It’s October!

by Judy King 3. October 2010 15:45

I’m so disappointed to have let a week go by without posting here – but I’ve a VERY good excuse. No, the dog didn’t eat my homework, but the result has been the same – my hard drive not only crashed, it burned…died…left no survivers. 

Thankfully, I’d backup up most of my information just four days before the death of the computer – but, I didn’t back up my email addresses and information (that’s a pain – get safe guards in place, now!). I can claim ignorance with the loss of 10-12 finished, ready-to-publish blog posts to same me time during deadline times.

So, I had no prepared material for you blog readers during the extremely busy time of moving into a different computer. The only thing I can compare that process to is getting the car back from the mechanic or body shop after several days – you know the feeling…the mirrors are off, someone changed the radio pre-set stations, there aren’t CDs in the player, they took the stuff out of the glove box and put it on the floor while they worked on the dash, the seat is in exactly the opposite position – it takes forever to make it feel right again.

The good news is that I made the deadline for the new issue of Living at Lake Chapala’snew October issue. It was up and running on September 30 about 7 p.m. as usual.

Since it’s now time to get the articles ready for the October 15 issue of the Lake Chapala Review, I’m the editor there, too, I have a great surprise for all of you.

Today and tomorrow I’m teasing you with the preview of the articles in the current October 2010 issue of Living at Lake Chapala. 

Meanwhile here is the preview we always include in the From the Editor’s Column. You can always read that, whether you are a subscriber or not.

October 2010: Celebrating a Saint, A Virgin, and a Great Rainy Season

With the first day of fall and that beautiful harvest moon in late September, we're trying hard to convince ourselves that it really is fall here at Lake Chapala. If the calendar doesn't convince you, try a trip to Chapala this week.

The huge downtown carnival set up, the stages, blocked off traffic flow and morning and evening processions will confirm that it really is early October and Chapala is well into the novena honoring the town's patron, San Francisco (St. Francis of Assisi).

If you hurry you can still join in the fun and celebration — it culminates on the feast day of the saint, October 4.

(Left:) The Virgin of the Rosary, the centuries-old figure from over the altar in Ajijic's small chapel is feted for the entire of October.


Meanwhile, not to be outdone in the devotion to local favorite icons, the last few days of September were studded with evening skyrockets as Ajijic's favorite Virgin of the Rosary, the patron of the old chapel on the north side of the plaza, moved to spend a night and day in the church in San Antonio and then headed for the church at Six Corners to spend a night with the parishioners there.

On September 30 she was positioned in a place of honor in the front of Ajijic's parish church, El Templo de San Andrés, where she'll receive early morning pilgrims all during her month. Don't miss the grand procession in her honor around 6 p.m. on October 31. It's a wonderful opportunity to see the indigenous dancers, local bands and hundreds of the local faithful walking in a solemn moment of honor and respect.

Lakeside religious processions are always perfect locations to snap wonderful pictures of unusual scenes. Here, at left below, a small girl depicts the Virgin of the Rosary on a procession float while at right, a troupe of dancers near the completion of the hour-long procession.

The Rainy Season and Ajijic's Waterfalls
The annual rainy season which usually stretches from early June to mid-September is still going strong, fueled by tropical storms which are continuing to develop and move up both shores of Mexico. Storms on either coast circle rain-producing clouds up and over the mountains to our high central plateau.

If you've been watching the temperatures and rainfall amounts on http://chapalaweather.netyou've rejoiced with us as we've received more rain than normal this season. We're 5" above normal rainfall for the months of June through September and topped the annual average rainfall more than a month ago. We're standing at over 42" of rainfall so far this year compared to the average of 33.5" per year.

(At Left:) A hiker marvels at a section of Tepalo, Ajijic's triple waterfalls which cascade down through a canyon just above the village.

All that rain is great news for our gardens and for Lake Chapala which this week reached 82% capacity; that's up more than 31 inches from a year ago and tops the 2009 September levels by 10%. It looks like the lake could easily surpass the record high levels of 2008.

Of course the gain in lake water is not just due to the heavy rains here at Lakeside. This summer's storm systems have dropped good amounts of water all along the Rio Lerma basin, and the 11 upstream reservoirs are holding an average of 93% of their capacities — far better than the 63% levels they marked in September of last year. Because they are all nearly full, we know that water will be released downstream for Lake Chapala.

