Posts Tagged ‘celebrations’

Today, November 3, blogger buddy Chris and I made our annual pilgrimage to experience the flowers and families of the panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. We have been doing this for many years and are always surprised and delighted by the creativity of the living, as they decorate the graves of their departed. This year was no exception — especially the sculptures on two of the graves. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Below, the plaque on the simple wooden cross read, 1994 – 2018 Fernando Moctezuma Valencia García “Tachuma” Te amoremos por siempre, tu familia (We love you forever, your family). A little internet research revealed that the young Fernando was already a talented ceramicist.

The hands of a loved one honoring Fernando by creating this exceptional sculpture on his grave, moved me to tears.

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Festival fireworks in Oaxaca are usually 3-part affairs, consisting of toritos (little bulls) and/or canastas (baskets) wired with fireworks and worn on top of the head by daring-do guys (toritos) and gals (canastas).  This is followed by a castillo (castle) and then the more familiar rockets-exploding-in-the-sky fireworks most of us have craned our necks and oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over since childhood.  Sometimes the order of the latter two is reversed.

The subject of today’s blog post is the castillo that was constructed and executed this past Saturday by “los maestros pirotécnicos los C. Rigoberto y Dagoberto Morales” for the festival in honor of the  Santisima Virgen del Rosario (Sainted Virgin of the Rosary) in Teotitlán del Valle.  They and their crew went about the business of constructing and wiring this “Erector Set” type castillo out of wood and carrizo in the church courtyard.

I couldn’t resist playing with the saturation on this photo.  In my mind’s eye, this is the way it looked.IMG_9957satAnd, de-saturating this one against the backdrop of El Picacho, the sacred mountain that watches over the village.IMG_9994b&wThe result of the work by these maestros and their crew?  A spectacular castillo, accompanied by the band, Herencia Musical.  It was quite a show!!!

And, if you want to see some inside action from a torito, check out the video Chris made, Torito Danza – Dancing with Fireworks.  He actually attached a POV (Point of View) camera to the torito!!!

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As the announcer used to say, “And now for something completely different…”

Apparently, when the Minions went in search of their next evil boss, they must have stopped off in Oaxaca.  My first sighting was on the bus back to the city from the Guelaguetza in Etla two weeks ago.

P1130164Then, there they were today, as taxis paraded through the streets of Oaxaca, celebrating Día del Taxista.

P1130381P1130383Hmmm…  Is there something about the movie that resonates with the transportation workers of Oaxaca?

P1130396copyScarlett Overkill (the Supervillainess):  DO you know who this is?
[points at a British Royal portrait]

Kevin (the Minion):  Uh… la cucaracha? 


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It was all about the braids as the delegations and storm clouds gathered along Independencia for the Guelaguetza desfile (parade).

P1110451P1110452P1110481P1110485P1110505The heavens opened, umbrellas unfolded, rain ponchos were donned, and cover was sought by spectators and delegations, alike. But, stay tuned, the show DID go on!

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Tuesday morning, from the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad, the sound of speeches, music, and explosions announced Día del Barrendero — a day celebrating the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo.  These are the street sweepers, garbage collectors, and laborers of Oaxaca.

Earlier in the morning, a procession brought union members, their families, and friends from Cinco Señores to the Basílica, where a special mass was celebrated to honor the patron saint of Oaxaca, la Virgen de la Soledad.  Raul, a lifelong street sweeper whose work day begins at 3 AM, is quoted as explaining, “We have to thank our mother, the Virgin of Soledad, for the blessings every day gives us.”

March 3rd — brought to you by the gals and guys who keep the city clean.

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September is El Mes de la Patria in Mexico (the month of the homeland) and green, white, and red decorations have gone up all over the city.  The governor is scheduled to recreate “El Grito” (the Cry of Dolores) from the balcony of the Government Palace at 11 PM on September 15.  The following day, there will be an hour-plus long patriotic parade through the streets of the city celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Neveria decorated with green, white, and red

Neverías in Jardín Socrates

The teachers’ planton (encampment) on the zócalo expanded again to adjacent streets yesterday, though it is supposed to end by September 9.  Oaxaca is holding her collective breath.

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As we have done in previous years, we returned to San Antonino Castillo Velasco on November 1 to watch families begin the preparation of the graves of their loved ones for Día de los Muertos.  In a process unique to this pueblo known for the cultivation of flowers, family members mix the area’s very fine dirt with water; spread it on the top and sides of the grave; smooth it with a trowel, as if they were getting ready to lay tile; using a nail, they outline designs and religious imagery into the mud coating; and then use flowers (fresh and dried), to “paint” the scene.  

