The fireworks went on until the wee hours of the morning. When John left the house at 5:45 this morning, people were still partying. Last year, in 2011, we were in Palenque on New Year’s Eve, trying to escape from the obnoxious evangelist whose fire-and-brimstone voice echoed throughout Progreso from 7:00 PM to midnight. This year was much quieter, but since we essentially sleep in the open air with windows that are covered only with some hard plastic blinds, the fireworks continued to wake us up throughout the night. Apparently, people shoot them off to ward off the evil spirits as they ring in the new year.
I always find it amusing how adherents of a religion will regularly resort to pagan beliefs while seamlessly poo-poo-ing them. Apparently, at midnight, the people here will eat one grape for each of the 12 seconds leading up to midnight of the new year. Then, they’ll sweep the dust out of their house (to symbolize their desire to get rid of last year’s crap, I suppose) and throw money on the ground and sweep that into the house, in the hopes that doing so will bring good fortune in the year ahead.
The other day, I asked Iracema about curanderos, shamanic healers who use earth-based medicine to cure disease rather than modern medicine. We were talking about medical terms because she and Lydian had both been sick and it seemed appropriate. Iracema told us that the curanderos are a little crazy. She didn’t have the English words to really convey her thought, so she pantomimed the chanting, smoke blowing, and sage throwing and then looked back at us for our understanding and approval. I don’t know if she ate grapes at midnight last night or swept coins past her threshold, but her neighbors and friends probably did. She probably has a Christmas tree (which is also pagan and definitely out of place in Mexico). Why not consider going to a curandero for a bad cold?
I’d like to go visit a curandero and see them work. Not because I think their rituals can legitimately heal another person, but just because I’m curious. I think sometimes curanderos probably have success with patients. Indeed, some curanderos might be really good at what they do. I know that good doctors can give me faith in bad medicines (pills that can make me as sick as any germ-related illness). The placebo effect is powerful. Maybe curanderos are good at conjuring a person’s inner ability to heal themselves. No one can deny that placebos do “work” sometimes. Why is blowing off fireworks to ward off evil spirits okay, but going to a curandero not okay? Maybe both things are silly. Or both legitimate. I just think it’s interesting that people of all cultures (even atheistic China) take part in pagan rituals while simultaneously looking down their noses at them.