Rehearsal for the festivities of St. Michael’s feast day which comes up in late September, have started in SMA . The rehearsal procession is itself long and fascinating laced with symbolism, including the dead, Jesus’ crucifixion buddy and a bullish master of ceremonies, who was not long for this world either.
The procession starts near the bus station in the neighborhood of Las Cuevitas (the caves). There the indigenous dancers and mojigangas (large paper mache puppets) started their trek. They danced up to the church of St. Michael’s (la Parroquia). Dancing is how the indigenous pray and they did so 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. He is the only person who we known for sure to be in Heaven, since Jesus told him that he’ll see Dimas in heaven later that day. Pilgrim 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 leads the procession, as a sort of master of ceremonies, wearing the spices, vegetables and chilies with which he’ll later be cooked. However, today he simply carries lightweight paper flowers.
The procession also visits 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 it’s starting point and there, after the preparation of the meal, the bullish master of ceremonies is ready for all the dancers all have their fill of meat.
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.