The string of night-time downpours that doused lakeside throughout this week give a sign that the temporal de lluvias (rainy season) is about to come into full force. And with it, all the thunder, lightning and man-made commotion tied to what I call the Season of the Soggy Saints.
According to local lore, the summer rains burst upon us like clockwork as of June 13, the final day of festivities honoring Saint Anthony of Padua, the spiritual patron of San Antonio Tlayacapan,. However, the potent storm sweeping across Lake Chapala last Sunday — the fiestas kick-off day — may be an indicator that we’ll see an early start and steady continuation of this year’s June-October wet streak.
Folks in San Antonio pay tribute to their santo patrón with traditional religious observances heralded each day at dawn with pealing church bells and a barrage of cohetes (sky rockets). Crowds of the faithful gather every evening to troop through village streets in picturesque processions led by a statue of San Antonio and followed by a contingent of toddlers decked out in friar’s frocks, ritual dance troupes, marching bands and motorized floats decorated to represent sacred themes. The parade route changes each day, always ending on Calle Ramon Corona at the entrance to the church prior to evening Mass.
As soon as the service is over, the secular celebration unfolds around the central plaza, with live entertainment, mechanical rides, games of chance, and street stands hawking typical foods, drinks and miscellaneous trinkets. Barring major deluges, dazzling castillo fireworks displays are set ablaze between 10 and 11 p.m. to cap off the night.
Several other lakeshore villages celebrate fiestas patronales in similar fashion during the month of June. While each locality follows its own religious, cultural and social customs, inclement weather inevitably goes with the package.
San Juan Cosala and San Juan Tecomatlán honor Saint John the Baptist with novenarios (nine-day celebrations) running June 16 through 24. On the last date – el mero día de la fiesta – you may come across revelers engaging in light-hearted water battles, “baptizing” one another with buckets and other containers filled with the liquid stuff.
Lapping over from June 21 to 29, are the wet and wild festivities going on at opposite ends of the lake in San Pedro Tesistán and San Pedro Itzicán.
And if all that fervor isn’t enough to bring on the rains in all their glory, La Virgen de Zapopan – the cherished Queen of the Lake – will be welcomed for her traditional summer visit on Sunday, July 10. Thousands of pilgrimages from near and far will congregate in the heart of Chapala to raise prayers for a bountiful season and the good health of Mexico’s largest lake.
So crack out your umbrellas to get in on the summer hoopla. Or sit back and enjoy Mother Nature’s magic that turns our parched landscape into a green wonderland.