Posts Tagged ‘Horchata’

Yesterday was the fourth Friday of Lent and, if you are in Oaxaca, that means Día de la Samaritana, where, believer or not, you will be offered aguas from doorways and street-side tables set up in front of churches, restaurants, hotels, government agencies, and private homes.

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I got a late start; unseasonable rain was threatening and the grey sky had made it hard to leave my cozy apartment. 


But, what can I say?  Horchata, sandia, guayaba, coco, chilacayota, chía con limón, and even tejate and nieves were offered with smiles, free of charge, to all passersby.


Within a block, I happily and gratefully accepted a large plastic cup of horchata; another one followed, and later, a styrofoam cup of chilacayota.


It had begun at noon, but by 2 PM, all that remained were branches of Bougainvillea, empty ollas (pots), ladles with nothing to dip into…


and empty cups.

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If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana (AKA, el Día de las Aguas) — a uniquely Oaxacan celebration.  It is inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament:  At noon, a tired and, apparently, thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water.  His request was highly unusual because, according to the Old Testament, “Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile.”  The woman complied with his request and the rest is history.

By noon, this past Friday in Oaxaca, the thermometer had already reached 90º F in El Centro Histórico and people of all ages, from small children to abuelos, were already lined up at bougainvilla and palm decorated booths in front of churches, schools, and businesses for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.  It wasn’t just plain water they were waiting on, it was for divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits and flowers — jamaica, horchata, chilacayota, tamarindo, sandia, and others.  However in front of the churches, prior to the offering of aguas, there was a reenactment of Jesus and the Samaritana, as well as a priestly blessing — and an article in Noticias reported that, given the blazing hot sun, some in the crowd became a little impatient.

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All were eventually served and the streets were filled with smiling people drinking a rainbow of aguas.  Within an hour the serving pots, pitchers, bowls, and buckets were empty and all that remained were garbage containers filled to overflowing with plastic cups.

By the way, talking to my friend Sam, who teaches at Universidad José Vasconcelos de Oaxaca, they had an aguas frescas contest — memorable combinations of watermelon with strawberries and lime; atole with tuna nieve; and coconut with strawberries.  However, I was informed the day’s winner was the piña colada — alas, minus the rum, I’m thinking.

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You know Semana Santa is on the horizon when tables, large and small, elaborately or minimally decorated, miraculously appear in doorways, street corners, and the Alcalá.  The common denominator is smiling people offering Agua de Jamaica, Horchata, Chilacayota, and even nieves to all passers-by.  Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day) is an only-in-Oaxaca, 4th Friday of Lent, event.

This year, besides experiencing the joyous mob scene on the Alcalá and the small sidewalk stands on side streets, on a tip from a friend, I made the “taking your life in your hands” crossing of Calzado de la República to the picturesque cobblestoned neighborhood of Jalatlaco.  Tables of aguas and nieves lined the plaza in front of the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco and pastor Víctor Hernández was recounting the Biblical story, found in the Book of John, of the woman at the well who offered water to Jesus — the inspiration for Día de la Samaritana.  He concluded the story and blessing with the word “¡ataque!” and the masses did, indeed, attack the tables!  By the way, pastor Hernández gets around — he was the same priest who performs the yearly blessing of the animals across town at the Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Merced.

It was a hot day and having already had two aguas, as I made my way over to Jalatlaco, I was jonesing for a nieve but, alas, by the time I figured out which table was serving it, the line was too long.  So, giving up on the nieve, I accepted another agua and headed towards home.  However, in the true spirit of the day, as I was melting in the heat, an older gentleman standing on the sidewalk asked if I would like a nieve and gestured toward a woman standing in the doorway behind a small table.  “Sí” I replied and a styrofoam coffee cup filled with Leche Quemada (my favorite) was thrust into my hand.  Another sublime day in Oaxaca…

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…and, Agua de Jamaica, Horchata, and Chilacayota to drink!  Yesterday, the 4th Friday of Lent, was Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day), an only in Oaxaca tradition.

Palm fronds hanging above; purple and multicolored garlands.

Inspired by the Biblical story, in the Book of John, of the woman at the well who offered water to Jesus, long tables and small stands laden with massive containers and plastic cups are set up on sidewalks throughout the city by schools, churches, and businesses.

Clay pots and palm fronds on top of purple tablecloth

These “water stations” are decorated in purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.

Women serving aguas from clay pots

Crowds rapidly gather and wait to be served the agua of their choice and, despite hours of standing, ladling, and replenishing, all are served with a gracious smile and genuine joy.

Women in long huipil standing next to her table of aguas.

By early afternoon the Alcalá was a sea of people.

Crowd of heads and cups

This is definitely NOT a made for the tourist event.

Woman in indigenous dress serving an agua, man in foreground holding cup

This is Oaxaqueños practicing the sharing and hospitality that informs much of their culture.

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