The music is blaring with the thumping rhythm of a Latin beat on this already hot Saturday morning. We are gathered outside, about 100 of us, for a vigorous aerobics session with our Zumba class leader, Cesar, a minor celebrity in San Miguel known for his enthusiasm and dancing ability. This morning our $1.50 donation will be supporting the local fire department and we are in the Jardin, in front of the Parroquia, or parish church, rather than the Benito Juarez Park.
The contrast between old and new Mexico is in boldface type this morning – young women in tight work-out clothes scream their approval when Cesar turns his back to us and bumps and grinds, his hips moving like a well oiled ball bearing, as old stooped women in tattered clothes and shawls on their heads weave through the crowd and move slowly up the stairs to the church courtyard for Mass. Mass bells with their own distinctive rhythm call the faithful while loud Latin music calls the adherents of the religion of Zumba. However, even the girls in the modern work out clothes automatically cross themselves as they arrive, as all Catholics seem to do when passing a church or shrine.
I have found that it is wise to pay close attention when passing one of these many holy places, as I was almost run down one day in front of the market when a taxi driver swerved to avoid hitting me because he was driving on the wrong side of the road and crossing himself to the Virgin of Guadalupe at the same time.
Fortunately, I was not hit. But, I will limp home from Zumba this morning, my knees shot from pivoting and my hips strained from attempting movements that wiser gringas wouldn’t even think about. Religions of all kinds can be a dangerous thing