Religion News

Photo essay: Mexican festival honors Mary and maize

(RNS) — Every year on August 15, the Virgin of the Assumption is venerated at the end of La Feria del Elote, a two-week-long corn festival in Jala, Mexico.

Agriculture is the primary industry in this region of Nayarit, a small state in western Mexico, and here, corn is king. Locals credit the miracle of the Virgin Mary with helping them produce some of the tallest cornstalks in the world. The unique breed of maize that flourishes in this region can grow to more than 15 feet. Ears of corn sometimes reach 20 inches long. 

Churchgoers sit under a painting of “Los Santos Medicos”, other hifghly revered saints locally, await the Assumption procession at the Basílica Lateranense de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción on Aug. 15, 2018, in Jala, Mexico. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Locals pray every year for the cob to reach the size of their arms. When it does, growers compete to see whose corncobs are the longest and largest. During the festival, food stalls and parties showcase the favored local crop, and cooked corn gets displayed throughout Jala.

Christianity throughout Mexico has adapted and incorporated historical pagan rituals over time, and the first corn harvest celebration of the year in Nayarit is no exception. The festival culminates with crediting the Virgin of the Assumption as the intercessor for the cultivation of corn.

The festival ends on August 15 with a procession to the Basílica Lateranense de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in what is a final homage to the Virgin of the Assumption — until next August.

Abundio Gómez and his brother have been growing the unique Jala breed of corn all their lives in western Mexico. The two have won local contests for the size of their harvest. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Dancers accompany the parade for the Feast the Assumption of Mary in Jala, Mexico. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Famer Ignacio Elías, center left, and his son participated in the local contest for corn size on Aug. 15, 2018, in Jala, Mexico. The pair won the second place with an ear of corn that measured 42 centimeters, or 16.5 inches. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Corn stalks adorn the municipal palace as particpants relax at the end of the annual corn festival in Jala, Mexico, on Aug. 15, 2018. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Families with “absent children” living in the United States process with candles as part of offerings to the Virgin Mary to care for their children during Assumption of Mary festivities in Jala, Mexico. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

A farmer poses with a full corn stalk in Jala, Mexico, on Aug. 15, 2018. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

The faithful and tourists take photos of the arriving procession for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary at the the Basílica Lateranense de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, on Aug. 15, 2018, in Jala, Mexico. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

A participant holds his corn entries during the competition at the annual corn festival in Jala, Mexico, on Aug. 15, 2018. Contestants each enter several ears of the uniquely large corn. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

Abundio Gómez checks the corn in his fields near Jala, Mexico. The maize unique to Nayarit can grow more than 15 feet tall and produce ears that are up to 20 inches. RNS photo by Ameyalli Diaz Castro

This story is available for republication.

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Ameyalli Diaz Castro

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