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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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As I write, I should be winging my way from Houston to San Francisco.  But, alas, I am not.  An ice storm in Houston has postponed my trip until tomorrow.

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Goat at the bus stop

Luckily, United sent me an email on Monday advising that “travel disruptions” were possible in Houston on Tuesday and offering me the option of rescheduling my flights — without fees.  After checking several weather websites, I opted to make the change.

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Bougainvillea among the razor wire

And it was a good thing I did, as this morning’s Oaxaca to Houston flight was canceled.  So another day spent where sights like these are the norm, brighten my day, and warm my heart — even when a cold front has us all donning our wool socks and sweaters.

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Anafre with hot coals on the sidewalk

Sigh… I don’t think I’ll be seeing scenes like this on the streets of San Francisco.  But, on the upside, I will see family, friends, and the Pacific Ocean!

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Two weeks ago, as the sun was about to sink behind the mountains to the west, I glanced up from my desk.

Light and shadow highlighted the Mexpost pink of the bougainvillea against the backdrop of a Frida Kahlo blue wall.  Ahhh…

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If it’s the fourth Friday of Lent and you are in Oaxaca, it must be Día de la Samaritana — a wonderful “only in Oaxaca” celebration.  From bougainvillea decorated stands in doorways throughout the city and banquet tables lining the Alcalá in front of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo…

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… divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits and flowers — jamaica, horchata, chilacayota, tamarindo, among other colorful and refreshing beverages — were offered.

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Día de la Samaritana 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.

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For me, the day embodies the warm, welcoming, and generous spirit of the people of Oaxaca.  It’s just another reason why I love living in Oaxaca.

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