driving into the city center today, a young couple was selling something different from the usual amigo phone cards, trident gum and japanese style peanuts. stepping off the median on avenida reforma, they worked their way between the cars at the stoplight, bamboo frameworks held up in their hands. tied to the slim, woody rods were at least a good dozen of tiny, color-saddled, corn husk mules.
patricio asked me what day it was. i told him it was thursday, and he realized that this june 15 is the feast of corpus christi.
a moveable feast that celebrates the eucharist, corpus christi has become a day for children here. but the little husk mules that the couple was selling can also find a home in a grown-up's space, from the rear-view mirror to a small hook at home.
the light turned green, the couple made their retreat, and patricio shifted the red jetta back into drive. we were headed to the centro histórico with other things in mind, but the children holding their parents' hands, toddling with them down tacuba street, let us know that corpus christi was the day's big event, a few blocks away in the zócalo. dressed in indigenous outfits, we met them walking away from the cathedral, looking much like these girls and a little boy behind us when we decided to make a trip inside, too.
patricio held a very vague idea about the beginnings of the feast's traditions, so we both learned something new today, and the story we heard goes like this: since 1526, the feast of corpus christi has been celebrated in the city, the focal point of the celebrations being a solemn mass service and a procession led from the zócalo. the holy eucharist was held up and taken through streets by the archbishop, who was followed by an opulent entourage of viceroys, soldiers, and the diocese clergy. many people came into the city, their mules loaded down with their harvest fruits, setting up markets and making offerings of thanks. one year, one of them--a young man named ignacio--arrived with a fragile faith and mind full of doubts about his decision to soon become a priest. on that day of corpus christi, he asked christ for a sign, and as the procession of the eucharist passed where he stood, he thought, "if God is truly present here, even the mules also would all bow down." a moment later, his mule knelt to the ground. he took it as the sign he sought.
now what we have are corn husk mules and the cathedral full of children in costume. it's a worthy tradition, i think, nonetheless--for the faithful, and even for those who have doubts.