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Posts Tagged ‘calendas’

This week the city of Oaxaca celebrates her 485 birthday.  Yes, we know she is older…  However, we are talking the colonial city, here.  And, despite her age, this birthday girl began the festivities by inviting the best cocineras from the eight regions of the state to cook for her citizens and visitors — from 1 PM until 9 PM — under the shade of a giant tent covering the Plaza de la Danza.  The Primer Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca was not free, but quite reasonable.

The food was riquísima (beyond delicious) and, while we were there, the guys from Santiago Juxtlahuaca in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, performed the Danza de los Rubios.

I returned home satisfied and sleepy, but the day wasn’t over.  There was a calenda (parade) scheduled for 5 PM and a procession of “Gigantes” at 7 PM — route for the latter was unclear.  I was hot, tired, and torn.  To go, or not to go?  That was the question.  Thunder began rumbling and I figured my answer was to stay in for the evening.  However, at 7:30 PM, when a the sounds of a procession came practically to my doorstep and not a drop of rain had fallen, I had to run out to join it.

The “Gigantes” were supposed to represent the giants of all time that Oaxaca has given to the world.  Most were a mystery to me, though I think I saw Benito Juárez and maybe Porfirio Díaz (both Oaxaqueños) and I’m guessing the bunny is a nod to the alebrije wood carving and decorating tradition.  In any case, it was great fun!

Just as the calenda reached the Plaza de la Danza, it began raining on this parade and everyone made a beeline for the cover of the Cocineras tent.  I’m sure they will eat well!  And the rain?  It was probably the best birthday gift Mother Nature could bestow on Oaxaca’s parched earth and dusty sidewalks.

This was just day one of the anniversary festivities.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Oaxaca’s actual birthday and the church bells will begin chiming at 6:45 AM.  So I’d better get to bed!  By the way, the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opens again at 1 PM tomorrow and lasts until 8 PM or whenever the food runs out.  For a complete schedule of events, click HERE.

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There is a lot of work that goes into getting a marmota ready to go to the dance.  Getting dressed takes a quite a crew and there is a lot of up close and personal last-minute cinching that must be done.   Then there is squeezing (she does weigh over 70 kilos) through the church plaza portal, to make her grand entrance onto the street.  However, once she emerges, she joins with her friends to dance through the streets of Tlacolula de Matamoros late into the night!

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Calenda in honor of el Señor de Tlacolula, October 11, 2013.  Living history from the valley where corn was first cultivated.

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Woman on cell phone & handles of bag framing boy's face boy

Outside Templo de Santa María de la Asunción, Tlacolula de Matamoros, on Friday, waiting for the calenda to begin.

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Before returning to honor al Señor de Tlacolula this Friday, I figured I’d better finish posting pics from last Friday’s la Virgen del Rosario calenda.

This annual procession slowly winds its way through the streets of Tlacolula de Matamoros.  Participants stop at “stations” throughout the village, where religious ritual is performed, rest breaks are taken, and tamales, sweets, and beverages (yes, including mezcal) await.  This goes on until after midnight.  I don’t know how they do it!

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Yesterday, we headed about 20 miles southeast of the city to Tlacolula de Matamoros for their calenda (parade) in honor of la Virgen del Rosario (the Virgin of the Rosary).   While we go to Tlacolula often, especially for their Sunday market, and while we’ve been to countless calendas, this particular one was a first — and what fun it was!

I’m always amazed at the variations from one village to another — even those only a few miles apart.  I have to say, one of the most striking features of Tlacolula’s calenda was the masses of marmotas.  No, I’m not talking the groundhog/woodchuck variety.  These, at their most awesome, are ginormous cloth globes on a pole that are carried in every calenda I’ve ever seen down here.

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Little boys start out with little marmotas — learning how to position it in the holster and becoming comfortable carrying it for several blocks.

The pre-teens graduate to bigger and heavier marmotas and the lesson here is one of balance — learning to find one’s center — and that you get by with a little help from your friends.

Teens refine their moves and their “look.”  Look ma, no hands!  After all, a central part of the calenda is a procession of the unmarried girls and young women of the village!

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Young men eventually become good-natured and married journeymen…

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I’m guessing it never ceases being a source of macho pride — enough to tempt one of Tlacolula’s senior citizens into showing, he’s still got it!

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And then there was the gringo…

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Check out Oaxaca–The Year After for this hilarious tale in his own words.  (I’m still laughing!)

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Marmotas on parade —  it was a spectacular sight!

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Today is Oaxaca’s 480th birthday as a colonial city .  Of course, among other events, a calenda (parade) marked the date.

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In 1532 Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.

However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.

Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.  ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

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After a delightful but whirlwind (6 days is too short) visit, my stepson and his wife have come and gone; this year’s Guelaguetza festivities are over; life at Casita Colibrí is gradually resuming a more leisurely rhythm; and our current historic rain has gone on hiatus.  A quiet solo Sunday morning walk beckoned, as did the APPO banners, strung along the arches of the Palacio de Gobierno, that I wanted to photograph.

Oaxaca se levanta

The banners are a work of art, but ephemeral — here today, gone tomorrow — and I never seem to have my camera with me when I come across them.

"Respeto a la autonomia de San Juan Copala"

And, more importantly, they are a graphic reminder that behind the vitality, beauty, and quaint cosmetics of “new” cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site facade, class warfare lurks in the shadows.

Oaxaca’s contradictions are mine.  I turn the corner and walk over to puesto 80 at Mercado Juárez to see if they’ve gotten in the chocolate covered coffee beans.  No, maybe tomorrow…  I stop by the temporary pocket market in front of the Jesuit church on the corner and satisfy my sweet tooth by buying a bag of melt-in-your-mouth Merengue Sabor Cafe, instead.

The Zócalo has awakened during my 45 minutes of shopping; young and old strolling arm-in-arm, vendors selling their wares, shoes being shined, outside tables occupied with diners chatting or simple watching the scene before them.

People strolling; vendors selling

And, there is music — always, there is music — today an orchestra has set up under the laurels for the final day of the Festival Nacional de Danzón.  The dance, with its origins in Cuba, is stately and prescribed, with inexplicable pauses where dancers turn to face the orchestra, women move to the right side of their partners, fan themselves, and then several measures later dancing resumes.

Dancers in traditional Oaxacan dress

I’m captivated by the dancers who are at once, serious and joyful, and by their varied attire — once a costumer, always a costumer!

Dancers - woman in slacks

Most dancers are in the latter third of their life, though there are a few earnest young people.

Young dancers

It’s a prosperous crowd — a dance of the elite — but mesmerizing to watch.

dancers

After an hour of observing this very “civilized” scene under an intense sun, I headed to Independencia, the shady side of the street, and home, only to stop, reel around, and follow the sounds of a calenda coming into the Alameda; band, dancers, fireworks — celebrating Día del Comerciante!

Calinda

I leave feeling conflicted about my three hours on a sunny Sunday.  The lines from the song inspired by the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike come to mind…

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

Lunch eaten, clouds gather, sky darkens, and Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge.

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Oaxaca is old!   As a cursory glance at Mixtec and Zapotec history and their descendants will tell, this valley has been settled for thousands of years.

Dancers

However, yesterday the city celebrated its founding as a colonial city, marking the 478 years since Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.  However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.   Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.

City elite

Saturday night I had a ringside seat on my terrace for fuegos artificiales (fireworks) — first emanating from the vicinity of the ex-convento of Santo Domingo (6 blocks to the NE), followed by those sent up into the night sky from La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (AKA:  my backyard).  Sunday morning, I was awakened at 6:05 to the sounds of Lady Soledad’s bells chiming — more musical than the usual clang-clang-clang — for a full 5 minutes, along with the rat-ta-tat-tat of firecrackers, adding exclamation points!

Bungee contraption -- ready for lift off.

I went down to the Zócalo a little before 6pm — the calenda (parade) hadn’t yet arrived, but the place was teeming with people (mostly all Mexican).  Payasos (clowns) were in abundance, but the big hit was a bungee cord contraption suspended above a trampoline.  A guy would harness a kid to the cord, jump up and down on the trampoline with his arms around said kid and once momentum was achieved, let go and send the kid sling-shot-like up into the sky.  Yikes, the way several of the kids were flaying around, I thought someone was going to break a back.

Marmota leading the way

For the 3rd day in a row, temperatures continued to be in the high 90s, unseasonably hot even for Oaxaca so, for the second day in a row, I hit the ice cream shop — this time for a scoop each of peach and banana (in a cup, no cone this time… less messy as it melted) — a great combination!  The calenda eventually arrived with all the usual suspects — several brass bands, municipal honchos, dancers in costume, monos (giant puppets — see above photo), etc.  Did I mention, it was really hot?  There I was, dripping wet, confining myself to the shade of the Zócalo’s 135+ year old towering Indian laurel trees, and eating ice cream when these participants (of all ages, I might add) had walked, played, and danced their way under the blazing sun for 13 blocks from Llano Park!

Little girl dancer

After 13 blocks, she didn't look any worse for wear!

Participants unmasked

Guys unmasked.

Couple drinking water

Feeling the heat... the pause that refreshes!

Disassembling balloons.

That's all folks!

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