By Kim Groves
From the bible stories, I knew them as The Three Wise Kings. They brought incense, gold, and myrrh as gifts for baby Jesus. Here in Mexico they are known as Los Reyes Magos. Children create their wish lists and wait until January 6 to Los Reyes Magos to bring them their gifts.
It has become tradition for Fundación En Vía to have a gathering of the entire group of women in Teotitlán on or close to the day of Los Reyes Magos. It is a time, after the busy season of the posadas, Christmas and New Years for us all to get together to celebrate the successes of the year, and express our hopes for the new one.
Enedina, whose house we found ourselves in, is a natural hostess. She makes it seem so easy to suddenly have over 100 women in her patio. I guess the thing is that everybody helps out. In a heartbeat there are dozens of cups on trays. There are piles of food on tables. And everyone has a tostada in both hands and lively conversation on their lips.
Standing amongst this efficient flurry of activity I looked around the room fondly. There were faces I knew well, and others that were new. Some women like Enedina, who have been with the program since its beginning and others like Yamel Josefa that are just receiving their first loans. I stopped to chat at length with Guadalupe about some new bag designs she was working on. I knelt down next to Soledad and Floricita and carefully studied their technique as they whisked the hot chocolate to perfection. Yanet had saved me a seat next to her and her little cousin. As I didn’t have anything in my hand except my camera Teresa was worried that I wasn’t eating enough and rushed to get me something. Through mouthfuls of sweet pastry I enquired about Petra’s triplet daughters, who were at home doing schoolwork. From the other side of the room Maria was eyeing off the dress I was wearing, the dress she had made for me, and I was pleased that she seemed satisfied with how it looked on me.
With cheerful fanfare it came time to cut the rosca. We literally had three of the great ropes of sweet bread that are traditional on the day of Los Reyes. According to the story, shortly after his birth, Jesus was in danger of being found and murdered by King Herod’s soldiers who were determined to kill all new born children in order to nullify the prophecy of the coming King. It is said that on one occasion, Jesus, in the arms of his mother Mary, hid himself from view of the soldiers using a miracle. To symbolize this event, within this bread, this rosca, a little plastic baby the size of a fingertip is hidden.
I don’t care to admit just how many pieces of this bread I ate in the week of Los Reyes Magos. During that night it was Carlos, our executive director, who ended up with the hidden doll in his piece, and so, according to popular custom, it will be his turn to make the tamales and atole come February 2nd, when the Candelaria is celebrated (more on this tradition in a coming blog!).
With the attention of the room Carlos spoke about all the great efforts made by each an all of the women, and indicated that there was even more room for growth and improvement in the coming months. He encouraged the women to keep supporting each other, to keep inviting and including others in the community, and to take advantage of the new educational programs in 2012. He expressed a feeling that all of us who work in the organization feel at these events—seeing the number of participants and hearing their stories—that we have grown to become something that we never imagined we could be when the idea was conceived just years ago.
I am thrilled to report to you, our dear friends and supporters, that I was not able to fit the whole group into one photo. I tried everything. I moved furniture, I directed the space. I stood about 10 meters back from where the women had gathered and were smiling at me indulgently. I climbed up on chair and held my camera in the air, and in doing so I entertained the crowd by banging my head on a hanging bird ornament!
There was more laughter at the end of the event when we strung up the piñatas outside in the street. The children dove for the sweets, and shrieked as they smashed heavily to the ground (or maybe it was just me who shrieked).
It was dark by this time; we were sweeping the floor and putting away the chairs. Some women lingered to chat; many excused themselves to return to their families. As they waved and called back to us, I was left with the sweetest feeling; of being well fed, nourished, and part of something important. I don’t know much about the Three Kings and their incense, gold and myrrh, but that evening, the room was full of women who to me are Queens, and their gifts for the New Year are the most precious ones of dignity, solidarity and hope.