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Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Thursday is market day in Villa de Zaachila. Thus, once we turned off the carretera, we crawled our way into town joining scores of other cars, trucks, tuk tuks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and the occasional goat. The scenes were pure country village. Once parked, we meandered our way along the street stalls, stopping to examine their wares and chat with vendors.

However, our stomachs were grumbling and our trajectory was set — Zaachila’s mouthwatering barbacoa de chivo (goat) beckoned!

Once sated, we went in search of Zaachila’s beautifully decorated pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread). It was still a little early in the season but, zigzagging up and down the bread aisles, we eventually found a couple of vendors and bought a few to be placed on our ofrendas.

Being members of the “clean plate club” and needing to walk off our very filling lunch, we walked toward the Templo de Santa Maria de la Natividad to begin the Muertos mural walk to the Panteón. However, before even reaching the church, we were stopped in our tracks by this massive and incredibly moving mural dedicated to the victims of Covid-19.

New Day of the Dead murals had been painted along calle Coquiza since I was last in Zaachila two years ago and I will post pictures later. In the meantime, next stop — a mezcal palenque in Zimatlán de Álvarez.

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Feliz Día Nacional del Maíz (Happy National Day of Corn).

Mi orgullo es mi raiz, el maíz (My pride is my root, the corn).

But what would corn be without the hands that have cared for it for hundreds of years.CONABIO (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity)

Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without corn there is no country)!

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If it’s Saturday, it must be boda (wedding) day in Oaxaca. I caught this one as it was leaving Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco in the requisite post-ceremony procession that would stop traffic as it wended its way through the streets of the neighborhood.

While the wedding party may not have been as grand as the Saturday weddings at the over-the-top ornate Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán, this one had all the festive elements of a boda in Oaxaca.

A brass band setting the tempo.
Chinas Oaxaqueñas dancers.
A bride and groom boogieing on down the street.
Bride and groom monos.
Giant marmota spinning the names of the bride and groom — Carolina and Alfredo.
And the real life bride and groom cracking each other up as they begin their married life together.

What’s not to love about a Oaxaca wedding?!!!

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Under the shade of the 361 year old Coquito de la Iglesia de Jalatlaco tree, onlookers (and bloggers like yours truly), dignitaries, media, and the artists of the Tlacolulokos collective gathered for the inauguration of the previously mentioned new mural in Jalatlaco.

“Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

The mural, “Nuestro sol se ha ido” (Our sun has gone) is a collaboration between Rolande Souliere of the “Anishinaabe” people in Canada and the Zapotec Tlacolulokos urban art collective from Oaxaca’s central valley.

Indigenous Encounter Canada/Mexico, “Our sun has gone” by Tlacolulokos and Rolande Souliere.

The mural’s inauguration was live streamed on Facebook on the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca page.

Media and dignitaries gathered in the atrium of the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco.

Unfortunately, Rolande Souliere could not travel to Oaxaca. However she described some of the symbolism of the mural: “We decided to portray the mythological beings of the Canadian thunderbird and the Zapotec deity of the Cosijo throne, these fantastic beings are responsible for the thunder and rain that the world experiences and that come together thanks to the clouds…. symbolic imageries such as Zapotec patterns, the route of thunder and the four directions of the first nations represented by the colors red, black, yellow and white… important signifiers in both communities since they represent the continuation of indigenous culture in contemporary society.”

Inaugural ribbon cutting (Canadian Ambassador wearing white shirt in center and artist Dario Canul on the far right) for the “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.

Dario Canul, representative of the Tlacolulokos colective further explained, “The mural, ‘Our sun has gone,’ is a representation of celebration, life, rain, thunder, and tears that all indigenous peoples have shed over time.”

Drone filming the inauguration of the “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.

The inauguration launched the 2-1/2 week long Encuentros indígenas: Canadá-Oaxaca 2021 (Indigenous encounters: Canada-Oaxaca 2021) — a series of activities in Oaxaca city and surrounding villages — that runs from September 20 to October 8, 2021.

Tlacolulokos artists in front of the mural, “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.. Dario Canul (center).

In remarks by Graeme C. Clark, the Canadian Ambassador, at the inaugural event and reports from this article, the collaboration seems to be an expression of the mea culpa by the Canadian government with regard to their historic treatment of the first peoples of the territory that is now called Canada. Better late than never. The indigenous peoples of the USA are still waiting.

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Decorations in green, white, and red began going up the first of September.

Papel picado flying above calle Ignacio Aldama in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

No, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Window of a school in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

The entire month of September is designated the Mes de la Patria — a month celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — a war which began on September 16 1810 and finally ended 200 years ago on September 27, 1821.

Mexican flag flying in the yard of one of my neighbors in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

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Another year of Covid-19 means another year without an up close and personal Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Like last year performances and events are going virtual. However, unlike last year, when video of the dancing was taken from the years 2017 to 2019, this year the delegations will be performing live from their villages.

La Guelaguetza 2021 schedule of cultural events:

July 19, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 19, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

Transmissions can be viewed at CORTV– on local television, their YouTube channel, and on their Facebook page.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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A much needed pause in nesting at the new Casita Colibrí was in order. Teotitán del Valle’s patronal festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo beckoned. The pandemic had closed the village for many months and precluded attending any of the 2020 fiestas. However, with mask on, I returned to spend three days. First on the schedule was Monday evening’s convite (procession) inviting the community to the fiesta.

Lining up in front of Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo for the convite.
Canastas ground level before being lifted onto the heads of the young unmarried women chosen to participate.
Cohetero (aka, rocket man) mugging before lighting the fuse.
Anticipating the big bang!
Tambor player who has walked many miles.
Young percussion player with many miles yet to walk.
As the shadows lengthened, the convite wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Doña Marina, Moctezuma, and La Malinche bringing up the rear.
Villagers gather at their favorite location to watch the passage of the convite.
Convite taking over the main street in Teotitlán del Valle.
Danzantes under the watchful gaze of El Picacho.
Subalterno keeping on keeping up.
The return trip to the iglesia.
After almost an hour, the convite re-entered the atrium of the iglesia.
Watching and contemplating — the end.

The last festival in Teotitlán that I attended, before Covid-19 turned the world sideways, was the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in October 2019. The warm welcome I received at the convite on Monday was incredibly touching and I admit to tearing up a little as it began.

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On this second Día del Trabajo during the pandemic, let us recognize and give thanks to the workers of Oaxaca and the world who continue to keep the wheels turning.

Repairing the bell tower of Templo de San José.
Digging out the roots of a fallen Indian Laurel tree on the zócalo.
Preparing to sweep the sidewalk in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

Happy International Workers’ Day!

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Easter Sunday, Peter Cottontail, with a little help from his friends, hippity hopped his way to Casita Colibrí, bringing platters full of Easter joy.

Easter eggs dyed with hibiscus, chili, turmeric, and beets with designs imprinted by cilantro, parsley, epazote and bougainvillea.
Marinated and roasted pork shoulder with organic baby carrots, potatoes, and shallots from the Sierra Norte.
Peter Cottontail’s favorite salad of radishes, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, and lettuce.
Choux pastry filled with creamy coffee with caramelized peanut cream.

A muchisimas gracias to my many-times-mentioned friend, neighbor, and talented cocinera, Kalisa, who dyed the eggs and prepared all but the dessert. The latter yummy decadent delight was purchased from Masea Trigo y Maíz. To quote another rabbit, “That’s all folks!”

(ps) My alebrije rabbit is by Bertha Cruz from San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca.

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Alas, another silent Viernes Santo in Oaxaca due to the pandemic. No early morning processions from churches throughout the city converging in front of the Cathedral to reenact the encuentro where Jesús meets María going towards Calvary. No worshipers praying and reciting appropriate devotions as they moved from one sidewalk Estación de la Cruz (Station of the Cross) to another. And, no rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of rachets punctuating the hush of the crowds gathered along the route for the early evening Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence).

Only silent sacred vignettes accompanied yesterday morning’s Good Friday walk through Barrio de Jalatlaco…

Unlike last year when church doors remained closed and services were broadcast remotely, the Archbishop announced that this year the churches will be open for liturgical acts on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, albeit with a “limited presence of the faithful.”

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March 8 is International Women’s Day. In the words of a recent article by Nancy Rosenstock, a woman I knew back in the day, “In these challenging times, all women — from those of us who were involved in second-wave feminism to those just entering the struggle — need to come together as equal fighters and chart a course forward.”

We may have come a long way, but the struggle for equal rights, respect, freedom from violence, and control of our own bodies continues and the women of the walls of Oaxaca are not silent.

