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Posts Tagged ‘Danza de la Pluma’

In Oaxaca, at any time of year, images of la Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) are never far away.

April 8, 2022 – Wall of a building on Calz. de la República, Oaxaca city.
March 24, 2022 – Wall inside Casa Ocho Regiones, Oaxaca city.
November 2, 2022 – Cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros.
February 3, 2022 – Guadalupe (on the right) at the restaurant Almú in San Martín Tilcajete.

However, today, December 12, is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe and she and her image are being celebrated — including by the danzantes of Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024 in Teotitlán del Valle.

The legend of La Virgen de Guadalupe is known to every Mexican, every person of Mexican descent, and probably every foreigner who calls Mexico home. The image of this dark-skinned Virgin Mary who spoke Náhuatl is as imprinted on the national consciousness as she was on Juan Diego’s legendary tilma (cloak).

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For two days following the previously mentioned convite inviting the villagers of Teotitlán del Valle and guests to the festival honoring the Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary), the Danza de la Pluma was performed in the atrium of the church. The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual reenactment of the battles between the Aztec and the Spanish conquistadors. There are thirty nine dances that tell the story. This is the Chotis de 4 Reyes– a Schottische performed by the four kings allied with Moctezuma.

As you can see, the dance steps are complex and made all the more challenging by the wind, which comes up most late afternoons this time of year, catching the massive penachos (the headpieces) worn by the dancers. By the way, this day was the actual feast day so they danced for seven hours. I don’t know how they do it!

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A BFF since age twelve (don’t ask how long ago that was) and her husband are visiting. I took them to the weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle for the Santísima Virgen del Rosario festival — three days of witnessing the weft of Spanish conquistador Catholicism woven onto the warp of indigenous Zapotec culture. The public festivities began with Friday evening’s convite — a formal 45 minute procession, through the streets of the village, that serves as an invitation to the festival.

Canastas, with images of Mary and Jesus, waiting to be carried on the heads of unmarried young women and girls.
Young boys waiting with marmotas on tall carrizo poles.
Band #1 leads off the convite with a giant Viva la Virgen marmota.
At least 100 young unmarried women and girls, in traditional festival dress, carry canastas on their heads through the cobblestone streets.
Band #2 provides the music for the danzantes who follow.
Danza de la Pluma danzantes, with rattles shaking, march and dance their way through the streets.

I think my friends were impressed!

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the dancers of the Danza de la Pluma (Feather dance), make a solemn commitment to their faith and to their community to dance for three years at each of the four major annual religious festivals in their village. 2022 brings a new group and the festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo the first of their public performances for the residents of their village and visitors. They dance four times during this festival — two half days and two full (7 hours) days.

July 5, 2022…

La Malinche (Silvia Melissa González Pérez), Moctezuma (Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz), and Doña Marina (Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.)
Teotitlán de Valle, Danza de la Pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Danzantes dancing like puppets on a papel picado string.
Subalterno helping Rey 4, Luis Ángel Bazán Ruiz, with his penacho (headdress).
Subalterno taking a selfie with a “borrowed” phone.

July 6, 2022…

Capitán 2, Hugo Félix Santiago Jiménez.
Dancers of the Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Moctezuma, Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz.
Doña Marina, Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.
La Malinche, Silvia Melissa González Pérez.
Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024, Teotitlán del Valle.

On the superficial level, the Danza relates the story of the Conquest — the Spanish, Moctezuma, his allies, and Malinche/Doña Maria. But, as is the genius of art, it reaches into our hearts and souls and explores and communicates the truths we know and feel.

In 2022, they will dance again for Natividad de la Virgen María in September, Rosario de la Virgen María in October, and the Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12.

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The annual convite at the beginning of July in Teotitlán del Valle has not only been an invitation to the village’s patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Cristo. For me, it has also served as an invitation to a month of non-stop celebrations and events — an excuse to set aside my daily routines and chores and, instead, revel in the color and culture on display in the streets of the city and the small towns dotting the valley of Oaxaca.

