Mexico through its festivities

Learn about the variety of parties, celebrations and commemorative events that exist in Mexico through the documentary heritage that protects its archives.

Personas reunidas en una celebración by Enrique, Díaz y DelgadoArchivo General de la Nación - México

The festivities and celebrations in Mexico come from pre-Hispanic times, but during the colonial period and after the centuries of struggle for the construction of national identity, the way of carrying them out converged in a unique syncretism that managed to create a very peculiar way of celebrating the different significant secular and religious moments.

The party is undoubtedly an extraordinary way of affirming personal and collective life. With the end of the confinement left by the covid-19 pandemic, they have been gradually carried out again and, in a way, symbolically we have come back to life, let's celebrate it by recovering the public space.

Decreto del Congreso sobre fiestas y celebraciones públicas (1824) by Primera Secretaría de EstadoArchivo General de la Nación - México

These acts have been recorded through the documentary memory of each state, although inextricably linked to the central events of a national nature. As can be seen in the following decree that the General Archive of the Nation protects from the year 1824, the national holidays that were officially carried out were only of a civic and religious nature at the dawn of our political independence.

“Las fiestas Patrias” (1911) by El Mundo IlustradoArchivo General de la Nación - México

Civic festivals

Later the traditional festivities of each place and mass events became common in Mexican society.

One of the main civic celebrations held in Mexico is the commemoration of the acts that gave independence to the nation. The so-called national holidays, held since 1825, acquired their massive character at the end of the nineteenth century.

“Las fiestas Patrias” (1911) by El Mundo IlustradoArchivo General de la Nación - México

With the passing of time they have managed to bring together Mexican society in the main squares of the country and in private spaces to hold multiple celebrations to relive the emotions of the act of defiance to the colonial order of don Miguel Hidalgo's time.

“Las fiestas Patrias” (1911) by El Mundo IlustradoArchivo General de la Nación - México

One of the main acts of the national holidays, in addition to the ceremony of the cry of the 15th, has been a civic parade since the late nineteenth century, to which was added the military parade held on September 16.

It evokes the historic entry of the Trigarante Army into Mexico City in 1821, a symbol of discipline paired with the subversion of the previous agenda. It is not surprising that in 1911 there will be  a military festival with maneuvers, an equestrian show and the decoration of soldiers to months of armed uprisings that forced Porfirio Díaz to resign.

Programa de la fiesta patriótica del 4 de mayo de 1882 (1882) by Jesús García UriegasArchivo General de la Nación - México

The roots of civic celebrations that account for the resistance of our political community have penetrated deep into our people, up to the local level. The Municipal Archive of Buenaventura de Coahuila allows us to look at the program made on May 4, 1882, with speeches by officials, the presentation of the dance called Elvira, the interpretation of the musical piece Manuelita played to the sound of mazurka and an act of fireworks.

Desfile cívico del 16 de septiembre en Payo Obispo, Quintana Roo (1922) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

In addition to September 15 throughout the nineteenth century, the celebration of September 16 as a national holiday was consolidated as a custom. Even after the period of the armed decade of 1910-1920, before the emergence of the celebration of the new revolutionary deed, the celebration of the independence of Mexico did not lose strength, as can be seen in this image of the General Archive of the State of Quintana Roo that shows the inhabitants of the town of Payo Obispo performing this civic act in 1922.

Desfile de recibimiento a los exiliados españoles (1939) by Joaquín SantamaríaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Other events held in Mexico have been humanitarian actions regarding the reception of political asylees. This happened in 1939 when Spanish refugees arrived at the port of Veracruz after escaping the military dictatorship.

This image owned by the General Archive of the State of Veracruz highlights what that welcome was like with the landings full of union contingents: a general strike was declared to receive the expatriates and there was a great parade that led from the port to the municipal palace.

