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Posts Tagged ‘Guelaguetza’

The reports are in regarding tourism during the Guelaguetza and, unfortunately, they confirm our observations and discussions with merchants, restaurateurs, and hoteliers.  Hotel occupancy was only at 53% and tourism was 37 points below estimates for the period, July 22 to August 1.  Artisans had to pay 2,600 pesos (US$138.00) for a stall at the state sponsored, Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza (exposition and sale), which ran from July 16 to August 1, and many said they barely broke even, especially when taking into consideration expenses getting to and from the site and having to purchase meals.

However, I tried my very best to help the local economy throughout Guelaguetza.  As regular readers know, I love the textiles of Oaxaca and thus I have a few new treasures hanging in my closet.  First, this modern take by Muchitos on the traditional huipil.

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I purchased it at Letra Capital, a 4-day contemporary design market, held in the courtyards of the Biblioteca Pública Central de Oaxaca.

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And, then there was this traditional huipil woven by Juana Reyes García from San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, and purchased at the 4-day Tianguis Artesanal at the Centro Cultural San Pablo.

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Juana has been recognized for her work using natural dyes and has won several prizes.

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Then there was the tunic-length (at least on me) blusa from one of the extraordinary embroiderers of San Antonino Castillo Velasco — bought at the above-mentioned Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza.

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I have been wanting one for years and years.  However, whenever I’m in San Antonino, it’s usually for a festival or during Día de los Muertos and, while there are stalls upon stalls selling blouses and dresses,  I’m distracted by the event at hand — never mind, that I don’t usually carry enough money to pay for one of these treasures.  Isn’t the work exquisite?

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I’ve already worn all three of my new textile treasures several times.  And, that wasn’t the end of my shopping spree.  My other big splurge was commissioning a tapete from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  They had a stall at the Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza and a rug I fell in love with.  Alas, it was too big, so they are making me a smaller one.  Sam has promised it will be done within a month.  Blog post to follow!

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Unlike last Saturday, there was no rain on yesterday’s Guelaguetza parade.  There was music, mezcal, and tepache. (Click on photos for full image.)

There were headdresses and bling.

There was awesome pride and joy.

And, there were kids to carry on the traditions.

Muchisimas gracias to the extended family of Hotel Casa Catrina who allowed me to seek shelter from last Monday’s rain and yesterday, saw me across the street and invited me for a shot of mezcal and to watch the desfile with them.  That’s Oaxaca — warm, welcoming, and wonderful!!!

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As regular readers know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the people and cultural traditions of the Zapotec village, Teotitlán del Valle.  Blogger buddy Chris and I go out there often, especially for their major festivals where the Danza de la Pluma is performed.  Earlier this month, a new group of danzantes de promesa assumed the sacred 3-year commitment to perform the Danza de la Pluma and, for the first time in recent memory, they were selected to dance in this year’s official Guelaguetza.  As you can see from the Vive Oaxaca video below, their 17-minute performance Monday evening was spectacular!

¡Felicidades! to the band, Los Reformistas, led by Maestro Antonio Servando Bautista González; to the breathtaking dancing of Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma), who was front and center and flawless during the entire performance; and to all the Danzantes, who impressively executed the complicated and visually stunning choreography of Maestro Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez.  While I may only be a (albeit, frequent) visitor to Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud of the dancers and the way they represented their strong, vibrant, and historic community.

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Yesterday, two friends and I hailed a taxi and headed out of the city.  We disembarked at the Viguera crucero, where we crowded into blogger buddy Chris’s car enroute to the intimate Guelaguetza in Las Peñitas Reyes Etla.

The day was overcast and there were a few light sprinkles, but the welcome we received on this grey day warmed our hearts.

As they have in past years, for three and a half hours, the members of the folkloric dance group, Danza Balachi, danced, changed costumes, danced, changed costumes, and danced some more.

The sun eventually made an appearance and our day ended with very yummy estofado at our favorite restaurant, Comedor Colón in Villa de Etla.  It was a great day!

