The Fiestas de San Andrés is a traditional nine-day novenario that takes place at the end of each November in Ajijic.
From November 21 to 30, the fiestas celebrate the town’s patron saint, Saint Andrew, with processions, fireworks castles, music, amusement rides and other festivities every night in the central plaza.
Towns in Mexico have a patron, a saint, and patroness, one of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. (Ajijic’s patrona is the Virgin of the Rosary.)
Each night of the novenario, officially November 22 to 30, is sponsored by a different family or group such as the albañiles (bricklayers/masons), jardineros (gardeners) or agricultores (farmers). On some nights, the plaza is packed shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people, depending on which group is sponsoring.
November 21 Procession
To kick off the Fiestas de San Andrés, a procession starts between 5:00 to 5:30 p.m. on November 21 — the day before the official novenario, which ends on November 30 to coincide with Saint Andrew’s feast day on the liturgical calendar. Sometimes the fiestas extend themselves for a couple of days before or after the novenario.
The November 21 procession features lots of carros alegóricios — moving floats with biblical scenes portrayed by still actors. Interspersed between the floats are bandas and Aztec dancers.
Noon and Nightly Processions
From November 22-30, there is a procession at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. that starts at Seís Esquinas and ends at church San Andrés in time for mass a half-hour later. The day’s sponsors and other parishioners walk to the church in a group that’s led with a religious image and followed with a couple people who light cuetes, the rockets that go up a hundred feet and explode.
The 11:30 a.m. procession which usually takes place is small; the one in the evening has more people, who sometimes carry candles to the church. It starts at Ocampo and ends at Church San Andrés.
Each night usually features a castillo — a fireworks castle two to four stories tall loaded with moving wooden parts, wheels, and shapes, which get propelled into motion when the attached fireworks are ignited.
On occasion, a night goes without a castillo, because a basic castillo can cost about a thousand bucks and as many as fifteen thousand dollars on the high end.
The size of the castles, along with the intricacy of the designs, determines the amount of work involved and therefore the cost. The castles that get constructed during the afternoons outside of San Andrés Church are on the smaller end, reaching between 2-3 stories. Some of these are big enough for the workers to climb up during the show, which they do in order to put out the burning wooden frame of the castillo or unjam a stuck moving part.
The castles are usually lit between at 10:00 p.m. in the atrium of Ajijic’s big church, Church San Andrés, located near the plaza.
Check out this video of the castillo from the first night of the 2017 Fiestas de San Andrés. It shows a short section of the fireworks display with various parts of the castle being lit up in succession:
Once the main parts of the castillo have been ignited, the top part spins around quickly before being launched a couple hundred feet into the air:
Last updated December 26, 2019
Photos of Fiestas de San Andrés
Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala
Aztec Dancer on Mezcala Island
Jaime Rodríguez stands on top of the fort walls on Mezcala Island, a half-mile stretch of land rising out of Lake Chapala, Mexico. A local indigenous group successfully used the island as a fortress against the Spanish during the War of Independence in the early 19th century.