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Posts Tagged ‘marmotas’

Another day, another parade.  Today, the Gran Calenda del Mercado de Abastos (parade of the markets) passed within a block and a half of Casita Colibrí.  I couldn’t miss it — the cacophony of multiple bands, cohetes (rockets), and honking horns announced its arrival in my ‘hood!  In the words of Octavio Paz, from The Labyrinth of Solitude

“The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings.”

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“The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico.”

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“Our poverty can be measured by the frequency and luxuriousness of our holidays.”

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“Do they forget themselves and show their true faces?  Nobody knows.  The important thing is to go out, open a way, get drunk on noise, people, colors.”

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“In the confusion that it generates, society is dissolved, is drowned, insofar as it is an organism ruled according to certain laws and principles.”

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“Everything is united: good and evil, day and night, the sacred and the profane.  Everything merges, loses shape and individuality and returns to the primordial mass.”

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“The fiesta is a cosmic experiment, an experiment in disorder, reuniting contradictory elements and principles in order to bring about a renascence of life.”

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Yesterday, we slowly but surely wound our way around a major blockade and made our way 20 miles southeast of the city to Tlacolula de Matamoros.  The reason for our tenacity?  Their calenda (parade) in honor of la Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary) was happening.  A major feature, not to mention highlight, of Tlacolula festivals are the marmotas.IMG_9781

Little boys begin by carrying little marmotas; big boys carry big marmotas; and men carry gigantic marmotas.  As for the latter, the guys definitely must rely on a little help from their friends.

IMG_9824Time for change of shift…

IMG_9825New guy is helped into position.

IMG_9827That didn’t last long…

IMG_9829Time for another shift change.

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Last night, all was in readiness in Teotitlán del Valle for most important fiesta of the year — honoring la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).

Specially cut papel picado fluttered from the church.

P1100456Marmotos waited in the wings.

P1100467And canastas, lovingly decorated by their owners stood ready to be carried through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.

IMG_7677Next up, the most important ingredient…

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Tuesday morning, from the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad, the sound of speeches, music, and explosions announced Día del Barrendero — a day celebrating the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo.  These are the street sweepers, garbage collectors, and laborers of Oaxaca.

Earlier in the morning, a procession brought union members, their families, and friends from Cinco Señores to the Basílica, where a special mass was celebrated to honor the patron saint of Oaxaca, la Virgen de la Soledad.  Raul, a lifelong street sweeper whose work day begins at 3 AM, is quoted as explaining, “We have to thank our mother, the Virgin of Soledad, for the blessings every day gives us.”

March 3rd — brought to you by the gals and guys who keep the city clean.

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Ahhh, it feels good to be back in the warm and wonderful Oaxaca.  There are the sounds…  I awake to church bells, followed by the loudspeaker cry of “Gas de Oaxaca” from the propane vendor.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, rockets exploded and, just now, the camote man’s steam whistle sounded, announcing tooth-achingly sweetened hot sweet potatoes and bananas.  Then there are the sights…

The walls continue to talk…  On Thursday, I saw this on Calle Morelos as I walked to the Alcalá and comida with friends.  It remembers Leonel Castro Abarca, one of the 43 still-missing students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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On the way home from comida, I detoured to see what was to be seen on the zócalo.  Teacher tents remain pitched around the bandstand, but the walkways were free of ambulantes, and, as always, the Cathedral presided over the scene.

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Thursday, the familiar sounds of protest were irresistible.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front gate to see a massive march by healthcare workers on their way to the Plaza de la Danza.  To be honest, tubas and cohetes would have had me out the door, too!  It was way too quiet in el norte.

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And, what can I say about last night’s sunset from the terrace?

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Naturally, a marmota and pair of monos were waiting on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo this afternoon, awaiting a bride and groom to emerge.  After all, it is Saturday — wedding day in Oaxaca!

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I wonder what my ears will hear and my eyes will see, mañana…

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Today, in Santa Catarina Juquila, about 200 km southwest of the city of Oaxaca, la Virgen de Juquila, is receiving a papal coronation.  Roads leading to this remote mountain village have been repaired and repaved and extra emergency services have been in place since Monday, all in anticipation of the thousands of pilgrims who were expected to descend on Juquila.

However, for those who chose to stay closer to the city, celebrations in honor of the Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary) have been occurring for the past week throughout the valley of Oaxaca.

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Thus, blogger buddy Chris and I headed to Tlacolula de Matamoros on Friday for their annual procession.

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Beginning on the street in front of the panteón, young women wearing traditional red wool skirts and beautifully crocheted white cotton blouses…

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…danced their way through the streets balancing towering canastas (baskets) on their heads — the letters spelling out “Virgen del Rosario.”

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The arm and neck strength it takes to carry the canastas is phenomenal and can only come from years of practice.  As you can see, they begin early…

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Rockets announced the procession’s arrival.

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Bandas provided the music.

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And, “boys to men” carrying marmotas two-stepped and twirled their way along the route.

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Years of practice is required to do this, too!

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Participants stop at altars throughout the village, where prayers are recited, rest breaks are taken, and tamales, sweets, and beverages (yes, including mezcal) are consumed.

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This goes on until 1:00 or 2:00 AM.  We arrived at 4:00 PM, stayed for a couple of hours, carried nothing heavier than our cameras and daypacks, and were ready to call it a day!

