Who Picks up the Check?

by Joseph Toone

Here’s a fact little known among visiting foreigners. We often assume all these festivals and processions, of which there are so many here in San Miguel de Allende, are sponsored by the Church. They aren’t. They are funded by locals with special attachments to that particular saint, Virgin or image of Jesus.

Once upon a time, however, the Church did pay. Or rather, they taxed you and then used your money to pay.

Back during the Inquisition (lasting until 1820) ten percent of your income (in any form) went to the Church. Have you ever enjoyed the fine cuisine at Casa de Diezmo? I am hooked on their gingerbread pancakes.) Casa de Diezmo means “House of Ten Percent” (diez). Casa de Diezmo has its name because, formerly that is where the ten percent was stored, whether it was cash, livestock, seeds, jewelry or whatever.

Part of that ten percent went to Spain. The rest funded the local temples, including clergy and events, from baptisms (marking your existence) to funerals (marketing your removal from the census).

Following Independence from Spain the Church lost the mandated ten percent and now charged for the sacraments, processions and festivals. Often they charged too much for the average Mexican to afford a Catholic baptism, marriage or burial. The practice is part of what led to another revolution in the 1920s and the hammer hitting hard on Church’s wealth and power.

Today, if you are viewing a procession for Baby Mary or celebrating the feast day of St. Michael, it is resident Mexicans who are sponsoring the event, either individuals or in groups, often from year-long bake sales and other fundraising events. Folks pay for the priest, flowers, choir, band, civic permissions, tamales and all else to celebrate the day. These festivals and fireworks make San Miguel unique in quality and quantity of our devotions and fiestas.

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Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.

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