August is here and with it the Fiestas del Santo Patrono de Petatlán! Petatlán is a small town a few miles east of Zihuatanejo, which has become a major pilgrimage site in the Guerrero state of Mexico. The story of the Holy Patron of Petatlan comes from the 1500s, when a statue of Christ complete with a cross was found in the Petatlán River. This was considered a miracle by the locals, and the Church of the Father of Jesus de Petatlán was built to house the statue. The city suffered an earthquake, which called for the church to be renovated. Today the building is both a modern and classic design statement that serves as a landmark in the heart of this small town and the center of the Fiestas de Petatlán.
On the eve of the Patron’s celebration (August 6th), many pilgrims of all ages arrive from other parts of the state and most of them spend the night sleeping in the atrium of the church. The priests, along with the church’s congregation, offer their guests coffee, sweet bread, pozole and fresh fruit waters without distinction and free of charge.
According to tradition, the visitors use the celebratory time as an opportunity to ask the Petatlán Christ statue for help. They leave photographs and needs pinned on boards behind the area where the statue is housed, in hopes of getting some sort of answer or solution to their needs. Mementos left include pictures of babies who are ill, the ponytails of girls from after their quinceañera, and even university diplomas.
Beyond the prayers many other events take place. Folk dance shows occur throughout the night of the 5th and into the morning of the 6th. That morning the town sings Las Mañanitas (a birthday song) to the Petatlán icon.
Throughout the week there are nightly masses at the church that are then followed by gatherings in the main town square. There the street vendors offer typical Mexican sweets and food (my favorite part!). I also love to watch firework shows, which feature traditional Mexican characters such as the torito & castillos.
Hopefully I have given you a taste of this exciting cultural event! And, whether during the festival or not, remember to visit Petatlán during your next visit to Capella Ixtapa and the Guerrero state of Mexico.