Now that the Cocineras event is over (yes, I went back for day two), I am returning, as promised, to Semana Santa spent in Teotitlán del Valle. When I left off, I had spent Holy Thursday in the kitchen with Juana and we had just sat down to eat. However the day did not end there. Following our comida, we cleared the plates, while Antoño went out into the courtyard to vigorously scrub his feet. He soon left and Juana disappeared.
After about twenty minutes, she and her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter emerged dressed in what appeared to be their “Sunday best.” She quickly piled fruit (at least a foot high) onto a platter, covered her creation with cellophane and tied it with a bow — it was to be an offering. A flower arrangement was also picked up from a table by the door and then our little procession of three set off to navigate the steep dirt street down to the atrium of the church, where an altar and hundreds of chairs had been placed. I guess I was going to mass!
Later on in the mass, it became clear why Antoño had scrubbed his feet so diligently — the ritual of washing the Disciples’ feet. Antoño was portraying Andrés el Apóstol (those are the Apostles with the laurel wreaths, above) and the Apostle to his left washed his feet and he, in turn, washed the feet of the Apostle to his right. After the mass, a procession around the church courtyard began.
The Apostles preceded the priest, who was sheltered under a golden canopy. Yes, that’s Antoño, below.
This was the procession of the Holy Monstrance — the shiny sunburst-shaped item carried by the priest containing a consecrated Host (below).
Everyone followed at a slow solemn pace.
Once a full circumnavigation of the courtyard had been completed, the procession led into the church and up to the altar.
According to the book, Oaxaca Celebration: Family, Food, and Fiestas in Teotitlán, this is the only time the monstrance is set out and the church doors are left open atl night. A vigil is kept all night by designated villagers and parishioners are encouraged to visit.