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The Locos Parade Origins in City’s Farming Past

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By Jesús Aguado

San Miguel was once a city surrounded by orchards, mainly in the area that is now Parque Juárez. All kinds of seasonal fruits were grown: apples, pears, plums, peaches, and more. Each year, during harvest time, the orchard owners let the hortelanos (the orchard’s fruit pickers) and their families into the orchards to eat as much as they wanted. Also, masses were held for the hortelanos. Wearing jumpers, long sleeve shirts, boots, and hats, the hortelanos would dance to honor St Paschal Baylon. Eventually, locals began to gather annually to watch the spectacle of the hortelanos dancing.

The crowds eventually became large enough that the workers no longer had enough space to do their dances, so the workers began wearing masks to scare away onlookers. They also carried raccoons, pelicans, skunks, armadillos, and other animals, and the audience began referring to the dancers as locos (crazy people). The locos now dance to honor both St Anthony (patron saint of the poor and sick) and St Paschal. Statues of both were once located at the San Antonio Church in colonia San Antonio, but now St Paschal’s statue is sheltered in the Church of San Juan de Dios.

Four cuadros (teams) of crazies

The locos celebration used to be done differently than it is now. When it was held in San Antonio, it was typical to build a corral at the atrium of San Antonio Church, where the locos would dance dressed as women. A bull was released to make it even more of a spectacle, and there was a group of hortelanos who danced to the music of a drum and a flute. Also, thirty years ago, the locos wore simple costumes and masks made of cardboard. Nowadays, participants go to great lengths to create the showiest, most popular costumes, and for many, cost is no object.

There are four associations of crazies. The groups are referred to as cuadros (teams). On parade day, 13 groups of families and friends gather in each cuadro for dancing. El Parque was the first cuadro to form, in the early 1950s. It gathered approximately 30 people to dance in honor of St Anthony of Padua. During the year, the statue of St Anthony was brought to different locales, and the cuadro would start their procession from the house where the saint was sheltered. The other three cuadros are Cuadro Antiguo, Cuadro del Tecolote, and Cuadro Nuevo.

The beginnings of Cuadro Nuevo

Cuadro Nuevo was the second to be formed, according to traditionalist Emigdio Ledesma, who participated in the locos parade for the first time in 1962. His friend Zeferino Licea, who knew of his creativity, asked him for help adorning a parade car with images from La Familia Burrón, a famous Mexican comic book series that made fun of the virtues and faults of the Mexican middle-class families. Licea was a barber who wanted to portray the fictitious beauty salon of the Burrón family. The problem was that they could not find a loco to portray salon’s client. In the end, Ledesma said, they found a local drunk man, who portrayed the character—complete with a crazy haircut—in exchange for a bottle of tequila.

The first time the Cuadro Nuevo participated in the locos parade, the group had no name. They began their procession on calle Insurgentes with no direction in mind. People starting asking each other who this group of unfamiliar participants was and were told that it was a a “cuadro nuevo” (new team), which inspired Ledesma and his team to take it as their name.

The late Doña Angelita Martínez was the captain of this cuadro. She told Atención that the cuadros that danced to honor the saints always did it their own way, with no organization or route. At least 30 years ago, the parish priest of the Church of San Antonio called the cuadros together, asking them to get more organized for the annual celebration. That is how the first locos parade occurred, and it has grown from then on.

 

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