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Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Late yesterday afternoon a neighbor and I taxied across town to the sweet little Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco for an organ concert presented by the Instituto de Órganos Históricos de Oaxaca in honor of La Asunción de la Virgen María (Feast of the Assumption).  Once there, we ran into a couple of friends.  The combined length of time the four of us had lived in Oaxaca totaled over 80 years (with me being the most recent, at nine years).  I point this out because none of us knew why apples accompanied the image of Mary.  Hmmm…  Could it possibly have something to do with Eve in the Garden of Eden, we wondered?

Of course, the librarian in me couldn’t resist doing a little research.  So, first stop on this morning’s grocery shopping trip to Mercado Benito Juárez, was a stop at Oaxaca’s Cathedral to see if the Virgin there also had apples to send her on her way.  After all, the full name is Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption).  Sure enough, Mary stood among bushels of apples.

The origin of the connection between Mary’s Assumption and apples is rather ambiguous.  In sifting through the various explanations that Google found for me, la Virgen is considered the “New Eve” or “new Mother of men.”  Wow, our speculation wasn’t too far from the mark.  It is also said that when Mary drifted off to her final sleep, the cenacle (room the Last Supper was held) began to give off the scent of flowers and apples and, thus the tradition reminds believers of the moment of La Asunción.

Then there is the pragmatic explanation — this is the time of the summer harvest and “In many Catholic countries Assumption Day marks the period for invoking blessings on vineyards, herbs and plants… [and] In the East, where the Assumption Feast originated, the day is commemorated with elaborate ceremonies for blessing fruit trees and grain.”  European colonists brought apples to the New World and they are abundant this time of year — thus Mary asleep among apples.

No matter the story behind this tradition, the aroma of apples was divine!

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During la Guelaguetza, the Desfiles de Delegaciones brought masked men (appearances to the contrary, all are men) to the streets of Oaxaca.  From San Andrés Zautla delegation, the masked men of the Danza de los Jardineros…

along with the village viejos (old men).

The guys and “gal” from the Danza de los Diablos of Santiago Llano Grande.

From the delegation of the Diosa Centéotl, Santa María Zacatepec.

The masked Danza de los Diablos dancers of San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca.

Danza de la Pluma subalternos from Teotitlán del Valle and Villa de Zaachila.

Carnaval dancers from Putla Villa de Guerrero.

Never a dull moment in Oaxaca!  Click on photos for enlarged images.

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In the hour leading up to the Guelaguetza Desfile de delagaciones, last minute prep work…

marmota assembly

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Mask

Makeup application

Props at the ready…

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Monos

Mezcal containers

boy and turkey

Human parade participants sit and wait…

Cart and gals

Danza de la Pluma danzante

Musicians

Women and masked man

And, spectators hang out on the sidewalks…

Women on cell phones

What did we all do before cell phones?

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The day before the aforementioned Diosa Centéotl announcement, the major activity on my dance card was the Festival de los Moles “all you can eat” buffet in the beautiful setting of the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden).  To the accompanying sounds of Oaxaca’s state marimba band, blue, yellow, white, and red corn tortillas were placed on a comal; beer, aguas, and mezcal were offered and poured by an attentive wait staff; and appetizers plated with quesillo, molotes, tacos filled with guacamole and chapulines, and more were placed before each of the hundreds of attendees.

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After what seemed like an eternity, the signal that all had been waiting for — the tin foil lids were removed from the cazuelas to reveal 19 different kinds of mole from 19 different restaurants.  The stampede began!  There is no way possible to taste them all, but I had scoped out a few in advance — Estofado from El Regio, Mole de Platano from El Tendajon, Mole de Castilla from my friends at Tierra Antigua, and Celia Florian’s Manchamanteles from Las Quince Letras.  Blogger buddy Chris was sitting next to me and so we also tasted off each other’s plates, made more trips to the cazuelas, and I lost track of all that I had eaten.  But of course I found room for the traditional leche quemada and tuna (cactus fruit) nieve (sorbet) for dessert.  By the way, an added bonus to the event is sharing the experience with the friends old, new, and temporary at the tables-for-twelve.

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I bade Chris farewell and attempted to hurry home to change my clothes (yes, I’d spilled on my dress) before heading off to an exhibition opening.  But, silly me, after nine years of living here, I should know better — there is no rushing in Oaxaca! Turning onto Macedonio Alcalá, I heard music and ahead of me could see the tops of monos and marmotas.

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I was stopped dead in my tracks by one of the most colorful religious processions you will ever see.  Honoring their patron saint, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Tehuanas and their guys and band, danced their way down the street.  Slowly navigating the jam-packed sidewalk, while being pelted with candy being thrown to bystanders, I eventually was able to duck up a side street and make my way home.  But, what fun along the way!

