Appreciating Fiestas and Fireworks
The upcoming birthday of Mary is an interesting example of how history, culture and faith are living components of life in San Miguel determined by people, not the Church or government. Also how the culture is decidedly feminine, tactile and ritualistic.
Most are familiar with devotion to the Baby Jesus at his birth on Christmas but fewer foreigners know about devotion to Mary’s birthday on September eighth.
Baby Mary is an image of Mary that appeared to a nun in Mexico City in 1840. Baby Mary stressed it was important to celebrate her birth in much the same way we do Jesus’ on Christmas. The image of Mary as a baby is particularly helpful with babies and pregnancies. Each year there are women in the procession that have babies my age, yet they come back yearly to show appreciation to Mary in her long ago miracles.
Celebrations on the eighth of September include a procession held with a wide array of Infant Mary statues displayed, often in remarkable hand-made clothing. The procession ends at Plaza Civica where a mass is celebrated and there is a party with music, entertainment, flowers and food.
Folks will ask me nearly a year in advance what the route and timing is for the Baby Mary procession. I won’t know that until minutes before it starts as logistics are still being coordinated with the Lady of Loreto procession happening the same day.
There are other caveats also. Maybe the woman that sponsors Baby Mary and pays for the permits, bands, choir, priest, tamales, flowers, candy and alike (not to mention spending hours every day for weeks visiting families with intentions for Baby Mary), her father has died. So, instead of sponsoring Baby Mary, she used her funding to have a celebration on the feast of St. Joseph in honor of her father. Or, perhaps, a priest died that day in which case the focus is now on his funeral.
I’ve seen these actions baffle foreigners that lash out on clergy screaming “The paper says the parade was to start at 4 and it’s now 4:15!” First off, the priest doesn’t speak English. Secondly he doesn’t care about some paper as it isn’t his event, he’s paid to be there to say mass. If the pilgrims arrived late and need to rest, they will. A faith-based event is not same as an event at Dollywood or Disney with strict timing and sequencing.
So my advice is come out and enjoy Mary’s birthday, and all the celebrations of miracles San Miguel offers almost daily. To live in a town with ten times as many churches as a town our size normally does, and nearly daily expressions of gratitude, is simply too cool to be bogged down in logistics. Plus remember these fiestas are sponsored by your neighbors, not some giant institution, and they, and their traditions, deserve your respect!