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Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

I’m in el norte and it is all quiet on the norther front on this day honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. In fact, the sound of silence was one of the things that struck me as the taxi drove me and my luggage through the streets of my little hometown at the base of Mount Tamalpais. The Oaxaca I left a few days ago, was a cacophony of rocket booms and bangs, church bells ringing, processions with enthusiastic bands, and barking dog. From my terrace, yesterday and today, I would have been treated to sound on steroids honoring Guadalupe. Funny what one gets used to…

The above images of the Virgin of Guadalupe were created for an altar dedicated to Guadalupe at the Roses and Revelations textile exhibition and are by painter and sculptor, Demetrio Garcia Aguilar, a member of the talented Aguilar family of potters of Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca. The indigenous symbols used pay homage to the pre-Hispanic fertility and earth goddess, Tonantzin (“Our Sacred Mother” in the Nahuatl language), whose temple at the top of Tepeyac Hill had been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. Syncretically, this became the site where the apparition the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego asking that a church be built on that site and thus the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe began — another step in the blending of the old and new religions and the original peoples and the Spanish newcomers.

By the way, the Roses and Revelations exhibition is on tour and is currently at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Popular in Coyoacán, in Mexico City. It will run to April 19, 2020.

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What can I say? The poster for the 4th Annual Mezcal Fair in Santa Catarina Minas came across my Facebook page and I said, let’s go! Thus, friends and neighbors rented a van (with non-drinking driver) to head an hour south of Oaxaca city for day two of the 2-day fair.

A barro for distilling mezcal enhancing the basketball hoop.

Naturally, it was held in the municipal basketball court, adjacent to the church!

Food vendor and family member setting up.

Of course, being gringos, we were early, so we headed for the food stalls (all the better to absorb the mezcal to come) — including empanadas from San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Though, in all honesty, they weren’t nearly as good as the gal we usually go to in San Antonino.

Maestro mezcalero, Don Pablo Arellanes Ramírez.

The mezcal stalls hadn’t quite begun to be staffed.

Luis Arellanes Cruz atop the outdoor oven pit used to cook the agave piñas.

However, thanks to mi amiga K, who went in search of cervesa (beer) to wash down our empanadas, we were introduced to Luis Arellanes Cruz, who then took us to the Los Arellanes palenque, explained the process of turning agave piñas into mezcal to the new initiates among us, and introduced us to maestro mezcalero, Rufino Felipe Martinez.

Félix Ángeles Arellanes

Returning to the feria, several of us were delighted to renew our acquaintance with Félix from Mezcal El Minerito where, the last time I was there, friends and I watched the process of layering agave piñas, bagaso, and a tarp to begin the cooking process.

Folkloric dancers from Sección XXII of the teachers’ union of the City of Oaxaca.

Of course, no feria would be complete without entertainment. According to the schedule, there were bands and presentations and parades and dancers and…

The road out of town.

After three hours of wandering, eating, tasting, and enjoying, it was time to head back to the city. As they say, a great time was had by all!

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A belated feliz Día de Santa Cecilia! November 22 commemorates the day Roman born Saint Cecilia was martyred at the hands of Turcius Almachius (sometime between 222 and 235 AD) and has been celebrated as her feast day since the fourth century.

According to legend, “despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians.[3] When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.[3]

Santa Cecilia also sang during the torment of her martyrdom by decapitation, in which she was struck three times in the neck with a sword, and remained alive for three days. Pope Urban I consecrated her house in the Trastevere as a basilica. Her devotion and singing earned her the title of patron saint of musicians. Bands are named after her and she is honored with concerts and music festivals on her feast day.

Sculptures depicting musicians of the Mixe mountain village, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, in the courtyard of Andares del Arte Popular. Sculptures by Sculptor Na’pë Jääy — an artist from Tlahuitoltepec.

 

And, for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite bands named La Santa Cecilia.

