A Fiesta Comes to Atotonilco!
By Jesús Aguado
The pagan celebration of Atotonilco coincides with the 250th anniversary of the spiritual retreat house.
The Shrine of Jesus the Nazarene of Atotonilco and San Miguel de Allende were appointed as World Heritage Sites in July 2008. The spiritual retreat house was conceived in 1765 by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro as a place of penitence, meditation, and prayer to honor the Nazarene. Annually, the house receives 32 visits from penitents who remain there for a week. Each group is made up of at least 2,800 people and close to 5,000 in July and August.
This year, the festivity to honor the Nazarene will start on Friday, July 17, at 6pm with the entrance of a statue of Jesus the Nazarene that is carried in procession from a chapel in the community called San Miguelito. The procession includes a Holy Cross, flowers, and xúchiles (pre-Hispanic offerings). At 9pm, amid live music, fireworks, and flowers, the community crowns the queen of the festivities.
On Saturday, July 18, the celebration starts at 6am with fireworks followed by a mass, featuring singing Las mañanitas to Christ. After the religious ceremony, atole and tamales are given to the devotees. At 5pm a procession enters, carrying more offerings from several communities nearby. The residents of Atotonilco feed all the attendants with nopalitos, chickpeas, rice, and tortillas at 7pm. At 9pm there is live music with the Alteñita and Revuelta bands.
On Sunday folkloric and pre-Hispanic dances will take place the whole day long, and pilgrims make their entrance. There will be live music from 7pm-11pm, and the night will end with fireworks. The celebration ends on Monday at 9pm with another fireworks display.