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Posts Tagged ‘Plaza de la Danza’

All is quiet now, but for the last few days (and nights!) there has been no solitude for Soledad, or her neighbors (of which I am one).  For several days leading up to December 18, the feast day of the Queen of Oaxaca, La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (Virgin of Solitude), Oaxaca has been celebrating.  For those unaware of this virgencita, Soledad is adored and venerated in a manner similar to the Virgin of Guadalupe and is carried through the streets of Oaxaca (both city and state) during many religious celebrations.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

She resides in the church dedicated to her, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.  Designed by Father Fernando Méndez, construction began in 1682, it was sanctioned by the Viceroy Tomas Aquino Manrique de la Cerda, and consecrated in 1690 by Bishop Isidro Siraña y Cuenca.

Castillo spelling out, “Viva La Virgen de la Soledad” (Long live the Virgin of Solitude) and “Nuestra Senora de Oaxaca” (Our Lady of Oaxaca).

Being that this is Mexico and Catholicism is tempered (enriched) with indigenous practice, the night of December 17, after religious rites and rituals were performed at said Basilica, there were fireworks in the church atrium, including toritos and a castillo, in honor of La Reina de Oaxaca.  Despite the late hour, I managed to leave the comfort of my rooftop and head over to the Plaza de la Danza to watch — and they were spectacular, as always.

Many of the faithful spent the night in the Basilica’s atrium.

Alas, I didn’t have any energy left to stay and hear the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca) Tuna band serenade Soledad with a concert inside the Basilica at midnight.  Silly me!  I was dozing off to sleep at midnight when the Basilica’s bells began chiming furiously and cohetes (rockets) sounded and I woke with a start.  Next year, I’m staying up!

Prayers before the La Virgen de la Soledad.

Sleep finally returned, only to be interrupted about 4:15 AM with more cohetes and a band and then again around 6:30 AM.  Needless to say, I gave up on sleep and got up.  All during the night La Virgen was not alone.  The faithful, coming from near and far, spent the night in the atrium of the church, food stalls set up on the stairs leading down to the church fed one and all, and live music entertained her all night long.

The ever-present vendors selling flowers to the faithful.

Like most, her story has several versions.  According to one legend, in 1620 a mule train bound for Guatemala camped outside the city of Oaxaca, discovered an extra mule which did not belong to anyone in the group.  The mule refused to move and when prodded rolled over and died.  When the pack it carried was opened, it was found to contain the statue of La Virgen de la Soledad. Taking this as a sign from heaven, the inhabitants built a shrine, later a church, and finally the imposing Basilica.

Food vendors lined the stairs down to the Basilica’s atrium.

In another story, a muleteer from Veracruz, en route to Guatemala, noticed he had one too many mules in his pack upon his arrival in Oaxaca.  Outside the San Sebastian hermitage, the mule collapsed under the burden it was carrying.  All attempts by the muleteer to get it back on its feet were futile; to avoid punishment, he notified the authorities.  When he lifted the load off the mule, it got up but then immediate died.  The burden was inspected and an image of the Virgin, accompanied by Christ, along with a sign that said, “The Virgin by the Cross.”  Faced with this momentous event, Bishop Bartolome Bohorquez ordered a sanctuary to be built in honor of the divinity.

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad inside the Basilica wearing her gold, diamond, and pearl encrusted vestments.

Still another legend:  a heavily laden burro of mysterious origin appeared outside of town in 1534, fell to the ground, spilling its load next to a rock (still on-site) containing the beautifully carved Virgin (thought to be carved in Guatemala or the Philippines) and a chapel was built on the spot.  However, apparently there was an adobe shrine to the Virgin of Solitude atop Cerro Fortín as early as 1532 — and the rock may have even been moved from the mountain in 1617 to the current site (immediately to the right as you enter the Basilica).

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (body double) under the tree in the atrium of the Basilica — wearing the traveling attire.

Her vestments are encrusted with pearls and 600 diamonds — and she wears a 4-lb gold crown.  As all that bling is quite heavy and valuable, she has a body double who wears a velvet mantle and crown that aren’t quite so ostentatious.  It is she who is carried through the streets during processions and has been residing in the church atrium during the festivities in her honor.

All was not completely serious yesterday at the Basilica — there was also entertainment.  In the late afternoon, Soledad was treated to a command performance by the Cuadrilla de Mascaritas from Asunción Nochixtlán, in the Mixteca.  I had never seen nor heard of this dance before.  According to this article (in Spanish), in 1865, a year after the defeat of the Franco-Austrian army at Las Tres Cruces (between Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán and Asunción Nochixtlán) by the joint forces of the Mixtecs and General Porfirio Diáz, Mixtecos commemorated the victory with the mascaritas dance, which ridiculed the supposedly invincible enemy.  I learn something new every day!

