So, I just returned from a weekend of adventures in the Los Angeles area. I take it for granted that I live in paradise and don’t have to breath smog, endure crazed drivers on the freeways, or put up with the other things that go with city life…now don’t get me wrong, I was born in Los Angeles County but left in 1978 and actually began to live in outlying areas by the mid-1980s.
The BIG challenge this weekend was the heat. Oy!
I left a balmy 30 degrees to drop down into the flatlands with highs in excess of 85 degrees. Needless to say, it was not comfortable for someone whose favorite temperature range is from a low of 30 degrees to a balmy high of 70 (or maybe 75 if I have to settle). At least I checked the weather before I left!
Now just what would motivate me to venture down into a city of any type?
This last weekend’s motivation was twofold–the annual Olvera Street’s Blessing of the Animals and the Haute Dog Easter Parade.
Now for those of you who have read my book, Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), or who already subscribed to the list over at http://www.blessingoftheanimals.com, will already be familiar with some of the history of El Pueblo Blessing of the Animals.
Most people erroneously believe that the Blessing of the Animals started with the association with St Francis of Assisi. However, it goes back much earlier than that.
Olvera Street’s event, in the Catholic tradition, has roots back to the 4th Century and San Antonio de Abad.
Hunter gatherers and other aboriginal people celebrated animals prior to that–but most people associate contemporary animal blessings with organized religion. So most of the events take place around the feast days of St Francis of Assisi or San Antonio de Abad.
Neopagans celebrate nature multiple times throughout the year but the contemporary trend hit churches and began to gain momentum in the 1970s.
Although Olvera Street’s Blessing of the Animals became popular in the 1930s, recent research indicates that the roots may actually go back to 1781 and the founding of Los Angeles.
So why does Olvera Street celebrate on the Sabado de Gloria (Saturday before Easter)? Simple because of the weather!
In the past the event was held in January near the feast day of Saint Anthony–but bad weather prompted the merchants to move the date. It is a great combination of celebrants because people of all faiths show up.
The event is a favorite of Cardinal Roger Mahony–and he really gets into making sure everyone gets a good dose of Holy Water–I even got my own splatter over in the press box!
This year the turnout was smaller than last year with the blessing and procession only lasting slightly over an hour. Last year the weather was cooler and the crowds required just over two hours to complete the processional.
The other unusual thing was that there were some poorly behaved religious fanatics jeering at the crowds, showing disrespect to the other faiths on site, and generally behaving badly.
Most everyone ignored them until one of the fanatics actually left the public area and broke into the procession.
Personally, I thought they were a very bad example for whatever religious group they are aligned with–their minister should have a talk with them about how poor behavior repels people to their faith instead of attracting converts.
I sure would NOT want to EVER be affiliated with their organization or religious sect. I’ll save the rant and just say that they Olvera Street never has required security in all the years I’ve been attending–and this year I was glad they were on hand to mitigate the fanatics’ poor behavior.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was tardy and so the event began without him. However, once he arrived the Cardinal greeted him and Villraigosa got a few minutes on the microphone. I didn’t see him last year and he did not have his dogs with him this year either.
This year the participants had a large number of reptiles and birds. Due to the heat, the reptiles were really active and since not many people are familiar with them–they attracted a lot of attention.
The Zorthian family was again present as were many of the Olvera Street regulars–such as Ballet Coco.
Anyway, it was a great time. I even ate a few taquitos–which incidently–were invented by an Olvera Street merchant.
Below is a small snippet from a slide show that I will have up and running at Blessing of the Animals shortly and stay tuned for the Haute Dog post. If you attended either event, leave your comments below!