For the bulk of the last century the Fabrica La Aurora was the primary employer of San Miguel de Allende making the white muslin used in tennis shoes. You’d be hard pressed to not meet a long time resident of town whose father, grandfather, uncles and cousins didn’t once work there. You’ll often learn of their early deaths from cancer obtained at work in the days long before worker safety was an issue.
The looms, spindles and machinery for weaving cloth came from Germany and can still be seen today among the high end art galleries and restaurants. Also still visible from most any point in town is the metal tube that brought water down from the dam in the Botanical Gardens to generate the electricity for the factory. Until recently a YouTube video featured a young lad walking down the canyon into town on the tube. Luckily he didn’t plunge to his death!
Today you can duck under the tube to enter the restaurant, Muro’s, in Colonial Obraje.
The factory closed in 1991 as increased competition from China made a Mexican textile factory obsolete. However, the impact of the factory lingers on in our local culture of fiestas most notably on St. Michael’s day.
In the early morning hours of St. Michael’s Day is the Alborada (dawn) which reenacts St. Michael and his angels (at the Parroquia) battling Satan and his minions (across the jardin) with fireworks. It is a loud and long battle that St. Michael always wins. It is an event unlike any other festival in San Miguel, both spiritual and somewhat terrifying to witness.
Surprisingly, the dawn battle of St. Michael in front of his namesake church is not an ancient tradition. Instead, it started in the mid-1920s as an opportunity for the various groups of Fabrica workers to celebrate with music, dance, fireworks and treats for the children while also taking time to say the rosary.
Even today, the early morning procession starts from the Fabrica to head toward the jardin. Plus during the weekend long celebrations processions featuring looms and spindles come to the jardin.
On St. Michael’s, and other fiestas throughout the year, you’ll see the paper stars being carried in circles on top of poles. The stars are in honor of Maria de la Luz, or Mary of the Light. Mary of the Light is an image of Mary aggressively saving a human from being consumed by a sea monster. She is the image of Mary patron to electricians.
The tradition of carrying the stars on poles came from Salvatierra in the 1920s when recently laid off factory worker found electrical jobs in San Miguel’s main factory.
Today the Factory’s monthly Art Walks are very popular, in particular the Day of the Dead event where folks come in Catrina costumes so life, or life after death, continues on at the Fabrica!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin