Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have Yourself a Mammy Little Christmas

One of the most popular Mexican Christmas traditions is the posada, a nightly procession reenacting the night before Christmas, in which the processioners go from house asking for shelter and are turned away, usually in song. To our way of thinking, this is quintessentially Mexican. While the rest of the world takes this time of the year to "accentuate the positive" - celebrating the birth of the Messiah, the Redeemer of Mankind, etc - Mexicans repeatedly and obsessively dwell on the night Mary and Joseph - nice couple, a bit down on their luck, but still favored by God - asked for one little favor, nothing lavish (and, by the way, something they'd totally do for you if the positions were reversed) and were told to fuck off. These people know how to nurse a grudge - and this happened 2000 years ago, to someone else, half a world away. (This is something Americans may want to keep in mind during the current orgy of anti-Mexican sentiment; it'll be the year 5000 and these guys will be acting like it happened only yesterday.)

So in addition to the regular processions comprised of the miscellaneous faithful, there's an official town Posada Float, pulled by a tractor, rigged with a sound system, that travels around the streets of the Centro Historico every night, stopping every few hundred yards for a song. There's a chorus of little angels, a white-bearded Joseph, and Mary sitting sidesaddle on a burro. The angels sing a beautiful little song on behalf of the couple, asking for shelter for the night, and are angrily turned away by Hattie McDaniel.



If we may pose a question here in the spirit of honest holiday inquiry, what the fuckin' fuck? We expected attorneys for the Aunt Jemima Corporation to step in with a cease and desist order. We know Mexico has a somewhat less-uptight attitude towards blackface minstrelsy than we do up north, but putting aside the offensiveness of it for a minute, it just doesn't make sense. The angels, the donkey, the Holy Parents, all more or less period-correct for an event that happened 1-Day B.C....and then - sho 'nuff! - out pops this antebellum galley slave! Can someone with a better understanding of all this explain it to us?

10 comments:

Olivia said...

Wow, you really have a problem with the Posadas. You could have chosen MexicanS (because you obviously generalize a lot) obsession with Mexico's widespread prudish following of a religion (catholic) at large that should have been vaporized ages ago but you choose a minor celebration that is pretty much a simple tradition.

Posadas are but a little representation of what the bigger problem is with catholicism in Mexico. You should get your facts straight and learn more about Mexican culture before dismissing this celebration so ignorantly.

About the "black" character at the play, were you even present at that event? If you were, why did you not bother to ask the actress about the role she played and why did she dressed like that and used that makeup. If you had, at least you would have enough information to judge.

Burro Hall said...

So, in other words, you don't know either?

Olivia said...

Don't know what?

Burro Hall said...

Why an antebellum galley slave suddenly appears in the middle of the Mary-and-Joseph-looking-for-shelter story.

Olivia said...

No, I don't. You should have asked why to the person at the event. The same reason why sometimes characters show up at an entremés cervantino singing a Miguel Bosé song. It was either an acting choice or personal ignorance.

Just the way you've got the posada celebration wrong, unless you don't know what was THIS person thinking, we won't know.

Olivia said...

lol, I meant unless you ask the persons involved, we won't really know.

Burro Hall said...

You seem to be missing the point, This person didn't crash the show, but is an actual character in the play. I'm sure that where you live, random people can walk onto the stage during theater performances and start asking questions of the actors, but I guess things work differently here.

My point isn't the racial insensitivity of a blackface character, my question is why, in the middle of a story set 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, does this character appear. If the character were, say, a white British man in a jacket and tie wearing a derby, my question would be the same. What is he doing here? No one I've asked here can explain it to me, so I asked the readership at large - and though it's taken you four years to get around to commenting, you haven't answered the question. Thanks for trying, though.

Olivia said...

Oh, I got your point of historical inaccuracy. What I'm saying is that your entry would have been much more informed if you would have taken the chance to ask the actress after the play, or something (not walk up the stage while the play is going on), what was this blackface character representing --why black, why those clothes exactly, in a play about Mary and Joseph. From her answers you could have confirmed if her choices where the result of simple ignorance and stereotyping, just the way you stereotyped Mexicans' reasons for doing posadas.

Burro Hall said...

Seriously? You think it comes down to the actress's personal decision, rather than it actually being a character written into the story? Like, the director had a role for a female character who shoos away the people from the inn, and this one woman decided, "You know, I think I'll play this as a black-faced slave from the 19th-Century American South." Really?

As for my stereotyping of Mexicans, it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. You're new to this site, I take it?

Olivia said...

No. What I'm saying is instead of asking yourself "what the fuckity fuck" or others about the actress choice of clothing, it would be better if you had asked her yourself to really know if her unfortunate choice of clothes was stereotypical. And, more interestingly, why the choice of clothes (where she's taking her info -movies, which movies, a coloring book etc.-from).

Yes, I'm definitely new to this blog. Interesting places that an Internet search gets you to. I really didn't get the Mexican obsession comment as tongue-in-cheek. Wow.