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Feast of Saint Martin, Guanajuato~México

Heading out San Martin

Heading out with Mario, Rodo & Holly on our eight-hour ride!

The car ride from San Miguel to Banda was interesting and adventurous in and of itself. I hitched a ride with my buddies Mario and Rodo in their weathered little two-seater truck with cracked windshield and torn up seats. I sandwiched myself in sideways between the guys, upper body squished tight against Rodo’s shoulders as he navigated the road and tried to find space in between our knees to switch gears; my lower legs were practically atop his brother Mario in the passenger seat—the three of us chatting and laughing away on the 20 minute early morning drive out to the country where we would saddle up at my friend Holly’s ranch and begin our all-day ride to San Martín for another, larger scale blessing of the horses event.

Brothers Mario & Rodo, our faithful leaders on our trail rides through the desert highlands of Central Mexico!

Mario & Rodo, Top Notch Cowboys and True Gentlemen

In a culture where the respect and physical space between platonic men and women is formal and very clear, it’s a good thing Mario, Rodo and I have time under our belts riding in the desert highlands of Central Mexico, otherwise the car ride might have felt much longer and undoubtedly a tad bit uncomfortable. I have a distinct feeling that they had a good laugh together once we arrived at the ranch and all boots were out of the car and on the ground.

Arrival at Holly’s ranch in Banda is always a transformative experience for me, to go from narrow cobblestone streets packed with restaurants, stores and houses to open space populated with burros, horses and six dogs that come charging and wagging at me with love and kisses.  


Killer~ One of Six Pups on the Ranch


Burro San Martin Day

One of Four Burros….All Sweeties With Big Personalities



Part of My Greeting Committee

The purpose (if one needs a purpose to ride) of today’s outing was to take part in the annual honoring of Saint Martin of Tours, as he is known in France—and San Martín Caballero here in Mexico. So the story goes, St. Martin was born in Hungary, raised in Italy and spent most of his adult life in France. He was in the Roman army and is best known for the account of using his military sword to cut his red cloak in half to give to a beggar dressed only in rags in the depth of winter. That night, he had a dream in which Jesus was wearing the half cloak that he had given to the beggar; he quickly found the military duty incompatible with his Christian faith, quit the army and became a monk. His shrine in France became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 


Saint Martin

Saint Martin is the patron saint of those who hope strangers will help them. Here in San Miguel de Allende, shop owners display his image on candles, tapestries and all sorts of hand-crafted relics. The Saint Martin horseshoe, in contrast to the Irish tradition of hanging it with its ends pointed upward, has the ends pointing down as a way of soliciting good fortune.

St. Martin has become one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints and he is honored in the Roman Catholic Church on November 11th of each year. In Central Mexico, St. Martin’s Feast is an annual religious celebration and pilgrimage of thousands on horseback coming from all four corners of the state of Guanajuato as well as the neighboring ones to receive special blessings for both horse and rider after the long trek.

On foot

Pilgrimage of Faith

On our six-hour ride, we also passed many people on foot and bicycle, making their long journey to the small village of San Martín, about 45 minutes by car outside of San Miguel de Allende, in the municipality of Dolores Hidalgo.

About half way into our ride, we came upon a group of riders participating in a blessing at a small church in the middle of, well, what some might deem “nowhere”, but here, in Central Mexico, in the expansive, diverse, multi-faceted countryside. The conservation of traditions and demonstrations of faith are many and palpable…

Mass in middle of Central Mexico

Riders and Horses Sharing in Blessings Along the Way

Interestingly enough, for such a large-scale event, known as Guanajuato’s largest religious festival, there was not much advertising of it around San Miguel de Allende. I did come upon this poster inside of the Santa Ana Church, announcing the date and time of the pilgrimage by foot: 

San Martin Poster from Church

Posted inside Santa Ana Church in San Miguel de Allende

We were saddled up and on the country trails (and often times no trails at all) by nine in the morning—a cool, cloudy morning that held the potential, if not promise, of rain. And rain indeed it did!

Mexico Clouds

The Skies Are Talking!



I Do Believe Those Are Called Thunderheads!

It rained on us also during The Blessing of The Horses  ride in October, but only for about 20 minutes. The rain on this day to San Martín was cold, relentless and fell hard for a solid two hours. If some experiences are designed to see what you are made of, these couple of hours of rain in the wide open country with no end in sight definitely got my attention and pushed me to dig deep and suck it up.

I’d like to say that I emerged washed, purified and refreshed, but the reality is that I was just really grateful when the sun made her reappearance and even more so when Holly’s husband Erik showed up at the end of the day with the trailer and a bottle of chardonnay. Never mind that I was soaked and still de-thawing…the wine might as well have been named Nirvana as it provided some welcomed internal warmth to my chilled body.

Holly & I After Ride San Marin 11-8-14

Two soaked-to-the-bones cowgirls, HAPPY to be enjoying a glass of wine together!

Parts of our travel involved riding on the edge of the main highway, which was for sure unsettling around the blind corners and with cars whisking by, but it definitely forced me to keep my senses alive and my horseback riding skills and reflexes at their best! We were grateful (and quite relieved) to have joined up with two other caballeros making their way to San Martín—one carrying an orange flag—that took on the important task of riding ahead to direct and divert traffic as much as possible.

Guerrero, the ginormous gentle giant that had my life in his hands (although you’re never suppose to communicate that energy to the horse), was in a spunky mood of sorts and felt inspired to buck, and hard at that, primarily on the parts of the ride that were declines. Apparently this is “fun” for him, as I later found out from Mario & Rodo…all in a day’s adventure!

