Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Spirit of Posada

Pescadero is only 2 hours from our home but it feels like another country and another century. West of Pescadero is the mighty Pacific ocean with  great powerful waves breaking on rocky outcrops along the shore lines, this is the home to sea birds, tide pool organisms,  and sea lions.  Pescadero, noted for being  foggy and cool year round,   has a long history first as a Portuguese fishing community, now a center for coastal climate farming - berries, herbs, artichokes, Brussels sprouts,  etc.

Pescadero coastland 
This is one of our favorite places to which we come when we need to retreat, to 'recharge our batteries'. I  am writing from a small “bed and breakfast pension” in a charming old fashioned house with only two rooms that are rented.  
This time we came to take part in a Christmas Posada -  there are many Mexican farm workers  in the  area and we support a group called “Puente de la Costa Sur” (Bridge of the South Coast). The group provides support to farm workers and their families, many who are newly arrived, but some who have been here for years earning money to send to their families in Mexico.   The tradition of the Posada is a traditional Mexican reenactment of the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to rest.
Mary and Joseph 
While the Posada in Pescadero began as a Catholic event it has grown into a joint activity of Catholic and Protestant churches, and the wider community.  We met shortly after sundown at the old, wooden Saint Joseph Catholic church

Pescadero Catholic church ( in daylight) 
Costumed wise men, Mary and Joseph, little angels with white wings, and the burro (named Johnny Apple Seed)  mingled with the arriving people. A table with a variety of Christmas cookies was there to tempt us - who could resist!  We began with a brief lesson on singing the complex melody of the Posada (check the link below to see a short clip of the music) , a few words, and a sendoff prayer… Posada youtube clip: <http:/>

Our group was swelling - all of us singing and taking part
Then our procession, led by Mary on the donkey and Joesph,  set off down the dark deserted street, past village houses.  Angels were running ahead and behind excited by the whole adventure.

As we walked our group expanding as more and more people joined in.  The group stopped several times at prearranged houses. We sang together in Spanish (printed words provided) that we are looking for shelter — We each took on the role of being homeless Mary and Joseph seeking shelter.  

Approaching our final stop

But each time the people in the house sang back that they had no room - 
We all experienced rejection.  The last stop on the trip was the Protestant church.  

Community Protestant church (daylight)

Once more we sang that we were seeking shelter - and this time  we were welcomed in and we all entered into the small old fashioned white frame church - there was room for about 120 people.  
Our gathering in the Protestant church  
The audience was about 2/3 Mexican people and 1/3 Anglo… it was a mix of sexes and ages with many eager children. Every part of the event was bilingual - so that all could fully understand the words.  Here we were treated to a mixed musical program with first a group of 8 local men and women singing traditional Mexican Christmas music, then two young women singing, and finally four camposinos (workers) with guitars singing in harmony.
Four singers 
The music was simple and deeply touching.  A brief talk by a local minister spoke of the challenges of Mary and Joseph forced to make a long journey because of arbitrary government rulings, and the challenges of traveling far from home and family. Then after the birth of Jesus, the necessity of crossing the border into Egypt. The message relates directly with the lives of displaced farm workers who must come here to work for the good of their families, deal with unfriendly border crossing, and government restrictions.  We were told that all of us who had a home and food needed to be willing to share with those without- That was the real  story of the Posada.
The tomale feast!  
After the music event we all walked a few blocks to the elementary school for a grand Mexican fiesta - this project that began with Puente has been adopted by the entire town - The hall was bright and beautiful with colored crepe paper and music.  As we sat at long tables, trays of traditional Mexican Christmas tamales and  bread were given to each table for sharing, other foods were available from side tables.  Here men who had spent the day picking Brussels sprouts, sat next to church ladies from Palo Alto.  Enthusiastic little angels still wearing their robes ate the same tamales as older folks from the community.  Staff travelled around with extra tamales especially for hard working men who needed more.  Cookies, and hot Mexican chocolate were provided.  

Surprise: Santa speaks Spanish! 
This simple Posada has become an annual tradition with us ... the place we come to get in touch with the spirit of Christmas. Especially just before Christmas we feel a need to get away from all the busi-ness on the "other side of the hills". Also, our local church in Niles is one of the providers of gifts to the children of the community - and sure enough Santa came to give each child a large felt stocking bulging with a variety of practical items and toys.  We have been friends of Puente for years and urge you to come experience the joy of Posada in following years…

Street notice 

Posada photos by Lars Howlett