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Tradition, the Illusion of Permanence

by sanmigueltimes
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A traditionalist is one interested in preserving, through participation, the cultural traditions of an area and San Miguel is full of them, both traditions and traditionalists!  The centuries-old traditions of San Miguel are a major component in our thriving tourism industry and a huge part of the fun of living here.

I know, I know, this is when you picturing doddering old men, fussy spinsters, and clueless clergy trying not to change with the times but you are way off the mark.

Take Joaquin Sierra Rangel for example.  In his early twenties, Joaquin is my go-to source for what is going on this weekend and why.  A former Oratorio, Joaquin volunteer teaches children both the songs sung here during Holy Week for five hundred years and how to make the stars used in most ever procession honoring Mary.  Joaquin’s favorite celebrations are for St. Michael’s day.  Adoring the traditions of St. Michael’s feast day so much he, like most traditionalists, has written a book explaining the celebrations.

Another modern traditionalist is Eva Luz Villalon Turrubiates, teacher extraordinaire and author of her hometown’s traditions, nearby Salamanca.  I adore having Eva’s students on a tour as they are that rare mix being both courteous and fun-loving!  Eva, and her partner in traditional crimes, her mother, organize the International Story Telling Festival each year in Parque Juarez.  It’s an honor to be included.  Plus Eva is my go-to source for obscure questions and she always knows the answer!  No small feat in this town.

Some folks are traditionalists for specific events.  For example, one pal continues her mother’s tradition of honoring Mary as a baby the eighth of each month by getting folks together to pray.  Then on September 8thMary’s actual birthday, she’ll pay for and organize the big procession for Baby Mary laden with marching bands, police escorts, and dozens of Baby Mary carrying folks in a baby’s finest clothes.  They’ll arrive on Plaza Civica and following a mass, celebrate Mary’s birthday with food, flair, and the power of the feminine.

When posters line the street of San Francisco with photos featuring cultural movers and shakers you’re bound to see many folks labeled Traditionalists.  In addition, their former homes and streets often are labeled for them.

Sidebar:  Recognize the Fr. Anemziur’s name?  No worries, no one does as it is simply the name of Mena Ruiz backwards!

Some erroneously assume all clergy are traditionalists.  Some are.  For example Fr. Jacob Aranaz documented many of the town’s traditions in his book.  But many clergies aren’t, making keeping the older traditions alive a bit cumbersome since most are faith-based events.  From a priest’s perspective, more money can be made from hosting a destination wedding than saying a mass for a no longer very popular saint or Virgin.

Having long been fascinated by our town’s traditions I’ve written ten Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Culture and Traditions and am thrilled to participate in any event going on that day.  However, you don’t need to be a performer to be part of a centuries-old tradition and let’s face it, pasty people like me would look silly doing indigenous dancing. 

Often I’ll simply pick a spot in the procession’s route where a low hanging branch or difficult curb presents a problem.  Float drivers and riders appreciate the head’s up when the truck is about to go canter wonk. 

During other processions, I’ll simply walk alongside the float filled with toddlers to ensure no one makes the leap to freedom and toddles away into the crowd.  Hugely unnecessary as Mexican children follow the command “Sit and stay” better than my dog but they do seem to appreciate my company.  Other days you can be the person helping the ladies hoist bottled waters to keep the dancers hydrated.

My point is you don’t need to be a performer to perform a worthwhile task in keeping traditions alive while having fun!

by Joseph Toone

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