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Today, November 3, blogger buddy Chris and I made our annual pilgrimage to experience the flowers and families of the panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. We have been doing this for many years and are always surprised and delighted by the creativity of the living, as they decorate the graves of their departed. This year was no exception — especially the sculptures on two of the graves. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Below, the plaque on the simple wooden cross read, 1994 – 2018 Fernando Moctezuma Valencia García “Tachuma” Te amoremos por siempre, tu familia (We love you forever, your family). A little internet research revealed that the young Fernando was already a talented ceramicist.

The hands of a loved one honoring Fernando by creating this exceptional sculpture on his grave, moved me to tears.

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The difuntos have begun arriving and, like every year on November 1, I escape the tourist craziness of the city to spend time in the tranquility of the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros. Under the dappled sunlight of early afternoon, families clean, bring flowers, and celebrate. The departed must have nourishment for their travel between the world of the living and dead, thus fruit, nuts, bread, and beverages are placed on the graves.

The difuntos also seem to appreciate artistry.

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Calaveras, calacas, catrins, and catrinas, oh my!  (Click images to enlarge.)

In the city and villages, walls and windows, sitting and standing, happy and sad — they are everywhere in Oaxaca!

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On October 21, after running errands, I made a beeline to the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. As I had hoped, it was all dressed up and ready for Señor del Rayo’s day on October 23.

Pews had been removed from his chapel (last capilla on the left) to allow the faithful to process past his glass enclosed home. Many stopped to light a candle at a couple of tables placed outside his chapel for that purpose.

By the way, El Señor has a body double. The original, given it’s importance and value, remains protected in the chapel. His replica was standing in a place of honor on the Cathedral’s main altar.

If you are not from Oaxaca, you may be asking, who is El Señor del Rayo? He 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 legend, lightning struck the church and everything was destroyed, save for this figurine. It was a miracle so momentous that the figurine became known as El Señor del Rayo (the Lord of Lightning) and was given its own chapel in Oaxaca’s newly built Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

Like La Guelaguetza, Noche de Rabanós (Night of the Radishes), and Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day), this is an only in Oaxaca celebration and Oaxaqueños honor El Señor del Rayo with a special fervor, reverence, and pride. Thus, when I returned to the Cathedral at noon on October 23, it was standing room only — not an empty pew in sight, not even in the numerous side chapels.

Like most important festivities in Oaxaca, be they religious or secular, the Lord of Lightning’s celebration was heralded with a calenda (parade) on October 21 and concluded a little before midnight on October 23 with a castillo and fireworks — despite a several hour surprise downpour earlier in the evening. The show always goes on in Oaxaca!

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. However, yesterday wasn’t just any Sunday. The second Sunday in October marks the community’s most important feast day — honoring El Señor de Tlacolula.

Marmota at rest in the church atrium.

As with all patronal festivals, this one lasts several days. In addition to Sunday’s masses, the highlights were a calenda through the streets on Friday featuring marmotas (giant and tiny), several bands, the image of Christ, and women carrying baskets atop their heads. On Saturday night here was a castillo and fireworks.

Order of delegations for the calenda.

In the back of my mind, I knew it would be crowded, but I was amazed at how many people had already poured into Tlacolula by 9:30 AM. It was hard to navigate one’s way to the market as, besides masses of people, a carnival had been set up along the main street and a side street or two.

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Señor de Tlacolula decorations at the entrance to Templo de la Virgen de la Asunción.

The church, Templo de la Virgen de la Asunción, was teeming with an overflow crowd of the faithful listening to mass being said from the side chapel of El Señor de Tlacolula. Legend has it that when this sculpture of Jesus, being brought south by muleteers in the sixteenth century, arrived in Tlacolula for a rest stop, overnight it gained so much weight that in the morning it could no longer be lifted. A miracle! Thus it was decided a chapel should be built to house the sculpture right on the spot.

Capilla de Señor de Tlacolula, the faithful wait to touch the image.

What a chapel it is! A feast for the eyes from floor to ceiling, filled with gold and silver gilding, carved angels and saints, paintings, and mirrors. On this day, pews had been removed so worshipers could have a personal interaction with the Lord of Tlacolula. In addition, an altar and hundreds of folding chairs had been set up in the atrium for an outdoor mass.

In the atrium, the altar on a replica of the church.

