Las Fiestas Patronales

El Salvador


Las Fiestas Patronales of the municipality of Dulce Nombre de María, Chalatenango are fiestas tradicionales that take place annually between December 7 and December 11th. Five different barrios or neighborhoods take part in the celebrations including El Calvario, Concepción, El Carmen, San José, and El Centro. Each of these has its own day to host a parade representing their own saints, which are la Virgen de Guadalupe, la Virgen de Concepción, la Virgen del Carmen, San José, and La Virgen de Dulce Nombre de María respectively. On December 6th, the Salvadoran flag is raised to signal the beginning of the event, and is raised daily for each start in a new barrio. Every morning, throughout the duration of the Las Fiestas, a marching band leads the people of the pueblo around its main streets with cheer and happiness seen all around. Tamales, café, and atol are some of the foods that can be enjoyed by everyone as they converse and come together for an early meal. Also, children can partake in activities that include clowns, competitions, dances, and various games. The music never really stops and Dulce Nombre’s residents are infused with positive vibes and high energy to make the best out of the carnival. Around noon begin the fireworks, “Los Viejos” come out, and parade floats join in on the fun.

Viejos Photo Gallery:

These two are what are known as “Los Viejos.” They are dressed up for the noon parade, and have their hearts set on frightening small children.
This is a picture of my cousin as a child (center), and the Viejo behind him is holding un “torito pinto,” which is decorated with different colored streamers.
Los Viejos can be seen making their stops among the crowds of families on the sidewalks and streets, and of course, posing for the camera. Here, they are standing outside the home of Señora Julia Abrego, who is currently in charge of the committee of Las Fiestas Patronales in el barrio El Calvario.
My cousin looking uncomfortable as he was probably forced to pose for this picture.
The two taller figures on the right and left with flower patterned dresses are known as “La Siguanava,” pretty much what my nightmares were made of when I was a child.
Los Viejos like to dress with varied and popping bright colors, fit for a cheery carnival. Every barrio strives to put on the best performance it can, by having new masks, as many Viejos as possible, and inclusions of “La muñecona,” or “The big doll,” which is the towering  figure in front of the crowd.
The participants of this carnival show a lot of ingenuity when it comes to putting a costume together. They combine different fabrics, masks, and clothing in order to achieve a cohesive outfit that stands out.
Everyone can enjoy themselves at the festival, whether young or old. A carefree time without any worries.

If you would like to see Los Viejos in action, you can take a look at this two minute video:

Afternoon Parade Float

This is one of the afternoon parade floats, out alongside Los Viejos and the marching band. These floats can portray scenes from folk stories as well as scenes from the Bible. The young female (center), named Guadalupe is part of barrio El Calvario and is the grandaughter of Señora Julia Abrego.

Around 3:30 pm, the first chiming of the church bells can be heard, signaling for everyone to prepare for mass. Every day, mass is held outdoors at 4pm, in whatever barrio’s turn it is to host. Once mass is done, the celebration continues and donations are held for the church. If people make a contribution they can receive fresco de orchata, a handmade paper flower, and a small goodie bag with a bread inside called “marquesote.”

This is what the goodie bag and flowers that you can get during Las Fiestas Patronales look like. Some of my family members brought these over as souveniers to the United States.












This is my grandaunt (right) carrying many of the paper flowers like the ones seen on the previous picture. For many years, up until her passing in 2015, she was the head of the committee responsible for las Fiestas Patronales in the barrio of San José. The volunteer (left) is possibly carrying the goodie bags filled with treats.













At 10pm the priest announces how much was collected, everyone claps and feels proud as a result of the group effort. The people in charge of hosting in each specific barrio also take the time to thank everyone for their collaboration to the church. Finally, the parade float with the barrio’s specific saint is brought out and everyone follows behind, singing religious hymns. With this, the day comes to a close, a time of merriment and peacefulness for the citizens of Dulce Nombre.

This is the float of barrio El Calvario, decorated in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe. With this procession the day of December 7th comes to an end.

I remember living these celebrations as a child and they were extremely entertaining. I remember being afraid of Los Viejos, but I loved the music and the food. I loved the company of my family and friends as we all shared a good time together. My childhood memories were good for the most part. However, when I compare my memories to those of older family members, people who lived through the Salvadoran Civil War, I think of myself as fortunate because they are memories I cannot even begin to imagine as true, yet they are. I realize that even in a place where there is so much happiness, within it can also live hopelessness and despair.