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Celebrating Santa Cecilia

In Oaxaca, the sound of rockets and music in the streets means there must be a calenda — and early last evening, one seemed to be only a few blocks away.

It was the ideal excuse for putting off emptying my massive wooden kitchen counter for the termite extermination crew’s arrival the next morning.

To what, or who, did I owe this timely interruption?  Saint Cecilia!  November 22 is her feast day and, at least in Mexico, festivals to the saints aren’t just one day events — hence  yesterday’s mass at Iglesia de San Felipe Neri, followed by the calenda.

And, by the way, Santa Cecilia isn’t just any saint, she is the patrona de los músicos (patron of musicians) and so, of course, there were two bands playing in the church atrium.

Alas, though the party was only just getting started, given the chore that awaited me at home, I forced myself to leave after a half and hour.  However there is more on Santa Cecilia’s dance card today and tomorrow…

 

Catrina cutie

Yesterday, walking up the Alcalá on my way to La Cosecha Oaxaca organic market (Macedonio Alcalá 806), this Catrina cutie pie caught my eye.

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Though Muertos is in the rear view mirror, she is still hanging out above a doorway and keeping an eye on all who pass by.

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I keep thinking of the old song, I Only Have Eyes For You.

Muertos memories in B&W

Looking back, in black and white…

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Magna Comparsa Oaxaca through the streets of the city on October 28, 2017.

Don’t cry for me

The transportation workers of the CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México) pretty much shut down main roads into and out of the city on Tuesday (just ask blogger buddy Chris) and Sección XXII of the teachers’ union yesterday blocked streets, today picketed government offices, and are now moving full force into the zócalo and surrounding streets.

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Sigh, but don’t cry for Oaxaca.  Ten thousand years of history, this valley and her people will survive.  Listen and watch Lila Downs sing La Martiniana and remember its words