What does that upstream water report mean? I expect that Lake Chapala's water level will continue to rise for at least two more months, and may continue to rise into the new year as runoff and excess water continues to enter the lake from the river.

This year's abundant rainfall has another benefit for hikers, casual walkers and the just plain curious — Tepalo, Ajijic's waterfalls cascading down the mountains just above town.

That's right — Ajijic has a waterfall — well actually there are several falls in this system, lower falls and a series of triple falls up a little higher.

Jim Cook, the resident hiking expert on the Living at Lake Chapala writing team, headed up to Tepalo in mid-September to take pictures and get the scoop so that you can make the fairly easy walk up to the falls, too. Jim gives the specifics in his article, but this is a walk that is doable for most of our readers, even the non-hikers. And if you join the crowds of Mexican families heading up the hill by the Donut shop in the late afternoon, you'll be joining flocks of children, parents, abuelos (grandparents) and even bisabuelos (great-grandparents).

Making the walk to Tepalo is a happy town tradition. You see the waterfall doesn't "run" in drier years — and if "Tepalo is running," you know there's plenty of rain for a good corn crop and a good harvest. Life in Mexico tends to break down to the simplest level of expectations and celebration. Join the fun!

Traveling With the Experts: Tapalpa and Jalapa
I'm amazed at the amount of traveling some of our Living at Lake Chapala writers do each year — yet they still have time to be actively involved with the community, and to write the results of their trips for you.

(Left:) When Carol Bowman headed for a weekend away in Tapalpa, she found some special entertainment for a very traditional event along the way. (Right:) Michael McLaughlin and Anita Lee visited the village of San Antonio near Jalapa — and this bell tower which was constructed in 1546.

Carol Bowman has taken the traveler's prize among the members of our writing team. Although she has just been back a few days from a three-week journey to the Holy Lands, she is filling us in on her pampered weekend away in Tapalpa in this month's Out and About column.

Lucky woman that she is, Carol was able to see first hand one of the most enduring customs of area ranchers and farmers — the pajaretes. She was a little confused, too, when on the side of the road she saw a tent, filled with tables and huge ceramic cups and heard a trio playing ranchero music.

Her driver explained the tradition to Carol and her husband, Ernie, while pointing out the milk cows tied up nearby. It seems that a goodly shot of tequila or grain alcohol, instant coffee, sugar, cinnamon (to the cowboy's taste) are poured into one of the big cups and then comes the milk, fresh, directly from the cow, foamy and warm. As Carol says, it's truly a "breakfast of champions," at least to hear these guys tell it.

(Left:) In the Vera Cruz plaza, all decorated for the September Independence Day activities, Michael and Anita watched a performance of folkloric dancing. (Right:) As Michael explains in his article, the anthropological museum in Jalapa was one of the best he's visited. This sculpture fragment wears an owl headdress.

Last year Michael McLaughlin and his wife, Anita Lee, spent six months traveling Mexico. In this month's People, Places and Things, he writes about their adventures in Vera Cruz, Jalapa, and some of the other small villages, including his favorite, Xico Xico and Coatepec, the coffee producing center of Vera Cruz.

They may not have found the perfect place to live (they report that it's far too hot and humid) but they certainly found adventures enough to last most of us several weeks.

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Cathedrals? Most are Churches

by Judy King 18. July 2010 13:47

catheral Capillas, Templos, Parroquias, Cathedrals—How do you know the difference?

It’s difficult sorting out all the different types of area churches, even here in Ajijic and Chapala. I’ve noticed that a lot of newcomers and even some folks who have lived here 30 years or more assume that because the Parish churches in Ajijic, Chapala and Jocotepec are grand and old, they must be cathedrals.

Here, in a nutshell are the definitions of the various types of churches in Mexico (and elsewhere):

Catedral Often foreigners refer to “the Cathedral in Chapala” or “the Cathedral in Ajijic” in an attempt to refer respectfully to the larger church in local communities. There is only one Cathedral in the Guadalajara archdiocese, and it is in downtown Guadalajara.

A cathedral is always the seat of the Bishop; in fact, the word comes from a Latin word meaning “the Bishop’s throne.” While the Archdiocese of Western Mexico has thousands of capillas, templos, sanctuaries and parroquias,and is governed by Cardinal Juan Sandaval Iñiguez and five obispos (bishops), there is only one Cathedral.

