¡Viva septiembre, vivan las tradiciones!
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Mexicans, and especially sanmiguelenses, look forward to the month of September. In addition to the grand celebrations to commemorate Mexican independence, the festivities to honor St. Michael the Archangel round out the month. The month of September seems like one big party, which in fact begins in August. Beauty queens, dances, xúchiles (elaborate floral tributes crafted with marigolds and desert spoon), mojigangas (giant puppets and many other examples of sanmiguelense tradition and culture all make up this “truly Mexican party,” in the words of Assistant Mayor Claudio Mayer. This celebration will also mark the end of one administration and the beginning of another, and for that reason the municipal government will try to offer an especially showy celebration.
San Miguel review
This year, the celebrations started with the election and coronation of the queen of the rural communities, held at the Jardín Principal on August 18. María Concepción, from Los Rodríguez, was crowned queen and will work on social projects to improve her community. Román González, who has been working for 15 years as coordinator of special events in the Department of Education and Culture, said that the “review,” as it is called, is held the third Sunday of August. This event consists of a parade through the main streets of the city, featuring dances, mojigangas, live music, floats and even an ox carrying floral or fruit offerings. Most importantly, an image of St. Michael the Archangel, which belongs to the Ramírez family from Cuevitas, is carried through the streets. The book Festivities and Traditions in San Miguel states that in the past the ox used to be stolen for the event and later was sacrificed. González commented that the ox was donated by wealthy families from the city and later was sacrificed in order to feed all the participants at the celebration. Currently, the ox follows in the footsteps of tradition but is not sacrificed. Participants stroll through the main streets of the city and make a stop at each church along the way “to ask for a good celebration without problems,” said González. On August 24, Alejandra López, queen of the 2012 Patriotic and Regional Festivities, was crowned.
According to historians, several conditions spawned the insurrection against the Spanish government in New Spain. Three hundred years after the conquest, the Spaniards owned the lands, mines and livestock. The educated criollos (children of Spaniards born in New Spain) and mestizos (those of mixed blood) could only hold low governmental positions, so they started to dream about independence. The Indians, who were the most unprotected and mistreated group, were ready to follow those who could guarantee them a social change. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain also helped prompt the planning of independence.
Ignacio Allende, born in the village of San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende) began gathering in the mezzanine at his brother’s house (currently known as House of the Conspiracies, located on the corner of Plaza Principal and Reloj) with other sanmiguelense creoles, in order to make a plan to gain independence from Spain. Felipe González suggested that Allende invite Miguel Hidalgo to the conspiracy meetings. Hidalgo was chosen to lead the independence movement because he was a priest and had strong influence among the population. Later, other conspiracy meetings took place in Querétaro at the home of don Miguel Domínguez and his wife, Doña Josefa Ortíz, known as La Corregidora.
They planned to begin the insurrection on December 8, 1810, in San Juan de los Lagos, where many people still gather every year for an important religious festivity, but the conspirators were denounced. Doña Josefa Ortíz sent a message to Ignacio Allende warning him that their plot had been discovered. Allende was not in San Miguel but in Dolores with Miguel Hidalgo, so Juan Aldama received the message from Ignacio Pérez and took it to Hidalgo. On September 16, in the early morning the church bells rang out, and when the inhabitants of Dolores gathered Hidalgo explained their plans and enjoined them to take up the cause of independence, exclaiming “Long live our king Fernando the Seventh, and death to the bad government.” And the rest is history.
A race and two grand entrances
Every year before the independence celebration the Race of the Conspiracy takes place, this year on September 13. Competitors will run approximately five kilometers. The first 25 male and 3 female runners to cross the finish line will win the honor of taking part in a symbolic reenactment of the carrying of La Corregidora’s message from Querétaro to Miguel Hidalgo in Dolores. The runners arrive in San Miguel after 10pm, and at 11pm Mayor Núñez will give the Grito (Cry of Independence): ¡Viva México! Fireworks and musical events continue into the night.
Each year on September 16 a reenactment of the insurgents’ arrival in San Miguel is held, recalling the moment when Allende, Hidalgo and the other independence fighters rode into the city on horseback and shortly thereafter convened the first independent city council in Mexico.
2012 San Miguel Fair
San Miguel’s annual fair opens September 13 and will run through September 30 at the fairgrounds on the road to Dr. Mora. The general admission fee is 30 pesos, which includes access to more than 30 rides, the vendors area, wrestling events and the Teatro del Pueblo, a communal space where well-known, popular bands perform. This year’s lineup of entertainers includes La Sonora Dinamita, Sonora Santanera, Poder del Norte, Germán Montero, Mi Banda el Mexicano and Invasores de Nuevo León, among others.
The celebration of the feast day of Saint Michael is held here on the last Saturday in September, which this year falls on the actual calendar date of the saint’s day. As its name suggests, the Alborada starts before dawn. The night before and in the wee hours of the morning celebrants from several of the oldest neighborhoods gather to prepare for the celebration. Revelers march from their neighborhoods to the Parroquia and around the Jardín carrying traditional, symbolic ornaments including large stars held aloft on poles. Musicians and mojigangas accompany the parade, and at about 4am the fireworks and rockets begin to explode in front of the Parroquia, lasting for about two hours. According to Fiestas y Tradiciones en San Miguel, this event dates from 1925.
The presentation of xúchiles
One of the most notable events, perhaps the most emblematic of the celebration honoring San Miguel Arcángel, is the presentation of the xúchiles. These large, ornate tributes created on frames and decorated with flowers and native plants are carried through the streets by groups of men and erected outside the Parroquia. Alejandro Luna, the son of Felix Luna, a champion of San Miguel’s traditions, said that before 1942 the traditionalists used to pay for the whole festivity, but in 1942, the 400th anniversary of San Miguel’s founding, the municipal administration got involved in organizing the festivities and used to give money to the captains of the dance groups in the city. When the captains of troupes from outside the city found out, they did not want to come because they did not receive any money. Later, they began to return little by little. Luna owns a cross that belonged to Manuel de Luna, one of the four first captains who led a group in the original celebration. This cross has not been carried during the last 70 years in the xúchiles parade, but this year it may be shown again.
González said that this year they already have confirmed that 46 local dance groups and 16 from other states such as Jalisco, Veracruz, Tlaxcala and México, among others, will take part in the parade of xúchiles.
The fireworks are the “crowning touch” of the San Miguel celebration, and this year, according to Assistant Mayor Claudio Mayer, more than a million pesos will be spent on various pyrotechnical devices. Don José Gómez Centeno, who is one of the coordinators of the fireworks, told Atención that this year there will be two surprises that will be best enjoyed in el Centro. One will be revealed on September 15, and the other during the last weekend of September.
Individual articles about each event will be published in the next editions of Atención.