In Mexico, as the Nobel-winning Mexican poet and writer Octavio Paz wrote in his celebrated book, The Labyrinth of Solitude:
“The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings. Any occasion for getting together will serve, any pretext to stop the flow of time and commemorate men and events with festivals and ceremonies. We are a ritual people, and this characteristic enriches both our imaginations and our sensibilities, which are equally sharp and alert. The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico. There are few places in the world where it is possible to take part in a spectacle like our great religious fiestas with their violent primary colors, their bizarre costumes and dances, their fireworks and ceremonies, and their inexhaustible welter of surprises: the fruit, candy, toys, and other objects sold on these days in the plazas and open-air markets. Our calendar is crowded with fiestas. There are certain days when the whole country, from the most remote villages to the largest cities, prays, shouts, feasts,.....”
Part of the glorious experience of living in Mexico and Latin America is witnessing it's vibrant and exuberant fiestas! Fiestas are to celebrate both civil events and religious occasions. Whatever the reason, the fiestas of Mexico are colorful, lively, and a very important part of the culture. Here is a small introduction to the Springtime fiestas of Mexico for your viewing.
San Miguel de Allende may have a sizable expat population, but in true Mexican fashion fiestas are celebrated with great enthusiasm and excitement. Many festivals take place year-round in San Miguel, but the Spring season is especially colorful and entertaining with its great variety of festivals. The festivals commence with the flower fair of La Candelaria at Parque Juarez which is then followed by the pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations which take place in the Jardin, the main plaza of San Miguel de Allende. Following these two festivals are my two favorite Spring fiestas which are the Children's Parade and the Baroque Music Festival concert at the Botanical Gardens both of which are held during the Spring Equinox in March.
The spring concert at El Charco Botanical Gardens is held "on the rocks" in a spectacular setting
DIA DE LA CANDELARIA (CANDLEMAS DAY)
For more than 50 years San Miguel de Allende has celebrated the fiesta of La Candelaria with the annual flower and plant fair which is held at the beautiful Benito Juarez Park. Starting on February 2 and lasting for at least a week, and sometimes longer, this day heralds the arrival of spring in San Miguel.
Lovely spring flowers at La Candelaria Flower and Garden Fair in San Miguel de Allende
Like most Mexican traditions, La Candelaria (Candlemas Day) is a mix of pagan and Catholic traditions. The pre-Hispanic origin of Candelaria is the veneration of a child god called Piltzintecuhtli and the blessing of seeds. Heads of rural communities would bring seeds for the next season’s crops to be blessed at the morning ceremonies. The tradition continues today among campesinos from the countryside and those who grow flowers for Easter festivities.
Vendors from many areas of Mexico come to San Miguel to participate in the annual La Candelaria Festival
In the Catholic faith, February 2 marks the Virgin Mary’s purification and the day when Christ was presented at the temple. Nowadays this a a huge festivity and celebrated by thousands of Catholic families who take their Baby Jesus figures to the church richly dressed in elegant robes.
A permanent fixture at the Benito Juarez Park is this lovely cross which is decorated according to the season
During the La Candelaria Flower Fair cultural activities also take place including dances, concerts, talks, and sports events. There are also educational workshops related to ecology and Mexican traditions. Over 100 vendors from around the Mexico come to San Miguel de Allende with a a huge variety of plants and trees. The La Candelaria Flower Fair is truly a lovely and special event.
Colorful and creative figures help celebrate Carnaval in San Miguel de Allende
Carnaval is celebrated in San Miguel de Allende's main plaza
Doesn't he just make you smile and want to join in the Carnaval fiesta?
In total, Carnival is a significant event in about 225 communities in Mexico, many of these, especially in the smaller communities maintain elements from Mexico’s religious and indigenous heritage. These celebrations vary widely often with traditional dance and regional music and ceremonies with both pagan and Christian origins. They may also contain modern elements such as floats as well as local sports and cultural events such as bullfighting, fishing tournaments and charreadas (rodeos).
Carnival ("Carnaval" in Spanish) is celebrated each spring in different destinations throughout Mexico. It is held the week before Ash Wednesday ("miercoles de cenizas") which marks the beginning of Lent, the period of sobriety before Easter. The dates of celebrations may vary a bit from destination to destination, but are always held prior to AshWednesday. Carnival festivities reach a peak the day before, which may be referred to as Mardi Gras, "Fat Tuesday," or "Martes de Carnaval". The dates of Carnival vary from year to year but generally falling in February.
