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La Merce, La Merced Parade and Festival

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Virgen de la Merced/ The Virgin of Mercy Parade in Mexico

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- The beating of drums and the sounding of horns emitted from the street out in front of my hotel in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. This sound was accompanied by the stomping of a thousand feet, and its origin could not be mistaken: it was a parade. I ran to the balcony of the hotel that overlooks the street.

I opened the balcony door and stepped out, but what I saw beneath me was no ordinary parade of lame school kids decked out in formal attire looking horridly uncomfortable — no, what I saw before me resembled a transgender goon festival of some Halloween gone astray. The people below me were dancing wildly with large inner tubes around their wastes stuffed beneath flowing gowns, and were all wearing magnificent masks depicting ghouls, werewolves, decrepit old men, gross old ladies, ravaged pirates, hairy apes, just about any other apparition that a very dented and warped imagination could work up.

Everybody was wearing dresses.

Many people were getting drunk.

It was wild.

Clearly, what I was observing was a religious festival.

This parade kicks off the celebration for the Virgin of Mercy, a rendition of the Holy Mother Mary who is usually depicted in art with a collection of children taking refuge beneath her cloak — I suppose this was how the dresses became a main part the dancer’s costumes. This festival has its roots in medieval Catalonia, where Muslims and pirates once ruled, and Christians were often taken prisoner. After an apparition of the Holy Mother to Pedro Nolasco he put together a religious order to rescue his captive brethren. Now, this has become a celebration for the Virgin of Mercy which takes place between September 21 to the 24th across Spain and Latin America. This celebration, as a matter of fact, is the “fiesta mayor” of Barcelona.

La Merce parade in Mexico

La Merce parade in Mexico

Though I still have not been able to confirm where the ghouls come in.

In San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico — throughout the Hispanic world — drunken masses on parade, dressed as ghouls wearing dresses puffed out to their maximum width by giant inner tubes have taken over the streets.

From here, this story is better told in photographs and videos.

Videos of the parade of the Virgen de la Merced

I was attacked while filming the above video by a giant horse creature.

Photos of the parade for the Virgin of Mercy

La Merce parade in Mexico

La Merce parade in Mexico


La Merce parade in Mexico

La Merce parade in Mexico


La Merce parade in Mexico

La Merce parade in Mexico


La Merced parade in Mexico

La Merced parade in Mexico


Costumed Dancers in La Merced Parade

Costumed Dancers in La Merced Parade


Dancers in la Merce parade, Mexico


La Merce parade in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico


Dancer in La Merced Parade

Dancer in La Merced Parade


Mexico La Merce Parade

Mexico La Merce Parade


San Cristobal Mexico La Merced Festival

San Cristobal Mexico La Merced Festival


This ape thought that his beard looked like mine


La Merced Parade in Mexico

Twins - This guy thought we looked alike


Related articles: Independence Day Parade in the Dominican Republic | Mexico’s Bicentennial | Independence Day Celebration in Mexico

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Filed under: Celebrations, Mexico, North America, Religion

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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