Basilica About equal in importance to the cathedral are the Basilicas – they’re not neighborhood churches, they are special churches directly under the domain of the Vatican. Where Cathedrals, Templos and Parroquias divide their collection between the home needs and the dioceses, Basilicas divide their income between their own needs and Rome. In architectural terms, basilica indicates a church of special beauty.

A basilica contains a miraculous image, often some advocacíon of the Virgin Mary to which pilgrimages are made. In the third century, Constantine sent his mother to the Holy Lands to supervise the building of the first basilica at the site of the nativity. Later he ordered the building of the basilica of St. Peter. Basilicas are administered by an Abbot or Abad, who is directly accountable to the Pope.

Here in Mexico, basilicas are defined by that miraculous image and as the destinations of peregrinos (pilgrims) who come to see it. The basilicas in this area include the home altars of the Virgin of Zapopan (the patron of the state of Jalisco) and the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos. When you visit Joco-churchPatzcuaro in the neighboring state of Michoacán, you’ll want to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Salud. My favorite Basilicas are the Oaxaca church ion which is housed Our Lady of Soledad (the Virgin Mary in her grief at the foot of the cross) and of course La Villa, the home of the image of Mary as she appeared in Mexico, The Virgin of Guadalupe.

Parroquia  – The large area of the diocese is divided into parroquias (Parishes). In order to become a parish an area much have a fixed boundary, a priest and in addition in Mexico, must schedule a fixed number of masses and mass attendees per week. An interesting example is the church in Lake Chapala’s San Antonio Tlayacapan. For many years, the San Antonio congregation was part of the parroquia of Ajijic. About three years ago, they reached the necessary requirements and became parroquia, with their own Sr. Cura (parish priest). To go back a bit more, the Ajijic congregation (along with San Antonio Tlayacapan) were under the umbrella of the Chapala parroquia, El Templo de San Francisco until the 1970s.

Templo Community church buildings are officially called Templos, even when the congregation has been elevated to the position of parroquia.  For example, in print, the main church in Ajijic is called El Templo de San Andrés.

cajajitlan-chapelSanctuario -- A Santuario begins as a hermitage or a chapel, but it contains a miraculous image, in Ajijic this is the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Capilla The very word chapel brings to mind a small space for worship. In the old days, and in the very large churches, chapels were built along the sides of the space for the congregation. Some of the chapels were dedicated to special saints, others were built over the the burial site of a local church dignitary or family. In old European churches, it was common for a chapel to be used just for baptisms was built a short distance from the church. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one example.

Some of Mexico’s capillas (chapels) were once attached to the hospitales built by the Franciscans as they moved through the area. Most of these capillas predate the templo built a short distance away (usually across the town’s plaza). These ancient hospitales included spaces for a number of activities – there were places for traveling monks to rest and be restores, school spaces, corral, barn and storage space, as well as places for the sick to be treated and the area residents to receive religious san-ceceliainstruction and to learn farming and artisan techniques. 

You can visit very typical capillas in Ajijic, and even older examples in the nearby villages of Cajititlan and Santa Cruz de las Flores. In San Juan Cosalá, and San Antonio Tlayacapan, only the steeples remain from the original capillas.

Hermitages – Once located in caves high on the mountains and inhabited by hermits who retreated from the community to dedicate their life to prayer and sacrifice, today there are hermitages – small gathering places for prayer in most Mexican communities. These can be as simple as an outdoor cross, or be a spot or tiny building dedicated to honoring a favorite saint or Virgin.

This little shrine at left is at the east end of the malecon in Chapala – near the Chapala fish restaurants. The large figure in the center is Santa Cecelia, the patron of the musicians. Other figures in the hermitage is St. Jude, the Virgin of Zapopan, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Chapala’s patron, San Francisco de Asis.

church-ajijic So what are the area churches called? 


  • Templo de San Andrés—the parish church of Ajijic -- This is the main church of Ajijic, and where the local pastors are centered. From this church, named for St. Andrew, the entire network of local churches and services is governed and coordinated by the local team of priests.
  • Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe -- The Santuario in Ajijic is the more modern church on Ocampo, near Six Corners.
  •  Capilla de la Virgen del Rosario -- Most foreigners know this as the “old” church— Dedicated to Ajijic’s beloved image of Mary as the Virgin of the Rosary, this chapel is on the north side of the Ajijic plaza.



