Nov-Dec Ajijic Fiestas 2012
By the time you read this, Dia de los Muertos will already be finished, but the beat goes on, especially this time of year!
The next big National Holiday in Mexico is Dia de Revolucion, on November 20, which celebrates the French-style revolution of the highly oppressed poor against the rich and corrupt rulers only 100 years ago, at which time Mexico began a semblance of democracy and equality. The legal holiday is Monday, Nov. 19.
If you liked the Dia de Independencia parade on Sept. 16, you'll also love the Dia de Revolucion parade which features several bandas, charros, local futbol teams doing human pyramids, martial arts teams, and many kids and teens wearing Revolutionary era traditional costumes complete with fake guns and ammo, performing various routines. Adorable little boys will have moustaches painted on the faces with their moms' black eyeliner pencils.
The parade starts at 9:30 on the usual Fiesta (Patrias) Parade route - lower Calle Revolucion at Calle Constitucion (at the bottom of the tianguis), heading west to Calle Ocampo and to 6 Esquinas and looping back on Calle Hidalgo to the Ajijic Plaza where the fun will continue throughout the afternoon with food, refreshments, dancing horses, music, martial arts exhibitions, and lots of cheerful, exuberant kids running around spraying each other with foam and pelting each other with confetti filled eggshells, a time-honored tradition here. It's great fun just to watch all the fun!
Since the San Andres Fiesta starts the very next day, the preview Procession de los Alegoricos (a procession of floats with Biblical themes) will actually happen on the 21st, also, around 4-5pm, starting at the back of the San Andres Church on Calle Galeana, up to Guadalupe Victoria, down Aldama to Constitucion and Ocampo and back to the San Andres Church- an unusual confluence of celebrations of a National holiday and a local Patron Saint's day on the same day! This is so only in Mexico!! Actually, only in Ajijic. I love it! You can spend the whole day celebrating with the people, as well as celebrating your great good fortune to be in this enchanted village.
Here is a slideshow of last year's Dia de Revolucion parade, or desfile: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/579066026OVMPPv
Not to miss a beat, the biggest event of the year in Ajijic - the San Andres Fiesta - starts Thursday, the 22! There will be morning, noon, and night cohetes (sky rockets), church bells. and possibly bandas in the streets to announce the Masses that will be held. Various processions will proceed from different neighborhoods on different days, at different times of the day, depending. Patron Saint Fiestas are funded and organized by different groups of the townspeople each day, and each will have their own unique presentation. Each night, there will be procession to the church at 6:30 for the 7pm Mass. The last night of the fiesta is sponsored by the Absent Sons - those who have gone to the US to work and send money home to their families, and is always the biggest night of the fiesta with the plaza packed with young adults who haven't seen each other in a while - a very joyous occasion.
Nov. 22 is the feast day of Saint Cecelia, patron of music, so there will be extra classical and other music performances at the church in the evening. The excitement gradually builds every night until the actual Feast Day of San Andres on November 30.
There will be street closures during the fiesta around the plaza and church to accommodate various vending stands and kids' rides. The Calle Zaragoza bus will not be dropping into town; you'll need to go to the carretera to catch the westbound bus.
Each night starting around 8 or 9pm after the evening Mass, from the 22nd to the 30th, the feast day of San Andres, there will be bandas performing in the plaza for your dancing pleasure, food, drinks, rides, and a different castillo will be constructed and lit each night around 10:30 or 11 in front of the church along with with more fireworks. Castillos are structures like scaffolding which will be wired with many sizzling, spinning, sparkly things. They defy description - you simply have to see them; during the afternoons, they will be under construction by fearless young men - a fascinating sight to see in itself. Then the music and dancing usually continue past midnight.
The whole event is off the Richter scale of fun, especially at night. If you don't live right in Ajijic, be aware that the above is the standard Patron Saint Fiesta routine for every Catholic Church and/or town in Mexico. These fiestas are attended by most of the people in town - all ages, from babies to kids, to teens and young adults, to parents and honored grandparents. There is wonderful family fun for people of all ages! Babies and toddlers often sleep in the plaza right in their parents' arms while the bigger kids enjoy the festivities.
Here is a slideshow of last year's San Andres Fiesta, which includes short videos as well as still pictures, taken over a period of days in the pre-dawn hours, morning, noon, and night: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/579226225BmfgK
Four days after the San Andres Fiesta is over, the 9-day Fiesta de Guadalupe starts in the Guadalupe parish on the west side of town near 6 Esquinas. It concludes on December 12, which is Guadalupe Day all over Mexico, as the Virgin of Guadalupe is the Patron Saint of all of Mexico, and loved and revered by nearly all Mexicans. The above mentioned Fiesta schedule will be happening in the 6 Esquinas area for 9 days, with a final procession around town on the 12th. This procession starts at the Guadalupe Church, heads east on Calles Ocampo y Constitucion, up Calle Galeana to Calle Zaragoza, and back to 6 Esquinas for the rousing last night of the fiesta complete with bandas, castillos, and fireworks. Calle Ocampo will be closed down at night for the fiesta activity.
