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It was all about the braids as the delegations and storm clouds gathered along Independencia for the Guelaguetza desfile (parade).

P1110451P1110452P1110481P1110485P1110505The heavens opened, umbrellas unfolded, rain ponchos were donned, and cover was sought by spectators and delegations, alike. But, stay tuned, the show DID go on!

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Is it cheating to post photos from the 2013 Mexican Independence Day desfile in Oaxaca?  What can I say?  It was raining today and, if it counts for anything, I never got around to posting these photos last year.

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However, I do have some news from this year:  The state police staged a protest and, besides your’s truly, Governor Cue did not attend — and I don’t think it was the rain that stopped him!

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Walking down the Alcalá… on the way home late yesterday afternoon… sounds of a band… I look up towards Santo Domingo… and see a calenda coming down the street.

Universidad La Salle Oaxaca on parade.  Reason # 552 why I love living here!

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Today Mexico is celebrating el Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day).  It commemorates the beginning of the bloody revolution that quickly drove dictator/president Porfirio Díaz from his 31-year long reign.  A November 22, 1910 headline in the Palestine [Texas] Daily Herald proclaimed, “Revolution Is Now On In Mexico: The Real Thing is Reported Under Way in State of Chihuahua, Mexico.”  However, the civil war raged on for ten years, as various factions battled for power and the peasantry fought for, in the words of Emiliano Zapata, ¡Tierra y libertad!  (Land and liberty!)  It is estimated to have cost 1.9 to 3.5 million lives.

At least here in Oaxaca, 20 de noviembre is not celebrated with as much pomp, circumstance, and military hardware as September 16th, Independence Day.  However, there were school floats…

The Government Palace was decked out in green, white, and red and the Governor, along with other dignitaries, presided from its balcony.

As always, the bomberos (firefighters) received much applause as they passed by the crowds gathered along the parade route.

Not so much love given to these guys from the Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones, an agency of Oaxaca’s Attorney General’s office.

And then there was this gal, directly across from the Government Palace…

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “The Revolution began as a demand for truth and honesty in the government…. Gradually the movement found and defined itself, in the midst of battle and later when in power.  Its lack of a set program gave it popular authenticity and originality.  This fact accounts for both its greatness and its weaknesses.” [p. 136, Grove Pr. 1985]

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The souls  have departed.   And, following 33 hours of travel, my BFF (along with her alebrijes by Alberto Perez and the Xuana family, a traditional black and white rebozo, bottle of Del Maguey mezcal from Chichicapa, several bags of Conchita chocolate, and a fabulous mohair rug woven by Antonio Ruíz Gonzalez), has returned home to the frigid climes of Alaska.  However, gal pal, souls, and the mortals with whom we shared the past, have left warm and lasting memories.  They have also left an exhausted gringa, whose brain feels like one of those overloaded small trucks one (more than occasionally) sees on the roads here.  With every nook and cranny filled, they move at a snail’s pace, be it along a pot-holed dirt road or the carretera, balancing their top-heavy loads.

Our week began on October 29, when the sounds of a band Pied Piper-ed us down the street and around a corner to a comparsa of high school students, who were taking part in a competition of using recycled products for their costumes and floats.  Alas, the rains came and eventually chased us home.

On October 30, delectable dining (lunch at La Biznaga and dinner at Los Danzantes) nourished multiple museum visits and allowed us to join the standing-room-only crowd at the Oaxaca Lending Library (without rumbling stomachs) to watch the wonderful new documentary, La Festividad de los Muertos, chronicling Day of the Dead in Teotitlán del Valle.

Then there was Thursday, the 31st….  A shopping expedition for flowers, sugar skulls, bread (pan de muertos), and two 10-foot long stalks of sugar cane to form the arch over my altar.  I carried them the 10-blocks home on my shoulder (sheesh, they are heavy) and carefully navigating the busy sidewalks.  According to BFF, I provided pedestrians and passengers in buses,cars, and taxis much entertainment.  I didn’t see a thing — I was just trying not to trip, fall, or whack anyone in front, behind, or to the sides of me!

