My first day back in San Miguel de Allende after three weeks, I ran around doing errands, unpacking, organizing. However, I wasn’t too busy to notice the hanging of red and gold satin and velvet banners from balconies along the main streets.
Thinking a weekend fiesta was in the making, I went about my business. I was tired and almost ate a quesadilla standing at the stove, which is my usual dinner fare. But, I decided to go out for a margarita instead and see if I could find any of my friends, since I already was missing my Los Angeles people.
Noticing that the streets were covered in fragrant herbs like a lawn, I stood and stared at the cobblestones for a while as if the green were a mirage in the dusk. My eyes just couldn’t process what they were seeing. Then I saw large bouquets of crimson and gold flowers placed on the sidewalks outside several grand colonial doorways, openings that ordinarily are entrances to apartment buildings, shops, and restaurants.
Peering inside one such doorway, and not wishing to disturb the silent worshippers there, I saw a glorious altar, all in red, gold and white, with God the Father reaching down from a cloud. In another doorway-turned-chapel, was a tiny girl dressed as an angel sitting on a white satin stool in front of the altar. As my eyes got used to what to look for, I saw many altars, all different, in the center of town.
Soon, naturally, a procession began to wend its way from the Parroquia and down the mint-and-flower-strewn streets. Stopping at every altar, the men carrying the litter with the Sacraments kneel, a priest takes it inside, and a prayer is read for that family, amplified by the speaker one man carries over his shoulder. The people on the street often kneel too and make the sign of the cross and the men remove their hats. And then a rocket is shot off into the sky and explodes, either to scare away evil spirits or to alert God of what’s going on here in San Miguel de Allende.
The procession moves slowly forward along the proscribed route of crimson banners while a choir sings behind the accompanist who plays a Casio keyboard carried by four boys. Fresh bread rolls, flowers, and herbs are given to the people at every altar. Sometimes the rocket frightens the roosting pigeons, which scatter, fluttering, as if they were released for effect on cue.
The small official procession is enlarged with hundreds of the faithful following behind, who respond to the liturgy with attentive Amens. The air is perfumed with incense and the streets become the church, the Body of Christ is literarlly brought to the people. Corpus Christi is more than a town in Texas, it is a holy festival day no where more celebrated than in Mexico.