Actors in San Miguel
One of my favorite ex-pats is a brilliant lawyer that shares my love of hiking around the countryside. We’ve enjoyed many discussions and she’s introduced me to some lovely traditions in particular in regards to starting the Christmas season.
So I was surprised come Easter my pal asked me to confirm that folks in the Holy Week processions were hired actors bused into town to entertain the troops, I mean, tourists.
Wow, was I surprised. I can unequivocally say having been in Good Friday processions in town and pilgrimages for Easter in the countryside, no actors are bused in and no one is paid. Plus no one cares if there are tourists. It is fine if they observe, but if they disappeared tomorrow no one, in these type of events, would care.
When carrying Jesus in a procession I’ve see folks burst into tears. Others followed us like a devotional stalker the whole time. They truly are expressions of faith and gratitude, not tourist attractions in intent. That said, though drinks and food were free for participants there are food vendors also present at the end, rides for children and such. Not the stuff tourists are attracted to but to the 6 year old walking with me this Easter they were awfully enticing! (Nice distraction from the copious amounts of horse dung he endlessly asked me about. Cripes, horses never stop poohing!)
Simply remember that all these processions, fiestas and pilgrimages are sponsored by a person, or group of people. The Church gets paid to perform the mass or blessings, but don’t organize, nor sponsor, the activity. As a visitor or foreigner, you’re more than welcome to observe and enjoy, but don’t expect a certain start time, route or sequence of events. Faith, like life, history and culture, is organic. The priest falls off his bike en route the bike riding pilgrimage will be canceled. The family that sponsored the event in memory of their mother may have opted to support a celebration for St. Joseph’s day last week for their recently deceased father instead. The police have an emergency and can’t escort the pilgrims along the busy highway as anticipated. Anything can, and does, happen.
But don’t think any faith-based event involved paid actors to entertain the tourist. This is San Miguel, not Disney, Dollywood or Hershey Park with set parade routes and a tourism centric point of view.
Sidebar: Faith-based events are processions. A civic event, like a military day or kindergartners celebrating Spring, is a parade. A-0K for you to cross a parade. You cross a procession and that heavy statue loses a man or woman that will track you down like dog to publicly humiliate you. It is disrespectful to cross (pun intended) in front in God.
My point is get involved, learn more, have fun during every celebration in San Miguel. You, like me, will be amply rewarded for your efforts in ways you couldn’t imagine. But don’t be naïve. The folks participating aren’t actors, much less paid. If anything they pay to be able to publicly express their gratitude and faith, with their family, and celebrate the holidays. Hopefully you will too!