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Clothes changed, I managed to arrive (almost on time) at the inauguration of “Flores y Cantos” at the Museo Rufino Tamayo — an exhibition that asks us to consider “Nezahualcoytl’s age-old challenge to create something beautiful and meaningful with our lives.”  This multimedia exhibition, conceived of by Carolyn Kallenborn, envelopes the senses — ethereal sights; soothing music and comforting sounds of birdsong, rain, waves, and wind; and a celebration of the beauty and creativity of humans, then and now.  Carolyn asks us to contemplate the legacy our ancestors passed on to us and how we want to be remembered when we are gone.

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As one of two primary pieces in the exhibit, accomplished embroiderer Miriam Campos, from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, was commissioned by Carolyn to embroider a tree onto silk organza (above).  With moving images of nature passing through its sheen and translucency, it was of this earth, yet not of this earth.  For the other, Carolyn again collaborated with master weaver, Erasto (Tito) Mendoza on the truly spectacular tapete of corn that reaches from its roots of gold up into a swirling sky.  The video images running across it, gave it a sense of movement.  I returned again five days later.

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On Wednesday, prior to my second visit with “Flores y Cantos,” at the enthusiastic urging of Henry Wangeman (Amate Books), I made a bee-line to the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO) for the recently opened, “Endemismo” exhibition — a significant and stunning show that explores the biodiversity endemic to this area.  Located along the border of Oaxaca and Puebla, on July 2 the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve was recognized as a Cultural and Natural (Mixed) Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO.

Filling both floors of the museum, and the brainchild of Nancy Mayagoitia, the show incorporates the work of twenty painters and photographers — each providing a new perspective on this old land in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve.  I love the painting above by Cecilio Sánchez and entitled Paisaje de Cuicatlán (Cuicatlán landscape).  It seems as if the eyes of this ancient land are watching to see what we do with this unique and precious place.  (Click to enlarge the image and see the eyes.)  And below, I couldn’t resist posting an image of Raúl Herrera’s, “El baño del colibrí Huitzilopochtli atl” from the exhibition — as every morning I watch the hummingbirds bathe in my fountain.  Another exhibition to return to.

Given that I began this post with food, it only seems appropriate to end it with The Semana de los Antojos — a week of morsels of deliciousness to satisfy one’s (food) cravings — which opened July 24 under a colorfully decorated tent in the Plaza de la Danza.  The aromas wafting onto my terrace beckoned and I followed.

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50 booths offering regional “comfort” food — garnachas from the Istmo (my current craving), tacos, tamales, tortas, tlayudas, empanadas, barbacoa, carnes asadas, you name it!  And to wash it all down, tejate, tepache, pulque, chocolate, and aguas frescas.  Oh, and did I mention desserts?  Nieves, cookies and other sweets, and (hot off the presses) buñuelos.

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No rest for the weary — but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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As I write, Diosa Centéotl 2018 is presiding over this year’s first Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).  This is corn planting season and the figure of the goddess Centéotl represents the deity to whom rituals were offered to guarantee a good harvest.  She was elected from among 27 young indigenous women, representing the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.

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The first stage of the competition was held Friday morning at the Jardín del Pañuelito, with contestants speaking about their regions and communities.  During stage two, later in the afternoon, the participants talked about their distinctive clothing.  (For a few photos, check out Of Goddesses and Food.)  The judges, including Las Quince Letras cocinera and ambassador of traditional Oaxaca cooking, Celia Florian (2nd from right), then deliberated.

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Saturday morning the venue moved to the elegant early 20th century Macedonio Alcalá theater where at least 500 people listened as the “Court” of the Diosa Centéotl was announced:  Hillary Naxhiely López (San Blas Atempa), Adriana Ramón Guzmán (de Asunción Ixtaltepec), Yoali Josabet López Quiroz (Santo Domingo Tehuantepec), Socorro Hernández Santiago (Putla Villa de Guerrero), and María del Carmen Vásquez Díaz (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

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A beautiful scepter, carved and painted by Jacobo and María Ángeles from San Martín Tilcajete, waited in the wings to be presented to the new Diosa Centéotl.

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And, the winner was… Francisca Pérez Bautista from Santa María Zacatepec.  A member of the Tacuate ethnic group in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, she was wearing the traditional cream-colored huipil with red ribbons and embroidery.  On her head, she wore the customary bowl-shaped jícara head covering made from the fruit of the calabaza tree.

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There was a twenty-minute break in the action — the governor, Alejandro Murat, was delayed in traffic.  In the interim there was much affection and camaraderie displayed among the contestants.  Eventually, he arrived and presented the scepter to Francisca.

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There was no rest for the new Diosa Centéotl.  Her official duties began immediately — a luncheon with the Guelaguetza delegations, followed by leading the desfile of delegations through the city’s streets.

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Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys (and two little gals) came, saw, and conquered Oaxaca city yesterday.

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Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) and Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

After a rehearsal at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, followed by a lively (if various Facebook videos are to be believed) luncheon with the other delegations, they arrived, raring to go, at the Guelaguetza desfile (parade) gathering point in front of Jardín Conzatti.

