I met up with Jennie at Rancho Relaxo for dinner first. She was starving, whereas I was still recovering from brunch, and so just ordered a soup. I'd never had lime soup, but the ingredients sounded tasty - a lime and chicken broth, with tortilla strips and chicken strips. Eventually, after the waitress apologized for the long delay, the food arrived. The broth especially was delicious. It gradually dawned on me that the promised chicken strips were, if present, quite invisible to my eyes. The waitress concurred and went back to confirm with the kitchen. In the end, since I really didn't need the chicken bits when I was nearly done, they gave me the soup for free. Jennie and I shared a portion of Sopa pia, with lovely homemade banana ice cream, and then headed off to the park.
By the time we arrived, we'd missed the parade of strange and marvellous costumes, many of which were on stilts. (C. took lots of photos and hopefully will be posting some of them!) The drums were pounding and abstractly white-clad people, a good fifteen of them, wearing death-like masks, were dancing around the bonfire. It was enthralling to watch. Eventually the piece ended, and the band struck up a waltz, along with the invitation to come waltz with death. Each of the death-masked dancers took a partner, and switched off regularly so everyone could have a chance.
Then came the procession of the ceremonial bread and suckling pig (traditional apparently), which was subsequently cut up into small pieces and brought around for anyone to take. That wasn't the only free food - all the food was free. Soup, bread, hotdogs, suckling pig. I ate my second free soup of the night.
Afterward, was the burning of fears, an event I'd heard about from last year. Large white pizza boxes, stuck on poles around the bonfire, were labeled with the names of fears: SARS, big dogs, xenophobia, loss of culture, hunger. All sorts of things. One by one, a shaman collected each of the fears from the audience, held it up high so everyone could see, and placed it into the fire to burn.
There was music for another hour or so, some eery, some cheery, all good. We loitered and warmed around the fire and talked to Becky and a friend of hers who had arrived early that morning from out of town. Many of the audience members were in costume. Many were children. Off to one side there were rows of shrines, most vague and evocative of purpose, but elegant and candlelit. It was a strange and wonderful event. I'd love to go back again some other year.