The Night No One Sleeps

In the capital city Humantla, located in the East-Central part of Mexico, the largest cultural celebration of the year in the Mexican state,Tlaxcala, is underway. Feria de Huamantla runs from July 21st through August 21st, and appears to have begun originally as a festival dedicated to the worship of Xochiquetzal, the goddess of love, flowers and arts. After the Spanish invaded Mexico, however, they persuaded the local inhabitants to change the focus of the festival to the Virgin Mary.

Beginning July 31, citizens of Huamantla start decorating their churches and streets with flowers. Local artists create “carpets” that line the streets leading up to the main church in town. They make the carpets from a number of different materials, including fresh flowers and moss and most commonly, colored sawdust. A bit like the Sand Mandala, the intricate sand art that Tibetan Buddhist monks create, artists carefully sieve the sawdust through stencils to form the floral patterns on the ground.

On August 14th, although the majority of the work is completed, artists work all night long to complete the last six kilometers of the sacred path leading to the church. It is this time that is referred to as “the night that no one sleeps”. All of this preparation precedes a deeply religious ceremony on August 15, whereby a young woman selected to portray the Virgin Mary leads a procession along the carpet path and into the church; thus consecrating the work. In a sacred and ancient tradition, the image of the Virgin Mary is followed by her faithful into the church to attend mass, followed by fireworks exploding in the sky behind them.

The festivities don’t end there, however. A second big event, called Huamantlada, is held on August 19. Huamantlada is based on the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Hundreds of young men from Tlaxcala and neighboring states, test their courage and skill against some twenty-five bulls let loose in the streets of Huamantlada. The Mexican version of the tradition is far more dangerous as bulls are released from two different directions on the street, which begs the question, is August 18 is the unofficial night that no one sleeps among the mothers of the bullfighters?

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