MEXICO CITY – Assembled with patience and love every year for several decades, the monumental nativity scene belonging to the Ontiveros family enthralls thousands of people every Christmas in Mexico City.
“It’s a family tradition. It’s togetherness. The whole family gets together and it takes us 25 days to put it all together,” 54-year-old Miguel Ontiveros told EFE on Friday.
Placed during the Christmas season in the yard of this home in the working-class Militar Marte neighborhood are more than 1,400 statuettes.
The care taken with every detail is unquestionable. The ground of this area of some 60 square meters (645 square feet) is covered with moss, earth and hay. A little stream with a waterfall runs through it, while on the walls are paintings of Middle Eastern buildings against a midnight-blue sky.
Shepherds are seen leaving their homes and feeding their livestock – from geese to oxen – pilgrims ride camels to Bethlehem, old folks pray and even angels are present along with women nursing their babies
The Three Wise Men are also on hand, as is the manger with Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, a little statuette that is one of Miguel’s favorites.
“My mom bought the Baby Jesus in 1976 in Spain, she said during the San Fermin festival,” said Miguel who, despite not knowing exactly in what city she bought it, has a special affection for this figure because it is “dark-skinned” and not like the others, “which are blonde and blue-eyed with wavy hair.”
As many as 70 family members take part in assembling this nativity scene, including many who come from adoptive homes in foreign countries.
The tasks are distributed among everyone, and on the first Saturday of December individual groups assemble the nativity scene, which even includes a kitchen garden growing all kinds of vegetables.
It is in the afternoon and night when most visitors come, people of all ages and mostly from Mexico City, but also interested spectators from as far afield as France.
“There are days when up to 1,000 people come. They stand in line all the way down the street,” Ontiveros said.