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Tonight, the streets of Oaxaca are alive with the sound of music and cohetes (rockets) as a calenda (parade) in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) celebrates the approach of the feast day of the mother, queen, and patroness of Oaxaca.

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A young Soledad making the rounds on a float.

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Accompanied by an angel.

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Monos taking a break in front of the Basilica de la Soledad.

There will be no solitude for Soledad during the next couple of days and nights.  If you don’t believe me, check out her festival schedule.

virgen de la soledad programa 2017

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A mono in camo, seriously???

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I guess it really is a jungle out there.  But, it isn’t easy to stay hidden when your buddy is laughing at you.

Just another day crossing the Plaza de la Danza on my way to the market.  As I keep saying, you just never know what you will uncover walking the streets of Oaxaca.

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New year’s morning… 9:00 AM… music coming from the Plaza de la Danza.  Sheesh, only a few hours after the booms, bangs, and hisses from fireworks that announced the arrival of 2014 had finally quieted.  Thus, sleep deprived, I was moving slowly.  However, speeches joined the music and I thought I heard mention of Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto… AND there was cheering.   Hmmm… I showered, dressed, and headed up Morelos.

Military…

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Tubas…

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Monos…

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Marmotas…

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Canastas…

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and crowds…

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heralded the inauguration of Oaxaca city’s new mayor, Javier Villacaña Jimenez, a PRI-ista, political party of the state’s former (much-hated) governor and party of Mexico’s current president.  Oaxaca’s current governor was elected July 4, 2010 by an alliance between the PAN, PRD, and a couple of other left-leaning parties, whose primary goal was ousting the PRI from its 80+ year reign in the state of Oaxaca.

This ought to be interesting…

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Today is the feast day of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, the mother, queen, and patron saint of Oaxaqueños.

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If you enter the word “soledad” into a Spanish to English translation program, “solitude” and “loneliness” result.  However, for the past ten days, Our Lady of Solitude hasn’t had much of an opportunity to be lonely.  On December 15, she was taken down from her glass encased niche in the Basílica, that bears her name, and carried out into the fresh air of the church plaza.  On the 16th, she took a road trip through the streets of Oaxaca, stopping to visit several other churches along the route.

The faithful have been coming to honor her.

And, over the past 24 hours, she has been entertained by fireworks, bands, and the ringing of bells.

Food stalls surround her from Morelos to Independencia…

along with vendors of the sacred…

and the profane.

There is even a carnival for the kids.

With crowds, like these…

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad might just be looking forward to returning to the solitude of her glass enclosed niche.  I know I’m looking forward to a quiet night’s sleep!

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Crossing the Plaza de la Danza, on my way to the market this morning, I saw stilt people!

Stilt dancers sitting on ledge, Basilica of Soledad in background

The all-male stilt dancers of Villa de Zaachila were waiting to perform the Danza de los Zancudos at the 22nd conference of the Oaxaca-Centro Alcoholics Anonymous.  Once they took the stage there was much cheering and good-natured catcalls from the 75% male audience

The Dance of the Zancudos originated in the San Pedro neighborhood over 100 years ago and is one of the few places the dance can still be found. The origin of the Dance of the Zancudos is in a promise the inhabitants of Zaachila made to Saint Peter. The story behind it states that an old man encountered an apparition of Saint Peter who asked the community build a church in his name. The apparition appeared each day until it was captured by the local people and enclosed in a small church. Guards were posted at the entrance with rifles and machetes. However, the next day, it was discovered that the saint was no longer there, and he appeared again to the old man who had originally seen him, indicated that God had sent him to protect the village. Eight days remained until the feast of Saint Peter, and the saint asked that the villagers form pairs on stilts to dance. On the feast day, the men danced on stilts while the women surrounded them with candles and incense. The dancers arrived at the foot of a hill where an image of the saint was found, which was brought to the San Pedro neighborhood where a church was constructed for it.  [Wikipedia.  Retrieved, 11/10/2013]

They performed several dances and, to the cries from the audience of, “Otra, otra, otra,” they were ready with an encore.  Baskets that had been tied to their costumes were thrown into the crowd (a la La Guelaguetza) and they exited stage right.  By the way, getting down off the stage on stilts requires a lot of help from your friends.  But once that complexity is navigated, you get to stroll over to a ledge high above everyone’s head, and have a seat.