  • Capilla de San Jose de La Floresta -- When the farmland was sold to begin the neighborhood of La Floresta, the owner made a request, that land be reserved for a church. The chapel, started in the 1960s has recently been refurbished. It is dedicated to St. Joseph.
  • The Hermitage – The tiny “chapel” on the mountain above the village of Ajijic is dedicated to the Holy Cross. The hiking path that leads the way to the hermitage is lined with monuments marking the stations of the cross.


  • Templo de San Francisco de Asis -- the parish church of Chapala – this parish church is one of the few in this area which is not located next to the town plaza. Instead San Francisco occupies a place of honor near the town’s pier and malecon.
  • Capilla de la Virgen del Carmen – This beautiful little jewel is located in the north-central portion of Chapala.

church-san-francisco chapel-del-carmen

  • Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe – The least obvious of the Chapala Chapels is in the neighborhood by the same name.
  • Capilla de la Señora del Lordes – If you haven’t visited this tiny beauty, take time to see it…When you reach the Hotel Monte Carlo, turn and drive up the hill into the neighborhood settled 150 years ago by a large group of French expats.  You’ll notice that all of the streets are named for famous locations in France.
  • chruch-san-antonioThe Hermitages – There are several of the small hermitages in Chapala. They remember Santa Cecelia, the patron of musicians, The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, The Sacred Heart, and The small building on the Cerro de San Miguel high above the town.
  • Templo de Nuestra Senora de el Pilar – This small church along the highway in Riberas is the area’s newest Catholic house of worship – by about 50 years or more. It is part of the parish of Chapala.

San Antonio Tlayacapan:

  • Templo de San Antonio de Padua – this is the parish church of the village of San Antonio Tlayacapan located between Chapala and Ajijic.
  • The  Hermitages de Santa Cruz – The four crosses along San Antonio streets (San Jose, two on La Paz and Jesus Garcia are locations of observation in this village. Once all towns had boundary marking crosses.

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Mexican Churches, Saints & Virgins

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Fiesta de San Juan Cosalá

by Judy King 23. June 2010 11:35

SJC-flowerdisplay The most traditional patron saint fiesta, the novena in San Juan Cosalá honoring San Juan Bautista is building to its annual dramatic conclusion. The celebration in this oldest of the north shore Lake Chapala villages began June 16 with the faithful parishioners gathering to the sound of bursting sky rockets early every morning to walk in a pilgrimage to the village church.

The fiesta in San Juan Cosalá is filled with some of the most devout customs seen on Lake Chapala's north shore – including a host of special Masses which attract enough participants to fill the town church to the point of bursting.

There is a special Mass with services for the sick, in another the children receive first communion. There is a Mass for the Hijos Ausentes, (those San Juan Cosalá natives who have gone to the United States or other areas to work and live) and a Mass for those members of the community who have died during the year. It’s not unusual for as many as 18 priests from nearby communities to take part in the special noontime High Mass on June 24, the fiesta's final day. One night during the fiesta (usually on a Saturday night), townspeople take shifts to keep an all-night vigil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the church.

Many of the traditions exhibited here in the fiesta are more reminiscent of the old-time fiestas than those we see in other Lakeside villages. Villagers erect altars honoring San Juan Bautista in front of their homes. Even the early morning activities in San Juan Cosalá are more focused on the activities in the church than on beginning an all-day party.

Each morning the village is awakened by cojetes (skyrockets) and music so that as many people as possible can hurry to the procession's starting points at alternating ends of the village for the walk to the church reciting the rosary. The early morning service begins at 6:30 a.m. At noon, skyrockets call townspeople to the church for meditation and another recitation of the rosary.

The daily 6 p.m. procession of pilgrims to the church is accompanied by one of the local bandas and is always lead by villagers who dance in the style of the indigenous people who lived in this area long before the arrival of the Spanish. The procession begins on alternate days from the east and west ends of Calle Porfirio Díaz.

Each evening, the day’s sponsors and others in the procession carry offerings of flowers, wine, bread, food and other items to the church. One night, a year's supply of sirios (large candles) is carried in the procession and presented to the church.

