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Besides a mock wedding with men dressed as women, mentioned in my previous post, Carnaval (Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday) in San Martín Tilcajete also means young men covered in motor oil (yuck!) and paint running through the village with belts of cowbells ringing.

And, it means muchas mascaras de madera — in this village famous for its fantastical hand-painted alebrije woodcarvings and masks.

Some of my favorite masks and body paint were done by Jesus Sosa Calvo, his talented wife, Juana Vicente Ortega Fuente, and their gifted children.  (See the mask I gave to my son, carved by Apolinar, one of their sons.)  If you are in San Martín Tilcajete, be sure to see their work at Matlacihua Arte (right across from the zócalo on the main street).

The Spanish brought this pre-Lenten tradition to Mexico and, 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.”  Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

Masks, motor oil, face and body paint, you name it, disguised and anonymous was the order of the day!

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Among other highlights, Carnaval/Carnival in San Martín Tilcajete features a mock wedding, quinceañera, and beautiful fabulously dressed and accessorized “women.”

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The day before Lent in San Martín Tilcajete 2017.  As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

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Currently, View from Casita Colibrí is being brought to you from el norte.  Alas, tax season has come around again and mine need to be prepared.  Then there is never-ending house maintenance and repair.  I admit, it’s not all work and no play; being here means I get to spend time with family and friends, eat sushi, and give my regards to the Pacific Ocean. 

However, despite the ease of grocery shopping when one has use of a car, pricey supermarket herbs packaged in puny plastic boxes don’t feed my soul and delight my senses the way the stalls overflowing with fresh and dried herbs at Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca do.

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Speaking of  the former governor of Oaxaca, Mexico’s much beloved five-term and only indigenous (Zapotec) president, Benito Juárez, his birthday is coming up on March 21.  He is the only individual in Mexico to have his birthday designated as a national holiday (celebrated this year on Monday, March 20). 

We would all do well to remember AND practice his famous words:  Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.  (Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

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It’s a travel day for me and I didn’t think I would have time to honor my sisters of the world on this International Women’s Day.  However, thanks to a flight delay that has left me with an even longer than planned layover in Houston, I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than presenting Julia and Luvia; two of the extraordinary women of Teotitlán del Valle.

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Julia Martinez Bautista on her 100th birthday party, February 1, 2017.

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Luvia Lazo Gutierrez, director of the new Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle.

They embody the strength, ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity of women everywhere!

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Of the rábanos from Noche de Rábanos, this radish sculpture of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor of Tenochtitlan, was my favorite.

Cuauhtémoc portrayed in radishes

“Cuauhtémoc: El Último Gran Emperador Azteca” by José Yehú Santos Aguilar took second place in the Free Radish category.

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Today, Mexico is celebrating Día de Reyes (aka, Three Kings Day and Epiphany).  It is today, not Christmas, that children wake up to find gifts brought during the night, not by Santa but by the Magi.  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar still had enough stamina to stroll the Alcalá late this morning handing out presents.  Alas, gold, frankincense, and myrrh seem to have gone out of fashion.

Later this afternoon, at the new Polideportivo Venustiano Carranza, the children’s choir “Agnus Dai,” will perform and “Los Payasos y Domo de la Ciencia” from the Oaxaca Science and Technology Council will hold activities.  After a siesta, los tres Reyes Magos will also make their way up to the sports complex to hold contests and continue their gift giving.

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By the way, at a meeting I attended today, guess who bit into the little plastic baby Jesús hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings cake)?  You guessed it!  Hmmm… That means I have to host a tamal and atole party on Candlemas, February 2nd, for everyone at the meeting.  That’s the tradition in Oaxaca!

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As I previously explained, Noche de Rabanos isn’t just about radishes.  One of the other categories of entries is Totomoxtle Decorado.  And the winner was Moisés Ruíz Sosa, with his dyed cornhusk depiction of Día de Muertos on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca.

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Descendants of slaves, the Afromexicano population of Oaxaca is located in 16 municipalities, with 11 of these municipalities located in the Costa Chica, Oaxaca’s far western coastal region, bordering the state of Guerrero.

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During Day of the Dead, the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed in these communities.

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Dancers wear devil masks, and are led by a colonial ranch foreman with a whip, who “struts around, while his buxom ‘white’ wife – played by a black man – flirts outrageously with the ‘devils’ and even the audience.”  [The black people ‘erased from history’]

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To see the Noche de Rabanos 2013 entry by Moisés Ruíz Sosa, click HERE.

