Posts Tagged ‘fiestas’

The poster announces, Lanii xh’tee búul (La fiesta de los abuelos)  — the annual Festival of the Grandparents in Teotitlán del Valle that occurs five days immediately following Easter.  Pre-Hispanic in origin, masked “ancients,” in ritualistic, lively, and hilarious fashion, impart their “wisdom” to the village leaders at a grand “Danza de los Abuelos” on the municipal plaza.  (If only I could “get” the jokes!)

However, prior to each evening’s merriment, a home in one of the five sections of the village hosts a feast with enough food and drink to feed an army.  And, like the world over…


…we know who are the behind-the-scenes heroes of fiestas like this.


It is the abuelas with their hands, hearts, and mouthwatering recipes (like the mole amarillo, above) handed down from their grandmothers.


Even while bouncing nietos (grandchildren) on their knees, with good humor, grace, and their elaborately embroidered aprons, they make certain everyone is fed.


And, they keep a strict accounting of all that is spent!

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Yippee, I’m back in Oaxaca!  Last night’s flight was smooth, on-time, and mostly empty.  I have to admit to always getting a goofy grin as the little Embraer comes in over the lights of the city and the smile continues through immigration and baggage claim.  It usually falters and turns to a grimace when I have to hoist my 50 pound suitcase up onto the x-ray conveyor belt.  However, last night the grin returned when I pressed the “to search or not to search” button, got the green light, and was able to proceed directly to the booth to buy my colectivo ticket —  60 pesos for door-to-door service to the historic district ‘hood.  An easy return to home.

Unpacking done, late this morning I walked down to my local mercado to restock the larder with some basics:  2 perfect avocados, 1 pristine white onion, a bunch of unblemished small and sweet bananas, half kilo of quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), and 6 freshly made tamales (mole, rajas, and verde).  I’d actually asked for 4, but my regular tamale gal threw in 2 extras.  How often does that happen in el norte?   A welcoming return to home.

This afternoon, blogger buddy Chris and I drove out to Teotitlán del Valle for the performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  We stepped up onto the plaza of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo and it was like emerging into the middle of a technicolor movie.  We’ve been there countless times, but today we were blown away by the scene.  Mother Nature had conspired to use her enhance wand on the sky, clouds, sun, and costumes.   A spectacular return to home!

The recent trip to California was to sign papers finalizing the sale of the house my grandparent’s built in 1957.  Prior to relocating to Oaxaca, it had been my home for 30 years, where I’d raised my kids and made many wonderful memories.  Needless to say, selling it was an emotionally challenging ordeal and it has engendered a lot of thinking about the notion of “home.”

However, these past 24 hours have reinforced my belief in bumper-sticker wisdom seen many years ago, “When you live in your heart, you are always home.”  It’s good to be home!

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The Fiesta de Mayo in Santa María Tlahuitoltepec lasted three days, though we were only there for a few hours on day two.  There was to be a rodeo that night — a corral had been set up and bulls were arriving as we were leaving.

A timeless quality… but, not to be mistaken for being frozen in time.  We are already making plans to return.

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Saturday, we drove up into the Sierra Norte, to the Mixe region of the state of Oaxaca.  Our destination was Santa María Tlahuitoltepec and its Fiesta de Mayo.  We had been attracted to their unique women’s traje (costume) by the work of one of the vendors at an artesanía feria in the city a couple of months ago.  She invited us to the fiesta and so we went.

After winding our way up mountain roads filled with switchbacks and potholes, we turned off on a dirt road for the final ten minutes of our seventy-six mile journey from the city.  We had climbed from 5,100 feet to over 7,800 feet above sea level on our three-hour drive up into pines.  The name Tlahuitoltepec is made up of two Nahuatl words — Tlahuitol translates as “arched” and Tepec as “hill.”  I can attest, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec is definitely built on a (very steep) “arched hill.”  This is the same village that, at the end of September 2010, was hit with a devastating landslide that killed 11 residents, following record rainfall.  And, as we drove up to the village, engineering work to repair and reinforce the hillside and road was visible and ongoing.


We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, stopped to ask, and were told to follow the signs to “el centro.”  Our first indication that we were headed in the right direction was the sound, quickly followed by the sight, of a band playing and walking in the same direction we were.  It was one of three youth bands we saw and heard during our brief stay; music is obviously very important in this remote mountain village.  The pueblo plays host to the Center for Musical Training and Development of Mixe Culture and according to this article, an estimated 70% of the population can read music and many who can’t, play by ear.

And, along with music comes dance.  Santa María Tlahuitoltepec will be participating in this year’s Guelaguetza in July — and its Ceremonia del Tepache is featured in one of the promotional videos.  While there, we watched as a youth exhibition group performed three traditional dances to the appreciative crowd that filled the stands of the municipal court.

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The uniqueness of each village never ceases to delight and impress me.  You know when you are there, because you couldn’t be anywhere else.

Check out Oaxaca-The Year After for more photos from Saturday’s excursion.

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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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Yesterday, fellow blogger, Chris, and I drove out to Teotitlán del Valle for their yearly patronal festividad de La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  The rains came and we didn’t stay long.  But, as we almost always find, just being out there provides much appreciated food for the soul.

Black and white photo of Zapotec woman sitting upright with a rebozo draped on her head.

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