Nine days for Saint Francis

Wear white, they said. And carry flowers. That's what Jorge and Margarita told us when they stopped by for our donation to the San Francisco Festival. 

Our neighborhood was assigned the first night, which would be followed by eight more nights of festivities. You see, San Pancho is divided into nine parts. For the nine day celebration honoring patron saint Saint Francis of Assisi.

Nine days for San Francisco, San Pancho, in a pueblo that doesn't do much to celebrate Independence Day!

Nine days. Fireworks exploding at 5 a.m. and at the end of the evening's celebrations. Fireworks announcing the arrival of the neighborhood parade at the church.

Let me start over. Our neighborhood, about a ninth of the pueblo, was assigned the first night. Neighbors gave varying amounts of money, according to what they could afford, to Jorge and Margarita. Other neighborhoods did the same with their leaders, as each of the nine sections is assigned a different night.

The money helped decorate the streets and paid for a float, a pickup with a beautiful woman (an angel? the virgin?) over the cab and Saint Francis in brown garb in the back of the pickup. Each had a mural behind them. And it paid for the band that marched with the candle-carrying neighbors to the church. 

Some nights there's enough money to pay for a bull--a beautiful silver aluminum replica of a bull, carried by older teens or young men, with fireworks blazing out of its sides. The fireworks skim across the plaza, sending anyone over 20 into hiding while young kids follow the bull. Over and over the fireworks are ignited and over and over we run for cover. The only safe place is the church.

In the plaza there were drinks (pina coladas, white russians, margaritas) and beer and food. I enjoyed a huge, tall frozen pina colada in a plastic glass to take home. ($40 pesos each.) I gave it to a friend who collected as many as she could for use around her pool. Taco stands.(Four of us each had three tacos and the bill was less than $100 pesos (less than $10 USDollars). Rides for the kids. Games. Ice cream. Music.

I'm told it gets a little bigger, a little grander each night. Oh, there's always a procession, music, and a full mass at the church every evening. Fireworks, as well. 

On October 4th, the real San Francisco Day, fireworks are on a tower, which revolves and moves and sets off more fireworks until some fly through the air and along the ground and are, basically, to be avoided. 

All in all, a grand celebration for and by the people in the pueblo of San Pancho. Before all the tourists and gringos return. 

Why nine days? I don't have a clue.

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