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Spring Returns to Juárez Park

P Candelaria2

P Feria de la Candelaria

P Feria de la Candelaria1

P Feria de la Candelaria2

The Candelaria Fair will be the final event in Juárez Park until planned renovations are complete

By Jesus Aguado

Each year, spring comes early to Benito Juárez Park, as locals converge there with thousands of local, native plants that fill the park’s paths with their colors and scents.

February 2 marks the celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria (a holiday often simply referred to as “Candelaria.” The Candelaria Fair, an annual plant fair in the Jardín that takes place January 30–February 10, is held in the Virgin’s honor.

This fair will be the last event to be held in Juárez Park before it’s closed for restoration, said Director of Public Works and Infrastructure Antonio Soria.

History to preserve

Candelaria is a holiday that mixes both Catholic and pre-Hispanic spring fertility rituals related to the sowing of seeds. In February each year, seeds are blessed (either with a pre-Hispanic ritual or a Catholic one).

February is also the month of dahlias, begonias and gladiolas, flowers that welcome spring. Also this is when the seeds of tubers, like radishes and carrots, as well as cruciferous vegetables are sown. And it’s the time of year when Sanmiguelenses decorate their balconies with seasonal flowers and everyone buys seeds, flowerpots, soil, and gardening tools, engaging in family traditions that have been passed on for generations.

It’s in this context that the Candelaria Fair happens. This tradition goes back decades, started by two families—that of the plant grower and distributor, Bruno Galicia, originally from Cuautla, Morelos, and by the Morales family of plant growers from Puebla.

Both families took part in seasonal flower fairs and in Januarys were in Leon, Arturo Morales told Atención. He knew the Galicia Family well, he said, adding that after January, both families decided to come to San Miguel and were granted permission to sell their plants in the Jardín. They set up at one of the Jardín’s main gates.

It happened that when the plant sellers came into town, it was February 2, and as other vendors began to sell plants there too, the event grew into the Candelaria Fair. As the plants sales grew, vendors required more space. Eventually, the location was changed from the park’s main gates to the park of the Jardín, and much later to Juárez Park.

In the past, participating vendors donated ornate plants to better the public gardens as a sort of in-kind payment for use of the park; now they pay a tax in order to participate.

Enriching rituals

This year’s fair opened yesterday on January 31, and will remain open through Sunday from 8am to 10pm. Review the cultural program in Que Pasa’s Events and Festivities section for more details.

Another tradition that is celebrated each year during this weekend is Velación (the Vigil). It has many connections to San Miguel de Allende’s original peoples and what San Miguel once was, and celebrates the night before Candelaria with a ritual steeped in pre-Hispanic tradition.

Tonight, on February 1, cocheros (i.e., coach drivers or charioteers) from the Valle del Maiz community, led by Sanmiguelense Gerardo Estrada, will rendezvous at 10pm (as they have done since 2006) right next to the Juárez Park Cross in order to pay tribute to the Candelas Virgin but also to pay tribute to their ancestors. During the night, they sing praises, play pre-Hispanic music, and weave together the flowers that will be used to decorate the park.

Stewards from 10 indigenous communities join their cochero brothers, accompanied by their animas—small wooden crosses that guard the souls of their ancestors, who are summoned and petitioned for the festivities to take place without any major problems. The Holy Cross is also asked to ensure a problem-free event, said Estrada.

The Velación then begins with a holy petition for permission to carry on. That is done by placing a spoon ornament on the floor, along with a candle. Afterwards tallow candles are lighted at each cardinal point. Other ancestors’ names are given to the ancestors of the animas, who will be in charge of taking the request to God. When the candles are consumed (at nearly morning on February 2), it signals that the message was delivered. At the same time, praises are sung along with mandolin music. In the end, the ornaments are placed on the Holy Cross and the singing continues.

The blessing of the seed, Arturo Morales Tirado told us, is done because pre-Hispanic natives were guided by the solar calendar and knew that on that date the seed that was harvested last year should be blessed in order to create more life. Later it got mixed with Catholicism and coincided on dates connected with the Virgin of Candelaria, a pre-conquest Catholic tradition brought over by the Spanish.

Almost 30 years ago, Gerardo Estrada inherited from his father the pre-Hispanic custom of blessing the seeds and explained that this consists of “asking God to bless the seeds presented (people can take their own seeds) because they create life and fruit. They sing a special praise to the four winds and through incense, the message is carried to God.”

The blessing is carried out on Friday, February 2, at 11am, preceded by the blessing to local plants  at 10am by the pastor of the Parroquia San Antonio de Padua.

Yet another Candelaria tradition

On February 2, according to Catholic religion, 41 days from the birth of the Holy Child have elapsed. February 2 also concludes a 40-day period in which Catholic women are supposed to remain in their homes to purify themselves. As a devotional act during this period, some Catholic women also care for a life-sized figurine of the Baby Jesus during those 40 days. During this period, the woman buys Baby Jesus new clothes. The faithful usually dress like doctors, nurses, lawyers, and the most daring, like lucha libre fighters. The figurine of the Baby Jesus is taken to church in baskets accompanied by flowers, fruit, or candy.

On February 2, Candelaria, they must present the figurine to the temple to be baptized. This recreates the Virgin Mary taking Jesus to Simeon’s church for baptism, which the Candelaria Virgin is said to represent. Catholic tradition says that Simeon told Mary that “Jesus would be “the light that will shine over the Gentiles and will be the glory of Israel.”

The Candelaria Virgin is represented by an image of the Virgin carrying the Baby Jesus in her right hand and a candle in her left.

The Holy Child and the tamales

In México, Candelaria  is also the date on which Nativity scenes in people’s homes are typically taken down. This date also comes with the promise of tamales and atole: for on January 6, Three Kings Day, families and friends ate a Rosca de Reyes bread (Three Kings Day bread). The bread is embedded with small figurines representing the Baby Jesus, in remembrance of the slaughter of Jewish children by the biblical King Herod. Any person who ends up with a figurine in their portion of the bread must then provide tamales and atole on Candelaria to all present at the eating of the Rosca de Reyes.

The tamales are a uniquely Mexican addition to the Candelaria feast day tradition, since tamales and atole are both made with corn—seed that, in accordance with their solar calendar, native peoples here blessed each year with rituals on February 2.

 

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