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Posts Tagged ‘Teotitlán del Valle’

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!

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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.

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The Apostles preceded the priest, who was sheltered under a golden canopy.  Yes, that’s Antoño, below.

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This was the procession of the Holy Monstrance — the shiny sunburst-shaped item carried by the priest containing a consecrated Host (below).

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Everyone followed at a slow solemn pace.

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Once a full circumnavigation of the courtyard had been completed, the procession led into the church and up to the altar.

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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.

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Well, actually, they came, they saw, and they set the village straight.

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Stay tuned…

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After spending Holy Monday in Teotitlán del Valle, I returned on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday) to spend the day with Juana Gutiérrez Contreras in the home she shares with her husband, Antoño Lazo Hernandez, and their family.  She and her husband are members of a talented family of Zapotec weavers.  I’ve previously blogged about her brother Porfirio and am helping in a small way with a big project he is working on — and that is how I found myself spending several days during Semana Santa in Teotitlán.

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Juana Gutiérrez Contreras and Antoño Lazo Hernandez – July 2016

However, this day, I wasn’t there for the weaving — as wonderful as it is.  As with much of life in Teoti, there are culinary customs to be followed on Holy Thursday.  After insisting I sit down for desayuno (my second of the day — I’d eaten breakfast before leaving home), we set to work preparing the traditional Jueves Santo comida of white beans.

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Juana separating dried white beans.

I was tasked with grinding garlic and herbs used to season the beans.

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Crushing garlic and herbs using a stone pestle in a clay bowl.

Halved tomatoes (another of my jobs), whole onions and whole jalapeños were added to the beans.

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Yes, this watched pot did boil — or at least, simmer!

Our attention then turned to making chiles rellenos de queso, using Oaxaca’s own chile de agua.  For this, we moved to the outside kitchen set up under the shade of fruit trees.

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Chiles roasting roasting directly on top of wood coal.

Juana used her fingers to turn the the chiles.  However, after one attempt on my part, she pointed to the tongs.  Those coals were really hot!

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Modern wire whisk meets traditional clay cazuela.

While Juana whipped egg whites to a stiff peek, before adding the yolks, I peeled and slit the chiles.

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Epazote leaves and chiles await the quesillo.

I was also entrusted with stuffing the chiles — first a leaf of epazote, followed by a heaping helping of shredded quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese).  Then Juana commenced to frying the chiles rellenos in another cazuela — gently laying each on top of a bed of egg batter and spooning more batter on top.

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Cazuela and chiles rellenos amidst the flames.

She was masterful in her ability to withstand the heat of the fire while carefully turning the chiles.

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Chiles rellenos about to be transferred to a waiting platter.

In timing known only to Juana and Antoño, comida was ready just as Antoño walked in the door from attending a reenactment of La Última Cena at the church — a Last Supper that featured the flavors of Teotitlán.  During this Semana Santa, he portrayed Andrés el Apóstol (Apostle Andrew).  So, only a few hours after we had all last eaten, we were again sitting down at the table.  Alas, the food was SO delicious and I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures of our bowls of delicately flavored white beans and plates of chiles rellenos.  Sometimes you just have to be “in the moment.”

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As the last couple of posts hinted, this year, instead of the city, I spent much of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in one of my favorite places — Teotitlán del Valle.

This was only the beginning.  It was a colorful, moving, and delicious experience!

 

 

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Well, actually not coats.  These are the “casitas” (temporary homes) to house Jesús and María as they make their way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle on Lunes Santo (Holy Monday).

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The aforementioned streets include several blocks of Av. Juárez — the main street into town.  Thus, I found myself being “let off” the Teoti bus by the panteón (cemetery), instead of the mercado.

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How could I complain, when these guys (above) were so welcoming and offered this weary traveler a cup of agua de guanábana, a refreshing fresh fruit drink.

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As I mentioned in Monday’s post, there are twelve casitas in all — each with “walls” of the colorful tapetes woven in this village known for the story-telling designs and striking colors of their rugs.  Apparently, up until forty years ago, the casita walls were made of petates, the traditional woven palm mats that play a role from birth to death.  But, times change, the tapetes are more colorful, and it’s good PR for this community of weavers.

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As Jesús and María near, the ground is sprinkled with water and bougainvillea blossoms are scattered on the casita floor, copal incense is lit, and platters of food and drink await to feed the faithful and quench their thirst.  More about that to come…

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Today, Lunes Santo (Holy Monday), found me in Teotitlán del Valle, as Jesús and María were carried on palanquins in a slow moving procession through town, from one temporary tapete (rug) adorned casita to another.  They will make twelve stops in all.

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This casita was erected by the family of the Vice President of the village Church Committee, Amado Gutiérrez, father of Porfirio Gutiérrez, of whom I have previously written.

