The Fiesta of San Isidro

Metepec, Estado de México

Don't adjust your computer. Photos in this postcard are in color and black and white.

On May 15, fifty days following Easter Sunday, the Fiestas of San Isidro will commence in the village of Metepec¹. The highlight of the celebration is a colorful parade held on Tuesday, May 17 (2005). As a veteran attendee, I advise you to book a hotel room. After Metepec has shown you a very good time, you will be in no shape to drive! Also bring your own chair to the parade. The parade lasts more than five hours, and you will enjoy every minute! You will also want to pack some Wet Wipes. I'll explain later.

Early in the afternoon with the sun high overhead, we walk with the Soteno family to find our perfect parade-viewing spot. We have a favorite corner and are ready for the pageant to commence. In 2003, the parade was led by a handsome caballero on the most beautiful steed. He stopped at our feet, tipped his hat and gave a special blessing spoken only during this festival. It was the perfect beginning to the Fiesta of San Isidro!

A blessing from the lead caballero.

Stunning señoritas rode by dressed in traditional
finery, coyly glimpsing towards the young men in
the crowd and driving the boys crazy.

One of the most-traditional aspects of the annual parade are the teams of oxen adorned with flowers. Today, decorated tractors and pick-up trucks have also become a part of the modern-day San Isidro celebration, but there are many magnificent oxen teams that participate and are no doubt still plowing fields. And don't forget the hard-working burros.

A team of burros.
A magnificent team of oxen.

Gaily decorated milk cows can stand in as oxen on this day.

A very husky señorita leads her cattle.

By now, you are surely wondering if you have ever seen uglier women than found in Metepec! The señoritas are actually men dressed in women's clothing, "los locos", and add great hilarity to the entire affair. The men take their feminine role very seriously donning make-up, and in some cases, panty hose and high heels.

Los Locos.
A manly maiden!
Work it "girls"!
Satire and mockery are a national sport in Mexico, so naturally there are costumes of political figures. But, beware the devils, clowns and "los feos". As they leap in and out of the parade, their job is to rush into the crowd and cover the faces of on-lookers with black grease paint! Wet Wipes, anyone? Los feos select some of the most-popular town folk for the black face treatment, so wear your paint proudly. With your face smeared, you have truly become a part of this wonderful celebration.
Children love the giant dancing puppets.
President Fox is quite a dancer!
More "characters".
Here come "los feos".

And beware the diablos!

The days of hard work prior to the parade are not to be overlooked. Hundreds of flat-bed trucks are filled with dirt then planted with miniature fields of corn until the stalks begin to grow. Representative teams of oxen are fashioned from paper, velvet, and any other material that will work, then placed in the miniature corn fields. Next, the trucks are decorated with huge backdrops of beautiful mosaics made only from seeds. The constructed rural scenes are further adorned with balloons, crepe paper, flowers, and an abundance of corn. The proud families don peasant costumes and position themselves in their respective miniature corn fields for the duration of the parade. Each "campesino" has a basket from which they toss sweets, fruit and special cookies made from corn meal to the eager crowds. Last year, mid-way through the parade, an especially large truck approached and the crowd grew wild with anticipation. I quickly ducked narrowly missing the projectile coming straight towards my head. The truck belonged to a local produce company, and they were hurling PINEAPPLES into the crowd!
San Isidro surrounded by paper flowers.
San Isidro and homemade oxen.
A lovely seed mosaic is the background, and
a corn field sprouts from the truck bed.
The tool protruding above this decked-out truck
was used to raise electrical lines along the parade
route. Rather then create a lower, less spectacular
display, this family chose to raise low-hanging
electrical wires instead! Viva Mexico!
San Isidro has his own umbrella on this truck. Outreached
hands grasp for sweets, fruit and corn meal cookies.

More examples of the wonderful handmade oxen. The ox on the left even has his
muzzle covered just as one would see in the fields, in case he decides to feast on corn seeds. No two displays are the same and each has its own unique and wonderful details.
Some of the youngest "campesinos".

A fabulous cross made solely of corn ears and flowers.
The gentleman is dressed as a real-life San Isidro.

The point of honoring San Isidro is to chase away the sun and to bring life-giving rain.

As you can see from these photos, clouds are building in the distance and yes, the rains will arrive right on schedule. Observers from other cultures might say that the showers which commenced during the actual parade were "coincidental". But in Metepec, all believe that Mother Nature is nourishing the earth with rain exactly as requested. Fields of corn will again grow tall, and there will be an abundance of tortillas in the coming year. Isn't it wonderful to believe that your delicious corn tortillas come from honoring San Isidro rather than the local super market? I think so! Gracias San Isidro!

Written in April 2005
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO

All photos by Deb Hall, taken in 2003 and 2004

¹ To read more about the meaning and events surround the Fiesta of San Isidro, read page 76, Metepec and Saint Isidore The Peasant, by Luis Mario Schneider, Artes de Mexico, Metepec Y Su Arte En Barro, Número 30, 1995-1996.