Many of the images also carry a written messages. Below, Nuestros sueños no caben en sus urnas / Our dreams do not fit in their ballot boxes carries an indictment against the capitalist political parties.

The next one lets the symbols of the ancestors speak.

From a women’s graphic campaign that seeks to express “what our bodies go through every day and what we are seeking when we scream: Vivas Nos Queremos / We Want Ourselves Alive.

And, a promise that women will not be silenced and will march forward Sin miedo / Without fear.

Then there is the mural, La Patria / The Homeland, which adorns the wall of a school in Barrio de Jalatlaco. La Patria, originally a painting by Jorge González Camarena of an indigenous woman surrounded by patriotic imagery, graced the covers of textbooks from the 1960s into the 1970s.

To honor and celebrate International Women’s Day, on March 8, La Mano Magica Gallery/Galería inaugurates an exhibit of women artists, Exposición de Arte Colectiva Mujeres Artistas, curated by Mary Jane Gagnier, at their gallery in Oaxaca and online on their Facebook page.

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If all was right with the world, on this Día de Carnaval (aka, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday), the day before Christians celebrate the beginning of Lent, I would be in San Martín Tilcajete — where the streets would be alive with the sound of bells, as los encabezados (guys covered in motor oil or paint and wearing cowbells tied around their waist) roam the streets startling the unaware, making mischief, and welcoming all to the festivities.

2014

2015

This predominately Zapotec village has seized on the holiday, brought to Mexico by Spanish Catholicism, to create elaborate masks to showcase its woodcarving skills. It is no coincidence that Carnival conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” It is also no surprise that it caught on, “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities” — and make fun of them.

2016

2017

The festivities revolve around a mock wedding — a parody of a traditional village wedding. It includes much pomp and circumstance, hilarity, music, food, and fireworks. Young and old move from the houses of the principal players to City Hall for the “civil ceremony,” dancing in the plaza, followed by another procession through the streets to another house where the happy “couple” kneel before a “priest” for the religious ceremony. You might want to take a second look at those beautiful wedding guests with the smoldering eyes and modeling the gorgeous gowns.  They are not what they seem — and neither is the bride.

2018

2019

2020

San Martín Tilcajete isn’t the only village in Oaxaca that celebrates Carnaval in its own wild and wacky way. Beginning in 2019, in an effort to promote tourism to other villages, residents and visitors in Oaxaca city have been treated to a boisterous parade down the Macedonio Alcalá on the Saturday preceding Fat Tuesday sampling the pre-Lenten traditions from various parts of the state. Though festivities were canceled due to Covid-19, the city’s tourism department put together a video of celebrations from past years by several villages.

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February 14th isn’t just a day for lovers. In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as the Día del Amor y la Amistad — Day of Love and Friendship.

By the artist known as ARCH

Decorations have gone up and I have no doubt kilos of chocolate, bouquets of flowers, and heart shaped balloons with confessions of amor will be purchased.

Unfortunately, with the virus continuing to rapidly spread and Oaxaca still under semáforo naranja/orange traffic light (though many think it should be rojo/red), I’m not sure restaurants will or should be filled to capacity with friends, sweethearts, and families.

By the artist known as Efedefroy

Given the trauma and uncertainty the world has experienced over the past year, I hope we have learned to cherish our friends and family and to let them know how much they mean to us every day. Let us celebrate days of love and friendship and not just limit it to one day a year.

And, if you would like to say I love you (te amo) in 7 of the 69 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico — including several spoken in the state of Oaxaca — click HERE.

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It’s been a whole month, so I figured it’s about time to again showcase the culinary creations by my friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire, Kalisa. If you can’t take the mouthwatering temptation, I advise you to step away from the blog post now.

January 4, 2021 – Flor de Frijolón salad.
January 4, 2021 – Pork pozole.
January 10, 2021 – Quiche Lorraine.
January 10, 2021 – Chicken wings.
January 17, 2021 – Cassoulet with duck, sausage, pork, and organic French Tarbais beans.
January 23, 2021 – Picadillo stuffed cabbage leaves.
February 3, 2021 – Pan seared Norwegian salmon in brown butter lemon sauce accompanied by baby new potatoes and carrots.
February 3, 2021 – Mixed berry tart.

Just so you know, the last two are not everyday fare — they were for my birthday. (Please, don’t ask.) I think Kalisa outdid herself!

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