Fiestas de Santiago: July 16-26

A bit of tradition, parties, dancing, rodeos, fireworks, and religion--a week's celebration!

Click on photos to enlarge

When you visit the small pueblo of Santiago, a municipality of Manzanillo, you'll take a step back in time to what you've always imagined the "real" Mexico is like.

While the mercado Plaza Colimese may be bustling, and the central jardin  is lined with taxis and taco stands,  the town still retains that "spirit of Mexico" so much sought-after by visitors to this country.

Santiago families, as they have for generations, remain close, neighbors help neighbors, and everyone has a smile, especially during the time of Fiestas de Santiago, a 60-year tradition, to celebrate the martyrdom of St. James of Santiago, de Compostela, Spain in 44 BC.

The commemoration of St. James, also known as San Santiago, is on July 25. There is a traditional procession to the church, with many followers in peasant costume.

Fiestas de Santiago is not just a religious holiday for local residents. A queen will be crowned to preside over the festivities, called Fiestas Charro Taurina, and there will be a parade of vaqueros (cowboys) on horseback, many riding horses originating from Spain.

The parade will begin on July 16 at 6 p.m. at the Fairgrounds on Elias Zamora Verdusco, and continue to Av. Manzanillo, where the processions of riders will turn left (west). They will ride down Av. Manzanillo to the main Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, where they will turn right (north), until the main street of Santiago. They will then turn right (east), and continue on through the town of Santiago to the bull ring (Plaza de Toros).

Following the arrival of the horsemen, a Jaripeo (bull riding) will be held at 7 p.m. nightly throughout the festival. 

During intermission (the time when the bull is loaded into the chute and the rider mounts him), live banda music is played, people dance in the aisles, and the cowboys in the ring sit atop their handsome steeds choreographing the horses stomping hoofs to the throbbing beat of the music.

You are never too young to learn the skills of roping and riding. For local young boys (and sometimes girls), being a charro or vaquero is part of their life on a ranch.

Young boys are also encouraged to try their hand at bull riding, also the "bulls" are actually young calves.

Venders circulate throughout the audience selling beer, soft drinks, and misc. food items. The vaqueros themselves are not above imbibing on horseback!

But they have duties in the ring. If the rider is thrown off the bull, the attending cowboys' first responsibility is to protect him from the bull's pounding hoofs and sharp horns. They do this by getting between the contestant and the bull, and/or lassoing the bull's horns to keep him away from the rider.

The horses they ride are specially trained to respond to the threat of the bull, and in fact, most horses have gone to a special school to learn these skills, as have the cowboys who ride them.

The bulls come from several large cattle ranches in the area. Each night of the week will features bulls from a different ranch. The bulls used in the Jaripeos have never been ridden before.

On July 10, before the festival, there will be a concert, with special talent brought in from another state, Pancho Barraza.

Singer/guitarist/bassist Barraza plays ballads, Cumbia, ranchera and Salsa. Like a singing cowboy who has tales to tell, his music moves to the beat of a horse trot as accordions neigh away!

Barraza became involved in Mexican traditional music after moving to Mazatlán and joining Banda San Sebastian and Banda Camino. He became Los Recoditos’ leading singer in 1991, and in 1995, began his solo career.

On July 25, the day San Santiago is honored as the patron Saint of Santigo, Banda Machos, will perform at the bull ring, around midnight.

Banda Machos is a Mexican band originally from Villa Corona, in the state of Jalisco. The band sings a combination of Banda music, Quebradita, and Ranchera. Banda Machos has performed songs composed by Joan Sebastian, Jose Guadalupe Esparza, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Ivan Diaz, Horacio Ortíz and Marco Antonio Solis. The band has been together for more than 20 years and has recorded over 20 albums, and has received numerous music awards.

There will be various cultural events in the Santiago jardin nightly, including regional dances, children's activities, food stands, souvenir booths, plus at the bull ring free food is offered every day at 4 p.m. (called a recibimiento), and cockfighting (pelea de gallos) at a location to be determined.  Recibimentos are sponsored by various people or organizations, such as political parties, ranch owners, or politicians.

The event is sponsored by the Ejido of Santiago. (Simply put, Ejidos are Mexican people who jointly own common land in the area.)

Note: Times are approximate; this is Mexico. Not every scheduled event will begin on time. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information here, but dates and times may be changed without notice--again, this is Mexico. Not all photos came from the Santiago event. They are representative of what you will see. Cockfighting, whether you agree with it or not, is part of the tradition. Bull riding, not bull fighting, is part of this festival.

For a complete list of festivals see Susan Dearing's guidebook.