Another day, another feria in Puebla: today was the turn of San Antonio de Padua. Saint Anthony – a compassionate man, and acclaimed worker of many miracles – is known as ‘the finder of lost articles’ and, more specifically in Mexico, as the Saint of matchmaking. To be ‘attached’ is, in Mexico, probably the most important character-defining feature. The question I am most frequently asked, often by the same person on each and every encounter, is “¿tienes novio?” meaning “do you have a boyfriend?” When I meet somebody, no matter who, it is guaranteed to be mentioned within the first few seconds of introduction. My response of “no” is usually met with a “why not?” – and even on one occasion with a sympathetic “don’t cry!” …Right. Being intentionally or happily single just isn’t an understandable or valid status here.
So imagine the furore when, on one holy day each year, women have the opportunity to appeal to that holy miracle worker and finder of things lost, San Antonio, to cure them of their shameful single status and the pitiful lament of solitude and match them with a man. People had told me about this tradition, and I had thought it amusing and interesting, but today I experienced how serious it really is. The young and not-so-young alike amassed at the church of San Antonio to pray for their most desperate wish to be granted: Please God, find me a boyfriend.
There are a number of procedures you can follow to maximise your man-catching potential. First option: fill a little felt purse (available for purchase at the entrance) with thirteen coins of the same denomination to deposit in the church; second, buy a red ribbon (also available for purchase) and tie it around the statue of Tony; or third, buy a red candle (handily available for purchase – spot the pattern?) to light and deposit at the altar. The most dedicated take no chances. I did none of these things, so it seems I may be destined to singledom forever BOO HOO.
I didn’t leave with hopes of being bestowed with a boyfriend, but with a great big beasty bread called pan de fiesta (also known as pan de burro). Contrary to popular opinion, I think I’ve got my priorities right.