The New Wave of Tourism in SMA
By Blondina Clarke
While San Miguel offers a perfect snapshot into colonial Mexico history and art, a new interest has emerged with tourists: the unique and fascinating culture of faith here. Its religious festivities distinguish the city, an extraordinary mixture of an ancestral pagan past and the Catholic faith. The history of these customs and their modern practices now brings new waves of tourists seeking a more profound Mexican experience in present day expressions of faith.
The Culture of Faith
Thu and Fri, 9am
200 pesos adults
50 pesos children
Leading visiting universities, pilgrims, and travel groups is local historian Joseph Toone. Mr. Toone says, “Today’s tourists want more than a presentation of architecture or stories of independence. They crave knowledge of what everyday objects and events symbolize both in the prehistoric past, and in today’s fiestas.”
Mr. Toone is referring to the many statues, parades, fireworks, fiestas, and other Catholic and indigenous symbols we see daily around town yet do not know the history or the impact the symbols have on local faith and culture.
Nevin Headley of Manhattan, a recent visitor who participated in tours and workshops offered by the library on culture and faith led by Toone, states, “In San Miguel, there are religious celebrations almost every day of the year. Though beautiful and often moving, to us visitors these can be confusing. Toone’s interactive and humorously wry lectures and tours on various religious aspects of San Miguel were real eye-openers.”
Even foreign-born full time residents are lining up to enjoy the new face of tourism. Local Kevin Wenrich, formerly of Calgary, states, “His storytelling, knowledge, and sense of humor enabled me to better understand Mexican culture and the Catholic religion. Even as a life-long Protestant I found the history and images to be fascinating and my daily sights are more meaningful.”
To promote the culture of faith in SMA, special summer tours are offered Thursday and Friday mornings at 9am outside of the Oratorio Church (on Plaza Cívica, a block over from the library and two blocks down from the Jardín). Tours and workshops can also be made by appointment for the convenience of you, your family, or group.
Tours last one and half-hours with flat walking for short distances. Tours are 200 pesos (about US$13) for adults and 50 pesos (about US$3) for children and teens.
For more information on faith and culture in San Miguel, and available tours and lectures ranked best on culture and faith by TripAdvisor.com, visit www.CatholicSMA.com.