The other day on our way to La Gruta hot springs, our taxi driver asked us if we were going to go to El Festival de Los Locos. I asked him if he meant Locos as in ‘Borrachos’ or locos as in, well ‘Locos.’ He said it was a parade similar to Carnival in Brazil where people worked on their costumes all year in preparation. It is a parade to honor San Antonio de Pádua and is held every year on the Sunday closest to June 13th. It begins at La Iglesia San Antonio and snakes down six streets before ending at the Jardín Central in the Zócalo at the center San Miguel de Allende.
We decided to check it out this morning, but had no earthly clue what we were in for. We were told that preparations started at nine and the parade would begin at 11. We set out around 10 for our morning caffeinated beverage of choice and then proceeded to look for a place to sit and watch the parade. The streets were already blocked off and lines of string partitioned off the sidewalk from the street. The few shady spots on this particular street were already taken, so we popped a squat on a vacant curb and began to wait. I had no idea that we would continue to sit there in the sun for another two and a half hours as a sea of humanity swarmed in around us and made me feel like I was trapped in a situation that could go south very quickly. Vendors walked up and down the streets and made a killing selling everything from snacks and beverages to umbrellas. I would find out soon enough that the umbrellas were used more for catching flying candy than they were for shade.
We were sitting on just one tiny street and thousands of people passed us over that period of time looking for a place to squeeze in. If you suffer from claustrophobia, this was definitely not the place for you. Honestly, I was beginning to think that this might not be the place for me either. When the sun reached high above us and the temperature hit what felt like 90, we were about to call it quits. There was no hope of leaving our spot for water or a bathroom break as simply standing to stretch sent a sea of people your way in hopes of finding a spot. At around one o’clock we heard drums from afar and murmurings in the crowd signaled that the parade was underway. For the next hour and a half we witnessed one of the most amazing spectacles I have seen to date. The newspaper said 15,000 people were to be in the parade and I do not doubt it for a second. It was simply jaw dropping. The costumes were fantastic, the music was intoxicating, and the intermittent storms of candy that rained down upon us made my children giddy. It was simply overwhelming and certainly an experience not to be missed.
When the parade seemed as if it might go on forever, we decided to make a run for it. Pilar had already succumbed to the sidewalk fifteen minutes before and when I saw that Carmela was green, I knew it was time to finagle our way through the intimidating crowd. We somehow joined the parade for as long as it took to find a plausible exit, and were lucky enough to find kind people who lifted the barricade and allowed us to escape. We left just in the knick of time, for Carmela was cold to the touch and told us she had actually just blacked out right before our escape. We ducked into the first restaurant we could find, made her down a bottle of water, and quickly ordered food. They were both dehydrated and starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. Are we good parents, or what?
I have decided that El Festival de Los Locos is named such not for the crazy people who dress up and parade for miles, it is for the crazy people who wait in the heat for hours to witness it. Or perhaps it is named for them both. Regardless, it was absolutely nutty and terribly fantastic.
¡Viva el festival de los locos!