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Posts Tagged ‘Cerro Picacho’

Yesterday, I did it again!  After a year’s hiatus, on Día de la Santa Cruz I returned for the ritual pilgrimage to the top of El Picacho, the sacred mountain that watches over Teotitlán del Valle.  To avoid hiking in the worst of May’s high temperatures, our ascent began at 5:30 in the morning.  Yes, it was dark, with not even moonlight to guide our way.  Thank goodness for the flashlight app on my smart phone.  However, by 6:30 AM dawn was breaking and our artificial lights were extinguished.  Our hardy band arrived at the summit about 7:30 AM to the ritual round of handshaking that accompanies greetings and farewells in the village.

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The three crosses mark the summit

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Pilgrims perched on the rocky outcroppings that make up the peak.

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The views were spectacular no matter which way one chose to look.

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An altar greeted pilgrims at the peak.

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At 8:30 AM, an hour-long mass was celebrated and, perhaps a first, some of it was in Zapoteco.

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As the mass began, the cicadas (cigarras or chicharras, en español) began their song — one even perched on the fabric swag festooning the crosses.

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Mass over, Procopio Contreras, the young priest (first from Teotitlán) took off his vestments and posed for photos.

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Mountain top delivery of tamales de mole amarillo followed the mass.

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Along with a cup of agua de jamaica, we took our tamales into the shade, where bromeliads clung to tree branches.

After a lazy comida filled with conversation between new friends and with our strength renewed, we (3 Teotitecos, 1 Belgian, and me) descended the mountain.

While the day may be designated Día de la Santa Cruz and a mass said on top of Picacho, this day has pre-Hispanic roots in ceremonies related to the sowing season.  In the early days of May (by our calendar), prayers and rituals were dedicated to Cosijo, the Zapotec god of lightening, thunder, and rain — later to Tláloc, the Aztec god of rain — thus fertility and water for the growing of crops.  Hmmm…  On May 2, lightening flashed and thunder roared, but Mother Nature only delivered a few drops in the village.  However, on May 3, once the daylong festivities atop the mountain concluded, three hours of a good hard rain fell in Teotitlán del Valle.  The gods must have heard the prayers.

h/t  Zeferino Mendoza

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Despite 2000 miles between here and there, similarities abound between the two places I call home.

Art on walls.  (Left) A massive new mural in Mill Valley, above the side wall of the Sequoia Theater, by Zio Ziegler.  (Right)  One of the many murals by Sanez (Fabián Calderón Sánchez) in Oaxaca.  By the way, I’ve previously posted murals by both artists:  click Sanez and/or Zio Ziegler.

Agave.  (Left) Of course in Mill Valley (California), it’s solely ornamental for those meticulously landscaped gardens.   (R) Whereas in Oaxaca, it’s vital crop — land without agave means life without mezcal!

Fluttering swags of flags.  (Left) Cloth Tibetan prayer flags flying outside the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley welcome patrons to the Mountainfilm festival.  (Right) Ubiquitous papel picado found inside and out in Oaxaca, in paper or plastic, for events special or just because.

Sacred mountains.  (Left) Mt. Tamalpais, the Sleeping Lady and mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and adult peace, joy, and renewal.  (Right) Cerro Picacho (in Zapoteco, Quie Guia Betz), brother/sister mountain — the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle, where, among other times, villagers make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

And, last but not least, colorfully costumed couples.  (Left) Soon after arriving at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, I ran into this twosome.  Turns out, in the “it’s a small world” universe, they are actually friends of a couple I know in San Miguel de Allende.  (Right) During July’s Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, the delegation from Putla de Guerrero representing their celebration of Carnaval, is garish and gaudy and wild and wacky — in other words, fantastic!

Creativity is a challenge. It requires us to be fully human — autonomous yet engaged, independent yet interdependent. Creativity bridges the conflict between our individualistic and our sociality. It celebrates the commonality of our species while simultaneously setting us apart as unique individuals.  —Greg Graffin

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The sunburned shoulders have turned brown and the leg muscles are no longer sore.  I’ve fully recovered from last Sunday’s annual Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross) hike up Cerro Picacho (in zapoteco, Quie Guia Betz), the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle.

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All that remains, are memories and photographs from another lovely, if strenuous, day.  The cicadas (cigarras or chicharras, en español) again provided the  soundtrack, as we wound our way up the trail from the presa (dam).  The climb begins rather benignly but rapidly gets steeper and steeper.  That little speck in the lower right of the photo below is the car — and this was less than a tenth of the way to the summit!

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At 10 AM, when we began our ascent, it was already hot and experience told us shade trees were few and far between.  We were the only extranjeros (foreigners) on the trail and were frequently passed by Teotitecos (people from Teotitlán) going up and coming down and never failing to greet us with “buenos días.”  After several rest and water sipping breaks, we eventually reached our destination.

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This 2.9 mile (4.7 km) hike took us from 5,750 feet (1,752 meters) to 6,830 feet (2,082 meters).  However, once we arrived, we were immediately offered much-needed and appreciated cups of agua de jamaica (hibiscus water) and later we were fed amarillo tamales pulled from steaming pots in the makeshift kitchen.  No doubt, the gals in this alfresco cocina appreciated the newly constructed shade structure and counter that had been bolted into the side of the mountain, as I’m sure did the young man who sat down to serenade us.

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However, the best was yet to come — the spectacular views of the village and the mountains beyond that unfold when one reaches the summit.

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Even more overwhelming is the sense of oneness with the natural world and with generations of Zapotecos who have been climbing and honoring El Picacho for thousands of years.

P1090266As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, May 3 is Día de la Santa Cruz.  The committee members who organize Teotitlán’s celebration change from year to year, so each year takes on a slightly different character.  This year brought the newly built kitchen space and, unlike last year, no foot race up the mountain and the absence of massive speakers blasting music — for which we were grateful!

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Three permanent crosses can be found atop Picacho and for Día de la Santa Cruz, all were decorated with fragrant garlands of frangipani blossoms.  A cross of concrete and stone crowns an altar and two wooden crosses, which I’ve been told were carved in Chiapas, preside above the altar and look out over the valley.

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Teotitlán (Teocaltitlán, in náhuatl) means “land of the gods.”  Sitting on top of Cerro Picacho, it certainly felt as if I was indeed gazing out at the land of the gods.

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