Passion: whether in the boxing ring or in a soap opera, Mexicans have always had it. So it’s no surprise that the country’s festivals are just as full of life. Celebrate from January to December on a holiday in Mexico!
January. The colonial town Alamos comes to life during Festival Ortiz Tirado, a tribute to its son Alfonso Ortiz Tirado, singer, physician, and philanthropist. It spans eight to ten days of opera; this year presenting more than 500 performers and more than a hundred concerts. Musical luminaries are awarded as well.
February. Effigies of hated politicians are burned, oppressed husbands are free to run wild, and the “king of happiness” is crowned. The biggest celebration of Mardi Gras after New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, Mazatlán Carnival, is where painting the town red takes on a whole new level. Revellers look forward to fireworks displays of a castle and a naval battle.
March. On the Spring Equinox, the brilliance of the ancient Mayan civilisation shines again. As the sun hits the equator, a shadow shaped like a serpent slithers down the steps of the Temple of Kukulkan at the ruins of Chichén Itzá. Fiestas del Equinoccio draws crowds praying for peace, enjoying light shows, and dancing all day.
April. In the town of Iztapalapa, the passion of Christ is brought to life during Semana Santa or Holy Week, where spectators follow the Way of the Cross as enacted by locals. This tradition was started by survivors of a cholera epidemic in 1833 as a sign of thanks to God. Scattered across Mexico are Processión del Silencio, where followers go along by torchlight.
May. On the 5th of May, 1862, a band of Mexican soldiers defeated a larger, more equipped, and better trained French army in battle. This victory is still celebrated today in the place where it all began, Puebla, during Cinco de Mayo. The parade is the centrepiece, where military men, dancing girls, and brass bands are cheered on by spectators.
June. The navy is thrust into the limelight this time, as Dia de la Marina marks the day when the Constitution required Mexican sea vessels to employ their own sons. Regattas, fishing contests, and displays of nautical defence are part of the occasion, as are parties by the beach, lots of singing and dancing, and pyrotechnic shows.
July. The world identifies “Chihuahua” as a dog tucked under the arm of most Hollywood celebrities. At Nueva Paquime Festival, visitors are introduced to a rich Mexican state which is home to the gorgeous Copper Canyon. A cultural experience is brought by poetry readings, art exhibits, painting competitions, craft fairs, and folkdances.
August. Pickled, sautéed, grilled… Choose your method in the merry madness that is Festival del Chile. A tribute to the fiery chile chilaca, it brings food stalls, carousel rides, and people playing games of chance to the streets of Queréndaro. Young children take the stage as they perform ballet folklórico in traditional dress.
September. The long battle against Spanish colonisers ended on the 16th of September, 1810, Independence Day. Today, the Mexican president calls out, “Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe, death to bad government, and death to the gachupines [Spaniards]!” to the thousands gathered by the National Palace, a re-enactment of hero Miguel Hidalgo’s battle cry “Grito de Dolores”. “Viva!” is the masses’ ardent reply.
October. A parade of acrobats, clowns, giant puppets, stunning ladies, and marching bands kicks off Fiestas de Octubre. Throughout the month, throngs congregate at concerts, cockfights, craft fairs, amusement parks, and food stalls in Guadalajara. Ugly Betty would be so proud of her hometown.
November. Remembering loved ones who have passed away need not be a glum affair. On the Day of the Dead, their souls are actually believed to return to their families for a feast. This is why their favourite food are prepared and laid by an altar, which is decked out in full colour. Children swap skulls made of sugar too.
December. It may be surrounded by music, food, fireworks, parades, and bullfights, but the Fiesta of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a deeply spiritual celebration. Dedicated to the patroness of Mexico, thousands of pilgrims journey to Mexico City where she is believed to have appeared to a native named Juan Diego.