Every moment before Easter Sunday in San Miguel de Allende is like a dream filled with saints, cherubic angels, aromatic herbs, and a cast of thousands. Even mother nature complies as the jacaranda trees burst with lavender blooms as if on cue. The devotions begin a full two weeks prior, but Semana Santa, Holy Week, is the very emotional and very dramatic culmination of the Lenten season.
Every "colonia", or neighborhood, celebrates with local processions, beautifully constructed altars, and the proud display of saints that only leave the parish church over these days. So many processions are occurring, often simultaneously, that villagers scramble from one neighborhood to the next in an effort to admire friends and family as they participate in the solemn rituals of the season.
The church, El Orotorio, conducts one of the largest and most-colorful processions in San Miguel on the Wednesday of Holy Week. Organizing the parade takes time and patience, but no one minds as young and old eagerly gather to see this visual pronouncement of faith.
One of the most-endearing moments is the appearance of the host of angels. Throngs of little girls are dressed in virgin white, each bearing feather-covered angel's wings, golden crowns, and branches of flowers. Cameras are clicking in every direction, and their parents could not be prouder.
The slow cadence of the saint bearers, the solemn expression on every face, and the reverent silence of the crowds adds to the emotional moment that has enveloped all of San Miguel. It is the collective faith of thousands that permeates the air. Although clouds gather and there was a moment of rain, the sun has now burst through and the sky is glowing. The procession turns the corner and dramatically enters The Jardín to pass before the spires of La Parroquia and the admiring eyes of the faithful.
The following day, Maundy Thursday, the sacred events continue in various "colonias" including the re-enactment of The Last Supper, the washing of the feet of the disciples, and a re-enactment of the arrest of Jesus. On this night, villagers attempt to visit each of San Miguel's seven main churches, known as Las Siete Casas.¹ Thousands will go to El Orotorio to visit the chapel, La Santa Casa de Loreto, which is only open to the public on this night.
Despite the pageantry and wonder that has occurred in every neighborhood for days, nothing can compare to what is to come; Viernes Santo, Good Friday.
Tomorrow our village will awake to witness the most emotional and profound day of the year. And there is no better place to witness Viernes Santo than in San Miguel de Allende.
March 12, 2005