Feb 21, 2013

The Blessing of the Pangas

Count your age by friends, not years.
Count your life my smiles, not tears.
John Lennon 

Decorated panga before heading to sea
A week-long celebration of the patron saint of Bucerias, Our Lady of Peace, brings colorful and noisy evenings with fireworks, music, drumming, dancing, feasting, etc. If you look long and hard enough, you are almost always bound to find celebrations or fiestas weekly in Mexico where they seem to be thankful for everything.

Nikki gets startled each time the thunderous sound of the fireworks travels through the anchorage. Her barks echo back in response. She is guarding her dear Déjàlà well.

We visit Bucerias the day they have the blessing (benediction) of the fishing pangas to help the fisherman with good catches in the upcoming year.

The place is so packed most smaller kids are carried on older sibling’s or parent’s shoulders so they can see and are safer from the heavy crowd’s movements. All locals are well dressed for the occasion even though it is a weekday morning.

Adding the final touches
Prior to heading to Bucerias, we kayaked through the area in marina La Cruz where pangas were being elaborately decorated, although on a strict budget, for the occasion. By the use of palm leaves, local flowers, plastic bags and balloons, the shabby pangas sprang to life for the event. Of a very religious bend, most were sporting crosses of various colors and profiles as well as a few ‘holy virgins’.

Plastic bags were cut to make pompoms, streamers or flags of various shapes. These were then hung on various sticks or branches in the shapes of arches or crosses. Balloons and plants would accent the lot. Everything meant to last only the few hours of the event which is a trip to the beach at the base of the church where the blessing would take place.

Many come on horseback
It seemed to be a family event; each panga full of mom, dad, kids and relatives. Of note, I wondered how the women could stand in the boats wearing their 5-6” heeled fancy shoes – part of dressing up that doesn’t seem to go too well with constantly moving boats with irregular bottoms. But you have to play the part!

In background: the line of pangas awaiting to come ashore
A procession of pangas would come near the shoreline abreast of one another creating a wide line paralleling the beach on their way in. One of them would break away from the line, throttle their engines up to ride the next big wave and beach themselves on the sand – somewhat daring the waves and seas.

Once all pangas had landed, the procession would go towards the church to complete the ceremony.

Ceremonial dancer in front of the church
Before the pangeros arrive, native dancers entertain the awaiting crowd at the front of the church. They are dressed in full regalia of feathers, leather, beads, shells, animal heads, etc. Body paints accent the already colorful vestments. Smoke and incense add a touch of mystical to the dancing, chanting and drums. It is quite mesmerizing and one could only hope to understand a little more the meaning of it all although sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Same dancer, older woman, other view
In anticipation of the pangas, the town folks were not idled. There were a parade of horses with riders of various ages and talents, dancers and musicians. Bright colors were everywhere as well as enticing food smells. Vendors in all nooks and crannies taking advantage of the event to get a few dineros. As much of any of Mexico’s touristic areas, Bucerias is certainly feeling the negative effects of diminishing discretionary income spent by fewer and fewer tourists.

A few swimmers joined the parade, eventually making it to the beach. One with a lighted torch somewhat like the one you see at the Olympics. It must have been tiring to swim this far with one arm up in the air all this time.

Would you trust the food at this oyster 'bar'?
How do these people reconcile keeping these blessings going all the while witnessing the quantity of fish they can catch diminishing each and every year quite significantly due to overfishing, fishing by larger and better equipped boats, foreign sport fishing boats, and changes in the weather patterns and sea states? They keep praying but things get worse anyway – Sad when you see them get all excited over catching a mere 6” fish when just a few years back they got much more for fewer hours of work on the water. Yet more and more people with a lot of money come here to catch the BIG ones, slowly but surely wiping out a good gene pool. It makes one want to see additional fish farming if it could be done the right way. The few fish farms we know have been started here a few years back are already closed down but we don’t know if it is because of lack of funds, experience, manpower, or what… All we see are ruins showing past efforts.

Through it all, there is so much pride in Mexicans, rich and poor, it is infectious. They do so much with so little and are happy with little. They also give so much. We have a great deal to learn from them on this level.

That's how to water street plants here...

Clever Boat Names: Sea Note, Sea Meant, Pied à Mer, L’eau Life

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