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The Blessing of the Animals in Mexico

Updated on November 16, 2011

Colorful Floats at Xochimilco

I believe there is a Bleesing ceremony here each January 17th  This is near Mexico City.
I believe there is a Bleesing ceremony here each January 17th This is near Mexico City.

The Charming Ceremony for Pets

Mexicans, in fact, Hispanic races in general, are not noted for their exemplary treatment of animals. Having lived in Mexico for many years, I have found that reports of cruelty there may be unfounded in many cases. Yes, Gringos and others who visit see packs of semi-feral dogs on the streets and the odd visitor is prone to adopting a lost dog down there from one of the barely adequate shelters. But Mexicans don’t go out of their way to be cruel to dogs, rather, they have little interest in them and are more concerned with their kids.

I have heard and seen more cruelty towards pets in the USA and the UK, where dog-fighting takes place in secret locations and thousands of pets are abandoned - the “Christmas” puppies: despite this, the British in particular, see themselves as a race of animal lovers and feel free to wax loquacious on other nation’s behavior.

In fact, the laissez-faire attitude south of the border actually allows dogs to live a sort of life on the streets and beaches, etc., where they would have been picked up by the dog-catcher in our more organized societies and many euthanized.

You rarely see feral cats on the streets in Mexico, a fact which was explained to me at an animal shelter, “The wild dogs or coyotes eat them, senor,” was the explanation!

But there is one enchanting ceremony, unknown to many visitors, which makes me think there is more love and more loving owners in Mexico than meets the eye. This is the Blessing of the Animals, a ceremony held in rural churches and chapels in January each year.

In Taxco, the silver capital, situated in Guerrero State, high in the Sierra Madre mountains, the ceremony is conducted under the auspices and blessing of St Anthony.

Some time after the noon heat has left the square in front of the Santa Prisca church, a queue of dusty folk wearing traditional garb begins to form out side the walls surrounding the establishment. Some are kids alone or with parents: they have tykes and kitties in their arms or on leads; others carry cages with budgies or parrots in them, some announcing in definite terms that, “Hey, it’s - squawk - hot here, get on with it!”

Other kids have livestock, several burros wait in their patient manner, their gentle faces reflecting perhaps what Christ intended for us all.

Rabbits and chickens were there in the dozens, the hens protesting this attention vigorously, while the rabbits did what they always do, suffered in silence and produced a few hundred brown beads.

Crowds had gathered in the square to watch their fellow citizens turn up with the family pet; a buzz of interest could be heard as Senor Ruiz was identified with his Chihuahua, or the daughter of Senora Adams, a resident Gringa, bore an impossibly fluffy kitten.

Some of the pets had been suitably adorned for the occasion with ribbons and flowers tucked behind their collars. One of the burros (donkeys) had a huge green crinoline collar.

Soon, so many owners and pets had arrived, that side of the square in front of the church railings was as full as a corral in a stock market. It seems as if every pet owner in the state had converged on Santa Prisca.

At around 5 PM, the priest finally arrived, a broad smile on his swarthy countenance. The crowd surged towards and into the broad church entrance. The priest held up his hands in a calming gesture. Hundreds of beseeching arms held up the beloved pets, crying to get the prelate’s attention, “Por aqui, por aqui, they importuned.

Intoning a blessing, “Bless all these simple creatures and allow them to live in comfort and free of taint,” he said, meanwhile sprinkling holy water on them with a brush and a small bucket he carried. The more persistent children with the smaller, more maneuverable pets managed to pass their beloved bird, rabbit or hen several times under the sprinkling holy water: they retreated with the satisfaction their pet was doubly or triply blessed; the bedraggled budgie and kitten was maybe not so happy, but they soon dried in the 80 degree F heat.

The priest waited for 30 minutes or so outside the church, obliging a few sweaty latecomers and their pets with a few drops of holy water. Then it was time for a couple of volunteer cleaners with carts to enter the church and remove a small pile of “blessings” the animals had seen fit to leave.

I saw this ceremony in Taxco in about 1994 and this is how I remember it, I doubt if it has changed much.

This was in January, it may differ in other locations or even have changed dates in Taxco.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      A great introduction of a world we don't a lot about it apart from drug raids. A wonderful read. Thankyou.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi guys: The funny thing I remember is the animals seemed to know something special was going on and they all behaved!

      Why wont you get there, HZ? It's not so far...Bob

    • Hillbilly Zen profile image

      Hillbilly Zen 6 years ago from Kentucky

      Hiya diogenes, and thanks for sharing this experience. I felt as if I were there, and since I'll probably never make it there in person, thank you for the vicarious vacation ;) Voted up, beautiful and funny.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 6 years ago

      Hi Bob ~ I did not know about this blessing ceremony. Sounds like quite an event, almost like the feeling of an outdoor fair. Blessings to all, Debby

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Hi Bobbi. Thanks. One of my "pet" hates are people who get "designer" pets like snakes and deadly arachnids. Also most of the idiots with tiger cubs and the rest which all end up in zoos, or, worse, in those nutter's animal parks along Route 66, etc. Mankind ought to pray hourly than there's no god waiting with a judgement day Bob

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      Great hub about being more responsible and at least having respect for animals. America's shelters are full of unloved and unwanted animals and our Florida Everglades full of large snakes people had to have as pets to impress their worthless friends, then abandoned because they didn't plan on a pet growing large enough to place 'them' on the food chain. I suppose this comment makes me a socialist. So be it. Voted up!

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      'Star, Lucky cats,cacro and my new follower, Crystal. Thanks for all you kind and creative comments on what was really a trite little hub, although the subject is interesting I thought. We need to watch out for all the world's animals now. I see rhinos have just become extinct in the wild due to wicked and irresponsible harvesting for Asian interests. There are nearly 2 billion Chinese and they want more fertility! Bah, castrating or lobotomizing them would make more sense...Bob

    • c1234rystal profile image

      c1234rystal 6 years ago

      Very interesting ceremony. Thanks for sharing. And, you're right, people in the "first world" seem to have this idea of being better at animal care when we have just as many if not more cases of animal cruelty.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      That is so cool, we don't have anything like that, our only parade is the Santa Claus Parade. I guess its up to each owner to bless there own animals in there own special way - which we do every day... Great hub, Voted Up!

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Yes, i've heard about Mexico's blessing of animals...and it is a GOOD thing.

      Sadly, that cats are eaten by coyote and wild dogs is not a good thing and, sometimes; indifference or an unwillingness to act in order to avoid animal overpopulation is tantamount to cruelty. Freedom is a wonderful thing however; starvation and infestation is not. Caring for kids does not preclude being responsible towards all life forms...which is something all of us need to remember, no matter within what nation we find ourselves living.

      "Stepping up," "raising the bar," "acting beyond the 'call of duty,' " are ways in which we can improve life for all in all aspects.

      Even in the most sickening situations; there is light at the end of the tunnel...you've illustrated this (albiet not, necessarily Mexico, of course...just as an example) with this hub.

      thank you for reminding us that there is always hope.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      My happiest memories are from Mexico. It's a beautiful country with beautiful customs like this one.

      It is unfortunate that most Northern Americans have used and abused the hospitality and resources of our neighbors. What's worse is that they do this to our own country and call it progress or politics.

    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Thanks for comment tills...Mexicans can surprise you...Bob

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      It's too bad we don't have more "ceremonies" in the US. As a Catholic I know St. Anthony well, having a statue of him myself. I believe God gave us animals to care for and it is up to us to see that they have decent lives in the surroundings they are accustomed to, not necessarily what we choose for them. Very nice hub. Voted up.

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