The city of San Miguel de Allende, located next to Guanajuato, organizes a unique festival full of color and madness each year. Don't miss it!
Only a few miles from Guanajuato, in the beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende, an annual picturesque festival takes place every Sunday following June 13 - the San Antonio de Padua Festival. Those who attend the event will be swept up in a crowd of people dressed in traditional outfits and costumed as anything from movie to cartoon to comic characters ... all throwing sweets and candies to elated party-goers. It's truly a crazy experience, which is why it's so aptly named the Fiesta de los locos!
As often is the case with traditional festivals, it's not precisely known when the festival originated, but it's said that it originally didn't have to do with San Antonio but rather with San Pascual Bailon. The gardeners of the town would come to worship to the saint during the days leading up to the harvest and as an offering, would perform various dances. These dances provoked curiosity among citizens who came to see the movements of these apparently crazy lunatics, or "locos". Over time, the gardeners began to dress up as scarecrows to scare off the crowds of curious onlookers so that they could dance in peace.
The tradition was passed down the generations and, ironically, slowly lost its focus on gardening (because of course, children do not always have the same professions as their parents). While the tradition lost its original goal of abundant harvest, it gained the creation of the first Cuadros de Locos, or associations dedicated to the festival.
These clubs or cuadros began to take to the streets during the San Antonio festival in the 1950's as a way to announce festivities and events. In no time the cuadros, with their ornate costumes and infectious joy, became the main event -- eventually taking the spotlight in a festival in which they were initially only collaborators.
Today, it's one of the most anticipated festivals of the year, with more and more tourists coming each year to watch the different Cuadros compete for the most original and skilled costumes. One of the peculiarities and charms of this crazy festival is that members must wear elaborately-designed costumes, made by hand with materials such as cardboard, plaster, old fabrics, etc. As a rule, nothing is ever bought -- everything is handmade by the members of the cuadros or local artisans.
Participants are free to choose the themes of their costumes. Different Cuadros usually pick one central theme each year, so its members may appear as characters of popular movies one year, in traditional suits and dresses another year, and even as emoticons. All themes are accepted as long as they're kept lighthearted and fun.
The festival begins at ten in the morning and goes on for as long as it takes for all the cuadros to travel the approximately one mile between the San Antonio Parish and the Jardín Central (Central Garden), the town's main square. When the festivities come to an end, we recommend that you stay and explore the rest of San Miguel de Allende; it's considered one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and is protected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A walk through its enchanting streets, a visit to its neo-Gothic temples, or grabbing a bite in the local restaurants... just might make you see the beauty and magic that is oftentimes born from madness.