However, this is a bittersweet post.  While we were reveling in the festivities, a family in Tlacolula de Matamoros was in agony.  It was reported last night that 18-year old, Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica, from Tlacolula de Matamoros, is one of the 43 students at Normal Rural ‘Raúl Isidro Burgos’ in Ayotzinapa who went missing on September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero after police opened fire on the students, who were soliciting funds for an Oct. 2 demonstration protesting funding cuts to their state-financed school.

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There is a lot of work that goes into getting a marmota ready to go to the dance.  Getting dressed takes a quite a crew and there is a lot of up close and personal last-minute cinching that must be done.   Then there is squeezing (she does weigh over 70 kilos) through the church plaza portal, to make her grand entrance onto the street.  However, once she emerges, she joins with her friends to dance through the streets of Tlacolula de Matamoros late into the night!

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Calenda in honor of el Señor de Tlacolula, October 11, 2013.  Living history from the valley where corn was first cultivated.

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Yesterday, we headed about 20 miles southeast of the city to Tlacolula de Matamoros for their calenda (parade) in honor of la Virgen del Rosario (the Virgin of the Rosary).   While we go to Tlacolula often, especially for their Sunday market, and while we’ve been to countless calendas, this particular one was a first — and what fun it was!

I’m always amazed at the variations from one village to another — even those only a few miles apart.  I have to say, one of the most striking features of Tlacolula’s calenda was the masses of marmotas.  No, I’m not talking the groundhog/woodchuck variety.  These, at their most awesome, are ginormous cloth globes on a pole that are carried in every calenda I’ve ever seen down here.

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Little boys start out with little marmotas — learning how to position it in the holster and becoming comfortable carrying it for several blocks.

The pre-teens graduate to bigger and heavier marmotas and the lesson here is one of balance — learning to find one’s center — and that you get by with a little help from your friends.

Teens refine their moves and their “look.”  Look ma, no hands!  After all, a central part of the calenda is a procession of the unmarried girls and young women of the village!

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Young men eventually become good-natured and married journeymen…

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I’m guessing it never ceases being a source of macho pride — enough to tempt one of Tlacolula’s senior citizens into showing, he’s still got it!

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And then there was the gringo…

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Check out Oaxaca–The Year After for this hilarious tale in his own words.  (I’m still laughing!)

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Marmotas on parade —  it was a spectacular sight!

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Yesterday was another of the “ya just never know…” days.  Returning to the city from Xoxocotlán after looking at the house my (soon-to-be-former) neighbor is building, the taxi driver pointed down Independencia and said something that we interpreted as, “day of the garbage collector.”  So, instead of going home, my camera and I walked in the direction he pointed and, sure enough, a side street was lined with decorated garbage trucks.

decorated garbage trucks

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However, this day wasn’t for just any old garbage collectors; being March 3rd, it celebrated the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo of the municipality of Oaxaca.  Depending on which newspaper report one reads, it is either the 34th, 38th, or 39th anniversary.

Marmota with banner

These are the city workers who keep the state’s capital clean — the garbage collectors, street sweepers, drivers, and laborers.  And, the city of Oaxaca IS clean, putting San Francisco to shame!  After a Thanksgiving mass, most of the 1,200 “trabajadores de limpia” and their families filled the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad.  And, like all good Oaxacan celebrations, there were monos, dancers, marmotas, bands, toritos, and the whistles, whirrs, and booms of fireworks (of the all bang, no bling variety).

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So, now you know where to be and what to do next March 3rd!

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And, then there was the Festival de los 7 Moles opening buffet lunch set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico.  Serendipity and synchronicity brought us there… running into a friend, conversation, investigation (see pots below), and her enthusiasm and powers of persuasion (gracias, Rosa!) had us purchasing tickets on the spot.

While kitchen staff prepared the serving platters and bowls…

Woman in apron and wearing hairnet, scoops cooked rice out of a large bucket.

Dancers gathered on the Alameda for a calenda that would lead people the luncheon.

Two women displaying their long  colorful full skirts

They included a number of small children…

Woman squatting down and clasping hands with a toddler-age boy - both in indigenous dress

The calenda, including the requisite marmota (giant cloth balloon), monos (giant puppets), band, dancers with canastas (see yesterday’s post), and the sponsoring banner of CANIRAC (national association of the restaurant and food industries), made its way up the Alcalá…

Procession with marmota, monos, and banner

before turning onto Constitución and entering the Jardín, where wait staff and divine moles awaited.

Wait staff, wearing black, white, and grey gathered next to table.

Yummm, mole negro

Large green pottery bowls filled with black mole.

Mole amarillo

Green pottery bowls of red colored moles

Mole coloradito

Green ceramic pot with red mole.

Mole verde

Green mole in green ceramic pot

There was also mole chichilo, mole manchamanteles, and mole rojo.  I tried them all!!!  And, I haven’t even mentioned the cervesa, mezcal, aguas, and appetizers of quesillo, chicharon, and tacos filled with guacamole and chapulines (grasshoppers).  You’ll have to switch over to Chris’s blog to see those and much more.  Oh, and for dessert, a scoop of each of my favorite nieves (sherbet); leche quemada (burned milk) and tuna (cactus fruit).

A day filled with light, color, music, fabulous food, and, most of all, wonderful friends — the recipe for a perfect day!

(ps)  There are almost 50 restaurants around town that will be featuring mole as part of this 12-day festival.

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