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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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