Friday, March 6, 2015

MEXICO: FIESTA DE LOS CONCHEROS IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

       
WELCOME TO THE FESTIVAL OF THE CONCHEROS!  


The festival of Our Lord of the Conquest is celebrated the first Friday of March each year in San Miguel de Allende. Groups of Conchero dancers come from many surrounding regions in honor of Jesus Cristo (Jesus Christ) for this special day. They come to the La Parroquia de San Miguel, the parish church on the main plaza, early in the morning to recite 33 prayers, one for every year of Jesus’ life on earth. They arrive shortly after dawn and after the church service, they dance on the plaza until sunset. The Concheros dance in honor of “Our Lord of the Conquest,” one of the most revered statues in La Parroquia church. Made of cornstalks and orchid bulbs this statue represents the acceptance of Christ by Mexico’s indigenous people.  

 

The Concheros celebrate annually on the main plaza of San Miguel and it is truly a spectacular display of indigenous culture 





         This tradition is continued by the younger generation and is unique and amazing!




The fantastic feathered headdresses and embroidered tunics are part of the Conchero tradition





The Concheros dance for almost eight hours on the first Friday of each March in San Miguel de Allende


                             
The dance of the Concheros, also known as the dance of Chichimecas, Aztecas and Mexicas, is an important traditional dance and ceremony which has been performed in Mexico since early in the colonial period. The dance has strong visual markers of its pre-Hispanic roots with feathered costumes, indigenous dance steps and indigenous instruments such as drums. The dance in its current form was the adaptation of the old “mitote” dance to Catholicism as a means of preserving some aspects of indigenous rite and tradition. It remained a purely religious ceremony until the mid-twentieth century when political and social changes in Mexico also gave it cultural significance as a folk dance.



Pounding drums, strumming armadillo guitars, and a blur of twirling feathers!




The drummers are a vital part of this non-stop spectacle


The festival of the "Lord of the Conquest" is a whirlwind of dancing, costumes, and drums whch is simply magnificent!  


The Conchero dancers are dressed in elaborate plumed headdresses and tunics in bright colors and painted fabrics. Each costume is unique and absolutely stunning! The name “Concheros” comes from the Spanish word conchas which means shell. The indigenous people made guitars, mandolins, and lutes in the Spanish style from the shells of armadillos as the Spaniards prohibited the indigenous people from using wood to fashion their instruments (see postscript at end of posting).  And because of this, they became known as the Concheros (the shell people).



Armadillo shell guitar-type instruments are part of the heritage and the namesake of the Concheros (conchas are shells in Spanish)



A future Conchero dancer watching her parents at the festival




     Check out the detail of the elaborate trajes (costumes) which are fantastic!




A Conchero plays a string instrument made from an armadillo shell which  dates back to the early Spanish  colonial period.

Their ritualistic dancing is tireless and moves to the steady beat of large and loud drums and flute-like instruments. Although these ritualistic dances sprung up after the Spanish conquest, they incorporate many pre-Hispanic religious symbols. The audience cannot help but be transfixed and almost hypnotized by the whirling colors and pounding drums.



Feathers and instruments taking a much needed "break" from the exhausting festivities!  



Some lovely modern day "Aztecas" enjoying the festival in San Miguel 




Spiritual and social traditions are alive and well in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico!  Gracias, Concheros, for sharing with us. 


The dance in honor of El Senor de la Conquista (The Lord of the Conquest) is definitely one of the most spectacular and impressive festivals of the year in San Miguel de Allende.  Mark your calendars for the first Friday of next March and hopefully you can witness the excitement in person! 




We are hoping you can join us next year!

Postscript: When the Spaniards brought their guitars, mandolins, and some wind instruments to Mexico, the indigenous people became so proficient at replicating them that the guitar and other musical instrument guilds back in the home country of Spain rose up in protest. They were losing business to the Mexican made instruments! So the Spanish rulers in the New World prohibited the locals from cutting down trees to make said instruments. They thought this would be the end of the issue. But no! The indigenous figured out a way to get around the ban by using armadillo shells instead of wood. And the sound was just as sweet as the wood carved originals. Pretty creative and brilliant, don't you think?


I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer of those inspiring words so I am including the link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting.  And if that is not enough,  I have also included the following embedded SLIDE SHOW of the web album for your immediate enjoyment. 

As always I look forward to hearing from my followers with their questions, comments, and suggestions. Gracias and safe travels! Laura

                                                      Memories are just a click away!

   

4 comments:

  1. Laura, you captured it so well! I personally thank you for this. Just yesterday late afternoon as my husband and I were navigating the rather congested traffic, I spied the first of the headdresses from a distant. And then I thought to myself, "Where is my camera?" And then it just got better and better. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Victoria! Having spent the last five winters in San Miguel I am missing the beauty of your town and its special fiestas mucho. My biggest regret is never having met you in person, but I love following your amazing blog. We are back on the Pacific coast of Jalisco so when yoiu need a beach fix please let me know!

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  2. caution: Laura's blog will make you want to pack your bags pronto! Beautiful imagery, captivating prose -- a mini vacation in each post!

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  3. From one blogger to another, your words are very much appreciated. Thank you Audrey!

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