A Town Replete with Festivities
By Jesús Aguado
St. Michael the Archangel is the angelic patron of San Miguel. That is why the celebration for this soldier who protects the city is the most colorful, the most aromatic, the most representative, the most alive of all. For this celebration, the city breaks the bank!
Who cares about the origin of the celebration—to be honest, the origins are uncertain—when the San Miguel of the Chichimecas (natives who inhabited the area before the conquest) gets excited, when it vibrates and prepares to show the world the rich culture and tradition that this city inherited? The lively celebration at this World Heritage site to honor the archangel blends many cultures and colors. It starts this year on Friday, October 2, at 9:30pm with the traditional mañanitas (happy birthday song) sung to the sculpture that occupy the highest spot—as in heaven—in the parish that bears his name.
This is the city of fireworks
After las mañanitas, people head to the oldest neighborhoods in San Miguel—La Estación and El Valle, along with the pioneer area of the Alborada (dawn) festival, La Aurora—where there are live music and traditional Mexican food plus the latest interpretations of the giant colored stars that will announce the new day. Before the procession to the historic center, people dance, drink, and eat well in the three neighborhoods. At 3am a procession leaves from each neighborhood toward el Centro. People bear stars, comets, suns, moons, and even planets while they jump, sing, and dance, accompanied by live music, pre-Hispanic dancers, the traditional mojigangas—giant puppets—and of course, the noisy celebratory rockets.
The procession that leaves from Aurora goes through Calzada de la Aurora and Hidalgo; the one from el Valle passes through Salida a Querétaro, San Francisco, and Plaza Principal; and the one from La Estación goes through Calzada de la Estación and Canal. A few minutes before 4am, the three contingents meet at the corner of Hidalgo, Canal, and San Francisco. From there, the participants walk around the Jardín Principal for about 15 minutes. After that, the sky and the city are illuminated with one hour of continuous fireworks that are sent up from the atrium of the parish church of St. Michael (la Parroquia) and the former city hall building.
According to the book Festivities and Traditions of San Miguel de Allende, the Alborada is not a sanmiguelense tradition. It was brought by textile workers from Salvatierra. The Reforma textile company was closed in that city, and the employees, who used to venerate Our Lady of the Light, were transferred to Fábrica la Aurora in San Miguel. Once here, they substituted their virgin with the Virgin of the Conception, who is venerated at Las Monjas church.
Traditionalist Emigdio Ledesma, who worked for the Fábrica la Aurora and annually works in the construction of more than 100 stars, commented that the event was held for the first time on December 8, 1924, at Las Monjas church. “Locals were greatly impressed with the giant wooden stars (which represented the light of the previous virgin from Salvatierra) and the noisy fireworks,” he said. For that reason, San Miguel’s mayor at that time and the parish priest, Father Solís, invited the employees of the Fábrica la Aurora to hold this event during the fiesta honoring St. Michael the Archangel. So, in 1925 the second Alborada was held in honor of St. Michael. “Curiously,” said Ledesma, “they never went back to Las Monjas.”
Dolls, Offerings, and Dancers
For 100 years, members of the Espinosa family have dedicated their time to building the traditional monitos (dolls made of cardboard) that will be exploded on Saturday, October 3, at 2pm. The monitos are hung up like the wash on a wire from the building of the former city hall and later they are blown up. Belén Espinosa, the artisan, told Atención that this year more than 100 pieces will explode. During Holy Week, bigger dolls representing evil are burned, but during this festivity, the monitos represent happiness and are more for having fun. They are eye candy: ballerinas, devils, bullfighters, clowns, and witches which stand on bases made of reed and gunpowder. They have transcended the St. Michael’s celebration, and nowadays they are objects for decoration, requested for all kinds of festivities.
At 5pm the same day, the holy crosses made of stone and wood (Xúchiles), dancers, mojigangas, floats, and beauty queens start gathering on Calzada de la Estación to participate in the Entrada de los Xúchiles (entrance of the Xúchiles). The offerings are placed in front of the Parroquia after the procession. In the past, it is well known that before the conquest these structures, made of two heavy parallel poles with rungs and adorned with leaves from cucharilla (a cactus) and flowers (sometimes with food, too), were meant for carrying the dead to the cemetery. After the body was buried, the offering was erected over the grave.
This procession is all the more colorful because the xúchiles are accompanied by live music and folkloric dancers from states like Puebla, Nayarit, Jalisco, Coahuila, Michoacán, and Veracruz. From the state of Guanajuato, there will be dancers from Salamanca, Celaya, and San José Iturbide. In total, the procession will be made up of 33 groups of dancers from other cities and 33 local groups. There will be nine floats and two carts pulled by horses. Check the order of the procession in Qué Pasa.
The procession on Saturday leaves from Calzada de la Estación and goes along Calzada de la Estación through Canal, Portal Allende, Correo, Barranca, Núñez, Mesones, Pepe Llanos, and Insurgentes streets.
On Sunday, October 4, a smaller parade takes place, leaving from Ancha de San Antonio and winding through the main streets of the city. On both Saturday and Sunday, there will be fireworks at 9:30pm.
St. Michael the Archangel’s stroll
Traditionalist Alejandro Luna has told Atención that this event originated in the 18th century and, after 150 to 200 years of dormancy, it was resurrected by Felix Luna and other sanmiguelenses in 1985. The “stroll” consists of taking the image of St. Michael out of the Parroquia and carrying the saint to the other main churches in the city. This stroll, which is held eight days after the saint’s feast day, officially ends the celebrations for St. Michael.
See Que Pasa for the entire calendar of events for the celebration.