Saturday, March 28, 2015


                            WELCOME TO EASTER CELEBRATIONS IN MEXICO! 
Mexico’s Easter traditions are predominantly based on those from Spain which were brought over with the Spanish during their conquest of the Aztec Empire. Many of these European traditions, however, were modified over a long period of time during the process of converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity in the colonial period and also by indigenous influences. In my opinion, these factors and others contribute to the special and uniquely Mexican celebrations of Easter.

Now for a brief introduction: Easter in Mexico is a two-week holiday consisting of Semana Santa beginning on Palm Sunday and ending Easter Saturday and Pascua (Starting with Easter Sunday and ending the following Saturday). For Mexico, the Easter holidays are a combination of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Pascua (Resurrection Sunday aka Easter). Holy Week celebrates the last days of the Christ's life and Pascua is the celebration of Christ's Resurrection. Got it? Now we are ready to talk Easter in Mexico!

Aaugh! I hope I have made myself perfectly clear in my attempt to explain Semana Santa and Pascua, the two weeks of Easter celebrations in Mexico! 

Semana Santa is undoubtedly the most important holiday in Mexican culture. Schools and often businesses in Mexico close during these two weeks and many Mexican families go on holiday during Semana Santa and Pascua. The crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the foundations of the Christian faith. That is why the major branches of Christendom (Roman Catholic, Protestant and the Eastern Churches) memorialize in various ways the death, burial and resurrection of Christ each spring.

    The Silent Processions on Good Friday in Oaxaca City are spectacular!

Mexicans celebrate the last days of Christ during Holy Week with elaborate and much anticipated processions, ceremonies, and rituals. Most of the larger Semana Santa celebrations include a dramatic reenactment of the capture, the trial, and the crucifixion of Jesus. To be a part of these productions is a great honor and the actors are known for delivering inspiring and moving performances. The primary days of Semana Santa include the following:

Palm Sunday - Domingo de Ramos

      The faithful celebrate Palm Sunday in San Miguel de Allende.

On the Sunday prior to Easter, known as Palm Sunday, the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem is commemorated. According to the Bible, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people in the streets laid down palm branches in his path. In many towns and villages in Mexico on this day there are processions reenacting Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem with woven palms available for purchase outside the churches. 

       Processions through the cobble stone streets of San Miguel de Allende on Palm Sunday.

In Mexico communities also have special masses dedicated to the blessing of palm fronds. These fronds are often woven into crosses and other designs and can be quite intricate. These palm fronds are brought by parishioners to the churches to have holy water sprinkled on them. Some of these palm fronds are then later burned and the ashes saved for marking foreheads on the following Ash Wednesday. 

     A great many handmade Palm Sunday remembrances are available during Semana Santa.

Good Friday - Viernes Santo

 A lovely altar to the Virgin Mary as seen in San Miguel de Allende during Semana Santa celebrations.

With more 90 than million Roman Catholics, Mexico has the second largest number of Catholics in the world after Brazil. It also has some of the most vibrant celebrations of Good Friday – the day Christ is believed to have been betrayed by Judas, sentenced by Pontius Pilate, and crucified.

Good Friday commemorates the day of Christ’s crucifixion. On this day in Mexico there are solemn religious processions in which statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary are carried through town. Reenactments of the day of crucifixion also take place in almost all communities in Mexico on Good Friday. These reenactments often become a large theatrical production (the Passion Play) which is performed during all or most of Holy Week. The main focus of these reenactments is the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgment, the procession with the cross (Via Crucis: Stations of the Cross), the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. 

     Good Friday celebrations in Oaxaca City are truly memorable.

Good Friday in San Miguel de Allende

      The Roman soldiers at the Good Friday procession in San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende is especially noted for its observances during Holy Week and which we were fortunate to witness during the years we spent in this charming city. The focus for much of the Good Friday pageantry is the “El Señor de la Columna” Christ image, which is brought from the Sanctuary of Atotonilco outside of San Miguel de Allende and which is paraded among the various churches of San Miguel from the Sunday before Palm Sunday to the Wednesday after Easter when it returns to Atotonilco.

"Once a year for nearly 200 years, the faithful have gathered at the shrine of Atotoniclo at midnight two Sundays before Easter. They remove images of Nuestro Señor de la Columna, Saint John and Mary and place them on platforms to be carried approximately 7 miles to the San Juan de Dios Church in San Miguel de Allende. Nuestro Señor de la Columna is a life-size image of a bleeding Christ leaning heavily on a column. His ribs are exposed from flogging and his cheek bears the scar of the Judas kids."  Credit:

On Good Friday, “El Señor de la Columna” Christ image is carried to La Parroquia, the parish church on the main plaza of San Miguel, accompanied by residents dressed as disciples of Christ and as Roman soldiers. At noon, images of the Holy Family, the disciples, Mary Magdalene, and John the Baptist are carried in the Good Friday procession through the city streets. At dark, the images reappear in another procession, but dressed in black and accompanied by somber drumbeats. During the evening procession conchero dancers may also appear dancing in honor of Christ at the main plaza (see my blog posting dated March 6, 2015 on the Fiesta de los Concheros). 

