We are used to being surprised by the street life we see in the Mexican fishing village where we live on and off during the year. Sometimes it is just a man and his donkey riding slowly through town as he calls out “Honey for sale!” Sometimes it is a pretty girl dressed up in cupcake finery ready for her Quinceañera, or 15th birthday party, that signals she is a young woman and no longer a child. Last week we just missed the sweet parade of children dressed as little spring animals and flowers that announced the arrival of spring. (See loveinmexico’s nice pictures). Today, it was something I had never seen before.
Long before I could see it, I could hear the cacophonous band of horns and drums as it blared down the street. Music is almost constant here. Tinny tunes play from a rack of pirate CD’s in the town square. A lone man with a guitar will appear seemingly out of nowhere to serenade you on the beach. A trio of musicians will add ambience to a restaurant meal. And sometimes a whole uniformed Mariachi band will commandeer the night with heart pounding love songs while the tequila flows and everyone is singing along to the ballads as if they knew the words.
But it wasn’t until I got closer that I knew who was playing in the street. It was the group that was started a few years ago by some boys in an afterschool program. Except these boys weren’t boys anymore. They were all dressed as girls in a riot of tube tops and spandex and glitter. One boy in fairy wings tottered down the street in high heels while another galumphed along beside him, hiking up his skirt, as he tooted on his tuba. There seemed to be a game being played. As cars passed by, if the driver was male, his door was yanked open and he was given a mock kiss.
“What’s going on?” I asked a shopkeeper.
“Could be anything,” she said with disinterest.
“What’s going on?” I asked my friend Cristina, who was busy clicking photos with her cell phone. I couldn’t hear a word she said over the music.
My friend Fred, who knows everything about everyone, said with authority “Today is Transvestite Day. Just like Secretary’s Day”
My friend Luigi skateboarded by with a surfboard under his arm. “Maybe somebody’s birthday,” was his answer. “Or maybe somebody died.”
Carlos said firmly, “They are celebrating spring.”
I’m not sure I’ll ever know the real reason a normally macho group of boys had thrown on their girlfriends’ clothes and makeup for the afternoon. It’s just one more little mystery I am trying to decode as I spend time here.
I wondered for a minute about whether this counteracted homophobia in a macho society and about men getting in touch with their feminine sides. But I can’t imagine that any of that was on these boys' minds. This parade was simply joyful, silly fun.
Cross-dressing as comedy and as tribute is pretty common here. In the Lucha Libre wrestling matches in our town square there is always a big guy dressed as a lipstick-smeared woman who emasculates his opponent by yanking down his pants. At Day of the Dead celebrations relatives dress up as their departed loved ones, often donning clothes of the opposite sex. My friend Mike was once thrilled to see a parade of transvestites during the extravagant celebration for Day of the Dead that takes place in Patzcuaro. But his elation was quickly deflated when he realized they were not his people and they might not take kindly to a little flirting.
Whatever the reason these boys in the band were playing dress up, the surprise of seeing them is one of the things I love about being here.