A Crazy Sunday, The History Behind the Masks

By Jesús Aguado

As every year, on the Sunday closest to June 13, the most amazing creatures walk, dance, jump and run throughout the streets of San Miguel to the tune of popular music.

They are the locos (crazies), people who pay the favors St. Anthony and St. Paschal conceded them and give thanks for the harvest, the food, and the goods received during the year.

For pleasure or for obligation, people keep swelling the ranks of the annual locos parade, it has grown from 200 dancers (60 years ago) to 15,000 today! This year, the event will take place on Sunday, June 14, don’t miss it!

A brief history

In the past, San Miguel was surrounded by orchards, mostly at the area of the park; those who owned the land used to grow all kind of seasonal fruits: apples, pears, plums, peaches, and more. Every year during harvest time the owners opened the doors for the harvesters and their families; they could eat all that they wanted inside the orchards. Also, some religious celebrations were held in churches, like masses, where people dressed as hortelanos (orchard workers). Wearing jumpers, long sleeve shirts, boots, and hats, they would dance to honor St. Paschal Baylon. The audience, feeling attracted by those people and their dances, started gathering annually to enjoy the spectacle.

The orchard workers did not have enough space for dancing, so they started wearing masks for scaring away the onlookers. The workers also carried raccoons, pelicans, skunks, armadillos, and other animals, and the audience started calling them “locos.” That is the origin of the group of crazies that nowadays dance to honor St. Anthony and St. Paschal. Both sculptures were at the parish of St. Anthony at colonia San Antonio, but now St. Paschal is sheltered in the temple of San Juan de Dios.

The four cuadros (squares) of crazies

The locos were different in the past; when the celebration was held in San Antonio, it was typical that a corral was built at the atrium of San Antonio, where the so-called “locos” (just men dressed as grotesque women) would dance. A bull was released to make the spectacle even more funny and interesting. Also during the celebration, a group of hortelanos danced to the rhythm of a drum and a flute. The locos in the past — 30 years ago — wore simple disguises and masks made of cardboard; now the participants do the impossible to have the showiest costumes, and it does not matter to them if they spend thousands of pesos. They just want to be the showiest and the most popular.

There are four cuadros of crazies, and on the day of the parade, 20 groups of families and friends gather in every cuadro for dancing. The first cuadro that ever existed was that of El Parque, which emerged in the early 1950s and was made up of approximately 30 people who danced to honor St. Anthony of Padua. The group used to leave from the house where the saint was sheltered, because during the year it visited different places.

The Cuadro Nuevo was the second to be formed, according to traditionalist Emigdio Ledesma, who participated for the first time in 1962. His friend Zeferino Licea (who knew about his creativity) asked him for help adorning an allegoric car with images from La Familia Burrón, the famous Mexican cartoon that made fun of the virtues and defects of Mexican middle class families. Licea was a barber and he wanted to have the beauty salon of the Burrón family. The problem was that they could not find a “crazy” to be the client at the barber shop, but in the end, said Ledesma, they found a drunk man who portrayed that character for a bottle of tequila. Of course, the barber scalped the drunk man’s hair. The first time the Cuadro Nuevo paraded, they left from calle Insurgentes with no direction; the people starting asking each other, “what is this group?” and the answer was, “it is a new cuadro.” From there comes the name.

Doña Angelita Martínez is the captain of this cuadro. Previously, she told Atención that the cuadros that danced to honor the saints always did it in their own way, with no organization or a route, and that is why the parish priest of San Antonio called a meeting where he asked them to get organized. That is how the first locos parade occurred at least 30 years ago, and it has grown.

30 years of memories in a photo album

María Julia Fosado was married to Jesús González Martínez, “El Cachir.” He formed his own group of crazies under his nickname. González passed away on January 4, 2014. Fosado commented that he was very creative; ever since he was a child he made his own masks, and when he grew up, he made masks for dozens of people.

The first time El Cachir participated in a locos parade was in 1985. She commented, “He once told me that on a Corpus Christi Day, his father bought him a mask of cardboard, and he wanted to dance with the crazies. When the time came, he wore an old shirt and his most worn out jeans and he danced and was happy for the next 30 days, dancing and making costumes and masks for the members of his group.”

The first photo that González stuck in the photo album of Los Locos dates from 1985. His ideas for costumes were always inspired by movies, legends, and mythological beings. Fosado shared with Atención several photos of González memories, from 1985 to 2013. Nowadays, El Cachir and Fosado’s children are in charge of the creativity; this year the theme will be the movie John Carter.

The group Los Cholulocos will be wearing showy disguises and masks of football players as well as costumes of the most popular football, baseball, basketball, and other games’ mascots. Juan Espinosa is the artist making the disguises. He is a sculptor and an artist of papier maché. He inherited the tradition of dancing in the locos parade from his uncle, Jesús Palacios, who used to make masks of cardboard (the tradition at that time) and give them away to friends. Juan can make the most complicated dragon mask to the easiest duck mask.

The parade

The locos start gathering at the parish of St. Anthony at colonia San Antonio on Sunday at 11am, where a mass is held. At noon the parade leaves from Salida a Celaya and goes through Ancha de San Antonio, Zacateros, Canal, Hernández Macías, Insurgentes, Pepe Llanos, Mesones, Núñez, San Francisco, Plaza Principal, and Canal. From there, some of the dancers go to the church and keep dancing, and others go home for lunch.

Check the program for the festivity in Qué Pasa.

The old lady is a familiar character in the parade. In 1963, there was a popular movie entitled Cri-Cri, the Singer Cricket starring Ignacio López Tarzo. The actor sings a song for his grandmother, “Grandma, bring your key and show me all the marvelous and beautiful things that you treasure in your wardrobe.” According to Emigdio Ledesma, the movie was so popular that they decided to add an old “jumping” lady to the parade in 1964. She became so popular that after a few years, dozens of old ladies joined the crowd. The old lady is so popular that one of them actually heads the parade.

St. Paschal Baylon was born in Spain in 1540. His life was very austere and he was too innocent. He was a shepherd until he was 17 and at the age of 28 he became a Franciscan monk. He was always a true devotee, and as a monk he could do anything at the monastery to help out. He was a cook and was in charge of the orchard, and for that reason the hortelanos pay homage to this saint. He was appointed to sainthood in 1690.


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