SJC-allages SJC-offering SJC-float 

The daily 6 p.m. procession of pilgrims to the church is accompanied by one of the local bandas and is always lead by villagers who dance in the style of the indigenous people who lived in this area long before the arrival of the Spanish. The procession begins on alternate days from the east and west ends of Calle Porfirio Díaz.

Each evening, the day’s sponsors and others in the procession carry offerings of flowers, wine, bread, food and other items to the church. One night, a year's supply of sirios (large candles) is carried in the procession and presented to the church.

As the evening procession arrives at the church, the band goes into the church first to play "Las Mañanitas" at the altar for San Juan.

When the band leaves the church, the dancers file in to dance at the altar in honor of the patron saint. They leave and then dance in the church's front atrium after Mass.

Each day of the fiesta is organized and sponsored by individual families and by local trade unions, businesses, and employees. Those who take an active part include the brick masons and construction workers, the restaurant owners from the Piedra Barrenada area just east of town, the shop owners, the Cosalá fishing union, the chayoteros (growers of chayote, a pear-shaped squash) the owners and employees of the balnearios (hot springs), and the achioteros (makers of achiote, a spice rub for meat and fish).

SJC-dancers SJC-beheading-juan

Some years I round up a group of friends so we can go to San Juan Cosalá for the final enormous solemn procession honoring St. John the Baptist on the evening of June 24. The procession begins at the village church, moves to the west end of town, then goes east on the carretera (highway) to Calle Porfirio Díaz and then moves back west along that street  to return to the church.

The ages of the participants ranges from newborn babies to the most elderly of the community. During the procession, young girls wear their white First Communion or confirmation dresses. You'll see figures representing the animal skin-clad John the Baptist riding on carros alegóricos (elaborate floats with Biblical themes) depicting moments in his life).

Leading off the pilgrimage are dancers, a band, and the village priest. Three or four bands, elaborate floats depicting Biblical scenes, three or four other troupes of dancers, and hundreds of pilgrims jostle for space in the narrow streets.

It is easy to see the great devotion the people hold for San Juan. Their feelings are demonstrated by the enormous attendance at the last procession and in the sacrifices of some of villagers for the patron.

SJC-blindfold SJC-baby1 SJC-baby2

Each year I spot pilgrims walking on the harsh cobblestones with bare feet—in penance or in an act of thanksgiving. Some walk the whole route blindfolded, holding to the arm of a friend, as an act of blind faith in payment of a manda (a solemn petition or vow). You'll spot many of the town's tiny tots dressed in skins (or fake fur); their parents are also carrying out their manda.

SJC-velvet There are so many walking in the procession that trying to watch from the sidewalks along Calle Porfirio Díaz just isn't comfortable and getting pictures becomes nearly impossible with people spill out of the streets to fill the sidewalks.

Over the years, I've found that my favorite spot for watching the procession is along the highway near the Telmex installation at the intersection with Calle Porfirio Díaz at the east end of town. I arrive early, find a parking space just east of the turn into the village and wait in the car in the shade until I hear the procession arriving. Then I can walk along the highway a bit and set up a great spot for viewing and picture taking.


The procession begins about 6 p.m. on that last day, and arrives at the church in time for 7 p.m. Mass .

The castillo (set piece fireworks) in San Juan Cosalá is usually burned earlier in the evening than it is in other towns to protect it from getting wet from an evening rainy season shower. Sometimes it is set off soon after the evening Mass, especially if it looks like a storm is approaching.

There is always a paseo and music for dancing at the plaza. In one year's grand finale, six village bandas played for the serenata (serenade) and dance, until they were rained out sometime after 1 AM.

Want to know more about San Juan Cosalá?

You may enjoy reading these other articles we’ve published about Lakeside’s most traditional village, Just click on any of these three titles:

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The Fiesta of San Antonio Tlayacapan

by Judy King 2. June 2010 08:22

sta01030 The Franciscan missionaries who brought Christianity to Lakeside's north shore also gave each centuries-old indigenous village a new name. As the first chapels were constructed in each of the villages, the padres placed the figure of a saint associated with water, fish, and fishermen over the altar and added the name of that saint to the town's original name. Named for Saint Anthony de Padua, the settlement to the east of Ajijic became San Antonio Tlayacapan.

Who was St. Anthony?

