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Posts Tagged ‘San Antonino Castillo Velasco’

Una muestra (a sample) from another sublime Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

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Under the lavender canopy of jacaranda, Jesús (wearing his red cape) and his burro enter the church courtyard laden with the rich bounty of the village.

More to come…

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The dead don’t arrive in the valley of Oaxaca all at once.  The cosmic difunto air traffic controller has scheduled their arrival at different times on different days, from October 31 through November 3, to avoid celestial congestion.

Santa María Atzompa’s departed are among the first to return, arriving on the night of October 31.  Flower and food vendors line the walkway leading to the panteón as grandparents, parents, teens, and small children stream in with arms full of flowers, candles, buckets, and brooms.  Because is built on a slope and there are almost no paths, footing can be treacherous, especially in the dark when only candles on the graves light the way.  At one time, perhaps tombs were positioned on a grid, but no more and it seems to be filled to capacity.  I guess that’s why one side of the panteón has been opened up (one of the walls removed), the field beyond leveled, and a new wall around the field, connected to the old, constructed.  (You can click on images for a larger view.)

On November 1, in the early afternoon, it has become our custom to visit the cemetery in Tlacolula de Matamoros, before bringing pan de muerto and mezcal to the home of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  In contrast to the higgledy-piggledy of Atzompa, the panteón in Tlacolula emanates a sense of order and serenity.  I wonder, could the tranquility comes from the 500 year old ahuehuete trees (hijos of el Tule, we were told) that reign over the tombs of the departed and make for an amazing play of light and shadow throughout?

On November 2, we returned to Teotitlán, but I will save that for another blog post.  However, that was not the end of the road.  In the category of, no rest for the living, the following day we drove south to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is the village known for their beautiful flowers and exquisite floral embroidery.  And, it is said that because the living are so busy providing flowers to other parts of the valley, the departed wait until November 3 to return. (See the book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca by Shawn D. Haley and Curt Fukuda.)  I’m sure, like we, the difuntos are dazzled by the intricacy of floral designs that family members have created to decorate their tombs in welcome.

Octavio Paz writes in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Life extended into death, and vice-versa.  Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.”

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Young and old, male and female…

it’s a family affair, labor of love…

as the tombs of San Antonino Castillo Velasco are painstakingly decorated on November 3.

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Next Monday, the the 83rd annual modern Guelaguetza will commence on Cerro Fortín.  And so, the last of my photos from last year’s evening performance…

I’ll resume my coverage with the San Paliluú of San Antonio Huitepec a village from the Valles Centrales region.

IMG_4882IMG_4884IMG_4895San Pedro Comitancillo performed the Danzas y Sones de Mi Tierra from the Istmo de Tehuantepec region.

IMG_4908IMG_4918P1010316IMG_4920And then there was the Danza de la Pluma.  Moctezuma, Danzantes, Malinche, and Doña Marina from San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, in the Valles Centrales region, performed one of the dances that reenacts the story of the Conquest.

IMG_4943IMG_4966IMG_4961Loma Bonita in the Tuxtepec region, very near the the state of Veracruz, then took the stage with its rousing Rinconcito Oaxaqueño.

IMG_4983IMG_4997IMG_5018The sun began to set as 36 beautiful women from San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec in the Papaloapam region, wearing their with brightly colored huipiles, took to the stage for the crowd pleasing Flor de Piña.

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Darkness began to fall (making for challenging photography from 1/3rd of the way up from the Guelaguetza Auditorium stage), as the lively Sones and Chilenos danced by the delagation from the Costa region village of San Juan Cacahuatepec kept the energy flowing.

P1010363La Dote y el Tercel Día e Fandango from the dancers of San Antonino Castillo Velasco in the Valles Centrales region closed the evening’s performances.

P1010371As fireworks exploded over the Guelaguetza Auditorium, the band played, the audience took to its feet, and delegations reclaimed the stage to dance the evening’s Guelaguetza performance to a close.

Now on to La Guelaguetza 2015!

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Another magical Domingo de Ramos spent in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  Experiencing Palm Sunday in this small Zapotec village never fails to nourish the soul.

