Guanajuato, (also known by locals as GTO) was overflowing with people when we arrived here on October 23rd. I had read in numerous places that it would be nearly impossible to find a hotel room during El Cervantino in Guanajuato, but luckily, we hadn’t booked a hotel. We were in a vacation rental, up a meandering staircase just a short distance from the city center.
Today is the last day of the Festival Internacional Cervantino and we’re going to go out and see some of the events. Though the streets are bombarded with visitors starting around 5:00 PM, the actual fiesta doesn’t even begin until 10:00 PM. It’s a pretty big deal to the people here and even in Mexico City, locals talked about Guanajuato and El Cervantino with a sparkle in their eyes.
I hate to be biased, but Dia de Muertos is the festival that I’m really looking forward to. I
Maybe I’m weird, but I feel compelled to get home before sunset during the Festival Internacional Cervantino. I’m sure it’s a great show (we hear it every night…the same music played over and over until 1:00-3:00 AM in the distance), but I just feel compelled to walk away from the crowd. I think I’m after something else. Something more personal than what I can find in the midst of a huge gathering of people.
I enjoy the arts as much as anyone, but I’ve never been able to walk through an art gallery and really focus on the art. There is so much ego in the average art gallery and none of it comes from the artists themselves. People stand around, admiring paintings, sketches, and doodles with a particular look on their faces that just doesn’t jive with me. I find myself observing the people observing the artwork and frankly, I don’t have to pay huge sums of money to sit and watch people.
Music is similar in many respects. I used to enjoy the crowded, craziness of concerts, but
now that I’m older, I think I prefer to listen to music on headphones. If I’m listening…really listening to the music, then it’s best to listen alone. Performances are full of energy and yes, the people who perform the music are there, in person, but I don’t get to talk to them or hang out with them. And they’re just people after all. I like small, raw venues, but unless I’m the one putting on the big production, I feel like I’ve seen them all.
And not to be a poop, but a crowd is a crowd. All crowds of people behave in the same way. Human behavior in a group setting is really predictable, which is why the U.S. Consular Affairs web site urges Americans to avoid them. Typically, when we see a crowd of people, we walk the other direction. Unfortunately, that means that we miss a lot of things like El Cervantino, but that’s a personal choice.
On Friday night, we went out to gather our nightly supply of fruits and veggies. We had to stop at the Avocado Lady’s table. She called to us as we walked by and we promised we’d return and buy aguacates later. First we went to the Mercado Commercial where Leonor told us they “had everything” (they don’t). We put the goods in our backpack and headed back home through the throngs of people heading toward Teatro Juarez.
On the way, we stopped at the Avocado Lady. The Avocado Lady has these amazing avocados. They’re perfectly ripe, huge, and extremely tasty. That’s all she sells. She sits there with a sample piece of avocado ready and offers to people walking by to taste. We make guacamole every day right now. I can buy 5 gigantic avocados from the Avocado Lady for $50 MXN, which is about $3.75.
After we got stocked on avocados, we went to Vegetable Stand #1. We don’t have to shop at this stand, but we like the people there so we buy some stuff from them every day. When we stopped at the veggie stand, there was a man there who corrected me on a word that I used in Spanish. He asked where we were from and introduced himself as “Jesus”.
Jesus was easy to talk to. He listened and repeated himself as necessary in Spanish. I’ve
found that even though I’m barely an intermediate Spanish-speaker, that communication is not just about how many words I know. Walking down the street, I might meet up with one person and feel really good about the conversation I have with him. I might take another 50 steps down the sidewalk and have another conversation with another person and feel like I should just give up on Spanish and never endeavor to speak a foreign language again. I’ve realized that it isn’t me. If the person I’m talking to doesn’t care about what I’m saying or doesn’t want to tune in or make a connection with me, there are no words I can say (in Spanish, in English, or in any language) that will make it happen. Most people are this way. But every now and then, I run into someone who will listen to what I say, speak slowly to me, correct me when I’m wrong (so I can learn), and stry to divine what I’m saying even though I only have a few words that I can use.
Jesus extolled the Cervantes Festival as an “espectaculo”. He said it was a “concurrido grande” (a big gathering). He also told us that the area where we’re living is somewhat dangerous to foreigners. He talked a little bit about classic rock n’ roll, fruit, and the United States. Then we said goodbye. It was a pleasant and illuminating conversation in Spanish.
This interaction was infinitely more interesting to me than a huge group of people blindly following each other around.
I really love putting on parties and managing large gatherings. For years, our family put on a Halloween festival and I couldn’t get enough of watching people and figuring out how to control the crowd using lighting and sound and the structure of the environment. But when the crowd is out of my control, it seems pretty risky, especially in foreign countries when I’m not fluent in the language. I already paid my mosh pit dues in my college days and I think I’d rather be home before bedtime to hang out with my family and enjoy the sound of the roaring crowds from my cozy vacation rental on a hill.