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Posts Tagged ‘Teotitlán del Valle’

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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I know, the recent blog posts have been few and far between — and they will continue to be so for a couple of weeks. After twelve years, I am moving across town to a new-to-me, but old to the city, neighborhood. In the meantime, enjoy photos from our recent comida at the Tierra Antigua cocina de humo (traditional outdoor kitchen).

Tierra Antigua cocinera, Carina Santiago
Sopa de guías
Tortillas hot off the comal
Mole almendrado
Kalisa and the sheep
Nieve de mango

Stay tuned for news from the new Casita Colibrí neighborhood and home.

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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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July 2020, living in the time of Covid-19, is almost in the rear view mirror. Oh, how I have been missing July 2019!

July 9, 2019 – Teotitlán de Valle, Patronal festival in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 10, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 dancing in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 12, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Convite inviting everyone to the fiesta celebrating La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 13, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 dancing in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 14, 2019 – Tlacolula de Matamoros Sunday market, Kalisa Wells at the stall of doll maker, Armando Sosa.

July 16, 2019 – Santa Catarina Minas at the mezcal palenque of Félix Ángeles Arellanes, Mezcal El Minerito.

July 18, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Carina Santiago at a cocinera tradicional (traditional cook) demonstration.

July 19, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Mole Festival at the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden).

July 20, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Guelaguetza parade of delegations.

July 21, 2019 – San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair).

July 22, 2019 – Las Peñitas Reyes Etla, Guelaguetza.

July 25, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, procession announcing the Guelaguetza Muy Especial by the Down’s Syndrome folkloric dance troupe.

July 26, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, procession by the Asoc. de Juchitecos radicados en Oaxaca.

July 27, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, young participants in the second Guelaguetza parade of delegations.

July 31, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, making tejate at the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal in the Plaza de la Danza.

A reminder that we need to appreciate and be present to the present; it will never come this way again.

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Valentine’s Day in Mexico is known as Día del amor y la amistad (Day of love and friendship) and I had the extremely good fortune to spend it in Teotitlán del Valle (one of my favorite places in the world) among friends at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the restaurant, Tlamanalli.

Iconic Restaurant Tlamanalli tapete.

Special garlands of papel picado fluttered above the heads of the 150-200 invited guests, centerpieces of jicalpextles filled with handmade sugar flowers, papel picado flags, and marshmallows wrapped in colored tissue paper graced the tables, and each place setting included a commemorative menu.

Papel picado celebrating 30 years of Tlamanalli.

One of Teotitlán’s several bands was positioned just inside the door and played throughout the afternoon.

Musical entertainment to accompany the dining.

The open kitchen was a beehive of activity and, no doubt, had been for at least two weeks — in preparation for this auspicious anniversary.

Family working together in the kitchen.

Four courses honoring their Zapotec heritage were prepared with love and respect by world famous cocinera Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, her sisters Adelina, Marcelina, Maria Luisa, Rosario, Rufina, and her niece Diana.

Soups: Higadito de fandango, Flor de calabaza con quesadilla, and Garbanzo molido con tortillita.

Tamales: Chepil en totomoxtle, Mole amarillo con carne de conejo en hoja de milpa, and Frijol en totomoxtle.

Moles: Rojo con carne de gallina, Seguesa con lomo de puerco, and Negro con carne de guajolota.

Desserts: Nicuatolli de maiz azul con tinte de cochinilla, Flan Tlamanalli, Dulce de calabaza, Nieve de zapote negro, and Nieve de pétalos de rosa.

And, I got a bit of a chuckle when it was pointed out to me that it was the men in the family who were on washing and drying duty.

The men continued washing and drying throughout the day.

We were surprised we recognized so few of the attendees — only later discovering, thanks to this article, that many were dignitaries (not our usual crowd). However, we were more than delighted to have been seated at one of the tables in the section reserved for family members, several of whom we knew, and where conversations were in equal parts Spanish and Zapoteco, with only bits of English thrown into the mix — keeping us on our toes!

Commemorative jicalpextle centerpiece.

What an honor it was for us to be invited to share this special day with the Mendoza family — a day filled with love and friendship and very good food!

(For more photos and commentary, check out Chris’s blog post.)

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Looking in the rear view mirror at images from 2019. They bring fond memories of life in Oaxaca — ferias, festivals, food, and friends, not to mention exhibitions, random street scenes, and the unexpected at Casita Colibrí. They were also a reminder of many days and nights spent in Teotitlán del Valle this year.

January – San Juan Guelavía town hall.

February – Wall on Niños Heroes, remembering the Ayotzinapa 43.

March – Cactus flower on the Casita Colibrí terrace.

April – View from a gas station along Carretera Federal 175.

May – Construction assistance from the balcony of Casita Colibrí.

June – The tamales brigade at a 50th birthday fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle.

July – Newly made candles in Teotitlán del Valle.

August – Necklace from Monte Albán Tomb 7 exhibition at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.

September – Convite during the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle.

October – Danza de la Pluma at Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in Teotitlán del Valle.

November – Día de Muertos tamales in Teotitlán del Valle.

December – Nacimiento (nativity scene) in the Plaza de la Danza.

Many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue blogging from my rooftop terrace in Oaxaca. Wishing you all the very best in 2020!!!

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Art imitating life?

Wall in Oaxaca on Plazuela del Carmen Alto. (Art by Tupac Emiliano)

Or, life imitating art?

On Avenida Benito Juárez, Teotitlán del Valle

You decide!

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Sunday, August 18, 2019, Teotitlán del Valle celebrated the first anniversary of their Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle (CCCTV). During the day-long event, not only was there food and music, the village also celebrated passing on of their cultural riches and traditions to upcoming generations.