The Good Friday Procession in San Miguel de Allende is beautiful.

Holy Week in San Miguel de Allende concludes with the ritual of the burning of Judas on Easter Sunday, not Holy Saturday as is more common elsewhere in Mexico. Holy Week and Good Friday are truly special occasions in San Miguel and which I can highly recommend. Just be sure to make your travel arrangements with plenty of advance notice! 

  There are many images to be remembered from the Good Friday procession in San Miguel de Allende.

The crowds gather at the Santo Domingo Church and Convent for the Good Friday Silent Procession in Oaxaca City. 

Like San Miguel de Allende, the city of Oaxaca has truly special and moving Holy Week and Good Friday celebrations. We were fortunate to be living in Oaxaca City when we witnessed our first Good Friday processions in Mexico. Each of the local churches in Oaxaca City has it’s own procession which involves carrying their church’s statues of Jesus and Mary through the downtown streets. There are also processions in which only women of the congregation participate.

     The Good Friday traditional Silent Procession in Oaxaca City - wow!

But the most impressive of all the processions on Good Friday is held at night and is conducted in silence. To say we were stunned and speechless is an understatement. The pageantry and drama of this evening procession in Oaxaca is difficult to convey in words. The only sound to be heard was the shuffling of feet and the somber beating of drums as the parade passed by the large and impressive Santo Domingo Church and Convent. The participants in this Good Friday procession carry candles to light their way with incense burners filling the air with smoke. This parade takes you back in time and makes you feel as though you were there. Truly a moving experience!

      Each of the many churches in Oaxaca City has a procession on Good Friday.

       More stunning drama during the Good Friday Silent Processions in Oaxaca City

On Good Friday a passion play also takes place in the nearby pueblo of Zaachila. Oaxaca’s unique cultural mix is evident in the indigenous Danza de las Plumas, Dance of the Feathers, which is held at Carmen Alto Church on Easter Sunday.  What an exciting way to conclude Semana Santa in Oaxaca!

The Dance of the Feathers celebrates Semana Santa on Easter Sunday in Oaxaca.

   Easter Sunday at the Alto Carmen Church and La Danza de las Plumas in Oaxaca City.

Good Friday in Puerto Vallarta

The Roman soldiers lead the Good Friday procession along the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta.

In Puerto Vallarta, locals and visitors alike participate in Easter processions and religious celebrations including Good Friday. The Good Friday processions is especially colorful and unique because it takes place on the city’s beautiful oceanfront Malecon walkway. The procession commences in Centro and continues on the Malecon into Old Town (Zona Romantica) until it reaches Parque Cardenas (Plaza Cardenas) where the crucifixion of Christ is staged. The Good Friday procession in Puerto Vallarta is very traditional in spirit, but very different because of it’s setting. It is truly special!

    Disciples of Christ and Angels participate in the Good Friday procession in Puerto Vallarta.

Easter festivities start on Palm Sunday when churches across the city celebrate the blessings of the palm fronds. In observance of Maundy Thursday locals hold all-night vigils. On Good Friday, the city streets are filled with spirited religious processions and the Christ re-enactments. 

Good Friday Procession in Puerto Vallarta.

On Easter Sunday, most locals enjoy a large family meal after attending mass at their local church. This is usually a quiet and relaxing day unless you happen to be going to the beach to play and party! And then you better be prepared for fun, fun, fun in the sun!

  A Huichol family from the Sierras enjoy Easter Sunday in Puerto Vallarta.

Holy Saturday - Sabado de Gloria 

A living angel dressed for the Semana Santa celebrations in San Miguel de Allende.

Sábado de Gloria (Holy Saturday) is dedicated to the vigil of waiting between the death of Jesus and his resurrection. This holy day memorializes the full day Christ was in the tomb. Statues of the Virgin Mary are dressed in black as a symbol of mourning. Frequently there is a solemn evening mass during which participants hold lighted candles.

    “El Señor de la Columna” Christ image during an evening Semana Santa procession in San Miguel de Allende.

In some areas of central and southern Mexico on Holy Saturday there is a custom of burning Judas in effigy because of his betrayal of Jesus. This ritual was introduced by the Spaniards during the colonial period when they were busy converting the indigenous peoples to Christianity. This practice has now has become a festive occasion with cardboard or paper mache figures constructed, sometimes with firecrackers inside, and then burned. Often the Judas figures are made to look like Satan, but sometimes they are made to resemble contemporary political figures! 

      Judas figures at the Jardin (main plaza) in San Miguel de Allende.

Easter Sunday - Domingo de Pascua

    A family dressed for Easter Sunday Mass in Oaxaca City - simply lovely!

Easter Sunday celebrates the Resurrection of Christ. Bells and fireworks announce the arrival of Easter and Sunday morning mass is traditionally followed by a large family feast. You won't come across any mention of the Easter Bunny or chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday in Mexico! This is generally a day when people go to church and celebrate quietly with their families. Pascua begins on Easter Sunday which starts the second week of Easter celebrations in Mexico. This week-long period follows Semana Santa (Holy Week) and has a much more cheerful and positive tone, reflecting the resurrection, the start of Spring, and the promise of new beginnings.


