La Virgen Dolorosa…Beautiful evening in San Miguel de Allende

Linda Stack-Chenok

San Miguel de Allende is one of the most beautiful, sought out cities in the world and a UNESCO heritage site seeking to preserve its 15th century colonial charm. I visit San Miguel annually and recently I have timed my visit to include the Friday before Palm Sunday. That Friday is referred to as the Virgen Dolorosa (sorrowful virgin) to honor Mary, mother of Jesus, as she contemplates the ultimate death of her son in the coming week. Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is a memorable day.

During the day on Friday, everyone is in the process of preparing special decorations for the evening to come. The objective is to create altars in front of churches, private homes, businesses, fountains and government buildings. The materials they choose are assorted bright colored flowers, little wheat containers, all types of seeds and pods which relate back to the Aztec heritage, fruits and candles. And depending on the venue, there most likely will be a statue of Mary. As the day proceeds, you can watch the set-ups and wait with eagerness until the evening comes.

When evening arrives the town comes alive. People arrive from everywhere to view the work. There is a great deal of fun, visiting, chatting and just enjoying a great night out with family and friends. Of course, there is excitement to see which altar is the most appealing. For me there is no doubt that the altar erected outside the Parroquia, the ubiquitous gothic church in the main square, is one of the most spectacular. They often put over 300 candles in lines leading up to the front door of the church with live operatic music in the background. But I also love the altar built inside the patio of the historical home/museum of Ignacio Allende (one of the promoters of independence from Spain). Here they combine many Aztec related seeds/pods with a large statue of Mary. And around this main altar, they erect some mini altars in various corners of the patio. But some of the most interesting altars can be found in private homes. Usually the newspaper will cite addresses of the homes but you can also just follow the crowds. In homes the altars are usually in the entrances or built into iron flower balconies. In most cases the owners offer you treats such as a fruit drink (aguas frescas) or ice cream.

This year, once we had walked for ages checking out altars, we finally arrived back at our hotel. And what a surprise! Just outside in a corner fountain, there was one of the most lovely altars of the evening with plenty of chairs and tables to sit and enjoy a drink and take in all the activity. What a memorable evening! By next morning all of the altars disappear until next year! If you want to be part of a great trip to San Miguel in 2015, please contact me at [email protected].