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Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Wishing a very happy Father’s Day to fathers, stepfathers, and father-figures throughout the world.

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Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have.  May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.  And, may you never be separated from your children by the inhumane, unnecessary, and illegal action of a despotic government.

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I love Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros — the people, colors, food, cacophony, and frequent surprises speak to the life of Oaxaca.  So, after returning Saturday night from two weeks in el norte, I jumped at the suggestion by blogger buddy Chris that we go to Tlacolula the next day.  It did not disappoint.

Carnival rides were being set up where we frequently park and, in the usually deserted patio of the modern chapel at the intersection, several men were hard at work fashioning decorations.  We peered from behind the wrought iron fence but were quickly invited in.  They explained they were preparing for a festival honoring the chapel, the Capilla de la Cruz, all the while continuing to weave flowers out of a spiky, sword-like plant.

Especially during the Easter season, I’ve seen these flowers fashioned from palms, but these definitely were not palm.

Once home, I couldn’t resist doing a little research (I’m a librarian, after all!) and discovered it was a species of Dasylirion (aka, Sotol, cucharilla, desert spoon).  I can’t imagine what those spikes lining the sides of the leaves must do to their hands!

It was such fun talking with these guys and watching their nimble, practiced fingers at work.  After two weeks away, what better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca?  And, the market was still to come.

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Today is Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).  Lest anyone forget, there have been booms and bangs throughout the day to remind one and all!  And, most years, the day finds me huffing and puffing my way up to the top of Picacho, the sacred mountain that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — joining the Zapotec villagers in a Prehispanic ritual asking for rain.

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It is also the Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer) and it is tradition for workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on construction sites.  According to Mexconnect, in 1960, Pope John XXIII removed Día de la Santa Cruz from the liturgical calendar, but Mexico being Mexico and construction workers being construction workers, they ignored the Pope.  Eventually, understanding the relationship of forces, he gave Mexico a special dispensation to celebrate this day.

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For me, today the city brought a much welcomed surprise.  As anyone who has traversed the first block of Garcia Vigil (between Independencia and Morelos) during the past nine months can attest, it has been a challenge not to slip, trip, or fall thanks to the warped “temporary” plywood laid down over what used to be a solid, if not smooth, sidewalk.  However, on this day celebrating abañiles, they were hard at work on a new “real” sidewalk!

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No cross on the worksite, but definitely a Día de la Santa Cruz/Día del Albañil miracle!

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Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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The United Nations declared November 20 as Universal Children’s Day.  However, that is Día de la Revolución in Mexico, thus April 30 was designated Día del Niño — the day Mexico celebrates her children.  Schools organize parties with games and treats, communities organize special activities, and parents may give their hijas and hijos gifts.

However, one of the features of life in Oaxaca that I appreciate most is the way children are welcomed and are included in all of the celebrations that I have had the privilege of attending — and that’s quite a few!  Enjoy the following photos taken during the past year.  (Click on an image for a full description of the event.)

 

¡Feliz Día del Niño!  And parents everywhere, please remember to “teach your children well.”

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What can I say?  Lately, I have been having way too much fun to blog.  A Gran Convite on Tuesday evening kicked off the festivities celebrating Oaxaca’s 486 birthday and inviting one and all to the previously mentioned, 2nd Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opening the following day.  Beginning at the Cruz de la Piedra, the parade came to a sparkling climax in front of the Cathedral.

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Wednesday began with an early morning ringing of the Cathedral’s bells (and several other churches, I’m pretty sure) and the booms and bangs of cohetes announcing Oaxaca’s official birthday.  Then the event that I had been hungrily awaiting — the opening of the four-day gathering of Oaxaca’s traditional cooks at the Plaza de la Danza.  It was worth the wait!

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Mixtec ritual of Aromas y Sabores del Alma using basil and rosemary to open Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca.

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Machacado mixe, Caldo mixe from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in the Sierra Norte.

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Chileajo amarillo from Huayuapan de León in the Mixteca.

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Ingredients on display by Carina Santiago of Tierra Antigua restaurant in Teotitlán del Valle, in Oaxaca’s Valles Centrales.

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Cochino a la cubana from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca being served by cocinera Rosario Cruz Cobos.

There is also an expo-venta of Oaxacan artesanía at the Palacio Municipal adjacent to the Plaza de la Danza.

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Some of the best red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola for sale.

I took yesterday off to do my volunteer gig at the Oaxaca Lending Library, but I’m returning to the Encuentro today, right after I post this.  My stomach is already rumbling!

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As darkness fell and a hush stilled the spectators, the Procession of Silence proceeded along the prescribed route.

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Blindfolded Jesus and banner

Image of Señor de La Columna

Purple hooded penitents carrying crosses

Jesus image carrying cross

Virgen de los Dolores standing above prone Jesus images

Virgen de la Soledad image carried by women

Good Friday in Oaxaca.

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Semana Santa (Holy Week) is in full flower in Oaxaca, the streets are filled with tourists, both domestic and international, and the city is very helpfully distributing a schedule of the most important activities for this Easter season.  Thus, on Tuesday evening I walked down to Independencia, which had been blocked to traffic, for the Procesión de Estandartes (Procession of Banners) — leaving from the Basílica de La Soledad and arriving at the Cathedral, a few blocks away.