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Yesterday, as the Guelaguetza dancers gathered at the Cruz de Piedra and Conzatti Park waiting for the desfile (parade) of delegations to begin, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, the wind picked up, and the rain began falling.  While they may be making their first appearance (in recent memory) at the Guelaguetza, the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle came prepared.

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They donned rain ponchos and covered their penachos (headdresses) with clear and specially sized plastic bags.

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They were good to go!

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Dance master and choreographer extraordinaire, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez, must have hauled his old costume out of storage to fill in for one of the danzantes.  But he looked stoked!

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I’m not sure which Subalterno this is.  Florentino Martínez Ruiz is that you?  Or, is it Juan Bautista Ruiz?  Before and during the desfile, both clowned around a little and assisted the danzantes a lot.

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There is something about kids and rain…  Five year old, Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) looked happy as a clam.

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Perhaps there was a little trepidation among the danzantes at the conditions and concern if the desfile was really going to happen.

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However, at almost exactly 6 PM, police sirens sounded, the leading band struck up, and the parade of Guelaguetza delegations began dancing their way through the city’s rain slicked streets.

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Not long after it began, the torrential downpour subsided and the plastic began coming off the danzantes penachos.

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After 35 minutes of dancing through, what became, a light drizzle, they reached the intersection of Crespo and Morelos, only a half a block from the parade’s end at the Plaza de la Danza.  Next on their dance card, Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance!  I’ll be watching on the local CORTV station.  However, if you are not in Oaxaca, CORTV will also be streaming the 10 AM and  5 PM Guelaguetza performances live, this week and next.

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Orgullo is the Spanish word for pride and you hear it a lot in Oaxaca.  But, rather than just the personal, it encompasses the dignity, honor, and respect felt for one’s community’s history and cultural heritage.  Remember, there are 16 indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca – each with its own language, dress, culinary traditions, music and dance, celebrations, and crafts.  While the modern Guelaguetza is an invention to attract tourism, it doesn’t detract from the pride expressed by its participants in their unique contributions to what makes Oaxaca.  Thus, a few scenes from Friday…

Fresh handmade tortillas accompanied the mole at the Festival de los Moles luncheon. Chefs from all over the state, presented their moles — I lost count at twenty different kinds — which were served by culinary students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.

Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) competition to reign over the Guelaguetza.  Young women representing the regions of Oaxaca showcased and explained the costumes and traditions of their communities, as well as, speak a few lines of their materna lengua (mother tongue).

Calenda (procession) on the Alcalá by people from the Gulf of Tehuantepec region.  They were heading toward Santo Domingo — and yes there were a few Muxes among the participants.

During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

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July is the month of the Guelaguetza.  It has its origin in pre-Hispanic corn festivals — a time when maíz seeds were (and continue to be) sown in many of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca and people gathered to exchange seeds and celebrate.  The annual festival was resurrected in 1951 by the city’s leaders to encourage tourism — and it has worked.  Ancillary activities, in the form of fairs, festivals, and cultural presentations have been added over the years to attract and entertain even more domestic and international tourists.

And so, despite the continuing and contentious issues regarding education/labor forms, the show must go on!  Calendas (parades) are already occurring on the city’s streets and banners advertising Guelaguetza events are hanging from street lights on the major calles.  Below is the official Guelaguetza 2016 program of events and a selection of some of the addition activities happening this month.  (Click each poster for a larger and more readable image.)

programa de actividades guelaguetza 2016

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If you are in Oaxaca, there is no reason to be bored.  ¡Disfruta!  Enjoy!

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Artisans from the eight regions of Oaxaca have moved their hand-crafted textiles, pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, and more into the previously mentioned booths near the top of the Andador Turístico (Alcalá/walking street) and Paseo Juárez el Llano (Llano Park).  Not all the signs are in place, but the artisan vendors are.  The exposition and sale will run through the last Guelaguetza performance (August 1), so today’s mission was just to do an initial reconnaissance — to check out new vendors, see what I absolutely cannot live without, and connect with some of my favorite vendors.

