Most Mexican cities have special festival days, and the visitor to that nearby foreign land who has not seen at least one native fiesta has missed the heart of Mexico. Even though cross-border travel today is restricted and annoying, it continues. The richness of Mexico’s culture should not be overlooked as a source of inspiration during a time of global revolution and cultural conflict.

For the enlightened traveler, one of the most romantic side trips one can take in Mexico is from Monterrey to Saltillo, over a broad highway bordered by picturesque mountains.

The great celebration for Saltillo, in the State of Coahuila, is on the 6th of August. For many, many years this religious gathering has been held in honor of the Christ of the Chapel, who legend says miraculously ended a plague that swept over Saltillo and the surrounding countryside in the year 1609. This devastating scourge brought sorrow and death to countless numbers. Entering palace and hovel alike, it struck down rich and poor alike wiping out entire families by its cyclonic force.

More than three hundred years have passed since that dread pestilence was stayed, yet the descendants of those who survived have never forgotten to be thankful. The old door-step leading to the Chapel of Santo Cristo is worn by the tread of many feet.

Visitors begin arriving days ahead of time for the fiesta and it is well to make hotel reservations in advance. The celebration begins on the night of the 5th with a brilliant display of fireworks in front of the Cathedral, and a band concert in the park.

The grey, old Cathedral with its lovely carved faade dons festal jewels in honor of the event. The building and the two towers, one high and one low, are banded with rows of electric lights, and long strings of lights hang in starry-festoons from the towers down to the corners of the building. Approaching the Cathedral at dusk one experiences an eerie feeling on seeing the cross of light which surmounts the high tower apparently floating in air – the spire hidden in the evening mist.

The center of importance for this yearly event is the Chapel part of the church. Next in importance is the tiny park directly across the street. It is a typical Mexican plaza with a fountain in the center from which walks radiate like spokes in a wheel. Flowers border the walks and shy statues hide their gleaming whiteness behind dark green shrubs. The iron benches furnish a resting place for the crowds, and weary worshippers together with tired travelers occupy the benches from early morning to late at night.

Fiesta day will fill the plaza with people from all walks of life from Mexico and the United States. Intent on honoring the Christ of the Chapel, they will pack the Cathedral, rich and poor, beggar and banker alike. A visit to Saltillo on this important fiesta day can be a very exciting experience. A Mexican fiesta is not only a religious celebration; it is also a gala occasion, a day for visiting in the park, renewing old friendships, and sharing a romantic date.