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pilgrims and hot tubs

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

photo: clarin
i have to admit that i find the idea of my teenage kids tripping out on hallucinogenic drugs, having naked hot tub parties and/or having (protected and consensual) sex to be much more appealing than the idea of them participating in a local catholic youth pilgrimage. can we mom? please? pleeeeease? even crazier: the idea that they might do some of the former while participating in the latter makes it easier to take. it seems...i don't know... healthier.

maybe it's only fairly easy to say all this because they are just 1 and 3.5 years old, or because i just haven't been here long enough. i'm pretty sure it sets me apart from most other parents around here.

if i were so inclined, i could participate in at least 2 major pilgrimages a year. as it turns out, my little neck of the woods is on a serious pilgrimage route to one of latin america's most beloved virgins.

in july, entire families and communities deck themselves out in their best gaucho gear, cram more people into rickety, horse-led wagons than i could possibly have imagined, and set out for a day- & night-long trek to pay their respects, ask for a favour, or follow through on a promise they'd made to their virgin. it is also, i can only assume, a major social happening - not to be missed.

this year it was officially cancelled because of the swine flu madness that consumed us all for a while, so there was only about 10% of the usual pilgrim traffic. i can't imagine what 100% would look like, in the hundreds of thousands.

we grabbed the video camera for f.'s job and filmed the carriages, the sudden mini-villages of tents and market stalls, the men and women and kids in full-on, head-to-toe, gaucho gear. it was very picturesque. (it was kind of hard to get my head around this authentic display of folklore not coming from an indigenous community, or an immigrant community, or a day of historical dress-up to commemorate something - this was the local, contemporary community, doing what they do, dressing how they dress).

it was very different from last saturday's student pilgrimage. high school and university students, sneakers and water bottles (actually, many carried coke), couples, groups of friends. some carrying big crosses, most carrying nothing but probably their cell phones. lots and lots and lots of kids. TENS OF THOUSANDS. (that might not sound like a lot, but this is a small place...)

at first, as we passed them all at a snail's pace in our car, my thoughts and questions about it all were as anthropological as they had been when observing the first pilgrimage. i took it all in as an outsider - do they do this every year? are they very religious or is it more of a social thing? what will they do when they get there? do they drink? do they really believe??

then, as we watched a little more closely, we started playing find-the-ones-with-the-really-bad-blisters. oooh, look at him, there's no way he'll make it! wow, did you see her? ouch! we talked about long hikes we've taken, which had always been with a backpack and climbing a mountain or through a forest.

then i turned to f. and asked him - if we stay here, will the monster or the monkey want to do this one day? his first response was to burst out laughing. it really was very funny. but really, it is so totally possible. and it's not the worst thing that could happen. as f. pointed out, it's not exactly sunday mass or catholic youth groups - of which he was once an enthusiastic member. as far as church activities go, a long walk isn't so bad. but then again, he didn't have naked hot tub parties growing up, either.

in all seriousness, i know i can deal with the occasional pilgrimage. and it's not even about religion at all. what it boils down to is the fact that they are growing up in a different place than i did. waaaay different.

and while i think the beach and the frogs and the sandy streets are wonderful for their childhood, i am not at all sure that this small, conservative little place is a place where they can thrive as teenagers. argentina? yes, i think so. but macondo?

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