Sunday June 19 was truly a crazy day. (See how late this entry is? —I’m still recovering.) Here’s a little ditty about the same holiday a few years back, when I was in a different location…
At 5:54 am on the second Saturday in June, I am catapulted out of sleep by a brass band playing under my window. Several trumpets, a trombone, a large marching band bass drum and an actual tuba for the requisite oom pah pahs. Oh, yes, can’t forget the cymbals. A dozen pair, by the sound of it.
It’s not, alas, a romantic serenade. (Such a suitor would be summarily dismissed.) It’s the day before el Dia de los Locos, San Miguel’s yearly celebration of Saint Anthony of Padua and lunacy in general. This Sunday in June is reserved for crazy people. The entire town, and then some, participates.
For the hip, there are two places to be in San Miguel on Locos Sunday: in the parade or watching it. If you’re in the milling mile or so of costumed revelers and flatbed floats with blaring, competing soundtracks, you dance across town all morning and into the afternoon. Of course, in your foam and felt frog/fat lady/ex-president costume, there is a risk of heat exhaustion. But, you get to pelt spectators with candy, which makes it all worthwhile.
If you’re watching the parade, you may be in the crushing two-meter thick throng on each side of the road (a human wave of people that police officers have to keep pushing back so that the show can literally go on). If you’re into efficiency, you’ll be holding an upside-down umbrella above your head as a candy catcher/shield, which can also be used as a parasol if you ever get over your sugary greed. Or, you might be one of the privileged with balcony or rooftop seats, watching the colorful chaos from on high, with a mid-morning beer in hand and perhaps wearing a funny hat. Uncool option number three.
Or, you could be lame, like me, holing happily up in your (momentarily) quiet house. (The parade is downtown now, and, amazingly, out of earshot.) Around one in the afternoon, you might suddenly laugh out loud (startling the dogs) when you imagine just how horrific traffic’s going to be for the next couple of hours. And you’re so peacefully chez you! But the Locos will get the last laugh. If you live in Colonia San Antonio, like me, you didn’t sleep well last night (even before the band) and you won’t again tonight. Not for a couple more days.
The cuetes (gargantuan bottle rockets from Hell), which first woke you a couple of hours before the band, will start again late this afternoon, continue sporadically all day tomorrow, and on into Monday, with a few more artillery-style early-morning crescendos. Sunday evening after the parade, there’ll be a big, loud baile at the San Antonio church (sadly only two blocks away). The music will reverberate off your pots and pans and rattle your windowpanes ‘til the early morn. Around three a.m., you’ll be up Googling industrial-strength earplugs.
And then, after two days of madness, just for good measure (right as you’ve finally fallen asleep, most likely), there’ll be another fusillade of cuetes around dawn on Monday morning. (This one, at least, I understand. Monday morning being a concept highly worth protesting.)
Meanwhile, outside my bedroom at 5:55 a.m. on the day before Locos day, the insanity has just begun. Rilke, my spoiled, reared-in-the-U.S.A. dog, is terrified of loud noises (and thus extremely ill-equipped to live in Mexico). During the cuetes a few hours ago, he was under my bed, whining operatically. Now he’s at the window, barking wildly at the band. I would bark too, if I thought they would hear me.
Once my heart resumes its customary pace, I get up and stumble across the room to close the window. I’m laughing, because it’s the only possible sane response. By the time I get there, the band has stopped playing. (Gracias a Dios!) As the sky begins to lighten, the musicians sip cups of hot spiked ponche offered by the neighbors as ritualistic “thank you for waking us up” gesture. As they launch into a spirited, carnivalesque encore, I fall back into bed with several pillows over my head. Then, at last, they oom pah pah off to rouse somebody else.
I’m lucky—at least my street wasn’t their first stop. But really, I can’t complain — it’s all part of the ongoing raucous technicolor celebration that is San Miguel de Allende.
Casita de las Flores
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Stunning, world-famous B & K* in lovely and lively San Miguel
*A B&K is a Bed & Kitchen — like a B&B, but more affordable, more fun, and with a kitchen!