ONE OF THE reasons I subscribe to no religion is that you often must do odd stuff. The believers do not consider it odd, of course, and since I support organized religion for the societal glue that it is, I say to them: Go for it.
This weekend brings a strange Catholic event to our corner of Mexico. It is the pilgrimage to Carácuaro, a small town in our state’s “Tierra Caliente.” Carácuaro’s draw is a huge statue of a black Jesus. Mexican Catholicism has more variations of Jesus and Mary than you can shake a sceptre at.
Every year about this time thousands of Mexican faithful set off to Carácuaro on foot, on bicycle, in cars, on motorbikes, on knees, you name it. Often they tote statues and crosses of varying sizes. The walkers usually start from some town that can be near or far, depending on one’s devotion and physical stamina.
My wife, her sister, and our young nephew (the young vaquero) are fond of this trek even though neither of the adults profess to be Catholic. My father-in-law, the long deceased doctor, was extremely anti-Catholic, so they were not raised in the Catholic church. Or any church.
They only do it half-assed, which is to say they drive most of the distance and then, nearing Carácuaro, they get out and walk the last few miles. They hire a chauffeur from here to accompany them.
Once, however, my wife did it full-tilt boogie. In 2002, just before we married, she and her sister-in-law’s now-deceased husband, the fellow I used to call The Eggman, set off from a distant town and walked for two days, spending the night on the ground somewhere. They trekked down country roads and through woods over mountaintops and rural fields. About 70 miles, to hear them tell it.
Her sister made that trip in a car and brought them back the afternoon of the second day. They were laughable, grimy, limping, groaning and somehow my future wife had chipped a front tooth, since repaired.
Now they do it in a more sensible manner.
One year I accompanied them as driver. Yes, I have been to Carácuaro. I have seen the black Jesus. The only walking I did was from the parking lot in a field on the outskirts of town to the downtown church which was surrounded by throngs of faithful folks in states of exhaustion. We went and returned the same day.
Tomorrow morning, they will set off around dawn. I will spend the day here at the Hacienda, relaxing.