Samuel Bautista Lazo

First up were the artisans in Llano Park, where I rendezvoused (stall #70) with my old (though he’s young) friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo, from Teotitlán del Valle.  As I’ve mentioned before, I met Sam and his family during my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007 and (of course) bought two tapetes to bring back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The rugs returned to Oaxaca with me when I moved here in 2009.  Between then and now, Sam has gotten his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool (yes, England!), returned to Oaxaca, and is currently helping his family market and manage Dixza Rugs & Organic Farm — their weaving and Bed & Breakfast business.

Daughter of Amalia Martínez Casas

At one of the stalls along the Alcalá, I spotted the unmistakable work of Amalia Martínez Casas from Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, a mountain village in the Mixe.  Alas, it was her daughter staffing the booth.  She assured me that Amalia’s health was okay, but that she’s getting old and had decided not to make the tiring journey down from the mountains into the city.  I have several huipiles and a serape of Amalia’s but I must admit, I am very tempted to add another piece to my oft-worn collection.

Honorina Goméz Martínez

Lastly, I stopped by to greet Honorina Gómez Martínez and Pablo Martínez Martínez from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, also in the Mixe, and just a few miles up the mountain from Tamazulapam.  It never ceases to amaze me how clothing styles vary dramatically in Oaxaca, not only from region to region, but also from village to village, within the same region.  You may remember, Doña Honorina Gómez was a leading spokesperson in the plagiarism dispute with a couple of French designers, which the embroiderers of Tlahuitoltepec eventually won and which prompted Oaxaca’s congress to declare indigenous costume and language as part of the state’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

However, a new charge of plagiarism is being reported— this time, against Argentine designer Rhapsodia — for copying designs from San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  When I return to the expoventa in the next couple of days, I will have to ask one of the artisans from San Antonino about it.  Besides, I’ve always coveted a dress from San Antonino.

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From top to bottom, Guelaguetza preparations are in full swing.  There is yet another attempt in the Never-ending tale of a velaria, as workers scramble hundreds of feet in the air to add the missing “wings” to the Guelaguetza Auditorium canopy.

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Workmen are prepping buildings in the Historic District for fresh coats of paint.

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Construction is underway in Llano Park (aka, Paseo Juárez “El Llano”) to ready it for the XIX Feria Internacional del Mezcal 2016.

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Near the top of Macedonio Alcalá (aka, Andador Turístico), puestos (booths) have been erected for artisans, invited from throughout the state, to display and (hopefully) sell their wares.

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And, everyone is holding their breath and making offerings to the gods overseeing phase two of the García Vigil pedestrian walkway that the work will be completed before the first Guelaguetza desfile (parade of delegations) on July 23.

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And, me?  I just bought tickets to the Mole Festival degustación at the Jardín Etnobotánico on July 22!  Yummm…

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The program of delegations for Guelaguetza 2016 is out and, according to all reports, the show will go on!  And, at long last, this year the Danzantes de Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle have been invited to perform.  It was the talk of the village this past weekend; the pride in their history and traditions and in this new group of dancers was palpable.

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As you can see above, they will be performing on Monday evening, July 25.  Though I won’t be there in person, I will be rushing home from the Guelaguetza celebration in Reyes Etla to watch the live TV broadcast.  Hopefully, as in past years, both the morning and evening performances on both Mondays will be live-streamed.  I will post the link, once I know.

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To whet your appetite, here is my short video of the Guelaguetza 2014 performance I attended at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín.

If this tempts you to come, please do!  Hotels have experienced a 32% cancellation rate, so you should have no trouble reserving a room.  And, the restaurants and artisans could really use your support.  While there are only a few reserved seats available through Ticketmaster at the performances up on Cerro del Fortín, local communities in the valley host their own Guelaguezas that are small, free, and provide an up-close and personal view.  In addition, the delegations dance their way through the streets of Oaxaca on the two Saturdays prior the performances, there are artisan ferias and food festivals in the city and surrounding villages to experience and enjoy.

