Our Lord of The Conquest 2016, part 1…San Miguel de Allende…Nuestro Señor de la Conquista 2016, parte 1

Text credits:
Our Lord of the Conquest Festival in San Miguel de Allende
Tara Lowry
Celebrations for El Señor de La Conquista (The Lord of the Conquest) completely filled the Jardin Principal of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Hundreds of colourful conchero or “Chichimeca” dancers dressed in pre-Hispanic style outfits arrived from the surrounding towns, representing different styles of dance and dress. Flashes of colour. Hypnotic drum beats. The shake, shake, shake of rattling shells on the legs of the dancers and the scent of burning copal were sensory treats that went along with this high-energy event.
Some of the danzantes take pride in wearing only what their Pre-Hispanic ancestors would have in their ceremonies
This annual festival takes place on the first Thursday and Friday of March in honor of “Christ of the Conquest,” a highly revered statue made out of corn stalks and orchid bulbs. According to legend, the image was originally made in the 16th century to represent the acceptance of Christ by the indigenous peoples. It now holds a place of honor in the impressive pink Baroque Parroquia in the center of San Miguel de Allende. Those who enter the Parish on this day commonly recite 33 prayers — one for each year of Jesus Christ’s life.
The conchero dancing originally emerged as a way of preserving indigenous heritage after the Catholic conquest in Mexico. While the Spanish attempted to eliminate all pagan traditions and ceremonies, the dancing could not be quelled, proving once again the power of music and dance. Instead, it was incorporated into Catholic holidays, resulting in many traditions still celebrated today that show a heavy mix of Catholic and pre-Hispanic influences.
The conchero dancers get their name from the stringed instrument similar to a lute that is used in the dance ceremonies — and often made out of armadillo shell.
The term “Chichimeca” was originally used by the Nahua people to refer to the various nomadic bands and tribes of Mexico and the Southern US. The Spanish adopted the term and used it in a more derogatory way, meaning something along the lines of “wild savages.” This was due mostly to the fact that the Chichimeca (who were a collection of different individual tribes) put up fierce resistance to the Spanish invasion and their quest for silver in the areas where these nomadic peoples hunted and camped. Today, the word Chichimeca refers more to a specific indigenous group living throughout the state of Guanajuato, but is also used by some danzante groups. These dancers strive to revive and preserve the dress and rites as they were in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic days, thus eliminating the European aspects seen in other dances.
While the outfits worn during the festival are inspired by the dress of their indigenous ancestors, modern colours and materials are heavily integrated. It is not uncommon to see a mixture of animal hides with neon plastic fringe.
Some of the danzantes, however, take pride in donning only attire that their forefathers would have used in their ceremonies centuries ago. Elaborate headdresses with exotic feathers and even a jaguar’s head make up some of the more impressive regalia.
The dances all hold symbolic meaning. They are somewhat difficult to understand for those unfamiliar with the individual legends, beliefs, or the complex history. While honoring Catholic images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, some of the dancers also represent the indigenous resistance and the oppression by the Spanish. Some groups have more European and Catholic influence in their dance while others will incorporate only pre-Hispanic dress and ritual. The contrasts and contradictions highlight the complexity of having ancestors who were both the conquerors and the conquered.
Creative Interpretation is also evident. One dance starred a man wearing mirrored sunglasses and what looked to be a Saddam Hussein mask. A child followed him in a Mexicanized Hitler costume. They both carried whips and bullied the other dancers, who were dressed in tribal regalia (some including images of the Virgin of Guadalupe on their headpieces). The tribe fought back with a beautifully choreographed sword fight. I assumed that they were representing the Chichimeca resistance during the Spaniards’ conquest but I was unsure as to what exactly was going on!
In another group, a man dressed as a bull fought against matadors (on tiny wooden horses attached to their pants), and dolled-up drag queens. Again, I did not quite follow the story behind this but it was fascinating to watch!
One of the reasons that Mexican festivals are so interesting is the great mixture of customs and influences that they represent, often through contradictions and overlaps. This festival had obvious age-old indigenous and Catholic aspects, but also showed modern-day global elements haphazardly mixed in. And, like any good fiesta, a little bit of unexplained kitsch was thrown in for good measure!

Créditos de este texto:
Nota Original: Portal SMA Por: Antonieta Herrera R.

San Miguel de Allende, Gto.
Cada Primer viernes de Marzo en la ciudad de San Miguel de Allende se lleva a cabo la Celebración centenaria del rezo de los 33 credos.
Esta tradición centenaria sale de un contexto cada primer viernes de Marzo para festejar de forma Prehispánica y Cristiana en el atrio de la Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel y explana del jardín Principal. Reuniéndose feligreses, danzas autóctonas y todas ellas con el simple propósito de rezar 33 credos al señor de la conquista, aquí les presentamos de autoría de cronista de la ciudad el profesor José Luis Felipe Rodríguez Palacios.

El primer viernes de marzo en nuestra ciudad se realiza una celebración muy importante. En la Capilla del Señor de la Conquista se reúne el pueblo sanmiguelenses para cumplir con una tradición centenaria: el rezo de los 33 credos; uno por cada año de la vida de Jesús y en cada uno de ellos la ratificación de la fe que fue sembrada en los corazones de sus ancestros.
En el año de 1574 los padres Fray Francisco Doncel y Fray Pedro de Burgos iban camino a la misión franciscana de San Felipe en donde el primero era el venerable padre guardián quien, al pasar por el convento de Celaya fue acompañado por el padre Burgos quien, pese a su ancianidad, deseaba contribuir con su esfuerzo a la conquista de los infieles. Al pasar por un arroyo pedregoso que hay en el portezuelo llamado entonces Chamacuero, fueron emboscados por un grupo de indios chichimecas y, no obstante a que eran escoltados por algunos soldados, al ser sorprendidos por los alaridos de los atacantes los guardias huyeron abandonando a los frailes quienes al verse sin abrigo, se abrazaron a dos grandes cristos que llevaban pereciendo de rodillas al ser flechados por los indios. Esto fue narrado por un escolta quien logró escapar herido y llegó en pos de auxilio a la villa de San Miguel donde murió.
Salieron los vecinos al saber la noticia y, encabezados por las autoridades civiles y por el Beneficiado (cura párroco), recogieron los despojos de los mártires y los trasladaron a la población en fúnebre procesión, enarbolando un cristo el Beneficiado y otro el que era el Justicia Mayor para dar cristiana sepultura a los venerables cadáveres. Sus restos descansan en el templo de San Rafael hoy conocido la Santa Escuela y antes como la parroquia vieja. Por esta razón uno de los cristos se quedó en nuestra ciudad y el otro está en la Parroquia de San Felipe. Éste, conocido como el “Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz”, después el “Señor de las Batallas” y actualmente “Señor de la Conquista” y el segundo “Señor de la Conquista” y se festeja el 6 de agosto.

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