Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed several groups of dancers around Guaymas and San Carlos. These dancers are costumed in goat-like masks and they dance around to the drums and shakers they’re playing. I assumed that they were just street performers trying to make some money. I later found out that these were actually Yaqui Indians, which is a Native American tribe indigenous to the state of Sonora, Mexico, and they wear these costumes during the Lenten season to raise money for the church.
I did a little more research and here is what I found. In the early 17th century, the Jesuits brought Catholicism to the Yaqui region and what culminated was an interweaving of beliefs and practices from both the Catholic and Yaqui religions. Since then, Yaquis have been practicing this way, especially evident around the Easter season. These goat dancers are called Fariseos, or “Pharisees”, and their costumed-donned dancing represents the evil of the Pharisees. During the Holy Week leading up to Easter, they and the rest of their church will perform a multi-day dramatization of the Passion, but incorporating native Yaqui beliefs and traditions.
One thing to understand, I’ve been afraid of clowns and most things in full costume my entire life. I can remember being at Purdue basketball games as a little child and being hypersensitive to wherever Purdue Pete was in the stadium. Like I literally watched for him the entire time because my biggest fear was that he was going to pop up right behind me. And I can still remember the first time I gave him a high-five without crying. It was a big moment for me. I’ve grown up quite a bit since then, but I still don’t LOVE school mascots and I especially don’t love scary masked costumes.
All that to say, I find these Fariseo costumes terrifying. The reason I’m saying all of this is because a few days ago, these things made an uncomfortably close appearance at the restaurant we were eating at. Let me set the scene. We had already moved tables several times, per my insistence, because we were either getting dive-bombed by obnoxious seagulls looking for food or we were sitting at a table covered in bird poop. Call me high maintenance, but that’s disgusting. Needless to say, this was not the best dining experience of my life and I was ready to get la cuenta (the check) and ¡vaminos! out of there.
So one minute I’m eating my shrimp and the next minute I’m hearing the sounds of shakers and drums of these goat creatures quickly approaching right. behind. me. Ironically enough, there was an entrance into the restaurant directly behind my chair where they crept in literally behind my back. I knew they were close, but I was too afraid to turn around in case one would be right in my face. It’s one thing see them across the street when I’m fully in control of the situation. It’s something else entirely for them to creep up unexpectedly. I have to know where masked things are at all times. I felt panic overtake me and I literally wanted to flee. Instead, I turned toward the wall and cowered in fear until they had danced their way by our table and moved on toward the other side of the restaurant. I realize this is a childish reaction, but a girl my age at the table over was straight up crying, so it could have been worse.
And that’s my story for the week. Semana Santa or “Holy Week” is only a few weeks away, and we’ve been told that San Carlos is insanely busy with tourists and locals ready to party. We’re talking wall-to-wall cars in the streets and the beaches packed with people camping. It normally takes about 20 minutes to drive from one end of San Carlos to the other, but during Semana Santa, it can take hours. We’ve been recommended to stock our fridge and not plan on going anywhere that week. Isn’t it ironic that the biggest party week of the year is the one between Good Friday and Easter Sunday?