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Celebrating Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Ajijic

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Religious festival in Ajijic, Mexico
Credit: David Huff

There seems to be no shortage of fiestas and celebrations along the north shore of Lake Chapala, and celebrating Nuestra Señora del Rosario in Ajijic covers the entire month of October each year.

In the Catholic faith, the month of October is dedicated to the rosary. On the northwest quadrant of Ajijic Plaza sits the 18th century Franciscan capilla (chapel) dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) whose feast day is October 7th. The capilla is a village pillar and a tourist attraction for visitors of all faiths.

On September 29th, the statue of the Holy Virgin, in regal attire, begins her annual pilgrimage in a procession from her home in the capilla to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the barrio (neighborhood) of San Andres in West Ajijic for an overnight visit with the devoted faithful of this barrio church.

The following evening of September 30th her pilgrimage procession winds its way along the spectator-lined streets to her home for the month of October in the village parish church of San Andres (Saint Andrew the Apostle) a block east of the plaza. Beginning before dawn on October 1st, and each morning of the month, a few cohetes (skyrockets) serve as a wake-up call around 5 a.m. for those in the village who are interested, to gather for the rosary and prayers before the Virgin in the sanctuary of the parish church and Mass at 6 a.m.

Admittedly for some, the cohetes and church bells are not a welcomed event at the predawn hour, but for most, this is part of the traditions that help make expat life in Lake Chapala the “good life.”

As expats we remain welcomed guests in Mexico when we adapt to the local customs and traditions and immerse ourselves in the local celebrations. For the first time in our 12 years in Ajijic, we did notice a bit of courteous restraint in the number of cohetes launched skyward at the predawn hour.

The high point of the month-long celebration is its climax on October 31st in a gala closure service at the parish church and then a fabulous street party on Ajijic Plaza. On the rear courtyard of the church, banda music is the prelude to a desfile (procession) as church staff mount the statue of the Virgin on her throne surrounded by floral arrangements and candles. An honor guard of young men carry the throne on their shoulders along the village streets and motorized floats representing biblical scenes fall in behind young students from the religious education program that lead off the procession. Conchero (Aztec) dancers, in colorful indigenous attire, dance to the beat of a barrel drum and symbolic blasts of the conch shell. The regional youth drum and bugle corps also contribute their music of tribute.

Along the entire parade route, families are seen in doorways and rooftops of their homes and visitors line the streets. To announce the procession’s entry to your neighborhood, cohetes are lit and sent skyward. Though the celebration has a religious theme, no lakeside fiesta is complete without good food and more music, and there is plenty of that. The celebration unfolds as a street party into the late hours of the evening on the crowded plaza where It truly becomes a community festival of folks of all faith beliefs.

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