The inocentes enjoy parades and hospitality

31 Jul

Yesterday marked the first days of the Feria de las Flores. The events began with a parade of schoolchildren through the streets of a nearby barrio on Saturday morning, and Greg and I made sure to get there early so that we could have a good vantage point to watch the procession.

While we were standing around, waiting for hundreds of children to remember how to follow directions (get in line; stop touching your neighbor; stop walking; smile!; stop touching your neighbor, etc), we began speaking with a woman from the neighborhood who was there to watch the parade. Maria Cecilia was kind, and we just chatted about our trip, our goals for the year and her favorite parts of the Feria.

We watched the parade alongside of Maria Cecilia and her sisters and daughters (and grandson, Manuel), and enjoyed the colorful groups proceed down the street on a cloudy, gray morning. I suppose it would have been nicer in the sunshine, but on second thought–hundreds of children in costumes and make-up carrying backpacks full of flowers and/or instruments while dancing? I think we’re pretty lucky the weather was a bit on the chilly side (“chilly” in Medellín is ~72 degrees).

After the parade, Maria Cecilia invited us back to her house for a refresquita. After a couple of attempts to figure out what she was asking us, we agreed and followed her and her family back to her apartment, where we chatted with her sisters and daughters. They were all very kind and welcoming, detailing for us the various events and places in Colombia we should try to enjoy while we are here. Maria Cecilia and one of her sisters disappeared into the kitchen for 30 minutes, and then I realized that we were about to have lunch with the family. A quick refresquita suddenly turned into potatoes, plantains, rice, salad and roast beef.

We spent 2 hours with Maria Cecilia and her family, after which we were instructed to return soon and often. She invited us to use the pool, to have her nephew drive us to nearby towns, to come over (and bring friends!) to meals; in short: not to be strangers.

I almost cried as we left her complex. Not because the conversation was deep and philosophical, but because that kind of blind hospitality is totally foreign. It was pure kindness for her to invite us into her home, to cook for us and to have us eat alongside her and her family. That type of gesture is rare and really, really beautiful*. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, and will definitely be going back.

After lunch we were sorely in need of a siesta because that lunch was a [delicious] monster. But, we had to make it to the other side of town for the cabalgata. This event is where everyone who has a horse is invited to ride that bad boy (or girl) in a procession of horses. Every year, there are between 5,000-7,000 horses at the cabalgata, and I was really excited to see the event.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the parade had already started, and it was hard to find a spot to watch the procession–not to mention take pictures of the beasts and their riders. We only stayed for about thirty minutes, and then we made our ways back to the apartment.

While the horses were gorgeous, there was something that made me nervous about some of the riders. Some of them were drunk, smoking joints and reaching over to grab at each other, knocking their horses into one another. This kind of freaked me out, because all it takes is for one horse to be “over it” and “angry” and “ready to get the eff out” for the procession to turn into something haunting.

Later, I found out that the cabalgata is one event that is frequented by drug dealers and their plastic girlfriends. While many of the riders are owners of beautiful horses who want to show them off and take part in the parade, many other riders are [allegedly] part of what made Colombia infamous. After that revelation, everything sort of made sense: a bunch of arrogant, drunken fools careening their horses into each other while their girlfriends–all surgical twins–bounce along behind them looking “totes over it”.

After we got back from the cabalgata we were going to maybe take a siesta, but instead we ended up seeing Midnight in Paris and going out for drinks with Tam, Jota and Erica. We’ll take it slow this morning and go see a few events today, as well as write a “thank you” email to Maria Cecilia and her family.

*It’s probably worth noting that I don’t think I could ever do this sort of thing in the US. However, it is worth remembering that these types of gestures are incredibly meaningful and salient. While I may not be inviting strange, traveling couples back to my home, there’s a lesson to be learned here about acts of kindness (of this magnitude or smaller) and the impact they make. So, I am going to have to teach myself to at least do one kind thing for someone else each day (and make sure that “someone else” is not “myself”). No matter how misanthropic I feel, I will make myself do at least one nice, unselfish thing each day. You should, too.


2 Responses to “The inocentes enjoy parades and hospitality”

  1. Lea Anthony July 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    What a fun adventure you both had, filled with hospitality and stupid people showing off their expensive livestock,
    Obviously you and Greg seemed like you needed a family meal. Women especially can sense that. Kindness is found in many places, not just Columbia.
    Nice to try to do something selfless for others it is true integrity at work.Just be careful who you invite back to your apt.
    If more people volunteered their time to aid others, what a neat thing that would be. It is a good feeling for everyone involved.

    Enjoy your times and kisses to you both. Mom

  2. Lea Anthony July 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I forgot to tell you, I am reading your blog, taking a break from cleaning my bedroom/ bathroom. First time since I broke my knee, so I would say 2 months.
    Time to clean the dog hair and dust. I would rather be with you two!

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