Fiesta!

This morning I woke up to the sound of petardos. The petardos started so early they woke up the gallos (roosters). How charming, I thought. The locals are having fireworks for the 4th of July, in honor of all the American expats that live here in San Miguel de Allende. (But why do they have to start at 6 am?)

Not exactly.

Turns out it’s not just the 4th of July, it’s also the celebration of the independence of Mexico. Not only that but it’s the bicentennial celebration. And not only that, but the battle for Mexican independence started in the tiny town of Delores Hidalgo (also known for its shrimp ice cream), 25 miles from here, so this area is known as the Birthplace of National Independence. It’s more or less like being in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1996.

And as if that isn’t enough, it’s also the centennial celebration of the Mexican Revolution. I think we’re in for some more petardos.

The actual bicentennial of Mexican Independence isn’t until September and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution isn’t until November but the official start of the celebration is July 10th. I guess some senor (and let’s face it, we all know it wasn’t a senora shooting firecrackers at 6 am this morning) decided to start early.

Any excuse for a fiesta in San Miguel de Allende. The city is so notorious for its fiestas that a few years back (1789 to be exact), the government passed a law to quell “an excess of fiestas.” There was a local uprising, the citizenry took the matter to court and the law was repealed. It did have the effect, however, of reducing the number of fiestas to a mere 30 to 40 a year (depending on who’s counting).

Another fiesta revolt is in the making. Until a year or so ago (my Spanish isn’t good enough to glean all the details), San Miguel had its own running of the bulls in September called the Sanmiguelada. The former mayor called that to an end after the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the cultural category in 2008.

Being declared a UNESCO site is a very big deal. There are just 689 cultural UNESCO sites in the entire world. There are six more within a day trip distance of SMA (the same as the number in the entire continental US), and I will see at least two of them on my trip.

Apparently the mayor felt it was not appropriate for a UNESCO site to have a fiesta that was the local equivalent of Mardi Gras (picture lots of drunks getting run over by bulls and the general havoc surrounding that). There was also the issue of damage to the historic structures in the city.

A protest has been mounted to bring back the Sanmiguelada. Some businesses (and the drunks, of course) support the idea. The event attracts upwards of 50,000 people and $5 to $6 million to the city. The current mayor campaigned that she would bring it back. A vote was held in February and 68% of voters supported the tradition but apparently only a small number of people voted (sounds like the vote may have been engineered to assure approval). The vote was not binding so the matter is still up in the air.

If you’d like to follow the controversy, a new Facebook page for Sanmiguelada 2010 was set up two weeks ago. Almost 4000 people have “liked” it since then.

¡Arriba! And Happy 4th of July!

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