5 stilt dancers sitting on a ledge.

Reason number 521 to never go anywhere in Oaxaca without my camera!

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Plaza de la Danza…

Microphone

Microphone, speakers, and pigeon…

2 speakers on stands

We are all here…

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Where is everyone???

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Early Saturday evening, the Plaza de la Danza played host to the Festival Día de Reyes, an event to delight and distribute a kilometer of donated toys to disadvantaged children.  The Kings had kids and their parents seeing double.

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Lines began forming two hours in advance to be up-front and close to the stage, all the better to be chosen to participate in the games and entertainment that was also part of the festivities.

P1040341To the delight of the crowd, three luchadores took the stage to recruit contestants for a mystery contest.

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The music came up and Oaxaca’s kids began going, “Gangnam Style” — albeit, some more enthusiastically than others — and all got prizes.

Psy may have sung and danced his last “Gangnam Style” on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, however, it remains alive and well in Oaxaca!

According to this morning’s Noticias, 6,500 toys (donated by citizens, city government entities, foundations, and businesses) were given to each child present and all received a piece of rosca de Reyes.

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As they say, a good time was had by all!

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As yesterday’s post reported, fireworks late Monday night heralded the feast day of La Virgen de la Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca. P1030476

However, that was far from the end of the nocturnal tale.  At the stroke of midnight, only an hour after the snaps, crackles, and pops had ended, and when I had finally drifted off to sleep, the bells of the Basilica began a frenzied pealing.  They were immediately joined by repeated rocket explosions, and the unmistakable sounds of a tuna band; at 2 AM bells, rockets, and mariachis; at 4 AM more bells, rockets, music, AND a procession winding its way through the streets of the city; its sounds ebbing and flowing for  almost two hours.

At 6 AM, I gave up attempting sleep, threw on jeans, shoes, and a sweatshirt (didn’t even bother to wash my face or brush my teeth — don’t tell anybody), grabbed my camera, and headed over to the Basilica.  What a sight!!!

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The Plaza de la Danza was covered with food stalls offering barbacoa, molotes, empanadas, tacos, buñuelas, hot chocolate, breads, and pastries — the best of Oaxaca street food.  And, they were all open!

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On the Basilica’s plaza, the Banda Auténticos (from San Andrés Huayapam) was playing…

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Dancers were dancing…

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People were just waking up…

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Vendors were selling roses and bouquets of herbs…

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And, ubiquitous twig brooms (escobas de otate) waited to sweep-up the detritus from Soledad and friends pulling an all-nighter.

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After a breakfast of barbacoa (chivo) and hot chocolate, I walked back home.  Sleep deprived or not, it was a great morning!

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Where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.*

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Plaza de la Danza, Oaxaca, December 10 — Día Internacional del Payaso (International Day of the Clown).  Gracias, Universidad José Vasconcelos.

If, like me, you suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns), Oaxaca is a great place for a little immersion therapy.  Clowns are seen everywhere and everyday; waiting for the bus, walking their kids to school, as well as performing in parks and plazas.  Not so scary anymore!

* Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim

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As I write, it is late on September 15, and all over Mexico El Grito de Dolores, also known as El Grito de la Independencia (the Shout of Independence), is echoing from government buildings throughout the country, from the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City to Oaxaca’s Palacio de Gobierno to ayuntamientos (city halls) in small towns.

Mexicans!
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!

Portraits of the above listed heroes of Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain hang from the Government Palace in Oaxaca, as well as from the Municipal Building facing the Plaza de la Danza.

Massive 3-piece banner portrait of Morelos hanging from wall of Oaxaca's Municipal Building

And, this year, José María Morelos y Pavón is honored with a second massive portrait on the outer wall of the Municipal Building.  Last year, it was a reproduction of Orozco’s dramatic painting of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

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Thursday night was the kickoff event for the 5th annual El Saber Del Sabor (literally, the knowledge of flavor) Festival Gastronómico Oaxaca 2012.  Early in the day, the Plaza de la Danza had been tented and turned into a colorful banquet hall.

Interior of large tent decorated with multicolor tableclothes and papel picado on ceiling

A couple of the evening’s chefs arrived early and were cooling their heels, waiting to begin doing what they do best.  Hmmm… what’s with the bricks on top of the cantera?  (Stay tuned!)

2 chefs sitting behind brick platform

By 9:30 PM the tables had filled and cooking was well underway.

Young man in chef's toque sauteeing bananas.

