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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Thursday’

Now that the Cocineras event is over (yes, I went back for day two), I am returning, as promised, to Semana Santa spent in Teotitlán del Valle.  When I left off, I had spent Holy Thursday in the kitchen with Juana and we had just sat down to eat.  However the day did not end there.  Following our comida, we cleared the plates, while Antoño went out into the courtyard to vigorously scrub his feet.  He soon left and Juana disappeared.

After about twenty minutes, she and her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter emerged dressed in what appeared to be their “Sunday best.”  She quickly piled fruit (at least a foot high) onto a platter, covered her creation with cellophane and tied it with a bow — it was to be an offering.  A flower arrangement was also picked up from a table by the door and then our little procession of three set off to navigate the steep dirt street down to the atrium of the church, where an altar and hundreds of chairs had been placed.  I guess I was going to mass!

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Later on in the mass, it became clear why Antoño had scrubbed his feet so diligently — the ritual of washing the Disciples’ feet.  Antoño was portraying Andrés el Apóstol (those are the Apostles with the laurel wreaths, above) and the Apostle to his left washed his feet and he, in turn, washed the feet of the Apostle to his right.  After the mass, a procession around the church courtyard began.

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The Apostles preceded the priest, who was sheltered under a golden canopy.  Yes, that’s Antoño, below.

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This was the procession of the Holy Monstrance — the shiny sunburst-shaped item carried by the priest containing a consecrated Host (below).

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Everyone followed at a slow solemn pace.

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Once a full circumnavigation of the courtyard had been completed, the procession led into the church and up to the altar.

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According to the book, Oaxaca Celebration: Family, Food, and Fiestas in Teotitlán, this is the only time the monstrance is set out and the church doors are left open atl night.  A vigil is kept all night by designated villagers and parishioners are encouraged to visit.

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After spending Holy Monday in Teotitlán del Valle, I returned on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday) to spend the day with Juana Gutiérrez Contreras in the home she shares with her husband, Antoño Lazo Hernandez, and their family.  She and her husband are members of a talented family of Zapotec weavers.  I’ve previously blogged about her brother Porfirio and am helping in a small way with a big project he is working on — and that is how I found myself spending several days during Semana Santa in Teotitlán.

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Juana Gutiérrez Contreras and Antoño Lazo Hernandez – July 2016

However, this day, I wasn’t there for the weaving — as wonderful as it is.  As with much of life in Teoti, there are culinary customs to be followed on Holy Thursday.  After insisting I sit down for desayuno (my second of the day — I’d eaten breakfast before leaving home), we set to work preparing the traditional Jueves Santo comida of white beans.

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Juana separating dried white beans.

I was tasked with grinding garlic and herbs used to season the beans.

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Crushing garlic and herbs using a stone pestle in a clay bowl.

Halved tomatoes (another of my jobs), whole onions and whole jalapeños were added to the beans.

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Yes, this watched pot did boil — or at least, simmer!

Our attention then turned to making chiles rellenos de queso, using Oaxaca’s own chile de agua.  For this, we moved to the outside kitchen set up under the shade of fruit trees.

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Chiles roasting roasting directly on top of wood coal.

Juana used her fingers to turn the the chiles.  However, after one attempt on my part, she pointed to the tongs.  Those coals were really hot!

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Modern wire whisk meets traditional clay cazuela.

While Juana whipped egg whites to a stiff peek, before adding the yolks, I peeled and slit the chiles.

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Epazote leaves and chiles await the quesillo.

I was also entrusted with stuffing the chiles — first a leaf of epazote, followed by a heaping helping of shredded quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese).  Then Juana commenced to frying the chiles rellenos in another cazuela — gently laying each on top of a bed of egg batter and spooning more batter on top.

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Cazuela and chiles rellenos amidst the flames.

She was masterful in her ability to withstand the heat of the fire while carefully turning the chiles.

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Chiles rellenos about to be transferred to a waiting platter.

In timing known only to Juana and Antoño, comida was ready just as Antoño walked in the door from attending a reenactment of La Última Cena at the church — a Last Supper that featured the flavors of Teotitlán.  During this Semana Santa, he portrayed Andrés el Apóstol (Apostle Andrew).  So, only a few hours after we had all last eaten, we were again sitting down at the table.  Alas, the food was SO delicious and I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures of our bowls of delicately flavored white beans and plates of chiles rellenos.  Sometimes you just have to be “in the moment.”

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Though rain began falling, clutching camera, umbrella, and my ten peso bag of pan bendito (blessed bread), I left the cozy dry confines of my apartment to join the faithful in a ritual promenade.  It’s Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus, the washing of feet,  and the apprehension and imprisonment of Jesus.

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San José de Gracia, Oaxaca de Juárez

Tradition in Oaxaca calls for visiting seven churches (la visita de las siete casas) with one’s pan bendito and palm leaves.  The faithful use the latter to touch images of Jesús and María.  This year, I again committed myself to the mission.  My first stop was just around the corner at San José de Gracia and the second was even easier — the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, just across the Plaza de la Danza from the former.

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Watery entrance to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Oaxaca de Juárez

While inside, attempting (unsuccessfully) to get a good shot of Nuestra Señora, the heavens opened up in a downpour.  Needless to say, I hung out with Soledad until the torrential rain calmed to only a steady drizzle.

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Neverías at the Jardín Sócrates, Oaxaca de Juárez

However, the rain didn’t stop the faithful and tourists, alike, from stopping to enjoy a nieve (iced dessert) right outside the Basilica, before continuing on.  I kept on moving — down the steps to Calle Independencia, on my way to the Templo de San Felipe Neri.

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Exit sign at Templo de San Felipe Neri, Oaxaca de Juárez

By the way, Jueves Santo is such a big deal, to avoid gridlock from those coming and going, the churches designate one door as the “entrance” and another as the “exit.”  It’s a great idea in theory but in practice, especially on a rainy night, it was almost meaningless.

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Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, Oaxaca de Juárez

Next stop was across the street at the inconspicuous Iglesia San Cosme y Damián, then on to the very prominent Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, where the three front entrances were providing tourists, vendors, and believers shelter from the storm.

After navigating my way through the Cathedral, I exited stage right, dashed across the zócalo and into La Compañía (the Jesuit church).  On my way out the side door, I stopped briefly to buy a bag of homemade gingersnaps and, with umbrella raised, headed to my seventh and final church of the night, El Carmen de Abajo.  Though tempted by the aroma of some yummy looking food several “church ladies” were selling in the side foyer, I didn’t have enough hands to hold a paper plate, my camera, and my umbrella.  So, home I went, basking in the warm feelings I always have after being with my Oaxaqueño neighbors.

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Today was Jueves Santo (aka: Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday).

Believers gathered to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus.  Tables are set up in church doorways selling pan bendito (3 buns for 5 pesos of blessed bread).  And, where there are more than ten people, vendors gather….

Woman dulce vendor outside Sangre de Cristo

Outside Iglesia de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo — I suspect her life hasn’t been half as sweet as the dulces she was selling.

Angelic looking altar boy

A little sweetheart on his best behavior and waiting to process.

Seated nun

Would you buy pickled carrots or peppers from this woman?

Plastic rain capes vendor

The rains came and the capas del agua vendors miraculously appeared outside Santo Domingo.

Vendor making empanadas, memelas, tortas, and tlayudas on a comal.

After visiting the prescribed 7 churches, I rewarded myself with my (hopefully, not last) supper — a flor de calabaza and quesillo empanada, cooked to order.  Yummm….

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