June 1 marks the beginning of the village’s annual local fiesta honoring San Antonio, the privileged son of a 13th century Italian family. The wealthy family expected Anthony to become involved in the family business, trading in silks and other bounty from the Orient.

Instead Antonio became a Dominican priest, and then left that order to join  ranks with the missionaries headed by St. Francis with hopes of becoming a martyr by being killed by the infidels. He became so ill on the trip to the African coast that he was sent back to Italy immediately.

For years, he lived quietly in a rural hermitage, cleaning the kitchen and hiding his background, intellect and education. When St. Francis of Assisi discovered Antonio's gift for speaking and sharing the scriptures, he sent the humble priest all across Europe where he preached to enormous crowds.

(Left:) Located in the Santa Cruz de las Flores church, this very unusual statue depicts St. Anthony amusing a playful Jesus child. Many more common statues of San Antonio feature him holding the child. (Center:) Residents of Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos will join in the celebration of the San Antonio fiesta. They'll carry with them a likeness of San Santiago (St. James) who is usually shown in dress of the crusades and astride a horse. (Right:)Statues of San Antonio usually show him with the Christ Child and/or a white lily which also represents Christ.

The Saint’s Day and the Village

editor4-bellsThe fiesta honoring Saint Anthony as patron saint of San Antonio Tlayacapan concludes on the June 13, the anniversary of St. Anthony's death in 1231. Each day of the town's celebration is sponsored by a different village family. There are special Masses, processions, bands, dancing, carnival rides and games in San Antonio Tlayacapan each day of the fiesta.

The events of the patron saint's fiesta of San Antonio Tlayacapan are held in and around the church and plaza of the small village between the towns of Chapala and Ajijic. Many foreigners only see the section of the village of San Antonio that borders the carretera (highway). While Absolut Fenix, Super Lake, Tony's Meats and Restaurant, Vinos y Licores La Paz, Panino, and Mail Boxes Etc. are favorite haunts of the foreign residents and area guests, the charming village three blocks away too often remains unexplored.

editor3-procession SA Kids  

The Fiestas of San Antonio Tlayacapan

Although each Lakeside village celebrates its patron saint with an annual fiesta, with fireworks, prayer, processions, music and dance, each celebration has taken on a different personality.

  • During Chapala's annual October novena honoring San Francisco the emphasis is placed on the participating businesses and trade unions, and on a spiffy commercialized tianguis (open air market).
  • Ajijic residents are strengthening the old custom of daily processions to morning and evening Masses honoring San Andrés, but the November event places a lot of emphasis on the music, food, and drink stands around the plaza.
  • In Lakeside’s oldest village San Juan Cosala, the fiestas held in time for St. John the Baptist’s June 24 saints day features many more of the old customs and traditions, and the fiesta focuses more attention on the saint and on the church.



The fiesta in San Antonio Tlayacapan is well known as the biggest party in the area, It's even said that the fiesta's noise brings the first summer season rains. In recent years, devout village families are striving to bring the emphasis back on the patron saint and the church. One way they have accomplished this is by dressing some of the village's children in the brown robes of the Franciscan monks for the evening processions.

St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost items, romance, old maids, boats, shipwrecks and poor people. Statues of San Antonio are prominent in many area churches. In church statuary, San Antonio always wears brown Franciscan robes and often holds the child Jesus, a white lily, or a book.

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

No One is as Special as Mexican Moms

by Judy King 9. May 2010 12:06

mother-daughter Mother's Day is the high point of May, the month of back-to-back holidays in Mexico. In fact, Mother's Day is the high point of the year in this land of fiestas, holidays and events. It's a day of music, family, gifts, flowers, dance, and an intense adoration for Mom.

Mother's Day is always May 10 in Mexico, and while business is brisk for gift shops, florists, musicians, restaurants, and card sellers, no one in this land would ever dream of suggesting that Mother's Day is commercialized.

Mother's Day is A Gift of Flowers
Those who can afford to purchase flowers or gifts or a special meal always buy the best they can and the most they can—and like the boy in the photo, they'll spend their last peso with joy, for their mother. Watching him was as good as a Mother’s Day gift a few years ago. He gathered the cast-off flowers with broken stems that the florists set aside and grouped them into a bouquet. Then he counted his coins and made the clip_image003vendors an offer that included a "good rose" to place in the center.

