Under a cloudy sky, the faithful and their mascotas (pets) gathered in the plaza in front of the Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Merced
for the Bendición de los Animales
(Blessing of the Animals).
This annual event, held on August 31, celebrates the feast day of San Ramón de Nonato
(aka, St. Raymond Nonnatus), patron saint of women in labor, persons falsely accused, and keeper of animals. This last, though not often mentioned, seems to come from the story that he was raised on a farm and, according to this website
, “chose for his occupation the care of the sheep, in order to gain more time for prayer and meditation.” Today’s El Imparcial
states that La Merced is the only church in the city with an image of the saint.
Here in Oaxaca, instead of sheep, San Ramón was surrounded by dogs of all sizes, shapes, and temperament. By far, they outnumbered all other animal species put together — except humans. Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in pet (as opposed to roof and street) dogs in Oaxaca. Perhaps a sign of a growing middle class? And, many dressed for the occasion. However this dalmatian must have also paid a visit to a makeup artist. Lipstick on the collar (muzzle, forehead, and ear) of a new friend tells the tale (tail?).
There were also the other usual pet suspects — cats and kittens, though most looked like they would like to be anywhere else but there, and canaries and cockatiels, the latter both in cages and perched on shoulders. This guy seemed more interested in the pin-up girl lining his cage than getting blessed by a few drops of holy water from the temple’s priest, Víctor Hernández Antonio.
However, my vote for the most exotic pet of the day goes to the hurón, known in English as a ferret. Oh those piercing eyes and those claws. I’d hate to get on her wrong side!
I wonder… What do you think the abuelas and abuelos, who remembered
the old days when it was donkeys, goats and farm animals who were led along Oaxaca’s dirt streets to be blessed, thought?
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