Decreto del Congreso sobre fiestas y celebraciones públicas (1824) by Primera Secretaría de EstadoArchivo General de la Nación - México

Religious festivals

Religious celebrations were present in pre-Columbian civilizations and with the arrival of the Spaniards they were replaced by those belonging to Catholicism. The religious imprint on our culture was so deep that it was even part of the principles upheld in independence and its active defense by governments, including republicans, until the definitive separation of Church and State in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Facsimilar Virgen de Guadalupe (1811) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

The festival in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of the oldest and most transcendental religious festivities in the history of Mexico, as it has been celebrated since 1667 when by bull of Pope Clement IX it was instituted as an official day on December 12 to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin to the Indian Saint Juan Diego.

Fiesta in front of Cathedral de Guadalupe. México (1905) by Charles B. WhiteArchivo General de la Nación - México

It was declared a national holiday in 1824 and since then it is celebrated massively every year in the Basilica of Guadalupe located in Mexico City, despite the separation of the secular and religious spheres. Photographers, including Charles B. White, were impressed by its popular roots in the early twentieth century. Today, millions of faithful celebrate the apparition of our Lady with pilgrimages, serenades and masses.

Cartel de la comisión religiosa en honor de la natividad de la santísima Virgen María de la parroquia de Tultepec (1923) by Comisión religiosa de la parroquia de TultepecArchivo General de la Nación - México

At the regional level, the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe has converged with those of the Virgin Mary in general in the patron saint festivities of various localities as shown in this poster of 1923 provided by the Municipal Archive of Tultepec, through which the program of activities dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Parish of Tultepec was presented in this town of the State of Mexico.

Petición de apoyo para que se realice la feria de Feria de Corpus (1911) by Jefatura Política de Izúcar de MatamorosArchivo General de la Nación - México

Fairs

Other festivities implemented in the New Hispanic era were the shows of itinerant entertainment such as theaters, fairs and circuses. Especially the fairs were still rooted in religion, because outside the churches the celebrations of the Patron Saints were held, as this document of the Municipal Historical Archive of Izúcar de Matamoros allows us to know.

In 1911, Emiliano Zapata and his troops had taken this city from the state of Puebla, but that did not suspend the realization of public activities, since the Corpus Fair had great commercial and religious importance.

Petición de apoyo para que se realice la feria de Feria de Corpus (1911) by Jefatura Política de Izúcar de MatamorosArchivo General de la Nación - México

The two testimonies presented are communications from the municipal president to the political head of the district, where support is requested both for security issues and the care of the roads, as well as for the installation of the fair itself in the usual places.

This fair of historical importance for the region of Izúcar de Matamoros will be held again this 2022 after the suspension due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Cartel de Feria de la manzana 1947 (1947) by Compañía cigarrera La ModernaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Within the same state, but in the town of Zacatlán, the Great Apple Fair is celebrated, which has become the main event since 1841, in homage to the Virgin of the Assumption. The Municipal Archive of Zacatlán presents this poster of August 17, 1947 edited by the cigar company La Moderna in which you are invited to participate in the symbolic parade, now called the parade of floats.

Desfile de carros alegóricos en la Feria de la manzana (2011) by Presidencia Municipal de ZacatlanArchivo General de la Nación - México

In addition to the parade of floats, the festivity is filled with dances, musical acts and cultural activities. Its main attraction is the walk through the apple orchards, which enjoys a large influx to this day.

Carro alegórico en el Carnaval de Culiacan (1934) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Carnivals

A festival similar to the fairs, in terms of its relationship with the religious traditions brought by the Spaniards, is the carnival, which was a celebration considered pagan at some point because of its origin and relationship with Greek mythology, but over time it began to be held in the days before Lent. During medieval times, carnivals served to symbolically reverse the social and political order, with the passage of time they acquired specific characters and symbolisms along with the social segments that appropriated them.

"Patio Andaluz" carro alegórico ganador del segundo lugar en el carnaval de Culiacan (1938) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

In addition to the suspension of everyday life and its rules, carnivals are lived as holidays, dance, costume contests and float parades. This is observed in the images of the General Historical Archive of the State of Sinaloa on the celebration of the carnival of the city of Culiacán in the years 1934 and 1938.

