National Geographic : 2014 Dec
56 national geographic • december 2014 On the day he succeeds Fermín Lara Jiménez as majordomo, Ernesto Alvarado Salazar prays amid the cauldrons of food prepared for a town celebration. Copal, a tree resin used as incense, wafts from a special brazier used in religious rituals. A prayer before feasting tosses them in a wheelbarrow. By midmorning she has covered the patio wall with carefully arranged stacks. “My parents have been in a state of nerves” since their term began, she says while dropping kernels in a basin. Monserrat explains that her parents kicked off their year as major- domos in May 2013 with a big feast under the huge tarpaulin that still hangs over their patio. Tarps and tents go up all the time across Milpa Alta, often in the early evening, as if a circus had come to town. Every year more than 700 religious fiestas are held in the borough of Milpa Alta, which encompasses 12 villages and towns in the rural southeastern corner of Mexico City. The tarps and booming music let everyone know where to find the action. Fermín and Virginia will pass the mantle to new majordomos, chosen as they were by a special council, when their 12 months are over. Thrilling as it’s all been, Monserrat isn’t inter- ested in becoming a majordomo herself. Besides, she points out, the waiting list gets longer every year, and all the majordomos have been named through 2046. She wanders down the hill to a shed with a corrugated metal roof to see how the toasting of the corn is going.