By the way, the “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses’” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, which I wrote about in Noche de Rabanos, pt. 1, took first prize in the Flor Inmortal Adulto category!

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‘Tis Nochebuena in Oaxaca and all is well.  The sun is shining and goodwill is felt on the streets and in the mercados.  Casita Colibrí is festooned with seasonal decorations both outside and in.

Tonight, posadas from throughout the city will converge on the zócalo with Josés, Marías holding baby Jesús, and angels on flatbed trucks; pinwheels, sparklers, and fireworks will light the night sky; brass bands will play; and China Oaxaqueñas will dance.  I can’t wait!  In the meantime, may Ernie Villarreal’s version of Pancho Claus by Chicano music legend, Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, bring the gift of joy to those near and far.

Pancho Claus

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa
Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.

The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard, there arouse such a grito,
That I jumped to my feet, like a frightened cabrito.

I went to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world, do you think que era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came, and this little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre.

¡Ay, Pancho! ¡Ay, Pepe! ¡Ay, Cuca! ¡Ay, Beto!
¡Ay, Chato! ¡¡Ay, Chopo! ¡Maruca and ¡Nieto!

Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.

He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,
For none of the children had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.

And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,
Merry Christmas to all, And to All ¡Feliz Navidad!

May you all find peace and joy every day of the year.

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It’s December 23 in Oaxaca and Noche de Rabanos is upon us.  The setting-up has begun and the spectators are gathering.  Despite its name, it isn’t just about artisans working their creative magic carving radishes.  There are three other categories, including the use of Flor Inmortal (a type of dried flower).  I will return this evening, but in the meantime, this entry titled, “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses'” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, is for all my friends in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Spinning the wool.

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Weaving tapetes from the spun wool.

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Grinding corn or maybe chocolate OR maybe even cochinilla!

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Dancing the Danza de la Pluma…

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The danzantes of the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa keeping their promise.

I think Raymundo did a wonderful job capturing the people of Teotitlán del Valle, the Land of the Gods, who make crafts and shape dreams.

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This year, a Christmas tree grows in Oaxaca.  Well, not a real, living tree.  This one, almost 3-stories tall, was constructed over several days alongside the Cathedral.

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Adding the green panels to the frame.

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Hanging the lights.

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So far, so good!

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All dressed up and ready to go.

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Lights on; crowds assembled!

What can I say?  Nacimientos (Nativity scenes) are traditional here; Christmas trees are not.  However, despite what we like to think, traditions are not static, they evolve.  People come and go across oceans and across borders and they bring back what captures their fancy.  All I know is that the city is alive with the sound of music, energy, and lightness of being.

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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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And we thought last year’s Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle was exceptional!  It was, but, for blogger buddy Chris and me, this year brought even more warmth, appreciation, and the intangible of being present in the richness of more layers of being in this special village.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

We are patrons of two of the danzantes of the 2016-18 Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa in Teotitlán del Valle — and Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz is one of them.  As such, we were invited to the home he shares with his parents, Mario Ruiz Bautista and Victoria Ruiz, to partake in the traditions and observe the responsibilities that accompany taking on the three year commitment to being a member of the Grupo.

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Mario Ruiz Bautista (on left) overseeing the offerings

From my albeit limited understanding, as part of the commitment the dancers make during their three years of service, each of their families is tasked with taking a turn hosting one of the four yearly festivals.

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Victoria Ruiz watching Edgar’s dance

The day began with a breakfast of traditional breads and hot chocolate and was followed by Mole de Castilla, a mole unique to Teotitlán and served during weddings and the most important festivals.  There must have been over 100 people, including Edgar’s extended family, padrinos, danzantes and their families, and band members.  They gathered and were served in the courtyard of the Ruiz home, with men seated at one long table, women on the other side of the courtyard at another, and the two gringos seated with the danzantes in the altar room opening onto the courtyard.

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Breakfast breads with hot chocolate

Following the meal, chairs and tables were folded and removed, the danzantes took the floor, the band began to play, and, as the sun streamed down on the courtyard, Edgar began his dance.  It was a touching moment to see this young man, whom I’ve known for almost six years, since he was a gangling teenager, and Chris has known since he was a small boy, dance with such confidence and pride.

