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Posts Tagged ‘Danza de la Pluma’

Monday afternoon, in the middle of a fiesta at the home of Danza de la Pluma danzante Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez, a torrential downpour came to Teotitlán del Valle.

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As I’ve mentioned, rain has been scarce this rainy season — a serious situation for a community that relies on subsistence farming.

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So, despite the fact that the dirt road in front of the house became a muddy rushing river and festivities had to be put on hold for awhile as rain blew in through openings in the tented patio, this deluge was good news and people were smiling.

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Everyone, including Juan Pablo, waited patiently for the life-giving rain to let up.

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It eventually did and he was able to dance.

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On a wet patio, surrounded by 100+ proud family members, fellow danzantes, and guests, he performed his solo dance.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I felt so incredibly honored to have been invited.  It was a truly memorable experience that we will treasure always.  Muchisimas gracias to Juan and his family and all the members of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-18 for being so warm and welcoming to us over the past couple of years.  We are going to miss you!

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The very dry rainy season continues and is the major topic of conversation among anyone who has any connection to la tierra (the land).  However, during today’s Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle, the Zapotec god Cosijo answered the prayers for rain.

The sky darkened over Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

Moctezuma (Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista) danced the story of the Conquest.

Doña Marina (Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez) danced her part.

The rain began to seriously fall and the plastic penacho (headdress) covers came out in force, but the danzantes continued to dance.

Comida (lunch break) came just in time, the sun came out, and Malinche (Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) graciously posed for photos.

And, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez (dance master, choreographer, former danzante, and father of Moctezuma) posed with his son’s penacho.

A little means a lot, though probably not enough to salvage this season’s milpa (field of corn, beans, and squash).  But, when your culture dates back at least 2,500 years, you take a long view of history.

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Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys (and two little gals) came, saw, and conquered Oaxaca city yesterday.

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Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) and Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

After a rehearsal at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, followed by a lively (if various Facebook videos are to be believed) luncheon with the other delegations, they arrived, raring to go, at the Guelaguetza desfile (parade) gathering point in front of Jardín Conzatti.

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Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán de puerta 1º)

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Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez (Vasallo 3º)

Along with the other Guelaguetza delegations, they posed for photos requested by the crush of media, tourists, and locals.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma) on right

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno 2º) and Juan Bautista Zárate (Subalterno 1º)

And this year, unlike their last appearance two years ago, it didn’t rain on their parade.  Following their banner and band, they danced their way through the streets of the city under a brilliant late afternoon sun.

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Tapete by the late Pedro Gutiérrez, father of danzante, Denes Luis Gutiérrez Martínez

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8º) in foreground

For more of the danzantes from Teotitlán del Valle at the desfile, check out the blog post from Chris.  Next up, tomorrow morning’s performance up on Cerro Fortín!  For those of you, like me, without tickets, check THIS SITE and/or CORTV for live (en vivo) links to each Guelaguetza performance.

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The Danza de la Pluma weapons of war consist of a small paddle (pala/macana) held in the left hand and a sonaja (rattle) held in the right (see images of danzantes in July 9 post).

The sonajas are decorated gourds attached to a deer leg or antler.  During the dance, they mark the compass points and their sound is used to scare the opponents.

Each wooden pala is uniquely carved and decorated and serves as a baton and a shield in this dance that recreates the battles between the Spanish conquistadors and Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings.

Even Malinche (Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) carries a sonaja and a pala during parts of the dance.  And, check out the reversible pala of Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez — red weaving surrounded by alebrije-like painting on one side and blue weaving and painting on the other.  You can click on images to enlarge them.  The creativity never ceases to amaze!

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Yippee!!!  After an “exhaustive” (see news report) selection process that took the Comité de Autenticidad (Committee of Authenticity) to 89 communities throughout the state of Oaxaca, they announced the delegations that will be participating in this year’s Guelaguetza.  And, drum roll please, one of the 56 delegations chosen will be Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018!

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I’m so happy for the entire group, many whom I’ve come to know, but especially for Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (above in red shirt), one of the two dancers blogger buddy Chris and I are sponsoring.  He missed out when the group performed at the Guelaguetza two years ago, as he was recovering from surgery and this is his last opportunity — their three-year “act of devotion” to dance for their community ends this year.

