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Archive for the ‘Churches’ Category

For years, I’ve gazed at the bell towers of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle and wanted to go up there.  I mused that the views must be spectacular.

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I struck it rich a couple of weeks ago when visiting gal pals and I were wandering around the church and were asked if (for a small donation) we wanted to go up to the top.  We didn’t have to be asked twice.

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It was well worth the climb up the narrow, winding, and steep stone staircase.

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There I was, up close and personal with features I’d never before noticed.

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Overcoming a moderate case of acrophobia, I even ventured out between the towers and the dome.

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Despite a dry season haze that hung over the valley, the views in every direction were spectacular.

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A bird’s-eye view!

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It was great fun trying to pick out the homes of friends.

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The icing on the cake:  The bell-ringer emerged, grabbed a couple of ropes, and the bells began to chime.

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It was really loud (bordering on deafening) and lasted a long time!!!  But, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

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It was a year I’m sure many would like to forget; it was disastrous for the planet AND her inhabitants.  For me, on this last day of the year, I choose to reflect on the beauty, joy, love, and new adventures that I was fortunate to experience.

I welcomed 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area at my childhood home, now my younger son’s domicile.  Thus on New Year’s Day, I made æbleskiver (Danish pancakes) using my great grandmother’s recipe and her, well over 100 year old, cast iron pan.

Æbleskiver on New Year's Day 2016; a family tradition

Æbleskiver on New Year’s Day 2016; a family tradition.

Back in Oaxaca, February brought a community Día de Amor y Amistad fiesta in my apartment complex.  Have I mentioned?  I have wonderful neighbors!

Valentine's Day party

Valentine’s Day party decorations in the patio.

March was unseasonably hot, but the blue skies and flamboyant trees beginning to bloom made it bearable.

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave.

April took me to Cuba, a lifelong dream finally realized.  It was more fascinating, confounding, and fabulous than I had ever expected.

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View from the Hotel Habana Riviera.

By May, the flamboyant trees had leafed out and were in full bloom — and we needed it, as the hot-hot-hot temperatures continued.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

A calavera on the streets of Oaxaca in June?  Absolutely!  She knows no season.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

And, then there was July!  So much to see and do, this month warrants three images.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival.  So beautiful!

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival. So beautiful!

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float, waiting.

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float waiting for the Intrepidas to board.

The rainy season was in full force in August and I loved standing on my terrace watching the storms approach, though sometimes they didn’t make it all the way to Casita Colibrí.  Microclimates!

Storm approaching the city from the south.

Storm approaching the city from the south.

September brought the second major feast day in Teotitlán del Valle:  Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María.

Bringing the canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

Bringing canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

I was in California from late September to early October, and when I returned there was a new exhibition in the courtyard of the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de México Rufino Tamayo.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by Alejandro Santiago.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by the late Alejandro Santiago.

For the past couple of years, one of my destinations on November 1 has been the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros; its beauty and tranquility always take my breath away.

Under the shade of the daughters of the tule tree, the chapel in the panteón.

Light and shadows cast by the daughters of the Tule tree, play off the colors of the chapel in the panteón.

Later in November, I spent a delightful Thanksgiving with family and friends on the east coast of the USA, but returned to spend Christmas in Oaxaca for the first time in three years.  It was just as joyous and colorful as I remembered!

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

These three are the future; let’s vow to do all we can to give them a better world than the 2016 one that is departing.

Many thanks to you all; I am constantly amazed and gratified that you choose to stop by.  Wishing all the best for you, your loved ones, and your communities in 2017.  ¡Feliz año nuevo a tod@s!

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is the patron saint, queen, and mother of Oaxaqueños — and she is my vecina (neighbor).  Thus, I shall not want for revelry!

Inside the Basílica, Soledad -- Dec. 17, 2016

“Inside” Soledad, in the Basílica — Dec. 17, 2016

Despite her name, there is no solitude for Soledad or her neighbors on her December 18 feast day  — or the days and nights leading up to it.  Like her sister December virgin images, Juquila and Guadalupe, she seems to thrive on the cacophony that is fiesta life here — after all they are Mexican Marías.

So, bandas playing traditional music (loudly), fireworks and rockets booming and banging, church bells urgently chiming, and lively recorridos (travels) through the streets of the city, beginning early in the morning and continuing well beyond midnight, are welcomed.

The celebrations began at 5:00 AM on December 7, with a ringing of church bells and a “dawn journey” and culminated with a grand fiesta yesterday, December 18, her feast day.  She seemed to enjoy the festivities, including these guys from the Istmo performing for her, *La Danza de los Negros.

