Even after living in México and other Latin American countries for twenty years I still feel as though I am in training. I realize that most people train to be recognized for their achievements in endeavors such as medicine, the sciences, music, sports, the arts, etc., etc. I think of people who are driven by such passions as long distance marathon runners with incredible endurance. I feel that I might also qualify in that category by the fact that I live in a culture which has a never-ending circuit of fiestas, holidays, and celebrations. Keeping up in this culture is no easy task. It requires a lot of endurance and I often feel as though I am also in training for a marathon run. Please join me in what I call my “Fiesta Run” and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The fiesta (festival or holiday) is a Mexican art form that takes celebration to a level that is impossible to ignore or to resist. Street theater and music, parades and fireworks, colorful costumes, food and dance combine to make religious observances, cultural festivals, and patriotic holidays uniquely Mexican. No visitor to Mexico should miss an opportunity to join in the spirit of fiesta and thankfully the country's calendar is packed with holiday events.
Many religious celebrations have their roots in the pre-Hispanic era while most civic holidays reflect modern historical events. Since Aztecs times, religious festivities have been a major part of Mexican life. With the arrival of the conquistadors from Spain, Catholicism found an especially fertile land for this new religion. It is interesting and often impossible to understand religious syncretism in México.
Syncretism (my new favorite word) simply defined is the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. It is the blending of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought. Upon looking closely at Mexico's fiestas you may be surprised to find very conservative or traditional people dancing to please or to ask favors from the Pre-Hispanic gods who are masked behind the image of Catholic saints.
Government offices, banks, schools, and some businesses close across the nation for major national holidays. Such closings may also occur during important religious celebrations in individual localities. Essential commerce, however, is rarely suspended so most market places, supermarkets, and small family-operated grocery stores generally stay open for business every day of the year. You definitely will not go hungry while enjoying the fiestas.
The following are major fiestas, or holidays, in México and some of my favorite. I have included the links to my previously published posts for each of the following holidays for additional information and photographs. Just click and go!
DANZA DE LOS CONCHEROS (DANCE OF THE CONCHEROS)
While “Concheros” is the oldest and most common name for the dance as performed today, other indigenous names such as Huehuenches, Chichimecas, Aztecas, and Mexica are also used. This dance and fiesta emerged shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. It is based on the old traditional “mitote” dance, but modified to include Catholic symbolism as a means of preserving ancient ritual. While the Spanish tried to eliminate as much indigenous culture as possible total eradication was not possible. In the case of the dance of the Concheros that which could not be suppressed or eliminated was adapted to Christianity to facilitate the evangelization process.
CELEBRACIONES PRIMAVERA (SPRINGTIME CELEBRATIONS)
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.
SEMANA SANTA (EASTER CELEBRATIONS)
Mexico celebrates Carnival (which is known as Mardi Gras in the United States) with raucous parades and displays of great gaiety. Dates vary since the fiesta is linked to the Easter calendar. Mexicans also celebrate Semana Santa and Holy Week with festivals and religious parades on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But they also mark the season by heading to the beach or mountains for a family vacation. Semana Santa (Easter) is definitely the biggest and busiest holiday during the year in México.
LINK TO: SEMANA SANTA/EASTER CELEBRATIONS
DIA DE INDEPENDENCIA (INDEPENDENCE DAY)
Mexico's Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, the day in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish born ruling class. In towns and cities across Mexico citizens gather at midnight on Sept. 15 in their community's main square to hear the mayor or in Mexico City, the president, repeat Father Hidalgo's "grito," or cry for freedom. At sunrise on the 16th, military and civic parades kick off a day of celebration that includes fireworks, food and music which are the three key elements in any Mexican fiesta.
LINK TO: INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (DAY OF THE DEAD)
Dia de los Muertos is celebrated across Mexico with each region stamping its own cultural mark on the observance. On All Saints Day, November 1st, small children who have died are honored as "angelitos," little angels. The next day on November 2nd, All Souls Day is the day set aside for remembering older family members, friends, even the famous who have passed away. Family altars or public displays are set up and decorated with photographs, mementos and "ofrendas"--offerings of food, refreshments and symbolic gifts. In some regions, families hold vigils and feasts at the cemetery, while in other regions, candy skeletons or pan de muerto, a sweet bread, are consumed with family at home.
DIA DE REVOLUCION (REVOLUTION DAY)
Dia de Revolución commemorates the start of the Mexican Revolution by Francisco I. Madero in 1910 and is celebrated annually on November 20th. The Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Mexicana) was a major armed struggle from 1910 to 1920 that radically transformed Mexican culture and government. The Mexican Revolution brought the overthrow of dictator Jose de la Cruz Porfirio Mori after 35 years of rule. Although recent research has focused on local and regional aspects of the Revolution, it was a genuinely national revolution.
LINK TO: MEXICO REVOLUTION DAY CELEBRATIONS
DIA DE GUADALUPE (DAY OF THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE)
She is the patron saint of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the dark-skinned Virgin Mary who appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Indian convert to Catholicism, on a hillside near Mexico City in 1531. No one believed him until, after a third appearance of the vision, the image of the Virgin Mary was imprinted on his cloak. Deemed a miraculous work by the church, Diego's cloak now hangs in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City and each year on December 12, Mexicans honor their patron saint with parades and religious celebrations.
LINK TO: DIA DE GUADALUPE CELEBRATIONS
CHARRERIA AND MARIACHIS (MEXICAN RODEOS AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC)
Charrería originally developed on the haciendas of Mexico where workers would try to outdo one another with their horse riding and roping skills which effectively turned these tasks into an art form. Workers from different haciendas would compete against one another at competitions. With the dissolution of the haciendas following the Mexican Revolution, charrería transitioned into a sport with formal competitions called charreadas.
Charreria is the official national sport of Mexico, but it is also much more than a sport. Charreria represents Mexican culture, tradition, and history as it involves equestrian competitions in which horse riding, roping, and cattle handling come into play. These photos were taken on my birthday while we were living in San Miguel de Allende which certainly made it a memorable birthday!
Mariachi music and charreria are very much intertwined. The two traditions developed concurrently in the west of Mexico. The traditional music at charreadas (Mexican "rodeos") is performed by mariachis who dress like charros (horse riders), but in brighter colors and with greater ornamentation.
Throughout the world mariachi music is a recognized symbol of Mexico. For Mexicans it is the musical accompaniment to life's most important moments. It is vital part of courtship and family events such as weddings, birthdays, baptisms, and funerals. Mariachi music and song is the emblematic sound of Mexico, which reaches into the hearts of its listeners evoking the history and traditions of Mexico.
In almost any city in Mexico you'll come across groups of mariachi musicians decked out in fancy suits with wide-brimmed sombreros. You may see them playing in a restaurant or bar or in a plaza waiting to be hired. Mariachis grace the stages of Mexico's most important theaters and stadiums and enliven gatherings of all types. In a Mexican neighborhood it is not uncommon to wake up in the early morning hours to the sound of a mariachi group serenading a young lady on her birthday, a mother on Mother's Day, or the Virgin Mary on her feast day.
Mariachi music has been recognized and added to UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring the better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. Bravo!
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN MEXICO
Mexico and its people have an amazing energy which embraces all aspects of life including their many, many celebrations. Mexicans and their zest for life is truly inspiring and remarkable. Mexicans work as hard as they play and they certainly deserve my admiration. Now if I can only maintain a good showing in my "Fiesta Run" of marathons I will be very happy! Until next time, wishing you happy trails and safe travels! Laura
Memories are just a "click" away!