Crossing the Line: From Bystander to Participant in Cultural Festivities | Day 306 of my 2023 Journal


Bystander or participant?

I do not deny it. Being one of them, part of it. I might not be your average tourist, but honestly, I am a visitor here, shy and curious, unaware of the subtleties of the culture, moving like a penguin in the jungle, trying to learn as fast as I can. In essence, I am not much different from those here on vacation.

Or am I? And is that reflection even relevant? Do I need to be something other than everyone else?

Here is the point. It is not about my self-identification but about my presence in context.


We went to see the parade yesterday, a parade in honor of the spirits. And I shot this picture of all the smartphones recording video in the long, long line of observers bystanders watching the parade. This one was beautiful, with lots of lovely face decorations, sections of traditionally Mexican outfits, of Chinese (randomly), and a group of bikers (equally random). It was a lot of people, locals and expats mixed, parading for the dead, but the bystanders heavily outnumbered them.

As we wanted to see the parade, we did not participate in it. We chose to stand and see it pass us, with the option of becoming the tail of it. But once it had passed us, my youngest especially had had it; we just needed OUT of the crowd, so we left and had a good load of fun playing Pass the pigs in the apartment.

Earlier the same day, Silke and I had shopped for face paint and painted everyone in the family, becoming Catrinas for an afternoon. Even though we did choose the role of the bystander, we also learned how much there is to know about decorating your face for the festival and how much there is to gain from being a participant rather than a bystander.

I am sure we will be back in Mexico for this festival. If not next year, then another. I do not regret being the observer, but I must say: There is a case to be made for immersion, participation, and becoming the culture we visit. Even when we only touch the surface, take baby steps and do the little things we can.

With love


Cecilie Conrad

Thank you for reading
I would love to hear from you. Listen to your thoughts and reflections - or praise :) It is often emotional to share our lives like this, and we get very happy when we get your feedback. So feel free to share a comment below 😋 

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