There are many regional Holy Week customs in Mexico.  For example:

*Tarahumara Indians in the mountains of Chihuahua paint themselves white during Holy Week.

* In some cities, including Oaxaca City, there is a Procesión de Silencio, a silent procession, wherein the people march down the streets by candlelight and in silence. This custom is from the Spanish city of Seville which is famous for Semana Santa observances.

*In Iztapalapa (also spelled Ixtapalapa), an area of Mexico City, the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday becomes a titanic, spectacular celebration which attracts people not only from Mexico, but from around the world. In fact, the Passion Play in Iztapalapa is so impressive that both national and international media cover the event from the beginning to the end.

The Iztapalapa Passion Play is a community endeavor organized and carried out annually by the residents. It is sponsored by the secular Iztapalapa government, but is not officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The drama includes 4000 locals as actors and reportedly draws 2 million spectators. Wow!

All of the pageant’s actors must have been born in Iztapalapa. Whoever portrays Christ is selected on the basis of both good moral character and physical strength. The actor wears an actual crown of thorns, is flogged, and bears a 200 pound cross through the streets, before being “crucified” (thankfully tied to the cross, not nailed). From what I have read the Ixtapalapa Passion Play is truly a sight to behold.

* In many regions of Mexico people show their devotion by visiting twelve different churches in a single day – one church for each apostle.

* In more remote regions like the Copper Canyon local cultures mix Christian celebration with ancient native rituals thus paying homage to both their Spanish and Indian heritage.

*In Oaxaca City, local indigenous men perform the Danza de las Plumas, the "Dance of the Feathers" on Easter Sunday.


                    Good Friday processions in Oaxaca City are amazing!  

The two weeks of commemorating Easter in Mexico are far more than a set of colorful recreations and processions. It is the greatest expression of the culture, faith, and unity of a country through its traditions. The sense of family, hope and hospitality of the people reaches its peak in these customs that involves the grand majority of Mexico. Regardless of which city you decide to visit for the Easter festivities, you will most definitely find a spectacular display of faith, tradition, and wonderful pageantry.  In the words of the traditional Mexican greeting: ¡Felices Pascuas de Resurrección! (Happy Easter!)

      Beautiful and colorful Easter flowers from San Miguel de Allende.

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 below which has additional photos for this posting. And if that is not enough, I have also included the following embedded SLIDESHOW 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.

I sincerely appreciate hearing from my readers with their questions, comments, and suggestions. Until then, gracias and safe travels! Laura


                                                       Memories are just a click away!

Thursday, March 19, 2015



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,.....”

The fiesta celebrating San Jose (Saint Joseph) is held on March 19th each year in San MIguel

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 Children's Parade is held on the Spring Equinox and has a different ecological theme each year

                         Carnival is celebrated in San Miguel with some unusual  local traditions

   The spring concert at El Charco Botanical Gardens is held "on the rocks" in a spectacular setting 

The arrival of spring is celebrated at the annual La Candelaria Flower and Garden Festival


      Welcome to the annual spring festival of La Candelaria in San Miguel de Allende!

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.

    La Candelaria Flower Fair heralds the arrival of Spring and has everything you need for your garden


     Colorful and creative figures help celebrate Carnaval in San Miguel de Allende

Established in Europe in the Middle Ages, Carnival came to Mexico with the Spanish and during the colonial period was celebrated in one form or another. It acceptance among the indigenous population stemmed from the fact that is coincided with various indigenous festivals, such as Nemontemi for the Nahuas and Cabik for the Mayas, both of which refer to the “lost days” if the Mesoamerican calendar, when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.

      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).

             Carnaval in San Miguel de Allende is about color, color, color!

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.

     These "official" Carnaval greeters welcome you to the celebrations at the main plaza in San Miguel!

                    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!   

     Looking forward to your joining us next year at our Carnval in San Miguel de Allende


     The annual Children's Spring parade celebrates the local ecology and its preservation

               Here the children come celebrating the arrival of spring in San Miguel de Allende!

           A photograph is worth a thousand words so I will just leave it at that! 

Look at these spectacular costumes!

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. 

                    So very, very lovely! The Children's Spring parade in San Miguel de Allende

  What a handsome couple on this Children's Spring parade float!  

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.

                                      Strutting his "tuxedo stuff" at the Children's Parade in San Miguel


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. 

   The annual Spring Equinox concert is held in the spectacular setting of El Charco Botanical Gardens

     Some concert goers have no fear of heights unlike someone I know!  

    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!

 The canyon at the Botanical Gardens is a natural amphitheater for the concert and late afternoon before sunset is a magical time

                     El Charco de Ingenio Botanical Gardens are wonderful and unique!

   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!  

     Go to the following link for more information:   

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.


 I  sincerely appreciate hearing from my readers with their questions, comments, and suggestions.  Until then, gracias and safe travels! Laura

                                                        Memories are just a click away!