This book, please realise, is an academic work, written for professional sociologists. As such, it is at times hard slogging for the layman. Struggling through it, however, I gained at least two insights. The first, not really a goal of the book, was a finer understanding of the mestizo/indian relationship (Castillians are not an issue in the book). Mainly, this was just a few more data points in the very sparse matrix of my understanding. The second, and this was the book's locus, was one I had never really considered - just what is behind all of those many extravagant and bizarre religious festivals that go on in Mexico? Salient points: the church does not sponsor them (a BIG surprise!); private citizens devote their personal meager income and their time, including that of their extended families, for a year or more to bring one of these festivals off. Whereas there is a strong religious vector to this sponsorship, the real nut of it is that it is a civic duty, and one which gives the sponsor the fulfillment of knowing that he and his family have done their bit. In the main, it is not a seeking of status in the community that drives these people to such extremes of personal sacrifice, nor is it solely religious devotion. It is what one must do to validate his existence and achieve a measure of comfort in the knowledge that he has been a link in the continuance of his society. The festival is not a propitiation to God, to invoke divine support for the community. The festival is the essence of the community - thus the name of the book, I think.
This study was executed over a span of several years, in situ in the mountains of central Mexico, among what we would call "poor farmers". I apologize to the author for my use of masculine pronouns and will review this review with a view to politically correcting it. I will not, however, take the easy way out and employ the abominable "he/she" construct.
This book is extraordinarily relevant to current events. It will give you an understanding of the hatred which rules the part of the world now called "the former Yugoslavia".
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