The City Lights Up with Other-Worldly Colors

By Jesús Aguado

This season purifies everything, even the seeds. According to ancient local tradition, when the seed is blessed in an indigenous ritual, it guarantees that the plant will be strong. It will grow up healthy and will provide abundant fruit.

The annual Candelaria Fair envelops Juárez Park with live music, thousands of colors and odors from the ornamental plants, from the clothes worn by the folkloric and pre-Columbian dancers, and even from the lavish fireworks. The fair turns 60 this year, and it features a cultural program that will start on Friday, January 29, continuing until February 8.

The celebration of the purification

The Virgin of the Candelaria—Virgin of Light or Virgin of the Candles—is a dedication to Virgin Mary that relates to the purification ceremony. The festivity marks the ending of the Christmas celebration because February 2 is the 40thday after the birth of baby Jesus, the day when the newborn was presented to the temple.

February 2 is also the date when the nativity scene set up on December 24 (or previously) has to be removed. It is a tradition that dozens of baby Jesus sculptures are carried in baskets to mass, dressed in beautiful and colorful dresses and caps. It is also the day when the candles are taken to mass in order to be blessed. The candles are then lighted for those who passed away to illuminate the path to heaven for lost souls. This day is also the deadline for those who found a replica representing baby Jesus in the Rosca de Reyes (three kings’ cake) cut on January 6, to invite those who participated in the celebration, for tamales and atole. In this way, the cycle that began on December 16 with the posadas comes to an end.

The celebration, which should be religious, is better described as pagan. The National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Towns states that when the Spanish arrived in Mesoamerica, they found out that the natives celebrated the Feast of the Tlaloques to honor the God of Rain, Tlaloc, as well as the beginning of the agricultural cycle. This ceremony coincided the celebration of the Candelaria, February 2, and became incorporated into the festivities.

The fair in San Miguel

Arturo Morales, an environmental and cultural activist, talked previously to Atención, saying that the tradition of celebrating the Candelaria Fair in San Miguel was started by producer and plants vendor Bruno Galicia—from Cuautla, Morelos—as well as the Morales family from Puebla. Both families participated in traveling plant fairs and every year in January, they participated in a fair in León. On their way back to their cities, they used to come to San Miguel and ask for permission from the local authorities to sell their plants and flowers. The permits were granted to them, and they had a regular space, originally in the portales.

On several occasions, it was not a surprise that they were in the city on February 2, the date of Candelaria. More vendors heard about San Miguel, and they were encouraged to come to the town by the Galicia and Morales families. Later the space at the portales was not large enough, so they were relocated in the Jardín and later, at Juárez Park. That is how the fair began. Today it includes a cultural program that last two weeks.

The opening

Norberto Carbajo, director of Environment and Ecology in San Miguel, told Atención that this administration will spend no more money than in previous years, but he remarked that it will fulfill the expectations of sanmiguelenses and visitors. The exhibition and sale of plants will starts on Friday, January 29, at 8am. On the same day at 11am, a parade will take place, moving from Calle Hidalgo and passing through Portal Allende, Cuna de Allende, and Aldama and ending up at Juárez Park. The parade will feature San Miguel mojigangas (giant puppets), live wind instrument music by the Hermanos Aguascalientes, children from kindergartens and primary schools disguised as flowers and plants, as well as other surprises. Carbajo said that this event is held to let people know that happiness has arrived in the city and the fair has begun.

At 6:30pm, with live music by the Tuna Oratoriana, a callejoneada will leave from the Jardín Principal, traveling toward the park. Mayor Ricardo Villarreal will cut the ribbon at 7pm. The opening of the fair will conclude with live music by the Hermanos Aguascalientes band.

Vigil of the Holy Cross and blessing of the seeds

In February 2006 a Holy Cross was placed in the park. Those who preserve the indigenous traditions, like Gerardo Estrada—conchero from the Valle del Maíz—remarked that the vigil (starting on Monday, February 6, at 10 pm to end the next day at 6am) is a ceremony in which “those who believe” implore God, through the cross, to have the Candelaria fair celebration with no problems, and with tranquility and with safety for vendors, customers, and all the people involved in the event. To begin the celebration, an ornament called the custodia is placed in the center—before the cross—with a candle. Four more candles are placed pointing to the four cardinal points. Each one receives the name of an ánima (a person who died). The candles are lighted, and then the traditionalists start working on the bastones (ornaments) that will be placed next to the cross. In the early morning when the candles are totally consumed, they know that their prayers were heard by the Creator. During the vigil the people gathered in the park sing and pray all night.

If you are going to plant some seeds, you can bring them to the park on Tuesday, February 2, at 11am so they can be blessed in the indigenous ceremony. That is a guarantee, according to “those who know,” says the traditionalist, “that a strong plant will emerge with healthy and abundant fruit.” If people do not know the ritual, highlighted Estrada, they should observe and be respectful. A special prayer is offered, and the seeds are presented with incense and copal to the four cardinal points. The incense and the copal will take the prayer to the gods.

Workshops

Several nonprofit and public organizations annually offer free workshops during the fair, teaching care of the environment. Among the workshops are “How My Food Impacts My Health and My World” by Grace Rodríguez, “From Caterpillar to Butterfly” by Héctor Bonaga, “Useful Advice for Fighting Insects with Homemade Repellents” by Vía Orgánica, and “Hydrological Change” by SAPASMA. Check the calendar and schedules in Festivals and Events in Qué Pasa.

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