Soledad’s fiesta will end tomorrow (Dec. 20) with a concert of Christmas carols at 7:00 PM.  It’s been great fun, but I’m already looking forward to Noche de Rabanos on December 23!

Outside Soledad in the Basílica courtyard - Dec. 18, 2016

“Outside” Soledad in the Basílica courtyard – Dec. 18, 2016

*La Danza de los Negros is another of those complex and multilayered dances traditional to specific indigenous cultures in Oaxaca.  For more information, check out the article (en español), Los Negros, tradición bixhahui, ícono de Chihuitán.

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Today, Santo Domingo de Guzman served as a backdrop to the red/orange of the Flamboyán trees (aka, Delionux regia, Tabachín, Poinciana, Árbol de fuego) that line her front entrance.

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Their fiery brilliance provided a much-need antidote to the malaise brought about by two months of temperatures in the nineties (Fahrenheit) almost every single day.  I can assure you, this is NOT the norm.  However, today it’s only 86º F — as the Weather Underground forecast announced, “much cooler” than yesterday!

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Late afternoon on Good Friday (Viernes Santo), the people began gathering along the sidewalks of the Andador Turístico (aka, the Alcalá), Allende, and Garcia Vigil, staking out a favored spot to watch the Procession of Silence.  Not to worry, the Girl and Boy Scouts were there to keep everything and everybody in order and to remind one and all to “please, keep silent.”

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And, lest you misbehave, there were a couple of drones hovering above the fray to record the action, both good and bad, and offering an interesting juxtaposition against Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán’s colonial architecture — the old and new of Oaxaca.IMG_1083

Daylight Savings Time hasn’t yet begun in Mexico and the setting sun offered dramatic light as Señor de La Columna emerged from Santo Domingo to take his place in the procession.IMG_1074

However, the light was fading fast as the high-pitched tones of the chirimía and the rhythmic beat of the tambor at last heralded the start of the procession and Señor de la Humildad y Paciencia made his way from Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.IMG_1110

As darkness fell, the street lights proved challenging and my photos of the 50+ religious banners, as they slowly passed my vantage point on Allende, left a lot to be desired, except for this littlest of standard bearers.IMG_1156

This year the faces of Jesús and María seemed to be lit from underneath and that helped a bit.IMG_1172

However, perhaps the darkness was whispering to me to stop making photos and just “be” with the experience.IMG_1189

This was the thirtieth year of Oaxaca’s Procesión del Silencio and so I suspect there will many more to come.

 

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Jesus and Mary up close and in color from their Viernes Santo (Good Friday) morning meeting in front of Oaxaca’s Cathedral.

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I know, some photos just beg for a caption.  Once all the Marys and Jesuses had gathered, prayers had been recited, and rituals performed, they all processed back to their home churches to rest up for the evening’s Procession of Silence.

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… including Soledad.  Since she was going my way, I walked her home.

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And, yes, she made it back to the Basilica safe and sound.

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Though rain began falling, clutching camera, umbrella, and my ten peso bag of pan bendito (blessed bread), I left the cozy dry confines of my apartment to join the faithful in a ritual promenade.  It’s Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus, the washing of feet,  and the apprehension and imprisonment of Jesus.

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San José de Gracia, Oaxaca de Juárez

Tradition in Oaxaca calls for visiting seven churches (la visita de las siete casas) with one’s pan bendito and palm leaves.  The faithful use the latter to touch images of Jesús and María.  This year, I again committed myself to the mission.  My first stop was just around the corner at San José de Gracia and the second was even easier — the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, just across the Plaza de la Danza from the former.

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Watery entrance to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Oaxaca de Juárez

While inside, attempting (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of Nuestra Señora, the heavens opened up in a downpour.  Needless to say, I hung out with Soledad until the torrential rain calmed to only a steady drizzle.

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Neverías at the Jardín Sócrates, Oaxaca de Juárez

However, the rain didn’t stop the faithful and tourists, alike, from stopping to enjoy a nieve (iced dessert) right outside the Basilica, before continuing on.  I kept on moving — down the steps to Calle Independencia, on my way to the Templo de San Felipe Neri.

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Exit sign at Templo de San Felipe Neri, Oaxaca de Juárez

By the way, Jueves Santo is such a big deal, to avoid gridlock from those coming and going, the churches designate one door as the “entrance” and another as the “exit.”  It’s a great idea in theory but in practice, especially on a rainy night, it was almost meaningless.

