Fiestas, January through Easter
January 1 New Year’s Day parade:
The parade is a fun parade with goofy floats and far out characters.
It Begins at 6 Corners around 12 noon going down o'campo then all over the village and ends up at the west Ajijic soccer field where there is a yearly futbal game between the seis esquinas rivals in the afternoon.
January 6 is Three Kings Day (Los Tres Reyes) in Mexico. This is the day the children get gifts and a collection is taken up a few weeks before so there will be plenty to go around.
The gifts are handed out at the Ajijic plaza and there are usually 3 kings handing out the gifts at approximately 6 pm. There is usually other activities going on in the plaza and maybe the malecon too.
Upper Ajijic, in the San Sebastian neighborhood, celebrates their saint, San Sebastian on January 20 th, there is a big celebration on the corner of Zapata and Marcos Castellanos and collections are taken up usually the previous week as this is an event sponsored by this neighborhood. If you would like contribute, donate at the tienda on Marcos Castellanos and Zapata which bears the mural of the saint.
A special mass is held at the small chapel in the plaza in the morning followed by a procession to the celebration neighborhood of San Sebastian along with his statue. Then there is traditional food and fun starting around 1pm. The procession returns to the church to take San Sebastian back to the church approximately 4pm with more fun with Zayacos and Azteca Danzate groups and food ending up at the small chapel. They leave the saints neighborhood via Zapata to Javier Mina, then up Guadalupe Victoria.
(Per Micki Wendt) "The Danzantes will dance in front of the Chapel while the banda enters to play hymns, highly amplified by the generous church acoustics. It is a true sound healing experience of intense jubilant good cheer! People carry flowers to the altar and the statue of San Sebastian is placed back in his regular spot. The good ladies of the barrio who put this all together will sing a few of their own original songs commemorating this event.
The crowd then proceeds back to the home corner where there will be a Cascarone mock battle – Cascarones being the decorated eggshells filled with confetti which are playfully utilized at fiestas and weekends. The fun continues into the night with a banda and dancing, delicious ponche de guayaba, and, of course, cohetes until about 11."
Feb. 2 is Dia de Candelaria, celebrated with a special Mass and family parties.
Feb. 6 is Dia de la Constitucion, which is a legal holiday, but there are no special parades or fiestas.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated here much as it is up north – a romantic day for lovers with gifts of chocolates and flowers, etc. (per Micki Wendt)
Mardi Gras is called Carnaval in Spanish- speaking countries. It literally means farewell to meat, carne val It falls this year on Tuesday, February 25th, 3 or 4 Sundays before Carnaval, there are small parades in the mornings around 10-11am on Ocampo and parades every the Saturday before Mardi Gras, beginning behind the San Andres church on Galeana,ending up at the Bull Ring on Revolucion.
There is also a night carnaval in Ajijic, the night of Mardi Gras. This is a special parade that is used to raise money for people who have sick relatives and need medical assistance. Food is sold in the Ajijic Main Plaza after the parade and there are usually bands and lots of fun to be had. The parade is similiar to the on in the daytime, except no flour is thrown. Instead they throw confetti and candy to the crowd. This special fundraising parade began more than 7 years ago by the Ramos Brothers who own Manix. This parade begins on Constitucion and Galeana, goes west to 6 corners and returns on Hidalgo at 6pm.
(Per Micki Wendt to the end of the article) The Zayacos, who play a big part in both the San Sebastian and Carnaval fiestas, stem from a pre-hispanic tradition that evolved after the arrival of the Spaniards. The men dress up in women's clothes for the purpose of making fun of what the natives considered pretentious Euro style clothing. The women were busy with their babies and kids, so men played their parts, as happened during the Shakespearean era as well
The Zayacos utilize their creative flair by making their own masks. Blonde and red wigs seem to dominate. Their dresses are stuffed with balloons and/or inflatable balls to fill out the feminine, ahem, curves, to a most humorous effect, bouncing around when they dance. Half of the Zayacos dress as old men with long beards to partner the Zayacas when dancing. Don't kid yourselves, these are Real Men - they even mend their dresses with duct tape!
All the Zayacos and Zayacas carry shoulder bags filled with flour and confetti, which they fling at the kids who taunt them in a spirit of more humorous mock fights.