There was food and drink and so much more to this solemn expression of faith, so please stay tuned…

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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A bird’s-eye view!

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

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

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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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It’s a travel day for me and I didn’t think I would have time to honor my sisters of the world on this International Women’s Day.  However, thanks to a flight delay that has left me with an even longer than planned layover in Houston, I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than presenting Julia and Luvia; two of the extraordinary women of Teotitlán del Valle.

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Julia Martinez Bautista on her 100th birthday party, February 1, 2017.

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Luvia Lazo Gutierrez, director of the new Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle.

They embody the strength, ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity of women everywhere!

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From the outdoor kitchens of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza of Casa Cruz and Bulmaro Perez Mendoza, a three-day feast came forth to celebrate the mayordomía (stewardship) of La Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle.

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The roles are set in the stones of the metates…

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But, it’s the hands of generations of women…

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who continue to shape traditions and nourish bodies and souls.

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With apron strings tied, the women of Teotitlán del Valle, from celebrated cocinera Abigail Mendoza…

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to her sister, María Luisa Mendoza…

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to the abuelas…

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and their hijas, nueras, nietas, and sobrinas.

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It takes a village of women to make feast.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I were filled with wonder and gratitude to be invited to the home of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza, primero (first) mayordomías (sponsors/stewards), for a 3-day fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe.  There were orchestrated rituals of seating, music, and dance; a bounty of some of the best cocina Zapoteca food one could ever hope to eat; hundreds of people from small children to great grandparents; and the most amazing warm, welcoming, and communal spirit.

El atole de espuma

El atole de espuma

Higaditos waiting to be served

Higadito waiting to be served

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women's hands

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women’s hands

It was an amazing couple of days!  And these still lifes only begin to tell the story.  I promise more, but in the meantime, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

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It’s December 23 in Oaxaca and Noche de Rabanos is upon us.  The setting-up has begun and the spectators are gathering.  Despite its name, it isn’t just about artisans working their creative magic carving radishes.  There are three other categories, including the use of Flor Inmortal (a type of dried flower).  I will return this evening, but in the meantime, this entry titled, “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses'” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, is for all my friends in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Spinning the wool.

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Weaving tapetes from the spun wool.

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Grinding corn or maybe chocolate OR maybe even cochinilla!

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Dancing the Danza de la Pluma…

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The danzantes of the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa keeping their promise.

I think Raymundo did a wonderful job capturing the people of Teotitlán del Valle, the Land of the Gods, who make crafts and shape dreams.

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And we thought last year’s Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle was exceptional!  It was, but, for blogger buddy Chris and me, this year brought even more warmth, appreciation, and the intangible of being present in the richness of more layers of being in this special village.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

We are patrons of two of the danzantes of the 2016-18 Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa in Teotitlán del Valle — and Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz is one of them.  As such, we were invited to the home he shares with his parents, Mario Ruiz Bautista and Victoria Ruiz, to partake in the traditions and observe the responsibilities that accompany taking on the three year commitment to being a member of the Grupo.

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Mario Ruiz Bautista (on left) overseeing the offerings

From my albeit limited understanding, as part of the commitment the dancers make during their three years of service, each of their families is tasked with taking a turn hosting one of the four yearly festivals.

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Victoria Ruiz watching Edgar’s dance

The day began with a breakfast of traditional breads and hot chocolate and was followed by Mole de Castilla, a mole unique to Teotitlán and served during weddings and the most important festivals.  There must have been over 100 people, including Edgar’s extended family, padrinos, danzantes and their families, and band members.  They gathered and were served in the courtyard of the Ruiz home, with men seated at one long table, women on the other side of the courtyard at another, and the two gringos seated with the danzantes in the altar room opening onto the courtyard.

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Breakfast breads with hot chocolate

Following the meal, chairs and tables were folded and removed, the danzantes took the floor, the band began to play, and, as the sun streamed down on the courtyard, Edgar began his dance.  It was a touching moment to see this young man, whom I’ve known for almost six years, since he was a gangling teenager, and Chris has known since he was a small boy, dance with such confidence and pride.

Following dances by the whole group, with band leading the way, dancers, families, and guests processed down the steep and winding streets from the house to the church.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz en route to the church, accompanied by Victoria (his mother) and his nephew.

They filed into the church, where a special mass was celebrated, and then regrouped in the church courtyard to begin the seven hour (más o menos) Danza de la Pluma.  Early in the afternoon, while the dance continued, the families and invited guests returned to the Ruiz home, where the families of the other dancers each made formal presentations of baskets of fruit and mezcal or cervesa to Mario and Victoria.  This was followed by a comida (lunch) of caldo de pollo.  After all were fed, the offerings  were loaded into pickup trucks to be taken to the church plaza, to later be shared with the community.  At night, after the dance ended, we all again returned to Casa Ruiz for barbecoa de res (beef) in a rich and flavorful sauce, cervesas, mezcal, and soda pop.  I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into preparing all the food, orchestrating its serving, and then washing all the dishes — by hand in basins set up in the yard across the street.