The church, Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, ready and waiting for the convite to begin.
Picacho, the sacred mountain envelops the community in its protective arms, as the canastas and unmarried young women and girls of the village take their place in line for the convite.
Boys clutching their mini marmotas patiently wait for the deafening sound of the cohetes (rockets) signaling the convite’s start.
Boys and their mini marmotas at the head of the convite — accompanied by a few dads, big brothers, uncles, and officials to keep them in line.
Two monos (new addition this year) and one of several gigantic marmotas follow close on the heels of the young boys.
Of course there is a band to set the tempo.
Arms raised, contingents of unmarried women and girls carry canastas decorated with religious imagery.
Most are dressed in the valley’s traditional enredos (wool wrap skirts) and colorfully embroidered white blusas from Oaxaca and Chiapas.
In this Zapotec villlage, the beauty of the faces and strength of their arms are a sight to behold — especially Beatriz (foreground), who is very dear to my heart.
A second band marks the approach of the danzantes.
Danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024 alternately march and dance their way along the cobblestone streets.
Picacho watches as the danzantes wend their way along the meandering streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Villagers watch as danzantes Moctezuma, Malinche and Doña Marina, followed by another marmota, and town officials mark the last of the convite’s participants.

After almost an hour, the convite and its contingents returned to the church atrium. Their work, of extending an invitation to the festival, is finished — until next time!

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Yikes, I realized it’s been nine days since my last blog post. Time does, indeed, fly when you’re having fun. And, fun is what I’ve been having, especially during the last four days.

July 4, 2022 – Convite in Teotitlán del Valle for their patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
July 5, 2022 – Morning hike in the hills of Teotitlán del Valle.
July 5, 2022 – Afternoon presentation of the Danza de la Pluma in honor of Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 6, 2022 – Full day of Danza de la Pluma honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 7, 2022 – Calenda celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Galería La Mano Mágica in Oaxaca city.

More on the convite, Danza de la Pluma, hike, and calenda to follow. But, first, a return to Teotitlán del Valle today for the final Danza de la Pluma presentation for this festival.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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A much needed pause in nesting at the new Casita Colibrí was in order. Teotitán del Valle’s patronal festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo beckoned. The pandemic had closed the village for many months and precluded attending any of the 2020 fiestas. However, with mask on, I returned to spend three days. First on the schedule was Monday evening’s convite (procession) inviting the community to the fiesta.

Lining up in front of Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo for the convite.
Canastas ground level before being lifted onto the heads of the young unmarried women chosen to participate.
Cohetero (aka, rocket man) mugging before lighting the fuse.
Anticipating the big bang!
Tambor player who has walked many miles.
Young percussion player with many miles yet to walk.
As the shadows lengthened, the convite wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Doña Marina, Moctezuma, and La Malinche bringing up the rear.
Villagers gather at their favorite location to watch the passage of the convite.
Convite taking over the main street in Teotitlán del Valle.
Danzantes under the watchful gaze of El Picacho.
Subalterno keeping on keeping up.
The return trip to the iglesia.
After almost an hour, the convite re-entered the atrium of the iglesia.
Watching and contemplating — the end.

The last festival in Teotitlán that I attended, before Covid-19 turned the world sideways, was the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in October 2019. The warm welcome I received at the convite on Monday was incredibly touching and I admit to tearing up a little as it began.

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Looking in the rear view mirror at images from 2019. They bring fond memories of life in Oaxaca — ferias, festivals, food, and friends, not to mention exhibitions, random street scenes, and the unexpected at Casita Colibrí. They were also a reminder of many days and nights spent in Teotitlán del Valle this year.

January – San Juan Guelavía town hall.

February – Wall on Niños Heroes, remembering the Ayotzinapa 43.

March – Cactus flower on the Casita Colibrí terrace.

April – View from a gas station along Carretera Federal 175.

May – Construction assistance from the balcony of Casita Colibrí.

June – The tamales brigade at a 50th birthday fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle.

July – Newly made candles in Teotitlán del Valle.

August – Necklace from Monte Albán Tomb 7 exhibition at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.

September – Convite during the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle.

October – Danza de la Pluma at Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in Teotitlán del Valle.

November – Día de Muertos tamales in Teotitlán del Valle.

December – Nacimiento (nativity scene) in the Plaza de la Danza.

Many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue blogging from my rooftop terrace in Oaxaca. Wishing you all the very best in 2020!!!

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Sunday, August 18, 2019, Teotitlán del Valle celebrated the first anniversary of their Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle (CCCTV). During the day-long event, not only was there food and music, the village also celebrated passing on of their cultural riches and traditions to upcoming generations.

The Cultural Center’s, Danza de la Pluma Infantil (youth Danza de la Pluma group) donned their costumes, gathered on the Municipal Plaza, and performed dances from this ritual retelling of the Conquest. (Check out the up close and personal photos by blogger buddy Chris.)

In the CCCTV, there was an exhibition of penachos/coronas (headdresses) used in the Danza de la Pluma that were crafted in a workshop by young people from the village.

