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Yesterday, under a full moon…

and clutching our “pan bendito” (blessed bread), we began our pilgrimage.  Jueves Santo (Holy/Maundy Thursday) tradition calls for visiting 7 churches (la visita de las siete casas) in the city with one’s pan bendito, which must be kept to offer to guests, should any grace our doorstep.  This all relates back to Jesus’s Last Supper, which this date commemorates.

3 buns on a plate

First stop was the nearby Templo de San José, where palm fronds were also distributed and believers used them to brush up and down the statue of Jesus.  Hands also ran down his legs and then were used to touch one’s face.

After emerging from the side door of the jam-packed church, we set off for Templo de San Felipe Neri (whose picturesque dome can be seen (left of center) on my blog banner-head).

Altar with candles and lights.

Next stop was Carmen Abajo

Altar with JHS on banner above altar

followed by the far right side chapel of the La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  A plaque at the entrance of the chapel read, “El maestro esta aqui y te llama” (The teacher is here and calls you) and the multitude seemed to be heeding the call.

Altar with red banners reading, "De este pan no morirá; El pan de vida eterna"

We then strolled across the zócalo to the Jesuit, Templo de la Compañía de Jesus.

Altar with candles and flanked with yellow and white floral arrangements

We changed direction and headed north up the Álcala.  Big mistake!  A mosh pit (Chris, this WAS a mosh pit) surrounding a Tuna band that was playing in the middle of the street, causing gridlock and bringing us to an abrupt stop.  Eventually, following our blocker (my son, the lineman would be proud), we eventually found light and continued up to Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Templo, where we had earlier spent 1-1/2 hours (and it was still going on when we left!) at a mass where the priest reenacted Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.

God in a cloud above a lamb on an altar, draped in red cloth.

Strolling across the Álcala to Santo Domingo was much less challenging. The aisle to Santo Domingo’s main altar was blocked and we were routed to a side chapel.  Hurray, we did it — this made seven churches visited!

Gold encrusted altar

However, though bleary-eyed (as evidenced by the photo below), we opted for just one more, Carmen Alto.

White bearded man hovering in the clouds above lighted candles

Home beckoned…  and sleep came easily under the watch of the moon, now appropriately encircled by a halo.

Full moon with halo shining from behind clouds

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Palm Sunday also brought us to the village of Santiago Apóstol and one of my favorite painted churches.

Facade of church at Santiago Apóstol

This beautiful facade was hidden behind a stage, presumably set up for outdoor masses during Semana Santa.

Large crucifix on the stage in front of the church

We weren’t the only ones who negotiated the dusty back roads out of San Antonino Castillo Velasco; Señor del Burrito was already there when we arrived.  Apparently, he knew a shortcut!

Señor del Burro on stage in front of church

Inside the empty church (pews had been moved outside), amidst the smoky incense filled haze, the ethereal voices of these women transported us…

7 women sitting in chairs in front of an altar, in the haze of incense.

This wasn’t the first time we had been enchanted in Santiago Apóstol.  During Días de muertos, the entire Panteón is whitewashed and filled with an explosion of red, orange, yellow, and magenta flowers.

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Yesterday, I spent another magical day with friends in San Antonino Castillo Velasco (about 23 miles/1 hour  from the the city).  It was Domingo de Palmas (Palm Sunday) and San Antonino celebrates in its own unique, warm, and welcoming way.

Townspeople gather in the cemetery to decorate the “Señor del Burrito” with fruit, vegetables, flowers, and everything they sell or grow during the year.  In addition, livestock (goats, chickens, pigs, etc.), more foodstuffs, flowers, etc. are gathered and priced.  The pastor of the parish church arrives to bless the “Lord of the Little Burro” and offerings.  Palm crosses are distributed, all are invited to help carry the offerings to the church, 10-12 men hoist the burro (now laden up to his neck and weighing who knows what!), and a procession to the church commences, lead by a fast-tempo drum beat and punctuated by shouts warning the men carrying “Señor del Burrito” of upcoming topes (speed bumps) and telephone wires, which must be navigated.

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At the church, “Señor del Burrito” has an honored place in the courtyard and the offerings are gathered and arranged.  Many then attend an hour-long mass inside the church, while others partake in yummy amarillo and pork empanadas, taste mezcal, and browse the wares of the artisan booths.  By the way, at least two of the “maestros” from the new, previously mentioned, book, Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular de Oaxaca were present:  Familia García Mendoza (ceramics)  and Antonina Cornelio, who makes the exquisitely embroidered clothing typical of San Antonino Castillo Velasco (and seen in one or two of the photos above).  Following the mass, the offerings are sold, with the proceeds going to an orphanage in the village.

Muchisimas gracias to the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco for being so gracious and allowing us to share this special day with them.

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Sadly, the tree mentioned in my last post didn’t fall as a result of wind and rain.   According to newspaper reports, it was slammed into by a Chevy Silverado; the driver apparently had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Sidewalk memorial to Victor D. Diaz Gonzalez

Víctor Damián Díaz González was killed instantly.

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