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Finding La Posada In Nueva York

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Finding La Posada In Nueva York

Opinion

Finding La Posada In Nueva York

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Many people tell the Christmas story in ways that relate to their lives, including this way. An immigrant couple arrives in a foreign land. She's about to have a baby, so they need to find shelter quickly. Maria Hinojosa, the host of NPR's LATINO USA, sent us this postcard about the Christmas Nativity story as celebrated by Mexicans in New York.

MARIA HINOJOSA: When I was a kid, my family would load up the station wagon in Chicago and drive to Mexico to spend La Navidad in the home country.

Once I had my own kids, we spent many holidays in my husband's home country, the Dominican Republic. But this year, my family is staying in New York.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

HINOJOSA: You know, the kids wanted that traditional, quintessential American, snow-white Christmas.

But I live in a modern urban center in the United States in the year 2010. So just how far from a Latin American Christmas did I really think I could get?

Unidentified Group: (Singing in Spanish)

HINOJOSA: About 50 people, adults and children, are singing in the narrow hallway of a five-story, walk-up apartment building.

They're celebrating one of the most traditional rituals of the Mexican Christmas season: La Posada, a re-enactment of the homeless Joseph and Mary looking for shelter before the birth of Jesus.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

HINOJOSA: We've come to my friend Silvia's apartment. The entire front room has been cleared of furniture to make room for the arrival of the Posada. There's just a stand where the Nativity scene will go - a three-foot-tall replica of the manger, with statues of Joseph and Mary.

(Soundbite of chatter)

(Soundbite of laughter)

HINOJOSA: Suddenly, dozens of bundled-up women, men and kids are climbing the steep staircase, singing and carrying the Nativity scene.

Unidentified Group: (Singing in Spanish)

HINOJOSA: The point is to try to convince the people inside the apartment to open their home to those of us on the outside, representing Joseph and Mary. Silvia's apartment door finally opens, and this huge group of people tries to squeeze in.

Unidentified Woman: (Spanish spoken)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in Spanish)

HINOJOSA: Carmen Garcia had organized the Posada with her husband. Carmen came to the United States when she was seven, but Mexico is still in her heart.

Ms. CARMEN GARCIA: We feel like we are in Mexico. I know it's totally different because in Mexico, they have a big yard, and we don't have to go up and down the staircase with the strollers, with the babies and, you know. And it's very difficult for us, but we come because we want it and we like it and we have fun.

(Soundbite of children chattering)

HINOJOSA: But the most fun is for the kids.

(Soundbite of breaking of la pinatas)

HINOJOSA: It's the moment they've been waiting for, breaking la pinatas, just like I did as a kid in Mexico.

Unidentified Child: Yay, mommy. Thank you.

Unidentified Group: (Singing in Spanish)

HINOJOSA: I asked someone, an older woman who's joined in with the singing, what it means to keep the Posada tradition alive in New York. She says: Life can be hard here and monotonous, and there can be sadness and insecurity about our futures. This is a way in which we just bring alegria - joy - into people's homes.

In this holiday season, I will take the alegria from the streets of Spanish Harlem to heart.

Unidentified Group: (Singing in Spanish)

INSKEEP: Maria Hinojosa is the host of NPR's Latino USA. To see pictures of La Posada, visit npr.org, which is where you can also find some of this season's other takes on Christmas. NPR's John Burnett checks the facts in a Nativity scene. Annie Lennox talks with Michel Martin about her Christmas tunes. We put links on Facebook and Twitter. We're @morningedition and @nprinskeep.

This is NPR News.

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