By Robert Glaze
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a magical time in San Miguel and is not to be missed if you are in town. Some events occur the week before Palm Sunday and continue through to Easter Sunday. Make sure to check out the full schedule in the Friday Atencion newspaper. My favorite events include:
Two Sundays before Easter Sunday, there is one of the most festive processions of the season. Senor de la Columna, or Jesus on the Column, is a statue that is normally found in Atotonilco. But on this Sunday the statue is carried all night from its permanent site arriving at the top of Avenida Independencia around 7 am. As fireworks explode overhead, the statue is carried, flanked by Roman soldiers and followed by the pilgrims who walk all night. Everyone proceeds down Independencia walking over beautiful sawdust alfombras (or carpets) that have been made by the residents or over chamomile flowers thrown in the street. The smell is amazing and very festive. The procession ends at San Juan de Dios church. Don’t miss this if you are in town.
The Friday night before Palm Sunday is one of my favorite nights in town. The Virgin of Dolores, or Our Lady of Sorrows, is celebrated with decorating all of the fountains in town and making home altars. You see these particularly in the older Mexican sections. You can enter the homes to see the altars which have the Virgin at the foot of Jesus on the cross. They use candles, wheat grass and oranges on the altars. Many are really over the top, while many are simple. There are families with children walking from home to home, gathering in the homes with their friends, enjoying the paletas (ice cream bars) and sweets handed out at each location. It is festive, peaceful and a wonderful experience. Though there are some in Centro, I recommend staying outside and heading north of the market, along Chorro and Baranca, in Colonia Guadalupe and in Colonia San Antonio. There were also some lovely ones on Prol. Aldama, south of Parque Juarez.
Everyone should experience Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in a place like San Miguel. Beginning with two main processions on Palm Sunday, there are also processions most days during the week.
On Wednesday, in addition to a large procession leaving from the Oratorio featuring a presentation of stations of the cross, one of my favorite local events is at San Juan de Dios. The statue of Senor de la Columna (mentioned above) is brought out again and paraded through the neighborhood. It is preceded by the delightful local children throwing rose petals on the street. The young girls, dressed in white, wear lovely angel wings.
On Thursday, everyone is out again visiting the traditional seven churches at night. There are also several Last Supper recreations. The crowds are large and the churches are beautifully decorated.
Good Friday features the trial of Christ in front of the Parroquia around noon followed by a procession in the Jardin. The highlight is the Funeral Procession late in the afternoon from the Oratorio. It is formal, somber and should be experienced at least once despite the crowds.
Saturday brings the Procession of the Virgin of Solitude, where women carry the statue from the Oratorio in the early evening. For the first time this year, I attended the mass at the church in San Antonio. It is held outside starting at 9 pm, and features a candlelight service ending in fireworks.
On Easter Sunday the big event is the blowing up of the Judases, in the Jardin at noon. Life size paper mache effigies of Judas are filled with fireworks and blown up in front of a large crowd. Many represent Mexican political figures, but the highlight this year was in the finale when an effigy of President Trump was blown up to thunderous applause and cheering.
The crowds get extremely large during the week. I recommend staying a little out of Centro and making your restaurant reservations early. There are plenty of new spots in other neighborhoods where you can avoid the tourists. But be prepared for the early morning fireworks that can often jar you out of a deep sleep at 6:30 am.
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