Without further ado, we piled into Kies and his friend Jorge`s cars, and trucked it down to Tixla. It was a gorgeous five-hour drive at sunset, and we gawked at brooding purple mountains back-lit by a ferocious, angry red sky. The whole trip was downhill (Mexico city is very high, while Tixla is closer to the coast), and we sped around curves, past numerous altars dedicated to crash victims and signs informing us of “cuervas peligrosas.” At one point, Jorge told us that the next curve was called “la cuerva de los muertos” (the curve of death), and was locally famous. Nice!
We pulled into Tixla slightly shaken, starving, and ready to stretch our legs. Kies immediately delivered us into the hands of his enormous, and enormously generous family. His cousin (I think) Disief plied all nine of us with Mezcal, which is a local, fiery version of tequila, and we plopped down in white plastic lawn chairs along the side of their house, which bordered Tixla`s main street. We weren`t exactly sure why we were sitting on the sidewalk in front of their house, but Disief kept us busy with his Mezcal, and some of Kisiev`s tiny nephews with their hilarious vampire costumes, so the time flew.
Our patience was soon rewarded by a persistent thumping and clanking issuing from further up the street, which soon turned into an entire marching orchestra, which soon turned into an entire parade full of dancers in colorful (and sometimes disturbing) “spirit” and “devil” costumes. Some had gigantic huge straw hats and did a jittery side-to-side dance while cracking long whips and yipping loudly. Others wore garish masks and lunged at onlooking children and couples , thrusting dirty bottles filled with an unknown liquor in their faces.
Behind the devils, teams of men carried a huge wooden arch laden with juicy vegetables, herbs, and flowers…an offering for the dead. No sooner had one parade passed, its drums and trumpets still booming and singing off of the stoned-walled houses lining the street, than another approached with its own bevy of devil dancers, and another enormous arch laden with offerings. This continued for at least another hour, at which point the entire length of the street was completely filled with parades. We later learned each neighborhood spends months preparing its own orchestra, dance troupe, and offerings for the day of the dead. As we were called in to Kies`s family`s house to scarf pozole, the teams began installing their arches upright in the street, forming a continuous row of fruit and vegetable laden structures all the way down to the cemetary.
The pozole, of course, was delicous. Sweet, tender chicken in a salty-limey broth chock full of chunky hominy, onions, and topped with a garden of cilantro and streams of lime juice and hot sauce. Served up with salty tostadas, I couldn`t get enough, and finished Ana and Andy`s bowls in addition to mine (thanks guys!). Then, Disief expanded his reperatoire to include whiskey and vodka, some of the uncles cleared the tables away and put some salsa and local music on the radio, and we danced for a long, long time.
We wandered back into the drizzling street to follow crowds of people down to the cemetery. Everyone was raucous, cheery, and very lit (especially us). We joined the pooling crowd at the bottom of the street, only to find more plastic tables and chairs set up. Seeing some older folks seated at them, I sat down too, and a big styrofoam bowl of pozole was thrust in front of me, along with a plastic spoon and a pile of limes. Damn! Stuffed to the gills but I was already too drunk and too addicted to Pozole to refuse, I chomped down in silence with three or five abuelitas and abuelitos. We didn`t talk much, and came from completely different places, geographically and culturally, but I`m pretty sure we were united in that moment in our revery, or wanted to think so in my giddy state.
After a brief encounter with a guy named Johnny, who kept insisting “I´m from Texas baby!!” and a few nervous seconds in the midst of a pushing match that was quickly ended by a few cops who approached, fingering their clubs, we dragged ourselves back to our hotel rooms and slept hard.