A band played outside the panteón as villagers, from niños and niñas to abuelas and abuelos, arrived bringing their biggest and most beautiful fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, carved wooden toys and embroidered clothing, not to mention, goats, chickens, rabbits, and even a pig or two.  Three silver-haired abuelas inspected each donation; their faces expressing gratitude and appreciation for each offering, as they affixed a price tag.  Following the procession to the templo and a mass, all would be sold to raise money for the work of the church.

These were offerings to San Salvador, who sat proudly atop el Señor del Burrito, who was up to his ears in produce and bread.

At 11:00 AM, after prayers were offered in gratitude and for continued abundance in this fertile valley, led by the beat of two tambors and the high-pitched lilt of a chirimía, a procession to the church began.  Palm crosses were distributed to villagers and visitors, alike, and many carried (or led, in the case of the livestock) the offerings that had been collected.

Once secured, it took twenty men to hoist and carry the bounty-laden anda, with San Salvador and the burro, a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a burro to celebrate the Passover.  As the procession made its way to the church, the rhythmic sounds were occasionally overpowered by shouts warning the men of topes (speed bumps) and low hanging telephone wires that must be navigated, and then there were the stairs leading up to the church atrium.

I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Countless times, as I was taking photos, officials encouraged me to come closer and villagers ushered me to the front.  How many magical experiences can one person have?

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San Antonino Castillo Velasco continues to enchant.  What’s not to like about a village known for growing flowers, decorating graves with designs created with flor inmortal (immortal flowers) during Día de los Muertos, and floral designs executed in exquisite embroidery?!!

Then there is Palm Sunday and the tradition of gathering at the panteón, loading El Señor del Burrito with locally grown bounty, blessing by the priest, an incense led procession carrying it to the church, and then selling it to raise money for a local orphanage.

It never ceases to amaze!  The produce loaded onto the Little Burro, along with the overflow, was fantastic — enormous cabbages, the whitest of white cauliflower, perfect roses, cacao beans, squash, fruits, and on and on…

Then there are the people… young and old, they are always gracious and welcoming. And this year, under temperatures threatening 90ºF, women were circulating throughout the gathering crowd, offering thirst quenching aguas to stave off dehydration.

Oh yes, there were also kids and animals — and sometimes together!  As I think I’ve mentioned before, children in these indigenous communities seem to always be included and when old enough (5 and up, I’m guessing), given responsibilities — joy and exuberance, along with patience and commitment, abound.

I loved watching the little boys wrangling the goats as the procession proceeded from the panteón to the church.

 

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As we have done in previous years, we returned to San Antonino Castillo Velasco on November 1 to watch families begin the preparation of the graves of their loved ones for Día de los Muertos.  In a process unique to this pueblo known for the cultivation of flowers, family members mix the area’s very fine dirt with water; spread it on the top and sides of the grave; smooth it with a trowel, as if they were getting ready to lay tile; using a nail, they outline designs and religious imagery into the mud coating; and then use flowers (fresh and dried), to “paint” the scene.  

This year’s late rainy season brought torrential rains on November 2 and it must have interrupted the decorating, because when we returned on November 3, at the same time as usual, there was still much work to be done.  However, no one seemed the least perturbed; peace, tranquility, and quiet joy prevailed and, as always, it enveloped us.

(Music: Marimba band performing, “Díos Nunca Muere,” written by Oaxaqueño composer and violinist Macedonio Alcalá.)

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It’s been a magnificent Muertos filled with memorable moments and special people, along with a feast for ALL the senses.  An initial pass through the photos has weeded them down to 450.  Yikes!  Lots more weeding and processing to do.  In the meantime, here is a snapshot from the past 5 days.