The Cultural Center’s, Danza de la Pluma Infantil (youth Danza de la Pluma group) donned their costumes, gathered on the Municipal Plaza, and performed dances from this ritual retelling of the Conquest. (Check out the up close and personal photos by blogger buddy Chris.)

In the CCCTV, there was an exhibition of penachos/coronas (headdresses) used in the Danza de la Pluma that were crafted in a workshop by young people from the village.

“BaáGuiish” by Laura Ruiz Mendoza. Representing the four cardinal points to give thanks for each new day.

 

Detail of “Shia guibaa” by Jesús Brayan Jiménez Lazo.

 

“La cruz de Quetzalcóatl” by Juan Mendoza Bautista.

In addition, there was also an exhibition of tapetes (rugs) designed and woven by the young people of Teotitlán del Valle.

“El alma en manos de mi arte” by Omar Mendoza Martínez.

 

“Futuro Hermoso” by Constantino Lazo Martínez.

 

“Huitzilopochtli” by Anais Adelina Ruiz Martínez.

 

“Bineéty xunuax Xigie’ (Mujer Zapoteca) woven image of his grandmother by Mario González Pérez.

Celebrating and preserving the cultural riches of the Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday. Dixeebe! Zapotec for ¡salud! cheers!

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At the crossroads.

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Morning walk in Teotitlán del Valle.

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I returned to Teotitlán del Valle late Friday afternoon to view the convite of of unmarried women of the village and Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 danzantes (dancers) process through town — an invitation to further festivities honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Though that wasn’t the only activity on my agenda; I would be spending the weekend with my amiga K, who was house-sitting for another amiga N. It would be a weekend in the countryside for this city gal!

I arrived late afternoon on Friday…

Canastas (baskets) lined up in front awaiting the procession under the gaze of the sacred mountain, El Picacho.

Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de Pluma 2019-21 arriving in front of the church, waiting to process.

Guys who launch the cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) announcing the procession.

The convite begins — unmarried women of Teotitlán del Valle carrying the aforementioned canastas (baskets).

After the convite, an early evening encounter with a burro as mi amiga K and I walked to Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua .

Saturday…

Early morning view of the campo in Teotitlán del Valle.

Breakfast gathering of cocineras (cooks) and friends in the cocina de humo at Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua.

Encounter with a bull while walking back to the house.

Returning to the church to watch the late afternoon performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

Following the Danza de la Pluma, late night watching the toritos, castillo, and fireworks in front of the church.

Sunday…

During mass, shopping baskets parked in the church atrium.

Off to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. The upside down St. Peter encountered in the Señor de Tlacolula chapel.

Taekwondo competition in front of the municipal buildings in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Returning to Teotitlán del Valle, still life in front of the sacred mountain, El Picacho, seen while walking back to the church in the afternoon.

Final Danza de la Pluma performance in the church atrium at the 2019 Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

It was a lively, delicious, and exhausting weekend. Did I mention, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day?  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Muchisimas gracias to all who made it an unforgettable weekend!

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Yesterday, Teotitlán del Valle’s new Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 did battle, not only with Cortes, but also with the wind — which grabbed their penachos/coronas/headdresses like sails, challenging their balance, intricate footwork, and Busby Berkeley-like choreography.

Moctezuma holding on to his penacho/corona/headdress

Danzantes holding on to their penachos/coronas/headdress

Danzante appealing to the gods to stop the wind?

Throughout the day, wind continued to challenge the danzantes

Grasping their penachos/coronas/headdresses, Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings kept to their feet

The danzantes of Teotitlán del Valle didn’t miss a step at this most important festival day honoring the patron saint of their village, La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Alas, the wind didn’t bring much needed rain to this agricultural community.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue for another three days.

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Summer showers bring more flowers.

Night blooming cereus on the terrace of Casita Colibrí

Flamboyán at Tierra Antigua, Teotitlán del Valle

Hibiscus at the home of Edmundo Montaño and Alicia Lorenzo, Teotitlán del Valle

Beauty and blessings brought to the land and people of Oaxaca by Cocijo.

 

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Yesterday, the village of Teotitlán del Valle and its Comité del Museo Comunitario (Community Museum Committee) welcomed the public to the inauguration of the first phase of the restoration of the archaeological zone beneath the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area had been a Zapotec ceremonial plaza.

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Before:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site, December 2013

A little background:  In 1553, Oaxaca’s Archbishop Albuquerque ordered the demolition of all Zapotec structures, including those in Teotitlán del Valle.  And, as was the practice of the day, in 1581 the Dominican friars began building their church atop the original Zapotec ceremonial complex.

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During:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration, February 2019

They scavenged building materials from the Zapotec site (some can be seen in the exterior walls of the church) and tried to erase all evidence of the rich and complex belief system that was already in place.

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During:  Sidewalk supervisor dog keeps an eye on the restoration work at the Teotitlán del Valle archeological site, February 2019.

As regular readers of my blog know, I visit Teotitlán often and am always amazed at the construction projects that pop up — new buildings, additions to homes, and street repairs.  However, this past February, when touring out-of-town friends around Teotitlán, I was surprised to see work being done in the archeological zone.

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During:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration, February 2019. Note the numbered pieces.

After three years of effort to obtain the necessary permits from the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), the work on the restoration of the “basement” began in January 2019.  The end goal is to reclaim, rehabilitate, and restore the Prehispanic Zapotec ceremonial complex.  Teotitlán’s site is concurrent with nearby Mitla, thus the presence of grecas, the fretwork that characterizes the site 15 miles to the southeast.

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After:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration inauguration day, April 22, 2019.

I’m looking forward to what the next phase will reveal!  By the way, as is the custom in Teotitlán, this major civic event included not only speeches by gathered dignitaries, but also a procession, a performance of dances from the Danza de la Pluma, food, and a concert.

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On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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