Huge paper mache characters are also part of the Carnaval tradition
Carnival In San Miguel de Allende takes place in the Jardin, the main plaza, the weekend before Ash Wednesday. The festival is very colorful and quite unique from the more typical celebrations you see elsewhere in Mexico. The plaza is packed with families and their boisterous children running and playing with abandon and the parents attempting to enjoy the traditional live music. In San Miguel vendors surround the plaza with large baskets of cascarones, dyed eggs, which are filled with confetti, glitter, and/or cornstarch. These eggs are perfectly designed for breaking over the heads of friends and strangers alike. Children especially get a big laugh out of bashing these carnaval eggs over the heads of unsuspecting gringos. If you don't go home covered in confetti, you haven't truly experienced Carnaval in San Miguel. Carnaval weekend also gives you the day to buy the huge crepe paper flowers that many love to take home as springtime decorations. Carnival is definitely a fun and joyous occasion for all in San Miguel.
It's Carnaval party time and the cascarones are ready for great frivolity!
Warning: these decorated and glitter-filled eggs can be quite a surprise when you are not expecting them!
THE CHILDREN'S SPRING PARADE
One of the most charming parades and public festivals in San Miguel de Allende is the children's parade which celebrates the official arrival of Spring. The parade usually takes place on the Spring Equinox, either March 20 or March 21, when the sun is positioned directly over the equator giving everywhere on the planet twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. The spring equinox is celebrated in many parts of the world as a time of fertility and rebirth and no less so than in San Miguel.
On this special day children from about 4 years to 7 years dress up to celebrate the arrival of spring as bumblebees, butterflies, flowers, and Walt Disney characters. For hours teachers march proudly alongside their costumed students as they parade through centro and finishing around the central plaza. The costumes are each unique and wonderful. A young king and queen wave from a flowered float which is accompanied by petite princes and princesses dressed in white satin and sequined silver.
What is a parade celebrating Spring in San Miguel without some beautiful princesses!
Here come the pirates to celebrate the arrival of spring in San Miguel de Allende!
Each year the parade is dedicated to a special ecological cause such as the preservation of water. This traditional festival is definitely one of the happiest and most popular expressions of the local culture and one that is enjoyed by all ages.
SPRING CONCERT AT THE BOTANICAL GARDEN (JARDIN BOTANICO)
San Miguel de Allende's historical and cultural spaces are filled with the sound of classical music each year for a week in March during the Festival de Música Barroca, a baroque music festival. Internationally renowned groups and soloists perform concerts in a variety of venues which are chosen for their beauty and the quality of their acoustics. A variety of cultural events and exhibits are also held concurrently with the festival.
Each year there is a different performance ranging from symphonies to concert pianists from abroad.
During the Spring Equinox a special concert is celebrated at El Charco del Ingenio, the botanical garden, as part of the Baroque Music Festival. Located on the hill above San Miguel, the botanical garden is an amazing setting. The concert is held in the garden's natural canyon which is like a giant amphitheater and it commences about five o'clock in the afternoon. This natural outdoor location is incomparable with seating only "on the rocks" which overlook a spring-fed pond. The concert concludes just as the sun is setting accompanied by a small firework display. Simply incredible!
El Charco de Ingenio Botanical Gardens is a definite must visit at any time of the year!
Fireworks at sunset - what a wonderful concert to celebrate the Spring Equinox in San Miguel
A little about El Charco del Ingenio: El Charco del Ingenio is located outside of the town is an ecological reserve and botanical garden which is privately funded. It is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Mexican flora and propagates species in danger of extinction. The reserve is centered on a canyon, at the bottom of which is a fresh spring which forms a natural pool. The canyon was also the center of a number of myths and legends during the pre-Hispanic period. There are the remains of a colonial era aqueduct and other waterworks on the property. An old dam still holds back stream waters in a part of the park. Areas of the reserve are crisscrossed with walking paths. There are opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, bird watching, camping and horseback riding. There is also a gift shop and juice bar. A visit to El Charco is a definite MUST when in San Miguel de Allende!
And if that is not enough to entice you to visit San Miguel de Allende in the Spring, Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations which include Palm Sunday and Good Friday follow after the above fiestas. We will visit those Easter fiestas, however, in a separate posting which I have planned for April. Until then, rest up and see you again soon!
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. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page in order to access the posting ARCHIVE and the FOLLOW BY EMAIL link to receive automatic posting notifications.
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