The night no one sleeps

Many foreigners living in Mexico may have never heard of the country’s smallest state, Tlaxcala. The area’s history, from pre-Hispanic kingdom to the present, seems to revolve around maintaining its independence and identity, first from the Aztecs, then the Spanish and in more modern times, the state of Puebla, which surrounds it on three sides.

It is home to one of Mexico’s most important festivals, the Feria de Huamantla, this year taking place from 4-20 August. It is an extension of the feast day of the city’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity, but has since evolved into a major celebration of the area’s culture, religion and gastronomy, not to mention a running of the bulls.

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The most important night of this festival is called La Noche que Nadie Duerme or The Night No One Sleeps which extends from the night of the 14th and into the early morning hours of the 15th. This is not hyperbole. During the 14th,  townspeople work on preparing the procession route for the one day a year that the image comes out to bless the faithful.

Its not just cleaning; the way needs to be meticulously prepared with over 11 kilometers of finely made “sawdust carpets.”  These are images and patterns covering the streets made with colored sawdust, flower petals and other vegetative matter. Huamantla is not the only location that makes these, but it is probably the best known example of the ephemeral craft.

Preparing a section of the carpet

Why ephemeral? Because the hours spend arranging the colors and images that cover the entire street will be destroyed as the image and its procession passes over starting exactly at midnight on the 15th of August, the Virgin’s saint day. Indeed this is part of the point, to show that life on earth is transient and only the divine is truly real.

2012 procession over a section of the carpet

The Feria has a number of other important events includign the Flower Parade (Desfile de las flores) , a day dedicated to the famous seasonal dish chile en nogada and Mockery Night (Noche de burladeros). But the most famous event of the Feria after the sleepless night occurs on the last day, the Huamantlada, when dozens of bulls run on the streets, Pamplona-style.

Special thanks to Antareth Reyna for the still photos of last year’s carpets.

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