Once the candles, photos, bread, chocolate, beverages (cervesa, mezcal, and water), and meaningful objects to our departed were in place; flowers arranged and cempasuchitl (marigold) petals scattered; and the arching sugar cane affixed to the wall surrounding our ofrenda, we made our way down to the beginning of the CEDART comparsa.

Later in the evening, we drove up to the panteón in Santa María Atzompa.  Passing the bright lights and crush of food, flower, pottery, and other vendors that line the entrance and finally emerging from under the arched gateway, the candlelit ethereal beauty of the cemetery on this night never ceases to take my breath away.  Of course, it wasn’t all exquisite and unearthly enchantment.  This is Mexico and so there was also a (very loud) band and the cervesa and mezcal flowed freely.  I’m sure the difuntos (deceased) enjoyed themselves and partied hardy with the living until the sun rose.  And then all slept.

On the other hand, we left at a reasonable hour, as we were only at the mid-point of our Día de los Muertos marathon.  More to come…

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What do the guys do while waiting for an Independence Day parade to begin?

Men in military uniforms taking photos

And, what do gals do? Pose for them!

Young women in military uniform posing

A mother takes twenty years to make a man of her boy, and another woman makes a fool of him in twenty minutes.  — Robert Frost

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Wading through the 900+ Guelaguetza photos and wondering…  Where do I start?  Where do I stop?  Today, it will be with two delegations from the Jamiltepec District in the Costa Region of the state of Oaxaca.

I begin with photos from last Saturday’s desfile of these fierce (and one not-so-fierce) looking guys from San Juan Colorado.

And, I will end this post with San Andrés Huaxpaltepec delegation.

With the crowds that line the parade route and the contingent of family, friends, and aides (providing props and costume repair, along with much-needed water) that accompany each delegation, it was hard to photograph, let alone video, the dancing along the way.  However, click HERE to watch a video of the La Mayordomía de San Andrés Huaxpaltepec from last Monday’s performance at the Guelaguetza Auditorium.  And, you can click HERE for a video I found of the Danza los Chareos of San Juan Colorado.

 

 

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Today is Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) and it’s a big deal here.  Oaxaca began her celebrations days ago.  The 6th Festival of Children’s Story Telling opened on Saturday, yesterday an exibition of traditional toys (Colección Hanni Sager Juguete tradicional) had its inauguration at the Museo del Palacio, and Friday, the Guelaguetza Infantil calenda filled the streets from Santo Domingo to the Basilica de la Soledad.

As several bands played, the children from Oaxaca’s preschools wearing the traditional costumes from the 8 regions of the state of Oaxaca waited, posed, walked, danced, and threw candy to the appreciative crowds gathered on the sidewalks along the ten-block long route.  (Note, some of the little girls already practicing holding canastas (baskets) on their heads!)

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Parents and teachers, many also wearing traje from the Cañada, Costa, Istmo, Mixteca, Papaloapan, Sierra Norte, Sierra Sur, and the Valles Centrales regions, proudly walked alongside the children.  Vive Oaxaca concluded their article,

With such events from the early years of life are taught to love our Oaxacan culture, traditions, music and preserve the best legacy we have: our roots. Congratulations to the teachers and parent to correctly perform with great momentum this holiday culture.  [Google translation]

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You might well ask, “What is a muerteada?”  It is a comparsa (parade) that is part of traditional Día de los Muertos celebrations particular to the state of Oaxaca.  According to the book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca, the muerteada allows the dead “to ‘occupy’ a living body, either a muerteada participant or an audience member, for a time, and therefore enjoy the entertainment directly rather than vicariously.”

