Friday, March 8, 2019

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles: Navigating the Blog

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles! Here we seek to present el imaginario, a vision of the city as embodied in its cityscape, public art and neighborhoods (coloinas). While we seek to cover the physical and historical breadth and depth of the City, we especially focus on the life of its lesser-known neighborhoods, many of which were indigenous pueblos existing long before the Spanish arrived and took over 500 years ago. We visit these original pueblos when they are celebrating their traditional fiestas, which are lively, colorful celebrations of their centuries-long communal continuity and unique identity.

¡Bienvenido a Paseos por la Ciudad de México! Aquí buscamos presentar el imaginario, una visión de la ciudad como encarnada en su paisaje urbano, arte público, pueblos y colonias. Si bien buscamos cubrir la amplitud y profundidad física e histórica de la ciudad, nos centramos especialmente en la vida de sus pueblos y barrios menos conocidos, muchos de los cuales eran pueblos indígenas que existían mucho antes de que los españoles llegaron y se hicieron cargo desde casi 500 años. Visitamos estos pueblos originales cuando celebran sus fiestas tradicionales, que son celebraciones coloridas y animadas de su continuidad comunal por siglos y su identidad única.

Escribimos en inglés porque somos norteamericanos y para dar a conocer a otros norteamericanos y hablantes de inglés la ciudad más allá de los lugares turisticos típicos. Sin embargo, es fácil traducir una página en español: vaya a la columna a la derecha. En la parte más alta hay una ventana etiquetada "Translate". Desplace la flecha abajo hasta encuentra "Spanish". Click en ese y inmediatamente todo el texto estará traducido en español por Google. Con certeza, habrá errores, pero creemos qué el sentido se quede bastante claro.    

Organization of the Blog

Each post appears in the blog chronologically by publication date. Scrolling down takes you to the most recently published post. Most posts, however, are related thematically or geographically. So, as a navigation aid, we have created individual PAGES (left-hand column) which organize posts according to major aspects of the city or themes in its history. These pages provide short descriptions of and links to posts grouped by theme or geography.

Setting the Stage | Introductory Pages:

I. Making Sense of Mexico City: The first four pages acquaint you with Mexico City's organization (it does have one, despite its parent chaotic appearance).
  1. First, we introduce you to its sixteen delegaciones (boroughs, officially called alcaldías, mayoralties, since 2017) into which it is divided spatially and politically. Each one is distinctive in its physical character and its history.
  2. We address why Mexico City architecture seems to be such a hodgepodge of historical epochs and we present a way to view it as a horizontal archeological site, with one era sitting right next to another.
  3. Then we present the history of how the city grew from a small town on an island in the midst of a huge lake to its present huge size (at 573 sq. miles, slightly smaller than Houston [599] and bigger than Los Angeles [469]. 
  4.  Third, we describe the Metro, the "subway", which is the fastest and cheapest pathway (US25 cents) to get to most of the places we explore. If you avoid morning and late afternoon rush hours, its fine. Taxis are also plentiful and safe, and now Uber and other phone-ap services are here. 
  • Mexico City's Sixteen DelegacionesMexico City is shaped rather like a lumpy pear: skinny at the top—it even has a "stem"—then rounds out to a very fat bottom. Originally called the Federal District, in 1928, it was divided into sixteen delegaciones, or boroughs, of greatly varying sizes, shapes, population densities and histories. (On January 2016: el Distrito Federal, the Federal District, officially became Mexico City and the delegaciones were renamed alcaldías, mayoralities.)
  • Making Sense of Mexico City: Architectural Hodge-podge or Horizontal Archeological Site?Your first experience of Mexico City, especially as you walk through Centro, is of an architectural hodge-podge, an incoherent batiburrillo, a jumble of buildings from various eras. Structures from the colonial period, adapted to contemporary uses, are enmeshed with newer neighbors from the 19th and 20th centuries. So what to make of this hodgepodge of eras, these fragments of disconnected history, this batiburrillo
  • How Mexico City Grew From an Island to a MetropolisHow did Mexico City, which started on an island in Lake Texcoco— replacing the Mexica (aka Aztec) city of Tenochtitlán—grow into the metropolis it is today, incorporating both ancient and new neighborhoods, side by side, all parts of the contemporary batiburrillo (hodgepodge)? Here is the story. 
  • Mexico City Metro: The Mexico City Metro (officially, the Collective Transportation System) is a network of subway and surface electric train lines enabling chilangos (city residents' name for themselves) and visitors to get around the city quickly, cheaply (US30 cents) and safely. The system has 12 lines, each distinguished by a specific color on its signage. There are also multitudes of taxis and yes, they are safe. Now, of course, there is also Uber and other phone ap systems for calling a private chauffeur.

