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The San Andres Fiesta Patronales of Ajijic

San Andres Church, Ajijic, Mexico
Credit: David Huff

The San Andres Fiesta Patronales of Ajijic is a salute to spiritual patron San Andres, Saint Andrew the Apostle. This year, the annual community celebration kicked off on November 21 and continued throughout the month with a gala closure service and celebration on the feast day of San Andres, November 30.

The fiesta patronales is a Mexican tradition in most village communities that honor their patron saint, so it is both a traditional religious activity and a boisterous secular celebration centered around the village church and plaza.

Festivities in Ajijic began around 6 a.m. with a wake-up call by cohetes (skyrockets) blasting skyward. Admittedly, this upset a few folks and their four-legged companions, but it is a part of Mexico life when one chooses to live here.

Around noon and again at 6:30 in the evening, the community was enlivened with cohetes and church bells that brought the community together for services, and then partying. As a prelude to the Novenario (a nine-day celebration) was a picturesque religious procession through the streets of Ajijic on November 21. Scenic floats depicting sacred themes, troupes of ritual dancers in feathered headdress and indigenous attire and musicians and pilgrims departed from the church grounds, with cohete tracers lighting the way. Most mornings, following the cohetes wake-up, villagers found musicians roaming the streets tooting festive tunes.

Each of the nine days was sponsored by members of a gremio (worker guild), community organization or neighborhood. At dusk, the sponsor and pilgrims lead a candlelight procession from Seis Esquinas in West Ajijic to San Andres Church for the fiesta’s 7 p.m. Mass. The spiritual celebration provided a framework for the community revelry that followed the evening church service. Huge crowds of villagers and tourists congregated at the plaza to socialize, dine and fuel-up on a favorite beverage, and then dance to the beat of live bands.

November 23 was extranjeros (foreigners) and general public night, so everyone was invited to enjoy pan dulces (sweet rolls) and warm beverages served on the atrium of San Andres. After services, they headed to the plaza to search out a favorite taco vendor, have a drink, listen or dance to live music or just gather with friends to socialize.

Youngsters laughed and screamed as they swirled on mechanical rides, participated in games of chance for a prize and pelted one another with confetti-filled egg shells. Street vendors, with plaza area streets closed to traffic, were hawking a variety of merchandise. Around 10:30 each evening, a dazzling castillo (tower structure) fireworks display on the church’s atrium lit-up the Ajijic skyline. It is Mexico’s version of the old-fashion country fair found north of the border.