Adoring the Saints

Adoring the Saints

YOLANDA LASTRA
DINA SHERZER
JOEL SHERZER
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/719804
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    Adoring the Saints
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79346-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (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 are simultaneously sacred and profane, hegemonic and counter-hegemonic, serious and playful. They are an intense expression of identity and ethnicity, a celebration of historical and religious events, a release of personal and social energy, and a display of popular...

  4. ONE SETTING THE STAGE
    (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 route of the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century chapels (ruta de las capillas) through several villages, from Atotonilco, a major religious center, to Cruz del Palmar. These villages—Banda, San Isidro de Banda, Montecillo de Nieto, and Oaxaca,...

  5. TWO FIESTA LEADERS, OFFICIALS, AND SAINTS Mayordomos, cargueros, y santos
    (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 calledcargos.Cargosliterally means burdens, and both metaphorically and in practice the term refers to roles or duties. The individuals who hold these roles are the fiesta leaders (mayordomos) and officials (cargueros) (the origins of this system are discussed in...

  6. THREE VIGILS, VISITS, AND RITUAL MEALS
    (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 heard this type of singing or this type of music, because they have never attended a vigil (velación). These vigils, which are obligatory at patron saint fiestas, are intense moments of performance, togetherness, sociability, and devotion. They usually last...

  7. FOUR PROCESSIONS, ENCOUNTERS, CEREMONIES, AND MASSES
    (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 saints with elaborate pageantry. It is believed that by their presence, the saints will bring protection and good fortune to the places and spaces visited. In the region we study here, around San Miguel de Allende, Cruz del Palmar, and San Luis de la Paz, other processions, smaller and more intimate, accompany...

  8. FIVE DANCES, DANCE DRAMAS, AND ENTERTAINMENTS
    (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. Today, performances of dances and dance dramas are major moments in patron saint fiestas.

    The same dance groups that participate in processions also perform on their own. Rattle dancers (danzantes de sonaja), young girls and boys, shake tin rattles (sonajas) as they dance, adding...

  9. SIX TOWARD UNDERSTANDING THE PATRON SAINT FIESTA
    (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 fiestas? What aesthetic principles organize the fiestas? Is there a continuity in tradition? What is permanent, what is changing? Why? What do these vigils, processions, encounters, ceremonies, and dances tell us about people’s identity? Activities, participants, spaces, topography, sounds, music, costumes, and food all have deep...

  10. APPENDICES
    (pp. 141-186)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 187-194)
  12. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 195-198)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 199-206)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 207-211)