II. Mexico City's Natural Environment: The next set of pages acquaint you with the natural environment: its year-round temperate, sunny climate, its spectacular geographic setting in the midst of large, mostly dormant volcanoes, smaller, but historically important volcanoes within the city, and its history as one of large lakes. 
  • Mexico City Climate: Seasons, Sun, Sky, Clouds and Rain: If you are looking for a place to live year-round, permanently, in Mexico, our advice is to head for the hills. The "hills" are comprised of the high plateau of Central Mexico know as el Bajío and the cross-country mountain chain just to its south, called the Eje Volcánico, the Volcanic Axis or Trans-Mexico Volcanic Belt. This area has year-round moderate temperatures because it is located more or less around 7,000 ft. above sea level, which keeps the climate quite stably moderate and usually sunny. Mexico City sits at 7,000 ft. altitude. Here is our account of the City's mild climate: its seasons (there is no real winter), the sunshine (which occurs most days), the sky (which can be an unbelievable blue), the clouds (which can be dramatic towering cumulus), and the rainy season, more or less from May to October. Don't worry, it doesn't rain every day and usually, it's in late afternoon or after dark and consists of brief, at times intense, thunder storms. They serve as natural airconditioning and air purifiers, keeping the summer air dry, the temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night and, usually, with clearer air. 
  • Encountering Mexico City's Many Volcanoes, Part I: Giants on All Sides: Mexico City, as most everyone knows, sits in and takes up most of a valley, the Valley of Mexico. It is, in fact, a spectacular valley because it is surrounded by tall mountains, all of them volcanoes. Only one, Popocatepetl, (The Smoking Mountain), the tallest at nearly 18,000 ft (more than 10,000 feet above the Valley floor) is active, regularly emitting a plume of steam and sometimes erupting with huge columns of ash and lava. Popo, as he is familiarly called, is joined by his beloved frozen princess, Iztaccihuatl (The White or Sleeping Woman), at 17,000 ft. However, they are only the tallest and most dramatic members of the ring of volcanoes that surround the Valley. Here is an introduction to the many giants that envelop the city and make its geographic setting unique.
  • Encountering Mexico City's Many Volcanoes, Part II: Little Volcanoes With Big Histories: While the huge volcanoes of Popocatéptl, IztaccíhuatlAjusco and the other in the Cordillera de Chichinautzin, the Sierra de las Cruces and the Sierra del Río Frío dominate the Valley of Mexico and the interest of residents and visitors when they are in clear view, there are other volcanoes right within the city´s limits. They are small ash cone volcanoes, but despite their diminutive size, at least four of them have played prominent roles in the development of human settlements in the Valley and thus in the history of Mexico City. Here is our introduction to the four.
Cerro de la Estrella, Hill of the Star
Called Huizachtecatl (in Náhuatl) by the Mexicas.
  • City of Lost Lakes, Islands and VillagesThe Valley of Mexico, now filled by urban sprawl, was originally nearly filled by a chain of five lakes (covering about 580 sq. miles). Lake Texcoco was the largest, most central and lowest of them, thus receiving water from the other four. Because of the surrounding mountains, they had no outlet to the sea, and Texcoco was salty. The original Mexico City and its predecessor, Mexico Tenochtitlán, were on an island in a large bay in the southwest corner of Lake Texcoco. In addition, there were hundreds of villages that occupied the land around the lakes, as well as many on islands in the lakes.
Over the centuries, the lakes have been almost totally erased since the Spanish began draining them in the 17th century to prevent the annual flooding of Mexico City during the summer rainy season, so the islands eventually became part of the mainland. We have been searching out these "lost" islands, which are still-existing pueblo neighborhoods within the city. Here we introduce ones we have visited and the history of the changes they have undergone from islands to urban neighborhoods.
Five original lakes of the Valley
with some of the major ciies and villages
around them and on their islands.
III: Mexico City Architecture: This group of pages focuses on the architectural qualities which predominate, particularly in the Cento Historico of the city, the original Ciudad de México which Hernán Cortés began to build on top of the indigenous altepetl, Tenochtitlan of the Mexica.
  • Grandeza Mexicana: Grandeur of Mexico CityWalking the streets of Mexico City, from its Centro Histórico to various of its late 19th to early 20th century colonias, (neighborhoods) and modern boulevards, acquainting ourselves with their architecture and public art, we have noted the recurrence of what becomes a visual theme: an architectural grandness that relays a message of wealth and power. This city is, or has been, a seat of major political and economic power, expressed through physical grandeza, grandeur. Here we explore the particularly Mexican roots of this impulse to grandeur.
Main Plaza
  • México Barroco | Baroque Art: Representing Divine Ecstasy, Evoking AweIn Mexico, the art of the Baroque epoch (mid 17th to mid 18th centuries) is all around you in Centro and many old churches throughout the city. It is the art of the height of the Spanish Empire and its realized its most elaborate form in Nueva España. An excellent Wikipedia article on the Baroque helped us see its character as centered on grandeur, lavishness, and drama. We also came to realize the goal of its religious forms was to express holy ecstasy (stepping outside the ordinary world) and evoke awe. With that perspective, we explore the central and quintessential expression of Baroque religious architecture in Mexico City, the Metropolitan Cathedral. There are innumerable other examples in churches around the city.
El Sagrario
The Tabernacle portion of
the Metropolitan Cathedral,
in high Baroque style

