Thursday, November 28, 2013

San Andres Festival

The nightly procession to mass goes by our hotel nightly

In the distance, church bells ring, calling the devoted to 7 o'clock mass, and from the opposite direction of our cobblestone street, the sounds of shelling can be heard marking the beginning of the evening procession from Six Corners to the church.

As we wait each evening in the darkness, we hear the signature "fuiiiiit!", see the sparks shoot high into the sky, then the ending "boom" shakes the buildings and sends the animals rushing for safety.  The devices, cohetones, which resemble bottle rockets on major steroids, are thought to send evil spirits into hiding.  They may be right.

The procession leaves 6 Corners, three blocks or so from our hotel, and makes its way to the city center and the church, six blocks or so in the other direction.  Led by alter boys dressed in white robes, they are followed by the devoted, many carrying baskets of food.  The 9 days of celebration of the Ajijic city Saint, San Andres (Saint Andrew) are sponsored by area groups - the carpenters, the hotel owners, the agricultural workers and those who have left town.  One procession may be accompanied by a brass band, another by a drum corp.  A group is led by native dancers in costumes and feathers, yet another is silent except for the chanting from the priest and the echoing prayers of those walking with him.

The devoted carry candles, or offerings as they make the walk to church
One night, many of the walkers carried candles which were protected by large holders shaped like flowers.  They were followed by the accompaniment of a large Mariachi band playing guitars and violins.

The celebration of Ajijic's town Saint is the community's largest celebration of the year.  Spanning 9 days, the 'bombs' begin around 7 a.m. as the devoted head for morning mass.  At noon, the church bells ring and more explosions are heard.  At night, after mass, the town joins in celebration in the community square and the sounds of people enjoying food, games, carnival rides, beer gardens and pony rides mix with live music which is performed from the gazebo in the center of the square.

At 10:30 (give or take a few minutes or an hour - this is Mexico, after all!) the nightly fireworks display takes place in front of the church - the day's sponsors vying for the most spectacular display of the festival. 

In Mexico, life seems to be lived outside and festivals are a vital part of community life.  As one woman told me, "if we don't have a festival going on, we make one up!"

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