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Another year of Covid-19 means another year without an up close and personal Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Like last year performances and events are going virtual. However, unlike last year, when video of the dancing was taken from the years 2017 to 2019, this year the delegations will be performing live from their villages.

La Guelaguetza 2021 schedule of cultural events:

July 19, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 19, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

Transmissions can be viewed at CORTV– on local television, their YouTube channel, and on their Facebook page.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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A much needed pause in nesting at the new Casita Colibrí was in order. Teotitán del Valle’s patronal festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo beckoned. The pandemic had closed the village for many months and precluded attending any of the 2020 fiestas. However, with mask on, I returned to spend three days. First on the schedule was Monday evening’s convite (procession) inviting the community to the fiesta.

Lining up in front of Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo for the convite.
Canastas ground level before being lifted onto the heads of the young unmarried women chosen to participate.
Cohetero (aka, rocket man) mugging before lighting the fuse.
Anticipating the big bang!
Tambor player who has walked many miles.
Young percussion player with many miles yet to walk.
As the shadows lengthened, the convite wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Doña Marina, Moctezuma, and La Malinche bringing up the rear.
Villagers gather at their favorite location to watch the passage of the convite.
Convite taking over the main street in Teotitlán del Valle.
Danzantes under the watchful gaze of El Picacho.
Subalterno keeping on keeping up.
The return trip to the iglesia.
After almost an hour, the convite re-entered the atrium of the iglesia.
Watching and contemplating — the end.

The last festival in Teotitlán that I attended, before Covid-19 turned the world sideways, was the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in October 2019. The warm welcome I received at the convite on Monday was incredibly touching and I admit to tearing up a little as it began.

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Several days ago, I finally returned to Teotitlán del Valle.

This was my first visit since the 30th anniversary celebration of Tlamanalli on February 14, 2020.

The pandemic hit soon thereafter and my adventures outside the city ceased.

Needless to say, I got a little emotional as I reconnected with sights, sounds, and, most of all, friends.

There wasn’t nearly enough time to check in with everyone as we (visitors from California and I) had been invited for comida at Tierra Antigua.

We spent hours and hours dining on delicious food prepared by Carina Santiago and her staff and catching up with her family and Kalisa, who is now based in Teotitlán.

However, now that I and many of my older friends in Teotitlán are fully vaccinated, I will be back soon!

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Alive, well, back in Oaxaca, and enjoying the views from Casita Colibrí.

Looking west at Templo de San José and the Basilica de la Soledad with Monte Albán in the distance.

I arrived three days ago and, unbeknownst to me (as it was supposed to go all the way through to Oaxaca) my checked bag was held up in customs at the Mexico City airport. I can’t imagine what the problem was. Perhaps 5 dry sticks of Sure deodorant? 4 pairs of gardening gloves (1 for me 3 for gifts)? 3 used books? Or, maybe the 15 used compost-able plastic bags I brought back to line my waste baskets? No explanation was forthcoming, but they did put my suitcase on the next flight that evening and delivered it to my apartment around 9 PM — nothing confiscated, no customs fee, and NOTHING missing!

Looking south toward Oaxaca’s airport.

From the evening I returned, I began sneezing, nose began running, and I developed a head-crushing sinus headache. Except for a quick trip to the pharmacy to buy an allergy medicine, I spent all Tuesday in bed. This has never happened before, but everyone is telling me that this season, this year is really bad for allergies. By Wednesday, I was feeling a little stuffy, but much better.

Sunset looking north.

The rainy season was just beginning when I left six weeks ago and now, the hills are turning green, the garden is lush, and tonight, as the sun sets, thunder is rumbling, lightening is flashing in the distance, and a few raindrops have fallen. It’s good to be back!

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and mother figures out there!

“Mi Segunda Madre” woven by Mario González Pérez using wool dyed with natural dyes.