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Yesterday was SO much fun!!!  I’m spending Christmas with family in New York and was invited by my daughter-in-law to speak to her special education class. Wearing one of my huipiles from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca, I filled them in on “life in Oaxaca.”

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We looked at a map of Mexico and I pointed to where the state of Oaxaca is located.

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We spoke a little Spanish and discovered that some familiar foods, like chocolate, gum (chicle), corn (maíz), and turkey (pavo), originated in Mexico.  They learned that there are many artisan crafts made in Oaxaca and I showed them a tapete (rug) that was woven in Teotitlán del Valle.

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We talked about festivals with processions, bands, marmotas, monos, and dancing.  And, to illustrate the diversity of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, I created a short video from La Guelaguetza 2014.

We discussed the differences between Christmas traditions in Mexico and the USA — that Christmas trees aren’t as common, but most everyone sets up a nacimiento (nativity scene) in their home.

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Of course, they loved the idea of breaking open a piñata filled with candy and trinkets.

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I concluded with a video I’d made and previously posted of the castillo in Teotitlán del Valle during the festival honoring the Virgen del Rosario.  Needless to say, they were awestruck by the fireworks.  And then I gave them each a woven palm leaf piñata ornament.  Alas, no candy inside!

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I was very touched that my daughter-in-law returned home later in the afternoon bringing individualized thank-you notes from the students.  However, I would like to give a big “muchisimas gracias” to her for inviting me and to her students for being such an attentive, engaged, and delightful audience!

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The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) ranks the state of Oaxaca first in Mexico, in terms of indigenous population. [SIPAZ, Población Indígena]   Out of 3,405,990 inhabitants of Oaxaca, 34.2% are indigenous.Grupos Etnicos Oaxaca La Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s July celebration of its indigenous cultures is in the rear view mirror.  The streets were filled with tourists and hotels and restaurants were happy.  However, the debate continues regarding the role of this annual event.

Santos Reyes Nopala, Chatino

Santos Reyes Nopala – Chatino

Does it benefit Oaxaca’s indigenous population or just the tourist industry?  Does it present reality or reinforce stereotypes?  However, all agree, poverty and inequality ARE problems that disproportionately affect the indigenous people of Oaxaca.  And, Oaxaca and Mexico are not alone…

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate Mixteco

Tomorrow is August 9, designated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994.  This year’s theme is, Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples health and well-being.  As the UN Women website explains:

Indigenous women experience disproportionate difficulties in access to health care, as well as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Though indigenous women are counted upon to support the health and well-being of their families, they often face hurdles to access the resources to build the foundation of a better life, such as education and land.

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

 According to a recent article in Noticias, a woman born in Oaxaca has a four times greater risk of dying from maternal causes than in the rest of Mexico, and 56% of these deaths are of indigenous women.
San Pablo Macuiltianguis, Zapoteco

San Pablo Macuiltianguis – Zapoteco

The Chief of the National Commission for Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) Oaxaca delegation, reported that Oaxaca has the highest indigenous poverty rate in Mexico, with 1,719,000 indigenous in Oaxaca living in conditions of substandard infrastructure, health, and education, which, he acknowledged, affects women more.

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla, Mixe

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla – Mixe

In Oaxaca city, on August 9, a cultural event will be held at the Alameda de León, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM with bands, poets, and artists supporting the campaign “What happened to my rights?”

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Mazateco and Chinanteco

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec – Mazateco and Chinanteco

Let’s hope there will be answers and action.
(Photos are from Guelaguetza 2015 desfiles (parades) and Diosa Centéotl contest.)

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The Plaza de la Danza was filled with cheering crowds early Sunday evening as ten girls and eight boys from Los Ángeles de Luz took the stage for the 13th edition of this very special Guelaguetza.  Perhaps it is because I have a special needs nephew or that both my sister-in-law and daughter-in-law are special ed teachers that I am drawn to this event every year.  In any case, the joy and pride exhibited by these young people with Down’s Syndrome, as they make the requisite costume changes and perform traditional dances from the eight regions of Oaxaca, always lifts my heart.