The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico. There are few places in the world where it is possible to take part in a spectacle like our great religious fiestas with their violent primary colors, their bizarre costumes and dances, their fireworks and ceremonies and their inexhaustible welter of surprises: the fruit, candy, toys and other objects sold on these days in the plazas and open-air markets. Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude.

Mural on outside wall of the market.

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On this Día Nacional del Maíz (National Day of Corn), in honor of the late Maestro Francisco Toledo, who led a fight to defend the native corn from genetically modified corn, a series of activities was held in four of the cultural spaces he bequeathed to Oaxaca. Understanding in Mexico, corn is life, my amiga and I braved the much-needed rain (that has now been falling for 24 hours) to participate in the activities.

Pasaporte Día del Maíz

Our first stop was at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo (photographic center), where each visitor was photographed in front of a display of maíz and the mobile unit of the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (CaSa) made special commemorative prints.

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Backdrop for photos at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Next on the itinerary was the library, Fonoteca Eduardo Mata, where a video about the issue of transgenic corn was shown, corn masks were given, and we recieved a second stamp in our Pasaporte Día Nacional del Maíz.

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Raised beds of corn in the Ethnobotanic Garden

We then proceeded to the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden), where we were introduced to two raised beds of maíz — one the silvestre abuelita (wild grandmother) and one her cultivated descendant that we rely on today.

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Serving pozol from an olla at IAGO

Our final stop of the day was at the Instituto de Arte Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) where we were rewarded with many gifts — including a t-shirt or sweatshirt, a small flower pot of corn stalks, and a comida of tamales, nicuatole, and pozol (a prehispanic corn beverage).

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Field of corn in Teotitlán del Valle

Everyone should be honoring this day and giving thanks to the original peoples of Oaxaca for cultivating maíz 10,000 years ago.

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Overnight, as the calendar page turned from August to September, green, white, and red appeared around the city. The colors of the Mexican flag festooned buildings — both public and private and flags began flying from rooftops.

Papel picado hanging above Plazuela Labastida.

Vendor carts, selling all things patriotic, noisy, and green, white, and red, began appearing on busy street corners and green, white, and red lights were strung above major streets and in the zócalo. September is El Mes de Patria — an entire month of celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Kiosk in the zócalo.

September 16 is Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) marking Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) announcing the start of a ten-year long war for independence. However, all over Mexico, re-enactments “El Grito” (the Cry of Dolores) are staged at 11:00 PM on September 15 —  by mayors from municipal city halls, governors from state building balconies, and by the President of Mexico from the the National Palace. September 16 is marked with military parades.

Camera scaffolding in front of Oaxaca’s Government Palace.

As an article in yesterday’s El Imparcial proudly proclaimed, Oaxaqueños like Antonio de León, Carlos María Bustamante, José María Murguía y Galardi, and Manuel Sabino Crespo “contributed their sacrifice and courage to the creation of a free, sovereign and guaranteed homeland.” (my translation) By the way, for those who live in or have visited Oaxaca: Do those names ring a bell?

Señorita América on her way to sing the Himno Nacional (Mexican National Anthem) in the zócolo after the governor gives the Grito.

Last night’s Grito was the first given by Mexico’s new President, Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka, AMLO). The media pointed out that he gave 20 “Vivas” from the balcony of the Palacio Nacional, while his predecessor only gave 11. Among the added “Long live’s” were, “¡Vivan las comunidades indígenas!” and “¡Viva la grandeza cultural de México!”

Long live the independence! Long live Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla! Long live Morelos! Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez! Long live Ignacio Allende! Long live Leona Vicar! Long live anonymous heroes! Long live the heroic people of Mexico! Long live the indigenous communities! Long live freedom! Long live justice! Long live democracy! Long live our sovereignty! Long live the universal fraternity! Long live peace! Long live the cultural greatness of Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!

And, there was more Oaxaca pride present in the nation’s capital as the Banda del Centro de Capacitación Musical y Desarrollo (CECAM), a youth band from the Mixe village of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, performed following the Grito.

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In commemoration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas (INPI) is hosting a Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena de Oaxaca.