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

It’s been over twenty four hours since Chris and I returned from Teotitlán del Valle and, though we talked continuously on the drive back to the city and have spoken several times since, we are still unable to put into words how meaningful and how honored we were to share this special day with Edgar, his family, and his community.  It was a precious gift. ¡Muchisimas gracias a todos!

For more, see Chris’s blog post, A very special Dia de Virgen de Guadalupe.

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When you sit down to your turkey dinner tomorrow, you will be following in the footsteps of the original inhabitants of the valley of Oaxaca.

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Guajolotes on the doorstep. San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of turkey domestication 1,500 years ago in the in the valley of Oaxaca’s Mitla Fortress.  And, according to Gary Feinman, Field Museum curator of Mesoamerican anthropology, “It’s a bird very, very similar to what a lot of people are going to eat on Thursday.”

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Guajolotes waiting for a ride, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

Turkeys, or as they are commonly known in Oaxaca, guajolotes, continue to play a special role in many of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities.  Turkey mole is prepared and served during religious festivals and weddings, among other special occasions.  They are also given as gifts and the downy feathers under the wings are dyed and used to make penachos (headdresses) for the danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma.

So, to those in el norte, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey, give a little thanks to the Zapotecs of the valley of Oaxaca.  ¡Buen provecho!

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After the wretched week that was (RIP Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, not to mention the USA elections), reviewing my Día de Muerto photos from Teotitlán del Valle was the ideal tonic.

On November 1, as I previously mentioned, after strolling and sitting and contemplating and conversing our way through the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros, we drove to the home of friends, Zacarias Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez, in Teotitlán.  Arriving at 3:00 PM, we were just in time to join the family and other guests, as Zac gave words of welcome to the difuntos, who had also just made their appearance.

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Our pan de muerto and mezcal joined the other offerings on the altar to provide nourishment to the departed while we, the living, sat down at the long table for a little cervesa, mezcal, and more than a few of the 500+ tamales Emilia had made.  After lots of eating and conversation, we walked across the courtyard to give our regards to Antonio Ruiz (weaver of one of my treasured rugs), wife Claudia, and their children (the beautiful Beatriz and her lively brothers, Diego and Antonito), and to see Antonio’s new showroom (Chris has a photo in his Familia blog post) and their altar.

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Invited to return to the Ruiz home the following day for Emilia’s famous mole negro, we also stopped at the village panteón to listen for the wind that signals the departure of the difuntos at 3:00 PM on November 2.

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We also stopped to pay our respects at the grave of Arnulfo Mendoza, though it took a little searching to find it, as the large tree that stood next to it had fallen, leaving only a stump.

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Both days, the drive back to the city was filled with the warmth, peace, and joy that Teotitlán del Valle always seems to impart.

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Under the strong and comforting gaze of Picacho, who could ask for a better resting place.

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Before I become completely immersed in the myriad of activities related to and surrounding Day of the Dead, I want to write a post about Porfirio Gutiérrez, another of the talented and creative weavers from Teotitlán del Valle I have come to know.

I first met Porfirio via my blog and we soon became Facebook friends.  However, we didn’t actually meet in person until last November’s, Feria Exposición Maestros del Arte in Chapala, Jalisco.  I made a beeline for his booth and introduced myself to him and his sister, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras.  Porfirio’s recognition and warmth made me feel truly welcome — like we were long-lost friends.

While, as you can see from the video, The Weaver From The Place of Gods, Porfirio is soft-spoken, he is exceedingly passionate about his Zapotec heritage and the preservation of the textile traditions of his village.  His knowledge, talent, and dedication led him to be one of four native artists to be chosen to participate in last year’s, Artist Leadership Program sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

A key component of the Smithsonian program was, following their residency, each artist was charged with returning to their community to share their knowledge, with the goal of preserving the wisdom and techniques refined and handed down from their ancestors.  I had the privilege of attending the awarding of certificates and exposition that concluded the 9-day workshop, given in Teotitlán by Porfirio and Juana.  The exposition was entitled El Ritual de los Sueños and took as its inspiration the traditional fiber mat, known as the petate.  It is on the petate where babies are delivered, dreams occur, and in which bodies are wrapped before being placed their grave.

The family’s studio is located at Calle Simon Bolivar #6, Teotitlán del Valle and I can assure you, visitors will be warmly welcomed.  And, who knows, you may come away with beautiful new, naturally dyed, hand-loomed treasure.

I already have a place on the wall reserved for one of Porfirio’s distinctly designed tapetes and am now saving my pesos.

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