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Posts Tagged ‘festivals’

If it’s the end of January into the beginning of February, it must be time for the Feria del Carrizo in San Juan Guelavía.  About twenty minutes east of the city, this village was known for their beautiful and functional baskets hand-woven from carrizo (Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed), a tall perennial cane that grows along river banks. p1240717

These baskets have traditionally been used as carriers and storage bins since before the Spanish set foot on the soil that became Mexico.  However, their popularity and demand took a nosedive, along with the economy of San Juan Guelavía, upon the arrival of plastic baskets.  The answer, in 2012, was to promote these artisans, their wares, and their creativity with a fair.  Several days preceding Sunday’s inauguration of the 6th annual fair and sale, there were misas (masses), parades, and fireworks.

As with all festivals and fairs in Oaxaca, there are folkloric dance performances.

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And, artfully positioned decorations adorning walls and gates and hanging from the ceiling.p1240705

There is barbacoa and tortillas hot off the comal.p1240697

And, impossibly adorable children carrying on traditions.p1240738

The fair was in full swing when we arrived in late morning (note to self, get there earlier next year) with carrizo woven baskets, birdcages, bottles, and baby cradles piled high.p1240718So many choices…  Is it too early to begin Christmas shopping?p1240715I kept my eye out for Teresa, who made beautiful lampshades for me two years ago.  However, it wasn’t easy as there were so many people coming and going and crowded around all of the vendor tables.p1240706
It took a while but, on the second pass around, I finally found her and her delightful family.  There was much handshaking, cheek kissing, and catching up.p1240714And, more than a little laughter about her fowl friend, who was keeping watch under the table.p1240712

Another wonderful, warm, and welcoming day in one of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca.  The fair continues this week with a 4-day jaripeo (rodeo) and closes on February 5, so you still have time!  Never fear, if you miss it, these carrizo treasures can often be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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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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If you want an up close and personal fireworks experience, come to Oaxaca.  Of course, there are no guarantees you won’t find yourself in the line of fire.  No barricades, no yellow caution tape, no police!  I’ve seen hair singed, had a friend get pinhole burns on the inside of his glasses, and last night a projectile came careening toward us and had me ducking for cover.  However, as the saying goes, “no harm, no foul” and the spectacle was espectacular!

P1100852 cropIt began with 45+ minutes of the quema de toritos and angelitos.

They were followed by a spectacular castillo, a “firefall,” and traditional fireworks exploding against a clear black sky.

P1100930Late Tuesday night during this week’s fiesta honoring la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  It was a fabulous — well worth spending the night in Teotitlán and staying up way past my bedtime!

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Last night, all was in readiness in Teotitlán del Valle for most important fiesta of the year — honoring la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).

Specially cut papel picado fluttered from the church.

P1100456Marmotos waited in the wings.

P1100467And canastas, lovingly decorated by their owners stood ready to be carried through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.

IMG_7677Next up, the most important ingredient…

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Last Sunday, Oaxaca bid adiós to the 10º Nacional Festival de Danzón, the stately dance from Cuba that has captivated Oaxaca.  Alas, I only managed to catch the very end.  But, as always, I was charmed by the formality and style and intensity and joy — a tradition kept alive by those in their latter years…

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… and by the young.

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Several well-known danzones were composed Amador Pérez Dimas from Villa de Zaachila, ten miles southwest of Oaxaca city.

For a taste of danzón, here is brief snippet from the close of the festival.  By the way, the band is Banda Santa Cecilia from Teotitlán del Valle, a band we will be hearing several times next week during the the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

If you are in Oaxaca, you can experience Danzón for yourself on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM, either under the laurels on the Zócalo or on the Alcalá near Santo Domingo, depending on the state of the Zócalo — occupied or not occupied.

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We returned to Teotitlán del Valle on Tuesday and Wednesday the Danza de la Pluma — more of the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

Moctezuma and Danzantes

An airborne Moctezuma and the Danzantes

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The story is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is an honor to be a participant — the Danzantes, Moctezuma, the Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to the church and community to perform their roles for 3 years.

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

All is not completely serious — the Subalternos provide a little levity along the way.

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

The subtext and “hidden” narratives of the danza are multiple and complex and after 5 years, I’m only in the infant stages of understanding.  I will leave it to the two scholarly articles listed below to attempt interpretation.

Danzantes with El Picacho in background

References:

Cohen, Jeffrey.  Danza de la Pluma:  Symbols of submission and separation in a Mexican Fiesta.  Anthropological Quarterly, Jul 93, Vol. 66 Issue 3, p. 149-158.

Harris, Max. The Return of Moctezuma.  The Drama Review, Sp 97, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p. 106, 29 p.

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Not only is the previously mentioned Oaxaca FilmFest4 opening tomorrow night, but last night a calenda up Morelos heralded the arrival of the 8th Congreso Nacional de Danzón.  Alas, it was raining, I’m a wimp, and so stayed home.  However, the music coming from the Plaza de la Danza sounded wonderful.  Sigh….

If you are walking around Oaxaca during the next few days, be on the lookout for the guapas y guapos (the guys are all duded up, too) of Danzón.  They are adding a lot of glitz and glamour to the streets of the city.

3 women dressed in glittery dresses

For the uninitiated, Danzón is a very stately dance that originated in Cuba.  However, it seems to be most beloved in Puerto Rico and Mexico.  It has especially flourished in Oaxaca, where one can find dancers young and old dancing under the laurel trees in the Zócalo every Wednesday evening at 6:30.  And, no wonder it has retained its popularity here, according to Wikipedia, “many famous danzones were composed by Oaxacan musicians such as the famous Nereidas and Teléfono de larga distancia, both works of Amador Pérez Dimas, from the town of Zaachila, near Oaxaca city.”

If you aren’t anywhere where Danzón is performed, you can check out the 1991 movie, Danzón:

Julia (Rojo) is a phone operator in Mexico City who divides her time between her job, her daughter and the danzon: a cuban dance very popular in Mexico and Central America. Every wednesday Julia does the danzon with Carmelo (Rergis) in the old “Salon Colonia”. They’ve danced for years but barely know each other. One night Carmelo disappears without a trace. Feeling lonely and sad, Julia takes a train to Veracruz, where she knows Carmelo has a brother. That sudden trip will change Julia’s life forever. IMDB

I haven’t seen the movie, but according to one reviewer, the soundtrack is worth the rental price.  I’m going to try to find it!

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There is SO much going on in Oaxaca right now that the doing isn’t leaving much time for the writing!

However, I’ll give it a try with today’s Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The festival is part of an effort to preserve the food culture of the Zapotec.

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What, you may ask, is tejate?  It’s a frothy, refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from Nixtamal corn mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activitity in San Andrés Huayapam, located about 7 miles north of the city, and it is prepared and served by the tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate.

Then, of course, there were the tamales — in tin buckets and giant pots covered in layers of tea towels, many colorfully embroidered.  So many vendors anxious to reach into the steaming buckets and so many varieties to choose from.  Where does one start?

Blogger buddy Chris recommended the Rajas and Verde from the gal “down at that end,” a taste of a friend’s Flor de Calabaza added that to the list, Mole is a given, and I had to find Chichilo.  The latter is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca, it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings, or when the crops have been harvested.  Chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves (the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor) give it its distinctive flavor.  After three unsuccessful attempts, eureka, I found it!  And so I returned home with five mouth-watering tamales.

Platter with 5 tamales

Speaking of ingredients like corn, cacao, chiles, and calabaza, for a graphic of foods Mexico gave to the world, click HERE.

¡Buen provecho!

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We returned to Teotitlán del Valle on Tuesday and Wednesday for performances of the Danza de la Pluma, a ritual re-enactment of the battles between the Aztec and Spanish.  According to OaxacaWiki:

The origin of this dance goes back to the spiritual and physical conquest of Mexico by the Spanish – La Guerra de Conquista. The dance originated in the town of Cuilpam de Guerrero where Martin Cortes (son of Cortes) celebrated the first baptism of his child. Martin played the role of his father and the locals played the roles of the conquered indigenous peoples.

The story is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  Selected years in advance, it is an honor to be a dancer and they perform their roles for 3 years.  This week, during the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, we saw the first performances by the new cast and they looked great!

Presenting the Cast of Characters

Montezuma

Doña Marina (hat) and Malinche (headdress)

2 Subalternos

16 Danzantes:  Teotiles (2), Capitánes (2), Reyes (4), and Vasallos (8)

They are going to be fun to watch during the next 3 years.   (By the way, the costumes may change from day-to-day, but the cast remains the same.)

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Monday, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle for the Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo — the pueblo’s most important festival of the year.  While special masses have been celebrated at the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (the village church) since June 30, Monday’s convite (procession) by the unmarried women in the village, kicked off the more public events.

Lovingly decorated canastas (baskets) waited in the church to be reclaimed by their owners, placed on their heads, and carried through the streets.

Crowds gathered in the plaza in front of the church and sidewalks and streets along the route.

And then it began — with solemn drum beats, fireworks, church bells, marmotas (cloth balloons on a pole), and a band.

Little boys (and a few girls) carrying model airplanes (don’t ask me why), paper mache lambs, and turkeys followed.

And then came the neatly organized rows of girls and young women.

For over an hour they wound their way up and down and around the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.  The weather was perfect, no late afternoon thunder showers this year, and it was glorious.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue all week.  And, check out Oaxaca-The Year After this week for blogger buddy Chris’s photos and commentary.

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Early Saturday evening, the Plaza de la Danza played host to the Festival Día de Reyes, an event to delight and distribute a kilometer of donated toys to disadvantaged children.  The Kings had kids and their parents seeing double.

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Lines began forming two hours in advance to be up-front and close to the stage, all the better to be chosen to participate in the games and entertainment that was also part of the festivities.

P1040341To the delight of the crowd, three luchadores took the stage to recruit contestants for a mystery contest.

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The music came up and Oaxaca’s kids began going, “Gangnam Style” — albeit, some more enthusiastically than others — and all got prizes.

Psy may have sung and danced his last “Gangnam Style” on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, however, it remains alive and well in Oaxaca!

According to this morning’s Noticias, 6,500 toys (donated by citizens, city government entities, foundations, and businesses) were given to each child present and all received a piece of rosca de Reyes.

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As they say, a good time was had by all!

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Riotous clanging from Soledad’s bell towers at 4:45 AM yesterday rudely interrupted a peaceful sleep.  Explosions of cohetes and other church bells soon joined the morning’s 2-hour long Virgen de Juquila soundtrack.  Chimes, rockets, loudspeakers announcing the presence of the water and gas vendors, fried plantain wagon steam-whistles, horns honking, bus gears grinding, and booming base emanating from open car windows; it’s all part of the cacophony one comes to know and love when living in Mexico.

And, then there is the music…  Looking for signs of Juquila yesterday (with all that noise, I figured there must be something going on), I stumbled upon the Sexto Festival Low-Fi 2012.  (Fyi:  sexto = 6th, in case you were wondering.)

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There were vendors…

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This definitely didn’t have anything to do with virgins!

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This was a music festival that almost didn’t happen.  According to event promoter, Thorvalo Pazos Hoga, they were initially denied a permit, “on the grounds of religious and traditional festivals that are celebrated in the month of December in the city.”  A silly argument, was his response.

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I arrived in the early afternoon and fanaticos (love that word for fans!) were just beginning to gather at the Plaza del Carmen Alto.  Ska, hip hop, heavy metal, rock, electronic music, and more would be adding to Oaxaca’s soundtrack until 11 PM.

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Yes, we have no marimbas; the music was not your grandparents’ sones and jarabes.  The bands had names like:  K-OS Party, Cayune, Pichancha, Rekto de Cerdo, Dr. Jekill y Mr. Hyde, Herpes, Coito Violento, Forever, and Survival.  Probably not even your parents’ music!

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Oaxacan graphic artists designed the stage set.  Love how they re-imagined the traditional Navidad piñata.

