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

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Blindfolded Jesus and banner

Image of Señor de La Columna

Purple hooded penitents carrying crosses

Jesus image carrying cross

Virgen de los Dolores standing above prone Jesus images

Virgen de la Soledad image carried by women

Good Friday in Oaxaca.

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Though it threatened to rain on the parade, hours before the Procession of Silence was scheduled to start, crowds began lining the Macedonio Alcalá to watch as procession participants prepared for the sixteen block silent journey through some of Oaxaca’s main streets.

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As Chris mentioned, in his blog post, there seemed to be many more women taking part.

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Please keep silent, the procession is about to begin…

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Last night I joined in the Oaxaca tradition of visiting seven churches (la visita de las siete casas) on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday).  According to Wikipedia, “The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday probably originated in Rome, as early pilgrims visited the seven basilicas as penance.”  Last year I missed it, albeit for an excellent reason, as I spent much of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Teotitlán del Valle with the family of Porfirio Gutierrez.

This year, my first stop was just around the corner at Templo de San José, where I bought my pan bendito from a couple of women selling small bags of the traditional blessed bread from a little table just inside the front door.  The entrance to this church is small and it was crowded with parishioners trying to get to the mass that was in progress, so I opted not to stop to take photos.  As I exited and made my way across Jardín Socrates (packed with people enjoying nieves), enroute to Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, there were more blessed bread vendors set up in Soledad’s atrium.

The doors to the Basilica were closed and the “traveling” Soledad was standing under a giant tent in the atrium.  However, I followed the faithful to a tiny side chapel where a miniature image of Soledad appeared, behind iron bars and glass, like an apparition.

My next stop was along Calle Independencia — at Templo de San Felipe Neri, where I was met with gridlock.  I joined the crowd in practicing patience and persistence as I navigated my way to the entrance, which was also serving as the exit — for some unknown reason the side door was closed.

Less than a block away, my next destination was the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  It took almost ten minutes to wind my way through the masses of people (tourists, vendors, performers, and other Jueves Santo pilgrims) crowding the street and the Alameda.  A mass was in progress and the pews were packed — even in the side chapels, it was standing room only.  However, it was here, amidst thousands, I had the good fortune of running into a dear Oaxaca friend I hadn’t seen for many months.

Leaving the Cathedral, I met the same foot traffic jam when crossing the zócalo to Templo de la Compañía de Jesús.  However, once there, leave it to the Jesuits to have the entrada y salida (entrance and exit) logistics worked out!

Exiting the “salida” door, I took a side street to avoid the zócalo and Alameda.  By this time darkness had fallen, the uneven and potholed sidewalks had become even more treacherous, and so taking care not to also fall, I headed to Templo del Carmen de Abajo.  Though not crowded, it too had separate doors marked for entering and exiting.  And here, too, I ran into someone I knew — this time a new acquaintance from Palm Sunday in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

I couldn’t even get near the doorway of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, so I gave up on that visit and turned towards Templo del Carmen Alto and, on my way there, ran into one of my neighbors!  Even when it’s filled with tens of thousands of tourists, it’s a small world in Oaxaca.  Once at Carmen Alto, I joined a throng of people walking down the main aisle, when a procession, led by an incense swinging altar boy, came up behind us asking for permission to pass — the gal behind me had a very close call with the incense burner.

I had visited seven churches in seventy minutes and, by the time I left Carmen Alto, my feet were sore and hunger and home beckoned.  However, I was left with warm feelings of having greeted friends and been out and about with the people of my adopted city.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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The roof dogs of San Martín Tilcajete wish you luck in the Year of the Dog.  (And, the Virgen de Guadalupe is there to help, too.)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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Mural on Calle Berriozábal by young Welsh artist, Harry Hambley — aka, Ketnipz.

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As we say in Mexico, Feliz día del amor y la amistad — Happy day of love and friendship!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I hope you will permit me just one more Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) post.  The Totomoxtle Decorado category wouldn’t be complete without showing this year’s entry, “Los huehuentones de Huautla de Jiménez” by Moisés Ruíz Sosa, last year’s first prize winner, who just happens to be the brother of this year’s winner, Marco Antonio Ruíz Sosa.

Much of the work by Moisés, at least that I have seen, uses natural and dyed corn husks to recreate traditional dance scenes.  This year’s inspiration came from the Mazateco Day of the Dead celebrations.

