Posts Tagged ‘parades’

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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