a fiesta so that we can be reminded that no one in the world (that we’ve met, anyway), knows how to throw a fun, friendly fiesta like Mexicans.