Like Commedia dell’Arte, there are stock characters — in this case, the happy widow, the dying or dead husband, the father of the widow, a doctor, a priest, a shaman, people dressed like death, devils, and las lloronas (weeping women).  However, unlike Commedia dell’Arte, in the muerteada men play all the roles.

Last year we joined the Vista Hermosa, Etla murteado.  However, this year blogger buddy Chris decided I was ready for the big time — the “battle of the bands” when the muerteadas of San Agustín Etla and Barrio San José meet — Banda Tromba Sinaloense for San Agustín and MonteVerde Banda for San José.  FYI:  This is after participants and their bands have danced their way up and down the hills of their respective neighborhoods all night long, stopping at designated houses for food and drink — mezcal and cervesas seemed to be the beverage of choice, especially among the men!

So, early on the Nov. 2, we went in search of the San Agustín contingent, we found them, joined in the merriment, were offered food and drink along the way, and eventually came to the crossroad where mania turned to mayhem, albeit organized mayhem — courtesy of the white-shirted security for San Agustín and red-shirted security for San José.  They kept the dancers and supporters from each side apart, leaving the face-off to the two bands.  It was wild!!!  After 20+ minutes of battling bands, it was over and we and the San Agustín contingent trudged back up the hill.

You may have spotted a tall silver-haired gringo right in the middle of the action in one or two of the photos, that would be Chris.  Be sure to check out the video he put together of all the madness.

According to Organizing Committee President, Alfredo Erick Pérez, the muerteada in San Agustín Etla dates back to the 1800s, possibly to the days of Mexican President Porfirio Díaz.

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On chairs in Reyes Etla.

On a chair: sheet music "Zapateando Istmeño xxx" for tuba

On people’s backs in the city.
"Cuadrilla no. 2" sheet music clipped on the back of a man wearing a red and black striped shirt

Wherever… especially during Guelaguetza!

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Waiting is a way of life down here and we all do it in our own way.  Right now Oaxaca is waiting for Tropical Storm Ernesto to “break on through to the other side.”  These guys were waiting to “get in step,” before the parade passes by.

Two men leaning against a wall

Two guys wearing red bandanas  on their head in foreground and crowd in background

Guy wearing costume leaning against wall

A peso for his thoughts…

(Mixing The Doors and Barbra Streisand lyrics — what was I thinking???)

 

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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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Late yesterday afternoon, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle for the convite (parade) of unmarried young women and girls, a part of the annual patronal festival of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  The sun was shining, the rains of two days before were nowhere to be seen, and the sacred mountain, El Picacho, gracefully, but commandingly, presided as the soldados and danzantes entered the church courtyard.

Soldados and danzantes with the mountain in the background

Bands also arrived to take part…

Band with tuba in front; mountain in background

Canastas (baskets) were lined up, ready to be carried…

Canastas with images of the Virgen Mary lined up.

3 canastas with images of Jesus

Canasta with Virgen de la Navidad woven into the design

The young men of the village gathered…

Young men sitting on a ledge

Young men in profile

Family and friends awaited…

Women standing and facing down the street

And then the young unmarried women and girls, the stars of the evening, raised the canastas over their heads…

Young women and girls in red skirts and white blusas carrying canastas on their heads lined up and

3 young women carrying canastas on their heads

Close-up of 2 young women carrying canastas on their heads

Balancing the canastas, they processed from the courtyard, down several long and cobblestone blocks, turned left, and headed back up another street to where they had begun, to be greeted by proud family and friends, who had gathered to acknowledge and celebrate the young women and girls of Teotitlán del Valle.

For some inexplicable reason, we never cease to feel moved and uplifted by this ritual.

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Friday was a delightful day… a late morning and early afternoon spent in leisurely conversation with one of my closest friends over desayuno at Cocina Economica Isabel, a stop at the Merced mercado to pick up some pan dulce, and a stroll through the Zócalo, before returning home.  I envisioned a late afternoon and evening of visiting with my neighbor before she is heads north for a USA visit, catching up on email, and watching a movie.  Perfection, I thought!  Who could ask for more?

