Monday, January 13, 2020

A 20th Century Institution: the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon

Illuminated Guadalupe, Akumal MX
It's a rare opportunity to actually be able to observe the start of a new holiday since most religious holidays have their origins somewhere in the distant, mythic past, But not the case with this one, the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon.

Mexican Promotional Poster for Guadalupe Reyes Marathon

The Guadalupe Reyes Marathon is not a religious holiday per se, but rather ties existing holidays in a new way.   Guadalupe Reyes came into being in the 1990's as a pop-culture event.  Someone saw the fun and profit in turning merging the independent end-of-the-year celebrations into one nonstop alcohol-fueled fiesta.  Something like this was probably already happening and advertisers saw the potential profit in it. The key idea of the marathon is to drink some form of alcohol every day of the event, which runs through December 12, the Feast of Guadalupe to January 6, Dia de Los Reyes and then further onto Candelaria (February 2).   Bars do a brisk business during this time period and the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon is heavily promoted by Mexican tourism.

The Feast of Guadalupe

Novena for Guadalupe, Akumal MX

Altar at the Guadalupe Mass, December 12, Akumal MX

The Marathon begins with the Feast of Guadalupe, technically December 12  but with celebration ongoing for about a week before the actual date. Please refer to this link for a broader discussion of the beautiful ways in which this holiday is celebrated.

Below are photos of pilgrims on their journey for Guadalupe this past December.

Group of pilgrims near Tulum, MX
Solo Pilgrim near Tulum, MX
Pilgrim running near Tulum, MX
These photos above are of the personal pilgrimages people begin to undertake some time before December 11 to reach the actual Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City, if possible or to their home churches by that date in time for the 11 pm Mass. These are undertaken to fulfill "promesas" to Guadalupe, offerings made in turn for a something granted by her.  This link offers a closer look at these pilgrimages.

The Feast of Guadalupe does not end with the early morning religious service on December 12.  The partying continues throughout the day and although I did not know it at the time,  the folks in these trucks were among the many Mexicans starting the Guadalupe Reyes Marathon. 

Pilgrims after Guadalupe's Mass, December 12 Akumal,MX
Pilgrims after Guadalupe's Mass, December 12, Akumal,MX

Having a Christmas tree next to your statue of Guadalupe is a typical thing to do in Mexico.

Akumal, MX

The Posadas

Although the "posadas", the big Christmas celebrations, typically happen between December 16 and 24, they can begin sooner.  As I drove down a Quintana Roo highway, this past December 9th, I saw a huge of taxis parked along the side the highway.  

Parking for the Posada at the Sindicato de Taxistas, Playa del Carmen, MX
Parking for the Posada, Sindicato de Taxistas, Playa del Carmen, MX
Curious, I doubled back and went in to see what was going on. It was the annual posada for the Sindicato des Taxistas (taxi union) for drivers, other employees and their families. I couldn't go in, but there was a fiesta going on complete with rides for the kids.

This painting by famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera, shows a posada. Here the revelers are breaking a piñata, which is typically filled with sweets.

Posada by Diego Rivera

Here, two women are in the lengthy process of making a piñata for a posada. Piñatas are a year-round staple for Mexican parties, but the ones for Christmas are made to represent stars.  These women are going through the length process of covering the paper mâché 
base with decorative paper.

Women building a Piñata, Akumal MX
Piñatas and other decorations, Playa del Carmen, MX


Christmas Decorations Center of Playa del Carmen, MX

Christmas is a time for celebration with family and friends.  There is a mass and dinner Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) and some gifts are given at this time. Christmas Day itself tends to be quiet.

Dia de Los Reyes

Manger, Playa del Carmen, MX
The Three Kings arrive at the Manger, Playa del Carmen, MX

With Christmas and New Years Eve over the Marathon heads to  Dia de Los Reyes, which marks the arrival of the Three Kings to visit baby Jesus. This is the time when children receive most of their gifts, in remembrance of the gifts that the kings brought Jesus, and adults exchange gifts with each other. 

Rosca de Reyes in Mexican grocery store
Rosca de Reyes
These unique cakes are made for Dia de los Reyes and are called "rosca de reyes".  Inside of each of this cakes is hidden a small figure representing baby Jesus.  Cakes similar to this are found throughout Catholic Europe and the tradition of these cakes began in France or Spain sometime in the Middle Ages.

These cakes link Dia de los Reyes with the February 2 Feast of Candelaria, which commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin Mary.  The tradition is that whoever finds the baby in the Rosca is blessed, brings the figure to the church service on February 2 and is responsible for hosting a party for everyone that day.  Although Candelaria is not an official part of the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon, the celebrating often keeps going until then.

Guadalupe-Reyes Today

Promoting Guadalupe-Reyes
The end of the year is a time of intensive celebration in many countries and Latin America seems to have a special flair for celebration.   Through the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon, this long period of partying, drinking and celebrating has become a cultural institution with an independent identity and life of its own. 

Partly because of the drinking, there is a rise in traffic deaths in Mexico during the Marathon, although not all of it is attributed to the excessive alcohol consumption.  

Nowadays there are two sides to Guadalupe-Reyes. One focuses on the traditional goal of excessive alcohol consumption and partying, as in this humorous ad showing Lucha Libre wrestlers struggling to get to the end of the Marathon.

Getting to the Finish Line of the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon
On the other hand, there is also a trend to awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol and food consumption that are a part of the Marathon.

The Health Hazards of Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon, Mexico
The dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, Mexico

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