A Traveler’s Guide to La Morisma Festival in Mexico
If you are looking for a unique experience in Latin America, go to the festival of La Morisma, Mexico!
You will find religious processions, colonial music, horses dancing, historical representations… and 3,000 people performing just for you!
This regional fiesta is visited by 12,000 attendants every year and is a Spanish tradition that has been kept alive since 1622.
In this blog post, I will share the history, traditions, and interesting facts about La Morisma. Prepare to see with your own eyes a battle between Christians and Turks live and in high definition! I’ll also share images so you can picture this Mexican festival.
What is La Morisma, Mexico?
La Morisma de Guadalupe is a religious festival where people represent the Lepanto Battle where Christians defeated the Muslims. In this festival, Mexico is the host, but similar events exist in other parts of Latin America and Spain.
In Spain, the morismas were part of a centralized culture that longed for unity among the different peninsular kingdoms. With colonialism, Mexico inherited this tradition that is still alive today, where you can see saints chime in to favor the Iberians.
Those who represent La Morisma divide into two sides: the Turks and the Christians and they do it using clothing, weapons, and musical instruments of the time.
The event opens with a peregrination to the Convento de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent) to go to mass.
The troops gather in Campo de los Moros (Field of the Moors) on the second day. They put up a show that represents the combat and the taking of the square by the Turks and afterward, a second misa (mass) is held.
On the third day at dawn, people sing the Mañanitas—the beautiful Mexican birthday song—to the saints at the Convent. All the downtown streets are closed so the parade of horsemen, battalions of soldiers, kings, Moors, and Christians who march accompanied by the roll of drums. This parade represents the new attempt of the Christians to recover the square. After long battles, the Turkish leader is decapitated putting an end to the conflict. La Morisma concludes when all participants come down to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe to receive the blessing.
The Origin of La Morisma, Mexico
La Morisma de Guadalupe in Mexico was originally a horse dance, which then evolved into a form of evangelization with horses.
It was instituted and organized by the Franciscans in 1622 to honor Our Lady of the Victory. Mexican natives represented both sides of the battle so they could feel part of it and didn’t feel excluded from the triumphal side.
Indigenous groups appropriated this history chapter and later changed its structure, narrative, symbols, and dialogues. That’s why there are many versions of it today!
The form it has now, dates back to 1900 and really few modifications have been made since. It has always been a family event and of free access and always will be.
When Does La Morisma Happens?
La Morisma, Mexico is celebrated on two dates every year:
- June 22, 23, and 24 in honor of John the Baptist
- October 5, 6, and 7 in honor to the Rosary Virgin
Where does La Morisma take place?
La Morisma, Mexico takes place in Zacatecas, the capital of the state of Zacatecas. If you decide to go in June you will encounter more historic and cultural festivals such as the commemoration of the Zacatecas Battle and the Revolutionary Cavalcade as well as other fairs in nearby cities.
If you want to go in October you can also be part of two great events: the Oral Narration and Street Theatre International Festivals.
Purpose of La Morisma, Mexico: What is so Special About it?
La Morisma de Guadalupe is organized every year with different purposes:
- To keep traditions alive.
- To maintain an identity.
- To stimulate a sense of community.
- To promote Christianity.
- To celebrate John the Baptist and the Rosary Virgin
This event is made for and by Christian believers keeping Hispanic heritage alive. Around 3,000 people take part in the representations, this hints that locals value the idea of community and doing things together.
John the Baptist and the Rosary Virgin are considered very miraculous, and Zacatecans keep them close to their hearts. That’s why people want to celebrate them, it is a way of being grateful.
Morismas are a main piece of the Zacatecans identity. What it means is that by coming to this regional festival you will understand a big deal about Mexican and Zacatecan customs and traditions.
Cultural Bonus! What does it Mean?
In general, travelers love to know new people and talk to anyone that can improve their experience. And since you will be having a lot of conversations in La Morisma, Mexico, I am adding this cultural bonus.
It is important that you know the significance of some of the words we are using here. It will make your conversations more interesting and your cultural knowledge larger.
La Morisma means “crowds of Moors or Muslims”. It refers to religious Latin American and Spanish festivities, but used in the wrong context it can be understood as despective or pejorative.
Zacatecas means “the habitants of Zacatlán, the land where the zacate is abundant” in the Aztec tongue. Zacate is the forage of grassy plants. It is known and used in Mexico for many purposes, one of them being scrubbing one’s body during showers.
If you are a geek for Mexican or European culture and history and you are looking for a well-rounded place with multiple experiences to offer, this is it. Zacatecas was the center of Christian mission operations and had a key role to play during Mexican Independence and Revolution.
Once called the Athens of New Spain, and today compared with Italian cities due to its beauty, Zacatecas has a lot to offer.
From the breathtaking main cathedral carved out in baroque style, to the mines and hills around it. Go to the museum Rafael Coronel and see the largest mask collection along with other colonial pieces within a beautiful hacienda.
Try the traditional Zacatecas poisoned tacos! An Authentic Mexican Food that has Influenced the Global Cuisine! Don’t miss the vibrant nightlife, the legends night tours, and the illuminated city when the sun goes down, nothing can beat that sight.
Mexico means “a place in the belly button of the moon” in náhuatl, again, the Aztec tongue. Mexico City was founded in the middle of the Texcoco Lake that was also called the Moon Lake.
The word Guadalupe has two main etymology theories: Arab, and Náhuatl. In Arab, wad-al-hub means “caudal of love” or “river of love”. The náhuatl root Coatlaxopeuh translates to “the one who crushes the serpent’s head”.
Many things, festivals, and cities were named with the extension “de Guadalupe” to honor the Latin version of the Virgin Mary.
The History and Significance of the Virgin of Guadalupe transcended Mexican borders and changed the identity, culture, politics, history, and course of Latin America. She was present in every stage of Mexico’s making and has inspired social movements, heroes, presidents, and even emperors, hence, her importance.
Come Down to La Morisma, Mexico and Celebrate!
Travel easier to Mexico! Nothing compares to the feeling of reassurance of knowing the local language when traveling somewhere. By learning Spanish you will be able to :
- talk to locals in La Morisma, Mexico, and have significant conversations that will enrich your experience
- understand Latin American culture from a different angle
- travel safely asking for directions and tips
Did you know that the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world right after Mexico? If you live or travel afterward to the US, you can talk to the 53 million people that speak Spanish there—41 speak it at home—according to CNN.
So don’t let the language be a barrier and enrich your life by learning Spanish! But how, where, when? Here at HSA, we service more than 24,000 monthly enrolled students that have made their own Spanish package. One that is tailored to their needs—traveling to Hispanic countries, getting a new job, making their families bilingual- and that gives high school credit.
Trust our 10 years of expertise in the subject and sign up for a free class to practice Spanish before your trip to La Morisma, Mexico!
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