Saturday morning. I decide to walk through the streets of Colonia Manuel Vallarta one more time before my flight leaves the Guadalajara airport at 5:30 p.m.
It is early and the streets are almost deserted. I arrive at Templo San Nicolás de Bari, only to find that the gates to the grounds are still locked.
Just then the groundskeeper comes with his key, and throws open the gates, so that worshipers can enter the church, or the weary can sit on a bench in the garden.
Without stopping, I continue on. The walk is my worship this morning.
At a nearby house, someone has piled used red bricks against a green wall. If Van Gogh were with me, he would love the interaction of light and color, and probably paint a masterpiece.
Near someone else’s front door, a morning newspaper lies unread. The inhabitants are sleeping in, no doubt.
At one intersection, a pink bougainvillea arches over the sidewalk. Two cats, startled by my approach, turn tail and run.
At the abandoned café a homeless man sleeps, nestled in a pile of rags, while two old men sweep debris from the street in front of their houses, chatting to each other as they swish their brooms.
My apartment is almost in sight. There, just around the corner.
I turn the key in the gate lock, probably for the last time until the taxi comes, climb the stairs, and begin packing my suitcase.
Little brown sparrow,
are three crumbs at dawn enough
for a daylong song?
Promptly at 5 p.m., the bells at Templo San Nicolás de Bari start to ring wildly, signaling the beginning of the procession that will bring Our Lady of Zapopan (Nuestra Señora de Zapopan) to the church for her annual visit.
Drummers and trumpeters lead the joyful procession, and residents line the streets, longing to catch a glimpse of “the little cornhusk doll.” Penitents murmur prayers and cross themselves as Our Lady passes by.
When the procession arrives at the church about thirty minutes after it starts, and Our Lady is gently lifted from the “carriage” (actually, a pickup truck) in which she has been riding, a great shout goes up from the crowd: “Viva! Viva! Viva!”
As Our Lady is carried into the church, with the drummers drumming and the trumpets blaring, the shouts continue: “Viva! Viva! Viva!”
At last “the little cornhusk doll,” decked out in all her royal finery, is given a place of honor in front of the altar. The crowd oohs and ahs.
The church is packed, so I cannot enter, and as I stand at one of the entrances, a young man turns to me and says something in Spanish, but the crowd is still so noisy that I’m not sure what he says.
“No hablo español,” I say with a smile and a shrug.
¿Habla usted Inglés? he says.
“Yes,” I reply.
He introduces himself as Brandon, formerly of Colorado. He says that this is his church, and that he has lived in this neighborhood for two years.
“Why?” I ask.
He points to his Mexican wife and child and says, “That’s the reason.”
He claps me on the shoulder, and points to the food booths that line the street in front of the church.
“If you want some really good tortas,” he says, “try the stand on the corner. They are delicious. Enjoy your stay here.”
And then he dashes off to join his wife and child.
Little brown sparrow,
the boy in the bright red shoes
wants to sing with you.