Posts Tagged ‘parades’

Orgullo is the Spanish word for pride and you hear it a lot in Oaxaca.  But, rather than just the personal, it encompasses the dignity, honor, and respect felt for one’s community’s history and cultural heritage.  Remember, there are 16 indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca – each with its own language, dress, culinary traditions, music and dance, celebrations, and crafts.  While the modern Guelaguetza is an invention to attract tourism, it doesn’t detract from the pride expressed by its participants in their unique contributions to what makes Oaxaca.  Thus, a few scenes from Friday…

Fresh handmade tortillas accompanied the mole at the Festival de los Moles luncheon. Chefs from all over the state, presented their moles — I lost count at twenty different kinds — which were served by culinary students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.

Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) competition to reign over the Guelaguetza.  Young women representing the regions of Oaxaca showcased and explained the costumes and traditions of their communities, as well as, speak a few lines of their materna lengua (mother tongue).

Calenda (procession) on the Alcalá by people from the Gulf of Tehuantepec region.  They were heading toward Santo Domingo — and yes there were a few Muxes among the participants.

During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

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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.

IMG_9833All right!!!

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Unlike many places on our planet, bees were plentiful on the streets of Oaxaca this morning…


They were a little apprehensive, but moms, dads, and teachers were there to hold their hands and dry the occasional tear.


There were other sweet cuddly critters…

P1080075and, even princesses.

P1080074Oaxaca opens her arms and welcomes spring with a parade of children.  How could one not smile and be happy?!!

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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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Woman on cell phone & handles of bag framing boy's face boy

Outside Templo de Santa María de la Asunción, Tlacolula de Matamoros, on Friday, waiting for the calenda to begin.

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Before returning to honor al Señor de Tlacolula this Friday, I figured I’d better finish posting pics from last Friday’s la Virgen del Rosario calenda.

This annual procession slowly winds its way through the streets of Tlacolula de Matamoros.  Participants stop at “stations” throughout the village, where religious ritual is performed, rest breaks are taken, and tamales, sweets, and beverages (yes, including mezcal) await.  This goes on until after midnight.  I don’t know how they do it!

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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.


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!


Young men eventually become good-natured and married journeymen…


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!


And then there was the gringo…


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


Marmotas on parade —  it was a spectacular sight!

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“Beauty is whatever gives joy.” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Some of the beautiful women, young and old, of this year’s Guelaguetza desfiles.

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I love arriving early at the assembly site for the Guelaguetza desfile.  There is time to mingle with the delegations as parade participants gather.  Tourists, bloggers, and professionals aren’t the only ones taking photos…

Finishing touches are put on costumes and canastas.

Adjustments are made to sandals and feet are rested before beginning the 3 hour procession through the streets of the city.

We won’t ask what alteration she is making!


More parade photos to come…


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Some of my closest friends have been (and continue to be) musicians.  And, one of the things I find so appealing about Oaxaca is that music is everywhere and all the time.  Marimbas are set up on sidewalks, accordions are almost ubiquitous, and free concerts occur weekly in the zócalo.  Music is honored and valued as an integral part of the culture — a birthright.

Each of the 8 regions of the state has its own distinctive “sones” and “jarabes” and they are tremendous source of pride.  Within a bar or two of Pinotepa,  Canción Mixteca, or any one of Oaxaca’s regional anthems, the clapping begins, tears may well up, and audiences of all ages begin singing the lyrics.  Thus, a major feature of the modern “Mondays on the Hill” that is Guelaguetza, is the performance of the music and dance of each of the regions.

And, so I give you, some of the musicians who played almost non-stop for 3 hours, while their delegations danced their way through the streets of Oaxaca city during the last two Saturday evening Guelaguetza desfiles (parades).

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Here’s to the musicians, long may they play!


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Monday, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle for the Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo — the pueblo’s most important festival of the year.  While special masses have been celebrated at the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (the village church) since June 30, Monday’s convite (procession) by the unmarried women in the village, kicked off the more public events.

Lovingly decorated canastas (baskets) waited in the church to be reclaimed by their owners, placed on their heads, and carried through the streets.

Crowds gathered in the plaza in front of the church and sidewalks and streets along the route.

And then it began — with solemn drum beats, fireworks, church bells, marmotas (cloth balloons on a pole), and a band.

Little boys (and a few girls) carrying model airplanes (don’t ask me why), paper mache lambs, and turkeys followed.

And then came the neatly organized rows of girls and young women.

For over an hour they wound their way up and down and around the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.  The weather was perfect, no late afternoon thunder showers this year, and it was glorious.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue all week.  And, check out Oaxaca-The Year After this week for blogger buddy Chris’s photos and commentary.

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Today is Oaxaca’s 480th birthday as a colonial city .  Of course, among other events, a calenda (parade) marked the date.

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In 1532 Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.

However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.

Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.  ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

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After a delightful but whirlwind (6 days is too short) visit, my stepson and his wife have come and gone; this year’s Guelaguetza festivities are over; life at Casita Colibrí is gradually resuming a more leisurely rhythm; and our current historic rain has gone on hiatus.  A quiet solo Sunday morning walk beckoned, as did the APPO banners, strung along the arches of the Palacio de Gobierno, that I wanted to photograph.

