By: Madhava Smullen ISKCON News on Nov. 26, 2014
Around forty North American youth aged 17 and up will spend this Christmas and New Year’s on the adventure of a lifetime.
Traveling 7,000 miles all the way from Alachua, Florida to Cancun, Mexico and back on ISKCON Youth Ministry’s Krishna Culture Tour bus, they’ll stage festivals and change lives all over Mexico.
During the tour, which will run from December 12th to January 4th, they’ll also make new friendships, rekindle old ones, and see some of the most beautiful nature spots in the country.
At each city they stop at, the youth will organize, advertise and put on “Festival of India” – a Hare Krishna cultural show featuring Bharat Natyam dancers; a slideshow introducing people to the concept and benefits of mantra meditation; a participatory kirtan that has the audience chanting and dancing along; and a prasadam feast cooked in the bus’s kitchen by the youth.
The festival sites are a mix of urban and rural injected with local Mexican color, starting with the Metropolitan Museum of Monterrey, the largest city in the Northeast of the country.
Then there’s the mountain village of Xilitla. “The indigenous people, descendents of the original inhabitants of Mexico, come to their town square to have a festival with us,” says ISKCON youth minister Manorama Das, who has been running tours since 1995. “It’s very sweet.”
In the city of Tampico, on the Gulf Coast, the youth will likely sell out the Tampico University Auditorium for a festival promoted on TV and in newspapers by volunteer José , who had never been in contact with devotees before discovering the Krishna Culture tour online and emailing them saying, “You guys are so cool, I want to bring you to my city.”
In Veracruz the youth hope to perform in the downtown square opposite the Municipal Palace. And in Villahermosa, they’ll perform right in front of the Olmeca hotel with permission from the management, who will request customers to “Come eat dinner with us, and participate in this great spectacle!”
In Merida, they’ll stage another festival organized by a volunteer, this time Ariana, an exchange student ISKCON youth met and inspired in Thunderbay, Canada, during their summer tour. They’ll also perform at the beautiful central market place in the Spanish colonial town of Valladolid, and at Parque de las Palapas in the tourist center of Cancun.
A standout will be Orizaba, a town at the foot of Pico de Orizaba, the tallest volcano in the Western Hemisphere. There, youth will perform their Festival of India show in a bandshell in the local park, enclosed by old fortress-style rustic rock walls, to an expected 400 to 500 people.
The grand finale will be a massive midnight Harinama at Plaza de la Republica in downtown Mexico City. As live entertainment and TV broadcasts go on and fireworks explode in the sky, the youth will cut right into the center of the crowd and get them dancing and chanting the Holy Name.
In between all these festivals, the youth will visit the vivid blue Agua Azul cascading waterfalls in the state of Chiapas; go snorkeling in the second largest coral reef in the world off Cozumel Island in the Caribbean; and see the Mayan pyramids in Palenque; the famous flying acrobats of Voladores; and the millions of Monarch Butterflies at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
They’ll also relax and do kirtan at a yoga studio on the beach in Tulum; enjoy a fourteen-course feast at a devotee’s home in Tulancingo; hear stories about the early days of ISKCON Mexico from pioneer Chitsukananda Das; and celebrate with kirtan and prasadam at Guru-Prasad Swami’s house in Houston, Texas on their way back home.
ISKCON Youth Ministry’s bus tours might be more work than your average holiday, but they also mean much more to the youth who go on them.
“They see people crying in the audience while we’re chanting, having these transformational experiences,” says Manorama. “They have people hugging them and telling them how moved they were by the performances and how much they loved the chanting and dancing. They see people come up to our book table and ask them for books. And they realize, ‘Oh my God, we did all this. We contacted these venues, we connected with these people, we put on this huge festival. There’s not a single older devotee here – nobody helped us.’”
“And I think what happens,” he concludes, “Is that the kids realize that they themselves can make a difference in Prabhupada’s preaching mission.”