And the magic continues today, when we return to San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

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Life and death is a family affair…

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November 1 and 3, 2012 in the panteón municipal, San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

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In addition to graveside gatherings and decoration, altars, parades, sugar skulls, sand paintings, marigolds, and Day of the Dead bread, painted faces are another distinctive feature of Día de Muertos celebrations.  They are most likely seen hanging around cemeteries and dancing through the streets but, like everything else here, you just never know…

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From Meaning of Dia de los Muertos Face Painting:

The day of the dead in Mexico is a fascinating mixture of Spanish Catholic and native Aztec traditions and beliefs. Skulls and skeletons were an important part of All Saints Day festivals in medieval Europe, especially since the Black Death ravaged the population of Europe in the 1300s. Across Europe artists, playwrights and poets mused on the theme of ‘memento mori’ (remember death) and the ‘dance of the dead’. Many artworks and books from the time depict dancing skeletons, or portraits with a skull to ‘remember death’.

At the same time, in Mexico, the Aztec culture believed life on earth to be something of an illusion – death was a positive step forward into a higher level of conscience. For the Aztecs skulls were a positive symbol, not only of death but also of rebirth.

Read full article here.

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It didn’t start that way; I awoke to horrifying news from Colorado.  Thank goodness blogger buddy Chris called and the heart that beats in Oaxaca beckoned.

First stop was the “Al Son del Valle,” an exhibition of canastas from 17  villages in the central valleys of Oaxaca.  These are baskets that are carried on the heads of women during calendas (parades); you may remember them from previous posts on the convites in Teotitlán del Valle.  The art of crafting canastas and the traditions and culture they represent have been proudly and lovingly passed down through the generations.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco canasta decorated with Flor Inmortal, the flower that never dies.

Canasta from San Mateo Macuilxóchitl

From San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, these canastas are lit and become pinwheels of fireworks at the end of a calenda.

Canasta of Las Chinas Oaxaqueñas of the city of Oaxaca

Canasta from Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Canasta from Zimatlán de Álvarez made of crepe paper.

Muchas gracias, Oaxaca, I needed that!

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My mom was a folk dancer.  She had studied ballet, tap, and acrobatic dancing when she was young and brought that training and muscle memory along with her when she took up folk dancing in her mid thirties.  I spent many hours over the years watching her dance; the Kamarinskaya from Russia, Swedish Hambo, Fandango from Portugal, Mexico’s Jarabe Tapatio, and so many more.  In addition to being a talented dancer, she made her own costumes.  A dressmaker’s dummy was a permanent fixture in her bedroom, yards of colorful cotton fabric and braid were piled next to the sewing machine, and in the evenings her hands and eyes were often occupied embroidering pieces for a new costume.

Mom died in 1989, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  So, on this Mother’s Day, this is for you mom…

Multicolored huipil with peacock design

Guatemala

Jewel toned embroidered huipil with peacock design

Zinacatán, Chiapas, Mexico

Black skirt embroidered on the diagonal with flowers

Zinacatán, Chiapas, Mexico

Black dress with gold-tone embroidery on sleeve and bodice.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, Mexico

Geometric yellow and red embroidery on purple skirt with lace bottom

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Close up of the back of a brightly embroidered huipil on black velvet

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

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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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Today is Thanksgiving in los Estados Unidos de América… and besides my wonderful family and friends, I am so grateful to see and experience places like San Antonino Castillo Velasco during los Días de Muertos.

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¡Feliz Acción de Gracias a todos!

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San Antonino Castillo Velasco, a Zapotec community near Ocotlán, is a village known for its flowers.  They are, no doubt, the inspiration for beautifully embroidered linens and clothing sold in the mercados and found in museum collections.  And, a specialty is the “flor inmortal” (immortal flower), so named because, even when dried, it retains its brilliant colors.  They are used to create intricately designed figures on display December 23 in the city of Oaxaca, during Noche de Rábanos and to decorate the graves of  loved ones during Días de Muertos in San Antonino.

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As I’ve previously mentioned, each village seems to have its own unique traditions for the Days of the Dead.  Villagers here mix the area’s very fine dirt with water, cover the graves, use a trowel to smooth it, outline designs and religious imagery into the dried coating, and then use flowers (fresh and dried), to paint the scene.  Entire families are involved, young and old, and the atmosphere is filled with joy, purpose, and most of all… Love.

For a very special moment, that is a metaphor the two days spent at San Antonino, see Chris’s post, Moments make a life..

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