Thematically or geographically related pages

  • Mexico's History As Embodied In Mexico City: Lists and links to all posts addressing the many stages in Mexico City's history as they are manifested in the cityscape, from the indigenous reign of the Mexica/Azteca through the Spanish colonial period (1521-1821), and the 19th and 20th centuries. 
Chapultepec Castle,
scene of several significant events
of the 19th century.
  • Mexico City's Original Indigenous Villages and Their Spíritual ConquestContemporary Mexico City is an amalgam, not only of the Spanish Colonial Centro and its expansion beginning in the late 19th and across the 20th century, but also of ancient indigenous pueblos, villages, that, beginning some three thousand five hundred years ago, were established on the shores and islands of the five lakes at the center of the Valley of Anahuac. So Cortés and the Spanish not only had to transform Tenochtitlan, they also had to transform a geographically extensive civilization and culture via the "evangelización de los indios," or "los natuturales" what has been called the Spiritual Conquest. This series of posts explores the landmarks, neighborhoods and fiestas that continue to embody the encounter and synthesis of the two civilizations. (This is our current work-in-progress).
Original, 16th century chapel of San Francisco,
in Quadrante (Quarter) of San Francisco,
originally the indigenous village of 
Hueytetitlan, now in Delegación Coyoácan.

  • Centro: El Centro, the Center of Mexico City, actually consists of five colonias, or neighborhoods: Centro Histórico, and East, West, North and South Centro. Spanish colonial palaces and smaller residential and commercial buildings from that period are numerous, but mixed in among them are buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Within them, and flowing among them in the streets, is the everyday timeless activity of selling and buying.
Portable shoeshine stand
in Plaza 
de Santo Domingo
  • Chapúltepec Woods and Paseo de la Reforma: Five kilometers, three miles, southwest of Centro, on what used to be the western shore of Lake Texcoco, sits the ancient, sacred site of el Bosque de Chapúltepec, Chapultepec Woods. A royal retreat and source of fresh spring water for the Aztecs, the Spanish turned it into a park for themselves. Subsequently, a "castle", actually a palace, was built at the top of its landmark hill. It served as the Mexican Military Academy and, in 1847, was the scene of a major battle in the U.S. invasion of Mexico  (aka Mexican American War). In the 1860s, Emperor Maximilian, put in place by Napoleon III of France at the request of Mexican conservative forces, decided to make it his palace. To connect it with the City Center, he had a boulevard built and named after his wife the Belgian Princess Carlotta. After his overthrow by liberal reform forces led by Benito Juárez, it became Paseo de la Reforma.
Paseo de la Reforma,
seen from Chapultepec Castle
  • Reign of Porfiro Díaz and Neighborhoods of the Early 20th Century: As the 19th century approached its end, Mexico City's well-to-do, who had increased in numbers under the economic policies of Porfirio Díaz (multiply reelected president from 1876 to 1911), sought new residences outside the old Spanish Colonial Centro Histórico. They began to develop colonias, planned neighborhoods, to the west, along Paseo de la Reforma boulevard and to its north and south. Díaz and the well-to-do had a great admiration for French culture. Hence, these colonias have a French flavor. Posts on six of these neighborhoods, with introductions, are listed.
French Second Empire-style homes,
with characteristic mansard roofs.