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Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán de puerta 1º)

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Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez (Vasallo 3º)

Along with the other Guelaguetza delegations, they posed for photos requested by the crush of media, tourists, and locals.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma) on right

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno 2º) and Juan Bautista Zárate (Subalterno 1º)

And this year, unlike their last appearance two years ago, it didn’t rain on their parade.  Following their banner and band, they danced their way through the streets of the city under a brilliant late afternoon sun.

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Tapete by the late Pedro Gutiérrez, father of danzante, Denes Luis Gutiérrez Martínez

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8º) in foreground

For more of the danzantes from Teotitlán del Valle at the desfile, check out the blog post from Chris.  Next up, tomorrow morning’s performance up on Cerro Fortín!  For those of you, like me, without tickets, check THIS SITE and/or CORTV for live (en vivo) links to each Guelaguetza performance.

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Below is the Guelaguetza 2018 calendar of the main events.  For details of these and other “Julio, mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) activities in and around the valley of Oaxaca, click HERE.

calendario guelaguetza 2018

The list of delegations by date, time, and the dance they will be performing follows.  By the way, a note about the dancers:  Seeing it as an honor, they come to perform at their own expense.  However, one way to give back, at least to the artisans of their communities, is to do your shopping at the Expo Feria Artesanal (listed above).

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And, bookmark THIS SITE and/or CORTV for live (en vivo) links to each performance.

(ps)  For those in town:  People keep asking me what the route will be for the two Saturday Desfiles de Delegaciones — which over the past several years keeps changing.  Unfortunately, I don’t know and the only answer I get is the tourist kiosk reps pointing to the Calendario de Eventos Principales  (top of page).  If I find out anything more substantive, I will try to post before Saturday.

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The Danza de la Pluma weapons of war consist of a small paddle (pala/macana) held in the left hand and a sonaja (rattle) held in the right (see images of danzantes in July 9 post).

The sonajas are decorated gourds attached to a deer leg or antler.  During the dance, they mark the compass points and their sound is used to scare the opponents.

Each wooden pala is uniquely carved and decorated and serves as a baton and a shield in this dance that recreates the battles between the Spanish conquistadors and Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings.

Even Malinche (Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) carries a sonaja and a pala during parts of the dance.  And, check out the reversible pala of Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez — red weaving surrounded by alebrije-like painting on one side and blue weaving and painting on the other.  You can click on images to enlarge them.  The creativity never ceases to amaze!

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Yippee!!!  After an “exhaustive” (see news report) selection process that took the Comité de Autenticidad (Committee of Authenticity) to 89 communities throughout the state of Oaxaca, they announced the delegations that will be participating in this year’s Guelaguetza.  And, drum roll please, one of the 56 delegations chosen will be Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018!

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I’m so happy for the entire group, many whom I’ve come to know, but especially for Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (above in red shirt), one of the two dancers blogger buddy Chris and I are sponsoring.  He missed out when the group performed at the Guelaguetza two years ago, as he was recovering from surgery and this is his last opportunity — their three-year “act of devotion” to dance for their community ends this year.

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The group will be performing at La Guelaguetza on the morning of July 23.  If you can’t be up on Cerro del Fortín, it is usually broadcast live on local TV and streamed on the internet.  I’ll keep you posted!

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The above photos of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 are from the previously mentioned and recently concluded festival honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo — the most important annual festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Late yesterday afternoon in Teotitlán del Valle — along with village officials, church committee members, 200 unmarried young women, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 dancers, players of the traditional teponaxtle (drum) and the chirimía (small oboe), pyrotechnicians, and two bands — children gathered.

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Boys came holding carrizo poles topped with mini marmotas (fabric globes), sheep, turkeys, giraffes, airplanes, and other images whose significance escapes me — though this year Quetzalcoatl made an appearance.

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Little girls came wearing miniature versions of the traditional red wool enredo (wrap skirt) and embroidered or crochet blouses.

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They assembled in the atrium of the church for the start of the *convite (special kind of procession) honoring the Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, the patron saint of the village and whose image, attributed to Oaxacan painter Miguel Cabrera, resides in Teotitlán’s church.

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The procession wound its way from the atrium, through the principal streets (mostly cobblestone) of the village, and back to the atrium — approximately two miles (3.2 km)!

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Giving a group of boys long poles has the potential for high jinx, but most was limited to clever ways to evade overhanging tree limbs.

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The littlest girls were beginning their years long conditioning in order to develop the arm strength needed to hold a canasta (basket) above their head for over an hour — SO much harder than it looks!

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And, there were boys in the band — some already affecting a cool “Blues Brothers” look.

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This was just the beginning of the festival — there will be the danzantes performing the Danza de la Pluma, fireworks (including toritos and castillos), and another convite.  So, stay tuned for more to come.

*Convite:  According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  Larousse Standard Diccionario translates convite to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”

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Last night, AMLO’s victory brought the sights and sounds of celebration to Oaxaca.

Fireworks exploding in night sky

This morning, Mexico’s World Cup loss to Brazil brought the sights and sounds of silence to the city.

Young man in Mexico soccer jersey sitting

The highs and lows of life in Oaxaca over the course of twelve hours.

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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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