Between the ongoing COVID shelter-in-place business and the civil unrest happening in cities all across the U.S., everyone is feeling just a bit crazy right now. It seems they have a festival for everything in Mexico, and celebrating madness is no exception.
Although we don’t know the exact year it originated, the Dia de Locos festival has been happening the third weekend of June in San Miguel de Allende for many decades.
Today the festival draws tourists from far and wide to witness how people choose to celebrate the bizarre through costumes, satire, dancing, folklore and music. What makes it all the more interesting is the juxtaposition of the backdrop; the baroque town of San Miguel de Allende, a world heritage site, and the parade of people, dressed garishly as politicians, cartoon characters, actors and monsters, marching to upbeat music through the town.
How the craziness began
The origin of the festival can be traced back to an ancient ritual, whereby local gardeners would honor the patron saint, San Antonio de Padua, leading up to the harvest. Their offerings to him included performing special dances. Unfortunately, these performances attracted unwanted attention from curious townspeople, who began to gather and watch what they referred to as the “locos” or crazies.
To scare off the onlookers, the gardeners began to dress up as scarecrows to chase off the crowd, so they could dance in peace. Over the decades as the tradition was passed down from parents to children, it evolved into a much different event, one that centered around the joy of letting go and expressing one’s inner craziness.
Embracing the crazy
In today’s Dia de Locos celebrations, participants compete for the most original disguises, with a particular emphasis on maintaining the purity of the tradition. This includes a general rule that all masks, signs and costumes are homemade. Materials such as old cloth, plaster and cardboard are used.
Letting off steam is something that is sorely needed in our corner of the world right now. To dedicate a single day, where we march through the streets, expressing joy and celebrating our individuality and differences could help lessen the underlying tension in America today. It would be a nice reminder that behind the crazy costumes and bizarre masks, we are all human beings, united in the desire to live in peace.