Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Salon De Fiesta

Fiestas, large and small, are an integral part of life in Mexico. However, they are rarely small, so hence the need for the ubiquitous “ Salon de Fiesta “.  Although I still have a lot of exploring to do in Mexico I have been to more than half the States in the country and one thing I have noticed that they all have in common is the salon de fiesta.

The salon de fiesta is simply a large empty, warehouse-like space, and you will see them everywhere from the smallest pueblo to the largest city. The larger the city, the more salons. In Canada, and probably the US as well, we don’t usually rent a hall for a party other than perhaps for weddings or a large graduation party or something of that ilk. A lot of people go through their whole lives and never use a facility like this.

The Venue
Not so in Mexico. Although parties here are very frequent, and often held for no greater reason than that the sun is out, there are specific times when a huge function is required to celebrate an occasion. When a girl turns three, and again when she turns fifteen, baptisms, and of course weddings, are some of those occasions.

Our first experience with one of these giant congregations was the baptism of the young son of two of our Mexican friends. There were about one hundred and fifty people there, mas o menos, ( more or less) and they were nearly all family. The father of the boy being baptized has 11 siblings and each of those has children as well. The average family here is so much larger than north of the border that a hall is usually required to have a family get-together.

The Guest of Honor

The main problem with these events is that they are very expensive and usually the party-givers don’t have any money to spare. The whole family, and sometimes the whole town, chips in to help with the funding. Because of this I have mixed feelings about these mandatory celebrations. You could feed a small town for a week on what it costs to throw one of these shindigs, and they are absolutely expected to do this for each of the milestones I mentioned earlier.

The party-giver must provide the food, drinks, decorations and music for these affairs. In the case of this baptism there were carnitas, a whole pig, spiced and  cooked for many hours in it’s own fat. Where I can see how this may not sound appetizing, it is absolutely delicious. This was accompanied by beans, salad and tortillas. There were plenty of soft drinks and the beer and tequila seemed bottomless. The music was recorded and the speakers very nearly reached the ceiling. I could feel my bones vibrating with the base notes of the music.

Of course there was much singing, dancing, shouting and merry-making and the joy of the whole family, or community, celebrating together is infectious. I particularly liked the dance where everyone got in a circle and did the “ Bull Fight Dance “. A man uses a chair as the horns of the bull and “ attacks” a woman using a rebozo, a large shawl, as the bullfighter’s cape. These props are handed off regularly as new fighters enter and leave the dance floor.

Too Cute!
The Proud Parents
The Matriarch
The Candy Toss
In lieu of a piñata, I guess there were just too many kids, someone stood on a chair and threw candy and small coins into the middle of a gaggle of screaming kids.

We lasted about four hours and even at that my ears were ringing for four days. Apparently the party went until the wee small hours of the morning. The Mexicans DO know how to throw a party!


  1. Yes, tons of Salon de Eventos here also, sometimes it seems like there is one on every corner lol. I have seen some advertised for rent for 1200.00 pesos and of course higher, depending on what they provide and how classy their place is.
    I haven't noticed specifically here that they have a party for 3 yr. old girls; I have been to several for little girls and perhaps they were 3 yrs. old, can't really remember lol.
    Quite often here they have a huge baptism party, which is sometimes combined with the 1 year old party. Then there are various birthday parties, then first communion, quincenaras (sp?),graduations, older people birthday parties, weddings, despidida de solteras, baby showers, etc., etc. lol.
    Here the godparents and family help with the cost of the party, usually 1 person is alloted what they will pay for por example flowers, center pieces, music, cake, etc..
    The coin throwing at the baptism is a long ago custom which is the time for the god parents to show that they can afford to help out with their new god childs future or something like that.

    Interesting to see the differences between one place and another. I have never seen that bullfight dance done at any of the parties I have been to here, nor have we ever been served carnitas. Here the barbacoa seems to be commonly served along with frijoles, sopa seca, a bun or tortillas. A childs summertime birthday party might have a rented hot dog cart guy to serve the children and a more grown up meal for the adults.
    Always large table centerpieces for the guests to take home and a huge goodie bag for children and adults.
    The jumping houses seem to be popular here at the moment and one we went to had pony rides, another had a donkey pulling a small buggy to give rides to the kids. A popular Salon de Eventos here in the summertime is El Titanico, which has child depth swimming pools and 2 water slides, the kids love that place.
    Wherever they are the parties are fun and noisy and you never leave hungry or thirsty either.

    1. Brenda, I think the 3 year old party actually started years ago when they felt that if the child had lived to 3 years then they were likely to make it all the way. Now with better nutrition and aid from DIF, I don't think that's so much of an issue now a days.

      Family members here will also pay for certain things, and for the quinceañeros the girls will actually go out and find sponsors who will pay for the dress or the cake or transportation etc. We are going to DF next month for the
      quinceañeros of 4 more girls from the Esperanza orphanage.

      Hey, there's another blog post.

      I think that generally there is not enough money in Patzcuaro for all the extra stuff for the kids, but they still make one heck of a party! I've been to a few now and they are always fun, just different depending on how much money the family has.

  2. When you realize how small most of the homes are, it is necessary to have an event somewhere else.
    Thanks for sharing.....

  3. That's very true, one of the events that I went to was for the 3 year old great granddaughter of Petra, the lady that we built the little house for.

  4. I am enjoying your blog. I would love to hear more about why you moved from Patzcuaro to San Miguel.

    1. When we first moved here we were really burned out. The campo above Patzcuaro was perfect for us. We really loved it there and became very involved in the community. Actually I miss it a lot.

      After a few years there though we missed having different restaurant options and cultural events. Todd used to say that you could take a menu from any restaurant on Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro to any other one and order from it and no one would notice the difference, and as much as I love the ballet folklorico, it gets a little stale after the first 50 time. San Miguel has a lot more to offer in that respect. There is always something going on here.

      Queretaro, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and even San Luis Potosi are close enough for day trips. We don't really know at this point whether we will stay here or not, but for now we are enjoying it.