Porque si lloras yo peno,
en cambio si tú me cantas, mi vida,
yo siempre vivo, yo nunca muero.
~~~
Because if you cry, I’ll be filled with sorrow
Instead, if you sing to me
I will live forever, I’ll never die.

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The need remains great

It’s been two months since a lethal 8.2 earthquake devastated the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.  For a brief time, this oft-neglected state had captured the attention and relief efforts of Mexico and the world.  Aware that relief supplies were desperately needed, I was informed that my friend and manager of Casa Colonial B&B, Amado Bolaños, with the blessings of the Casa’s owner Jane Robison, was driving supplies to villages in the Isthmus.  Within 24 hours of returning to Oaxaca on September 16, I filled three large trash bags with clothing, sandals, sheets, and towels for him to take.

Unfortunately, the focus soon shifted.  On September 19, a deadly 7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico and caused severe damage to several neighborhoods in Mexico City.  And then there were the hurricanes….  As a result, the damnificados (victims) of this second poorest state in Mexico continue to suffer the effects of the strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century.  Thus, Amado continues to carry pickup truck loads of needed items to stricken communities.

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Amado Bolaños speaking at the Casa Colonial earthquake relief fundraiser

So, last week I wasn’t surprised to receive the following email from Amado addressed to Casa Colonial friends:

It’s been a while since our last email, many good and bad things [have] been happening all this time. One of the bad things are the earthquakes in different parts of Mexico and of course in our dear Oaxaca state. Although the situation in Oaxaca city in not bad at all, things at the Isthmus of Oaxaca are not so great, many many entire families lost their homes and they are living in a horrible situation.

Personally with the help of many of you,  I have  been taking trips to these places, carrying  food, medicines tarps and other things, that my paisanos are in need of.

This is why CHEAP SEATS AND CASA COLONIAL are putting together a Benefit Concert this coming Sunday the 5th at 4pm

All the money collected would be used to get more tarps and food that the Istmeños are in need. The donation entrance fee would be $200 pesos per person and of course you can also bring the following:

• rice • beans • painkillers • powdered milk • toys • clean clothes (in good condition), for adults and many more for kids and babies • tarps • water • canned food • diapers.

If you think in anything else, bring it over, I`m sure we can figure it out.  Muchas gracias por todo…see you guys this coming Sunday….we´ll have hamburgers, hot dogs and margaritas of course

blessings
Amado Bolaños
Casa Colonial Manager

Of course, I went.  The hamburgers and margaritas were yummy and, as you can see from this brief clip, the music by the Cheap Seats was rousing and had the crowd clapping and cheering.  However, the purpose of the event was not forgotten and during intermission, Amado painted a heartfelt and revealing picture of the conditions people in the Isthmus are still having to endure.  Formal relief efforts and agencies are scarce and aftershocks continue.  One of the medicines, which he didn’t have access to but was much requested was for anxiety.  And, he told the story of a 3-year old coming to get a relief package for his family and, when asked where his mother was, he was led by the boy to what remained of his home and discovered the mom sheltered under a tarp where, with the help of another woman from the village, she had given birth to twins the night before.

If you can made a donation, please contact Amado Bolaños at Casa Colonial B&B.  You can be assured your donation will go directly to the people who are in most need, not into the coffers of some politico and his cronies.

Amado Bolaños
Phone: +52 951 516 5280
Email: oaxaca@casa-colonial.com

Bread for the dead

When Día de Muertos approaches, the panaderías (bakeries) work overtime to fill their shelves and counters with Pan de Muertos — an egg based bread, sometimes elaborately decorated, but always with a cabecita (also known as a muñeca), a little painted flour dough head, at the top.

The most intricately decorated bread comes from Mitla.  For a few years, Mitla held a Pan de Muertos fair and competition, with prizes for decoration.  Alas, because their bread is in such demand, the feria was halted two years ago as the bakers put a priority on attending to their customers needs — this is their livelihood, after all!

However, the small pueblo, Villa Díaz Ordaz picked up the slack and last year began holding a Festival del Pan de Muertos.  The village is off the beaten path and the festival hasn’t yet drawn much in the way of tourism, but it’s a wonderful event that blogger buddy Chris and I love attending (See his post, here).  Among other things, the event is encouraging and passing along to the younger generation knowledge and pride in the traditions and skills of their community.   And, in my book, that is a good thing!

Oaxaca city has also gotten into the Pan de Muertos promotion act.  A 6-day Feria del Pan y el Chocolate was held at the Jardín Carbajal.  One could talk to knowledgeable vendors eager to share their passion, buy bread and chocolate to take home, or just take break from the busyness of this time of year, to sit in the shade of the umbrellas dipping the pan into hot chocolate.  Yummm…

Why all this bread?  To place on one’s own ofrenda and to take to the ofrendas of relatives and extended family — its essence to nourish the difuntos (departed) when they come for their annual visit.

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Pan de Muertos on the altar of the chapel in the panteón in Teotitlán del Valle – November 1, 2017

It is a time of year when the difuntos also nourish the souls of the living.

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Virgins in sand

Tapetes de arena (rugs of sand) are a traditional feature of the celebration in Oaxaca of Día de Muertos.  When I first arrived to live here, they were drawn in front of the Cathedral.  Next, they moved for a year or two to the Government Palace and for the last several years they have graced the Plaza de la Danza.  This year’s offerings were the work of twelve artisans and feature the most beloved and revered of the Jesús and María señores y señoras in Oaxaca.  This post will highlight the ladies…

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Virgen Dolorosa — Our Lady of Sorrows

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Virgen del Carmen — Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Sra. Virgen del Rosario — Our Lady of the Rosary

Interestingly, in previous years the themes of the sand paintings in these public spaces have been Día de Muertos related.  I’m not sure of why the change this year to religious imagery.  Indigenous Day of the Dead celebrations pre-date the arrival of the Spanish and the All Saints Day of the Catholic church.  And in Oaxaca, one of the most indigenous states in Mexico, as Shawn D. Haley points out in his book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca, “there is little of the Spanish influence to be found in the Oaxacan Day of the Dead.  The Spanish version… is bleak and dismal…. For the Oaxaqueñans, these days are… joyous and exuberant.  It is not a mourning of lost loved ones, but a celebration, a reunion with the dead.”

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Santa María de Guadalupe — Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Nuestra Señora de la Solidad — Our Lady of Solitude

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Inmaculada Concepción de Juquila — Virgin of Juquila