Casa Oaxaca chef and event host, Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo circulated, greeted old friends and fans, and was interviewed by a crush of press.  Cameras and microphones were omnipresent — good for publicity, bad for navigating the aisles en route to food!

Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo talking to a table filled with people.

To begin the evening and ready the palate, wines, beers, aguas, and (of course!) mezcals were offered.  We sampled a couple of mezcals from El Jolgorio and all I can say is, Wow!  (BTW, that’s a good, “Wow!”)

Bottles of El Jolgorio Mezcal on a table.

The festival seeks to promote and protect Oaxaca’s traditional cuisine and to inspire innovation.  For this evening’s event, we were invited to sample an incredible range of appetizers, side dishes, main courses, and desserts from 23 cooks, representing the 8 regions of Oaxaca.

A bowl of a stew surrounded by platters of limes, rice, cilantro, and onions.

I think I must have tasted at least 30 dishes — and this was late at night.  Needless to say, no breakfast for me the next morning.

Serving pans of food.

And, remember the bricks?   My favorite sight of the evening were the little piggies roasting on bamboo skewers over red and white-hot coals.  The tag line for the festival is, “tierra, fuego y cocina” (earth, fire, and kitchen).  Yes!!!

Roasting pigs on bamboo skewers over hot coals.

From the Plaza de la Danza, the festival moves to restaurants throughout the city, where 36 renowned chefs from all over Mexico have come to prepare innovative cuisine that pays homage to Oaxaqueño foodstuffs and traditions.

A big “thank you” to Henry and Rosa (Amate Books) for inviting me to share such a delightful and delicious evening!

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Last night, under starry skies, I returned to Casita Colibrí.  The streets were wet and potholed (more than usual) and even in the dark, my garden looked green and lush, all thanks to the rains Hurricane Carlotta brought and a storm track that continues to have Oaxaca in its sights.

After a verrry slow morning spent renewing my apartment’s acquaintance (remember, no TP in the toilet), gazing at the view, and unpacking, armed with two shopping bags, I headed down to Mercado IV Centenario (my local mercado) for some much-needed restocking, only to find doors locked.   Ooops!  I’d forgotten, as of mid May it was temporarily relocated to Jardín Morelos, due to a long overdue renovation project.  So, down the stairs and across Independencia to the new site, I went.  How nice it was to see the familiar faces of my favorite vendors and what warm greetings I received.   Ahhh… it’s good to be back!

The route home took me up through the Plaza de la Danza.  And, what to my wondering eyes did appear?   A boxing ring, boxing fans, and a boxing match in progress.  Darn, I neglected to bring my camera.  Hey, it was just supposed to be a grocery shopping trip!  However, this from my iPod Touch camera.

2 boxers in boxing ring with referee in background.

Concerts, dance exhibitions, fireworks staging site, ferias and now boxing in the Plaza de la Danza.  As I’ve said, the public spaces in Oaxaca are well used!

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As the promotional material for Ma (yo) en Oaxaca, Mujer (es) Arte y Cultura explains (loose translation), like a skilled weaver, women create the fabric of life… part of the history of humanity, intelligence that moves, the look that looks, which is regarded in the construction of better horizons of life for her and those who are around her.  And so, from May 3rd through 13th, the women of Oaxaca are being celebrated with workshops, exhibitions, lectures, and concerts.

Last night, under the supermoon, one of the accomplished women of Oaxaca, Alejandra Robles, gave a free concert, just a block away, in the Plaza de la Danza…

Ma (yo) en Oaxaca is a party for all of the principles of inclusion and participation to make possible the knowledge and appreciation of the cultural richness of groups which, for various reasons, have been marginalized.

¡Viva las mujeres!

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…fighting in Oaxaca.

Colorful gigantic papermache bull

Corrida de Toros, as it is known in Mexico, was outlawed by, then governor of Oaxaca, Benito Juárez.  The ban was instituted throughout Mexico in 1867 by Juárez during his presidency.  Some say it was to “civilize” Mexico, but others contend it was for nationalistic reasons, as bullfighting had been a legacy of the Spanish conquest.  I tend to think the latter tipped the scales.

Close-up of the head of a colorful giant papermache bull

However, Porfirio Díaz reinstated it during his presidency, but the ban remained in Oaxaca in honor of her favorite son.  And thus, on the Plaza de la Danza, we have only a paper mache bull ready to charge at his shadow…

Design of fish heads, Mitla frets, triangular mountains, etc.

and serve as a canvas for imagery, ancient and contemporary.

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