Divine permission to celebrate the patron saint
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
On August 3 of each year, keepers of San Miguel’s traditions ask Saint Michael’s permission to allow the entrance of the xúchiles, which are large tributes to the saint created out of flowers and the leaves of desert plants that are carried to the Parroquia during the celebrations for the saint’s day, held September 27–29 this year. The offering, known as the entrance of the xúchiles, is a procession through the main streets of the city that includes floats, mojigangas, dancers, live music, an ox laden with offerings (fruits, vegetables and flowers) and, most importantly, an image of Saint Michael the Archangel that belongs to the Ramírez family from Las Cuevitas. The participants in the procession leave from Calzada de la Estación and walk along calles Canal, Plaza Principal, Recreo, San Francisco, Núñez, Colegio, Insurgentes and San Antonio Abad. At each church along the way they stop for a few minutes and perform a ritual to ask that there be no problems during the celebration of the patron saint’s day.
The book Fiesta y Tradición en San Miguel states that the ox in the procession used to be sacrificed and cooked to feed those participating in the entrance of the xúchiles. Eleazar Romero, an authority on traditions in the city, commented that this year the ox was donated by an individual on the condition that it be sacrificed to feed the dancers, as in the past. During the procession they used to stop by the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, where the vendors gave them vegetables as an offering, which were used to prepare the food for the celebrants.
On Sunday, August 25, the traditionalists visited the Puente del Fraile and, later, the place where the cross from El Puerto was formerly located, to again ask for divine permission. Romero commented that in 1528, when the friars Pedro de Burgos and Miguel Doncel arrived in the area to evangelize the natives, they were armed not with guns but with a cross, and the natives willingly accepted the symbol because many of their ceremonies were organized around a cruciform shape.
Nevertheless, there were those who resisted conversion to Catholicism, and a battle ensued that lasted 15 days and 15 nights at the Puente del Fraile in which Spaniards and converted Tlaxcaltecas and Otomíes fought those Otomíes who resisted conversion. After 15 days of battle, said Romero, a shining cross appeared in the sky; all the warriors knelt and said, “He is God.” From that cross, it was said, a beam of light issued and struck a rock, which later was carved in the shape of a cross and erected at El Puerto. It used to be carried to several communities before the major festivity at the end of September, communities such as La Vivienda, Agustín González, Guerrero, la Cieneguita, Los López and Las Cuevitas. Unfortunately, the cross was stolen in the mid-1990s. Despite the absence of the cross, organizers of the entrance of the xúchiles continue to travel to El Puerto to ask for a blessing to celebrate the day of the city’s patron saint.