Mexican “Pastorela” or Christmas play

We went to kids’ Christmas program last night.  Much of it was fun and quite enjoyable.  One part of it wasn’t.

Those of us used to a pretty tame Christmas play, with the standard shepherds and wise men, the stable scene and perhaps an animal that talks every now and again, well, you quickly realize that Mexican “pastorelas” or Christmas dramas are quite different from such a tame performance.

Here, a Christmas drama almost always involves a devil, and usually several of them.  Three seems to be a common number.  The three devils or demons go up against three angels.  These are children’s dramas, keep in mind.  The devils in last evening’s drama were called the “gay devil, the chief devil and the sexy devil.”  You know this has to be true, because there’s no way I could make it up.   The angels were named the angry angel, the innocent angel and the kind angel.

The main focus of a pastorela is for the devils to keep Joseph and Mary from getting to Bethlehem.  Or, to keep the shepherds from making it to the stable to worship the baby Jesus.  Last night the attention was focused on keeping the shepherds from getting into town.

The angels and the devils appear quite versed on the very modern problems of modern urban Mexico.  Among the shepherds’ fears were having to pay the electric, water and gas bill.  The three temptations that the devils use to keep the shepherds from Bethlehem are drunkenness, sloth and lust.  Again, I’m not making this up.  One shepherd, played by a 10 year old, leans on the bottle repeatedly throughout the whole presentation.  At the end the devils, convinced that they have at least one of the three shepherds under their control, begin to grab the drunken 10-year-old.  But no!, one of the angels reminds the devils, man has free will!  Suddenly emboldened by this angelic reminder, the shepherd drops his bottle and decides to continue on his trip to the stable.  The Christmas story is saved, for one more year, although the chief devil promises to not give up, and to succeed next year.

Why do I mention this?  Well, first of all it goes without saying that our kids do not participate in these dramas. They were asked to once, but after reading the script, we did not allow them to participate, and they have not been asked to act ever since.   This year was, also, the worse I’ve ever heard.   All is done in a satirical fashion, in a making-fun-of sort of way.  People think it is cute, funny.  The word for it in Spanish is pícaro or picaresco: an “art” form that uses common, human vices for entertainment purposes.   Doble sentido, or double word meanings, often with sexual overtones.

But it is not cute or funny.  It is tragic.  How can a culture that supposedly gives lip service to the importance of the incarnation of Christ, in a drama that should be Christ-centered, go so wildly perverse, even in Christmas drama.  With 6-12 year old kids.

So once again I would ask you to not view Mexico as reached.  It is a nation that has a form of godliness, but without any divine power.  During this Christmas season, remember that Christ died to rid us of this darkness.  The Light has come.

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