Saturday, October 10, 2009
When Darlis and Matias aren´t rifling through my things or begging to play Uno they can usually be found hunting birds behind my house. The absence of neighbors directly to the right and left of me has allowed for a small bird sanctuary or, as Darlis and Matias see it, the perfect spot to hunt. A little patience, a sling shot and a few small pebbles are all one needs for a light afternoon snack.
Paraguay has an incredibly diverse bird population. I know nothing about birds but it is always interesting to observe the different types zipping around Tacuati. About 6 months ago I was privileged to witness a passing flock of toucans. Darlis and Matias say the more colorful birds taste better. Luckily they were not around for the toucans.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The Fiestas patronales ("patronage festivals" in English) are yearly celebrations held in countries influenced by Spanish culture. A fiesta patronal is usually dedicated to a saint or virgin, who is the patron of whichever city holds the fiesta. Usually town members adorn the town streets with advertisements, colorful decorations and other things. In big cities there are particular fiestas for each neighborhood, usually about the patron saint for the local parish.
Wikipedia is pretty weak sometimes. I'll post something that better explains the origin of the Fiesta Patronal. Actually, just google it. That would save me some time. You spend half your work day on Facebook or blogs of this caliber anyway. Thanks.
This past week was our fiesta patronal. The patron of Tacuati is the Virgen de las Mercedes. Her feast day is Sept. 24th, so on that day the town decorates the streets with colorful streamers, flags and paper flowers. The entire community, even those that are not Catholic (omg!), come out for the 9am mass and post mass procession. The procession moves through most of central Tacuati and stops in each barrio to make a blessing. The procession ends in about an hour and is followed by an afternoon of family parties and cheap fireworks.
I enjoy the Fiesta Patronal in Tacuati. Tacuatanos from all over Paraguay return for the week. My host mom’s sister made the visit all the way from Cordoba, Argentina. The reuniting of families means lots of music, drinks and asado. If you scroll down on this very page you can see photos from various asados I’ve forced my way into. El Asado (or The BBQ) sits deep in the heart of Paraguayan culture. Tacuati lies the middle of cattle country, which makes Tacuati asados that much more meatier.
The asado is almost always beef (although it is not uncommon to BBQ sheep, pig or chicken) . The meat is either cooked on a grill over charcoal or on long wooden sticks that lean over large trenches full of wood. The average Tacuatano likes their meat well done, drenched in salt and lime. The lime and salt bath makes your tongue feel real good. Unlike our neighbors to the South, Paraguayans do not use a chimichurri sauce. Usually the enormous proportions of cow are accompanied by a mayonnaise salad reminiscent of cole slaw or a mayonnaise mixture of rice and vegetables, recipe follows: One bell pepper/One Tomato/Mucho Mayo/1lb of rice.
Liam’s heart: Really dude? More meat? Huh? Gonna wash that down with some mayonnaise salad?
Liam: Calm down, it is part of the cultural integration. It is just this week.
Liam’s Brain: Liar
Liam’s heart: Nice try, fatty.
Coming back from the States directly into the Fiesta Patronal week allowed my gluttonous streak of heavy food binging a slow, gentle death. Only last night did the reoccurring nightmare of that Deep Dish Pizza taunting my limbless body return to haunt me.
Back to the Fiesta Patronal:
For the nine days before the 24th, the rosary is recited and a mass is had each night. Following each mass a variety of events take place, from indoor soccer tournaments to bingo. The highlights are the concursos civico and artistica. On the night of the concurso civco a majority of the community gathers to watch students performs skits that address community specific issues. This years skits touched on domestic violence, the mayors secret smoking habit and the lack of medical equipment in the Health Center. The concurso artistica is the town talent show, where anyone that can play an instrument, sing or dance has 5 minutes of stage time. There are even prizes and judges.
The majority of the participants perform traditional Paraguayan dance in traditional Paraguayan attire. See photo.