Fiesta Time In Chila - 2 weeks in February

By José Antonio Silva Ramírez

José Antonio Silva Ramírez is an organizer of sports events in the fiestas of Chila.

The fiesta of San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Worker), the patron saint of Chila, begins at the end of January with a beauty pageant for Queen of the Fiesta and Rodeo (charros) Queen.

Bajos de Chila, Feb. 14, 2011
Bajos de Chila, Feb. 14, 2011

The fiesta queen plays an important role in the events of February. Whenever her participation is required, the fiesta committee and town’s people go to her house and escort her to the event with firecrackers and a brass band leading the way.

The fiesta formally begins the first week of February with the lighting of a symbolic flame and a performance of folk dance. Now the streets begin to fill with mechanical rides, carnival games, and venders’ stalls. People from neighboring communities visit in the afternoons and evenings to shop and enjoy the bumper cars, lotteries, target shooting and other diversions. There is a general feeling of happiness in the town.

The novena for San Isidro is held at the church from February 4th to 12th. Regional dance and music groups will performin the churchyard. The highlight is the chilena contest.

Livestock Expo, Chila 2/11/11
Livestock Expo, Chila 2/11/11

The sports events start with the children’s bicycle race, followed by a mountain bike race on the main streets. There are also men’s and women’s running competitions, as well as men’s, women’s and seniors’ soccer tournaments, plus men’s and women’s volleyball. Pelota Mixteca, the traditional hand ball game dating back to pre-Hispanic times, has always been popular in Chila. Teams will be coming from Oaxaca city, Pochutla, Escobilla and Fresno, California to compete in three divisions.

The cockfights at the Aragón brothers’ cockpit in mid-February are the biggest in the region. The fights begin sometime after 9 p.m. and can go on until 9 a.m.

Sta de las fiestas de Chila 2011
Sta de las fiestas de Chila 2011

The “convite” and the “calenda”, organized by the local authorities and the fiesta committee, take place on February 13th. In the afternoon, the two queens and a band lead a procession of men and women dressed in traditional garb through the streets. The women throw candy from their baskets in honor of San Isidro. This convite ends at the churchyard where the calenda begins. The calenda is a major party with dancing in which the whole town participates. There are fireworks and the fiesta committee passes out mescal in reed cups. The party goes into the wee hours.

The fireworks display on February 14th is the highpoint of the fiesta. There may be as many as three castillos - towers that ignite in a breath-taking show of pyrotechnics. The day begins with a mass at the church and ends with a big dance.

The partying ends, or the day begins, at 5 a.m. on February 15th with the mañanitas for San Isidro. There is a mass for the saint at noon, followed by a lunch for all the people who served on committees and who participated in the different events.

The festival does not end there, however. There will be jaripeos (rodeos) that include bull riding and, finally, horse races featuring the region’s best mounts.

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