After the souls are released, their spirits are transformed into different forms personified by the Huehuentones (people of the navel — born from the center of the earth) who serve as a link between the departed and the living.

Beginning October 27, they roam the streets and visit families, house by house, to play and sing Mazatec themes of family, famine, traditions, customs, current events, politics, etc.

What captivates me most is the attention to detail and reverence for traditions by Moisés.

Learning their craft from their mother, Moisés and Marco are a couple of very talented brothers!

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A challenging year 2017 was — for Oaxaca, Mexico, USA, and the world.  However, lovely Oaxaca continues to survive with beauty and grace and helps keep me focused on trying to do the same.  I am grateful to her every day.  Thus, my New Year’s gift to you — sharing a month-by-month look back at the little things in 2017 that nourished my body and soul.

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January 2017 – Shibori flags flying over the courtyard of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca

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February 2017 – Agave somewhere between San Dionisio Ocotepec and Ocotlán de Morelos

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March 2017 – Quinceañera celebration in front of Santo Domingo de Guzmán

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April 2017 – Chapulines at the first Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales Oaxaca

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May 2017 – Teotitlán del Valle’s garbage truck.

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June 2017 – Grinding lime tree leaves for té de limon in Teotitlán del Valle

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July 2017 – Six layer rainy season view from Casita Colibrí

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August 2017 – Unión de Palenqueros de Oaxaca — and that means mezcal!

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September 2017 – Chickens roasting at earthquake relief benefit at Criollo restaurant

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October 2017 – Grilling at an outdoor “hall of smoke” in Villa de Mitla

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November 2017 – Dried chiles at Mercado Benito Juárez

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December 2017 – Decorated molinillos at the Feria del Pan y el Chocolate in Tlacolula de Matamoros

In the words of Linda Oaxaca, “Oaxaca you live in me.”  From my home to yours, adiós 2017 and bienvenidos 2018!!!

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I always prefer to go down to Oaxaca’s zócalo in the morning of December 23rd to watch the Noche de Rábanos artisans bring their creations into being — and before the masses descend.  At this year’s 120th annual Rábanos the crowds had already begun to gather behind the barriers by 10:30 AM.  Of course, the downside to going early is that some of the artisans are further along in their work than others.

Alas, in the category of Rábanos Tradicional (radishes representing traditional subject matter), the eventual first prize winner had only just begun…

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“Nacimiento Tradicional” by Hermenegildo Contreras Cruz

However, when I passed by, the eventual first prize winner in the category of Rábanos Libre (radishes free subject matter) was almost finished and the dragon was about to be slayed.

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“Corazón de Dragón” by Salvador Yrizar Díaz

In the Flor Inmortal (dried flower) category…  How could I have missed 2/3rds of the entries?!!  However, I did manage to capture the 2nd prize winner.

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“Una tarde en el Templo de Santo Domingo” by Rosalía Santiago Cornelio

Then there was the Totomoxtle (corn husks)…  Second place in the Totomoxtle Natural (natural husk color) category went to this delightful depiction of Oaxaca’s version of a county fair that even included a House of Horror and a Tilt-A-Whirl.

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“Feria Popular” by Jorge Ramos Gallegos

First place in the category of Totomoxtle Natural was awarded to…

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“Buscando la paz hastati. Virgencita de Juquila” by José Méndez Miranda

And, what can I say about “Nahualli” by Marco Antonio Ruíz Sosa, the winner of the Totomoxtle Decorado (dyed corn husks)?

Do you think Lewis Carroll was channeling shadow souls when he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?  Kenneth Grahame when he wrote The Wind in the Willows?  Was C. S. Lewis guided by a nahualli when he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?  And, what about Beatrix Potter???

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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 on this Nochebuena.

 

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!

 

Felices fiestas to all my wonderful readers — you and Oaxaca inspire me each and every day!!!

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I think I spied some familiar figures in the radishes at this year’s Noche de Rabanos.  Could this be carver, Zeny Fuentes?

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“Alebrijes de San Martín Tilcajete” by Sergio Luís Raymundo Sánchez

Oaxaqueños can tell you, this is their own, Señor del Rayo.

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“Señor del Rayo” by Gabriela Nayelly López Vásquez

And then there is this guy.  I’m guessing Maestro Francisco Toledo.

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“Oaxaca de mis amores” by Omar Díaz Ventura

What do you think?

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