In mid January (4-23) in the town of Chiapas de Corzo, there is an incredible display of culture, tradition and pure fiesta. I was lucky enough, on my birthday (the 17th), to find myself celebrating along with the welcoming people of this town.
It is known as the Fiesta Grande de Enero or the Great January Feast and it is so amazing (and I completely agree with this) that it was recognized for its cultural significance by UNESCO in 2010.
The legend claims that many years ago a wealthy woman from Spain, Doña María, came to Chiapas de Corzo in search of a cure for her sick son by one of the town’s local healers. During this time, to entertain the sick boy, the men dressed and danced in masks. They were know as the parachicos (translated as “for the boy”). The boy was cured in Chiapas de Corzo and when Doña María heard of a plague that troubled the town, she returned with food and money, grateful to the town that had cured her son.
On the streets of Chiapas de Corzo everyone seems to be participating, even small children dress as parachicos. The women dress as Chipanecas, representing the wealthy Doña María. Also on the streets you may find a “chunta” these are men dressed as women who are acting as the servants or maids of Doña María. The parachicos wear beautifully carved masks made to look like a Spanish face. Their helmet like tops are made of ixtle, a fiber from yucca or agave plants. Parachicos dance in the streets playing metal maracas called chinchines and tap their boots.
During the fiesta, there are feasts honoring three saints. As Doña María showed in the past, gratitude seems to be the message here. The people of Chiapas de Corzo love to include others and share this experience, and I am grateful for a birthday that I’ll never forget.