A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Una Navidad Colorada
Sunday, December 21, 2008

rojo, ja.(Del lat. russus).
1. adj. De color encarnado muy vivo, que corresponde a la sensación producida por el estímulo de longitudes de onda de alrededor de 640 nm o mayores. U. t. c. s. m. Es el primer color del espectro solar.

colorado, da.(Del lat. colorātus, de colorāre, colorar).
1. adj. Que tiene color.
2. adj. Que por naturaleza o arte tiene color más o menos rojo.

Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados

Red and green are the colours of Christmas. Those who are religious say that red represents the blood shed by Christ to save mankind. Snobs might say that the month-long Roman Saturnalia decreed for December 25, AD 274 by Emperor Aurelian as natalis solis invicti ("birth of the invincible sun"), a festival honoring the sun god Mithras is the real origin of red. The reason is that at about the same time, the Church Fathers likewise set the official date for celebrating the birth of Jesus as being December the 25th. And since Christmas was appropriated from the Saturnalia by early Christians, when Italians celebrated Christmas in the 19th century the world copied the colours of the Italian flag. I think this reason is far-fetched and the most likely one is that the fat man wears a red suit.

In Spanish we have two words for red, colorado and rojo. Both words come from the Latin. In Mexico rojo is used more than colorado. In my native Argentina the higher classes look down on the lower classes who use the crass sounding rojo while they the patricians opt for the more melodic colorado. Off colour jokes in Spanish are chistes colorados and dirty old men who are more likely to tell them are called viejos verdes or green old men.

The most brilliant red I know is the vegetable dye red coloured Mexican rebozo my mother was given by her sister Dolly in Mexico City in 1952. It is made of a very rough cotton (Rebecca refuses to wear it saying it makes her itch).

Mexico City at Christmas is not a white Christmas but it is a cold one. It was particularly cold in the 50s and 60s when I lived there as few houses or apartments had interior heating. I remember my mother wearing the red rebozo when she went to the Mexican Christmas posadas which are parties that mimic the act of the Virgin Mary and Joseph looking for a place to spend the night when Jesus was about to be born. The party goers sing outside of the party house for entrance and are denied several times until they are finally let in and the festivities begin. That red of my mother's rebozo screams Navidad to me.

But I have used it to dress up and undress models since I first came to Vancouver 35 years ago. For the last four years I have taken it as a prop for my nude class at Focal Point. My students are dazzled by the colour and the fragrant scent of olinalá. Olinalá is a tropical tree that grows in Olinalá in the state of Guerrero. I have a chest made of the sweet smelling wood and I store my mother's collection of Mexican rebozos in it.

Here are but a few of the women who have worn that red rebozo. In order of appearance it's Ivette Hernandez, Linda Lorenzo, Jennifer Froese and the last one I have long forgotten her name. The colour negative has deteriorated and she moved when I took this exposure.

Even though I am unable to clear out the yellow I like it. Perhaps because it was the first time I took out my mother's rebozo from the olinalá chest for a photo.

Every year I wrap the bottom of our Christmas tree with the red rebozo. In our home it is the real colour of Christmas.


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