We had kept as good of a handle on time as we could as while sipping mescal negro. “Qual es lo más ahumado?” my sister had asked the bartender. “What’s the smokiest?” It bit like grappa. Sucking orange slices helped.
During dinner the ringing of church bells every half hour and the cracks and booms of fireworks had cemented our determination to find a Missa de Gallo (Literally, “Rooster Mass,” i.e. “Midnight Mass”).
In the plaza in front of San Miguel de Allende’s largest church, the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, children twirled long sparklers available for the rhyming price of “trés por diez.” In the Jardin, at center of the plaza, a donkey and several sheep, lambs, and goats nuzzled and chewed on hay in front of the electrified nativity scene.
At 11:30 p.m. my sister and I returned to the the Parroquia. Nuns and families were streaming out of the church. We walked the opposite direction into the church. Incense and quietness. A dozen others prayed or snapped photos with cellphones. A few children received gift bags. The lights began to switch off in the church. We proceeded out through the side door, having missed the midnight mass that ended before midnight.
We bought sparklers from old, indigenous woman at the steps of the cathedral and “jousted” with each other, our swords spitting fire.