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Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, Oaxaca de Juárez

Next stop was across the street at the inconspicuous Iglesia San Cosme y Damián, then on to the very prominent Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, where the three front entrances were providing tourists, vendors, and believers shelter from the storm.

After navigating my way through the Cathedral, I exited stage right, dashed across the zócalo and into La Compañía (the Jesuit church).  On my way out the side door, I stopped briefly to buy a bag of homemade gingersnaps and, with umbrella raised, headed to my seventh and final church of the night, El Carmen de Abajo.  Though tempted by the aroma of some yummy looking food several “church ladies” were selling in the side foyer, I didn’t have enough hands to hold a paper plate, my camera, and my umbrella.  So, home I went, basking in the warm feelings I always have after being with my Oaxaqueño neighbors.

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Lunes Santo (Holy Monday), at least here in Oaxaca, brings the Festividad del Señor del Rescate (Festival of the Lord of the Redemption).  I was clueless, until I ran into my neighbor Juan as he was returning from work.  He recommended that I and my camera check out the action in the vicinity of the Basílica de la Soledad.  I grabbed my keys and little Lumix and off I went.

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I heard the rhythmic beat of the tambor and chanted prayers before I saw El Señor and his followers paused in front of the bunker at the entrance to the Comisión de Seguridad Pública, Vialidad y Protección Civil headquarters on Av. Morelos.  An ironic or fitting (?) site for the handcuffed Jesus to stop on the Víacrucis por la Reconciliación y la Paz (Way of the Cross for Reconciliation and Peace).

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On this Lunes Santo, the (almost) full moon watched standard bearers navigate the maze of overhead wires as the procession continued to wind its way through the city’s streets.  As for me, I returned home to eat dinner — there is so much going on, one has to pace oneself.

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Yesterday, I opened my front door to the Basilica de la Soledad glowing in the morning light.  I grabbed my little Lumix and ran out to compose a photo to send as a Feliz Cumpleaños greeting to a friend celebrating his birthday.

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And the song, Morning Has Broken by Yusuf Islam (aka, Cat Stevens), began playing in my mind.  Ahhh…

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Yesterday, 20 de noviembre, was el Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day), but you wouldn’t know it in Oaxaca.  For the second year in a row, the parade was canceled — last year it was due to protest threats by Sección 22 of the teachers union and this year because the governor declared that it was a work and school day, so there should be no desfile to distract students and their maestros.

Besides, in 2005, Article 74 of Mexican labor law established the third Monday of November as the “official” holiday — thus following the USA’s “time-honored tradition” of creating 3-day holiday weekends and setting the stage for 3-day shopping frenzies.  Mexico is following the latter also — we got caught up in the crowds of “Buen Fin” shoppers in Guadalajara last Sunday.  However, Monday, I was en route from the Guadalajara to Oaxaca aboard the new non-stop flight by TAR airlines.  Upon my return in the afternoon, I didn’t see or hear of anything special happening in Oaxaca city and there weren’t even any fireworks from the zócalo or Plaza de la Danza that night.

So, in lieu of a revolution-related blog post, I’m returning to the above mentioned visit to the state of Jalisco for a few super-saturated scenes from my seven hours in Guadalajara.

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View from a courtyard at the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas

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Cathedral of Guadalajara

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View from the old bus terminal in Guadalajara

It’s great to be back under Oaxaca’s spell!  However, though not enchanted with Guadalajara (hence the desire to add pixie dust to the photos), it has some spectacular Orozco murals at the Palacio de Gobierno and the Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

 

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I love going into Oaxaca’s cathedral at this time of year, when the fragrance of thousands of flowers, especially lilies, perfumes the air.

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The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción is being readied for October 23, the day Oaxaca celebrates Señor del Rayo.

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Like Guelaguetza, Noche de Rabanós (Night of the Radishes), and Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day), this is an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.

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This carving of Christ on the Cross was brought to Oaxaca during the 16th century and was placed in the temple of San Juan de Dios, a church which had adobe walls and a straw (or possibly wood) roof.

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Legend has it that lightning struck the church and everything was destroyed, save for this figurine.  A miracle!

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The statue became known as Señor del Rayo (Lord of Lightning), was placed in his own chapel (the furthest capilla from the main entrance on the left) in the newly built cathedral, and has been much venerated ever since.

P1140855October 21, in anticipation of his special day, the cathedral is festooned with lilies and Señor del Rayo is moved out of the glass case in his chapel, to the main altar of the cathedral.

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October 22 will be filled with religious and cultural events and at midnight, when the calendar day changes, the cathedral bells will peal and cohetes (rockets) will announce the arrival of Señor del Rayo’s special day.

