Getting ready for Sahuayo

A couple of weeks from now, three of my friends and I are headed southeast, around Lake Chapala, to the city of Sahuayo de Morelos in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.  Why?, you ask.  Because it’s the patronales fiesta in honor of Santiago, or St. James the Apostle, the patron saint of Sahuayo.  And each year, on July 25, Sahuayo residents put on one of the most fantastic parades I have ever seen.

This is not your typical Mexican pueblo festival parade consisting of marching bands, floats, pretty girls, and guys on horseback.  Oh, no!  This, my friends, is a spectacle of epic proportions, comprised almost entirely of the dancing Tlahualiles, colorfully dressed, masked performers sporting huge feathered headdresses. 

The origins of the Tlahualil and why they are such an integral part of the Festival of St. James is debatable, to say the least.  I mean, here you’ve got what appear to be Mexican warriors marching in a parade dedicated to a Catholic saint.  And in the war between the Church and the natives, it’s pretty clear who “won.’  But historical facts be damned, there’s a fiesta to put on!

And, my oh my, do they ever!  A day or two after the festival has ended on August 4, the locals of Sahuayo start the planning and preparations for the next one.  It takes a lot of time, thought, work, and money, and the groups only have about eleven and a half months to take care of it all. 

Each group, and there are up to about 35 or 40, consists of members of an extended family or neighbors in a particular barrio of Sahuayo.  Each one of those groups is comprised of from 10 to 50 marchers, and even larger support groups…..from those who come up with the theme to those who come up with the design to those who construct the headpieces and who sew the costumes to those who accompany the marchers on the big day, providing water, food, and support as necessary.

This is truly, in the broadest sense of the term, a community affair.  And it’s not restricted to only the members of the community or family who currently reside in Sahuayo.  Last year, we talked to many people who now live in other parts of Mexico or in the US, but who had returned home for the fiesta. 

As on the north shore of Lake Chapala, where I live, we saw lots of US plated vehicles.  But when the doors opened, white haired white people did not pour out.  Instead, the vans were full of Mexican families.  We spoke with folks from every geographical area of the US who had taken vacation time from their jobs to return to Sahuayo to provide time, helping hands, and money to their relatives and to introduce their children to the remarkable fiesta de Santiago.

Here are a couple more photos from last year’s parade, and a link to a music video which, oddly enough, I find particularly apropos!


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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8 Responses to Getting ready for Sahuayo

  1. Gigi says:

    Your pix are prize-winners, especially the first! I’m forwarding this to Chuck so he can see the tigers and jaguars!! Have fun!!

    • Barbara says:

      gigi, i’m gonna do more postings about sahuayo, so there will be more pix. kathi hoffman actually took the first picture with my camera. it’s great, isn’t it?

  2. Kathi says:

    I’m so glad we’re going back this year! It will be just as wonderful this year as last year.
    Can’t wait.

    • Barbara says:

      hope we get to see dancing babies again!! may have to cruise by the Plaza hotel late one night to check it out!

  3. me says:

    Can’t wait to go…I, however, would not have picked that particular music!!

  4. gayle says:

    I continue to be amazed with you! The fact that you manage, no – SEEK areas outside Joco to explore even when you know so little spanish is amazing. I absolutely love the photos & brief explanations of events, statues, etc. that you discover. Also love your sense of humor – but probably cuz it’s so much like mine?! Wish I was there to ‘splore Sahuayo with you this year ..!
    Gayle from Portland

    • Barbara says:

      gayle, i’m always amazed by the number of people in even small towns around here who speak english….or at least some! mainly the kids, of course. when we were in Sahuayo last year, we had a 12 year old who was translating beautifully when we were talking to one of the guys who was making the headdresses. really hope you like part 3 in this series. lots more pictures. and i can hardly wait to get back this year and get even more. two of us from last year are returning, and two this year are “new.” we’re staying about a block from the plaza this year, so it should be amazing…..and noisy!!!

      good to hear from you!

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