If you’re looking for an authentic taste of Mexican culture, head north of Puerto Vallarta to the charming village of San Francisco, Nayarit, where from September 25 through October 4 this small town, better known as ‘San Pancho,’ has been celebrating a nine-day festival honoring its namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, for over 40 years.
The people of San Pancho are happy to share their celebrations with family, friends, neighbors, and fascinated tourists. Come enjoy the dances and celebrations with a unique flair only found in San Pancho, “The Cultural Capital of the Riviera Nayarit.”
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 lively 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 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 celebrations 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 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.
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From activities like hiking, swimming, bike riding and yoga, to restaurants offering healthy menus, Vallarta-Nayarit is the ideal place to continue - or start - your healthy lifestyle routine.