Sunday was the rehearsal for the upcoming festivities of St. Michael’s feast day coming up in late September. The procession was long and fascinating, laced with symbolism including the dead, Jesus’ crucifixion buddy and a master of ceremonies not long for this world.
Starting at the neighborhood of Las Cuevitas (the caves) behind the bus station, the indigenous dancers and mojigangas (large paper mache puppets) approached the cross there asking to begin the procession.
Then they’ll dance (how the indigenous pray) up to the church of St. Michael’s (Parroquia). Here they pray at the cross left behind by the Jesuits when they were forced to flee Mexico in 1767.
At the cross they address Saint Dimas, the good thief. Dimas died on the cross alongside Jesus and is the only person known for sure to be in Heaven since Jesus tells him he’ll see Dimas in Heaven later that day. Pilgrims address Dimas to ask for permission to steal a bull since Dimas was the good thief. (Gespas, the bad thief, was on the other side of Jesus and poked fun at his expense. Consequently, Gespas is not mentioned as being in Heaven.)
In today’s world the bull is given the procession by a local family, but the tradition of asking St. Dimas’ permission continues. Historically the bull led the procession wearing the spices, vegetables and chilies he’ll later be prepared with, though today he simply carries lightweight paper flowers.
Next the procession goes to the old cemetery behind San Juan de Dios church to include the Spanish dead there in the celebrations. The Chichimeca dead were previously included back at the Parroquia which was built upon the Chichimeca graveyard.
Lastly the procession returns to the start and preparation of the meal/master of ceremonies commences and the dancers have their fill of meat.
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