This year’s late rainy season brought torrential rains on November 2 and it must have interrupted the decorating, because when we returned on November 3, at the same time as usual, there was still much work to be done.  However, no one seemed the least perturbed; peace, tranquility, and quiet joy prevailed and, as always, it enveloped us.

(Music: Marimba band performing, “Díos Nunca Muere,” written by Oaxaqueño composer and violinist Macedonio Alcalá.)

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Oaxaca’s annual Guelaguetza festival honoring the traditions of costume, dance, and sharing of the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca is less than a month away.  There will be competitions leading up to the choosing of Goddess Centeotl to preside over the festival and parades by the delegations through the city on the two Saturdays that precede the July 22 and 29 programs at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro Fortín.

There will official and alternative celebrations in the city and surrounding villages.  According to yesterday’s press conference, more than 70 events are scheduled and Lila Downs will be the official Guelaguetza 2013 ambassador.  Hmmm… I wonder what that means?  Surprise Lila Downs performances?  It’s Oaxaca, so you just never know!

To get everyone in the spirit, here’s a few photos from another of Oaxaca’s wonderful urban art covered walls.  It celebrates the heritage of Oaxaca and can be found at José López Alavez 1406, in the Xochimilco neighborhood of the city.

By the way, this past Sunday, San Francisco’s North Bay residents got an early and small flavor of Guelaguetza.  Oaxacan dances, dishes and costumes in Santa Rosa entertained over 1,000 spectators and, no doubt, the hearts of the Oaxaqueños participating and in the audience swelled with pride.  If I’d only known about it in advance, I would have gladly extricated myself from the complexities and minutiae of getting my grandparents’ house ready to sell and driven up there for a taste of Oaxaca.  They were even serving tlayudas!

Oh well, this time next month I will be happily back in Oaxaca and, no doubt, be exhausted, exhilarated, and pouring through hundreds of photos from the first week of Guelaguetza activities.

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Yesterday was another of the “ya just never know…” days.  Returning to the city from Xoxocotlán after looking at the house my (soon-to-be-former) neighbor is building, the taxi driver pointed down Independencia and said something that we interpreted as, “day of the garbage collector.”  So, instead of going home, my camera and I walked in the direction he pointed and, sure enough, a side street was lined with decorated garbage trucks.

decorated garbage trucks



However, this day wasn’t for just any old garbage collectors; being March 3rd, it celebrated the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo of the municipality of Oaxaca.  Depending on which newspaper report one reads, it is either the 34th, 38th, or 39th anniversary.

Marmota with banner

These are the city workers who keep the state’s capital clean — the garbage collectors, street sweepers, drivers, and laborers.  And, the city of Oaxaca IS clean, putting San Francisco to shame!  After a Thanksgiving mass, most of the 1,200 “trabajadores de limpia” and their families filled the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad.  And, like all good Oaxacan celebrations, there were monos, dancers, marmotas, bands, toritos, and the whistles, whirrs, and booms of fireworks (of the all bang, no bling variety).






So, now you know where to be and what to do next March 3rd!

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The word "ASK" written on white wall with light green trim on left

Where else have you seen El Grito decorations?

Blue and peach colored school decorated with Mexican flag banners and drapes

Schools, of course!  This one in Teotitlán del Valle.

People standing in front of newsstand decorated with a green, white, and red garland.

And, how about newsstands?  You can’t miss the green, white, and red — it’s everywhere!

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El Grito is coming, El Grito is coming!!!  Green, white and red is on display all over the city, including clothing stores, as tradition calls for wearing the colors.

Are you in the market for a traditional look?

White blouse and skirt with green and red trim.

A huipil and rebozo?

Green, white, and red dresses and shawls hanging on wall.

Or, are you leaning toward an updated mix and match style?

Green, white, and red dresses, skirs, blouses, and sash.

Do you need a sweater for going down to the zócalo on the evening of September 15?

Green, white, and red sweaters hanging on display hooks.

By all means, don’t forget to accessorize!

Green purse and red shoes.

On a more serious note:  Despite its current challenges (which are many and serious), Mexicans are extremely proud of being Mexicanos.  And, in my humble opinion, they have every right be!  They can trace their history back to ancient and highly developed civilizations, their national cuisine has been placed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO, and Mexico is considered one of the most geographically and biologically diverse countries in the world.  Plus, when was the last time you heard Mexico had invaded another country?

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Tonight, instead of candles…

Fireworks blossom

Fuegos artificiales exploded from the Alameda de León…

Fireworks blossom

As Oaxaca celebrated her 480th birthday!


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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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As promised…

And, there is SO much more!!!

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Today is Thanksgiving in los Estados Unidos de América… and besides my wonderful family and friends, I am so grateful to see and experience places like San Antonino Castillo Velasco during los Días de Muertos.

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¡Feliz Acción de Gracias a todos!

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