Saint Anthony of Padua is one of the most well-known and popular saints, especially among women who turn to him for help finding a mate. He is also an emblematic figure for marriage and is the patron saint of the Franciscans.
His story is somewhat unusual, consecrated since a young age to religion. He was a priest in the Franciscan order, and he stood out because of his extraordinary memory and powerful sermons; he even preached to animals. It is said that one day he spoke to the fish from the shore, and they gathered near him; this is why he is also considered the patron saint of domestic animals and fishermen.
In popular culture he is invoked all year long, but his official festivity is on June 13 and is celebrated with novenas (prayers that take place over nine days), masses, and popular celebrations where food is sold including “tamales,” “marquesitas,” and many other local gastronomy delights, along with all the other activities that are organized everywhere this popular saint is celebrated. On that day, single women usually wear the image of the saint and pray for his intervention to find a husband. Curiously, there are many representations where he is placed upside down as a “punishment” for not finding them a boyfriend!
In Yucatán, the festivities celebrating Saint Anthony are very important. Religious activities take place such as masses and processions of “gremios” (guilds) toward the churches. Watch for the event known as the “bajada del santo” (when they take the image of the saint down from his regular place), one week before June 13 in Chemax, Tinum, Izamal, and Oxkutzcab, among other towns that celebrate him. On the 13th the saint is returned to his place; the last “gremio” gives the image back to the church during a mass attended by all the faithful, concluding all the religious ceremonies.
Folk dances take place with live music performances by popular groups, attended by everyone in town as well as visitors from nearby communities. Chemax is known for its big party celebrating Saint Anthony of Padua that lasts for two weeks. The main church is dedicated to this saint and there are religious celebrations every day. There is also a fair where a queen is crowned, who will be in charge of all the dances and festivities.
In Oxkutzcab the “gremios” of bakers, merchants and farmers stand out, with colorful procession featuring standards embroidered for the occasion; and everyone wearing the typical attire bought especially for the festivities.
Saint Anthony is a popular and miraculous saint, inspiring festivities full of color, joy, celebration, and devotion.
By Violeta H. Cantarell
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