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This year marks the 80th anniversary of the modern Guelaguetza festival in Oaxaca.  The calendar is filled with official Guelaguetza activities and other events that take advantage of the massive annual influx of tourists (especially from other parts of Mexico).  The colorful and distinctive costumes worn by the Guelaguetza delegations from each of the 8 regions of the state of Oaxaca play a major role in wowing visitors and residents — including, me!

Huipil de San Andrés Chicahuaxtla, Putla Villa de Guerrero, Oax.

As a result, the “Oaxaca Xaba Lulá” exhibition has been mounted in the Government Palace.

Traje de la Villa Sola de Vega, Oax.

These are only a fraction of the items on exhibit and the photos were chosen primarily because they showed the least amount of reflection on the plexiglass display cases.  It is a beautiful, but challenging to photograph, setting!

Huipil de San Bartolomé, Ayautla, Teotitlán, Oax.

The collection of trajes típicos (typical costumes) representing the 8 regions of Oaxaca runs through the end of the month.

Rebozo de San Juan Colorado, Jamiltepec, Oax.

The dresses, hats and accessories were donated by Oaxacan citizens from different regions of the state and were made in the traditional way, with many using natural dyes.

Huipil de Gala de San Lucas Ojitlán, Tuxtepec, Oax.

At the July 6 opening, José Zorrilla de San Martin Diego (Minister of Tourism and Economic Development), explained that they reflect a cultural essence that has prevailed for centuries in customs and traditions of the people of Oaxaca.

Funda de San Jerónimo Tecoátl, Teotitlán. Oax.

He observed that the Oaxacan costumes are a reflection of the depth of the culture, traditions, and ancestral weaving techniques that have been passed from generation to generation of Oaxacan hands.

Traje de Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Mixe, Oax.

“The huipiles display in all their splendor the details that form a labyrinth of colors, a tiny universe that reflects the vastness of fertile nature and the symbolism that characterizes our native land and which graces the greatest festival of Oaxacaños,” Zorrilla de San Martin Diego very poetically suggested.

Huipil de Jalapa de Díaz, Tuxtepec, Oax.

Needless to say, during the next two weeks, I’m going to try to hit as many of the fairs, parades, dances, and exhibitions as possible.  Stay tuned…

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The convite (covered in the Uplifting post) is only one of the traditions of the patronal festival of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  During the five days of the celebration, the church is filled with floral arrangements and believers stream in and out clutching flowers; the Danza de la Pluma (with Moctezuma, Cortez, Malinche, Doña Marina, danzantes, and soldados) is performed several times; and the cargo holders of the community preside, are honored, and presented with fresh fruits, vegetables, sacred herbs, and beverages.

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Sunday was another amazing day in Teotitlán del Valle.  And I haven’t even mentioned the tacos and tamales we devoured during our three visits this past week!

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Late yesterday afternoon, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle for the convite (parade) of unmarried young women and girls, a part of the annual patronal festival of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  The sun was shining, the rains of two days before were nowhere to be seen, and the sacred mountain, El Picacho, gracefully, but commandingly, presided as the soldados and danzantes entered the church courtyard.

Soldados and danzantes with the mountain in the background

Bands also arrived to take part…

Band with tuba in front; mountain in background

Canastas (baskets) were lined up, ready to be carried…

Canastas with images of the Virgen Mary lined up.

3 canastas with images of Jesus

Canasta with Virgen de la Navidad woven into the design

The young men of the village gathered…

Young men sitting on a ledge

Young men in profile

Family and friends awaited…

Women standing and facing down the street

And then the young unmarried women and girls, the stars of the evening, raised the canastas over their heads…

Young women and girls in red skirts and white blusas carrying canastas on their heads lined up and

3 young women carrying canastas on their heads

Close-up of 2 young women carrying canastas on their heads

Balancing the canastas, they processed from the courtyard, down several long and cobblestone blocks, turned left, and headed back up another street to where they had begun, to be greeted by proud family and friends, who had gathered to acknowledge and celebrate the young women and girls of Teotitlán del Valle.

For some inexplicable reason, we never cease to feel moved and uplifted by this ritual.

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