The above wall hanging (photographed in February 2021) was part of the art exhibition, “Sangre y Herencia” (Blood and Heritage) at Hotel CasAntica. By the way, Día de las Madres is celebrated in Mexico on May 10.

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Container gardening, Oaxaca style.

Recycled garden planter

I chuckle every time I pass by this planter on the sidewalk of Calle Heroico Colegio Militar in Colonia Reforma.

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The headline in NVI Noticias announced, despite an increase in COVID-19, the federal government declared that, as of tomorrow, Oaxaca will move from semáforo amarillo (yellow traffic light)…

Art by Berza and ARCH on the Calle Constitución side of El Tendajón.

… to semáforo verde (green traffic light).

Mural signed by Hiko in Barrio de Xochimilco.

Inquiring minds are wondering if the downgrading of COVID-19 risk has anything to do with the upcoming elections on June 6.

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It’s the time of year when late afternoon winds come up, landing patterns change to often bring planes very low over the city, and the occasional top heavy plant topples over.

Tuesday morning I came out on the terrace to find my Euphorbia Trigona down. Prone, though it was, neither it nor its beautiful old maceta (flowerpot) suffered any damage. Both are now safely cradled in a wrought iron plant stand.

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In varying states of repair and disrepair and in a rainbow of colors, old but indomitable VW Beetles (known as Vochos in Mexico) are still seen tooling and sputtering their way around Oaxaca — an ideal car for navigating the narrow streets and limited parking in the city.

As the old Timex watch commercial used to say, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

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Looking up never ceases to make me smile, especially when papel picado (cut paper) garlands flutter in the breeze — images with holiday themes, celebrating rites of passage, and advertising local products.

They are even imprinted on walls.

We are in the midst of Cuaresma (Lent), though pandemic restrictions have canceled most public celebrations, we have the Liturgical colors of violet and white papel picado to remind us.

Even the neverías of Jardín Sócrates have gotten into the act.

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It is the time of year when the temperatures begin to reach 90º F and the Primavera amarillas, Jacarandas, Clavellinas, and Palo de rosas trees bloom.

It’s almost spring and Oaxaca has entered her sky blue period.

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This article, Tourists are welcome in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their increasingly bad behavior is not, is one of the reasons these images from my garden express how I’m feeling these days.

Then there is the fact that I haven’t set foot out of the city for exactly one year. Color me prickly and awaiting the vaccine.

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Returning from an errand in the Jalatlaco neighborhood, I was stopped in my tracks by this massive mural on Calzada de la República. It is titled, “No Discriminación e Inclusión” (No Discrimination and Inclusion), and was unveiled in October 2020 as part of the Movimiento Vecinal — a program created by the Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca (State Public Security System of Oaxaca) to involve youth, through cultural, athletic, community, and educational activities, in the recovery, appropriation and rescue of public spaces. Importantly, a collaboration has also been established with the civil association Conquistando Corazones to eradicate violence towards the community of sexual diversity.

(Unfortunately, trees and other foliage prevented a clear photo of the entire mural and so I offer you the full mural in six parts — moving from left to right facing the mural.)

According to José Manuel Vera, Executive Secretary of Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca, “We work to achieve equality and dignity for people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and we continue to create spaces for youth that represent freedom of action and thought. In a just and egalitarian society, everyone has the right to their individuality, to be who they are, to do so in peace, without fear of rejection, hatred or violence, but rather enriched by diversity” (my translation).

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January sunsets in Oaxaca are spectacular. Looking west, behind Templo de San José, Basílica de la Soledad, and the mountain Monte Albán sits atop, they often have me dropping whatever I’m doing, dashing out the door and onto the terrace to gaze — before the magic disappears into darkness.

January 1, 2021 – 6:11 PM (CST)
January 12, 2021 – 6:05 PM (CST)
January 23, 2021 – 6:28 PM (CST)
January 24, 2021 – 6:22 PM CST

Occasionally, the camera is nearby.

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