Cartel del carnaval de Xalapa, Veracruz, en 1944 (1944) by Gobierno del Estado de VeracruzArchivo General de la Nación - México

One of the most important carnivals in Mexico is Xalapa, Veracruz. Thanks to this poster kept in the General Archive of the State of Veracruz we can have an idea of how this event was announced in 1944.

By the time the carnival already had a massive character that needed to summon the population for a better control of the show.

Cartel del comité de carnaval de Xalapa, Veracruz en 1944 (1944) by Gobierno del Estado de VeracruzArchivo General de la Nación - México

With this poster the bases for the contests of allegorical cars, comparsas, costumes and ornaments of facades and commercial sideboards that would make up the event in 1944 were published. These bases were printed a month earlier so that participants could design and prepare their costumes, cars and facades.

Programa del Gran Circo Argentino (1926) by Gran Circo ArgentinoArchivo General de la Nación - México

Circuses the carp

A traveling show that came to Mexico in the nineteenth century was the circus, also known as carpa. These entertainment spaces were consolidated at the end of that century and in the first decades of the twentieth century through businessmen who founded various companies that presented these training shows in various places of Mexican territory. Such was the case of the Gran Circo Argentino, installed in the tents of Plaza España, bringing together various circus companies and disciplines.

Solicitud de permiso de instalar una carpa de diversiones teatrales (1926) by Manuel CariñoArchivo General de la Nación - México

The stay of the circuses or tents had to be mediated by permits to settle for a small period as shown in the document exposed by the Municipal Historical Archive of Toluca, which exposes a case dated 1926 in which Manuel Cariño requests permission to install a theatrical amusement tent, with variety shows and comedies next to the Garden of the Martyrs in the city of Toluca,  which was agreed "as long as they are cultured and moral".

Programa del Gran Circo Unión Mexicano (1910) by Circo Unión MexicanoArchivo General de la Nación - México

The amusements presented in the tents ranged from musical, theatrical events and entertainment in general, to shows of bulls and other animals as can be seen in this poster of the event called Adiós á Toluca held on Independencia Avenue in that city in 1910.

Circular que da cuenta de los “reparos” ganaderos (1962) by Isaac Mejía OrtegaArchivo General de la Nación - México

Among the entertainment activities with animals, called livestock repairs, were bullfighting, acrobatic acts with horses and the riding of donkeys and bulls.

The circular presented by the Historical Archive of the Indigenous City Council of Coatetelco, a town in the state of Morelos where these festivities were formerly held, warns of the date on which the repair will be carried out so that the breeders of the surrounding communities that participated were prepared. Currently this bullfighting event is no longer held.

Inauguración del primer parque de béisbol en Nuevo Laredo (1917) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Massive shows

Within the festivities of the country we find shows related to sports themes, which bring together various social segments. An example of this was the inauguration of the first baseball park in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas in 1917 under the name of Parque Roma with a capacity to accommodate 2 thousand spectators, which disappeared in 1930. The General Archive of the Municipality "Juan E.  Richer" preserves a photograph that allows us to appreciate a batter, the protective mesh, the public and even a person with a rifle.

Actuación del grupo “La Sociedad Anónima” en el Festival de Avándaro (1971) by Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y SocialesArchivo General de la Nación - México

With the development of the music industry came the massive musical events that today are daily and widely expected after the end of the lockdowns. The countercultural music festivals linked to the musical movement known as the Chicano Wave allow us to look at the multiple ways of experiencing music and its meanings. While it is now very normal to see various festivals in different states of the country, the foundations were marked with the so stigmatized and mythical Festival of rock and wheels in Avándaro.

Aspecto general de los asistentes al festival, Avándaro (1971) by Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y SocialesArchivo General de la Nación - México

On September 11 and 12, 1971, what was primarily a car race became a unique precedent within the massive events in the country. Around 75,000 people, according to the most conservative figures, and approximately 200,000, according to the most optimistic estimates, gathered to witness the concert of the main national rock bands in the town of Avándaro, State of Mexico. It went down in history as the first outdoor musical event with a monumental influx.

