San Francisco, Mexico - Every year from September 26 through October 4, the small town of San Francisco (better know as 'San Pancho') Nayarit, celebrates a nine-day festival honoring its namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who is also the patron saint of animals and the environment.
With its untamed natural beauty, long stretches of pristine sandy beaches, and lush jungles, the village is fittingly named after San Francisco de Asís, who saw all creatures as his family and emphasized mankind's role to protect and enjoy nature.
Residents of this tropical beach town take Saint Francis' mission quite seriously, which is reflected in their various ecological programs, such as a birding group, a sea turtle preservation group, and Alianza Jaguar, an non-profit environmental group devoted to the preservation of the jaguar and its habitat.
San Pancho residents decorate their businesses and homes with colorful decorations and prepare delicious traditional foods, and they are happy to share their celebrations with family, friends, neighbors and fascinated tourists.
Every day of the nine-day festival is a celebration with locals and visitors alike enjoying lots of food, drinks, music, rodeos, parades, and colorful traditions like "The Bull," a spectacular headdress equipped with skyrockets that are lit as a "runner" moves through the crowd; and "The Torch," which is carried from a nearby town by a group of runners who are welcomed with music, shouts, and confetti.
Every evening, a separate neighborhood within the town leads a candlelight procession through the streets with a parade of floats and neighbors donned in costumes representing Saint Francis of Assisi and other prominent Catholic figures. The procession winds through the neighborhood until it reaches the church, where they receive a special blessing from the priest and a special mass featuring singers, choirs, and bands.
During the mass, residents from the other neighborhoods wait for the mass to end while visiting with each other at the town square across from the church where there is a carnival with rides, food, music, dancing, and shows. While waiting for their neighbors to exit the church, they talk, laugh, celebrate, and watch the children play.
On October 4th, the most important day of the festival, the celebrations come to a close with a bang. Fireworks are going off all day long. Spirited celebrations, parades, music and dance performances, a variety of cultural and competitive events take place throughout the day, until around 6:00 pm when it's time for the final rodeo, which usually lasts well into the night.
At midnight, "El Castillo," a spectacular fireworks display from a giant structure erected in or near the plaza is lit, which begins the final celebrations with live music, cultural performances, and exuberant dancing on a stage with an image of their beloved Saint Francis, until a final round of fireworks brings the annual festival to an end.Come enjoy the dances and celebrations with a unique flair only found in San Pancho, "The Cultural Capital of the Riviera Nayarit."