  • Mexican Revolution: Overview of Its Actors and Chapters: The Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) was a watershed between traditional and modern Mexico. Actually a series of four civil wars fought between a diverse cast of characters with widely disparate histories and motivations, the war and its aftermath can be divided into five stages or chapters, each consisting of a number of critical episodes. This Page offers an overview and links to Pages with fuller accounts of the personalities and each chapter of the war and its volatile aftermath.
Monument to the Revolution
  • Mexican Muralists: A revolution in Mexican Art was triggered during the Mexican Revolution. After the Revolution, it unfolded in a group of buildings in Centro and expanded across the city throughout the 20th century. This page provides links to posts on the sites and their murals—works by the "Big Three": Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and their successors, who continue to produce works up to the present.
Mural of Cortés and Malinche,
representing the mixing (mestizaje)
of Spanish and indigenous peoples.
by José Clemente Orozco,
in the museum San Ildefonso.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Original Villages | Coyoacán's Pueblo Candelaria's Fiesta of Candelaria, an Extra Special Occasion

The Two Roots of the Fiesta of Candelaria 

Candelaria, (in English, Candlemass) is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on February 2, forty days after the birth of Jesus the Christ, celebrated on December 25. It was Jewish custom that a first-born son be presented at the Temple in Jerusalem the fortieth day after his birth. According to the Gospels, Mary and Joseph followed this tradition. Candelaria is the feast day celebrating this early event in the life of el Niño Jesús, the Child, or Infant, Jesus.

File:Hans Holbein d. Ä. - Darstellung Christi im Tempel - Hamburger Kunsthalle.jpg
Presentation of Christ at the Temple
by Hans Holbein the Elder, 1500–01 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg)
MCA Note: In the early fourth century, church leaders fixed the date of Jesus's birth as December 25. This was the date of the winter solstice on the Roman (Julian) calendar. When our current Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582, all dates were moved ten days ahead to align with the sun's positions during the solar year. The misalignment had developed over time because the Julian calendar did not include a leap year every four years needed to keep the calendar aligned with the sun's cycle of positions in relation to the earth. However, Christmas was kept on December 25. The decision to place Jesus' birth on the winter solstice also implied that he was conceived on the spring equinox, nine months earlier. Wikipedia.
February 2 also happens to mark the mid-point of the season of winter in the northern hemisphere (summer in the southern). It is one of the so-called "cross-quarter days" of the solar calendar, falling halfway between the "quarter days" of the winter solstice and the subsequent spring equinox, therefore marking one-eighth of a solar year (6.5 weeks or 45.5 days).

Andrés Medina Hernández, a researcher at the IIAM (Institute of Anthropological Research) of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), has noted that Candelaria is celebrated with particular fervor in Mexico City, especially in the southern, more traditionally indigenous delegaciones (now alcaldías) of Iztapalapa, Tláhuac, Xochimilco and Milpa Alta, where there is a special veneration for El Niño Jesús, the child or infant Jesus, centered on Candelaria.

Most notable of these is el Niño Pa (the Child of This Place) in Xochimilco. He is a small wooden statue of the infant Jesus created in the 16th century, in the early years of the so-called Spiritual Conquest, the lengthy process of conversion of the indigenous by Spanish and other European monks to Christianity. (See our post: Xochimilco | Candelaria and el Niño Pa: Caring for the Infant God.)

