Ajijic’s normal rhythm of life goes by the wayside for the remainder of this month as villagers go full throttle to honor patron saint, Andrés Apostol.
According to precepts of the church calendar, the town’s annual fiestas patronales run for nine straight days, starting Thursday, November 22 and ending November 30, the date of the Feast of Saint Andrew.
By custom, the village parish organizes a picturesque procession on the afternoon of November 21 as a prelude to the novenario (novena). An entourage of ritual dancers and carros alegóricos (scenic floats depicting sacred themes) will line up next Wednesday on Calle Galeana near the back entrance of the San Andrés church around 5 p.m., interspersed with marching bands and faithful pilgrims. They will set off on a winding route through village streets, heralded by the ignition of dozen of cohetes (sky rockets) tracing the way.
The first day of observances coincides with the Día de Santa Cecilia, the spiritual patroness of musicians. As such, the festivities literally kick off on a high note, with local musical combos rising early to roam the streets blaring out wakeup calls door-to-door.
On ensuing dates, gremios (worker guilds) pool resources to keep the party going. Each day, the corresponding sponsors gather around dusk to lead a candlelight parade that travels along Calle Hidalgo from Seis Equinas to the church for the 7 p.m. celebration of Mass.
The spiritual celebration provides a framework for unbridled secular revelry. Following the evening service, crowds congregate at the plaza to rub elbows, chow down typical street foods, fuel up on firewater and dance to the beat of live bands. Some unwind aboard swirling mechanical rides or try their luck to win prizes at shooting galleries and other games of chance. Kids play and adolescents flirt by pelting one another with cascarones (confetti-filled egg shells).
A big attraction of each night’s hullabaloo is the castillo – a whirling, sputtering ensemble of pyrotechnic devices strung up on an intricate wood and bamboo tower. The dazzling fireworks are set off in the church atrium, usually between 10:30 and 11 p.m.
The fiesta calendar also wraps in los toros (informal bull-riding contests), live banda music, for dancing and prodigious imbibing. These shindigs are held most afternoons at the local lienzo charro arena, starting around 4 p.m.
The celebration also draws itinerant street vendors who set up shop in the vicinity of the plaza to hawk a wide array of merchandise, ranging from clothing and practical household goods to native crafts, silver jewelry, toys and the latest in cheap imports from Asia.