"Avándaro. Donde los principios se acaban” (1971) by El Sol de MéxicoArchivo General de la Nación - México

The large influx, youth rebellion and alternative cultural practices expressed at the festival shook conservative values in society and scandalized the authoritarian regime.

Among the reports presented by the national press and the authorities, such as the former General Directorate of Political and Social Investigations, acts labeled degeneration and attacks on good customs were condemned, which led to a long ban on mass events such as festivals of this nature for several years. 

Festival del Día del Niño en la ciudad de Cancún (1986) by Archivo Municipal Benito Juarez de Quintana RooArchivo General de la Nación - México

Commemorative events

In Mexico, commemorative events to celebrate certain roles in society such as motherhood, fatherhood, family union and childhood have also given way to new ways of celebrating. In the Benito Juarez Municipal Archive of Quintana Roo it is recorded that in April 1986 the Children's Day festival was held in the city of Cancun for the infants of the National System for the Integral Development of Families (DIF). They had the presence of the actor Gaspar Henaine, Capulina, and the famous wrestler Tinieblas, who toured the municipality of Benito Juárez.

Desfile cívico del 16 de septiembre en Toluca (1948) by AnonymusArchivo General de la Nación - México

Public celebrations and festive events account for the plurality of symbols that unite the people of a territory. They reflect aspects of their culture, their traditions, their joys, but also their pains, as well as the foundational events and extraordinary events that help explain their origin, their future and their way of being on which the aspiration for the future is based to perpetuate the political community in the present. Despite the differences and specific inclinations, documentary heritage allows us to look out the window that makes it possible to imagine that larger community that we affectionately call the Mexican nation, the Mexican people.

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Referencias Documentales: 
AGN, Archivos Fotográficos, Colección fotográfica Enrique, Díaz y Delgado, caja 10/21.
https://www.instagram.com/agnmex/

Decreto del Congreso sobre fiestas y celebraciones públicas (1824). AGN, México Independiente, Gobernación y Relaciones Exteriores, Gobernación, Gobernación Sin sección, caja 0098, exp. 2, año 1824, Primera Secretaría de Estado.

“Las fiestas patrias”, El Mundo Ilustrado, Año XVIII, tomo II, núm. 13, México, 24 de septiembre de 1911. AGN, Biblioteca-Hemeroteca Ignacio Cubas.https://www.facebook.com/ArchivoGeneraldelaNacion

Desfile cívico en Payo Obispo, Quintana Roo, 16 de septiembre de 1922. Archivo General del Estado de Quintana Roo, Acervo Fotográfico, secc. Actos cívicos, foto 19.

Programa de la fiesta patriótica, 4 de mayo de 1882. Archivo Municipal de Buenaventura Carpetas Siglo XIX, Serie: Correspondencia de los Años 1882 A 1888, Caja número 15.

Desfile de recibimiento a los exiliados españoles, Veracruz, 14 de junio de 1939. Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz, Secretaría, Inv. JS/2.573 Fondo Joaquín Santamaría, Desfile de recibimiento a los exiliados españoles. 14 de junio de 1939, Veracruz.
https://www.facebook.com/AGEdeVeracruz

Facsimilar Virgen de Guadalupe. Mapas Planos e Ilustraciones, Registro 4938, 1811.

Charles B. White, Fiesta in front of Cathedral. Guadalupe. Mexico, 20 de enero de 1905. AGN, Archivos Fotográficos, Colección Fotográfica Propiedad Artística y Literaria, CBW/ caja 34, PAL/6333.
https://www.tiktok.com/@agnmex

La comisión, Funciones religiosas en honor de la natividad de la santísima Virgen María excelsa patrona de la parroquia de Tultepec, Estado de México, 1923. Archivo Municipal de Tultepec, Sección Espectáculos y Festividades, Serie Impresos.
https://www.facebook.com/Tultepec.gob.mx