Katie on Guerrero Approaching San Martin

Guerrero & Me Making Our Way to San Martín


Main Road

Not all the cars were willing to slowdown. Mr. Red race car had somewhere to go!


Road Side Cross

Roadside markers are a powerful reminder of the tenderness and preciousness of life

Emerging from the clouds and expansive wide-open countryside, we at long last had San Martín within eyesight.

Rodo & I Running Horseback side by side

Rodo &  I Loosening The Reins!

And what a sight it was!

San Martin in Site

Almost there!


San Martin in Site 1

San Martín in Sight!

From a distance, we could see the “tent-town” that was being erected in this normally small rural village of less than 700 people—a full outdoor mercado, families setting up camp for the weekend with mattresses, stoves, and once we were on foot, we even saw makeshift cradles for the little ones—talk about ingenuity and resourcefulness! 

Baby in homemade cradle in tree

Siesta Time for This Little One

Heading up through the sea of people, cars, trucks, bikes and horses, we entered the market—a smorgasbord of almost every imaginable food and hand-made trinket from this region and a few other random offerings and sightings that make you wonder.

Inside the market San Martin

A full-sized market with every imaginable food, sweet bread, candy, hand-crafted souvenir…plus much more!



Delicious Carnitas Tacos!


San Martin Church

San Martín’s 18th Century Catholic Church

We rode to San Martín on the Saturday of a multi-day event, culminating on that Monday with a large Mass for horse, rider, and all that had made the trek on foot and bicycle. No doubt the weekend provided a myriad of sites and sounds, some captured in this video (credit: Juan de San Miguel Martinez).

After we enjoyed some delicious hot-off-the-grill carnitas tacos and a couple glasses of chilled chardonnay, we loaded up the horses and headed back to Holly’s and Erik’s ranch in Banda. This was the view that sent us off with a most extraordinary farewell and lasting impression of our adventurous day:

San Martin Ride End of Day Beauty

Adiós San Martín….Until Next Year!

I will forever hold the memory of this ride, this day, this life-changing experience in my heart. I am so grateful to have been able to participate in something so truly magical. 


The Topography of Central Mexico is Full of Surprises!

Cheers y Saludos,





{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Paco November 15, 2014, 10:53 am

    That really touched me.
    The central highlands are truly beautiful country.

    • Katie O'Grady November 15, 2014, 11:00 am

      Thank you Paco,

      It was an exquisite and magical experience…

  • Dianne (Sista-Cuz) November 15, 2014, 3:00 pm

    What a grand adventure! I love hearing your stories and seeing the beautiful pictures! The picture “Mexico Skies” would be beautiful blown up and framed in my house 🙂 Glad you are having so wonderful experiences!!!

    • Katie O'Grady November 15, 2014, 4:28 pm

      Thank you Dianne!

      Come see them for yourself and get a signed copy of that pic!

      We have space at the Inn!


  • Randy Hummel November 17, 2014, 10:07 am

    Great story as always Katie. Your stories are so well written, and your photos always give me a sense of what it was to be there for the event. Well done. Hope you don’t mind that I retweeted :-).


    • Katie O'Grady November 17, 2014, 1:09 pm

      Thank you so much Randy for the positive feedback~truly appreciate it!

      And thank you for retweeting it…happy to share our story with any that are interested!




  • Dave M. November 19, 2014, 10:06 am

    Great post. I love the picture of Killer the pup at the ranch. Do you agree that in general dogs are well treated? That’s been my experience. Not so much in some other expat countries I hear.
    Very nice character study of Mario & Rodo. I like how one of the shirts is halfway tucked in the picture; that’s how I usually look in photos, except I’m a few years older.

    • Katie O'Grady November 19, 2014, 2:48 pm

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the feedback and comments!

      Yes, Killer is a sweetie and is one of 6 pups on the ranch~the majority are adopted. She came to her new owners malnourished but is well looked after, happy and healthy along with all of the other ones there.

      There are many animals here in SMA looking for their forever home. There are groups and individuals, like Cuddle Bugs and Rescue San Miguel that are very active in pooch protection. Their pages can be found on Facebook.

      Mario & Rodo, they are just class acts and I am grateful to have crossed life paths with them.

      Katie 🙂

  • MONNICA O'GRADY November 25, 2014, 10:44 am

    Finally got to read your post. And loved it. I am holding the image of you looking into the distance as you ride your horse….
    I am glad you are getting to be with animals. I love it. The picture of Killer with the rainbow behind him is so great. I get to be with a lot of animals here, on the ranch, so I can appreciate your experience. We have 3 horses that have grazing rights in our yard, 3 dogs, 20 chickens, 1 pigeon, and a pond on the property that attracts herons, cranes, ducks of all sorts, egrets, and so many hawks it’s amazing to witness…! Thanks for sharing. love you

    • Katie O'Grady November 29, 2014, 11:07 am

      Hi Monnica,
      Yes, there is something so stabilizing, if you will, and centering about being out in the vast desert plains under cotton candy clouds, hanging with all the animals—something special for sure.
      So happy to know that you too are being surrounded by Mother Nature.
      Love you too,

  • linda balderas November 11, 2015, 7:23 am

    I love this! When we are in Salamanca we love to watch the crowds on there pilgramege to San Martin. Its so moving.My husband is from the state of GTO and we participate in several of the events but havent in this one yet. Thanks for this great post

    • Katie O'Grady November 11, 2015, 8:17 am

      Hi Linda,

      It was truly such a magical day for me.

      That and The Blessing of the Horses Ride that I did the month before to the Parroquía here in San Miguel de Allende, were just such life-enhancing experiences for me that I shall always hold dearly in my heart and memory.

      Thank you for your kind words regarding the piece!


      Katie 🙂

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