I had to leave before it ended, but hopefully through this slideshow I can share a little of the professionalism and accomplishment of these performers and the emotion experienced by those of us who had the privilege of being in the audience.

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President of Los Ángeles de Luz, Flor Verónica García Ávilan explained in El Imparcial, that the group was formed after “realizing that contact with music, dance, and the audience makes them happy, cheerful, communicative, committed and disciplined beings, facilitating their development holistically within society.” [translated from Spanish]

And, I would like to add, for those of us watching their performance, it facilitates our acceptance of those who many be a little different from us.  If you are in Oaxaca for next year’s Guelaguetza festivities, try to attend this heartwarming and uplifting event.  Also, there is always a calenda (parade) a couple of days before AND scrambling for gifts tossed into the crowd after each dance.

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Last Saturday, in the end, it did not rain on the parade.  With only minutes to spare before the first desfile of the Guelaguetza delegations was to begin, the torrential downpour stopped, the rockets sounded, bands played, and the delegates danced their way down Independencia.  I can’t believe how UN-bedraggled and energetic they were!

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Here’s hoping I managed to include one photo from each of the delegations in the slideshow above.

By the way, if you are in Oaxaca and planning to attend the second desfile tomorrow (July 25), see below for the parade route  — it has been changed!

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Oaxacan cuisine, with its pre-Columbian roots, is a major attraction and the state’s tourism board and restaurant association continue to do their utmost to promote this cultural heritage during the Guelaguetza festivities.  Last Friday, set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico, it was the opening degustación (sampling) for the Festival de los Moles.       P1110341This was my fourth time attending this buffet luncheon celebrating the 7 moles of Oaxaca.  And, like the previous years, my plate was swimming in moles and I came away sated and smiling!

P1110337 The Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo in Reyes Etla beckoned on Saturday.  When we arrived, students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca were giving a demonstration on the cheese making process.

P1110422Despite how tempting the various cheeses looked, I only managed tiny tastes of a couple; Alas, I was just too full from the previous day’s feast to fully appreciate them.

P1110426However, by Sunday, my mouth was watering for wild mushroom empanadas, but we were foiled in our attempt to head up into the mountains for the Feria Regional de los Hongos Silvestres in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.  A bike race had closed the highway and several of the major streets getting into and out of my part of town and, as you can imagine, alternate routes were gridlocked.  Grrrr…  I think the Guelaguetza events committee needs to rethink the schedule and transportation logistics!

Lucky for me, the Plaza de la Danza is only a block and a half from Casita Colibrí and so, late this morning, there were no impediments to walking over to the 10th Annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The women from the municipality of San Andrés Huayapam (about 7 kilometers northeast of the city), were ready and waiting to welcome visitors with their ancient drink and variety of tamales.

P1120599 The leis the women (above) are wearing are made from Rosita de Cacao flowers, one of the ingredients in tejate.  For the uninitiated, tejate is a foamy, quite 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 and is called, “la bebida de los Dioses” (the drink of the Gods).

P1120562The tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate prepared and served their tejate to inquiring novices and aficionados, alike.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activity in San Andrés Huayapam.

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And then there were the tamales… Pots and baskets, covered with hand embroidered and crocheted tea towels, were filled with steaming tamales nestled in corn husks — verde, chapulin, amarillo, frijol, dulce, rajas, chepil, and chichilo.  If you’ve never tasted tamales in Oaxaca, you are missing something!

P1120551Huayapam’s chichilo tamales are well-known and loved.  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings or when the crops have been harvested.  It is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  Of course, no tamal festival would be complete without mole tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

P1120557Today and tomorrow (July 22 & 23), if you are in Oaxaca, the Plaza de la Danza is THE happening place for tasting some delicious local specialties between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM.  ¡Buen provecho!

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