Petatlán is a small town a few miles east of Zihuatanejo. We visited it for the first time in March 2012, when we visited Capella Ixtapa and the Food & Wine Festival Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. We have heard much about Petatlán and its fame and decided to visit. Roughly speaking, Petatlan is known for three things: typical Mexican street scene, the church, and its gold market. The city was founded in 1550 and was previously inhabited by Cuitlatecos, Chumbias, Pantecas & Mexica tribes. “Petatlán” comes from the Nahuatl ‘Petatl’ (Petate: The woven from the fibers of the Palm) and ‘Tlán’ (next to) meaning then: “Next to Petate”.
This August, we wish to visit Petatlán again, as they celebrate their famous “Fiestas del Santo Patrono de Petatlan”! Petatlán has become a major pilgrimage site in the Guerrero state of Mexico.
The story of the “Holy Patron of Petatlan” comes from the 1500s, when a statue of Christ complete with a cross was found in the Petatlán River. This was considered a miracle by the locals, and the Church of the Father of Jesus de Petatlán was built to house the statue. The city suffered an earthquake, which called for a reconstructed church today that is both a modern and classic design in the heart of this small town.
One day before the day of the patron (August 6th), many pilgrims of all ages arrive from other parts of the state and most of them spend the night sleeping in the atrium of the church, the priests and people of the church usually offer them coffee & sweet bread, pozole and fresh fruit waters without distinction and free of charge.
During the Fiestas it is the tradition that people come from all over the area to ask the Petatlán Christ statue for help. They leave photographs and needs pinned on boards behind the area where the statue is housed, in hopes of getting some sort of answer or solution to their needs. Pictures of babies who are ill, the ponytails of girls after their ‘quinceañera’, and university diplomas cover these boards.
According to the tradition the entire first week of August visitors celebrate the main fiesta of the Holy Patron of Petatlán, and appreciate folk dance shows who give a representation of the conquer of Mexico by the Spaniards. These groups dance the whole night of August 5th until the morning of the 6th, when very early in the morning the entire town goes to sing Las Mañanitas (a birthday song) to the Jesus of Petatlan.
Every afternoon of the festival occur typical pilgrimages by different sectors of the local population (taxi drivers, barrios, gold traders, etc.) and they all conclude in a mass service which occurs every night at 7 pm.
At the main town square street vendors offer typical Mexican sweets & food. You can watch firework shows with typical Mexican characters as the “torito” & “castillos”, a truly not to be missed spectacle of traditional artisan fireworks. Only in Mexico the brightness of color and festivities transcend to the brightness of faith.
Petatlán is well known for being a major gold market. Just outside the pilgrimage site, you will find vendors and shops selling every piece of gold jewelry you can imagine at available prices. Take advantage of it during your visit.
See the entire Petatlan photo gallery here: