Posts Tagged ‘Diosa Centéotl’

On my way to the supermarket this morning, look what I came upon in the Plaza de la Danza.  The candidates vying to become Diosa Centéotl, the fertility goddess of corn who presides over July’s Guelaguetza festival, were rehearsing the blocking for this evening’s first stage of the competition.

Down the stairs of the Plaza de la Danza they processed to the solemn sound of the Himno a la Diosa Centéotl.

According to the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca (Seculta), this year there are 43 women, all over 18 years old, hoping to be the one selected.

Onto the stage to their assigned seats, where, cued by the director, they each, in turn, practiced walking up to the microphone.

Representing the regions of the state, twelve are from the Central Valleys, eleven from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, six from the Sierra Sur, five from the Mixteca, four from the Papaloapan, four from the Coast, and one from the Cañada.

Accompanied by their shadows, they climbed the stairway to the stars to start all over again.

Tonight’s competition begins at 6:00 PM, when each participant will talk about the myths and legends, gastronomy, traditions, and tourist attractions in their village.  The second stage of the competition begins tomorrow (June 30, 2019) at 11:00 AM.

(ps)  This is not only a venue change, the date of the competition was moved up almost three weeks — perhaps to have Diosa Centéotl preside over more of the Guelaguetza’s ancillary events.

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As I write, Diosa Centéotl 2018 is presiding over this year’s first Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).  This is corn planting season and the figure of the goddess Centéotl represents the deity to whom rituals were offered to guarantee a good harvest.  She was elected from among 27 young indigenous women, representing the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.


The first stage of the competition was held Friday morning at the Jardín del Pañuelito, with contestants speaking about their regions and communities.  During stage two, later in the afternoon, the participants talked about their distinctive clothing.  (For a few photos, check out Of Goddesses and Food.)  The judges, including Las Quince Letras cocinera and ambassador of traditional Oaxaca cooking, Celia Florian (2nd from right), then deliberated.


Saturday morning the venue moved to the elegant early 20th century Macedonio Alcalá theater where at least 500 people listened as the “Court” of the Diosa Centéotl was announced:  Hillary Naxhiely López (San Blas Atempa), Adriana Ramón Guzmán (de Asunción Ixtaltepec), Yoali Josabet López Quiroz (Santo Domingo Tehuantepec), Socorro Hernández Santiago (Putla Villa de Guerrero), and María del Carmen Vásquez Díaz (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).


A beautiful scepter, carved and painted by Jacobo and María Ángeles from San Martín Tilcajete, waited in the wings to be presented to the new Diosa Centéotl.


And, the winner was… Francisca Pérez Bautista from Santa María Zacatepec.  A member of the Tacuate ethnic group in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, she was wearing the traditional cream-colored huipil with red ribbons and embroidery.  On her head, she wore the customary bowl-shaped jícara head covering made from the fruit of the calabaza tree.


There was a twenty-minute break in the action — the governor, Alejandro Murat, was delayed in traffic.  In the interim there was much affection and camaraderie displayed among the contestants.  Eventually, he arrived and presented the scepter to Francisca.


There was no rest for the new Diosa Centéotl.  Her official duties began immediately — a luncheon with the Guelaguetza delegations, followed by leading the desfile of delegations through the city’s streets.

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On Friday, Diosa Centéotl was selected to reign over the Guelaguetza festivities.  The eight regions of the state of Oaxaca were all represented by the 33 contestants competing for the honor.  (My photos of each of the contestants are from the morning phase of the competition.)

First a little history…  According to the pamphlet that was distributed to the hundreds of locals, family and friends of contestants, and tourists attending the competition at Jardín el Pañuelito, the little “pocket” garden along the side of Santo Domingo de Guzmán:

“In the pre-Hispanic worldview, Goddess Centéotl possessed the divine power to germinate corn and all the plants of the milpa:  tomato, squash, chile, quelites, beans, and other vegetables that constituted the Mesoamerican diet….”

“For that reason, prayers, dances, music and flowers were offered in each planting cycle…”

“[Later] the relationship between peoples, nature and the gods was manifested through a liturgical calendar carried out with much scrupulousness by both priests and the common people, for the survival of all was at stake, since a failed crop condemned them to famine, disease and moral suffering.”

“By contrast, an abundant harvest filled the people with happiness and they understood that the Goddess of Fertility – Centéotl – had listened to their requests.”  — my translation from the Spanish

The competition to be Diosa Centéotl is not a Miss Universe/Miss America style beauty pageant.  Dressed in the typical costumes of their villages or neighborhoods, these young women had to communicate their knowledge of their communities. They were required to give two 4-minute oral presentations in front of five judges:  Jorge Bueno Sánchez (city chronicler), Celia Florián (chef/owner of Las Quince Letras), María Concepción Villalobos (coauthor of Centéotl en los Lunes del Cerro), María Concepción Guzmán Concha (textile expert), and Claudio Sánchez Islas (writer and journalist).

In the morning session of the competition, each was required to speak about their traditional cuisine, crafts, festivals, customs, myths and legends, or tourist attractions. During the afternoon stage, each had to discuss the history, composition, elaboration, and utility of their costumes.  In addition, as Oaxaca has sixteen distinct ethnolinguistic groups, contestants from the various indigenous communities spoke several lines in their materna lengua (mother tongue).

It is in the dignity, pride, and poise expressed by each of the contestants where we see the essence of their beauty expressed.  And the winner is…

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, San Melchor Betaza

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, from San Melchor Betaza in the Sierra Norte region of the state.  At being selected she exclaimed, “Doxhkenho dazhan” —  Muchas gracias in Zapoteco.

(ps)  If anyone has or can find a list of all the contestants, I would really love to add their names and communities to each photo.  I think they all deserve to be recognized.

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While there have been pre-Guelaguetza calendas for the past couple of weeks, for me, the festivities really begin tomorrow — with the Festival de los Moles.  Last year, at least 20+ moles were presented at the “all you can eat” buffet in the Jardín Etnobotánico.  Ticket in hand, I’m ready!

P1200532 (1)In addition, tomorrow Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) will be selected to preside over La Guelaguetza.  Beginning at 10:00 AM, contestants from the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca will showcase and explain the costumes and traditions of their communities, both in Spanish and their materna lengua (mother tongue).


The schedule of activities during these next two weeks is always jam-packed, entertaining, and exhausting.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the official schedule below.

Calendario Guelaguetza2017

That’s not all, folks!  There are additional Guelaguetza dance performances, expo-ventas, and fairs in the surrounding villages.  And, best of all, residents and visitors will not be navigating along sidewalks piled with garbage.  A temporary Guelaguetza truce to the almost two-week dispute that has prevented garbage from being delivered to dump, was agreed to last night.


This afternoon, this guy’s garbage cart was SO full, he was having a hard time pulling it over the cobblestones.  He is my hero of the day!

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So much to see and do, so little time to process photos and post — should all our problems be so enjoyable!  However, before tonight’s Lila Downs concert, tomorrow’s Desfile de Delagaciones (parade of delegations), and Monday’s Guelaguetza in Etla (and that’s only a few of the activities on the dance card), a glimpse from the beginning of Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance.

Diosa Centéotl, Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia began the presentation of Lunes del Cerro (aka, la Guelaguetza).

Diosa Centéotl,  Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia

As tradition dictates, she was followed by the convite (procession) of Chinas Oaxaqueñas with their band, monos, and banners.




They filled the stage, dancing the Jarabe del Valle to the cheering crowd.


It was a balmy evening, the view was spectacular, fourteen more delegations danced their way into the night, and a dazzling display of fireworks exploded above the open-air auditorium to conclude the show.

And, they do it all again this coming Monday — hopefully, the kinks will be worked out for the live streaming, so no matter where you are, you can watch and enjoy the morning and/or evening performances.

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This post is really just an excuse to post photos of two young women who are presiding over this year’s Guelaguetza activities.  The first is the Reina (queen) of the 4th Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo.  She is a writer, loves books, and her eyes lit up (even more!) when I told her I was a librarian.  She and her mother were so gracious and radiated joy and warmth.  Alas, I didn’t catch her name; if anyone knows, please post in comments.

Friday evening, the Diosa Centéotl (corn goddess) was chosen to reign over this year’s Guelaguetza.  Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia, a native of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, was selected from 33 participants who represented the 8 regions of the state of Oaxaca in a 2-part competition.  Each entrant was required to make a presentation, in both her native language and in Spanish, about the gastronomy, crafts, dances, legends, traditions, and customs of her village and on the clothing of her region.  Even though we were way in the back, Jacqueline caught our attention with her impassioned speech.  One of the first of her duties was to lead yesterday’s desfile (parade of the Guelaguetza delegations) through the streets of the city of Oaxaca.

I love Jacqueline’s reaction when her name was announced as Diosa Centéotl 2014.

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Yesterday, we began the marathon than is Guelaguetza in Oaxaca.  First on the day’s agenda was a morning trip to Reyes Etla.

The Señor de las Peñas church sits atop at hill and views of the lush green fields (gracias, rainy season) and the mountains were breathtaking.

Cactus, farmland, mountains

Impossibly adorable children danced and shared, in the spirit of Guelaguetza.

Boy and girl in traje throwing candy to audience

We were in the heartland of Oaxaca cheese country for the crowning of  Jimena Santiago Vasquez, as queen of the third Expo Feria de Queso y Quesillo.

Girl with crown and red sash

Did I say cheese?  Oh, yes — stalls and stalls of yummy cheese.  The fair runs through Monday and we will be back!

Woman selling cheese

Next on our itinerary was a return to the city for a little (?) gluttony — the Festival de los 7 Moles opening banquet on the grounds of the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca.  Botanas Oaxaqueña (cheese, chicharrón, chiles rellenos), followed by Sopa de Fandango, 15 (not 7) Moles, 4 Tipos de Arroz, followed by a platter of pastries and scoops of Leche Quemada and Tuna nieves (sorbets).  Oh, and did I mention, cervesas and mezcal?

Lines of serving platters and people

We even got a little culture, as author, Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) spoke, though it was a little hard to hear her, with all the eating, drinking, and related conversations!

Profile of Laura Esquivel

Moving rather slowly, we pushed back from the table and headed down to the Alameda (oh, it felt good to walk!) to take in the last stage of the Diosa Centéotl competition — the chosen “Goddess” presides over Guelaguetza.  However, the area surrounding the tented stage was a mass of people by the time we arrived and the best I could do was see the backs of the magnificent traje.  (See Chris’s blog for close-ups from the stage one competition.)  And, the winner is…  Dulce Yanet Grijalba Martínez, from the Zapotec community of San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Backs of women sitting in traditional dress

After a brief siesta, I rendezvoused with some young friends and we walked over to the Plaza de la Danza for a free performance by Alejandra Robles, one of my favorite Oaxaqueña singers.  (For video from the last time I saw her, click HERE.)

Alejandra Robles

The night was still young for my young friends and they were off to get a nieve at Jardín Socrates.  I was off to bed, because I’d already had my day’s allowance of nieve AND we’ve only just begun!

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Oaxaca is a foodie paradise, in major part, because much of its cuisine draws on and honors its pre-Hispanic roots.  And, right now, during this time of Guelaguetza, various food and beverage ferias and festivals are also happening throughout the city and central valleys of Oaxaca.  Today, on the Plaza de la Danza, the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal, celebrating these specialties of San Andrés Huayapam, opened with the usual fanfare — music, monos, a marmota, and speeches.

Mono and marmota with "Huayapam" printed around it.

Present were a number of local dignitaries, including Evelyn Acosta López, the recently elected corn goddess, la Diosa Centéotl 2012, who presides over the Guelaguetza.

Evelin Acosta López seated.

Tejate is a foamy, refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from Nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, and toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers.

Rosita de Cacao blossoms.

One frequently sees tejate, served in these colorfully painted gourds, in the mercados of Oaxaca, at festivals, and street side stands.

Dried and hollowed-out gourds painted red with blue, yellow, and green decoration.

And, yes, it is safe to drink.  The water and ice that are added…

Woman with surgical mask pouring water from bucket into large pot of tejate

come from garrafons of “pure” water.

Stack of garafons (jugs) of pure water.

And, please, don’t be put off by the women, up to their elbows, mixing the ingredients.  Just think about it…  Chefs often use their hands when preparing food and arms are generally much cleaner than hands!  Believe me, these women take great pride in their expertise and product.

Hand and lower arm mixing tejate as water is added

Oh, right, there were also tamales!  Once I finished taking photos and drinking a tall cup of tejate, I made my day’s tamal purchase; chepil, chichilo, and mole.  Tomorrow, I will be returning for more.

Large galvanized aluminum bucket filled with a variety of tamales wrapped in corn husks and banana leaves.s

The Feria del Tejate y el Tamal runs today and tomorrow at the Plaza de la Danza, then moves up to San Andrés Huayapam for Saturday and Sunday.  You can find a little more information about the feria in last year’s blog post, Tejate and tamales.

And, sheesh, I still haven’t blogged about the cheese feria, mushroom feria, not to mention, the Feria Nacional del Mezcal — all of which I’ve attended during the past several days!

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