Following dances by the whole group, with band leading the way, dancers, families, and guests processed down the steep and winding streets from the house to the church.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz en route to the church, accompanied by Victoria (his mother) and his nephew.

They filed into the church, where a special mass was celebrated, and then regrouped in the church courtyard to begin the seven hour (más o menos) Danza de la Pluma.  Early in the afternoon, while the dance continued, the families and invited guests returned to the Ruiz home, where the families of the other dancers each made formal presentations of baskets of fruit and mezcal or cervesa to Mario and Victoria.  This was followed by a comida (lunch) of caldo de pollo.  After all were fed, the offerings  were loaded into pickup trucks to be taken to the church plaza, to later be shared with the community.  At night, after the dance ended, we all again returned to Casa Ruiz for barbecoa de res (beef) in a rich and flavorful sauce, cervesas, mezcal, and soda pop.  I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into preparing all the food, orchestrating its serving, and then washing all the dishes — by hand in basins set up in the yard across the street.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

It’s been over twenty four hours since Chris and I returned from Teotitlán del Valle and, though we talked continuously on the drive back to the city and have spoken several times since, we are still unable to put into words how meaningful and how honored we were to share this special day with Edgar, his family, and his community.  It was a precious gift. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos!

For more, see Chris’s blog post, A very special Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe.

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A sign of the times… Navidad (Christmas) must be coming!

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An empty bottle of Noche Buena cervesa sitting on a sill outside of Templo de San Jose.  Noche Buena is the much-in-demand seasonal bock-style beer from Heineken Mexico. Its appellation, besides meaning “good night,” is also the name for the poinsettia plant and the word for Christmas Eve in Spanish.  ¡Salud!

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December seems to be el mes de las vírgenes (the month of the virgins) in Oaxaca.  Early this morning cohetes (rockets) and church bells announced the first of the month’s three virgin days; the feast day of la Virgen de Juquila.  And, this afternoon, on the Alameda in front of Oaxaca’s cathedral, a small procession gathered.

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According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since.

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Alas, that wasn’t the end of the story; the priest in the village of Juquila convinced the “powers that be” that she should be moved to the bigger and better church in Juquila.  She, however, had other ideas and returned to Amialtepec.  This back and forth continued another three times.  Finally, in 1719, La Morenita (the dear dark one), as she had come to be known, gave up her traveling ways and agreed to call Santa Catrina Juquila her permanent home.

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The faithful make pilgrimages to both her old and new mountain homes (about four hours southeast of Oaxaca city).  They come year round on foot, on bicycle, and in all other manner of transport, to make offerings and pray for miracles, but especially during the days leading up to December 8.  October 8, 2014 marked her crowning achievement; in a grand ceremony, she received a papal coronation, joining her previously crowned (1909) Oaxaca sister, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

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After the wretched week that was (RIP Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, not to mention the USA elections), reviewing my Día de Muerto photos from Teotitlán del Valle was the ideal tonic.

On November 1, as I previously mentioned, after strolling and sitting and contemplating and conversing our way through the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros, we drove to the home of friends, Zacarias Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez, in Teotitlán.  Arriving at 3:00 PM, we were just in time to join the family and other guests, as Zac gave words of welcome to the difuntos, who had also just made their appearance.

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Our pan de muerto and mezcal joined the other offerings on the altar to provide nourishment to the departed while we, the living, sat down at the long table for a little cervesa, mezcal, and more than a few of the 500+ tamales Emilia had made.  After lots of eating and conversation, we walked across the courtyard to give our regards to Antonio Ruiz (weaver of one of my treasured rugs), wife Claudia, and their children (the beautiful Beatriz and her lively brothers, Diego and Antonito), and to see Antonio’s new showroom (Chris has a photo in his Familia blog post) and their altar.

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Invited to return to the Ruiz home the following day for Emilia’s famous mole negro, we also stopped at the village panteón to listen for the wind that signals the departure of the difuntos at 3:00 PM on November 2.

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We also stopped to pay our respects at the grave of Arnulfo Mendoza, though it took a little searching to find it, as the large tree that stood next to it had fallen, leaving only a stump.

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Both days, the drive back to the city was filled with the warmth, peace, and joy that Teotitlán del Valle always seems to impart.

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Under the strong and comforting gaze of Picacho, who could ask for a better resting place.

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