The official feast day of the Virgin of the Rosary, according to church calendars, is October 7.
Obviously one day isn’t nearly enough time for the townspeople of Ajijic to pay tribute to the patrona of the old chapel on the north side of the plaza; instead she is feted with a full month of prayer, recitations of the Rosary, song and devotion.
During the final days of September, the lovely antique figure of the mother and child is removed from the altar in the old chapel and is outfitted in a new dress and shawl before being taken to El Templo de San Antonio Tlayacapan for a night of prayer and adoration. The next afternoon the San Antonio folks take the Virgin to meet a group from the Six Corners area who carry her to the Santuario de Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe for her annual 24-hour visit there. On the evening of September 30, the Virgin of the Rosary is on the move again, accompanied by a crowd of pilgrims who watch reverently as she is placed near the altar of the Ajijic parish church, El Templo de San Andrés. She will remain there, surrounded by flowers and devotion for the remainder of the month. Each week of October, a handful of skyrockets awaken the neighbors in the sector of town selected to lead the week’s early morning procession to San Andrés. Along the way to the service, which is called las mañanitas (the sweet early mornings) the pilgrims recite the rosary and sing songs of praise.
It’s no wonder that the Virgin of the Rosary receives so much attention; she has been a part of Ajijic daily life for centuries. Her chapel was once the center of worship for the Franciscan hospital (school, inn and hospice.) The monks built hospitales as they settled indigenous communities in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Ajijic’s hospital was an early community center. There was a place for the resident and traveling monks and other visitors to sleep, areas where the monks could teach various arts and crafts, corrals for livestock, garden plots, the chapel for daily Masses and other services and a place for the care of the sick and dying.
On October 31, before the Virgen del Rosario is returned to her home altar, she commands the lead vehicle of the enormous procession through the streets of Ajijic. It’s a grand sight. Along the way, as latecomers drop into place, the procession grows to fill five or more blocks with local bands, carros alegóricos (floats with biblical themes), troupes of indigenous dancers in ornate costumes who perform their intricate steps along the cobblestone streets and hundreds residents of Ajijic who file into the San Andrés atrium for a 7 p.m. outdoor Mass.
As the Mass ends, the Virgin is carried around the plaza and through the gates of her home chapel. Even if you decide not to join in the daily early morning processions, don’t miss the experience of the Saturday, October 31 procession for the Virgin of the Rosary. The pilgrimage begins about 4:30 p.m. on Galeana at the back of San Andrés, heads south to Constitución and then east to Aldama before going north to Guadalupe Victoria, and then west (with a one-block jog up to Zaragoza) to Six Corners where the long procession makes a u-turn and heads back to San Andres via Ocampo-Constitucion and then north on Marcos Castellanos to the church gates.
There will be an especially beautiful castillo (fixed fireworks display with spinning Catherine wheels) burned in the virgin’s honor about 10:30 p.m.