Every year, the Mexicana-Nigeria Christmas party holds in Akure, Ondo State. It is now into its 10th year and is an event organised by Goke and Maria Adegoroye, in a part of the capital which has over the last decade built a strong Mexican character around itself. Many of the local children can sing in Spanish and are developing a taste for Mexican aesthetics, meals and music, and this helps to nurture a rich multicultural outlook in the young ones.
Later in life they will look back with joy at this special moment of their upbringing when the air around them was alive with Spanish songs, and as children they all strove to eat the doughnut or to do the sack race, or they awaited the marvelous procession at twilight which sometimes featured a live donkey. Also, there is the splendid Christmas tree with a star at its summit. This writer even suspects that the little ones may already be thinking in Spanish too. We can say then that something big and beneficial is forming in the Ondo road part of Akure where the Adegoroye’s reside. The flair of both Nigerians and Mexicans for fun, colour, costume and suspense finds unique expression in the party, which is a Mexican style Christmas that has been wedded to a Nigerian form of the celebration, forging a stunning cultural mix in the process .The edition which held on Christmas day was an eye opener for this reporter, and perhaps for a few others present. What was new and inspiring was the use of Mexican dress, attire and dance forms, which were somewhat similar to the hairdo, dance and culture of the Fulani in Nigeria. These elements had always been present during the earlier editions of the Posada, but as the event crossed its first decade all these forms became more visible to those who are interested in cultural questions, as well as the not- so -easy task of tracing shared links within the human family. This is something to think about and is richly deserving of an investigation, for irrespective of distance and physical borders, human groups may share much more than they or many assume. Maria Salinas Adegoroye, who has three Masters Degrees, mentioned to me some years ago that she has noticed similarities between aspects of Mexican culture and that of the Fulani.
One part of the Posada, which commemorates the difficult journey of heavily pregnant Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, is the dramatic release of balloons into the air. During this stage of the event, what also captured the attention of this reporter was the simple Mexican dress worn by Maria Adegoroye, which is akin to what some Fulani woman would wear in Nigeria today. It is fairly well decorated and is of light cotton texture. Then there was Maria’s hairdo, which presented two vertical locks of hair hanging down on either side of her face, and which you can easily see replicated among Nigeria’s pastoral Fulani, if you are patient enough to make a check. Her daughter Adesewa, wore a smaller version of the same dress with a slightly different hair style, together with a colourful band across her head. There was the graceful dance in which the dancers hold arms and dance to simple, light music. On the Fulani elements of the Posada, Maria adds “There is a unique similarity and connection between what I see around the Fulani and the Mexicans. The way the Fulani dress is similar to the cotton dress I wore, which we also wear in Mexico. The embroidery, the colours, and the cotton fabric are exactly the same with what we have in Mexico.” On the dance, Goke Adegoroye says “It was a nice dance which hinted at the similarities shared by both groups .They did the Yoruba dance first. Then the Mexican dance, and then the two of them came together. They danced together, arm in arm and singing together. “Maria explains that the dance is the national dance of Mexico “In my country, every state has a different type of dance. The dance I chose is the national dance, the dance which represents Mexico all over the world. “Daily Trust made an online search for pictures of Fulani women in traditional attire, and the search produced exciting photos, which reveal some striking similarities between Mexican and Fulani dress forms.
It must be mentioned that many years ago, clairvoyants in Mexico had indicated to Maria that her destiny lies ‘in a land which is very far away.’ Another clairvoyant indicated to her that she is ‘African’. Her marriage to Goke Adegoroye and her passion for Nigeria seems to be a fulfillment of the words of the clairvoyants. She has spread Mexican culture in schools within Abuja, and has played a major role in celebrating Nigeria among the wives of Ambassadors in the FCT. Dr. Adegoroye tells me “right now the Mexican Embassy is referring to her as the real Ambassador of Mexico.”
Apart from the shared similarities with the Fulani, there is a lot more in Mexico which Nigerians can connect with, if we use the Posada as our guide. First of all, there is the ‘feed the clown’ game, in which children throw a ball or some similar object into the open mouth of a clown which is creatively drawn on a wooden board. This game which the children loved so much, seems to train them to be focused and to be disciplined in their movements. Next is the doughnut eating contest, which is a game indigenous to Mexico, but which the young children of Akure, are so eager to be part of. This too teaches the child to be focused, to practice disciplined movement and develop a good sense of time. There is the game of throwing a ring to fall upon a bottle, which the children thrilled to. In sum, all these games develop in the children a sense of beauty, balance and order .There is therefore a lot that Nigerians, both young and old, can connect with in Mexican culture. It seems that Maria is not done yet, for she is just about to open a Mexican restaurant in Abuja, where Mexican meals alone will be served. This will turn around the culinary interests of city dwellers and bring some variety to the whole dining experience .Her effort tells a lot about a certain similarity not only in terms of culture, but also in a strong culinary sense.
One thing that stood out during this year’s Posada was the manger which dazzled everyone with its figurines, decorations and the sublime message which it conveyed .According to Dr. Adegoroye “This is the best manger since we started the posada. It’s also the best you can find in Nigeria. We brought it all the way from Mexicio, and it’s the biggest size you can find. The figurines are at least 1 metre tall, and we went to the factory in Mexico to select them. “Next there was the 49 feet tall Christmas tree which had 255 yards of cloth wrapped around it. There were the Christmas tree lights “which gave the glow which people could see from everywhere, when getting close to our residence,” says Dr. Adegoroye. There was the unforgettable Posada, the procession which presents Mary and Joseph who are seeking accommodation. Everyone comes out in costumes which befit their roles. These include the three wise men, the shepherds and the Angel. The use of lit candles creates an effect which hints at the sublimity of the moment. But the gentle flame of the candles finds a climax in the brilliantly lit manger.
Dr. Adegoroye is of the opinion that the impact of the party can be seen in the fact that people look forward to the event every year. An example of this is the fact that a family which had initially relocated to South Africa, returned to Akure in order to be part of the Posada. Another sign of the impact is the fact that families that have experienced the party, carry out their own forms of the Posada in their homes in different parts of Akure. The long term vision is that the Posada will be replicated in as many homes in Akure as possible, and this is how the original Mexican version functions. People open their homes to visitors, neighbours and friends. Dr. Adegoroye draws attention to the fact that feeding the huge numbers that turn up is a problem, not because there is no food, but the fact that people come thinking that they won’t get a meal. Sometimes, they get a bit impatient. But everyone gets a meal, he emphasises. Meanwhile, a website is being created for the Posada and this will help with the registration for the event when the time draws near.
One unforgettable moment in this year’s party was the Nun who with raised arms, came out to dance with the children. The little ones formed a circle dancing around her to some sweet Yoruba music. For some minutes the lady whose feet and arms kept pace with the music, had fully achieved a reconnection with her childhood.