lunes, 16 de diciembre de 2013

One Festive Plaza de Armas

Catedral de Santiago
The last weekend of November, we were wandering around downtown, probably with a big to-do list, but we found ourselves at the Plaza de Armas while they were decorating for Christmas.  The Plaza de Armas is always a good place to stop and rest, particularly when it´s decorated for Christmas.  It dawned on me that I´ve never blogged about the Plaza de Armas.  For a blog that´s largely about Saltillo, that needed to be corrected.  Fortunately, I had my camera.  Plaza de Armas--documented!  

Elsewhere in the country (farther south) the main square of any city is referred to as the zocalo--an Aztec word.  Since Saltillo is in the far-removed north, where the Aztecs didn´t bother to venture, the main squares in towns in the north are referred to as Plazas de Armas.  I believe this linguistic phenomenon begins around San Luis Potosí, which seems to be the dividing point between central Mexico and northern Mexico. 

One of the nymphs that surround the fountain.

 Every Plaza de Armas (or zocalo) is bordered on one side by the municipal or state government building, and the town´s main church on another side.  Particularly charming Plazas de Armas (like Saltillo´s) have a row of stores on another side, and the sidewalk in front of these stores is roofed and walled with a series of arches.   So that side of the Plaza is commonly referred to as ¨los arcos¨ (the arches). 

The final side of Saltillo´s Plaza de Armas is occupied by the state university´s art school.  They host a great art sale every December (this year, from the 5th to the 15th).  Unique gifts for anyone on your list who might be interested in original art.

There´s a fountain in the center of the Plaza de Armas, but during December, it´s covered up by the enormous Christmas three.  So, this month, all the pigeons have to take their water breaks by the fountain on the backside of the government building.

Clara, in front of los arcos.

Despite that, there were still pigeons all over the place.  A girl very near us wanted to get her picture taken as she startled  a massive pile of pigeons.  It took a good 15 tries or more for her to get a passable picture (or give up).  The people who sell candy on the Plaza de Armas must also sell little bags of rice to feed the pigeons, because she kept coming back with more and more rice for the birds.  We enjoyed her antics, and it was the first time that my kids were willing to consider chasing the pigeons, too.     

As I mentioned earlier, they were setting up the Christmas tree, which is taller than the government building.  I don´t think it´s quite as tall as the cathedral, but it certainly competes with it for height awards.  We stood gawking for a good 15 minutes or more as the men who were attaching the star were lowered down by crane.  Fascinating, yet terrifing!  (At least, for me.  I´m afraid of heights.)  As I watched the second man manouver himself into the crane´s harness, it looked like he was properly attached to the tree with locked carabiners on his belt--and did not unlock them until he was securely in the crane´s harness.  I´m glad there are people willing to do that job, because I sure couldn´t! 

The tree trimmers, returning to earth.

The Christmas decorations are different every year.  They´ve always got a nativity scene and little cottages (presumably for Santa´s elves) and the trees are liberally decked with white garlands, pretending to be snow.  Last year, the Christmas decorations coincided with an exposition of Leona Carrington´s sculptures.  She was a surrealist artist, and I love her paintings, but her sculptures are big and black and bizarre--a distinct clash with happy Christmas decorations.  Fortunately this year, no big creepy black birds or ringwraiths of Leona Carrington´s imagination are putting a macabre edge to Saltillo´s Christmas!