A fun and fascinating aspect of life in the Ajijic-Lake Chapala area is that it seems every week heralds one reason or another for a fiesta.
As Mexico is largely a Catholic country, many of the festivities center around saints, and virgins, and of course, celebrating Carnival (or Mardi Gras) is always a good time.
Holy Week – Semanta Santa
Among the most moving of the Holy observances is Semanta Santa. On Palm Sunday the villagers strew alfalfa and other greens on the cobblestone street leading to the cathedral in the center of the village.
Soon, the procession of Jesus entering the village upon a donkey takes place in complete silence, whereupon all are invited to follow Him to the cathedral for mass. Many hundreds of locals and visitors join in this extremely moving ceremony.
On Good Friday villagers set up special alters venerating La Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). In Ajijic a spectacular ‘Passion Play’ of the events leading up to the crucifixion is reenacted, enthralling all those lucky (early) enough to squeeze onto the grounds of the cathedral.
Those not arriving early enough to see the trial can still be a part of the event by lining the streets outside the cathedral. They can then watch and follow Jesus and the criminals bearing their heavy wooden crosses, and the soldiers who lead them, through the village and up to the hill, whereupon the Crucifixion takes place.
If you are fortunate to visit Ajijic during this very special time, this is something not to be missed, no matter how your beliefs may differ.
There are a dozen or so civic holidays throughout the year, in which the country celebrates occasions such as birthdays of national heros, famous battles (Battle of Puebla–May 5th), and its independence from Spanish rule (September 16th).
November 20th is the official day of celebration of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. On all of these holidays colorful civic pardes are held throughout the nation … including Chapala and Ajijic.
Each Mexican village, city or neighborhood honors their patricular patron saint with nine days of special festivities, culminating on the saint’s designated day according to the church calendar.
These fiestas are most notably marked by the frequent, noisy pyrotechnic rockets (cohetes) from daybreak ’til late into the night. Most festivities center around the village plaza, but rodeos (charreadas) and live bands also perform in the bull ring (lienzo charro).
Parades of school children, acrobats, bands, Escaramuzas (young girls in beautiful dresses riding sidesaddle), and Charros (cowboys on dancing horses) charm and entertain the hundreds of spectators lining the streets.
Each of the nine evenings you will find large numbers of locals and visitors at the plaza, socializing in their charming and unique way with carnival rides, music and food, climaxing with the firing off of el castillo (the castle), an intricately constructed reed tower strung with whirling catherine wheels and other colorful explosives.
The Patron Saint of Ajijic, Saint Andrew the Apostle, is celebrated from November 21st through the 30th. It’s a fun way to interact with the locals, to observe and participate in their charming customs, unchanged for centuries.
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