I was was huffing and puffing, biking uphill toward home this afternoon when I saw that Columbia Road, NW was blocked for a procession of some kind. I stopped to watch and take some pictures.
The procession, it turned out, involved a large, heavy icon of the crucified Christ, gilded and adorned with flowers, and mounted on an elaborate plinth. It was borne at a very slow, rhythmic pace on the shoulders of men and women in purple robes with white cinctures. Elderly women, their heads draped in white lace mantillas, walked in front of the icon, swinging censers of smoking incense. A brass band walked behind, adding a sonorous din to the proceedings. At one point, the procession halted. The bearers let the icon down from their shoulders and rested it on the street. People passed infants through the crowd to one of the men in purple robes, who took the children and held them briefly in front of the icon, where presumably they were blessed.
The marchers and those accompanying them all spoke Spanish. My Spanish isn't great, but I think I learned that the procession originated in a nearby Catholic church, La Reina de Los Americas, or Our Lady, Queen of the Americas. It's the joint effort of several congregations, and it occurs on the third Sunday of every October. The people I spoke to were all very kind and tolerant of a big, not particularly reverent Yankee who kept lumbering in and out of their procession, looking for camera angles.
I eventually walked back to my bike and rode home. I would have probably filed this little encounter away in the category of interesting but inconsequential events that still happen in the streets of Washington, a very diverse city despite all of its recent gentrification. But then I thought of the current presidential campaign. We have been assured by the leading contender for the Republican nomination that the migrants coming across the border from Mexico are rapists and thieves, requiring us to build an impenetrable wall, then round up and expel all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our midst.
I don't know. The leading Republican contender has no doubt made a lot more money than the people I photographed today. A lot of them will probably be doing menial jobs tomorrow, cleaning offices, cooking in restaurant kitchens and painting houses, which makes them losers in his book. But as I looked at the pictures I made, I tried to pick out the likely thieves and rapists in the procession. I couldn't, but I guess that's because I don't see things as clearly as the leading Republican candidate. Probably it's because I get around too much by bike and don't get the big picture he sees from his personal helicopter.