Ahhh, the joys of Life in the Holy City of Mérida

One of the joys of living in Mérida, is the abundance of religious activity and hypocrisy one can observe in everyday life. From the local newspaper’s “Religion” section, which mentions, for the most part, only one religion (catholicism, of course) to the charming rituals that make the country as a whole so much more backward.

This month features the post-carnaval period of repentance. Isn’t it fun how you can completely misbehave during carnaval and then, by repenting and following the little rules the church has set out for you, can feel completely absolved of any wrongdoing! If only life was so simple.

The little anecdote you are about to read happened to a person close to me who shall remain nameless. Hopefully you will enjoy it.

Wednesday is class day at the Marista. The Marista, for those of you not in the know, is a college/university here in sunny Mérida run by some religious folks known as the Marista Brothers. This is not a local tropical music group, but yet another permutation of a catholic group with special beliefs that make them, well, special. Now this particular Wednesday is extra-special, because it is the Wednesday after Carnaval, which means “ash” Wednesday! Ash Wednesday is when someone from the religious hierarchy smears ashes on the foreheads of the believers, in an act that supposedly shows how repentant you are and all that nonsense.

The class is in full swing, when suddenly the door opens abrubtly and in walks a little man – un hermano (not a priest but a brother, and no he’s not black) who unceremoniously announces that the time has come to get your forehead smeared with ashes he has brought in what looks like an unlabelled plastic yoghurt container. Note that he hasn’t uttered any of the normal pleasantries associated with human interaction such as Good Morning, Excuse the Interruption, Hello, or Catholic Unite Against the Muslim Infidel. No, he just threw open the door and waltzed right in.

No one seems to mind however, and everyone listens patiently as he drones on in a quiet mumbling voice. When asked who would like to have their foreheads annointed with the ashes of dubious origin in his little container, the great majority of the sheep baa approvingly and stand in line.

But it doesn’t end just yet. There is an evangelio to be read and Little Hermano asks who would like to read it. Of course, the one person in the class whom everyone can’t stand because she interrupts the class by shouting into her cellphone which she ‘forgets’ to turn off and is generally obnoxious is the one whose hand shoots up and she proceeds to read the evangelio in question.

The evangelio chosen is particularly interesting for those of us who believe that the most vociferous of the religous are such hypocrites, as it dealt with the concept of celebrating your faith in private, not making a spectacle of your beliefs, not showing off your devotion in public, etc. which is what the whole morning’s spectacle has been about!

Again, no one seemed to notice, nor did they offer up any resistance when the LB (little brother, remember?) went on at some length about the sacrifices of the cuaresma and how he couldn’t get over the Yucatecan´s (he is Spanish) love for cochinita and that eating chicken was not a sacrifice and that you could eat all the seafood you wanted but not meat and that included chicken by golly and that there was so much sex and eroticism in the world today and and and.

While he was doing his little number about the chicken and the sacrifices, the afore-mentioned evangelio-reading lady had positioned herself next to the refreshments table and was happily – and completely oblivious to what the hermanito was droning on about sacrificing things you love during the holy cuaresma – enjoying a tamal.

She was hungry, after all.

2 thoughts on “Ahhh, the joys of Life in the Holy City of Mérida

  1. Hi William, I dunno, I always liked ash wed.

    To stand there on a dark, cold February evening and have a priest smear ashes on one’s forehead saying “from ashes did you come, to ashes shall you return” puts the mundane in perspective. “Someday, you’re going to die and your body will be the same as these ashes” so make something of your life besides carnalality.

    Not that you shouldn’t eat tamales and drink beer at carnival, but remember that after carnival comes ashes, so live accordingly, goes the message, or at least, that’s what I got out of it. Regards to you and Mrs. Lawson and the lassies.

  2. I see your point, Grant, but I can’t help but be even more skeptical than usual (and that’s quite a bit of skepticality) of the sincerity of all this chest-beating. Add to that the fact that we are reading Sam Harris these days… saludos to your missus also!

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