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Over the past several years, one can’t help but notice that Oaxaca has become much more pet friendly.

In place of the formerly ubiquitous roof dogs menacingly peering down and barking at pedestrians, images of silent dogs and cats look out from walls along the sidewalks.

Veterinary offices have sprung up all over the city, dog walkers have become a “thing,” many businesses are placing water bowls outside their entrances, and restaurants are welcoming pets — cat photos that follow are from the mural outside La Selva de los Gatos Cat Cafe vegetarian restaurant.

Thanks to the efforts of various sterilization clinics in the valley, one doesn’t encounter nearly as many street dogs and feral cats.

If you are so inclined, Huellas de Ayuda Oaxaca and Teo Tails are a couple of clinics that could use financial and volunteer assistance.

Just look at these faces. What’s not to love?

Of course there is the occasional big cat.

And, not to be overlooked, armadillos are known to appear.

No matter the species of animal, on August 31, in celebration of the feast day of San Ramón Nonato, they can accompany their humans to be blessed at Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Merced at 4:00 PM. If years past are any indication, it should be a colorful and lively event.

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After a two-year absence, she’s back! The Good Samaritan returned to the sidewalks, streets, and church atriums of Oaxaca. The fourth Friday of Lent is Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration. It was with great joy, I ventured onto the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco clutching my cup, from which to drink the aguas being offered.

My neighborhood!
Jacob’s Well in front of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco
Reenactment of the Good Samaritan offering water to Jesus

The Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament of the Bible where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water. His request was highly unusual because, according to the Old Testament, “Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile.”  The woman complied with his request and the rest is history.

Not just women are Good Samaritans
Agua stations in the middle of Calle Hidalgo
Horchata on offer at a language school

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century. It is a popular and much-loved tradition that has expanded beyond Oaxaca’s church Samaritans to businesses, government offices, schools, and even private homes.

Marimba players providing the musical accompaniment
Violet and white (colors of Lent) papel picado fluttering above Calle Hidalgo
Tejate being poured

This year the first block of Calle Hidalgo was closed to traffic so agua stations could be set up in the middle of the street and naturally, as with most celebrations, there was music — this time a marimba provided the soundtrack.

Lines going to stations on the right and left at the corner of Calles Hidalgo and Aldama
Outside Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, most, though not all, listened to the priest (upper right corner)
A refreshing cup of tejate on a hot day

As in pre-Covid years, people of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths to sample agua de jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and other creative and refreshing concoctions.

The guys, gals, and aguas
The friendly Samaritan at Coffee Deep serving horchata
The end!

After an hour of wandering the streets of my neighborhood and sampling several aguas and even a cookie or two, I happily returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions and people of Oaxaca.

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The 361 year old decidious Coquito de la Iglesia de Jalatlaco trees in the atrium of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco are beginning to bloom.

El Coquito (aka, Pseudobombax ellipticum, Amapola, Xiloxochitl, Sospó, Clavellina, Shaving brush tree, Cabellos de Ángel, Angel hair) is one of my favorite trees in Oaxaca.

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I’m bidding a fond, but with a hint of “good-riddance to bad rubbish,” farewell to 2021. In truth, I’m trying not to view the recent piles of basura (garbage) in the streets and bloqueos (blockades) by the garbage collectors as a metaphor for this past year of pandemic, fires, floods, and general pandemonium in the world.

Long walks around the city sufficed to fill my need to “travel” until the spring when my world expanded — with untold gratitude to scientists for their work in developing vaccines to help protect us from worst case Covid-19 scenarios. After fourteen months, armed with the vaccine, cubrebocas (face masks), caution, and excitement, I began venturing out of the city (even up to el norte twice), spending time with family and friends, and actually attending activities and events in person, not just via Zoom. It was almost, but not quite, like normal — and it was good!

January 17, 2021 – Templo y Convento de San Francisco de Asís Oaxaca
February 7, 2021 – Tapete woven by Mario González Pérez; Sangre y Herencia exhibition at Hotel Casa Antigua.
March 8, 2021 – Busy street corner in the city.
April 2, 2021 – La Morada de Colibrí, one of my favorite stalls at Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.
May 26, 2021 – Rooftop art in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
June 25, 2021 – Bike rally passing the ADO bus station — saying “No to violence against women” by students from Colegio Superior para la Educación Integral Intercultural de Oaxaca.
July 13, 2021 – Outside wall of La Mano Magica Gallery/Galería promoting the Shinzaburo Takeda exhibition.
August 1, 2021 – Guerreros baseball game dining at Estadio de Béisbol Lic. Eduardo Vasconcelos.
September 4, 2021 – Tree down on Czda. de la República after strong winds and very wet rainy season.
October 19, 2021 – “No Llores Por Mi” sculpture by a Santa María Atzompa artist — Día de Muertos exhibition at ARIPO.
November 1, 2021 – Neighbor weeding and cleaning the street in preparation for the evening’s Muerteada.
December 12, 2021 – In honor of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the last dance by Danza de la Pluma de Teotitlán del Valle, Promesa 2019 – 2021.

