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Posts Tagged ‘Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo’

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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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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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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Late yesterday afternoon in Teotitlán del Valle — along with village officials, church committee members, 200 unmarried young women, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 dancers, players of the traditional teponaxtle (drum) and the chirimía (small oboe), pyrotechnicians, and two bands — children gathered.

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Boys came holding carrizo poles topped with mini marmotas (fabric globes), sheep, turkeys, giraffes, airplanes, and other images whose significance escapes me — though this year Quetzalcoatl made an appearance.

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Little girls came wearing miniature versions of the traditional red wool enredo (wrap skirt) and embroidered or crochet blouses.

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They assembled in the atrium of the church for the start of the *convite (special kind of procession) honoring the Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, the patron saint of the village and whose image, attributed to Oaxacan painter Miguel Cabrera, resides in Teotitlán’s church.

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The procession wound its way from the atrium, through the principal streets (mostly cobblestone) of the village, and back to the atrium — approximately two miles (3.2 km)!

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Giving a group of boys long poles has the potential for high jinx, but most was limited to clever ways to evade overhanging tree limbs.

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The littlest girls were beginning their years long conditioning in order to develop the arm strength needed to hold a canasta (basket) above their head for over an hour — SO much harder than it looks!

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And, there were boys in the band — some already affecting a cool “Blues Brothers” look.

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This was just the beginning of the festival — there will be the danzantes performing the Danza de la Pluma, fireworks (including toritos and castillos), and another convite.  So, stay tuned for more to come.

*Convite:  According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  Larousse Standard Diccionario translates convite to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”

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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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Storm clouds were gathering on Tuesday afternoon, as we drove out to Teotitlán del Valle for this year’s first performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  However, the clouds were chased away and the plaza in front of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Jesucristo was bathed and blessed with the light and shadows of the golden hour.

P1100717P1100713P1100725P1100756Ahhh…

(ps)  For a Moctezuma eye view of the dance, check out Chris’s Moctezuma Cam post.

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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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During the aforementioned convites, you will find the boys of Teotitlán del Valle, Standing On the Corner watching all the girls go by.  Not much has changed since The Four Lads had a hit with that song!

From my friend Samuel Bautista Lazo, who grew up in Teotitlán del Valle, “It’s funny to see boys with their cameras taking pictures and videos of the girls they like, often they watch the procession at one corner once they have seen everything, they run (or bike) as fast as they can to the other good spot to see all the girls again.”  And, he knows from personal experience!

Like Sam, I wonder how many couples have gotten together???  Perhaps meeting at the fireworks a night later…

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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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July in the valley of Oaxaca has begun!  There will be festivals of mole, mushrooms, cheeses, and tamales.  And, there will be the costumes, calendas, and music of Guelaguetza in the city and in several of the surrounding villages.  But first…

Subalterno with open arms

Under a dark and threatening sky, the people of Teotitlán del Valle began their week-long Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Festival to the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).  Wearing traditional embroidered blouses and wool skirts woven in this Zapotec village known for its weaving, the unmarried young women and girls gathered in front of the church (Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo) for the convite (procession) that kicks off Teotitlán’s most important fiesta of the year.

Young Zapotec women and girls in front of church

The rain held off and the procession left the confines of the church courtyard.

Marmotas and people leaving entry gate

Marmotas (giant cloth globes), music, and pyrotechnics led the way…

Banda marching down street

along with little boys holding canes of carrizo and poles topped with small marmotas, fluffy sheep, and airplanes (don’t ask me).

Little boy carrying small marmota

And then came the young women and girls, carrying canastas with images of the saints on their heads.  I have to note here, these baskets are REALLY heavy.  I know, because last year one of the gals asked if I’d like to try — I did for all of about five seconds.  They carry them for almost an hour!!!

Young women with carry canastas on their heads

Most of the residents came out to watch at prime viewing locations.  (Teenage boys were especially prominent, but they deserve another blog post.)

Men, women, and children standing on street

Under the watchful eye of El Picacho (the sacred mountain of Teotitlán), the procession wound its way up and down the cobblestone streets…

Procession in mid-ground and mountain in background

and eventually returned to the church courtyard, where it all began.

For more photos, including some of the pyrotechnic guys in action, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

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The Danza de la Pluma penachos (headdresses), capes, and leggings are spectacular and unique to Teotitlán del Valle.  The feathered designs on the penachos are more intricate and varied than in other pueblos; and the capes and leggings are hand-woven in this village that is internationally known for its weaving.  However, while the Danza de la Pluma is a crowd-pleaser during the annual July Guelaguetza on Cerro del Fortín in Oaxaca, folkloric groups from other villages are usually chosen to perform it, as Teotitlán’s costumes are not considered “authentic.”

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However, performing for tourists is not why Teotitlán del Valle tells this story through music and dance several times a year.  It is performed on the church plaza, not the municipal plaza, because it is an integral part of the annual major religious celebrations of the village:  Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in July, Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in September, Fiesta a el Rosario de la Virgen María in October, and Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe in December.

Penachos from the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María on Sunday…

Capes from Sunday’s Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María and July’s Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo festival.

Leggings from both festivals…

The various elements of the costumes do not come cheap and dancers must appeal to their extended families to assist in commissioning each of the pieces.  Thus, as annual festivals come and go during a dancer’s 3-year commitment, the costumes may evolve.

With their performances, the dancers honor the rituals of their church and community.  And, with their magnificent costumes, they pay homage to the creativity, talent, and tradition of Teotitlán del Valle’s weavers and feather artists.

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