Our neighboring town, San Juan Cosala has even a larger Guadalupe procession and fiesta (one night only on the 12th), which is attended by most of the people in the town. The procession includes many Azteca danzantes, who dance in front of the church while the Mass is being held, with a fiesta afterwards in the plaza. The people of San Juan go all out with many large and lovingly decorated altars in front of many houses. A walk around town in the evening will be most pleasurable as many Guadalupe altars are decorated with Christmas style little lights, flowers, and banners.
The adoration of "La Virgin" in Mexico seems to be greater and deeper than that for Jesus, judging by the number of fiesta days for all the various Virgins, who are all manifestations of the Mother of Jesus. She is the only goddess of the Western World! The news of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe spread throughout the native communities independent of the Catholic church structure, as this event happened only about 10 years after the Spaniards arrived.
Here is a slideshow of last years Guadalupe Processions in Ajiic and Fiesta in San Juan: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/579313417PZCHUL
A few days after Guadalupe Day on the Dec. 12, the 9 Christmas Posadas will start. These posadas are smaller processions which re-enact the trek of the pregnant Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay to have their Precious Baby Jesus. Each of the posadas will occur in certain neighborhood (the schedule posted in front of the church). Mary and Joseph will be played by pre-teen kids riding on a donkey, followed by many other kids and parents, many dressed in Biblical era costumes. They will go to several houses and sing traditional songs, but will be turned away - "There's no room at the inn" - as described in the Bible. Finally, they will reach their designated destination for that evening where the family will invite the whole group in for refreshments, songs, and pinatas, and the party will go on into the evening. This is the primary way that Mexican kids celebrate Christmas.
In True Mexican Tradition, Christmas is actually celebrated on Christmas Eve (called Noche Buena) with a very special 7pm Mass at the San Andres church which will have several "live crib scenes" with adorable kids and teens playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, outside in the atrium for your viewing enjoyment. After the evening Mass, people go home to have their own family and/or block parties around town, complete with bonfires in the street to ward off the evening chill, and refreshments, music, pinatas, and dancing into the wee hours. I was fortunate enough to attend one of these events last year and it was so much fun. I walked home at 1am, perfectly safe, as many families were still out in the streets with their own parties.
Here is a slideshow of my Ajijic Christmas last year with the traditional Noche Buena at the church, a Mexican block party at night, and an elegant Northern Culture dinner party the next day. This party was also so exuberant and fun with live music, that I thought the Mexicans would start complaining about the noise - ha, ha! What a wonderful Christmas it was! You can have it both ways here, celebrating both the traditional Mexican and the Northern style Christmas: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/579363258KxLqDB
There are no public fiestas for Christmas, and on the very day, the 25th, most Mexicans are eating leftovers and resting up from the night before. Schools and public offices are closed down for two weeks over Christmas, and it is an important vacation time for Mexicans. Many Mexican Americans will be down to visit, and there will be more traffic, but all in good cheer. Mercifully, there is no "Christmas shopping" rush, as that is not a part of Mexican culture.
New Year's Eve is celebrated here like Christmas Eve, although the family/block parties often actually go until dawn with music, food, drinks, and dancing. There will be midnight fireworks emanating from the church.
In all these events, the Amazing Acoustics of Ajijic provide a wonderfully rich, resonant echo of the fireworks and music throughout the town as the sound waves bounce between the lake and the steep hills. If you are too tired to go out, just visit your patio or mirador, and you can enjoy the cacaphony of a hundred house parties floating through the air, while having drinks with a few friends, if you like. It would be most difficult to reproduce this unique soundtrack in a studio.
It's important to know that the whole purpose of the cohetes, the sky rockets, is to make noise to wake people up, especially for the morning Masses in all fiestas and to announce the beginning and end of processions. Later in the day or evening, they have religious significance as the explosive noise and light propels the prayers of the people to God. Whatever you do, please do not complain about "the noise" to any Mexicans. These are all very deeply held traditions that would not have survived if the people didn't truly enjoy them.
When you consider the tortuous and bloody history of Mexico, and how the people have survived centuries of oppression and still managed to forge a very cheerful and festive culture, also consider that it is bad form to complain about minor things.
That said, relax, go with the flow, and have a wonderful and joyous holiday season. There is no fun in the world like a Mexican fiesta!
January will bring new holidays and fiestas, but more about that later.