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Carnivals and Volcanoes

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Before I arrived in San Miguel I had never heard of Divine Mercy, an image of Jesus promising anything can be forgiven and anything is possible.  Suffice to say the Jesus of my Catholic grade school (aptly named The Holy Name of Jesus) was a tad more foreboding and frightening.

When you see blue and red ribbons on a lapel here in town that is reminding folks of the image of Divine Mercy a Polish nun experienced just before the start of World War 2.  The blue is water, red blood, both coming from Jesus’ heart reminding all of total forgiveness and endless possibilities.  This image is in every church in town and is celebrated the Sunday after Easter.

Yet, there is another Divine Mercy image here in central Mexico.  Visually it is Jesus on the cross and celebrated the Sunday before Lent starts and this year I lucked out being able to visit carnivals to start the Easter season on both sides of the Picacho mountains.

Jalpa boats
Jalpa dog

One festival was off the road to Querétaro I stumbled upon after visiting Jalpa.  Jalpa is a village in a valley of three extinct volcanoes around a spring fed lake. During the Inquisition wheat was grown here in support of the silver mines.  The ancient aqueduct system crisscrosses the mountains with one of two grinding stones lying in the churchyard while another is rumored to be at the bottom of the lake.

In 1810 Ignacio Perez spent the night in Jalpa on his ride to warn Ignacio Allende and Miguel Hidalgo of the approaching Spanish army.  The revolution is believed to have been delayed one day because of a fiesta in Jalpa that detained Senor Perez.

Jalpa fell into ruins after the revolution until the1970’s when Texan and Mexican gamblers flew their amphibian planes to village’s lake to play poker at the old hacienda.

Today you enjoy lake breezes while marveling at the church that dominated the area.  The ruins of the rectory (home where the priests lived) reveal Colonial era bucolic living for a half dozen clergy.

Nearby in the small village of La Viznaga del Jaral is a tiny chapel to Divine Mercy.  The Sunday before Ash Wednesday the chapel is decked out to the hilt with flowers, rides, fireworks and food to explode with energy before the serious business of Lent starts up. As if all the flowers weren’t impressive enough a sign announced who contributed how much to the floral bounty. Considering how far out in the county I was, I was truly impressed by both the donations and arrangements.

Climb a 30 minute mountain trail across an extinct volcano to enter the village of Purgatory on the other side of the mountains.  As the edge of an ecosystem, the Celaya side of the mountain is more lush hosting another chapel to Divine Mercy in the village named Purgatory.  Here thousands of folks visited to shop, eat, enjoy free concerts and venerate Jesus for his acts of mercy and miracles also on the weekend before Lent begins.

All that activity is nothing compared to frenetic energy of children and teens busting loose.  Here in San Miguel we crack eggs on each other in the jardin.  Purgatory, being, a precursor to Hell, is tougher featuring actual eggs and shaving cream sprayed on each other.  Teen gals with shampoo ad worthy hair sacrifice their locks in hopes of gaining the attention of certain boys.

So put on your carnival attitude and visit villages on both sides of our extinct volcanoes honoring images of Jesus reminding one of endless forgiveness and limitless possibilities.

by Joseph Toone



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 HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.


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