It is a four-day festival honoring and promoting the state of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples and their communities with artesania, textiles and other products for sale, cultural performances and workshops, food booths, and even healing treatments — and it’s happening a block from Casita Colibrí in the Plaza de la Danza!

Yawi Naka – Triqui – La Laguna Guadalupe, Putla Villa de Guerrero

INPI has an excellent online atlas of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and it, along with the statistics I previously posted regarding poverty, discrimination, and the results thereof affecting Mexico’s indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples are abysmal.

Na Jacinta Charis – Zapoteco – Juchitán de Zaragoza

According to this article (in Spanish), the charge of the INPI is to advocate for indigenous and Afro-Mexican rights and to recognize that in order for these peoples and their communities to survive, institutional efforts must be taken to guarantee their full exercise of social, political, cultural, and economic rights.

Productores de Maguey y Mezcal Lucas 2010 SPR de Ri – Zapoteco – San Isidro Guishe, San Luis Amatlán

The INPI is also attempting to advance an understanding that the family/community economy of these communities has a different production logic than the commercial market economy and that their economic model must be respected.

Organización de Medicos Indigenas Tradicionales de laCañada – Cuicateco – San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán

This festival provides a space to promote the various community projects and to showcase the artistic and cultural expressions in the city.

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Chenteñas Hazme Si Puedes – Zapoteco – San Vicente Coatlán

I’ve aready been twice to the event — talking with various vendors, buying the blouse above (along with cheese, sal de chicatanas, and olive oil with fresh organic herbs), and sitting at one of the long tables enjoying a tamal, empanada, and a jícara of tejate

The Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena runs through late afternoon tomorrow (Sept. 1, 2019). If you are in Oaxaca city, be sure to check it out (schedule below).

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Remember these guys from my Everyone loves a parade post? They are known as Tiliches (aka, Los viejos, old ones) are a staple in the 3-day celebration of Carnaval in Putla de Guerrero, and a colorful part of the delegation from Putla during La Guelaguetza. Seeing them, it should come as no surprise that “tiliche” can be translated into English to mean junk, stuff, or rag.

Entering this year’s Festival de los Moles at the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Ethnobotanic Garden), guests were greeted by an exhibition of Tiliches — hosted by the newspaper archive, Hemoeroteca Néstor Sanchez.

Viejo de Tiliches – wearing the traditional costume of the Viejos/Tiliches during Carnaval in Putla.

Made of cloth, palm, and gourd with a mask of animal skin, suede gloves, and leather boots. It took one person a week to make.

Viejo Tapitas

Made from plastic water and soda bottle caps and hat of rafia. It took two people 45 days to make for a Carnaval 2018 costume contest in Putla and it weighs 30 kg. (66 lbs.)

Viejo Mecatero

Designed by Ángel Álvarez de Jesús and made from plastic rope, plastic thread, cardboard and silicone. It took seven people 45 days to make for the 2019 costume contest in Putla. It weighs 60 kg. (132 lbs.)

Viejo Azteca

Designed by Amando Herrera Villa and made of palm. It took him two months to make and weighs 15 kg. (33 lbs.)

The creativity here never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately, the exhibition only ran from July 15 to 30, 2019. What fun it would be to go to Putla for their three day Carnaval celebration — where one can see hundreds of Tiliches dancing though the streets!

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The marathon that was La Guelaguetza 2019 has been run and not a day too soon for most residents. It was an exhausting and at times grueling two weeks — so much to do and so little time — streets choked with traffic and sidewalks clogged with people. According to state government figures, at its height, hotel occupancy reached 97%, which I’m guessing doesn’t include the growing Airbnb presence.

Woman pouring tejate

My participation ended as it began with food and drink — at the 13th annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal. Fortunately (for me), it’s held at the Plaza de la Danza, only a block away from Casita Colibrí. On July 30 and 31, seventy five women of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras de Tejate de San Andrés Huayapam came to my neighborhood to prepare and pour this prehispanic drink for the thirsty and curious.