For more of these sand paintings, check out the recent post by blogger buddy Chris.  By the way, the feast days for these last three señoras are coming up in December.  First on the calendar is Juquila on December 8, then comes Guadalupe on December 12,  and, finally, Oaxaca’s patron saint, Soledad on December 18.  There will be special masses, processions, and rockets. December is a noisy month!

But first, we must welcome the difuntos (departed) who begin arriving tonight.

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Dancing in the streets

Last night, throughout the streets of the city, the living began welcoming the dead.

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Like the Guelaguetza desfile of delegations, Oaxaqueños and tourists (foreign and domestic) crowded the sidewalks along the Magna Comparsa Oaxaca 2017 route — from the Cruz de Piedra, down García Vigil, left on Allende, right on Macedonio Alcalá, right on Independencia, and into the Alameda.

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With bands leading the way, catrinas in regional dress and dancers in traditional muerteada attire whirled and twirled, high-stepped and jumped, and moved and grooved their way through the streets.

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With earthquakes and hurricanes and now the resumption of the zócalo plantón (occupation) and bloqueos (blocades) of roads into and out of the city by Sección XXII of the teachers’ union and their allies, Oaxaca and Oaxaqueños needed to party-down in joyous abandon — and they did!

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Día de Muertos observances are different in the indigenous villages — the mood is more formal and each village has customs and rituals that tradition dictates must be followed.  But the bottom line in ciudad and pueblo is to provide a welcome worthy of both the living and the dead.  The celebrations have only just begun…

Calacas for Leo

Calacas dressed for work and catrinas dressed to the nines, for my skeleton-loving grandson.

From the sidewalks, courtyards, and balconies of Oaxaca, October 2017 — ready for the Day of the Dead.

Today, Señor del Rayo!

Today is the culmination of the ten days of festivities celebrating El Señor del Rayo — an only-in-Oaxaca observance.  Early Saturday evening, on my way to an event at the Museo Textil, I ran into a calenda (parade) of his.  I was going in the opposite direction and felt like I was swimming upstream.  What to do?  Stop, take a few photos, and enjoy the music and dancing until it passed by, of course!

El Señor del Rayo is a wood-carved Christ on the Cross figure that was brought from Spain in the 16th century, a gift to Oaxaca from Charles V.  The image was placed in the temple of San Juan de Dios, a church with adobe walls and a straw (or possibly wood) roof.  According to religious lore, lightning struck the church and everything was destroyed, save for this figurine.  A miracle!  The statue became known as El Señor del Rayo (the Lord of Lightning), was given his own chapel (the furthest capilla from the main entrance on the left) in the newly built Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, and has been much venerated ever since.

El Señor has a body double as the original, given it’s importance and value, remains behind glass in his chapel (first photo above).  Today, the line of faithful waiting to worship him stretched into the aisle leading to his chapel.  Restoration work was done on his replica earlier this year, but it is back on the main altar and available to travel through the streets during this afternoon’s procession, along with the estandartes (religious banners) currently leaning up against the inner walls of the Cathedral.

Tonight, like all good Oaxaca celebrations, be they religious or secular, there will be pirotécnicos — fireworks and all things pyrotechnic, including a castillo.  For the uninitiated, a castillo is a multi-story erector set like structure with moving parts that is wired with colorful explosive charges.  Another noisy night in Oaxaca!

By the way, in previous years, the inside of the Cathedral was festooned from bottom to top with lilies — greeting all who enter with Divine beauty and fragrance.  However, this year there are many fewer floral decorations and no lilies.  I’m wondering if the lily-growing region was affected by the hurricanes and/or earthquakes….

Hibiscus and a wall

Sometimes you just have to stop and gaze…

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This morning outside Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.

Posted on Cee’s Flower of the Day.

New calendar in town

Residents and visitors, alike, have been in mourning for a couple of years — ever since Margie Barclay retired from publishing her extremely popular and informative Oaxaca Calendar.  While others, like Que Pasa Oaxaca, have tried to pick up the slack, nothing else has quite measured up until now.  There is a new calendar in town — OaxacaEvents!!!

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As you can see, it’s visually easy on the eyes and I can assure you it’s also easy to use.  For example, clicking the “View” arrow links to event details.  Though the default is “All,” by clicking on a menu bar selection, you can specify a type of event for which you want to see listings (Music, Art, Dance/Theater, Food/Drink, Sports/Fitness, Learning, Groups/Mtgs, or Festivals).  You can also elect to see event listings for a particular date, use the search feature, and (drum roll, please), if you know of an event that isn’t shown, you can “submit an event” — harnessing the power of crowd-sourcing!  Pretty cool, yes?

The OaxacaEvents calendar is a volunteer effort by Dottie Bellinger and Teri Gunderson in partnership with the Oaxaca Lending Library.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please be sure to thank them, including Margie Barclay who briefly came out of “calendar retirement” to lend her expertise in the initial setup.

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Art of social conscience

URTARTE — La Unión Revolucionaria de Trabajadores del Arte (the Revolutionary Union of Art Workers).  You have no doubt seen their work around the city of Oaxaca.

The black and white lines of resistance defending heritage corn from an invasion by the moneyed interests of el norte.

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Demanding justice for the 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero — still disappeared after three years.

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And yesterday I discovered this masterpiece…

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Celebrating the creativity, hard work, and dignity of the women and men living in the villages of Oaxaca.

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A reminder of the people whose roots run deep into the soil and who make Oaxaca such an exceptional place.

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Difuntos on the move

Día de Muertos is coming…

That means the departed will soon return to eat, drink, and be merry with their living loved ones.

Due to earthquake damage the Panteón General in the city is closed, but the traditional evening of the dead will take place at the Panteón Xochimilco.

As the schedule of over 100 cultural activities (between October 28 and November 4) states, despite earthquakes and hurricanes, “Oaxaca is more alive than ever!”

A gal’s gotta eat

Lunch coming down out of the mountains in Colorado…

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Tacos at Carniceria Sonora in Clifton, CO

Back in Oaxaca in time for a comida of September’s traditional dish…

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Chiles en Nogada at Las Quince Letras Restaurante in Oaxaca de Juárez

And, not to be left out, Argiope showing off her freshly caught brunch…

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Flies or bees or one of each on the terrace at Casita Colibrí

Gals, be they human or arachnid, have got to eat!

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