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In honor of His day, on October 23, there will more spiritual and cultural festivities, culminating in a castillo and fireworks.

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As the color and scent of the lilies fade, on October 24 Señor del Rayo will be returned to his chapel.

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The end of eleven days of festivities celebrating Señor del Rayo.

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We had spectacular electrical storms Sunday and Monday nights, with thunder rumbling continuously, lightening flashing in all directions, and torrential rain.  And, today, I awoke to a rare early morning downpour — 8 inches of pergola runoff collected in my buckets.  Noticias, the Facebook group Bloqueos y Accidentes en Oaxaca, and Reportes en Oaxaca, Mexico all show major flooding throughout the city from this morning’s surprise.

This morning's view of Templo de San José and Basilica de la Soledad.  Where did Monte Albán go?

This morning’s view of Templo de San José and Basilica de la Soledad. Where did Monte Albán go?

All of this has me asking, is this the beginning of an early rainy season?  Then, there is the report from Conagua (Mexico’s national water commission) that, due to El Niño, there could be a significant increase in the number of Pacific Coast hurricanes this season.  Hmmm… it looks like we may be in for a bumpy and wet ride!

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I wasn’t brought up in the Virgin and crucified Christ tradition.  No baggage, no boredom — perhaps that is why I find the multiplicity of María and Jesús images so fascinating.  Thus, I can’t resist a little “up close and personal” at the Procession of Silence.

Señor de Esquipulas

Señor de Esquipulas – Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen Alto

Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores - Parroquia de Santo Tomas Xochimilco

Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores – Parroquia de Santo Tomas Xochimilco

Señor de Las Tres Caídas - Parroquia de Santo Tomás Xochimilco

Señor de Las Tres Caídas – Parroquia de Santo Tomás Xochimilco

La Piedad

La Piedad

Jesús con la Cruz a Cuestas - Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patracinio

Jesús con la Cruz a Cuestas – Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patracinio

Nuestra Señora de los Dolores -  Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio

Nuestra Señora de los Dolores – Capellanía de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio

Señor de La Columna - Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (front) – Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (back) - Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Señor de La Columna (back) – Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

The rituals and images continue to remain alien to me, but I can’t help but appreciate them as cultural expressions.

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Good Friday morning, the streets of Oaxaca are quiet, and solitude seems to be the order of the day.  The only sounds that could be heard coming from the streets in my ‘hood were prayers being sung as Our Lady of Solitude left her eponymous home at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

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As you can see, alone, Oaxaca’s patron saint was not; acolytes carried and accompanied her on her morning stroll.

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A crystal clear, brilliant blue sky provided a backdrop for her sojourn.

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Slowly she made her way down Independencia en-route to the Cathedral.

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She was one of the first to arrive at this ritual Viernes Santo gathering.

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The guys took over and maneuvered her into position at the side of the Cathedral, as the faithful awaited.

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There, she would soon be joined by other images of the Santísima Virgen and Jesús from many of the numerous churches in the Historic District.

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After at least two hours of prayers and songs and more prayers, Soledad returned to the Basilica, perhaps to rest (like me) before again taking to the streets for this evening’s Procession of Silence.

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Another magical Domingo de Ramos spent in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  Experiencing Palm Sunday in this small Zapotec village never fails to nourish the soul.

A band played outside the panteón as villagers, from niños and niñas to abuelas and abuelos, arrived bringing their biggest and most beautiful fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, carved wooden toys and embroidered clothing, not to mention, goats, chickens, rabbits, and even a pig or two.  Three silver-haired abuelas inspected each donation; their faces expressing gratitude and appreciation for each offering, as they affixed a price tag.  Following the procession to the templo and a mass, all would be sold to raise money for the work of the church.

These were offerings to San Salvador, who sat proudly atop el Señor del Burrito, who was up to his ears in produce and bread.

At 11:00 AM, after prayers were offered in gratitude and for continued abundance in this fertile valley, led by the beat of two tambors and the high-pitched lilt of a chirimía, a procession to the church began.  Palm crosses were distributed to villagers and visitors, alike, and many carried (or led, in the case of the livestock) the offerings that had been collected.

Once secured, it took twenty men to hoist and carry the bounty-laden anda, with San Salvador and the burro, a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a burro to celebrate the Passover.  As the procession made its way to the church, the rhythmic sounds were occasionally overpowered by shouts warning the men of topes (speed bumps) and low hanging telephone wires that must be navigated, and then there were the stairs leading up to the church atrium.

I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Countless times, as I was taking photos, officials encouraged me to come closer and villagers ushered me to the front.  How many magical experiences can one person have?

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