By Pablo Jaime Sainz
During this Holiday Season, when you walk through the streets of Tijuana, you can see, hear, smell and feel Christmas.
It is in these days when downtown streets are packed with people going from one place to another looking for the perfect gift for their love ones. Stores are full of special sales, trying to get costumers’ attention.
But not everything is materialism during Christmas in Tijuana.
Whoever said that Tijuana, because it is so close to the United States, has lost its Mexican traditions is very wrong. (Let’s not forget that the city is full of people from the southern part of the country that maintain the Mexican Christmas spirit alive.)
The North, southerners say, is very far from the center of the country and its traditions. While in the South they have the Three Wise Men, us, northerners, have Santa Claus; while in the South they have tamales and mole for dinner, in the North we have cheeseburgers, pizza and Chinese food.
The best example of this time, that officially began on December 12, day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is la verbena that takes place in front of the Cathedral, in downtown.
La verbena, which is a tradition all over Mexico, includes, in addition to food vendors, toys, blankets, winter clothes and traditional games, such as loteria.
The December celebration is done in front of the temple, located in front of Avenida Niños Héroes, between calles Primera and Segunda. Authorities close access to automoviles so that people can enjoy with security.
Food vendors offer tacos, pozole, menudo, quesadillas, champurrado, churros, dulces de piloncillo and calabaza, corn prepared with mayo, cheese and chile, aguas frescas in every flavor, as well as buñuelos.
Doña Amalia Ibarra, an 80 year old lady who has a puesto in front of the Cathedral where she sells candles and images of different saints, said that la verbena is very popular among Tijuana residents.
“Here we get a lot of people,” Doña Amalia said. “They come here to buy food, to have fun in the rides, but above all, to celebrate the Holiday season.”
In other parts of the city, the traditional posadas are taking place, where colonia residents get together to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Posadas are, in many occassions, the center of the Holiday celebrations in Tijuana: companies offer one each year to its employees where they break piñatas and give out gifts; schools cancel classes so that children can share their joy; they also share gifts; in clubs they have parties that although they don’t have the same feeling as those taking place in the streets of colonias.
Also during this time of the year Tijuana gets full of pastorelas.
Diccionario Larousse defines pastorela as “simple and joyful music and songs.” But in Tijuana this defiinition is short.
In Tijuana, as well as other parts of Mexico, pastorelas are theatrical representations of the birth of Jesus, of the struggle between good and evil, of the temptations that the Diablo presents the sheperds.
Most of the time pastorelas participants are children who, encouraged by their schools at a Christmas festival or by their local church, they play the role of Virgin Mary, San José, the Three Wise Men, angels, demons, and sheperds that come to pay tribute to Baby Jesus.
It is from “pastores” (sheperds) that these skits get the name of “pastorelas.”
To the east of the city, there’s the traditional Nacimiento, nativity depiction, presented by construction company Urbi in Parque Morelos.
This Nacimiento, together with the one in Calimax near Plaza Río, it’s maybe the biggest one in Tijuana.
But there are hundreds in the city.
Some only include Baby Jesús, María and José. Others, more elaborate, include the Three Wise Men Melchor Gaspar and Baltazarangels, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, and even an elephant.
Tijuana wishes you a Merry Christmas!!!