Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mexican book calls Marinduque 'one of the most beautiful places in the world'; beginnings of Moriones you've never heard about

 
Marinduque photo by: Warren Valenzuela Roldan

The book is of course in Spanish, and it's about the romance between Mexico and the Philippines during the years of the Manila Galleon. Excerpts (translated): 


Two hundred and fifty years of contact and trade between Filipinas and Mexico left enormous footprints in the villages. In a Mexican print of the nineteenth century the artist represents the port of Acapulco. He is a painter of the romantic era, when the sea always looked frizzy. So in the picture the waves break on the beach of Hornos, while some sailboats lean in the wind. And almost in the foreground we see something surprising, something that is not from America.... In no other part of America, not even among the Caribbeans, great navigators, could one find such an artifact that has reached Acapulco as the Philippine seamen who manned the Manila Galleon...

Then somewhere in the said book, Mexico en Filipinas. Estudio de una transculturacion by Rafael Bernal (Mexico in the Philippines. Study of a Transculturation), published by the Institute of Historical Research of the Instituto de Investigaciones Historicas (UNAM), 1965, the island of our fondest dreams, Marinduque, is praised to the highest skies like this:


"En estas grandes fiestas delos santos encontramos otras aportaciones mexicanas. En la Isla de Marinduque, uno de los lugares mas hermosos del mundo, por Semana Santa se celebra el festival de los Moriones." 
(In these great festivals of the saints we find other Mexican contributions. On the island of Marinduque, one of the most beautiful places in the world, during Easter is celebrated the Moriones festival).
Morion mask on old PAL cover (1972)

"Men with masks of Roman centurions chase Longinos through the streets and under the coconut trees or the dry river beds, until they capture him and behead him, removing his mask. Longinus is punished because he has accepted the divinity of Christ. This custom, according to a very old tradition, was taken from Mexico by a Jesuit missionary who had been in Cuernavaca previously."
(Hombres con mascaras de centuriones romanos persiguen a Longinos por las calles y entre los cocotales o el lecho seco de los rios, hasta que lo alcanzan y lo deguellan, quitandole su mascara. El castigo de Longinos se debe a que han aceptado la divinidad de Cristo. Esta costumbre, segun una muy vieja tradicion, fue llevada de Mexico, por un misionero jesuita que habla estado en Cuernavaca anteriormente.)
Morion mask woodcut on the cover of Hemisphere Magazine (Australia) 1961

This part certainly comes as a surprise for many of us, but a 'Jesuit missionary' who had been in the Aztec city of Cuernavaca as someone actually behind Moriones was echoed by no less than the late National Artist for Literature, Alejandro Roces, who was instrumental in popularizing the Moriones Festival. 

Wrote Roces in his newspaper column Roses and Thorns, titled On Fiesta. He whose nonfiction was always well researched:


"In Marinduque, the masks used during the Moriones are painstakingly handcrafted during the year. The Moriones also references another aspect of our history; our close ties with Mexico. The Moriones was introduced by a Jesuit from Cuernavaca, Mexico sometime in 1859; after the Jesuits were readmitted to the Archipelago.." 
Well, Padre Dionisio Santiago who was believed here to have introduced Moriones/Moryonan was a secular priest from Bulacan.

The Mexican book says that the Jesuit missionary 'had been in Cuernavaca previously', Roces says he was 'from Cuernavaca', yet both did not say what was to be found there. 

Could this Wikipedia article on that very famous place give us some lead then?
The Huehuechis, a dance group, was started in Cuernavaca in 1870 by a group of young people. They dressed up in old boots and clothes, covering their faces with cloth, dancing spontaneously in the streets with whistles and shouts. The name comes from a Nahuatl word for old, worn-out clothing. The event spread to other municipalities. It became popular enough among participants and spectators alike to be organized formally in 1871, when it became a traditional way to celebrate the days just before Lent, or the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of Carnival. The tradition spread to Tepoztlan, where it became even more famous after the people there modified the clothing worn, adding masks with beards and large mustaches.
Time to sing Madonna's song:

Where do we go from here?
This isn't where we intended to be
We had it all, you believed in me
I believed in you
Certainties disappear
How do we keep all our passions alive?
What do we do for our dream to survive?
As we used to do?

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