Mexico Festivals in San Miguel de Allende

Fiestas and festivals - that's one of the reasons everyone enjoys San Miguel de Allende so much. By some accounts, this little city of 80,000 in the Mexican State of Guanajuato has more fiestas during the year than anyplace else in Mexico. One of the most entertaining festivals in San Miguel de Allende is Día de los Locos, or Day of the Crazies.Taking place each year on the first Sunday after the day of San Antonio de Padua (June 13), Día de los Locos isn't a religious festival-it's a parade held to celebrate spring. And for some reason it has turned into a costume extravaganza.

Participants dress up in an amazing assortment of wild outfits made from old clothes, cardboard boxes, bailing wire, styrofoam, fabric, papier-mâché, masking tape and whatever else comes to hand. Cartoon and children's characters like Barney, Power Rangers and Sponge Bob are well represented, along with outlandish caricatures of campesinos, foreigners and town celebrities.There are always lots of costumes inspired by popular movies and every Día de los Locos parade has had several Terminators and Darth Vaders marching in it. There is always an assortment of political figures, too. George Bush, Vincente Fox (current el Presidente) and Osama Bin Laden are particularly well represented lately, portrayed with not-so-subtle and sometimes ribald sarcasm.

And cross-dressing is a standard for Día de los Locos. You'd have to go a long way in Mexico to see as many men dressed up as women all in one place just for the fun of it! Old women, young women, black women, white women, nuns, geishas, models, nurses?.you name it, there will be a Mexican man dressed like one.If you march in the Día de los Locos parade, you must-repeat, must-throw candy.

You must throw lots of it and you can't just throw it to people. Every now and then you must throw it at them. Hard. The spectators love it.Pamplonada, another San Miguel de Allende festival, is one of Mexico's most outrageous spectacles, rivaling Spring Break on the U.

S. coasts, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and one particularly similar event held annually in the Basque Country of northern Spain. The weekend falling between the celebration of Mexico's Independence Day (September 16) and the festival for the city's patron saint, San Miguel el Arcángel (September 29) is the Mexican version of the running of the bulls in Pamplona.

It all starts when upward of 20,000 visitors pour in from all parts of Mexico to participate in the festivities. Many of them are from Mexico City; nearly all of them are young people. (Cavorting with angry bulls, after all, is not often considered sport for those of a "mature" age.) Through the night, the bars, restaurants, disco and cantinas are elbow to elbow with revelers who toast their coming prowess.

Or, perhaps, they're drinking for courage.It's easy to understand, then, that the next morning, when the event actually starts, many of the participants are either hungover or still drunk. To lessen the effect, the municipality now imposes a ban on alcohol sales the morning of and during the event.

except for establishments where food is served.By 9 a.m.

, el Jardin (San Miguel's central plaza) begins to fill with people. Almost everyone is bedecked in a white shirt and red bandana. Many (especially the women) also sport red cowboy hats. The streets around the Jardin are blocked off with heavy metal barricades, inside of which a dozen or more bulls will be let loose. Throughout the morning, the Centro area of San Miguel becomes more and more crowded, with people jockeying for a prime spot from which to watch.

Those restaurants and bars lucky enough to have a vantage point above the streets charge admissions of up to $150 per person to see the event from their more comfortable surroundings.At noon, the bulls-trucked in from ranches that specialize in the breeding of bulls for bull fights-are ejected from the panel trucks and into the streets of San Miguel. Young men and even a few young women, hop over the barricades to taunt, try to grab the horns of and run from the bulls.

The "brave chicos" run and the bulls chase after whichever one of them they see first. The bulls are not at all tame and not at all happy to be prancing on cobblestones to the jeers of thousands of onlookers.Mexican national television broadcasts the event live and that is possibly the best way to take part in this event. After you've watched the bulls grow angrier and become more fatigued and after you've seen more than a few young people gored or tossed through the air like rag dolls, the thrill begins to ebb.

Every year there are hundreds of injuries and-unfortunately-deaths are not unusual.In truth, the running of the bulls is not what Pamplonada is about at all. It is about drinking, partying and preening. It's a boost for the economy of San Miguel, for sure and a boost for nearby communities as well, since many of those who live in San Miguel head for those tranquil havens during the weekend of Pamplonada.

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Travel.

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By: Michael Russell

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