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Many, Many St. Joseph Days

by sanmigueltimes
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Today a pal contacted me to find out what all the early morning fireworks were about assuming I had the San Miguel Eight Ball that could answer all her questions.  Oddly enough, sometimes I do!  The pre-dawn fireworks were in honor of St. Joseph whose local chapel, St. Joseph of the Mountain, was celebrating being here for 225 years.

Back in 1793 when the chapel was built the Inquisition was in full swing and freedom from Spain was still in future.   Then the area that is now next to Balcones was considered a remote mountain top overlooking town.  The indigenous believed every mountain had its own deity so building a chapel on one for the most powerful saint and a patron to the town of San Miguel was natural.  Back then the area looked like the botanical gardens do today with a wide variety of cactus and little else.

The chapel was built on the Silver Route, the major North-South trail in the Americas taking the silver to Spain and bringing religious art, letters from Europe and luxuries like cast iron beds.  The wagon trains could stop at the chapel to Saint Joseph and pray for a successful voyage to Alcocer (behind today’s mall).  In Alcocer mules were traded out at the local hacienda before the caravan continued on towards Mexico City.

2018 has been a good local year for St. Joseph, the only saint revered enough to warrant two feast days.  His first was back on March 19th and when I went to mass that night at the church to St. Francis I was blinded by the light.  It took me a bit to realize all the chandeliers had been cleaned for the upcoming Holy Week and removing a year’s worth of dust and candle smoke made the church blaringly bright.


The church was packed as to this day baby boys are traditionally named Jose.  They often go by their middle names, or the nickname, Pepe.  Pepe is an abbreviation for the two words in Spanish for adopted father which is what St. Joseph was for Jesus.

Jose is also the name for the local rag doll the indigenous have made for centuries to pair alongside the Mexican Maria (for Mary) dolls.

The following week the chapel in Obraje had their St. Joseph celebrations leading a procession towards where the new hotel is being built.  Back before the chapel to St. Joseph on the Mountain was being built, this was where we had the big celebration to St. Joseph.  The street featured folks from the countryside carrying St. Joseph statues from their local chapel’s nativity to enjoy days of storytelling and dance.  For athletic fun chickens were buried up to their necks in the street and riders on horseback would gallop by and try to scoop them up.

The chapel on the zig-zag corner by the bridge featured a hand carved of statue of St. Joseph that was the center of festivities.  It was destroyed during the 1920’s Catholic war.

Instead of chickens and storytelling today’s processions feature indigenous dancing, large paper-mache puppets, music and many locos.

Be ready for the next big celebration for St. Joseph on May 1st.  Being the patron of laborers, his second feast day became the international date of Labor Day.  This is when I like to celebrate my feast day (I thought it was called feast day as when I was child it was only day I could pick anything I wanted for dinner).  Folks here have off work and are right ready to both dance and eat too much.  You know on the original Christmas Eve St. Joseph would have more enjoyed doing either rather than looking for room at an inn!


By Joseph “not the saint” 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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