Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

As you may have noticed, I've haven't posted anything in almost a week. I've been keeping my nose to the grindstone, what with the end of the semester, three research projects, and a huge multi-organizational proposal all requiring urgent attention. I still have a couple of posts to go on the Vosges du Nord, even. Susie, Ann and Tibor are currently in Budapest, so at least I have a quiet apartment that can let me concentrate on work.

Which brings me to today, May 1. I was working on the computer (duh!) when amplified songs, chants and yells started penetrating. I had only to go around the corner of our building to find the source: Metz's Labor Day parade, marching down the Rue Coetlosquet.

Since 1947, May 1 has officially been the Fête du Travail, a day to celebrate labor. Pretty much everything closes for the day. Yesterday evening the shoppers were twelve-deep waiting at the checkout counters at the Simply supermarket in the Centre Commercial St-Jacques, because between the holiday and Sunday, people wouldn't be able to buy food again until Monday. There's a big soccer match in Toulouse today, but there won't be buses for the spectators because the unions don't want the drivers working on Labor Day.

I think Metz's parade started at the Place de la Republic. When I caught up with the head of the parade, it was passing the Place Ste-Therese and was nearing the boulevards.

The parade in Metz is one of 284 meetings, rallies, demonstrations across the country. In Paris, there's a big national parade and rally that brings together all the major unions, except that the Force Ouvrière union is staging its own parade.

The sounds I heard in the apartment came from the people in the parade but mostly from large vans with loudspeakers. One van had a man and woman leading call-and-response songs and cheers, like "All together, all together! Yeah! Yeah!" This van was playing music, such as a parody of "Macho Man," in French of course, which teased the President of the Republic around the refrain "Sarko Man" and ending, if I've got the translation right, "I want to be a facho!"

The parade had participants from many unions in the region, especially the main ones like the CGT and the CFDT. Many carried flags or banners. The parade was for those who marched, as there really weren't many spectators, except a couple of photographers. Here, in her niche, is the one spectator who certainly saw the entire parade.

Actually, I think there was one more person who saw the whole parade. May Day is also the holiday when people give bunches of muguet--lily of the valley--to each other. And standing on a corner as the parade passed by was a woman selling muguet.

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