Posts Tagged ‘Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo’

For years, I’ve gazed at the bell towers of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle and wanted to go up there.  I mused that the views must be spectacular.


I struck it rich a couple of weeks ago when visiting gal pals and I were wandering around the church and were asked if (for a small donation) we wanted to go up to the top.  We didn’t have to be asked twice.


It was well worth the climb up the narrow, winding, and steep stone staircase.


There I was, up close and personal with features I’d never before noticed.


Overcoming a moderate case of acrophobia, I even ventured out between the towers and the dome.


Despite a dry season haze that hung over the valley, the views in every direction were spectacular.


A bird’s-eye view!


It was great fun trying to pick out the homes of friends.


The icing on the cake:  The bell-ringer emerged, grabbed a couple of ropes, and the bells began to chime.


It was really loud (bordering on deafening) and lasted a long time!!!  But, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.




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Basketball is big right now in the San Francisco Bay Area; as I write the Golden State Warriors are 35 and 2 and a new, albeit controversial, 18,000 seat arena is in the works.  But, I’ll bet it won’t have views like these…



Unlike in wider mestizo Mexico, where soccer reigns supreme, in the Sierra basketball is king. The sport was introduced in the 1930s by president Lazaro Cardenas as a way to bring Oaxaca’s disparate and historically rebellious indigenous groups into the national fold.

Cardenas’ dream of a unified national identity didn’t take root in the Sierra, which has historically been isolated and impoverished, but basketball soon became tied to the region’s most significan traditions, and to indigenous identity itself.  — Jorge Santiago



One of several canchas de baloncesto (basketball courts) in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

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As far as I’m concerned, Señor de la Humildad y Paciencia was the patron saint of Friday’s, Procession of Silence.  He waited for hours inside the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, while we waited for hours outside, for the procession to begin.


At least he was sitting down.  For the penitents, their lot was a lot of standing around.





Some of the participants passed the time joking around (and occasionally teasing this gringa blogger), others looked incredibly bored, but all remained patiently stationed in place.  After all, in the words of one guy’s t-shirt, “don’t panic,”  it will eventually start.





Then, there is always one’s cell phone to provide a bit of distraction.




The 6 PM start time for the procession came and went, as did the daylight and my hope for taking any decent photographs of the actual procession.  (One of these days, I will master night photography of moving objects, she says, hopefully!)  It looked like even San Pedro was looking to the heavens for divine intervention to get the show on the road.


About 6:45 PM, with lights flashing, a small phalanx of motorcycle police signaled our prayers had been answered and a hush fell over the multitudes lining the sidewalks, streets, and balconies — the Procesión del Silencío had finally begun.

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July in the valley of Oaxaca has begun!  There will be festivals of mole, mushrooms, cheeses, and tamales.  And, there will be the costumes, calendas, and music of Guelaguetza in the city and in several of the surrounding villages.  But first…

Subalterno with open arms

Under a dark and threatening sky, the people of Teotitlán del Valle began their week-long Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Festival to the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).  Wearing traditional embroidered blouses and wool skirts woven in this Zapotec village known for its weaving, the unmarried young women and girls gathered in front of the church (Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo) for the convite (procession) that kicks off Teotitlán’s most important fiesta of the year.

Young Zapotec women and girls in front of church

The rain held off and the procession left the confines of the church courtyard.

Marmotas and people leaving entry gate

Marmotas (giant cloth globes), music, and pyrotechnics led the way…

Banda marching down street

along with little boys holding canes of carrizo and poles topped with small marmotas, fluffy sheep, and airplanes (don’t ask me).

Little boy carrying small marmota

And then came the young women and girls, carrying canastas with images of the saints on their heads.  I have to note here, these baskets are REALLY heavy.  I know, because last year one of the gals asked if I’d like to try — I did for all of about five seconds.  They carry them for almost an hour!!!

Young women with carry canastas on their heads

Most of the residents came out to watch at prime viewing locations.  (Teenage boys were especially prominent, but they deserve another blog post.)

Men, women, and children standing on street

Under the watchful eye of El Picacho (the sacred mountain of Teotitlán), the procession wound its way up and down the cobblestone streets…

Procession in mid-ground and mountain in background

and eventually returned to the church courtyard, where it all began.

For more photos, including some of the pyrotechnic guys in action, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

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Yesterday (May 3) was Día de la Santa Cruz and in Mexico it is the feast day of construction workers.  Crosses are erected on building sites and decorated.  The tradition has its origins with the guilds during the colonial era.

However, in Teotitlán del Valle, tradition calls for hiking up to the top of El Picacho.  A tall aqua colored wooden cross stands at the top of the peak.


There were two crosses, but apparently one was hit by lightning a week or two ago.  It lies in splintered pieces below where it stood.


Mountain and custom beckoned, and so we headed out to Teotitlán yesterday morning to climb the mountain.  The trek began and our eyes were on the prize as we passed by irrigated fields…


Along the steep and winding trail, there were signs…


in Zapoteco.


Bromeliads and other epiphytes clung to branches.


All along the way, the views were spectacular.


As we climbed, grew smaller and smaller.


And, our destination grew closer and closer.


Almost two hours later (we stopped a lot!), we encountered the tethered burros that brought the tamales, aguas, and cervesas that awaited us at the top.


Besides sustenance, there were fireworks…


and expansive and even more spectacular views.


There were parents, teens, toddlers, abuelos…


and abuelas.


Muchisimas gracias to the people of Teotitlán del Valle, who never fail to warmly welcome us and, again, generously offered us food and drink.


They are very special people who live in a very special place.

FYI:  The trip down took less than an hour, I returned home exhausted, sore, sunburned (even though I’d slathered on sunscreen), and thoroughly exhilarated.

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No Danza de la Pluma, no convite, no patronal festival.  The Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle on an ordinary day…


El Picacho up close and personal…


And, the hills where my young Zapotec friend, Sam,  “grew up… looking after [his] crazy goats!”  He is currently finishing a PhD in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool.  I see a connection.


Even unplugged, the hills were alive with the sound of music — a banda could be heard in the distance — a Teotitlán del Valle soundtrack.

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