From the Heads of Crazy People to the Tail of the Dragon
In our travels to various destinations we don’t normally think of a parade as something to seek out, but after these two experiences occurring in very different parts of the world we may re-think this. A parade can give you an insight into the culture of the region that you might not see with any other type of event or cultural site visited. It is a way to connect in a different way with the grass roots of the people, a part of the soul of the area. While some of us might be used to seeing parades on television with giant floats and high tech gadgetry, these two parades displayed none of that. In our first parade we saw people taking to the streets in all sorts of crazy costumes dancing to the rhythms of primal music while on the other side of the planet we witnessed very low-tech, hand made floats of sorts being wheeled through the streets and operated by human power. The images we captured and share here don’t really do justice to these two unique events, but hopefully you will come away with a small sense of what we experienced.
Desfile de los Locos
One of the wildest, and craziest for that matter, parades that either of us has ever experienced or witnessed takes place each year on the Sunday after June 13 (St Anthony of Padua Feast Day) in San Miguel de Allende. Little did we know when we ventured out that day to view the parade that we were in for an outrageous day of loud music, dancing in the streets, crazy costumes, and just plain fun. The parade is aptly named Desfile de los Locos, or Parade of the Crazy People and includes thousands of people dressed as superheros, cartoon characters, monsters, celebrities, aliens, politicians, and all sorts of original imaginary creatures all dancing to very loud music coming from large speakers and amplifiers on the backs of trucks or from live marching bands.
The parade originated in a time, probably the late 19th century, when San Miguel was planted with fertile orchards growing seasonal fruits such as cherries, pears, apples, peaches, guavas, and plums. The owners of these orchards traditionally invited their workers and their families to come and eat all they wanted to celebrate the harvest. The tradition of dancing orchard workers came to represent thanks for a good harvest and all the good things that had come that year. The dancing workers eventually attracted onlookers, and as the years passed the crowds grew. To make more space for dancing the dancers started to dress as scarecrows and bring animals to scare the onlookers. After that the viewers started calling the dancers “los locos”. Eventually the dancers spread into the streets to announce the festivities and the parade grew from there. For additional information on the history behind “los locos”, please checkout this article.
Locals and visitors alike start lining the streets that the parade follows mid-morning on the day of the parade. We arrived about two hours before the parade was to start, and at that time there was still quite a bit of space on the sidewalks lining the route. We found a spot and just hung out watching all the pre-parade activities in the street. The vendors of San Miguel were out in force selling everything from popsicles, to chips with salsa and lime, lots of cold water which they carted around in wheelbarrows full of ice, umbrellas to help shade the hot sun, and of course all sorts of toys for the kids. We saw young and old alike walking the streets prior to the start of the parade perhaps looking for family or friends to enjoy the festivities with or just looking for a spot to settle in. By the time the parade started the sidewalks were packed with spectators, and we had little room to move. Folks were yelling and cheering as participants of the parade were throwing out all sorts of candy treats into the crowded sidewalks – it got to be a real competition for the candy with people inverting the umbrellas they bought earlier to keep the sun away to use them to catch more of the thrown candy.
We were quite amazed at the vast number of parade participants and the amount of energy they expended between the dancing and throwing of the candy, and the fact that some of the costumes looked really uncomfortably warm to be wearing especially on a hot summer day. The music had to be some of the loudest we’ve heard in an event of that nature, and you could really feel the rhythm of the bass and drums in your head and chest as the music trucks would go by. But what a great party this annual event is for the city of San Miguel de Allende, and we felt so fortunate to have been there to enjoy the celebration!
To see more images of Desfile de los Locos please visit our Desfile de los Locos Gallery page here.
The Dragon of Shandon Parade
Half a world away from San Miguel we were treated to a night unlike any we had spent before in the Irish city of Cork. Who would have thought there would be a 36 foot dragon roaming the streets of this lovely city on Halloween night? That’s exactly what we saw when we settled in curbside along the route for the Dragon of Shandon Parade to celebrate Samhain. According to a variety of internet sources Samhain is a celebration of the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of the colder, darker half of the year. Or some say it is a time to celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth, and a time when the boundary between the world of the living and the realm of the dead is thin thus facilitating contact and communication.
The Dragon of Shandon Parade website describes the parade as follows:
The Dragon of Shandon began in 2006 as a street parade celebration of Samhain and creative partnership between artists and communities which has taken place on the night of October 31st in the heart of Shandon, Cork, Ireland for over 8 years.
Each year thousands take to the streets of Shandon on Cork’s Northside to walk with the Dragon as it travels between worlds in a celebration of the living and the dead accompanied by an assortment of creatures from the underworld.
The evening parade is the result of an extensive outreach and participatory programme that spans several months of workshops with youth groups, the community and voluntary sector, schools and voluntary participants.
A commitment to high standards of practice both in artistic and participatory engagement are at the core of each annual parade with groups collaborating on an annual basis with artists to create original work that is reflective of their experiences.
The centrepiece of each parade is the Dragon, 36ft in length and made entirely of tape. This spectacular giant puppet is animated by twelve puppeteers on the night who walk it through the streets of Shandon along with an array of illuminated props, lanterns and characters.
We were out the night of October 31 with thousands of people lining the streets of the parade route to witness one of the largest nighttime parades in Ireland. There were ghosts, goblins, and assorted creatures dancing to music provided by various marching bands, some of which had performed at the Cork Jazz Festival which was just ending. The highlight of the parade was indeed the huge dragon along with the other skeletons and creatures, all amazingly made from tape. It was certainly a night of surprises and fun.
To see more images of The Dragon of Shandon Parade please visit our Dragon of Shandon Parade Gallery page here.