We heard from some friends that there was a great tradition taking place in the town of Bucerias, on the coast of Bandaras Bay between Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz. A festival during which the town and the church honor their patron saint “Our Lady of Peace.” For nine days the streets fill up people, food vendors, carnival rides, fireworks castles, and more!
The crew from Happy Dance, Cake, Malhuia, and Valhalla took a quick bus ride from La Cruz and planted ourselves in the small town of Bucerias just in time to catch the start of the parade.
Adults and children wore beautiful traditional costumes and marched through the center of town on horseback. Everyone – local families and turistas – was having a wonderful time and the weather could not have been better for the occasion.
The main attraction is the approach of the fleet of pangas (open fishing boats) from out in the bay to just outside the shore break. Everyone lines the beach in anticipation of their arrival.
From there, one by one, each panga is waved in – at which point they rev the engine and drive dramatically up the beach and out of the surf. Each landing is fun to watch and it always looks like the boat is about to take out 20 people from the crowd. The crowd cheers!
The priests from the local parish walk down to the beach where they are met with ornately decorated fishing pangas, pangueros (fisherman from the area) their families and friends. Once ashore, the priests bless each panga and their families, praying for their safety, and a prosperous year. The whole thing is over in the few minutes and before you know it, the boat is turned around and headed back out past the break with the next one being waved in.
In addition to all the panga fun, there was a team of about 15 swimmers who took turns swimming a lit torch from La Cruz to Bucerias, probably a good 5 mile swim.
They were glad to be ashore and successfully kept the lit torch from touching the water as they swam.
Once all the pangas have had their turn, the lead boat comes ashore and drops off a procession of people that then wind back up into town where the festivities and an ongoing mass at the local church continue.
The festival continues in the street and on the beach for several days and also helps to boost the local economy. You can’t walk very far without following your nose to a new food smell, or running into any sort of Mexican street goods being sold street side. Just to be clear I’m talking about hand crafts such as blankets, woven baskets, dolls, bracelets, silver, glassware and so on.
In the evening the festival ramps up with the lighting of the Castillo (castle). This castle is a three story wire tower filled with fireworks!
We didn’t stick around to see it in action, but we had also heard rumors of “The Bull.” A local patron who wears a wooden rack that resembles a bull’s head filled with rockets, runs around the crowd shooting off fireworks in all directions. What could go wrong?