Nine o’clock in Oaxaca is the ‘witching hour’. That’s when the young children go home and the balloon lady packs her bags and walks with her balloons out of the square. She really does build a castle. She stacks her balloons around her and lives within its walls selling balloons to children. Each Oaxacan child receives a balloon on his or her birthday and name day. These balloons are cherished, held carefully by their strings, walked like aerial dogs through the square.
The State band practices most nights int he central square and the balloons are moved by the music, especially that of the wind instruments, and then they wander to and fro. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and escape, skip away, go absent with out leave, and seek the freedom of the open skies. Sometimes they get caught in the trees. Then the strings are jigged and older children, experts in the art, place sticky tape on their own balloons and send them upwards in rescue missions which can be surprisingly successful. Oh what joy when the errant balloon returns to earth, stuck to its new mate. Oh what wailing when a birthday balloon bursts and the deprived child must persuade its parents to purchase another!
I can see them now, those colored balloons, floating skywards, sailing freely into the freedom of those blue Oaxacan skies. Up and up, level with the cathedral roof, ascending the cathedral tower, up, up, and away … soaring like souls into the innocence of a sky blue heaven.