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Posts Tagged ‘agua fresca’

If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.  This Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water.

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Decorating a well outside the Cathedral

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Sign proclaiming the day, seen on the Alcalá

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.

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Scene at the well outside Templo de San José

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Live actors waiting to reenact the scene

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century and is a popular and much-loved tradition.  Thus I joined thousands of Oaxaqueños and visitors, clutching cups, and wandering from one decorated agua station to another sampling their offerings.

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Samaritana station serving nieve at the Municipal Palace

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One of scores of agua stations on the Alcalá

People of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths in front of churches, restaurants, businesses, schools, and even the city’s municipal office building for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.

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Hand painted ollas in front of Templo de Sangre de Cristo

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Hand painted jicara gourds waiting to be filled with tejate

These “water stations” are often decorated in a violet shade of purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.  And, the ollas (pots) holding the aguas seem to get more decorative every year.

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Agua stations along the Alcalá

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Watermelon and mint agua station on García Vigil

We are not talking plain water, these are divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits, herbs, flowers, and more — jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and nieve (sorbet).  Even taxi drivers played the role of Good Samaritans.

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Nieve station in doorway of lingerie store on Independencia

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Taxi drivers host agua station on the Alameda

In previous years, the aftermath hath wrought mountains of garbage — cans overflowing with plastic and styrofoam.  However, this year, in the name of the environment, an appeal was made for people to bring their own cups.  And, I think a majority complied!

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On the Alcalá above Santo Domingo

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An olla with Agua de chilacayote (type of squash)

And me?  After almost two hours, three aguas (watermelon with mint, cucumber with mint, and chilacayote), a nieve of leche quemada and tuna, and being surrounded by smiling people enjoying this celebration of generosity, I returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions of Oaxaca.

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If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana (AKA, el Día de las Aguas) — a uniquely Oaxacan celebration.  It is inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament:  At noon, a tired and, apparently, 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.

By noon, this past Friday in Oaxaca, the thermometer had already reached 90º F in El Centro Histórico and people of all ages, from small children to abuelos, were already lined up at bougainvilla and palm decorated booths in front of churches, schools, and businesses for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.  It wasn’t just plain water they were waiting on, it was for divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits and flowers — jamaica, horchata, chilacayota, tamarindo, sandia, and others.  However in front of the churches, prior to the offering of aguas, there was a reenactment of Jesus and the Samaritana, as well as a priestly blessing — and an article in Noticias reported that, given the blazing hot sun, some in the crowd became a little impatient.

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All were eventually served and the streets were filled with smiling people drinking a rainbow of aguas.  Within an hour the serving pots, pitchers, bowls, and buckets were empty and all that remained were garbage containers filled to overflowing with plastic cups.

By the way, talking to my friend Sam, who teaches at Universidad José Vasconcelos de Oaxaca, they had an aguas frescas contest — memorable combinations of watermelon with strawberries and lime; atole with tuna nieve; and coconut with strawberries.  However, I was informed the day’s winner was the piña colada — alas, minus the rum, I’m thinking.

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…and, Agua de Jamaica, Horchata, and Chilacayota to drink!  Yesterday, the 4th Friday of Lent, was Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day), an only in Oaxaca tradition.

Palm fronds hanging above; purple and multicolored garlands.

Inspired by the Biblical story, in the Book of John, of the woman at the well who offered water to Jesus, long tables and small stands laden with massive containers and plastic cups are set up on sidewalks throughout the city by schools, churches, and businesses.

Clay pots and palm fronds on top of purple tablecloth

These “water stations” are decorated in purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.

Women serving aguas from clay pots

Crowds rapidly gather and wait to be served the agua of their choice and, despite hours of standing, ladling, and replenishing, all are served with a gracious smile and genuine joy.

Women in long huipil standing next to her table of aguas.

By early afternoon the Alcalá was a sea of people.

Crowd of heads and cups

This is definitely NOT a made for the tourist event.

Woman in indigenous dress serving an agua, man in foreground holding cup

This is Oaxaqueños practicing the sharing and hospitality that informs much of their culture.

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