Feb 23, 2011

Catemaco Brujos 2011

The annual brujo festival on the first Friday of March as usual will start on the first Thursday.

Catemaco is internationally famous for its brujos (witches, healers) and maintains a stable of more than 100 practitioners catering to mostly Mexican adherents, including prominent political figures. Brujo clients range from those seeking alternative health care and spells to improve their business, political standing or love relationships, to those needing a hex to damage or even kill opponents.  The most popular practice is a "limpia" (cleaning), a minor ceremony to relieve a client from evil spirits. 

The festival was originated by the brujos themselves more than 30 years ago, but by now the municipal government has taken over the event. The last 5 years, the event was heavily politicized and basically a mass bacchanalia.

This year's new Catemaco mayor has seriously revamped the program of the event and plans to focus on the cultural and anthropological aspects of  the local phenomena. 

The event runs from March 3 to 6.
Thursday to Sunday, stalls will be erected on several of the promontories jutting into Laguna Catemaco from the Malecòn (boardwalk). They will house local and Mexican handicrafts, culinary displays, individual brujo stalls, herbal plants, etc.

Thursday, starting at 6 pm, at the "Cerrito" a small hill in the center of town, alleged to be an old pyramid.
Salute to the four cardinal points of earth, followed by dances and other shows, terminating with a midnight ceremony and "limpia".
On Friday morning 6 am, a salute to the sun is scheduled.

Other events on Friday to Sunday will be in the town square of Catemaco.
Friday, beginning at 6 pm, conferences, shaman rituals and dances, capped at 9 pm by the performance of  the theatrical work "La Llorana", a popular local legend, accompanied by a drum corp from Tlacotalpan.

Saturday,  beginning at 7 pm, conferences, followed at 8 by a multidisciplinary show of music, songs and dances and ending at 11.

Sunday, beginning at 6 pm, dances, then from 7:30 to 9, the youth orchestra from Coatzacoalcos and ending from 9 to 11 with a public dance featuring the "Hermanos Santos".

You may notice the popular black mass on midnight Thursday, accompanied by burning pentagrams and massacred black chickens, is absent from the program.

Have no fear, the brujo "El Indio" has promised to perform one on the banks of the Rio Grande in Tepetapan (outskirts of the city) on Thursday midnight. Most other major brujos will also hold private masses in their lairs.

Also, Nanciyaga will have its traditional Friday night spring rites ceremony in its jungle setting.

Feb 20, 2011

Catemaco History

Since the advent of the announcement that a local aficionado of antiquaria intends to open his personal museum in Catemaco, I have noticed a substantial increase in local concerns about local history. Newspapers are publishing antique photos, websites are dredging their drawers, even Facebook people publish their historic attic.

The museum plans its inauguration on Feb 26, and hopefully will still be around next year.  My preliminary views make it a "must" visit in Catemaco. Unfortunately it is in a hidden area behind the Catemaco baseball field, near the entrance to Catemaco. By now most locals are aware of the future museum and will point you in the right direction.

Over the years, I have bought, collected, stolen and copied dozens of local historic photos., despite local owners resistance to share them. Take a look, and expect see a lot more on Feb 26. in the
"Galeria fotografica y objetos antiguos de Catemaco"

Visit the museum's page 

Photo credit: micatemaco.com

Feb 18, 2011

I'm jealous in Catemaco

I just found this website from 2009 of a pair of bikers who took some remarkably clear photos of both their way here and their stay here.
Adventure Rider - 2 pages.

And then apparently a lady author snuck into town and penned something involving Catemaco, like demon-possessed monkeys. Apparently she did her research at La Finca.
Shady Lady.

Meanwhile some intrepid foreigners discovered the benefits of a trailer park costing less than half the jewel of Tepetapan, just a few hundred feet from my "Milpa".
USA & Meh-i-co

Just further down the road around the Laguna, another happy couple depressed themselves at Rancho Bahia Escondida.
Madame Vagabond

Meanwhile back in the neighboring "big smoke" San Andrès, someone named "beachbubba" did some fine work on how to get to beautiful downtown Catemaco, (20 minutes from the big smoke).

It's gringo tourist season, hurrah, because the Mexes are staying home.

