Story and Pictures by Melina Cervantes, Special to The Bulletin
A crowd gathers together on a quiet local street in Compton. It is an otherwise normal Wednesday afternoon and so the timing is curious, causing neighbors to wonder, what could be going on? And then there appears the figure of San Antonio, carried by local men accompanied by the instruments of a Mexican Banda.
A procession of dancers who call themselves, Danza Herencia Purepecha and a band playing Mexican Banda soon flood into the street. Dancers in colorful attire and the sounds of a passionate band attracts the curious eyes of the community. Neighbors quickly gather to watch the pageantry.
It is June 13th, the day of San Antonio de Padua. A figure of the exalted saint leads the procession while dancers are performing “La Danza de los Viejitos” a traditional dance from Michoacán, Mexico. Participants reach a home nearby where a rosary takes place and the festivities continue with music and traditional dances. The community effort is evident in the contributions that have been made by all of the guests. Pozole is passed around after the rosary has ended. Mass amounts of Mexican candy are distributed for the children.
Everyone is welcomed and greeted with food.The dancers perform again, the band is playing Mexican Banda music and the sounds of the “viejitos” is incorporated into the dance performance.
“This is Mexico” Cari Castillo, Compton resident said as the band played banda and children waited, excited to catch the toys that were being tossed in the air for everyone to catch. The generosity of the community is seen each time one of the adults throwing prizes ran out of items, prompting someone else, standing by with another full basket to join in. “Señoras” walk away with cleaning supplies that are also tossed into the crowd. It appears that in excess of sixty people participate, but still there is food and prizes for everyone. “Throw some over here” a man instructs one of the prize throwers, making sure everyone gets something.
“These are the traditions from our town” Ana, the woman who is hosting the festivities at her home explains. “San Antonio is our town’s patrón”. She, along with many of the participants is from Charapan, Michoacan. Ana explains that they do this every year but the festivities are hosted by a different family each time.
It is in honor of San Antonio. It has been nine days of prayer, a novena. On Sunday, at eight in the morning the band is playing again. “Danza de los Moros” is now being performed and the procession continues to Ana’s home one last time. When the front of the house is reached, señoras are seen dancing holding baskets of bread on their heads as they make their way into the house. Everyone is being offered bread, the hot chocolate is passed around along with other Mexican desserts. There will be a mass later and more food. Women are seen setting up the grill, heating flour tortillas. Whether distributing or contributing food, playing an instrument or dancing with dedication, everyone is helping and there is an abundance of the culture, that has transcended from Charapan, Michoacán.