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Mexico’s cowboy saint

By Joseph Toone

You may have noticed a recent influx of camera-carrying cowboys and cowgirls passing through the Jardín on their horses. Chances are, they are going to, or coming from a festival for St. Martin of Tours (France), or San Martín Caballero as he is known locally.

Pilgrims travel from all over Guanajuato in November to congregate for a mass on their horses in the small town of St. Martin about 30 miles from here. In honor of St. Martin, the horses receive special blessings following their long ride.

St. Martin was born in the latter part of the Roman Empire and served in the army. One day, while riding his horse, he chanced upon a nude beggar and cut his cloak in half to give the poor man a covering. That night Martin had a dream in which the beggar appeared to him as Jesus, so he quit the army and became a monk. St. Martin is the patron saint of those who hope strangers will aid them.

In art, St. Martin is pictured cutting his red cloak in half while on a horse and a nude man is on the ground receiving the cloak. You can find this image on candles in the Mega and throughout town in many shops, whose owners invoke St. Martin since they rely on the kindness of passing strangers for their livelihood.

The popular amulet for St. Martin here is a horseshoe, though unlike the Irish custom of keeping the ends upright, St. Martin’s horseshoes are hung with the ends pointing down and provide money or business luck.

Beth Kaestner, owner of Leisurely Country Horseback Riding, provides horseback rides to area St. Martin festivals and horse blessings. Beth states “Each year St. Martin becomes more popular with every horse and horse riding of merit participating. It’s great fun!”


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