Palm Sunday
San Miguel de Allende

April 24, 2002

It is a beautiful and clear Palm Sunday in San Miguel, and we are anxious to purchase the intricate palm weavings only for sale on this very morning. We have admired the dried palm weavings seen here in homes, but (a) we had to be here on Palm Sunday to buy them, and (b) we dare not bring them back to the States as they are made with fresh palms, herbs, and some with wheat, seeds intact. At long last, we can bring our purchases to nuestra casa to enjoy without fear of confiscation!

Only two blocks from our house is the Church of the Oratorio on Calle Insurgentes. This particular church is said to have the best selection of palms and we find the front plaza of Oratorio filled with weavings of every size, design, and combination of decoration.

Sensing we are prospective buyers, each vendor beckons us to their spot where handmade creations are carefully displayed on a piece of cloth on the ground. Our favorites are fashioned from fresh, green palm fronds that will dry and keep well. The weavings are beautiful and complex depicting hearts, crosses, and the body of Christ with some incorporating fragrant rosemary and chamomile. Many have stands woven into the base so they may sit upright. Others are made from dried wheat decorated with brightly dyed palm fronds with glitter and images of saints glued to the center. We of course have to have these, too.

It is a leisurely morning with time to visit with each vendor, watch their children play, and enjoy seeing the families coming to mass in their Sunday best, many from ranchos surrounding San Miguel. The Church of the Oratorio has the largest congregation in San Miguel de Allende which is made up primarily of indigenous peoples. In years past, Oratorio was callously described as the poor church for Los Indios while San Miguel's prominent and wealthy attended La Parrochia or Las Monjas. Over the years, it is the Indians who have triumphed. As the congregation swelled, so did church coffers with pesos from the devoted. Today, Oratorio continues to be the keeper of many of San Miguel's oldest and most beloved traditions incorporating Catholic and indigenous symbolism into one, especially during Holy Week.

We enjoy watching women weaving in the shade of the plaza, seemingly without effort as they laugh, gossip and initiate sales.

"Mine are better than hers". "I use more herbs than the others…much more aromatic!" "See how finely I weave?" they taunt, always giggling.

In San Miguel there is concern that palm weaving will become a lost art because teens are not interested in learning the craft. But on this morning there are many mothers and daughters working side by side, and we have no fear that palm weaving will disappear in our lifetime.

In the end, we buy more than we can carry and wonder if the Indians believe that we are tan religioso. We head off to breakfast elated with our purchases and filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the morning. So much folk art treasure for mere pesos!

May 8, 2002
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO