Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico

Fiestas de San Andrés

At a Glance

Ajijic’s patron saint is Saint Andrew & every November, the townspeople honor him with a novenario: 9 days of daily processions, music & fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

More Info

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.


Fireworks Castles

Each night 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.

The castles are lit between at 10:00 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, 2018

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Photos of Fiestas de San Andrés

A banda plays under the quiosco -- the kiosk -- in the central plaza during one of the nights of the Fiestas de San Andrés in Ajijic.

People gather on the plaza around the quiosco to listen to the music. Most nights, a large stage is set up in front of the Centro Cultural Ajijic to accommodate the band and dancing.

The streets around the plaza are closed down and visiting carnies set up kids' amusement rides, called juegos mecánicos, which operate in the evenings.

Vendors also set up stalls on the streets around the plaza for people to play games and win prizes.

Townspeople portray biblical scenes on the back of moving floats during the November 21 procession that starts the day before the November 22-30 novenario.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Kids pose as marionettes on a moving float during the New Year's Day parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

The Puppetmaster Adjusts His Sombrero

Kids pretend to be living marionettes while riding on a moving float during the New Year’s Day parade in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

A banda performs during the November 21 procession.

Concepcion del Rosario Delgado, an Aztec dancer, during the November 21 procession.

Aztec dancers are an integral part of many Catholic processions in Mexico.

Motion blur of an Aztec dancer during the November 21 procession for the Fiestas de San Andrés in Ajijic.

A boy carries a torito, a little bull, on his head during the November 21 procession. The torito is laden with fireworks that send out sparks as the bearer charges around like a bull after dark.

Guelaguetza

Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza Dances Come to Chapala

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See this Photo Essay

By the time the fiestas are a couple days underway, the streets around the Ajijic plaza are completely filled up with vendors selling toys, kitchen wear, clothes and food. The streets reopen usually by the 3rd of December.

Parishioners hold a religious image during a procession on the first night of the nine-day novenario for Saint Andrew.

Banda Estrellas del Lago -- the Stars of the Lake Band -- play during the inaugural nightly procession in 2015.

A man shoots a cuete during one of the nightly processions.

Every night around 10 p.m., people gather in the church atrium to see the lighting of a fireworks castle.

These "castles" are wood structures about two to four stories tall.

They have moving parts which get propelled by the force of the fireworks strapped to its wooden latticework.

The castillos are a part of Mexico's heritage of handcrafted fireworks. Some 50,000 families in Mexico have been estimated to dedicate themselves to making fireworks.

Sometimes, one of the moving wheels gets stuck and a pyrotechnician has to clamber up to get it going again.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Cowboy Silhouette

Cowboy Silhouette

A cowboy demonstrates the precision of his lasso skills during an exhibition on the Day of the Cowboy in Ajijic, Mexico.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

Or part of the castillo tower starts to catch fire. Since they're made of wood. So someone is assigned to put it out.

The castillos take the better part of an afternoon to assemble by a team of professional fireworks technicians. They attach the fireworks to the wooden parts on-site and assemble the castle so it's ready for the 10 p.m. showtime.

Sayaca during Fiesta de San Sebastián

Carnival & the Masked Sayacas of Ajijic

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See this Photo Essay

The kids, of course, love the castillos, often salvaging still hot parts that have fallen of or been discarded by the pyrotechnicians.

Though injuries are extremely rare during the fiestas in Ajijic, they are not exactly "safe." Maintain caution if you go.

Some castillos are elaborate enough to have religious designs or symbols such as peace signs.

Fine Art Photography of Lake Chapala

Day of the Dead Skull Altar

Day of the Dead Skull Altar

A skull, white cross, candles, dyed sawdust, marigolds, Corona bottles and other offerings adorn an altar on the Night of the Dead in Chapala.

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Purchase This Fine Art Print

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