Oaxaca se levanta

The banners are a work of art, but ephemeral — here today, gone tomorrow — and I never seem to have my camera with me when I come across them.

"Respeto a la autonomia de San Juan Copala"

And, more importantly, they are a graphic reminder that behind the vitality, beauty, and quaint cosmetics of “new” cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site facade, class warfare lurks in the shadows.

Oaxaca’s contradictions are mine.  I turn the corner and walk over to puesto 80 at Mercado Juárez to see if they’ve gotten in the chocolate covered coffee beans.  No, maybe tomorrow…  I stop by the temporary pocket market in front of the Jesuit church on the corner and satisfy my sweet tooth by buying a bag of melt-in-your-mouth Merengue Sabor Cafe, instead.

The Zócalo has awakened during my 45 minutes of shopping; young and old strolling arm-in-arm, vendors selling their wares, shoes being shined, outside tables occupied with diners chatting or simple watching the scene before them.

People strolling; vendors selling

And, there is music — always, there is music — today an orchestra has set up under the laurels for the final day of the Festival Nacional de Danzón.  The dance, with its origins in Cuba, is stately and prescribed, with inexplicable pauses where dancers turn to face the orchestra, women move to the right side of their partners, fan themselves, and then several measures later dancing resumes.

Dancers in traditional Oaxacan dress

I’m captivated by the dancers who are at once, serious and joyful, and by their varied attire — once a costumer, always a costumer!

Dancers - woman in slacks

Most dancers are in the latter third of their life, though there are a few earnest young people.

Young dancers

It’s a prosperous crowd — a dance of the elite — but mesmerizing to watch.


After an hour of observing this very “civilized” scene under an intense sun, I headed to Independencia, the shady side of the street, and home, only to stop, reel around, and follow the sounds of a calenda coming into the Alameda; band, dancers, fireworks — celebrating Día del Comerciante!


I leave feeling conflicted about my three hours on a sunny Sunday.  The lines from the song inspired by the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike come to mind…

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

Lunch eaten, clouds gather, sky darkens, and Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge.

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Oaxaca is old!   As a cursory glance at Mixtec and Zapotec history and their descendants will tell, this valley has been settled for thousands of years.


However, yesterday the city celebrated its founding as a colonial city, marking the 478 years since Spanish settlers (their bloody way paved by Hernán Cortés and his conquistadores) successfully petitioned the Queen of Spain for a land grant of 1 square league.  The colonists had already established their own town on the site of Huaxyacac, renamed it Antequera (after an old Roman city  in Spain) and received a Royal Charter from King Charles I of Spain.  However, Cortés had successfully gotten the entire Valley of Oaxaca (hundreds of thousands of acres) declared as his own private marquisate and, his greed knowing no bounds, kept trying to evict the colonial townspeople.  By obtaining the queen’s charter, this end-run around Cortés insured the rights of the townspeople to the land.   Thus, April 25th continues to be celebrated as Oaxaca’s birthday.

City elite

Saturday night I had a ringside seat on my terrace for fuegos artificiales (fireworks) — first emanating from the vicinity of the ex-convento of Santo Domingo (6 blocks to the NE), followed by those sent up into the night sky from La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (AKA:  my backyard).  Sunday morning, I was awakened at 6:05 to the sounds of Lady Soledad’s bells chiming — more musical than the usual clang-clang-clang — for a full 5 minutes, along with the rat-ta-tat-tat of firecrackers, adding exclamation points!

Bungee contraption -- ready for lift off.

I went down to the Zócalo a little before 6pm — the calenda (parade) hadn’t yet arrived, but the place was teeming with people (mostly all Mexican).  Payasos (clowns) were in abundance, but the big hit was a bungee cord contraption suspended above a trampoline.  A guy would harness a kid to the cord, jump up and down on the trampoline with his arms around said kid and once momentum was achieved, let go and send the kid sling-shot-like up into the sky.  Yikes, the way several of the kids were flaying around, I thought someone was going to break a back.

Marmota leading the way

For the 3rd day in a row, temperatures continued to be in the high 90s, unseasonably hot even for Oaxaca so, for the second day in a row, I hit the ice cream shop — this time for a scoop each of peach and banana (in a cup, no cone this time… less messy as it melted) — a great combination!  The calenda eventually arrived with all the usual suspects — several brass bands, municipal honchos, dancers in costume, monos (giant puppets — see above photo), etc.  Did I mention, it was really hot?  There I was, dripping wet, confining myself to the shade of the Zócalo’s 135+ year old towering Indian laurel trees, and eating ice cream when these participants (of all ages, I might add) had walked, played, and danced their way under the blazing sun for 13 blocks from Llano Park!

Little girl dancer

After 13 blocks, she didn't look any worse for wear!

Participants unmasked

Guys unmasked.

Couple drinking water

Feeling the heat... the pause that refreshes!

Disassembling balloons.

That's all folks!

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