Feb 17, 2011

Feb 16, 2011

Third World Catemaco

Okeechobee, Florida is almost a match for Catemaco, Veracruz.

Both are counties, with the principal city also named after the county. Both sit on the shore of a major lake, and both are near oceans, (Atlantic and Gulf). Both are principally agricultural, and both are are considered hick towns, with per capita income on the low national scale. 

The major difference is that Okeechobee is flatter than a tortilla, while Catemaco is nice and hilly. Populations are similar, 42,000 for Okee and 48,000 for Catemaco.

And now the grim comparison:
Okeechobee has a budget of 96 million for the year, which converts to 2,285 dollars per person.
Catemaco had a budget of 104 million, translating to 2,166 pesos per person. That's about 180 dollars each.

Okeechobee estimates for 2009 per capita income are 18,394 dollars.
The state of Veracruz thoughfully does not report such irrelevant statistics, therefore I'll guess it.
Catemaco 2009 per capita income  was 25,000 pesos per year on the high end. That is app. 2,083 dollars each.

So very roughly, Okeechobeans are 10 times richer and spend 10 times more on their government than Catemaqueños.

Now compare that to housing, utility, food, transportation, entertainment or any other costs.
Except for some housing and maids, there is nothing in Mexico that costs 10 times less than in Okeechobee. Costs are much closer to 50 to 100% or more of what gets spent in Okeechobee.

And now wonder about:
Mexican exports to the United States reached a record US$229.7 billion last year.
The banking industry’s profits in Mexico reached US$6.22 billion in 2010.
And read the recent Wikileak article about the richest men in Mexico and the state of its economy.

Feb 12, 2011

Catemaco Time Machine

Remember the good ol' days, when it only took 30 minutes to fly from Veracruz to San Andrès?

Here is a tourism brochure from 1956.

Feb 7, 2011

Catemaco "mìstico"

Last year, a young gringo spent a few months in Catemaco and wrote an article for the National Geographic Magazine's Spanish edition.

Its focus on primarily brujos may be interesting to anyone not familiar with the area, but a cold shower for residents who expected more from National Geographic.

Here is the Google translated link:
Catemaco Mìstico, por David Biller

Feb 6, 2011

Catemaco Wish List

I wish that subtropical beautiful downtown Catemaco would live up to its reputation, instead of freezing my butt off for most of January and early February. The weather has been schizophrenic alternating between 13c (56)f and 32c (90f), almost every few few days.

I travelled a lot lately, and am proud to report that Veracruz retains its crown as "most likely to have a blowout". Damn, some of those roads north of Veracruz city are bad, at present. The Los Tuxtlas roads, at the moment, are passable. Check with me tomorow!

There are rumors of a new hotel in Catemaco. Wow, that'll really excite all the other ones that are starving because they maintain CANCUN prices in the off season. Be careful, please!, the gringopagodoble effect is prevalent.

Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas are possibly one of the most photogenic areas in Mexico. For a serious photographer that is only true about 15-30 days a year. Usually the magnificent views in all directions are encumbered by haze caused by the burning of residential trash, dust clouds from dirt roads, and possibly from sandstorms in the Sahara. But when there is a clear day in Catemaco, when you can see forever, my heart sings, and I don`t wish I were elsewhere.

Catemaco screwed up again and is on the list of the most mismanaged places in Veracruz. Apparently the last mayor forgot to include attributions of half of is 86 million pesos yearly budget, which is about enough to buy 4 happy meals for every inhabitant of Catemaco. The state of Veracruz is not far behind. Standard & Poor revoked its credit ratings because of shenanigans in its financings, which declare Veracruz to be one of the most indebted states in Mexico. Curiously, the present governor of Veracruz  initiated most of the questionable transactions.

Meanwhile, the country of Mèxico keeps hanging in there, despite being riled by a mickey mouse TV show in England. Apparently a real Mexican was hurt in the recent troubles in Egypt and a dozen or two were evacuated.
I have been watching that situation and it very much reminds me of Mexico, not so much because of its incompetent and corrupt political leadership, but because of the anger and hope of all the young gunslingers on the street. Let's send them some ZETAS.