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Adoring the Saints

Fiestas in Central Mexico

By Yolanda Lastra, Dina Sherzer, and Joel Sherzer

Publication Year: 2009

Mexico is famous for spectacular fiestas that embody its heart and soul. An expression of the cult of the saint, patron saint fiestas are the centerpiece of Mexican popular religion and of great importance to the lives and cultures of people and communities. These fiestas have their own language, objects, belief systems, and practices. They link Mexico’s past and present, its indigenous and European populations, and its local and global relations. This work provides a comprehensive study of two intimately linked patron saint fiestas in the state of Guanajuato, near San Miguel de Allende—the fiesta of the village of Cruz del Palmar and that of the town of San Luis de la Paz. These two fiestas are related to one another in very special ways involving both religious practices and their respective pre-Hispanic origins. A mixture of secular and sacred, patron saint fiestas are multi-day affairs that include many events, ritual specialists, and performers, with the participation of the entire community. Fiestas take place in order to honor the saints, and they are the occasion for religious ceremonies, processions, musical performances, dances, and dance dramas. They feature spectacular costumes, enormous puppets, masked and cross-dressed individuals, dazzling fireworks, rodeos, food stands, competitions, and public dances. By encompassing all of these events and performances, this work displays the essence of Mexico, a lens through which this country’s complex history, religion, ethnic mix, traditions, and magic can be viewed.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere

Cover Art

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p. v

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pp. 1-6

Latin America is well known for its exuberant festivals and rituals. These include indigenous curing and puberty rites, Mardi Gras and carnivals, and town and village patron saint fiestas. While derived in part from ritual observances of the Catholic Church, Latin American fiestas typically commingle European, indigenous, and African elements. They are a centuries-old way of letting off steam, celebrations that...

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One. Setting the Stage

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pp. 7-21

Along the main highway between San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, a sign at the entrance of a wide dirt road indicates Cruz del Palmar. This road takes one down several kilometers to this village (rancho), a parish (parroquia) belonging to the diocese of Celaya, and part of the municipality (municipio) of San Miguel de Allende. Cruz del Palmar can also be reached following the...

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Two. Fiesta Leaders, Officials,and Saints (Mayordomos, cargueros, y santos)

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pp. 22-42

For a patron saint fiesta to occur, an extraordinarily complex organization must be put in place. Many individuals with specific abilities and talents must be mobilized to carry out specific tasks. A network of social and economic ties must be activated, and adequate funding must be found. Central to this organization are the individuals who take on civil-religious roles called cargos.

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Three. Vigils, Visits, and Ritual Meals (Velaciones, posadas, y reliquias)

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pp. 43-65

Visitors walking around a neighborhood or a village in the evening after dark in the region of Cruz del Palmar and San Luis de la Paz during a patron saint fiesta are likely to come across a house or a courtyard where people are gathered and are singing, accompanied by various string instruments. They probably will not know or have never...

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Four. Processions, Encounters, Ceremonies, and Masses (Procesiones, encuentros, ceremonias, y misas)

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pp. 66-93

Religious celebrations in Mexico are famous for their spectacular processions, involving a profusion of flowers, pageantry, music, and costumes, with huge crowds moving along and many spectators watching. Patron saint fiestas are one of the occasions for such elaborate processions. Large processions carry, indeed display and honor, the...

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Five. Dances, Dance Dramas, and Entertainments

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pp. 94-114

From the time of the arrival of the Spaniards to the present day, observers have been fascinated and impressed by the spectacular dances and dance dramas of Mexico. The Aztecs had elaborate dances, and the Spaniards introduced the dances of the Moors and Christians (Moros y Cristianos) to convert the natives and to celebrate this conversion.

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Six. Toward Understanding the Patron Saint Fiesta

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pp. 115-140

What do patron saint fiestas signify for the communities and the people who participate in them? What do these fiestas reveal about their cultural behaviors and practices? What is the significance of the various dances and processions that take place during fiestas? What is the significance of the religious practices associated with patron saint...

Appendices: Contents

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pp. 141-186


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pp. 187-193


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pp. 195-198


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pp. 199-205


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pp. 207-211

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793460
E-ISBN-10: 0292793464
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292719804
Print-ISBN-10: 0292719809

Page Count: 219
Illustrations: 40 b&w photos, 6 line drawings
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere
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OCLC Number: 488485738
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Adoring the Saints

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Chichimeca-Jonaz Indians -- Mexico -- San Luis de la Paz -- Religion.
  • San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Fasts and feasts -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende.
  • San Luis de la Paz (Mexico) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Holy Week -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende.
  • Fasts and feasts -- Mexico -- San Luis de la Paz.
  • Christian patron saints -- Mexico -- San Luis de la Paz.
  • Otomi Indians -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende -- Social life and customs.
  • Christian patron saints -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende.
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz Indians -- Mexico -- San Luis de la Paz -- Social life and customs.
  • Otomi Indians -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende -- Religion.
  • Louis IX, King of France, 1214-1270 -- Cult -- Mexico -- San Luis de la Paz.
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