The banners were carried by the members of the hermandad del Santísimo Rosario (Brotherhood of the Most Holy Rosary) and numbered well over 100.

In addition, the Chinas Oaxaqueñas de Casilda carried an image of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), the patron saint of the brotherhood.

Once all the banners had reached the plaza in front of the Cathedral, the way parted for Our Lady of the Rosary to enter the Cathedral.

The banners followed and were carefully positioned next to special lighting along the aisle walls on either side of the Cathedral.  It was quite stunning!

An hour-long choral concert followed — nothing like listening to sacred music under the soaring ceiling of Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  They had even installed video monitors, so all could see the orchestra and singers.

I returned to the Cathedral the next day to view the banners “up close and personal” and discovered informational labels had been placed in front of each estandarte — listing the date made, affiliated church, church festival, and the sponsor of the banner.

They will once again hit the road late tomorrow afternoon to join Good Friday’s, Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence).

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If it’s Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), I must be in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  I know there must be other villages that have colorful and moving celebrations, but the magic of San Antonino compels me to return year after year.  Who can resist the spectacle outside the village panteón of watching el Señor del Burro be piled high with a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables and festooned with garlands of peppers and pan (bread)?

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And, besides, each year there is always something a little new and different.  To wit, in previous years parishioners presented their offerings with great pride to a committee of three or four women who formally received the donations, thanked the benefactors, and priced the items (for sale later in the day to benefit the work of the church).  However, this year, in addition to offering blessings, it was the priest who interceded between the donors and the pricing committee to receive and express gratitude to each person for their contribution — be they grand or humble.

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Once the young priest finished receiving the goods, he donned his ceremonial robes, offered prayers, and blessed everything (including my camera!) and everyone with holy water.  This was the cue for palm fronds to be distributed to all and the altar boys and girls and disciples to assemble.

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With the burro fully loaded, a team of 20+ extremely strong men hoisted the litter carrying the image of San Salvador atop the burro and, followed by villagers and visitors carrying the remainder of the goods collected, the journey to the church set off — a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  As the procession made its way to the church, the rhythmic sounds of the drum and horn leading the way were occasionally overpowered by shouts warning the men of topes (speed bumps) and low hanging telephone wires that must be navigated.

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The route is at least a kilometer from the panteón to San Antonino Obispo church and yesterday the sun was blazing, with not a cloud in the sky.  It is a grueling act of faith for the men who bear this massive burden.  The final hurtle was making their way up the steps and under the arch leading to the church atrium, where a platform to place el Señor del Burro awaited.

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By 1:00 PM, the bounty to be sold had been hand (head) carried or trucked to the display area set up on the opposite side of the church atrium and it was time for the outdoor mass to commence.  Thus, it was also time for us to duck out to browse the accompanying expo-venta of fabulous San Antonino embroidered blouses and dresses, flor inmortal artisan creations, the amazing and ongoing work of José García Antonio, the blind potter, and lastly find our favorite empanada vendor in the maze of food and artisan stalls set up outside the atrium walls.  Yummm…

You should also check out the Oaxaca-The Year After blog– rumor has it that Chris will be posting a video of the procession in the next day or two (or three).

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On this St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to check out this brief history lesson from PRI (Public Radio International), Mexico remembers the Irishmen who fought for Mexico against the US.

And, for more Irish in Mexico history, I’m re-posting my March 17, 2016 blog post, St. Brendan in Mexico?, below:

The Mexican-Irish connection may date back farther than most of us have considered. Séamus Ó Fógartaigh writes in the essay, Ireland and Mexico, “The first Irishman to set foot on Mexican soil may well have been St. Brendan the Navigator, who, according to legend, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his ‘currach’ (traditional Irish rowing boat) in search of new converts to the Christian faith. An ancient manuscript found in Medieval European monasteries allegedly described his voyage to strange Western Lands, and is known as the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis. Some historians claim that Christopher Columbus found inspiration for his seafaring adventure in the pages of the Navigatio of St. Brendan the Abbot.” And, he notes, there is even speculation that Quetzalcóatl was actually a deified Irish monk.

As you raise your pint of Guinness on this St. Patrick’s Day, consider this and the other Mexico and Ireland connections, while you sing a rousing chorus of Saint Patrick Battalion.

The song celebrates the Batallón de San Patricio, the Irish-American soldiers who deserted and fought alongside the Mexican army against the United States during the Mexican American War, 1846-1848. And, don’t forget to watch One Man’s Hero, the 1999 feature film about the San Patricios, starring Tom Berenger.

Sláinte mhaith! ¡Salud! And, remember, don’t drink and drive!

 

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I was recently in Mexico City, where I spent hours at the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building marveling at the three floors of murals by Diego Rivera.  And so, in honor of International Women’s Day, some of the women in the murals…

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Happy International Women’s Day to the women of the world!  May your strength, creativity, intelligence, and love prevail.

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They came, they saw, they styled, and they carried flowers!  This past Friday, it was the turn of Prepatoria No. 6 to continue the “only in Oaxaca tradition” of Viernes del Llano — aka, Paseo Juárez el Llano or Paseo de los Viernes de Cuaresma.

For the first five Friday mornings of Lent, young women in their second, fourth, and sixth semesters at the prepatorias (grades 10-12 in the USA) of the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), circle the statue of Benito Juárez in Llano Park, collecting bouquets of flowers, in this 45-year old tradition that traces its origin back to the nineteenth century — some say, even further.

There seemed to be a record number of young women this week — at least 30 — being cheered on by their families and home room supporters and ably assisted by their male flower-carriers.

Yes, there are winners in various categories (I think, largest number of flowers collected, most photogenic, best social media, and one or two others) and an overall “Madrina del Viernes” (Godmother of Friday) is chosen.  However, all seem to leave in great spirits — and blogger buddy Chris has even spotted a few down at the local salón de billar shooting a little pool later in the morning.

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Día de Carnaval (aka, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival), a day to let the good times roll before the sacrifices of the Lenten season, has come and gone.  And, again, blogger buddy Chris and I headed out to the surreal celebration in San Martín Tilcajete.  Driving into the village, one soon hears, rather than sees, that this isn’t a normal day in this wood carving village 17 miles south of the city — the streets are alive with the sound of cow bells.  Roaming the dirt back roads and paved main street, los encabezados (guys covered in motor oil or paint) come running past — with cow bells tied around their waist — making mischief and startling the unaware.

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Masks, all the better to hide one’s identity when making fun of the powers that be, are an international carnaval tradition.  Thus, in this village, known for its fantastically painted wood carvings, wooden masks play a big role in the celebration — including several by our friend Jesus Sosa Calvo and his family at Matlacihua Arte.

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This is a town where creativity reigns supreme and the costumes seem to get more whimsical and weirder every year.

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Oh, and did I mention there is a wedding?  Well, actually a parody of a traditional village wedding.  There is much pomp and circumstance, hilarity, and music — not to mention, breakfast and lunch for wedding guests — as participants move from the house of the mayor, to the home of the bride, and to City Hall for the civil ceremony.  Dancing in the plaza follows and then, at some predetermined time, there is a procession through the streets before arriving at another house where the happy “couple” kneel before “priest” for the religious ceremony.

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And, 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 that includes the bride.

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The Spanish brought the Carnaval tradition to Mexico because, like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.”  Evidently it caught on, “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken…”  And, San Martín Tilcajete certainly knows how!!!

By the way, many from the creative team of the movie Coco came to enjoy the festivities and renew acquaintances in this town that provided the inspiration for the alebrijes in the film.  “De Oaxaca tomamos los alebrijes, la celebración del Día de los Muertos, toda esa energía y colores están en los paisajes de la película. Quise ser lo más fiel en esta investi­gación y plasmarlo en la cin­ta…”  (“From Oaxaca we take the alebrijes, the celebration of the Day of the Dead, all the energy and colors are in the landscapes of the film…”) (NVI Noticias, 2/14/2018)

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Wedding wheels in Oaxaca…  Some are big

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And some are small.

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Though Santa Claus is making inroads into Mexico, it is today’s early morning visit by Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings, Wise Men) that children anxiously await, as it is Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar who bring gifts on January 6 — Día de los Reyes Magos (aka, Epiphany).

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Yesterday, the municipal DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) agency and radio station “La Zeta Noticias,” sponsored a kilometer of toys — an annual toy drive for Oaxaca’s disadvantaged children.  More than 3000 toys were collected to be distributed in a number of city and surrounding area neighborhoods. (Alas, only a fraction of the one million plus, 0 – 17 year olds, living in poverty in the state of Oaxaca.)

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Today, the Alameda and zócalo were filled with activities and freebies for kids.  At the booth below, each child received a toy and a carton of milk.

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San Antonio Arrazola and San Martín Tilcajete, the wood carving villages known for their fantastical alebrije, distributed paints, brushes, and paper for the artistically inclined.

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There were chess boards set up to play this most serious of games.

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And, the nacimiento (nativity scene) in the zócalo provided a popular “posing with the Tres Reyes” point.

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In addition to kings bringing kids gifts, January 6 also calls for a special cake — Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings bread).  Bakeries have been working overtime and temporary stalls were set up on a block of Calle Flores Magón — closing it to auto and truck traffic (though motorcycles were a different story).

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Of course, I bought one — though not the large family-size above!  The tradition is to eat and dunk in hot chocolate, but I opted to dunk in my usual half coffee/half chocolate morning beverage.

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By the way, there is a plastic Niño Dios figurine hidden in each Rosca de Reyes, remembering Mary and Joseph concealing baby Jesus from King Herod.  If you are the “lucky” person to bite into it, you must host a tamales and atole party on Candelaria (Candlemas), February 2nd.

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Three Kings Day is drawing to a close and the kings are returning to from whence they came.  I think Melchor is driving — hopefully he has GPS.

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