Since moving to Mexico in late summer I have been having a lot of fun making discoveries about all this place has to offer. As an artist and an avid horse aficionado I have delights out the whazoo. I caught wind of an event to take place during the jam packed variety offered throughout the weeklong festivities surrounding the celebrations honoring the patron Saint of the town we live near, San Miguel de Allende. Some of the guys who have been helping us fixing up our house have horses, a couple of which have stayed on our property from time to time, told us they were going to ride the six miles from our village to the center of the city to be blessed in front of the big, beautiful church there.
Blessing of the Horses + Vaqueros
They call it “Perigrinacion de los Caballos” or The Blessing of the Horses. Vaqueros and vaqueras (cowboys and cowgirls) saddle up their mounts and without fanfare nor affected showmanship, ride from their ranchitos or campos (ranches or fields). I know what showy tack and riding gear look like and though beautiful to the eye, it’s not necessarily very practical, so I had a wonderful time observing all the normal every-day riding gear.
Imagine a stream of horses two abreast on ancient cobblestone streets under colorfully waving flags gaily bouncing back and forth overhead in between brightly painted historic buildings for as far as the eye can see this way and that way. In the background you hear a band jubilantly blasting joyful mariachi music from a gazebo as the clattering of thousands of iron-shod hooves make their way with various rhythmic staccato beats depending on the enthusiasm of the mount. They pass you, each horse and rider team fascinating in their own right, towards a church so architecturally magical as to appear straight off the drawing board of one of the imagineers at Disney Productions.
The Parroquia de San Miguel de Arcangel is a sight to see completely in its own right, but skirted with hundreds and hundreds of horsemen it becomes something of the mythic for this passionate horse lover. Horses and riders begin to converge in front of a raised platform where the smiling priest, obviously enjoying his day’s work, waits to offer them his mightiest blessing from St. Martin, the patron saint of horses and their riders.
Details + Observations
I was thrilled to see a great many of the horses being ridden bitless. There was even one vaquero mounted on probably one of the strongest and most tractable burros in the entire state of Guanajuato who was going perfectly willingly and well with just an untouched rope around his neck; a typical crowd pleasing moment in any demonstration of excellence in natural horsemanship is when the rider takes off the horse’s saddle and bridle and ride around the arena ‘at liberty’, this guy was riding through this chaotic, action-packed situation with his arms folded and his burro doing his thing with grace and aplomb.
This amazing scene gets repeated every year. If you’re a horse lover or just appreciate amazing situations, I suggest you look into being in San Miguel for this event next year. Bookmark this site to see what appeals to your senses. Not only will you experience this gorgeous parade but you’ll be here during a whole host of other colorful celebrations.
And There Was so Much More to See!
We had absolutely no idea what was in store for us after what we had just seen, but after the horses left the jardin in the city centro, people started parading into the area with happy, colorful puppets on top of ten foot tall bamboo sticks. They danced gaily into the promenade in front of the Parroquia and then guys smoking cigarettes took them one by one and lit their hidden fuses sending each into paroxysms of crazy spirals atop their flimsy pedestals and >BOOM< they exploded one ear popping bang after another showing paper mache body parts and the trinkets that had been attached to each one down upon the kids all scrambling for booty below.
But…..The Batteries Had Died
….on our cameras because shortly after this occurred, four guys climbed upon a forty foot pole and started flying around at the end of ropes strapped onto their legs in mesmerizing lunacy with roots deeply embedded in spiritual meaning. It was the famous Voladores de Papantla, the Papantla Flyers, set up their pole in the esplanade in front of the church and perform their gut-wrenching feat several times throughout the weekend. And after that a parade of some of the most fabulous dancers in spectacular outfits each an amalgam of cultures: Aztec, Native American (remember, Mexico is a part of the Americas) and Catholiscm with a smattering of French, Spanish and hip hop influence noisily wended their way around the jardin in a parade that stretched at least three miles long.
The celebration of the feast of San Miguel is one crazy-awesome spectacle-packed event! From what I observed it was a series of parties and parades by the people for themselves, so it had a real down-home, neighborhood feel. I saw only the most minimal of anything commercial associated with any of the celebrations, which tells me this is heartfelt, deeply meaningful stuff for the people involved. There were just the regular ice cream and balloon toy vendors mingling in with the onlookers and celebrants. I found this wonderfully refreshing. These were activities sponsored by meaning and not corporations.