Dancing in the New Faith
Look for native dancers in front of the Parroquia from dawn until dusk the first Friday of March, a tradition spanning over 400 years. The dancers are venerating El Señor de la Conquista, a 1575 statue of Christ housed in the Parroquia that was carried by two Franciscan friars, Fr. Francisco Doncel and Fr. Pedro de Burgos, who came to San Miguel to convert the rebellious and barbaric Chichimeca. The friars were killed on the road to town near the colonia named for them, Los Frailes.
A mural of the attack is featured in the Parroquia.
The life-sized Jesus statue the friars carried with them was meant for the Parroquia to celebrate the fact that San Miguel was recently declared the first official town in the Americas by the Spanish crown. The statue was made in the state of Michocan and left behind on the road by the Chichimecas.
Once recovered, the European looking Jesus was altered with the paste from ground orchid bulbs to appear more native looking and darker skinned. Mirrors were applied to Jesus’ cross to reflect the notion that the same Jesus was savior to both the Spanish and local Chichimecas. It was a huge step in helping to convert Chichimecas to the Roman Catholic faith and resides inside the Parroquia.
Dancers who enter the Parroquia the first Friday of March take 33 steps, one for each of the years of Jesus’ life, to the image and then take 33 steps backwards to leave.
Scores of dancers from all around Mexico don elaborate pre-Hispanic costumes, complete with plumed headdresses and other indigenous garb reflective of what the great Aztec, Mayan and Toltec emperors and warriors wore. At this, the start of the food growing season, dancers perform for most of the day in front of the Parroquia to help ensure prosperity for all. They begin following a 6:00 am mass that celebrates the spiritual conquest of the dancers through their faith in Jesus Christ.