Tejate with rosita de cacao blossoms

Tejate is a labor-intensive frothy, refreshing, nutritious, and (supposedly) aphrodisiacal non-alcoholic beverage made from corn mixed with tree ash, cacao beans, mamey seeds, rosita de cacao (Quararibea funebris) flowers, and peanuts or pecans (depending on the season).

Preparation takes at least twelve hours, as the beans, seeds, flowers, and nuts must be toasted on a comal and corn must be nixtamalized.  Ingredients are taken to a molino to be milled, then kneaded together, left to cool, eventually being hand-ground on a metate to make a thick paste — which is then thinned with water and (literally) mixed by hand.

jícaras

Tejate is traditionally served in brightly painted gourds (jícaras) which fits right in with this year’s effort by the feria organizers to eliminate the use of plastic, in keeping with recent legislation in Oaxaca to prohibit the sale and use of most single use plastic and styrofoam containers. Known as the beverage of the gods, as it was once reserved solely for Zapotec royalty, today tejate is for everybody and is also being made into cookies, ice cream, and nicuatole (traditional Oaxacan corn-based molded dessert).

nicuatole de tejate

However, this food fest wasn’t just about tejate. The other headliner of this event was the versatile tamal. Numerous varieties in steaming pots sitting on anafres (portable cooktops) sat behind rows of banquet tables filled with giant serving baskets covered in colorfully embroidered tea towels. Proud cocineras (cooks) listed their offerings and provided free samples to taste-test.

embroidered tea towel

Where to begin? There was a mind-boggling selection of tamales — at least a dozen kinds to choose from. Many are readily available daily at local mercados (of course, each family puts their own unique spin on the basic recipes). However, here in the city, tichinda (fresh water mussel) tamales are rarely seen. I tasted and they were yummy.

list of tamales

My primary goal, when it came to tamales, was “para llevar” (to go) and I came prepared with my own containers. On day 1, I wanted to bring home tamales for the staff who works at my apartment complex and a couple of carpenters who were onsite building door and window screens for a friend’s apartment. I made several rounds of the numerous vendors, studying their offerings (along with their lovely tea towels) and then just dove in! Besides buying a tamal de camaron (shrimp) for myself, I bought a mole verde (chicken with green sauce) and a mole negro (black mole sauce with chicken) for each the crew back home, along with tejate cookies for their dessert!

On day 2, I was in search of tamal de chichilo, made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves — the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor. It’s one of my favorites and isn’t usually seen in the mercados, as it is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms or when the crops have been harvested.

tamal de chichilo

Besides eating a tamal de chichilo as soon as I returned home and another for dinner last night, six more currently reside in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. Ahhh, preserving and celebrating the prehispanic riches of tejate and tamales — a couple of reasons why Oaxaca is a food lovers’ paradise.

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With dancers and props arrived and prepped and streets blocked to traffic, this past Saturday’s second Guelaguetza Desfile de Delegaciones (Parade of Delegations) set off from Calzada Porfirio Díaz to again wind its way through the city’s streets.

San Carlos Yautepec, Sierra Sur

Santa Catarina Ticuá, Mixteca

San Francisco del Mar, Istmo

Danza de los Rubios – Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Mixteca

Huautla de Jiménez, Cañada

Danza de los Jardineros – San Andrés Zautla, Valles Centrales

Danza de los Diablos – Llano Grande, Mixteca

Loma Bonita, Papaloapan

H. Cd. de Huajuapan de León, Mixteca

Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, Costa

Asunción Ixtaltepec, Istmo

Danza de la Pluma – Teotitlán del Valle, Valles Centrales

Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz, Sierra Sur

Mezcal, pride, and joy were all in abundance!

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Saturday was a beautiful day for this year’s second Guelaguetza Desfile de Delegaciones. Nothing but sun and blue sky greeted the dancers as they arrived in buses, their large props arrived in trucks, and spectators arrived on foot — as Calzada Porfirio Díaz, north of Niños Heroes was blocked to traffic, except for the aforementioned mentioned official vehicles.

Did I mention, mezcal flowed freely, as dancers fortified themselves and the gathered onlookers? It’s all part of the prep and, by the time the parade began at 6:00 PM sharp, everyone was feeling good and more than ready!

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