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Sunday, The "Grande" Finale of
The Fiestas of San Miguel!

Part II: Yet Another Dazzling Parade, A Full Day of Merriment,
and our Town Gathers for the final VIVA SAN MIGUEL!


Today, all of San Miguel awoke to sunshine and the anticipation of the final day of the annual fiestas.  We can feel it in the air.  The entire town will enjoy this day as if there will never be another fiesta, and so will we.  After a delicious breakfast of steaming tamales, we met friends down on the "Ancha" where hundreds of dancers lined up for this morning's parade. 

The costumes.  The faces.  The many conversations with the proud participants.  These are the unforgettable moments of Sunday morning (this year, September 30th).

It's a visual feast, so enjoy the view!

One of the newest mojiganga puppets, Marilyn Monroe, takes her place at the head of the parade.  The giant figures are a joyous art form in San Miguel, and are often times humorous caricatures of famous faces, including politicians.

These boys prepare to don pint-sized mojigangas and join in the parade.  Starting at an early age, their love of the mojiganga tradition ensures that the merry giants will enliven San Miguel's fiestas for
generations to come.

The dazzling Moors (Los Moros) on horseback look both fierce and mysterious. Their presence is a nod to Spanish history.

This plumed Aztec dancer sports a banjo, and the worst (or best) farmer's tan ever.  How handsome and proud he is!  But there's a deeper story here.  This man works long hours in the sunin construction or maybe in the fields.  Today he wears this exquisite (and expensive) costume to honor his ancestors and heritage and he is once again an Aztec god.  This transformed man perfectly embodies the true spirit of the
Fiestas of San Miguel!

These gaily dressed women came to dance from the neighboring state of Querétaro.  While readying for the parade, they practiced their dance steps over and over, proudly telling us about their own local
fiestas  and traditions.

Young warriors don war paint and prepare to whoop their way through the streets.

To see such a vast variety of regional costumes, one would have to travel to every corner of Mexico for a full year or more—or simply venture to San Miguel for the Fiestas. 
The bedazzled skirts of the
China Poblanas glitter in the sun, and these Poblanas (ladies from Puebla) graciously smile despite the
hefty weight of their skirts.

This harlequin seems to sigh at the fact that tomorrow
will be another day at school.

Tiny but fierce.

Young warriors in the sun.

This stunning paint job demands our attention.

A noble profile of a Poblano in full dress.

Plumed conchero dancers join the dancing throngs.

Skilled stilt-walkers lead the parade towards San Miguel's historic "centro".  Navigating the cobblestones is no small feat.

The unforgettable scene as mojigangas, dancers, and musicians
fill the streets of San Miguel de Allende.

The spectacular parade wound it's way through San Miguel's historic streets, at last arriving in the Jardín—our central plaza.  And every mode of transportation was employed.  Some on horse back.  Others on floats.  More on stilts.  And hundreds upon hundreds on dancing feet.  And no one is too young or too old to participate.  My unscientific survey surmised that participants ranged in age from six months to ninety, or older.  This "never too old attitude" is one of the things we love about San Miguel.
 

The young and young at heart rest in the courtyard of the Parroquia.

But in many ways, this parade never ends.  Once in the Jardín, dancers rest, refresh, then dance again, and again throughout the day.  Some in the courtyard of the Parroquia (the Gothic church on the Jardín).  Some on stages.  Others in the streets.  And others—Los Voladores from Papantla—whirl from a pole high above it all.  In a word, the experience is unforgettable.
Meanwhile, the "feria', our county fair, is getting underway on the edge of town.  It's a good old-fashioned event full of food, rides, side-shows, and prize animals—and of course, terrific people watching. 
 
   
There were families everywhere, and delighted children rode rides, ate carnival food, and squealed at miniature donkeys and Brahma bulls.  And this was definitely a hot date scene as couples walked hand-in-hand taking in the sights.  It seems that winning a stuffed animal for your sweetie is on the "to do list"  the world over.  The feria is definitely not tourist fare.  But if you grew up on a farm, or are a die-hard photo nut, or if the lure of seeing a Mexican five-legged cow is too much to resist, then the feria is for you.  The fair lasts throughout the week, so we headed back downtown for the final (explosive!) moments of the Fiestas of San Miguel.
At sunset, all of San Miguel once again gathered on the Jardín in anticipation of the final fireworks and castillo displays of the Fiestas of San Miguel 2007.  The coheteros (fireworks maestros) conferred before beginning their perfectly orchestrated grand finale.  And the crowd pushed ever-closer to what would soon become a rain of sparks.  Safety be damned! The closer the better, and we were front row and center ready to bolt should our shirts catch on fire.
The towering and elaborate castillos promised an unforgettable show, and we excitedly contemplated what was about to happen with our fellow on-lookers. 

"Are the petals on the tall castillo going to 'bloom' with sparks?  What are all those 'wheels' going to do?  We've NEVER had a castillo that tall before!". 

And from the first "BOOM!" we knew we were in for a very special evening.

The towering castillos are sculptural and beautiful, even when not lighted.  The many moving components are fashioned from wood and cariso (bamboo-like reeds), then expertly handmade chemical concoctions provide color, fire, velocity and of course, NOISE! 

Each castillo is as carefully orchestrated as any theatrical performance with an introduction, successive dramatic acts, and at last the thrilling grand finale.  Tonight, San Miguel would enjoy the mastery of the
finest coheteros in Mexico! 
And the fireworks began!

The wheels whirred furiously around with loud whistles and a shower of sparks. And if on top of the castillo, they shot straight into the air like flying saucers!

And the "flower petals" opened in a blur of red sparks, and moved like tentacles on a burning octopus.  We were left speechless and applauded furiously at the sight. 
But the best was yet to come.

Next, the tantalizing sparks formed San Miguel himself,
flanked by two fiery palm trees.  Spectacular!

Despite the Jardín being jam-packed, the crowd was hushed.  Absent were the collective "Oooos, Ahhhs and Ohhhs" loudly exclaimed at any fireworks extravaganza in the US.  Rather, this crowd was filled with quiet awe and wonder.  It's a magical night full of miracles for the devil has been struck down by San Miguel himself.  And the mood is so wonderful...so San Miguel.

Following four castillos, rocket after rocket blasted from the actual spires of the Parroquia.  At that moment, no one could imagine being anywhere else in the entire world. 
Viva San Miguel!

What a perfect ending to the Fiestas of San Miguel, 2007.  Abrazos to all, and "Hasta luego".  We'll see you on the Jardín next year!

● 
See more photos of the Fiestas of San Miguel 2007 at the end of this Postcard.
Written October 21, 2007.
By Debra Hall
Co-owner
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO
www.zocalofolkart.com


All photos by Deb Hall.

Parting thoughts...
Read "Part I: The Fiestas of San Miguel" in the previous installment of Postcards from Mexico at www.zocalofolkart.com.

The Fiestas of San Miguel is a moveable holiday occurring on the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October every year.

Considering attending The Fiestas of San Miguel in 2008? One of the most-personalized, all encompassing experiences may be enjoyed via My Mexico, www.mymexicotours.com.

I couldn't resist including more of the beautiful faces seen during the Fiestas of San Miguel.  Our town is filled with stunning architecture and quaint streets, but nothing can match the beauty of the Mexican people and their traditions.

If you hear someone lamenting that San Miguel is only populated with ex-pats and Spanish is rarely spoken here, don't you believe it for a minute!  Enjoy this last glimpse of the faces of San Miguel de Allende.
All rights reserved by Deb Hall, 2007.  No part may be used or reproduced without written permission from Deb Hall.