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Weekend in the Country

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As folks living in San Miguel we tend to assume San Miguel is the epicenter of the fiestas and fireworks.  Often we don’t realize the countryside offers similar alternatives to the same saints and Virgins in festivals and are often even more festive than what happens in town with some witchcraft thrown in for good measure.

Take this past weekend when I ventured into the countryside to see festivals celebrated in town both in the past and future.

On Friday we had the festival of Lord of Conquest, celebrating when the indigenous tribe of hunter gathers stopped fighting the Spanish after decades.  It is an all day celebration of indigenous dancers in front of Parroquia thanking their ancestors for joining the, then, new faith.

Travel down by the dam that forms the large lake beside town into the town of La Huerta (orchard) known as home to the oldest tree in the area.  Here one of the local churches named in honor of the Lord of Conquest hosts day long mechanical rides, food and fun.  Like here in town folks bring tall offerings of bread thanking Jesus for his help.

The difference in La Huerta is Jesus, along with bread, enjoys beer, wine, whiskey and an ample amount of Pepsi.  I had long assumed Jesus was a drinker (what with the turning water into wine trick at that wedding) but I hadn’t realized he was a serious drinker judging by the sheer quantity of booze offered him.  Lucky for him steps away from the booze laden church is the local site for AA meetings which may come in handy for the Son of God after a lost weekend like this.

Up the mountain from La Huerta is Calderon which is a more forward thinking indigenous community having a rehearsal party for the festival to the Sacred Cross coming in May.

Again, we here in town think of May’s festival of the cross to be an in-town event as each of the four oldest neighborhoods venerate their oldest cross with parties, concerts and processions.  However, the whole month starts May 3rd at Calderon where the original cross appeared in sky on the feast of Mt. Michael giving town the name San Miguel until present day.

As most of the big festival organizers in town know, it is best to start with a practice procession party a month or so in advance so Calderon is doing the same complete with pick-up truck loads of food and dancers.  Meanwhile pilgrims on bikes pedal away to reach the mountain top to join the party.  (Between the steep incline and fast traffic alongside them you know these are serious bikers/pilgrims.)

In Calderon you can view wax left behind from recent Dark Art ceremonies.  The wax today I wasn’t quite sure if was yellow or brown.  Brown is for animal issues while yellow covers money problems.  All I know for sure was the aroma of copal was omnipresent, inviting ancestors to come join the fun.  As always I bring the lead witch my homemade cookies as only as idiot doesn’t show respect for what they, or I, don’t totally understand.

My point is, venture into the country to see variations on what we do here in town.  Few foreigners realize that nearby are expressions of faith and appreciation that can often be even more moving than what we are use to here in town.


Joseph Toone

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