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Posts Tagged ‘Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo’

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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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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I must confess, I’m partial to Teotitlán del Valle and this fiesta.  It was photos from the 2007 celebration that first persuaded me to visit Oaxaca.  However, this is it… I promise… no more photos from the Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle until next year!

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However, if you, like me, can’t get enough… check out Chris’s photos over at Oaxaca-The Year After.

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A brief slice from the hours and hours of dancing done by the Danzantes de Promesa, in the plaza in front of the church in Teotitlán del Valle, during the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

The Danza de la Pluma consists of 41 “bailles” (pieces of music) that, on the surface, reenact the conquest.  Cortes and his troops are played by very young through teenage boys.  They occasionally march around, but mostly stay seated.  The Danzantes representing the Aztec, on the other hand, are young (and not so young!) men and dance at least 70% of the time.  In addition, Moctezuma has some solos and La Malinche and Doña Marina perform several lively dances.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing the proscribed music, including, incongruous to me, waltzes, polkas, and schottisches. According to the Harris article referenced below, at the end of the 19th century the orchestra replaced the original indigenous drum and flute.

The subtext and “hidden” narratives of the danza are multiple and complex and I’m only in the infant stages of understanding.  For now, until my Spanish language skills improve significantly and I can talk with someone who is a member of the community, I will leave it to the two scholarly articles listed at the end of this post to attempt interpretation.

By the way, the day was overcast and windy at times, with gusts threatening those enormous and extremely top-heavy headdresses.

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.

Now that I’ve done some research (alas, after the fact)… I want to see it again!

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After all the waiting, the calenda (parade) of the Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo began winding its way from the church courtyard down the narrow streets of Teotitlán del Valle and back up to the courtyard.

Arms raised, the unmarried young women of the village carried these bamboo-framed canastas floreadas above their heads for the entire route.

And, naturally there was a band… with the requisite tuba!

This Subalterno (one of two who keep their eyes on the festivities) kept the procession moving along…

including the young Soldaditos of Hernan Cortes.

They were followed by the Danzantes de Promesa (note the other Subalterno to the far right)…

and bringing up the rear, Moctezuma with the dual personalities of the same woman, La Malinche and Doña Marina.

In this village, known for its weaving, a complex tapestry of religious ritual, historic legend, and tangled mythology has been woven together to celebrate community and identity.

Definitely worth the wait… AND there’s more to come!

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The participants also did a lot of waiting…

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How do they remain in such good humor???

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