“More” came via my email inbox; notice of the 10th Guelaguetza Infantil, with a calenda (parade) from Santo Domingo de Guzmán to the Zócalo beginning at 6 PM.  This definitely called for a change of plans!  And, sure enough, as I got closer to Santo Domingo, there they were; delegations of children representing the regions of Oaxaca.

Girl and boy in costume of the Istmo.

Istmo de Tehuantepec couple (a young Frida Kahlo, perhaps?) posing for photos.

Girl in Istmo costume covering her ears

There were several bands playing and it got a little too loud for this girl from the Istmo.

Girl in Tuxtepec costume holding basket of candy.

However this girl, representing the Papaloapan, didn’t seem to mind and was ready to toss candy to the crowd. She wasn’t alone — once the calenda started, candy began flying fast and furious and the pockets of the kids watching on the sidelines began bulging!

Girl wearing a costume from the Costa regionGirls from the Costa region received last-minute instructions.

Boys in white shirts and straw cowboy hats holding school banner reading "Cervantes"

Costa boys were charged with holding up their school banner.

Close up of girls in the costumes from Tuxtepec

The girls representing the Papaloapan clutched plastic pineapples, ready for the always popular Flor de Piña dance from Tuxtepec.

2 girls standing together; one in Istmo costume and one in Tuxtepec costume

A little cross cultural comparing of notes (actually, cell phone games) was happening between the Istmo and Papaloapan.

Girl in Mixteca costume dancing.

All the while, the dancers from the Mixteca danced their way down the Álcala.

Closeup of boy with Danza de la Pluma head dress.

And, the young Danza de la Pluma danzantes, representing the Valles Centrales, carefully balanced their penachos (headdresses).

Tonight at 5 pm, these 300 kids from 52 preschools, will perform traditional regional dances in the auditorium of the Universidad Regional del Sureste, Rosario campus in San Sebastián Tutla.

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… and it never gets old, at least not for me!  Thus yesterday, returning from picking up a newly repaired sandal at the zapatero (shoemaker), a parade along the Alcalá had me happily stopping.

Women in embroidered black velvet costumes and wearing white lace head pieces arm in arm with men in black pants, white shirts, red neck kerchief and carrying a sombrero

Judging by the traje (costume), what is popularly known north of the border as Frida Kahlo style clothing, the elaborate multicolored embroidery on black velvet and the signature starched white lace head pieces, immediately said the Isthmus region of Oaxaca, the area along the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

A banda led off the procession with, of course, the requisite tuba.

Man carrying a shiny brass tuba

A marlin out-of-water  followed the band.  Actually, a friend and I had a discussion about what kind of fish it was.  Marlin (blue and black), sailfish, and swordfish are found in the waters of the Gulf of Tehuantepec.  After looking at this website, I’m thinking this guy is a marlin, but who knows???

Man carrying a large grey marlin on his head

Once home and photos downloaded, the detective work began; trying to figure out what this was all about.   Putting together the information I could glean from the banners and a little research, I think this was a parade by people from San Blas Atempa celebrating a traditional fiesta titular.

Woman carrying banner, surrounded by women in bright pink skirs and black emboidered huipiles.

Naturally, there weren’t just beautifully dressed adults.  Adorable little boys…

Little boy wearing black pants, white shirt, red neck kerchief, and sombrero

and girls kept up the pace on this bright sunny 80+ degree day.

Little girl in full embroidered black velvet attiren and including white lace headpiece, looking at the camera.

I wasn’t the only one watching… Alejandro Santiago’s growing army of Migrantes stood transfixed.  (Well, actually they are literally affixed to the sidewalks and streets with some sort of gooey glue.)

Tejuana women carrying banner, as they pass Migrante sculptures lining the street.

Just another day and another parade in paradise!

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