The Magdalena Fiesta
The religious fiesta held every October 4 in Magdalena de Kino is by far the most important pilgrimage event in the Sonoran Desert. It attracts thousands of people to the old mission town. Many walk sixty or a hundred miles as an act of devotion to the saint. Just which saint this is takes some explanation. The statue represents St. Francis Xavier's incorrupt body as it lies in state in Goa, India. The fiesta, however, is celebrated on October 4, the day of a completely different saint, St. Francis of Assisi, in the Roman Calendar. Some historians speculate that when they replaced the Jesuits in the Pimería Alta missions, the Franciscans may have attempted to change the devotion to their St. Francis, but only succeeded in changing the date of the celebration. To make things even more complicated, the local "San Francisco" also seems to have some of the historical characteristics of Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J., whose bones are now on view in the plaza.
These details matter little to the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Magdalena each year, visiting their saint and then engaging in the sort of social and economic activity that calls to pilgrims - and secular tourists as well - the world around. They buy souvenirs, eat, drink, and listen to strolling musicians, and generally cap their religious journey with a thoroughly secular good time. The Fiesta de San Francisco in Magdalena is one of those occasions when the traditional cultures of the region are at their most visible, when the region's history is at its most accessible.
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