Mexicans take Christmas very seriously. The Christmas celebration started December 1st and won’t wind down until February 7th. Yup. Two months – and then some – of Christmas.

One of the bands playing behind the Mercado this morning.

One of the bands playing behind the Mercado this morning.

Oh, and the noise. The closest cathedral to my house (one block up and one block over) starts broadcasting music over their outdoor loudspeakers at dark-thirty. Fireworks – as in every morning – start about the same time and go on all day long. Sometimes there are barrages every 15 minutes. And yes, barrages. As in rockets. As in a dozen at a time.

We’re talking missiles that go 100 – 150 yards into the air before a flash of light followed quickly by deafening explosions. If the wind is right I sometimes find burning paper on my 3rd floor terrace. One time I found a projectile that crashed without exploding on the roof of my laundry. I left it there, comically perched as it was at an angle that  reminded me of the ’60s TV series ‘Lost in Space.’

This morning there were already mariachis out playing in the streets when I went down to the Mercado for breakfast. There was a huge stage set up behind the food court building with such a gigantic array of loudspeakers that it made me positively shiver in fear for the noise that was yet to come.

Mariachis, Tequila, and Coke

Mariachis, Tequila, and Coke

My post-breakfast errands took me up behind the cathedral above my house and there were already two live bands set up and playing. It was 9 am and already some people were drinking tequila. I was invited to drink on three separate occasions but begged off as it was a wee bit too early for me. You should know that very few people will get drunk; at least early on anyway. The early morning tequila is just a tradition.

Today, being the 6th day of Christmas is the day that is for the laborers in the Mercado. So I found the old Mercado buildings this morning all dressed up like aging tarts with baggy nylons and smeared lipstick. And I suspect down there that the first bottle of tequila was opened long before I got out of bed this morning; and I am an early riser.

This is one tiny part of the Mercado all dressed up for today, its single biggest day of the year.


Each and every day of the 12 Days of Christmas feature celebrating a particular trade. On the 9th day, it’s the huarachero’s day. They’ll get a parade and have live music just like the Mercado people are having today.

Fiestas are serious business down here. Mariachis are a well loved and honored profession. Mexicans have a culture that is so multi-threaded that an enthusiast could spend a lifetime studying it and still miss some of the interconnections.

Just one of the many mariachi groups playing in the Mercado today

Just one of the many mariachi groups playing in the Mercado today

For example, I thought November was just about the Day of the Dead celebration on November 2nd. Wrong. It is actually celebrated here as a 4-5 day fiesta. And just how old is the Day of the Dead? The Catholic Church has long since hijacked it but I would strongly suspect that some of the symbolism predates Columbus – like leaving food and drink for the dead at burial sites? And tangentially, are you aware of the irony of names: the devastating Hurricane Katrina and the most popular Day of the Dead figure also named Catrina?

But for November that’s not all. There is also St. Cecilia’s Day on the 22nd. And of course there is a fiesta for that. And because she is the patron saint of music – yup – that means another opportunity for lots (and lots) of music.

I can’t help but think that the Mexican version of hell must be soundless. Like one big sensory deprivation tank. No one to talk to. And no music. That must seem insane to the average American who spends their life working in a quiet office commuting to and from their quiet house gently nestled in some quiet suburban neighborhood.

No. Mexico is decidedly a surround sound environment. Generally speaking, Latin America is loud. But Mexico is louder. And Sahuayo is that place within where the amplifiers spends most of their time cranked up to 11 (cheers, Spinal Tap).

Led Zeppelin sized speaker stacks

Led Zeppelin sized speaker stacks. The amplifiers cranked to the max all to address an area no larger than about 6X the size of the stage; and 300 people maybe. Loud? Indescribable.

PS – I am going to attend a little girl’s first communion at one pm. Ximena is eight years old and is about the cutest thing on two legs. And of course there is a big party that follows the mass.


Radiant Ximena. And click on the image to see the beautiful handmade details of her dress.


It is going to be a delightfully busy day.

PPS – Being a gringo I have just three gripes with Mexico. First – as I’ve been trying to point out – it’s too damn loud. And the fact is when God gave the devil dominion over Michoacan the first thing the evil one did was to populate this place with lunging, snarling dogs and then provide it with a surfeit of rocks, thorns, and fiendish biting ants.

So why I am still here? Because the people are kind and their smiles are as radiant as the sunshine.