El Niño pa,
carried by his majordomo, 

finishing his charge on Feb. 2, 2017
MCA Note: With this post, we are adding Delegación Coyoacán to this list. It has both a Pueblo Candelaria, featured in this post, and a Barrio El Niño Jesús
In addition to el Niño PaXochimilco has four other special Niños Jesús, each of whom is kept by householders of a particular pueblo or barrio, not in a church. The householder is the mayordomo (caretaker) who changes annually. These Niños, like el Niño Pa, spend the year visiting homes in the delegación and even travel to other delegaciones. We first encountered el Niño Pa in Pueblo Xoco (HO-ko) in Delegación Benito Juárez, some nine miles north of Xochimilco.

It is on February 2, Candelaria, that the new mayordomos take charge of the image of each of these Niño Dios for one year. This marks the end of the Christmas season. Dr. Medina believes this veneration of el Niño Jesús has a close link with the ancient Mesoamerican agricultural calendar and religion. The celebration of Candelaria coincides with a Mesoamerican tradition of venerating the annual rebirth of the god of corn.

The Mexica god of maize (corn)Centeotl, was born on February 2, which was also the beginning of the Mexica solar year. His birth initiated the annual agricultural cycle of soil preparation, planting, cultivation and harvesting of corn. At harvest time, five ripened maize cobs were picked by elder Aztec women. Each was carefully wrapped, like a mother would wrap up a newborn child and then carried, like a child, in a shawl on the women's backs to their homes. There, they were placed in a special basket and kept until the following year and the beginning of the next agricultural cycle.

Medina also points out that there is a link between the birth of the god of corn and the eating of tamales and atole (a drink made of corn masa [dough], thinned with water and with various flavors added) on February 2. The masa (dough) of cornmeal is the symbolic flesh of the corn god and the atole is his blood. The word tamal or tamalli is Nahuatl and means "carefully wrapped" (as a newborn is wrapped).

Eating tamales and drinking atole on Candelaria is a traditional symbolic act very similar to Communion in Christianity. By consuming these foods, Mexicans eat the body and drink the blood of the newborn god of corn. In the Maya sacred book, the Popol Vuh, human beings were created from corn masa. Human existence in Mesoamerica depended on corn. This has a parallel in Judaism and Christianity, where, in the Book of Genesis, God molds man from soil in his image and likeness.

No photo description available.
Cooking and eating tamales
portrayed in an indigenous codex

Furthermore, in the same way that a tamal is carefully wrapped, on Candelaria many families dress a figure of the Child God, which is kept in their home all year, with special garments, most often baptismal gowns. He is then taken to the church to be blessed and to pray for his protection of the family for the coming year.
MCA Note: This analysis of Candelaria by Dr. Medina was provided by Abraham Garcia, a student in anthropology in the National Autonomous University of Mexico and administrator of the Facebook page Fiestas Mágicas de los Pueblos y Barrios Originarios del Valle de Mexico, our indispensible guide.
Niño Jesús on Candelaria,
with ears of corn in a basket.

All of these primal, archetypal parallels between indigenous and Christian beliefs in the symbolism of Candelaria are among the many that helped make possible the syncretism of indigenous and Roman Catholic Christian religions that resulted in Mexican popular Catholicism. (For more on the elements and dynamics of this syncretism see our page, Mexico Traditional Popular Religious Culture.)

Candelaria in Pueblo Candelaria, Coyoacán

We have written about Pueblo Candelaria twice before, when, as part of the visits paid by el Señor de la Misericordia, the Lord of Compassion, each summer from his home in Pueblo Tres Santos Reyes (Three Holy Kings) to other pueblos in Coyoacán. We were present when he arrived for the first of two visits to Candelaria, which is Tres Reyes' neighbor, and again, at the end of his summer tour, when he returns to Tres Reyes from his second visit in Candelaria. Candelaria is the only pueblo he visits twice each summer. The two pueblos are closely bonded. Both entregas (handovers, deliveries) are grand events.

But we had never gone to Candelaria for the fiesta of its patron saint. It is not el Niño Jesús. (The nearby Barrio el Niño Jesus has its fiesta on January 1, the eighth day of Jesus' life and, according to Jewish custom, the day of his circumcision. We attended it last year.) The patron saint of Pueblo Candelaria is the Virgin of Candelaria, that is, the Virgin Mary in her advocación (representation) at the moment of her purification at the Temple forty days after Jesus' birth and, also, as the Queen of Heaven, which she became upon her assumption into heaven at the moment of her earthly death.

