She’s a lovely lady who creates quite a ruckus, like it or not.
Yes, it’s the time of year Ajijic residents brace for four continuous weeks of hoopla as devout villagers pay tribute to La Virgen del Rosario.
For 11 months of the year the town’s antique statue of Our Lady of the Rosary holding the infant Jesus in her embrace resides at the old stone chapel on the north side of the plaza. On September 28 she is carried away for an overnight visit to San Antonio Tlayacapan. The following evening she comes back to town for a 24-hour vigil at the Guadalupe Sanctuary on west end of town. After that, the venerated figure is toted away to begin a month-long stay as the honored guest at the San Andrés parish.
Special devotions for the Virgin are scheduled every day, starting before dawn with a blast of skyrockets calling the faithful to the departure point for a candlelight procession to the main church. Each week devotees will gather in a different barrio to join in song and prayer as they make their way to the 6 a.m. mañanitas service.
The celebration continues through October 31, closing with a last hurrah for the Virgin’s return home. A farewell procession through the village streets initiates around 6 p.m. departing from the rear entrance to the parish on Calle Galeana. With Nuestra Señora del Rosario carried in its midst, the colorful cavalcade features troupes of ritual dancers outfitted in spectacular native costumes, handsomely decorated floats depicting religious themes, and marching musical bands. Sooty-handed rocket-men lead the way, firing off rounds of cohetes to trace the pilgrims’ progress.
The procession ends at the San Andres atrium, where a salvo of rockets explodes to welcome a throng for the celebration of evening mass. As night falls following the service, the Virgin is carried back to the little chapel, accompanied by mariachi musicians singing her praises. Festivities continue throughout the evening with music, socializing and dining on traditional fare centered at the plaza. The celebration closes between 10 and 11 p.m. with a sparkling castillo fireworks show at the chapel gates.
While Saint Andrew is known as Ajijic’s official patron saint, the townspeople have recognized the Virgin Mary as a divine guardian since the arrival of Franciscan missionaries around 1531. Historical accounts suggest that the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception was the original figure of devotion, until 1733 when the Virgin of the Rosary was named in her place. The exact age and origin of the Rosario image remains unknown. The figure holds the Christ Child in her left arm, with a golden scepter grasped in her right hand and a string of rosary beads draped over the front of her regal gown that changes year to year.
Compared to the nine-day run of festivities for San Andrés coming next month, the four-week commotion honoring the Virgin attests to the significant role she continues to hold in the community’s spiritual life.