Fresh off the heels of Halloween, we made our way to La Catrina Festival in Guanajuato this last weekend. Four days. Everything Catrina. Who is Catrina, you might ask? Well, along with tequila and Mariachi, La Catrina is Mexican cultures’ most recognizable icon; she’s a big deal here and going to the festival felt a bit like being injected straight into the vein of Mexico.
And no one internalized it more than Daughter.
The first event on Saturday didn’t start till around 2:00 so we had some hours to wander around, check out tons of little stores, eat guacamole and find a face painter for Daughter, who wanted her face painted like a Catrina. At the market, we found one… or thought we had. Turns out Julisa, the face painter, was just there as a favor, helping a vendor friend with a Catrina look but not actually working. But she took one look at Daughter and couldn’t say no.
“I remember being a little girl and we all wanted to do our makeup like a Catrina.” Thinking back to her little girl days was all Julisa needed to go to work, taking her time as if Daughter was taking Center Stage.
As magic in Mexico would have it, she finished Daughter’s face just in time. As we began to walk down the street towards Plaza de la Paz where most of the performances were happening, we ran smack into the start of a parade. Catrinas everywhere. Colorful and elegant and preparing to march down Centro Guanajuato. Who knew the dead could be so beautiful? Some Catrinas were real and some were giant-sized, finger puppet-like Catrinas with someone walking it around from inside.
And in that Catrina madness, with her face painted, Daughter was bewitched by the Catrina spirit. Her eyes stared intensely like she was being hypnotized. She watched them like little girls who wind the dial on their jewelry box and watch the ballerinas spin. Mesmerized. Enchanted. She studied them, taking mental notes all the while. And without ever losing her gaze, she began to list the things she needed to one day be a proper Catrina.
“Mami… when I grow up and am like 15 (because apparently that’s a grown up), I need a fancy dress. A really fancy dress like the big Catrinas.”
“And I have to have my hair done. Maybe in a braid…” Pause. Thinking about her list, “and high heels.”
“Ok,” I answered. I was impressed – the kid knew what she wanted. But it didn’t end there.
“I also need gloves… and a beautiful fan. Ok?” She paused to make sure I was listening before repeating all of it. “So I need a fancy dress like them, my hair done, high heels, gloves, and a fan.” And then she looked at me like I was her assistant and nodded her head as if to say, You got all that?
Yeah. kid. I got all that.
The drummers drummed a mean beat to signal the beginning of the parade. The spectators watched from the side, snapping pictures and staring in awe – all of us except for Daughter. I could tell our little Catrina wanted to walk in that parade – not watch from the sidelines.
It’s all she could talk about the rest of the day. She practiced walking like a Catrina. She worked on her poised Catrina look – which was pretty fierce. If she scratched her face forgetting about the paint she would check with me that her make up was still on. And she would remind me that next year, her face must be painted all white, like a real Catrina.
Meet *our* Catrina. 🥂 We haven't been here long enough to know but I couldn't help and wonder - Is being a beautiful Catrina a dream for little girls in Mexico? Because after this weekend, it is for ours. • She was excited to get her face painted but once she did, she transformed physically and mentally into a Catrina. She practiced walking like one and staying serious-faced like one. She listed the things she'd need next year to be like the "big" Catrinas when she grew up / next year 😆 • "Mami. I'll need a long, fancy dress. My hair done in a braid. High heels. Gloves. My face has to be painted all white. And a fan. // Mami. Voy a necesitar un vestido largo y lindo. Hacerme una trenza. Tacones. Guantes. Tengo que pintarme la cara totalmente blanca. Y un abanico." • It was an amazing weekend in Guanajuato but having our daughter fall immensely in love with a part of the Mexican culture was the pinnacle of it. #catrinas #mexicanculture #guanajuato_mx
Our kids have now lived in 2 countries and have spent enough time in the U.S. to consider that 3 countries. Like any mom, I second guess all my decisions so it’s natural that sometimes I’m unsure about the expat, somewhat gypsy-feeling lifestyle that we’ve chosen for our kids. But in moments like these, when our kids not just accept but completely embrace a part of a new culture they otherwise wouldn’t have even known about, I feel good about our decision. It makes me feel like I’m raising someone who is open and accepting to many views and ways and cultures, a little human of the world. In this case, a little human of the underworld.
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