Page:Face to Face With the Mexicans.djvu/297

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FASTS AND FESTIVALS AND SOCIAL FORMS.

The tamalada is an outdoor diversion somewhat corresponding to our picnics. It usually occurs in the afternoon, in some quiet wood or beautiful garden, and begins with dancing, which is kept up throughout the afternoon and evening. The refreshments are tamales, after which the entertainment is named—atole de Ieche and chongas. The latter is simply sliced bread with piloncilla (syrup made from brown sugar) and grated cheese thickly spread over each piece, the whole arranged in pyramid form, and is a most delicious dish. A dia de campo (day in the country) with a gay tamalada party, is a most agreeable recreation. Pity that it occurs so rarely!

One of the most brilliant national and social events at the capital in which I had the pleasure of participating was the annual distribution of prizes, on the night of January 30th, to the cadets of the Military Academy, at Chapultepec.

The National Theater, where it took place, was gorgeously decorated with banners, streamers, and military emblems. Flowers were everywhere—wreathing the cannon which lined the entrance, surrounding trophies of war, combining with the white moss of Chapultepec and dark evergreens, in festoons from light to light—even cannon-balls reposed on them and bayonets were converted into bouquet-holders.

In the patio electric lights, in the form of stars, shed their white radiance over the scene and mingled with the lights from a thousand Chinese lanterns and Venetian lamps which swung between the flagdraped and flower-wreathed pillars.

The main entrance was lined with soldiers who, with the cadets, presented arms when President Diaz, accompanied by members of the Cabinet, entered and passed through to the great stage reserved for the presidential party and high army officers.

The interior of the theater presented a grand spectacle; every column was covered with national colors arranged diagonally; flags of all sizes and the ensign of the Republic were draped artistically on the walls and hung from every available point. Three hundred gay and gallant cadets were ranged with military precision on either