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 [...]
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.
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
Related articles: Independence Day Parade in the Dominican Republic | Mexico’s Bicentennial | Independence Day Celebration in Mexico
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
September 22, 2010, 9:20 pm
As always, Wade – great work! Love the pictures! Not a big fan of Mexico these days, but, I gotta say, when they are not mowing down journalists, they can throw a great (and creepy) parade!
September 23, 2010, 4:11 am
Great to see you putting you putting up some videos!
It’s always kinda strange that in these places you wake up to a festival no one spoke about the day before. It happens over here all the time. You get up to see the streets empty, only to find out there is a festival happening just out of town.
Nice work tourist boards!
September 23, 2010, 2:25 pm
Not sure if you saw it today but there was some other La Merced celebration just a little east of the Zocalo. They put a line of black powder down the streets with an M-80 or something spaced every meter or so. They lit the black powder and you heard M-80’s go off for about 30 minutes with some band playing behind the flame moving down the street.
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