It’s mid-afternoon and it’s pouring down rain. Everyone is tucked into corners and cafes. The street vendors rush to throw plastic tarps over their carts.
And then, a loud bang. Fireworks burst into the sky. Despite the daylight. Despite the rain.
People look up from their dry hiding spots. No one seems to know where the sound is coming from.
Solitary bursts into the afternoon sky.
And then I hear it.
The familiar pounding of drums. I’ve been in Mexico only two short weeks but I recognize and love that sound.
A parade is coming.
People go running from one side of the street to the other. The rain stops. A cloud of smoke and the dancing figures emerge.
My face is wet and I don’t quite know why at first. Warm rain. Hot tears. Maybe the purpose is the same. It clears things out. Dust. Feelings. It breaks temperatures and stillness.
I’m standing on a street corner in Oaxaca with a stray dog at my side and we are watching the procession with hundreds of other people. A wedding party dances up the street, a band is with them, loudly playing the type of Mexican sounds that can easily be translated as joy.
Two people are getting married, Cristina and Sandy, according to the names painted on a sign being carried through the streets by two costumed people on stilts. Two lives made a decision and the joy they feel isn’t kept to themselves. It gets shared. With the locals selling flowers and rugs, who stop to watch the procession. By the travelers who look like me, lining the streets with their phones in hand, smiling wildly, not believing our luck. Look! A parade! We’re in Mexico and lucky us, we get to watch a parade.
The bridal party in their blush pink gowns and the groomsmen at their sides, walking down the middle of the street, phones out, recording the time they flew to Mexico to be in a loved one’s wedding and then realized Mexican weddings mean celebrations and that they are part of the main event.
My face is wet. And I think it’s because I am learning joy in a new way. I know happiness in the way that you feel it and then keep it to yourself so you don’t make other people feel bad about their lack.
You can smile wide and shed a tear at happy events but not too many because what if someone feels uncomfortable at your vulnerability?
You can dance in the street during a parade of music and lights but only briefly and only on that one really hot day in summer and then you just have the memories until the next time.
No, joy here is shared. Joy in Mexico means welcoming everyone around to share in your feelings.
Happiness on these wet Oaxacan streets mean celebrations at mid-day and embracing strangers and invitations for everyone to feel the bliss too.
My face is wet with rain and tears and it’s because I’m learning joy and myself in new ways.