So early on the morning of February 2, a Saturday this year, not able to find any schedule of fiesta events on the internet, we go to Candelaria, hoping to witness a procession we have heard happens around 9 AM. However, when we arrive at the atrio (atrium) of the modern church (the original 16th-century one was replaced in the mid-20th century), not much seems to be happening.

A large floral portada of fresh flowers—always amazing in their complex design, vibrant colors and workmanship—covers the arches of the church entrance.

Portada made with fresh mums.
"The Lord stands firm for his pueblo´s (village and its people)
defense and salvation,
for its faithful ones he saves us.

But even more spectacular, taking up most of the large atrio is a huge tapete de aserrín, sawdust carpet, a fiesta tradition. The pueblo is well-known for its tapetes, created for each fiesta by a group of mostly young people, the Alfombristas Pueblo de la Candelaria Coyoacán (link is to its Facebook page; alfombra is another word for carpet, likely from Arabic). 

Tapete or alfombra de aserrín
This one is unusual, not only for its size,
but also for its lack of any specific religious symbolism

Coming and going from the sanctuary are parishioners carrying their Niños Jesús, to be blessed today.


A large wind band is playing on a stage to one side.

Entering the sanctuary, we find a few people praying. The Virgin is missing from her baldachin, the canopied space reserved, since medieval times, for a royal, or here, sacred Presence.

We find the Virgin, or two of her, on a table in one side aisle.
Patron saints are often kept in duplicate, one always to remain in the sanctuary,
the other for being carried through the pueblo in processions.
Both wear the crown
 of the Queen of Heaven.

Here, parishioners present their Niños Jesús for her blessing.
The burning of candles is part of the ritual, a symbol that Jesus is the light of the  world;
hence the fiesta's name, Candelaria, Candlemass.

We ask various parishioners when the procession is to occur. None seem sure of the time. Finally, one woman tells us that a schedule of all the fiesta events is posted outside. Such posters are standard for fiestas, and they are essential for us to know when the main events are going to happen. We did not see any on our way into the pueblo or in the atrio, but go in search, hoping to find one. There are none in the atrio and we begin to despair, when, walking back out into the main street, we suddenly spot one on the garage door of a home.

It tells us that the procession isn't today, but tomorrow at noon. At that time, the Virgin will meet saints arriving from other pueblos. The encounter will take place at the intersection of two main avenues that form the northeast boundary of the pueblo, Avenida Candelaria and Avenida Pacífico. We know the intersection well. It is exactly where el Señor de la Misericordia and the Virgin come together and where, the first Sunday in September, they part ways. Many saints from other pueblos had been present both times we were there, so we anticipate that this encounter will be on a similarly grand scale. Clearly, the Virgin of Candelaria is highly venerated beyond her own parish. 

The Virgin of Candelaria Welcomes the Saints of Other Pueblos to Her Fiesta

So, shortly before noon on Sunday, we arrive by taxi at the corner of Candelaria and Pacífico Avenues. Pacífico, south of Candelaria, is blocked to traffic by a cadre of city police. A crowd is gathered in the closed street. Having seen this scenario before, we know what is happening and hurry to wend our way through the crowd.

A Gathering of the Saints of Coyoacán

A short distance down the block we see the Virgin (in her pink version) standing on a flower-covered anda (platform) for being carried in the procession to the church.  

The Virgin of Candelaria,
Hostess of Her Day

Standing in front of her, on both sides of the southbound lanes of Pacifíco, a large number of saints are lined up on their andas. Having been, by now, to many fiestas in Coyoacán, including two others at this same spot, we recognize quite a few and know which pueblos they represent.

El Señor de la Misericordia, the Lord of Compassion
and los Tres Santos Reyes, Three Holy Kings
from Pueblo Tres Santos Reyes.

Niño Jesús
, Child or Infant Jesus,
from Barrio Niño Jesús.

San Pablo, St. Paul,
from Pueblo San Pablo Tepetlapa;

San Sebastián

from Pueblo San Sebastián Xoco

Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles
from Barrio San Diego Churubusco;

San Domingo and San Francisco
from Colonia de Santo Domingo

San Luis Rey, Saint Louis, King of France
from the church dedicated to him
in Colonia Ajusco;

San Isidro, 
saint of farmer,
from Pueblo San Isidro, Michocán

Both saints were brought from the municipality of Nahuatzen, Michoacán
when large numbers of its Purépecha residents moved to Colonia Ajusco in the 1960s and 70s.