Núm. 94. E.P.M. al Jefe Político, Izúcar de Matamoros, 14 de junio de 1911. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Izúcar de Matamoros, Puebla, Jefatura Política de Izúcar de Matamoros, Serie: Gobernación y Seguridad Pública, Subserie: Seguridad Pública, caja 2, exp. 33, 1911.
https://www.facebook.com/GobiernoIzucar

Compañía cigarrera La Moderna, Gran Feria de la Manzana, Zacatlán, Puebla, mayo de 1947. Archivo Municipal de Zacatlán, Presidencia Municipal, Sección: Presidencia, Serie: Ferias y Fiestas Expediente: Cartel de Feria de la manzana 1947.
Desfile de carros alegóricos, Feria de la Manzana, Zacatlán, 2011. Archivo Municipal de Zacatlán, Presidencia Municipal, Sección: Presidencia, Serie: Eventos y Obra, exp. 71. Feria de la Manzana 2011/Cierre de Feria y desfile de Carros Alegóricos 2011.
https://www.facebook.com/amzacatlan

Archivo Histórico General del Estado de Sinaloa.
https://www.facebook.com/ahgsin/
https://www.instagram.com/ahges.sin/

Cartel promocional del Carnaval de Veracruz, 1944. Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz, Secretaría General de Gobierno (1870-1879), Gobernación y justicia (1827-1937), Colección manifiestos y divulgación de actos públicos, exp. 35.
Comité de Carnaval 1944, Bases para los concursos de carros alegóricos, comparsas y disfraces, Jalapa, Veracruz, 10 de enero de 1944. Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz, Secretaría General de Gobierno (1870-1879), Gobernación y justicia (1827-1937), Colección Manifiestos y divulgación de actos públicos, exp. 41.
https://www.facebook.com/AGEdeVeracruz

Programa del Gran Circo Argentino, domingo 5 de abril de 1926. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Toluca, AHMT 1/1/131/2/1926 .
Manuel Cariño al ciudadano presidente municipal, Toluca, México, 3 de marzo de 1926. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Toluca, AHMT-1-1-131-2-1926.
Programa del Gran Circo Unión Mexicano, Toluca, Estado de México, 1910. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Toluca, AHMT/2/4/7/6/1910. 

Circular 9. Isaac Mejía Ortega, presidente municipal de Miacatlán, al ayudante municipal de Coatetelco, Miacatlán, Morelos, 20 de octubre de 1962. Archivo histórico del H. Ayuntamiento Indígena de Coatetelco, Morelos. Reparo Xochicalco. (1962). Circular °9.
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100076925025312

Parque Roma. Archivo General del Municipio “Juan E Richer”, Parque Roma, AGMNLD.01.0001.1917.
https://www.facebook.com/archivo.general.1

Actuación del grupo La Sociedad Anónima, Avándaro, Valle de Bravo, 12 de septiembre de 1971. AGN, México Contemporáneo, Administración Pública Federal, Secretaría de Gobernación, Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales, Generalidades, c. 1614-A, e. 1.

Aspecto general de los asistentes al festival, Avándaro, Valle de Bravo, 11 de septiembre de 1971. AGN, México Contemporáneo, Administración Pública Federal, Secretaría de Gobernación, Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales, Generalidades, caja 1614-A, exp. 1.
“Avándaro. Donde los principios se acaban”, El Sol de México, 12 de septiembre de 1971. AGN, México Contemporáneo, Administración Pública Federal, Secretaría de Gobernación, Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales, Información, Información General de los Estados, C. 1331 A.
https://www.gob.mx/agn

Festival del Día del Niño. Archivo Municipal Benito Juarez de Quintana Roo, Comunicación social, Sección: 9C, Serie: 9C.14 Actos y eventos oficiales.
https://www.facebook.com/ArchivoMpalBJ
https://www.instagram.com/archivompalbj/

Desfile cívico en las principales calles de la ciudad de Toluca, calle Bravo esquina con Lerdo con motivo del 16 de septiembre de 1948. Archivo Histórico Municipal de Toluca, AHMT, 51/1/1/9/1953/18/1.

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