The Fiestas of San Miguel!
Part I: When Our Entire Community Takes
to the Streets in Dance & Celebration—
Every September, thousands flock to San
Miguel de Allende for the "Grito"—the
on the eve of September 16. And in
years past, thousands returned to San Miguel the following weekend in
September to run with the bulls (which has been suspended during the current
Mayor's term). But for everyone living in San Miguel, the final
weekend is the most anticipated and special of all. At last! It's time to
celebrate the Fiestas of San Miguel!
For us, the extended weekend of non-stop events begins with the violin
concert on Thursday evening (September 27th this year). The entire
town gathers in the Jardín to sway to the soaring violins of Los Hermanos
Aguascalientes. From "Bese Me Mucho" to "New York, New York",
music enveloped us as we stood before our glorious church: La Parroquia. Los Hermanos Aguascalientes
emotionally announced that this was their 30th consecutive year to begin
the Fiestas of San Miguel, and "God willing" they would play for another
30. After hearing their dramatic rendition of "My Way", we believe
A view of San Miguel's La
towering over the Jardín.
Although a myriad of civic events occurs
on Friday, it's a good idea to take it easy in anticipation of what
comes next. Half of San Miguel sets their alarm clock for 2:30am
so they can return to the Jardín
by 3:30am. And the other half? They stay up all night!
Pre-dawn, thousands stream into the town center to witness the epic
battle between the arcangel San Miguel and the devil—played
out with thunderous fireworks—known
as La Aborada. First, the lights of La Parroquia are dimmed.
Then the fireworks begin promptly at 4am. To the complete shock of
first-timers, the fireworks are shot into the center of the Jardín where
brazen youth hover under serapes, dodging the onslaught of fiery
rockets. This year, one and a half tons of gunpowder were escorted
into San Miguel de Allende expressly for the Aborada battle. From
toddlers to great grand-parents, the town delights in the firefight
lasting a full hour ending with a whizzing, whirling castillo.
With bombs still echoing in our ears, we headed off for a hearty
breakfast and a half-hearted attempt at a nap. With everyone giddy
from the early morning triumph over the devil, San Miguel was now primed
to partake in the fiestas "con gusto".
castillo was the final act in the war of fire between San
and the devil, played out pre-dawn.
There's no rest during the fiestas!
After napping through Saturday morning, it was time to head back to the
center of town for the grand parade (the first of two) when the "xuchiles"
are carried to the Parroquia amidst dancers from every corner of
Mexico. A xuchil is a type of cactus, and also the name of the
gigantic decorations on 20 plus-foot poles using the cactus as
ornamentation. Despite the rains, our town's enthusiasm could not
be doused. The parade splashed into the Jardín cheered on by our
But the evening was far from over.
We next made our way into the courtyard of the Parroquia to admire the
xuchiles. Once inside, an air of quiet reverence surrounded us in
stark contrast to the gaiety of the plaza. Along side fellow
villagers we gazed upon the giant xuchiles resting against the church in
awe. The towering nature tributes stand like silent sentries before the
Parroquia for the next several days.
views of xuchiles both upright and resting. In the
center photo, the back of a xuchil arches over the entrance
of the Parroquia church. On the pole to the right,
Voladores (flying dancers from Papantla, Veracruz) prepare
their descent to earth.
The xuchiles are not unlike tall, narrow signs depicting
pictures and symbols completely fashioned from fruit,
flowers, leaves and xuchil
cactus root-bulbs for which the completed creations are
named. The xuchil roots resemble pearl-like shells, and have
been used as decoration since pre-Hispanic times.
Filled with the experiences of the day, we
crossed the Jardín with friends searching for a table with a view.
We shared drinks and good food, all feeling very fortunate to call San
Miguel home. Everyone had their favorite parts of the day to
recount, and we were overwhelmed with a true appreciation for San
Miguel's very Mexican spirit. As we asked for the check, yet
another round of castillos crackled in the Jardín. Like children,
we rushed into the crowds not wanting to miss the last blast of the day.
As we finally headed home, we couldn't help but reflect on this day that
began at 3:30am. How do you explain jumping out of bed to see
fireworks at 4am? When did you last enjoy breakfast with good
friends at an hour so early that the sun had not risen? When did
you last watch a parade in the rain, and loved every moment? And
have you ever enjoyed towers of whirring fireworks (twice!) after going
almost non-stop for 20 plus hours?
Loco? Definitely. And that's why we love the traditions of
San Miguel de Allende. Even fellow Mexicans must admit. No
place does it better in all of Mexico.
But tomorrow is another day.
|Rick and Deb, soaked
but thrilled. The Fiestas of San Miguel, 2007.
Photo by Betsy McNair.
Written October 12, 2007.
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
All photos by Deb Hall unless
Look forward to "Part II: The Fiestas of San Miguel" in an upcoming
installment of Postcards from Mexico.
The Fiestas of San Miguel is a moveable holiday occurring on the last
weekend of September or the first weekend of October every year.
Our rooftop viewing-perch for Saturday's spectacular parade was courtesy
of the one and only Betsy McNair. Betsy organized a
most-personalized experience (the word "tour" is too generic for what
Betsy does!) embracing the traditions of The Fiestas of San Miguel from
beginning to end in 2007, and plans to return in 2008. See
|All rights reserved by Deb Hall, 2007.
No part may be used or reproduced without written permission from Deb