The Procession Gets Underway

There are several more saints waiting to join the procession, but we´ll have to wait to take their photos, as parishioners from Candelaria are picking up her anda and starting the procession into the pueblo. We have to hurry to get ahead of them before they enter the narrow barrio street, as we have learned that being at the front of a procession is the best position for finding good angles for shots.

The procession begins.

Three Virgins of Candelaria

Warriors for St. James who battle the "pagan" Moors.
We have seen them at several fiestas.

Chinelos, also frequent participants in processions of saints

Procession of the Saints of Coyoacán

The Virgin of Candelaria
then leads the procession of saints

Other saints that we weren't able to photograph while they were waiting, now pass by:

Virgin of Guadalupe
Santa Úrsula
of Barrio Santa Úrsula Coapa

El Señor de los Milagros
The Lord of Miracles,
from the church dedicated to Him
in Colonia Ajusco
San Lucas, St. Luke
of Barrio San Lucas

San Domingo and San Francisco,
followed by San Luis Rey,
proceed through the callejas, narrow streets,
of Pueblo Candelaria.

The Virgen of Guadalupe,
Santa Úrsula and
San Sebastián
The Virgin arrives in the atrio of her church.

Welcoming the Saints to the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria

Awaiting the Virgin, in her honor, is her portrait,
a tapete de aserrín that has. overnight, replaced the circular one of the day before.

The church bells, in the belfry,
which is the only remaining part of the original 16th-century church,
begin to be rung by an athletic joven (youth).

The Virgin
is carefully carried around the tapete,
towards the church.

She is placed to receive all of the visiting saints.

One by one, the saints are carried into the sanctuary.
The Virgin enters last.

The congregation waits while the visiting saints are placed near the altar.

Some carry their Ninos Jesús

In the choir loft, a group, mostly young people,
sing folk-style songs
with much ánimo, spirit.

All is ready for the Mass in veneration of the Virgin of Candelaria.

The Virgin (the one in pink) has been returned to the table in the side aisle,
where yesterday she was accompanied by one in blue.

The small version in blue, next to her, is known as a "demandita", "little petition",
a very portable form of a saint, used by individuals and families 

to represent some particular advocación, manifestation of the Virgin as an advocate
on behalf of the faithful to Her Son, Jesus the Christ, and God the Father.

Three Eminent Saints of Coyoacán

The Virgin, in blue, has been returned to her baldachín
behind the altar.

Placed in positions of special honor in front of her are
El Señor de la Misericordia
El Niño Jesús,

The Tres Santos Reyes stand below them.

They are the saints of Candelaria's neighboring pueblos.

The placement of El Señor de la Misericordia and El Niño Jesús immediately in front of la Virgen de Candelaria is, we think, a symbolic expression of their special importance for all the original pueblos of Coyoacán. El Señor de la Misericordia, the Lord of Compassion, holds a special status in all the pueblos, demonstrated by his elaborately enacted series of visits to them each summer. The feast day of Candelaria is a celebration both of the Virgin Mother and her holy child, el Niño Jesus. Here, today, in the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria, they are brought together.

The importance of the Virgin of Candelaria among the original pueblos of Coyoacán is also demonstrated by the participation of virtually all those pueblos' saints in the procession and the culminating Mass. This extensive participation does not occur at the patron saint fiestas of the other pueblos. Here, in Coyoacán, as throughout all of Mexico, the Virgin holds a place of unique eminence. She is the Mother of the Son of God incarnate, as manifested in the feast of Candelaria. She is the mother of the Son who is crucified to save from their sins and death all who accept him as Savior, as embodied here by the Lord of Compassion. And in her advocación as the Virgin of Guadalupe, also present today, she is the Mother of Mexico. 

Delegaciones of Mexico City
Coyoacán is the purple delegación in the center.

Pueblos, barrios and colonias of Delegción Coyoacán

Pueblo Candelaria
is the starred, yellow pueblo.
Pueblo los Tres Santos Reyes, home of el Señor de la Misericordia,
is green pueblo just west of Candelaria.
Barrio El Niño Jesús is blue area just west of Tres Reyes.