Tuesday, June 8, 2010

El Dia de los Locos (The Day of the Crazies)

"A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.."
Emily Dickinson
On Sunday, June 13th, San Miguel de Allende celebrates one of its many festivals, El Dia de los Locos (The Festival of the Crazies). The parade of "los locos" will wind its way through the centro right past my house. Participants dress up as clowns, animals, cartoon characters, monsters, famous entertainers, Mexican politicians and cross-dressing men. This week's issue of the local newspaper, Atencion, describes the fascinating history of this festival, which is a blend of Catholicism and paganism.

"This carnival was originally an act of faith and devotion that began in the nineteenth century, when orchard workers danced to give thanks and ask San Pascual Bailon, patron saint of food, for a prosperous year. Today, some of the Locos participate in the parade not only for fun, but also to show their devotion to San Pascual Bailon.

During colonial times, San Miguel was surrounded by large orchards. They were all irrigated with natural springs and the water was carried through channels all around the city. The Franciscan friars at the Tercera Orden monastery, next to San Francisco church, held a celebration outside the church for the orchard workers to honor San Pascual Bailon on his day. In the afternoon, the friars went to the orchards to bless the crops.

The Locos parade derives from the orchard workers' dance on San Pascual Bailon Day. As onlookers increasingly crowded the dancers, some of the older celebrants began to disguise themselves as scarecrows to keep the crowd at a distance so the children would have room to dance. They also brought small wild animals such as racoons, skunks or possums to scare the crowd away. The people began to call them "locos", the name they still carry today. Later on, the Locos began to dress not only as scarecrows but also as clowns with colorful costumes and cardboard masks. The orchard laborers were divided into workgroups called cuadrillas, and each cuadrilla performed its own dance. This is how the current groups, called cuadros, began; The modern Locos parade actually condenses several celebrations into one event: San Isidro Day on May 15, San Pascual de Bailon Day on May 17, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio's Day on June 13" (Que Pasa, Atencion San Miguel, June 4, 2010, pg 2)

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