This is a celebration weekend packed with activities. It is kicked off with the "aborada", a fireworks display to end all displays that starts at 4am (before sunrise). The more adventurous (or hammered) actually witness this spectacle from the jardin just steps away from the launch pads. The show begins with giant bottle rockets that are shot into the crowd. I haven't seen the statistics, but surely many people are injured during this. Our friend got what looks like a cigar burn in his arm. (He was there with Tom and some others. I was listening and watching from our house up on the hill.) The fireworks go on for a long time - at least an hour, maybe two. The grand finale is one of those huge explosive displays set up in front of the cathedral with a brightly colored swirling light display shooting off sparks and other shrapnel.
The morning includes all sorts of activities, one of which is a blessing of the horses. Hundreds of riders come in from all over the campo and arrive at the front of the cathedral to be blessed. The priest says a few words than sprinkles them with holy water.
Later is the parade of mini paper mache puppets on long poles carried in by children accompanied by a festive marching band. These puppets were incredible (unfortunately I don't have pictures - camera missing from Tom's adventures the prior evening - and he was still in bed...)
The puppets (and the kids) congregate in front of the church and are handed off to men who light the explosives which have been carefully placed to make each puppet spin incredibly fast for a few moments before blowing into pieces, revealing some surprise that goes flying into the crowd (or the horse poop, remember - this follows the blessing of the horses and the 100+ horses have left their mark in the plaza.) The explosion triggers a flurry of activity as all the kids try to get the prize(s) or, as a consolation prize of sorts, pieces of the original puppet. The heads are most treasured, but tough to get. We have a set of legs on the once-spinning base in our dining room.
Then come the "Voleros". This group of men are from a smaller village in the campo and they come to perform on occasion in the centro of San Miguel. The photos below are pretty self-explanatory, but just imagine that the lead guy is playing some meditative, haunting tune on a small flute the entire time, until he himself comes spiraling down from his perch on the very top.
The big parade follows, and I mean big. The streets were packed with people. It was so long that we actually got tired and left before it was over! The many different native dancers and drummers were there of course, as well as all of the public schools and their bands, a brigade of horses, some floats, and, our favorite, the mojigangas. These are the giantic paper mache puppets that look like giant cartoon characters coming down the road. The artistry is magnificent, and I have since learned that only certain people in town are trained to make them and wear them in the parades.
Of course, the fireworks start again before dark and seemed to go on in spurts for most of the following night as well. I suppose we can stop writing about the fireworks. They are pretty much a given on any and all occasions (saints birthdays, weddings, funerals, people's birthdays, ...)