Feliz año nuevo y muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers for “hanging in” and for your encouraging comments during these challenging times — it means the world to me! May 2022 be kinder to all and bring you peace, joy, and health.

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Oaxaca-loving mezcal afficionado friends are in town and invited me to spend a day with them exploring pueblos and palenques. They hired a double vaccinated/mask wearing driver for the day, so I jumped at the opportunity escape from the city and hang out with them. First on the itinerary was the Mercado de Artesanías in Santa María Atzompa to peruse and purchase some of their green glazed pottery.

Next up was supposed to be Villa de Zaachila, but since they had never been to the Ex-Convento de Santiago in Cuilapan de Guerrero and even though it is currently closed due to Covid-19 precautions, we pulled into the mostly empty parking lot and gazed through the wrought iron fence at the unfinished basilica and monastery that was begun in 1535 and, due to skyrocketing costs, construction stopped in 1570.

We proceeded to walk almost all the way around the outer walls of this massive structure — enjoying views of the sides and back and the flora that surrounds it — something I previously had never done.

While we were definitely not in Oklahoma, the Rogers and Hammerstein song, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” came to mind.

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,
An’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky.

Alas, we got trapped on the far side of the ex-convento with no exit and had to retrace our steps back to the car where we turned onto the road and headed southeast to Villa de Zaachila. Stay tuned!

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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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January sunsets in Oaxaca are spectacular. Looking west, behind Templo de San José, Basílica de la Soledad, and the mountain Monte Albán sits atop, they often have me dropping whatever I’m doing, dashing out the door and onto the terrace to gaze — before the magic disappears into darkness.

January 1, 2021 – 6:11 PM (CST)
January 12, 2021 – 6:05 PM (CST)
January 23, 2021 – 6:28 PM (CST)
January 24, 2021 – 6:22 PM CST

Occasionally, the camera is nearby.

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Hindsight is the ability to understand, after something has happened, why or how it was done and how it might have been done better.

2020 was a year that most of us would like to forget but that will probably remain vividly etched in our memory banks for the rest of our lives. It was a year our worlds became smaller and forced us to see what was before us. It was a year that we will continue to examine and try to understand. It was a year that has important lessons to teach about who we are individually and collectively.

January 2020 – Visiting very dear friends and getting my Pacific Ocean fix at Avila Beach, California.
February 2020 – New resident in Casita Colibrí’s garden, an Argiope spider.
March 2020 – One of the last calendas of the year, graduation of public accountants.
April 2020 – Morning visitors at Casita Colibrí.
May 2020 – Sunday morning walk past the Xochimilco Aqueduct Arches.
June 2020 – Morning view from Casita Colibrí of Templo de San Felipe Neri.
July 2020 – Balcony garden of greens at Casita Colibrí.
August 2020 – Rainy season morning view of Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad from Casita Colibrí.
September 2020 – Monday morning walk on calle Garcia Vigil, “Together in (healthy) distance.”
October 2020 – Susana Trilling discusses the foods of Day of the Dead at Casa Colonial.
November 2020 – Sunset view from Casita Colibrí of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.
December 2020 – Sunday morning encounter with the new sculpture on the Alcalá, “Agaves Contemporáneos Oaxaqueños” presented by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

With a renewed appreciation for the small things that bring joy and give life meaning, on this New Year’s Eve, I wish you all health, peace, and joy in 2021.

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Save for yesterday’s 5:00 AM jarring explosion of cohetes (rockets — all bang, no bling) and clanging church bells coming from the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad heralding the start of the celebrations for the Virgen de Juquila, the last thirty-two hours have been mostly muted, with only the occasional chiming bells and bursting cohetes — very quiet by Oaxaca standards.

Virgen de Juquila mural in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca — seen in 2013.
Procession honoring the Virgen de Juquila in front of the Cathedral in Oaxaca city — seen December 8, 2018.
Parish of Santo Tomás Xochimilco chapel to the Virgen de Juquila in Oaxaca city closed, by order dated March 17, 2020, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 — seen May 24, 2020.

Due to Covid-19 concerns, in consultation with Oaxaca’s health department, the archbishop of Oaxaca cancelled holy processions through the streets and called upon the faithful to forego pilgrimmages. This is especially sad for Santa Catarina Juquila, where Juquila’s shrine is located, as just last week it was announced the town had been designated a Mexican Pueblo Mágico. The archbishop also ordered churches closed, with masses to be celebrated and broadcast from behind locked doors during December’s festivities honoring the Virgen de Juquila (December 8), the Virgen de Guadalupe (December 12), and the Virgen de La Soledad (December 18).

Now if only other people and places would take this pandemic as seriously.

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When the outings are few and far between and limited to walking distance, I’m appreciating the views from and around Casita Colibrí even more.

June 3, 2020 – Templo de San Felipe Neri in early morning

June 3, 2020 – Jasmine in the afternoon

June 4, 2020 –  Wind chimes in the late afternoon

June 5, 2020 – Crocosmia around noon

June 5, 2020 – Looking southeast over the city in early evening

Be safe and well and look for the beauty.