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The group will be performing at La Guelaguetza on the morning of July 23.  If you can’t be up on Cerro del Fortín, it is usually broadcast live on local TV and streamed on the internet.  I’ll keep you posted!

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The above photos of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 are from the previously mentioned and recently concluded festival honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo — the most important annual festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Yesterday, after missing the Fiesta de la Natividad because I was in the middle of my 6-week cross-country sojourn in el norte, I managed (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris and his trusty VW Jetta) to make it out to Teotitlán del Valle for the last day of the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario and performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma)

The dance is day-long and recreates the Spanish Conquest from the Zapotec point of view.

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Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche)

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Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

Miracle of miracles, the rain held off, the clouds parted, and the sun made a much welcome appearance.

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Foreground:  Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán 1 ro.)

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Foreground:  Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8vo.)

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As we approached the atrium of the Templo Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, the father of one of the Danzantes explained a venue change — due to some (hopefully) minimal earthquake damage to one of the bell towers of the church, the Danza de la Pluma was moved next door to the plaza in front of the municipal building.

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Juan Bautista Ruiz (Subalterno)

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno) and Señor Inocencio

A heartfelt muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle, many of whom I am so lucky and grateful to call friends.  The warm welcome I received was such an incredible tonic to the grey days we have been experiencing in Oaxaca.

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And we thought last year’s Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle was exceptional!  It was, but, for blogger buddy Chris and me, this year brought even more warmth, appreciation, and the intangible of being present in the richness of more layers of being in this special village.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

We are patrons of two of the danzantes of the 2016-18 Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa in Teotitlán del Valle — and Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz is one of them.  As such, we were invited to the home he shares with his parents, Mario Ruiz Bautista and Victoria Ruiz, to partake in the traditions and observe the responsibilities that accompany taking on the three year commitment to being a member of the Grupo.

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Mario Ruiz Bautista (on left) overseeing the offerings

From my albeit limited understanding, as part of the commitment the dancers make during their three years of service, each of their families is tasked with taking a turn hosting one of the four yearly festivals.

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Victoria Ruiz watching Edgar’s dance

The day began with a breakfast of traditional breads and hot chocolate and was followed by Mole de Castilla, a mole unique to Teotitlán and served during weddings and the most important festivals.  There must have been over 100 people, including Edgar’s extended family, padrinos, danzantes and their families, and band members.  They gathered and were served in the courtyard of the Ruiz home, with men seated at one long table, women on the other side of the courtyard at another, and the two gringos seated with the danzantes in the altar room opening onto the courtyard.

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Breakfast breads with hot chocolate

Following the meal, chairs and tables were folded and removed, the danzantes took the floor, the band began to play, and, as the sun streamed down on the courtyard, Edgar began his dance.  It was a touching moment to see this young man, whom I’ve known for almost six years, since he was a gangling teenager, and Chris has known since he was a small boy, dance with such confidence and pride.

Following dances by the whole group, with band leading the way, dancers, families, and guests processed down the steep and winding streets from the house to the church.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz en route to the church, accompanied by Victoria (his mother) and his nephew.

They filed into the church, where a special mass was celebrated, and then regrouped in the church courtyard to begin the seven hour (más o menos) Danza de la Pluma.  Early in the afternoon, while the dance continued, the families and invited guests returned to the Ruiz home, where the families of the other dancers each made formal presentations of baskets of fruit and mezcal or cervesa to Mario and Victoria.  This was followed by a comida (lunch) of caldo de pollo.  After all were fed, the offerings  were loaded into pickup trucks to be taken to the church plaza, to later be shared with the community.  At night, after the dance ended, we all again returned to Casa Ruiz for barbecoa de res (beef) in a rich and flavorful sauce, cervesas, mezcal, and soda pop.  I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into preparing all the food, orchestrating its serving, and then washing all the dishes — by hand in basins set up in the yard across the street.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

It’s been over twenty four hours since Chris and I returned from Teotitlán del Valle and, though we talked continuously on the drive back to the city and have spoken several times since, we are still unable to put into words how meaningful and how honored we were to share this special day with Edgar, his family, and his community.  It was a precious gift. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos!