“BaáGuiish” by Laura Ruiz Mendoza. Representing the four cardinal points to give thanks for each new day.

 

Detail of “Shia guibaa” by Jesús Brayan Jiménez Lazo.

 

“La cruz de Quetzalcóatl” by Juan Mendoza Bautista.

In addition, there was also an exhibition of tapetes (rugs) designed and woven by the young people of Teotitlán del Valle.

“El alma en manos de mi arte” by Omar Mendoza Martínez.

 

“Futuro Hermoso” by Constantino Lazo Martínez.

 

“Huitzilopochtli” by Anais Adelina Ruiz Martínez.

 

“Bineéty xunuax Xigie’ (Mujer Zapoteca) woven image of his grandmother by Mario González Pérez.

Celebrating and preserving the cultural riches of the Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday. Dixeebe! Zapotec for ¡salud! cheers!

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I returned to Teotitlán del Valle late Friday afternoon to view the convite of of unmarried women of the village and Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 danzantes (dancers) process through town — an invitation to further festivities honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Though that wasn’t the only activity on my agenda; I would be spending the weekend with my amiga K, who was house-sitting for another amiga N. It would be a weekend in the countryside for this city gal!

I arrived late afternoon on Friday…

Canastas (baskets) lined up in front awaiting the procession under the gaze of the sacred mountain, El Picacho.

Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de Pluma 2019-21 arriving in front of the church, waiting to process.

Guys who launch the cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) announcing the procession.

The convite begins — unmarried women of Teotitlán del Valle carrying the aforementioned canastas (baskets).

After the convite, an early evening encounter with a burro as mi amiga K and I walked to Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua .

Saturday…

Early morning view of the campo in Teotitlán del Valle.

Breakfast gathering of cocineras (cooks) and friends in the cocina de humo at Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua.

Encounter with a bull while walking back to the house.

Returning to the church to watch the late afternoon performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

Following the Danza de la Pluma, late night watching the toritos, castillo, and fireworks in front of the church.

Sunday…

During mass, shopping baskets parked in the church atrium.

Off to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. The upside down St. Peter encountered in the Señor de Tlacolula chapel.

Taekwondo competition in front of the municipal buildings in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Returning to Teotitlán del Valle, still life in front of the sacred mountain, El Picacho, seen while walking back to the church in the afternoon.

Final Danza de la Pluma performance in the church atrium at the 2019 Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

It was a lively, delicious, and exhausting weekend. Did I mention, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day?  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Muchisimas gracias to all who made it an unforgettable weekend!

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Yesterday, Teotitlán del Valle’s new Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 did battle, not only with Cortes, but also with the wind — which grabbed their penachos/coronas/headdresses like sails, challenging their balance, intricate footwork, and Busby Berkeley-like choreography.

Moctezuma holding on to his penacho/corona/headdress

Danzantes holding on to their penachos/coronas/headdress

Danzante appealing to the gods to stop the wind?

Throughout the day, wind continued to challenge the danzantes

Grasping their penachos/coronas/headdresses, Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings kept to their feet

The danzantes of Teotitlán del Valle didn’t miss a step at this most important festival day honoring the patron saint of their village, La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Alas, the wind didn’t bring much needed rain to this agricultural community.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue for another three days.

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On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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Yesterday, we said farewell to the Teotitlán del Valle, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys — and two little gals.

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El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe marked the end of this group’s three-year commitment to dance for their faith and community.

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With well over one thousand family, friends, community members, and visitors watching, they danced their hearts out.

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And, after the skips, squats, twists, and leaps ended, there was nary a dry eye in the house.  It was a fabulous night!

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If you are in town… As background to the December 12, Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, blogger buddy Chris (of Oaxaca-The Year After fame) and I are again doing a presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  It will be on Tuesday, December 4 at 5:00 PM.  And, new this year:  There will be very special guests!

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From the library’s description of the talk, “The Danza de la Pluma, with its giant feathered headdresses, is one of the most famous dances performed in Oaxaca and is particularly special in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle.  The dance, dancers, and village all have rich stories.  Come join Chris Stowens and Shannon Sheppard, who have spent several years observing and learning about this amazing culture, for a presentation filled with stories, photos and video.”

Alas, it’s not free.  Besides memberships, presentations like this are what keeps the library afloat.  The cost is 90 pesos for OLL members and 130 pesos for non-members.  Reservations can be made using the library’s Online Store.  Hope to see you on Tuesday!

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