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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Looking back and appreciating life in Oaxaca, 2018.

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January – View through the terrace pistachio tree of full Wolf Moon.

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February – Guest helping to harvest Waje dinner at Rancho 314 urban farm in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán.

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March – Reyna Mendoza Ruiz demonstrating metate technique at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

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April – Pit for cooking agave piñas to make mezcal at the palenque of Faustino Garcia in San Baltazar Chichicapa(m).

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May – Tlacolulokos mural in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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June – Summer afternoon on the Zócalo in Oaxaca city.

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July – Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.

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August – Fundación En Via microfinance tour to San Miguel del Valle.

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September – Protest by students from the Escuela Normal Bilingüe e Intercultural de Oaxaca.

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October – Celebrating el Señor del Rayo at the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

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November – At the home/workshop of filigree maestro, José Jorge García García.

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December – Pop-up sale in Oaxaca city by the Las Sanjuaneras weavers from San Juan Colorado.

Feliz año nuevo y muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers from near and far!  Thank you for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue.  Onward to 2019!!!

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‘Tis Christmas Eve and I’m in el norte.  A light snow is falling and all are excited.

Lighted reindeer in snow

Ornaments from Oaxaca hang alongside those passed down through four generations — and the newly collected continue the one-new-ornament-a-year tradition.

My grandson is keeping a close eye on Santa’s progress around the globe.  While awaiting the arrival of our late night visitor, it is time for Ernie Villarreal’s version of Pancho Claus by Chicano music legend, Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero.

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!

Piñata against sky in Oaxaca

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It’s December 22 and in Oaxaca that means it’s Noche de Rábanos eve.  Despite the name, it’s not just about radishes.  Tomorrow morning, on tables lining the Zócalo, radishes will be carved and arranged, totomoxtle (corn husk) figures will be staged, and flor inmortal (dried flowers) scenes will be set.  Beginning in the early afternoon and lasting late into the night, residents and visitors will parade along elevated walkways to view the detailed and fantastical creations on display in this only-in-Oaxaca holiday event.

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These aren’t your grandparents radishes; they are a variety that is specially cultivated for their starring role — sometimes growing to 20 inches long and weighing in at 7 pounds. Alas, I’m in el norte spending the holidays with my family.  So, I will just have to look back through previous Noche de Rábanos blog posts to get into the radishy spirit.

FYI:  Blogger buddy Chris will be there to record this year’s action, so be sure to check out Oaxaca- The Year After in the next couple of days.

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Yesterday, we said farewell to the Teotitlán del Valle, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys — and two little gals.

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El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe marked the end of this group’s three-year commitment to dance for their faith and community.

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With well over one thousand family, friends, community members, and visitors watching, they danced their hearts out.

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And, after the skips, squats, twists, and leaps ended, there was nary a dry eye in the house.  It was a fabulous night!

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Tomorrow is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe.  Celebrating the Queen of Mexico, Empress of America, and patron saint of Mexico isn’t just a one day event.  In Oaxaca city, Llano Park/Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (at the north end of the park) is the epicenter of activities — including clowns.

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The south half of Llano Park is taken up with a carnival and vendors selling toys, Christmas lights, and a variety of holiday decorations.  Above that, there are aisles upon aisles of food stalls, and along the side the church, Guadalupe scenes, designed and constructed by scores of professional photographers vying for pesos for portraits, have been constructed.

As I write, Guadalupe’s children, the little Juan Diegos and their peasant sisters are lined up around the block.  They have been brought by parents and grandparents to wait to enter the church to be blessed and then pose for portraits in one of the Guadalupe scenes.  Hopefully, the payasos (clowns) provide some entertainment and much-needed distraction!

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The booms and bells began yesterday morning announcing the faithful en route by bus, bicycle, motorcycle, and on foot to visit the image of la Virgen de Juquila high in the mountains between Oaxaca city and the Pacific coast.

Copy of the image of la Virgen de Juquila

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.

“Buscando la paz hastati. Virgencita de Juquila” by José Michael Méndez Miranda — Noche de Rabanos, 2017

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 Catarina Juquila her permanent home.

Home altar, 2016 — Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca

The faithful make pilgrimages to both her old and new mountain homes (about four hours southwest of Oaxaca city).  They come year round to make offerings and pray for miracles, but especially during the days leading up to December 8.

Bus parked in Oaxaca city, December 7, 2018

She “is a symbol of love, of protection, of justice, of peace, of respect for human dignity.”  And, because of her indigenous roots, “the homage to the Virgin of Juquila is similar to that rendered to the Virgin of Guadalupe, not only in Oaxaca, but also in Puebla, Tlaxcala, State of Mexico, Veracruz and Chiapas, as well as in the United States, for the religiosity of migrants.”

Altar with image of la Virgen de Juquila — Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018

On October 8, 2014, Juquila received a papal coronation, joining her previously crowned (1909) Oaxaca sister, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.  And, as I write on the night of December 8, 2018, Soledad celebrates her hermana’s day with fireworks.

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Ya got your herbs, ya got your spices, ya got your smoker — smoked turkey, Oaxaca style!

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San Antonino Castillo Velasco delegation, Guelaguetza desfile, July 21, 2018

In addition to my fabulous family, friends, blog readers, and indigenous peoples who survived genocide, colonization, and other inconvenient turkey day truths, I’m also feeling grateful for guajolotes.  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

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Today, the 20th of November, Mexico commemorates the 108th anniversary of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. It raged on for ten years, as various factions battled for power, and the peasantry fought for, in the words of Emiliano Zapata, ¡Tierra y libertad!  (Land and liberty!)

