Desfiles -parades- in Mexican history, culture and life
Since then, military parades are held in Mexico City every year, some of which last approximately four to six hours and feature about 25 thousand people plus horses, military equipment and bands.
Patrick O’Heffernan (Ajijic).- Everyone loves a parade, and it seems that applies double to Mexico because there are so many of them. Actually many other countries have as many or more parades than Mexico and some have bigger parades, like the 12- kilometer-long Hanover Schützenfest that takes place in Hanover every year. But, if you live in Mexico it seems like there are parades for everything. There are, and there are reasons for that. Parades are embedded in Mexico’s history and Napoleon had something to do with it.
The first parade in the independent country of Mexico was on September 27, 1821 in front of Agustín de Iturbide and his Trigarante Army. That tradition continued as a way to celebrate Mexico’s freedom and strength, although years later Porfirio Díaz changed the date to what is now known as the Commemorative Military Parade on September 16, which was inaugurated in 1910 by a parade of 5000 soldiers marching to cheering crowds. Since then, military parades are held in Mexico City every year, some of which last approximately four to six hours and feature about 25 thousand people plus horses, military equipment and bands.
That first parade was modeled on the parades staged by Napoleon III, who believed that parades were the best propaganda tools at his disposal. He knew parades can be used to honor the living and the dead, show off the training of the troops, display the power of the civil and military authorities, intimidate foreign powers, and provide people with entertainment at the same time. This tradition has fixed parades in Mexican life but parades have spread far beyond historical dates and patriotic celebrations. Today even patriotic parades feature participation by schools, athletes, floats, charros, dancers, and unions and in many cases military groups are no longer included.
Today parades in Mexico celebrate religious holidays, civic holidays, and just plain occasions for fun. Religious-themed parades, especially the Passion of Christ, are major religious events, as is Carnavál, the Fat Tuesday blowout before the beginning of Lent.
One of the most celebrated and most colorful parades in Mexico is the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. Last year there were actually two parades, one on October 27 and the main parade on the Grand Day of the Parade, November 2, which drew 2 million people and 10 million TV viewers to see its giant puppets, dozens floats, costumed dancers and bands. The Grand Parade was so large last year – 6 kilometers long – that it was divided into four thematic segments which were linked together in a narrative called “A gift of songs and flowers from Mexico to the world.”
In towns and villages throughout Mexico, Easter Week is the scene of religious parades, or processions. Via Crucis is one of the most important procession throughout Mexico and takes place in Ajijic in the afternoon of Good Friday, winding through the town streets after the trial of Jesus in the atrium of Church San Andrés. On Palm Sunday, towns and villages cover streets with alfalfa or hay for huge Palm Sunday processions featuring hundreds or thousands of people carrying palm fronds, statues of Christ on a donkey hoisted on men’s shoulders, and priests, bishops and worshipers in robes. In Ajijic, Hidalgo Street is covered with fresh alfalfa from the church to Seís Esquinas for the Pam Sunday procession in the evening.
Locally in Lakeside, other religious processions include the Virgin of Zapopan in July in Chapala, the Day of the Charro parade in September, the feasts of the patronesses of the Lakeside towns in September and October which include Aztec dancer processions, the Feast of the Virgin of the Rosary in Ajijic in September, Revolution Day in November, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in December, and other smaller parades and processions based in specific neighborhoods. There are also spontaneous or unofficial parades, especially around The Day of the Dead, like the Catrina Parade in Ajijic by local horsewomen.
An important aspect of the parades in Mexican life is that they are not events staged for tourists, although tourists often flock to them. But in reality, they have serious historical, political and religious meaning. Some are sponsored by businesses which have floats in the parades, but the objective is to commemorate an occasion or a saint or a hero, not to entertain visitors. However, they teach much to visitors about the history and priorities of the Mexican people and as such are a entertaining ways to learn about Mexican culture.
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