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This morning’s headline in NVI Noticias: Oaxaca revive pesadilla de los sismos en lo más álgido de la epidemia por COVID-19 (Oaxaca relives the nightmare of earthquakes in the height of the epidemic by COVID-19). I wasn’t in Oaxaca for the 8.1 earthquake September 7, 2017, so I don’t know what it felt like. However, I still have vivid memories of experiencing the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. As scary as that one was, yesterday’s 7.5 temblor was definitely more violent and lasted longer.

The good news is I, my neighbors, and all my friends in Oaxaca are okay and the city sustained mostly minor damage. However, there is much devastation to roads, homes, and other structures closer to the epicenter near Huatulco. And, saddest of all, the death toll is now up to seven. For a more complete report, with dozens of photos, click on the article, Suman siete muertos por el terremoto.

Two months ago work stopped on the roof and bell tower of Templo de San José — due to virus restrictions on construction sites. This morning, workers returned to check out earthquake damage.

This, and the state of Oaxaca’s coronavirus statistics, like most of Mexico, continue to rise precipitously. And, unfortunately, many of the hospitals near the quake’s epicenter sustained damage. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Side by side statistics: June 19 and June 23. Grey=cases notified; green=negatives; orange=suspected; red=confirmed; turquoise=recovered; black=deaths

Oh, and did I mention, we have had massive rain storms the last two nights? We are all wondering what is next, locusts?

Yikes, look what I found on my screen door this morning! At least in Oaxaca, we know what to do with chapulines (grasshoppers) — toast them on a comal with lime and salt. They are a great source of protein. Yummm…

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It’s Domingo de Ramos and in pre-COVID-19 times, from my terrace I would hear an outdoor morning mass being said in the atrium of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. And then, for the past eight years, blogger buddy Chris and I would drive to San Antonino Castillo Velasco for one of the most magical days of the year. However, all was silent this Palm Sunday. So, donning my mask, I went for early Sunday morning walk with my neighbor K. Lonely and poignant scenes met us everywhere our wanderings took us.

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Lonely palm fronds in window of Hospital Ángel Vasconcelos on Av. José María Morelos

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Doors of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción were shuttered.

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The doors of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán were open, but nary a soul was in sight.

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A mass was being said at Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, but the doors were shut tight.

However, no sight we saw this morning was as moving as this one posted to the San Antonino Castillo Velasco Facebook page.

San Salvadore_SACV Fb

San Salvador bereft of his usual bounty stands alone in the atrium of the church in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

To see San Salvador in his usual Domingo de Ramos splendor and the village procession that takes him, laden with donated fruits, vegetables, herbs, and bread, from the panteón to the church, click HERE.

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We couldn’t put it off any longer, non-perishables were needed! Thus, instead of another long leisurely Sunday stroll like last week, my neighbor and I walked (keeping two meters apart) down to Soriana, our local supermarket. We went early in the morning and the streets were mostly empty — making it a piece of cake crossing a particularly dicey intersection. Ready to do battle with the virus, we came armed with alcohol wipes and shopping, paying, and bagging strategies. However, Soriana also was on emergency preparedness alert. Once inside the door, hand-sanitizer was pumped into our hands and the handles of our carts were wiped down with disinfectant.

As we had hoped, there were very few other customers and most seemed very conscious of maintaining social distancing protocol, — the workers stocking the shelves, not so much. There were signs posted limiting the quantities one could purchase of certain items and there were taped lines on the floor in front of the check stands indicating how far apart to stand. Though, one guy didn’t get the message and cut in front of me. I snapped, “sana distancia” at him, he glanced back at the crazy gringa and went to a different line.

My route to Soriana, usually consists of cutting a diagonal across the Plaza de la Danza, walking down the ramp to Jardín Sócrates, and crossing the atrium of the Basilica de la Soledad before tackling the steep stairs down to Av. de la Independencia. Alas, this trip, it wasn’t to be — the atrium doors facing the Jardín were locked up tight, as were the ones at the top of the stairs on Independencia.

Signs were tacked to the massive doors indicating all masses had been suspended until further notice. It was all quiet on the church front and the realization hit me that I hadn’t heard a single church bell in days, if not a week — which sounds about right because, on March 21, the Archdiocese of Oaxaca announced the suspension of all Eucharistic celebrations, including Easter. In addition, the Archbishop has called on Catholics to stay home during Holy Week, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 between people and communities.

Health officials have been running public service announcements on the TV telling people to stay home and advising them, if they must go out, on methods to avoiding catching and spreading the virus. And, yesterday the Mexican government declared a state of health emergency and ordered a suspension of all non-essential businesses and activities until April 30th. For businesses, the restrictions are mandatory, however for people it is an “emphatic invitation.” President Andrés Manuel López Orbrador’s gradual approach to the pandemic has been highly criticized in some quarters, though the strategy has been praised by representatives of the World Health Organization. However, most agree that stricter measures will have to be implemented once the pandemic really hits.

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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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