October Fiestas in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora
Magdalena celebrates the annual Fiestas de San Francisco Javier

From the last days of September through the first week of October, the northern Sonoran pueblo of Magdalena de Kino celebrates fiestas to honor its patron saint, San Francisco Javier.

Hundreds of the faithful walk to Magdalena from Nogales and Agua Prieta to the South, and Santa Ana and other points to the north, for their “mando,” to acknowledge a favor the saint has granted to them.

Once in Magdalena, they join with hundreds of others who wait in line (sometimes for hours) for a chance to see the image of the saint, a life-sized statue lying on its back, located in an impressive, relatively new shrine located adjacent to the plaza church. It is rumored that only those without sin can lift the image of San Francisco Javier, and many of those who visit will lift the statue as they pass.

The fiestas are held in the areas around the town’s main plazas, Plaza Monumental and Plaza Juarez, where hundreds of vendors set up their stands to sell products and food.

There are also cultural aspects to the fiestas, to include traditional Danzas de Venado (deer dances) and other traditional dances performed by members of the Papago (Tohono O’odham) tribe.

A highlight of the fiestas is the saint’s day of October 4, and on the night of October 3, when crowds gather outside the church in Plaza Monumental at midnight to sing Las Mañanitas, or Happy Birthday, to San Francisco Javier.

And although October 4 is technically the feast day of another saint, Saint Francis of Assisi, the festival is all about Saint Francis Xavier. It is believed that the disconnect between the saints and their feast days occurred as a result of the conflict between the original Jesuit missionaries, who made San Francisco Javier the patron saint of the town, and the Franciscans, who expelled the Jesuits from the area and perhaps changed the festival date to honor their patron saint.

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