From the smallest of pueblos to the mega metropolis of Mexico City, most every town and city has a street named 20 de noviembre, including Oaxaca.  In addition, Oaxaca has a 20 de noviembre market, where you will find Conchita, my favorite chocolate store, Pasillo de Humo (hall of smoke/grilled meats), aisles of stalls filled with bread, and lines of counters offering menudo and other traditional street food — a very popular destination for locals and adventurous tourists.

Alas, the Mexican Revolution has a complex and bloody history — 1.9 to 3.5 million lives were lost, revolutionary leaders assassinated each other in turn, and promises were repeatedly broken.  The goals of land, water, liberty, justice and law for the peasantry and workers went unrealized.   However, once the armed conflict ended, a cultural revolution began that celebrated and honored working people, peasants, and Mexico’s indigenous roots and helped to forge a new Mexican identity.  As the documentary The Storm That Swept Mexico concludes:

“If we celebrate the revolution, it appears as though we are celebrating the status quo: the miserable conditions of the farmers, workers and the average Mexicans.  And if we are the inheritors of that revolution, then there is nothing to celebrate. Now if we think of the Revolution as an explosion of creative energy then I think we do have reason to celebrate because it was a movement to create a nation more just, more equal, more honest, and an identity we could be proud of.”

To highlight a Oaxaca connection, today’s NVI Noticias published the article, Enciende Madero mecha revolucionaria; Visita Oaxaca en 1909, about Francisco I. Madero’s visit to Oaxaca to light the fuse of revolution in this remote state.

By the way, 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 the bargain hunting shopping extravaganza promoted as Buen Fin.

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Several pan de muerto festivals sprung up in the valley of Oaxaca during Día de los Muertos — including a Festival del Pan de Muerto in Villa Díaz Ordaz, a Feria del Pan de Muerto Adornado in Villa de Zaachila, and a Feria del Pan y Chocolate in the city of Oaxaca.  While the intention of these fairs is to attract tourists, both foreign and domestic, the primary market remains ofrendas (offerings) to the difuntos (departed) — who must be fed during their brief return to visit with their loved ones.

And, like apron styles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead) varies from village to village, be it sold at a feria, mercado, or neighborhood panadería.

Panadería Yalalag in Oaxaca city.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Mercado, 20 de noviembre, Oaxaca city.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila.

Though my difuntos have departed and my altar has been disassembled, I couldn’t consign my beautiful (but stale) pan de muerto offerings to the garbage can.

Pan de muerto from Yalalag, Mitla, and Zaachila.

So, here they remain in a basket on my counter — until they disintegrate or the hormigas (ants) enjoy a feast.

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Not all the Día de los Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila were finished, some were still works in progress…

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with ladders and paints standing by…

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waiting for their artists to pick up the brush…

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or spray can, as the case may be.

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I first saw many of the murals in the summer of 2017 and was happy to see they are still intact, albeit some are a little faded.  Celebrated by the community, the new murals join the old and become a part of the landscape of the village.

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A regalito (little gift) to my calaca and calavera loving grandson from today’s visit to Villa de Zaachila for their first Feria del Pan de Muerto, Mole, Chocolate y Espuma.

From murals along the outer side of the panteón (cemetery) in Villa de Zaachila.  Click to enlarge images.

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Today the sun (finally) came out and hundreds (thousands?) of pots of cempasúchil (aka, cempoalxóchitl, cempaxochitl, cempoal, zempoal, flor de muertos) arrived in the city center.

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This was a photo op not only for yours truly but also the local press, as they trailed after the wife of Oaxaca’s governor while she viewed the unloading…

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and planting of the iconic Día de los Muertos flowers in the beds of the Zócalo and Alameda.

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The color and fragrance of the cempasúchil provide a lovely setting to sit and contemplate the world (and check your cell phone).

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Oaxaca is putting on her best to welcome her difuntos (deceased) along with the thousands of tourists who will soon be arriving.

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I returned to Oaxaca very late last night and just in the nick of time.  As I previously noted, chiles en nogada is prepared during the month of September — El Mes de la Patria celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would still be available.  Thus, today (the LAST day of September) on my way back from Mercado Benito Juárez (a necessary restocking the empty larder shopping trip), when I saw the prominent “chiles en nogada” sign in front of Restaurante Catedral and heard the hostess explain to a small group of tourists that today was the last day they would be serving it, I had to seize the opportunity.

Chile en nogada with Mexican flag

Just color me happily sated by the green, white, and red of the poblano chile stuffed with a special fruit and meat picadillo, blanketed with a smooth slightly sweet walnut sauce, and garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.  So, mis amig@s (you know who you are) you are off the hook!

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On September 16, Mexico celebrates Día de la Independencia — marking Father Hidalgo’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) to begin the ten-year war for independence from Spain.  However, the entire month of September is El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) and streets and vendor stalls are awash with the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.

Last week, walking down to Mercado Benito Juárez to pick up a few last-minute regalitos (little gifts) to bring up to family and friends in el norte, within two blocks I saw…

There is even a very yummy green, white, and red patriotic dish that appears in restaurants in September — Chiles en nogada.  I’m hoping it will still be on the menu when I return at the end of the month from the el norte trip.

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

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

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

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

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

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