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Migrants to San Miguel Created the City’s Iconic Local Holiday




By Jesus Aguado

The Alborada (the dawn), is a mix of many traditions. It begins on Friday, September 27, at 9pm with an opening song—the mañanitas, the traditional birthday song sung in this case to St Michael the Archangel.

Then participants head toward one of three of the oldest neighborhoods in town to prepare for the real festivities. They either head to La Estación, El Valle, or the neighborhood where the alborada tradition began—La Aurora. There they enjoy live music and traditional Mexican food. This is also when people put the finishing touches on the giant paper stars (as well as comets, stars, suns, moons, and planets) that they have built for that night’s festivities. They are mounted on wooden poles made specifically for this event so that they can be carried through Centro and help announce the arrival of the new day.

At 2am, people from the three neighborhoods begin their procession toward the Jardín, where they will unite. People carrying their poles jump, sing happy songs, and dance to the rhythm of the bands marching with them. They are accompanied by mojigangas, pre-Hispanic dancers, and, above all, firecrackers. The procession that comes out of La Aurora goes along Calzada de la Aurora and calle Hidalgo. The parade from Estación goes along Calzada de la Estación and calle Canal. The procession from del Valle goes along Salida a Querétaro, calle San Francisco, and the Plaza Principal.

The three contingents eventually meet—minutes before 4am on Saturday, September 28, on the corner of Hidalgo, Canal, and Plaza Principal. After going around the Jardín three times, fireworks are set off at the atrium of the Parroquia and from the old Presidencia municipal building. This shower of fireworks goes on in the dark for a whole hour, with spectators in the Jardín right in the midst of this unceasing display of light. If you’re going to be in the middle of the Jardin during this hour-long event, you may want to wear something to protect your head and eyes from stray firework sparks.

Once the offering of light is finished and the dawn arrives, everyone disappears from the Historic Center; the best is yet to come.

According to the book Fiestas y Tradiciones de San Miguel de Allende, the alborada is a tradition started by the workers of the old Fábrica la Aurora, who had been moved from a textile factory in Salvatierra to San Miguel. In those days, in Salvatierra, the Virgen de la Luz—the Virgin of Light—was honored with an alborada. When the workers came to San Miguel, they substituted their virgin for the local favored version, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, or Purísima Concepción, in Las Monjas Church

Traditionalist Emigdio Ledesma, who worked in Fábrica la Aurora and is in charge of making more than 100 stars for this event, remembers the first time the event took place in San Miguel, on December 8, 1924, at the Purísima Concepción church. “The people were amazed at the giant stars (representing the light of the virgin of Salvatierra) and by the noise,” he said. Because of that, the mayor and Father Solis, who was in charge of the Parroquia at the time, invited the workers of the factory to celebrate the event once more but in honor of St Michael the Archangel. The alborada never returned to Las Monjas.


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