Sunday, February 5, 2012


The Candelaria festival is going on again this year and we wandered down to take another look. I wasn't expecting it to be any different than last year but I guess you gotta go anyway.

For those that don't know, Día de la Candelaria, or Candlemas, happens 40 days after Christmas and is when figures of the baby Jesus, or 'nino Dios', are brought to the Catholic church to be blessed. Days before this you'll see families protectively carrying Jesus dolls around town wrapped in colorful little blankets and cradled in the crooks of their arms as if it was a live child. Before this, on Christmas eve, the baby Jesus is placed in the nativity scene. Then, on Jan. 6th. "Kings Day", the baby Jesus is brought presents and finally on Feb. 2nd. the baby Jesus is presented to the church for blessings. The ritual is a fusion of pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic beliefs. Celebrated by Catholics as the "Feast of Purification" or as the "Presentation of Christ at the Temple." This date also happens to be the half-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Evidently, in Pagan tradition, Feb. 2 is believed to be a time to predict the weather to come, and coincidentally, it's also celebrated as Groundhog Day in the United States. All very interesting but as I like to say "in the absence of rational comes ritual".

The pope loves a virgin

So, getting back to this weeks festival. As if all of the above wasn't enough, as part of a tradition for 56 years in San Miguel de Allende, the City Government through the Department of Environment and Ecology holds a Candlemas fair event in the Parque Benito Juarez. Traditionally this includes the Mexican folk custom of blessing the seeds for planting grain, flowers and vegetables, it is believed that the blessing will achieve bountiful results for future harvests. Addtionally, it's a good excuse to sell a ton of plants.

Seed blessings

For this event, the huge plant sale occurs in the park for two weeks. Over night, the typically tranquil setting is transformed into an open air, mega plant market. I wandered patiently down the narrow isles between the vendors pop-up canopies filled with plants of every variety. Some limited to every cactus imaginable, others to the herbs. Palm trees and giant bamboo tower overhead while streams of young men pushing worn out wheel barrows constantly ask if you need a porter to taxi your purchases to your home or car. I find myself glazing over, waking from my stupor every now and then at the sight of some strangely colorful or oddly exotic new species.

Susan stops frequently to get a closer look and call out the names of the ones she knows. When we pass by another vendor selling herbs she pronounces the Spanish term for each while I repeat as if I won't soon forget. albahaca, perejil, romero and tomillo (basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme). She reaches down and twists the blue/green leaves of mint and then puts her fingers to her nose to inhale the aromas, then to my nose to share the gift like it was a secret between the two of us. I nod, silently agreeing that the smell is wonderful and were it not for our journey here, we would never have had such an exquisite experience. She continues to be amazed at the sights and smells that surround us and I find myself noticing the electrical wires strung between the trees. Strands of cords that provide power for the clear 40 watt bulbs that randomly dangle down every few feet like incandescent fruit, illuminating the orchids and hibiscus. At one point, an industrious plant seller has adapted an outlet between the line and the bulb that allows for watching telenovella's on a portable TV balanced on a plastic stool and charging the battery on his cell phone.

Living with plants

I'm hungry now and remember the Torta stand from two years ago when we were here. It was a vivid memory despite the time gone by. I recall I had a 'Cubana' which turned out to be the 'mother' of all sandwiches. Layered high with avocado, ham, fried egg, cheese, sliced hot dogs, tomato and half a dozen other ingredients. "Quiero torta!"  I said to Susan in my childish Spanish as she was pointing out the ceramic pots shaped like lizards and frogs. She looked at me sadly and we headed in the direction I remembered seeing the stand years ago. I thought I'd have a Coke with it. 

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