Indigenous community in Mexico marks feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Aldama, Mexico, Jul 19 (EFE).- Hundreds of Tzotzil people poured out of the mountains surrounding this town in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas on Tuesday for the annual festival of the municipality’s patron saint, Mary Magdalene.

Not even an ongoing conflict over land with neighboring Chenalho that features daily rounds of gunfire deterred residents of Aldama, whose official name is Santa Maria Magdalena, from observing the holiday.

“This year we ask her to protect us. There is a conflict over this 60 hectares (148 acres). We ask her for peace, for visitors to be happy, it’s what we pray for,” Tzotzil elder Sebastian Santis Santis says.

“We celebrate St. Mary Magdalena. It’s an image very much in the heart and the faith of this town with all its culture. We recognize in Mary Magdalene one of the great women of the gospel,” the Rev. Joel Padron Gonzalez told Efe. “She is a woman who converted her heart and embraced the gospel of Jesus.”

Every year since the town’s founding in 1883, the Tzotzils of Aldama have mounted a days-long observance in honor of the saint.

Men in black hats move in procession, dancing and chanting in the directions of the four points of the compass until they reach the church, where they prostrate themselves.

Elders cleanse and purify with incense and copal all of the figures inside the sanctuary, while the faithful brings gifts, candles and flowers.

The figure of Mary Magdalene is garbed in an elaborate mantle handcrafted by Aldama’s artisans.

The festival also typically sees hundreds of Aldama men who left the town to seek their fortunes in Mexico or even abroad return with their new families to introduce them to the tradition.

Yuliana Hernandez said that she and her husband, an Aldama native, have been making the trip from Cancun for more than 10 years.

“I’m fascinated,” she tells Efe. “Every year I come back I fall in love with this culture and its traditions.” EFE mmf/dr

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