For more, see Chris’s blog post, A very special Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe.

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While waiting for yesterday’s convite to begin, the Danza de la Pluma subalternos, Florentino Martínez Ruiz and Juan Bautista Ruiz, knew how to keep young, old, all those in between, and the photographers entertained.

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A little “splendor in the grass” for Juan?

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And, the fun didn’t stop there, once the convite began, Florentino snatched a marmota from one of the little boys to give it a try.

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And, everyone laughed, especially the boy!  That’s entertainment, Teotitlán del Valle style!

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As regular readers know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the people and cultural traditions of the Zapotec village, Teotitlán del Valle.  Blogger buddy Chris and I go out there often, especially for their major festivals where the Danza de la Pluma is performed.  Earlier this month, a new group of danzantes de promesa assumed the sacred 3-year commitment to perform the Danza de la Pluma and, for the first time in recent memory, they were selected to dance in this year’s official Guelaguetza.  As you can see from the Vive Oaxaca video below, their 17-minute performance Monday evening was spectacular!

¡Felicidades! to the band, Los Reformistas, led by Maestro Antonio Servando Bautista González; to the breathtaking dancing of Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma), who was front and center and flawless during the entire performance; and to all the Danzantes, who impressively executed the complicated and visually stunning choreography of Maestro Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez.  While I may only be a (albeit, frequent) visitor to Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud of the dancers and the way they represented their strong, vibrant, and historic community.

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Yesterday, as the Guelaguetza dancers gathered at the Cruz de Piedra and Conzatti Park waiting for the desfile (parade) of delegations to begin, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, the wind picked up, and the rain began falling.  While they may be making their first appearance (in recent memory) at the Guelaguetza, the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle came prepared.

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They donned rain ponchos and covered their penachos (headdresses) with clear and specially sized plastic bags.

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They were good to go!

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Dance master and choreographer extraordinaire, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez, must have hauled his old costume out of storage to fill in for one of the danzantes.  But he looked stoked!

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I’m not sure which Subalterno this is.  Florentino Martínez Ruiz is that you?  Or, is it Juan Bautista Ruiz?  Before and during the desfile, both clowned around a little and assisted the danzantes a lot.

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There is something about kids and rain…  Five year old, Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) looked happy as a clam.

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Perhaps there was a little trepidation among the danzantes at the conditions and concern if the desfile was really going to happen.

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However, at almost exactly 6 PM, police sirens sounded, the leading band struck up, and the parade of Guelaguetza delegations began dancing their way through the city’s rain slicked streets.

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Not long after it began, the torrential downpour subsided and the plastic began coming off the danzantes penachos.

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After 35 minutes of dancing through, what became, a light drizzle, they reached the intersection of Crespo and Morelos, only a half a block from the parade’s end at the Plaza de la Danza.  Next on their dance card, Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance!  I’ll be watching on the local CORTV station.  However, if you are not in Oaxaca, CORTV will also be streaming the 10 AM and  5 PM Guelaguetza performances live, this week and next.

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The program of delegations for Guelaguetza 2016 is out and, according to all reports, the show will go on!  And, at long last, this year the Danzantes de Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle have been invited to perform.  It was the talk of the village this past weekend; the pride in their history and traditions and in this new group of dancers was palpable.

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As you can see above, they will be performing on Monday evening, July 25.  Though I won’t be there in person, I will be rushing home from the Guelaguetza celebration in Reyes Etla to watch the live TV broadcast.  Hopefully, as in past years, both the morning and evening performances on both Mondays will be live-streamed.  I will post the link, once I know.

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To whet your appetite, here is my short video of the Guelaguetza 2014 performance I attended at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín.

If this tempts you to come, please do!  Hotels have experienced a 32% cancellation rate, so you should have no trouble reserving a room.  And, the restaurants and artisans could really use your support.  While there are only a few reserved seats available through Ticketmaster at the performances up on Cerro del Fortín, local communities in the valley host their own Guelaguezas that are small, free, and provide an up-close and personal view.  In addition, the delegations dance their way through the streets of Oaxaca on the two Saturdays prior the performances, there are artisan ferias and food festivals in the city and surrounding villages to experience and enjoy.