The children who don't have enough for a bouquet and who haven't made a gift at school for their moms find a few pesos for a single clavel (carnation) or rosa (rose) or importantly take their mothers to the plaza where they buy them a paleta (popsicle). Teens pool their resources at the papelería so they can buy enough paper to make huge crepe paper flowers, or a dozen balloons and some string to create decorations, and markers to draw flowers on hand made cards.

The young women of the family spend the day shooing mom from the kitchen where they are laughing and singing along with the radio, making dozens of tamales and cool aguas frescas (fresh fruit drinks) to feed the whole family that will gather by mid-afternoon.

No matter the level of the year's budget, there is always enough money to make a fiesta for mamá, with the whole family working on the plans together.

Mother's Day is a Gift of Familyclip_image004
Mexican families plan far in advance to be at home with their mothers on their special day. Many men who work North of the Border come home in May to be with their own mothers and the mothers of their children.

I wondered at breakfast yesterday why my favorite waiter wasn’t on duty, until he showed up at the restaurant, all dressed up, and with his mother on his arm. After introducing his mother and father to his co-workers, employers and regular customers, they settled at a table and ordered breakfast. These parents had come from Tjuana to spend Mother’s Day with him in Ajijic.

Mother's Day is A Gift of Dance
Mexican schools plan enormous fiestas for the students' mothers. When Mother's Day falls during the week, the event is held on the holiday. Just watching as the mothers and children walk to and from school is fun. Most of the mothers are all dressed up and many of the children arrive at school wearing costumes in which they will perform Mexico's folkloric dances.

clip_image005Children learn a new folk dance in each new grade, beginning in kinder when the little boys learn Michoacán's “Dance of the Old Men.” As they grow up, they learn increasingly difficult dances like the Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican Hat Dance), and the dances of other states as well as traditional indigenous dances.

As the Mother's Day program continues, children read poems they have written, teachers give speeches about the wonder of mothers, and the mothers are presented with the gifts their children have made in class.

Periodically, mothers are awarded prizes from an ongoing raffle. Sets of drinking glasses, plastic containers, and insulated coffee mugs are well received with murmurs of pleasure as the tension builds leading to the announcement of the winner of the grand prize. Weeks earlier the mothers sold raffle tickets for a DVD player, now it turns out that the tickets allow them to win one of the smaller gifts, too.

Two Mother’s Day Program Videos

I particularly enjoyed the following UTube videos of the littlest school kids performing in their Mothers Day programs. In the first piece a class of young children perform the Mexican Hat Dance – it’s the state dance of Jalisco. 

In the second, once the kids had finished singing “Las Mañanitas” for their moms, they did a heart-felt “SSSSSSS, Boom Bah, Rah, Rah Rah, Who do we love? MOM!”

clip_image009Mother's Day Is Not Only for the Living
Anna Jarvis' original concept was to honor the memory of her own and other deceased mothers on Mother's Day. Fifty years ago North of the Border, deceased mothers were honored by their children wearing white flowers in corsages or boutonnieres on Mother's Day. Those whose mothers were alive wore red or pink. That custom has now faded away in most areas. .

Mexico's mothers who are deceased are remembered by their children and grandchildren who visit the cemetery with flowers and attend special Masses there on the evening of May 9, Mother’s Day eve. Other Masses for the dead mothers are held during the day on Mother's Day.

clip_image010Mother's Day Is For the Mother of Mexico
A remarkable Mother's Day custom in Mexico is the celebration of Masses to honor The Virgin of Guadalupe. After the special services  held on Mother's Day in churches all across this country and in many cities across the United States for the Virgin Mary in her role as the Mother of Mexico, her images are banked with floral gifts.

Mothers (and fathers) gather with their children to honor the Virgin Mary who appeared on a mountain top near Mexico City in 1531, saying, "Am I not here, am I not your Mother?"

Since that day, Mexicans have loved not one but two mothers. One mother is shared with their brothers; the other is shared with God and their countrymen.

In a variation of "Las Mañanitas" sung to the Virgin of Guadalupe the last verse says it all for most Mexicans:

For the moon I’d give a peso, For the sun, I’d give a half

For my mother, and the Virgin, My life and my heart!

With sentiment like that, is it any wonder that Mother’s Day is Mexico’s biggest celebration of the year?

Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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