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Coming Alive For Patron Saint

Centuries of tradition will come alive again in Bernalillo next week with the Fiestas de San Lorenzo, the annual celebration of the town’s patron saint.

The three-day festival from Aug. 9 through 11 encompasses street processions and the Matachines narrative dances featuring traditional characters such as the Toros, who represent evil and temptation, and Malinches, young girls who portray purity.

Bernalillo residents have been holding the San Lorenzo celebrations since the 1690s, said town councillor Santiago Montoya who is mayordomo, or caretaker, of the sanctuary next to Our Lady of Sorrows church where a bulto, or carved wooden effigy, of the saint is kept.

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More information about the Fiestas de San Lorenzo is on the town’s website at

Another image of the saint is kept at the home of the mayordomo of the santo, a family which holds that honor for one year. The honor carries with it the duty of holding their home open at all hours for anyone who wishes to come and pray in the company of the saint’s image, Montoya said.

He had that honor several years ago and recalled a few times when people arrived to pray late at night or very early in the morning.

The honor of being keeper of the saint’s image is passed on from family to family on an unwritten list, Montoya said.


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He has participated in the group dances for a few years. Many families have members who have danced annually for decades and pass on the tradition from generation to generation, he said.

Male dancers typically wear black pants and white shirts and a headdress called a cupil, which resemble a bishop’s mitre. The 8-year-old Malinche dancers wear white frilly dresses.

Dances of the Matachines will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ramona Carabajal/Martinez family home at 1150 Calle San Lorenzo.

The fiestas include live music entertainment on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at Rotary Park.