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One of the much anticipated features of this year’s Fiesta Titlular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle was the debut of the new Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

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Danzantes

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Danzantes

Unlike in many of the other villages, where the Danza de la Pluma is danced by folkloric dance troupes, in Teotitlán del Valle nineteen young men and two little girls make a promise to their god and, thus, their community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village for three years.

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Moctezuma with Malinche and Doña Marina

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Danzantes woven wool leggings

This is not a commitment to be taken lightly, as there are 40+ dances that comprise this Zapotec retelling of the story of Moctezuma and the Aztecs battle with Cortes and the Conquistadors.  The entire telling of the story takes almost eight hours to perform in the church plaza — in conditions that can vary from brilliant sun with sweltering temperatures to gusty winds to drizzling rain.

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Subalterno offering water

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Subalterno imitating the danzantes

It’s been almost six months since we first saw the new group at one of their early practice sessions.  In jeans, t-shirts, and gym shoes, the guys were at the beginning stages of learning the steps.

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Moctezuma, a danzante, and Doña Marina

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Moctezuma and the danzantes

They have learned well and it’s going to be an outstanding three years!

 

 

 

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Late yesterday afternoon, under a dark and threatening sky, we gathered in front of Teotitlán del Valle’s church for the first *convite of the Fiesta Titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, the village’s patron saint festival.

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Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

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Peeking out from the canastas

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Danzante and daughter

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Subalterno entertaining the crowd

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Kids in the ‘hood patiently waiting and posing

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Leaving the church

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Through the streets with one of several marmotas

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Hundreds of unmarried girls and women parade through the streets

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Balancing canastas with dignity and pride

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The debut of the new Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa (2016-18)

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The rain held off, as the procession returned to the church

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And, the banda played on…

Major festivities of the Fiesta Titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo continue through Sunday.  We shall return!

* Convite:  According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  However, if I drag my weighty Larousse Standard Diccionario down from the shelf, convite translates to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”  To me, it is all of the above!

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As with all of life, there are changes going on in Teotitlán del Valle.  A large new Cultural Center is nearing completion.  It’s courtesy of the federal government and, according to the sign at the construction site, not a peso is coming from the state or village.  From what I’ve been told, it will house the museum, a library, and a performance space.

And, with their final Danza de la Pluma performance on Día de Guadalupe (Dec. 12), the three-year commitment of the last Danzantes de Promesa group was at close.  The new group has already begun the demanding work of learning the steps of the 40+ dances that make up the Danza de la Pluma.

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Under the watchful eye of El Picacho, Moctezuma, Malinche, Doña Marina, Teotitles, Capitánes, Reyes, and Vasallos practice from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Saturday through Monday to be ready for their debut the first Wednesday in July 2016 during the festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  A major and meaningful commitment, it is.

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace
I’m going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Changes by David Bowie (descansa en paz)

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Saturday, like all Mexico, Teotitlán del Valle honored the Virgen de Guadalupe.  As they do every December 12, the Danzantes de Promesa danced the Danza de la Pluma.  However, this was the last performance by this group; their three-year commitment to their god, church, and community was at an end.  And, as is their tradition, the dancers and their families offered the village food, drink, and a party to celebrate.

Dancers and their wives, parents, grandparents, godparents, sisters, brothers, and children came bearing fruits, candy, mezcal, and beer.

The children learn at an early age that it isn’t all about them — they are part of a community and have roles to play and contributions to make.

All ages and genders have a role.  The men, more often than not, get the glory but look at these women!  They radiate the strength and pride of 2000 years of Teotitlán del Valle, Zapotec history and culture.

As darkness fell and after dancing for several hours, 9-year olds, Juana Lizbeth Contreras (Malinche) and Ailani Ruiz Ruiz (Doña Marina) made the rounds of the thousands gathered on the church plaza to distribute their gifts to their community.  It was then that emotion overwhelmed me.

A profound muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle for being so welcoming over the years to a couple of gringo bloggers.  Chris and I are so grateful for your generosity of spirit.  Definitely, more to come…

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