Today I was at the nearly century old procession for Little St. Michael, hours before his huge weekend festivities begin, as small statues of St. Michael get carried from the old factory to his namesake church, the Parroquia.
I learned the event culminates the nine days of rosaries (a novena of prayer) that ends at the old factory, for a century the cultural, sports, music and employment center of San Miguel de Allende. It is the official start of a weekend of larger than life celebrations including the 4AM battle of St. Michael kicking the devil out of Heaven/jardin and hours of indigenous dancing bringing back their ancestors to their cemetery on which the Parroquia was built.
Most foreigners know of our big celebrations: St. Michael’s, Dia de Locos, Holy Week, Day of the Dead and alike and bring their pals down to celebrate. However, there is an appeal to our smaller celebrations, regardless if you are participating or simply observing. Like….
You’ll always learn something new.
I’ve been in town for a while and adore the history and culture, yet I learn new stuff every year. For example last Easter I came home from the big Good Friday procession reenacting Jesus’ trial and death bumping into another procession. One from the chapel on the hill name Calvary, for the hill Jesus died on, to the replica of Mary’s home in the Oratorio. Carried is the image of Mary being alone since Jesus has died, leaving her alone in this world for the following Saturday, until Jesus comes back on Easter Sunday.
Being in San Miguel I’ve learned to think of a lot events from Mary’s perspective (part of what makes Mexico’s history and culture feminine and compassionate). However, I never gave a moment of thought of how Mary got home from Jesus’ dying on the cross. The procession symbolizes the sadness of parent outliving their child and returning home alone.
You’ll get great photos.
Big events have big crowds. Show up at a smaller event as folks get ready and you’ll be ready for fascinating photos. Participants are always full of energy and fun at the start and have the time to pose and indulge your visual whims. During a procession folks are exhausted resulting in a different type of visual documentation.
You can be helpful.
Stand at a tight corner to guide the truck drivers around a curb-laden curve. Handy Andy is always appreciated.
Better yet, look up to stop said truck before paper flags or electrical wires bring the whole display on the trunk’s bed to the ground. Processions require an immense amount of logistics and sometimes it is your outside, over there, perspective, that is most helpful.
The tiny Satan pictured is my new best little buddy. Following the director’s orders, I tried to get him to lift his pitchfork up and down throughout the procession by having my thumb going up and down. Instead, he got really good as giving me the thumb’s up throughout the parade with one hand as his pitchfork hand stayed stock still.
You’ll be part of a group.
I grew up part of a large family, was a single parent to three kids and started a successful writing company filled with employees. Until retirement I can count on a hand the number of times I was ever by myself. It can throw one off to be retired with an abundance of me time. I enjoy it, but I still also enjoy being part of larger group working towards a larger cause. Processions and fiestas fulfill this need particularly when they aren’t so huge you’ll simply be a cog in larger machine. Plus today’s security strictly separates those in a huge procession from those watching in ways not possible in smaller ones. It’s great fun, in a small procession, to yank a stranger out of the crowd to dance and laugh for a moment with you.
Freedom of Movement
We’ve all been to large events in large venues be it concert hall or amusement park where it is hard to get around. Plus, with age, the notion of being somewhere with a lot of young, drunk men loses its appeal and we say goodbye to Spring Break in Daytona Beach. Not to mention, depending on your sheer physicality, the notion of being a tiny person in a big crowd is rather scary. Small processions and fiestas allow freedom of movement to take photos, dance, and perhaps, most importantly, leave any time you take the fancy to.
Big or small, long or short, well or sparsely attended, all celebrations in San Miguel hold a certain appeal. It is up to you to pick and choose which make you the most happy.
by Joseph Toone