The pre-Carnaval parades are as much fun as the Big One, having all the elements – bandas, kids, Zayacos, flour fights, and cowboys – everything except the floats. The pre-Carnaval parades start around 11pm. There will also be Charro (cowboy) Association events in the afternoons after the parades, featuring excellent Norteno style musical groups in the plaza. Norteno music is similar to “Tex-Mex” country. Stick around to hear some cool music and dance!
Without the floats, the pre-Carnaval parades have a slightly different route, starting at the usual parade point at the east end of Constitucion, heading west to Galeana, up to Guadalupe Victoria, then west through the plaza, down to Hidalgo and 6 Corners where it loops around and comes all the way back down Ocampo and Constitucion to the Lienzo Charro on Revolucion, where the cowboys, kids, and Zayacos mix it up while the banda plays. Then, total pandemonium breaks loose! Don’t miss it!
After 3 or weeks of all the above, the Big Day finally arrives. In keeping with the family values of a small Mexican town, Carnaval here is all about the kids, who put on a great show for the adults with their funny flour fights with the Zayacos. Naturally, the floats are wild and wacky, and the parade follows the usual route – Constitucion to Ocampo to 6 Corners, looping around back to the Ajijic Plaza, where the fun continues through the afternoon with a Zayaco dance contest and lots more merry-making.
In a Catholic culture, the time between Ash Wednesday (the day after Carnaval) and Easter is a more solemn and quite time of reflection and prayer, known as Lent, which leads up to Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The San Andres church puts on a notable production of the Passion Play, which commemorates the events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus, each year. The actors who portray Jesus, his followers, the Romans, and other Biblical characters, will be rehearsing for this event during this time. Please have respect for this season.
Last year's schedule
Holy Week starts Sunday, April 5th, Palm Sunday, with a small preview of the Passion Play as the scene of Jesus riding the donkey into town will be re-enacted with a large procession between 6 Corners and the San Andres church, past the plaza at 6:30pm. The street will be strewn with alfalfa (rather than palm fronds) and bougainvillea petals to honor the coming of Jesus. Please respect the tradition and do not walk on these special devotional decorations.
That day will also feature a fund-raising food fiesta in the plaza, known as the Verbena Jamaica Fundraiser, where you can buy unique fiesta foods, including the wonderful ponche de guayaba, and have a lovely, early dinner in the plaza before the lovely outdoor, sunset Mass at 7pm at the San Andres Church, if you like. There will be seating for around 1000 people. The proceeds from this fundraiser are what helps pay for the Passion Play.
At 9pm, all the lights in the Ajijic Plaza are extinguished for 30 minutes to emulate what it looked like 150 years ago. Only candles or other non electric lights are on.
Thursday evening. Maudy Thursday, April 9th the Passion Play will feature scenes of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, staged in upper Ajijic in the hills at Tempisque. The procession begins at the volleyball court on the Ajijic malecon, enter at calle libertad and ninos heroes at approx 8:00pm, goes down hidalgo and up Aquiles Serdan, then continues up Tempisque. There is no seating, only standing room. The Roman soldiers will come and take the Jesus character away, and a torch-lit procession proceeds down to the chapel in Ajijic, via calle Emiliano Zapata to Colon, for the final scenes that night in the Ajijic Plaza.
The biggest day of the Passion Play is Good Friday on April 10th, at 11am, where there will be a huge crowd at the Church for the final trial of Jesus and the procession leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus through upper Ajijic via Calles Parroquia, Hidalgo, Juarez, Angel Flores, hasta el pie del cerro. Returning via Calle Emiliano Zapata, Colon, Parroquia to the interior of the church.The next 24 hours are a solemn time for observant Christians, which is most of the village, so please respect this tradition.
Saturday night, the 11th, there will be a late Mass and Easter service at 8pm,which features a beautiful Resurrection Scene. At the end of the Mass, there will be pealing church bells, fireworks and celebrating both in the Plaza and at family homes. In True Mexican Tradition, the Big Day is really the night before, like Christmas, and Sunday will be a quiet day of rest for most of the people, many of whom will continue with their vacation break for the next week.
Easter on April 12th begins the exodus of the northern seasonal visitors, as the weather heats up and things calm down, and we full-time residents look forward to the refreshing coolness and tranquility of the upcoming rainy season.
I never fail to be awed by the love, devotion, and creativity put into all these fiestas, which are an essential part of Mexican culture, unseen by most of the foreign visitors. Please come out and enjoy these rich and enjoyable events that are so meaningful on so many levels. The spirit of fun is off the Richter Scale here in Mexico.
Submissions by Micki Wendt -- Edited and updated by Ajijic News