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With dancers and props arrived and prepped and streets blocked to traffic, this past Saturday’s second Guelaguetza Desfile de Delegaciones (Parade of Delegations) set off from Calzada Porfirio Díaz to again wind its way through the city’s streets.

San Carlos Yautepec, Sierra Sur

Santa Catarina Ticuá, Mixteca

San Francisco del Mar, Istmo

Danza de los Rubios – Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Mixteca

Huautla de Jiménez, Cañada

Danza de los Jardineros – San Andrés Zautla, Valles Centrales

Danza de los Diablos – Llano Grande, Mixteca

Loma Bonita, Papaloapan

H. Cd. de Huajuapan de León, Mixteca

Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, Costa

Asunción Ixtaltepec, Istmo

Danza de la Pluma – Teotitlán del Valle, Valles Centrales

Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz, Sierra Sur

Mezcal, pride, and joy were all in abundance!

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There has been so much happening in Oaxaca, this week seems to have gone by in a colorful blur. It’s already Saturday and the city is gearing up for the second Guelaguetza desfile (parade) of delegations from the eight regions of Oaxaca. And, I realized that I never did cover the first parade last Saturday — other than a single photo in the Snapshots from Oaxaca post of the China Oaxaqueña delegation huddled in the rain. I am happy to report that the storm passed and it didn’t rain on the parade.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Genova Medina, Valles Centrales

Chinas Oaxaquenas Doña Genova,
Valles Centrales

Ejutla de Crespo, Valles Centrales

San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, Mixteca

Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Sierra Norte

San Blas Atempa, Istmo

Putla de Guerrero, Sierra Sur

Tiliches of Putla de Guerrero, Sierra Sur

Chalcatongo de Hidalgo, Mixteca

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Papaloapan

San Pedro Pochutla, Costa

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Casilda, Valles Centrales

San Francisco Sola, Sierra Sur

San Felipe Usila, Papaloapan

This wasn’t even all the delegations! Today, a few of the same, plus many more — including “our” Danza de la Pluma guys (and little gals) from Teotitlán del Valle. The sun is shining and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t rain on today’s parade. By the way, they changed the route this year, beginning in Colonia Reforma and ending at Mercado de La Merced — making it longer AND closing Calle Niños Heroes (Carretera Federal 190 — known in the USA as the Pan American Highway) for more than an hour. Glad I wasn’t stuck in that traffic jam!

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Oaxaca is filling with tourists as “Julio, Mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) is upon us — a time when Oaxaca recognizes and celebrates the sixteen indigenous groups whose languages, traditions, and rich cultures long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (both military and religious) and permeate the character of the state.

San Francisco Sola delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Every year more parades, food and artisan fairs, concerts, and regional Guelaguetzas are added.  Drawing both foreigners and nationals, it has become THE major tourist attraction for Oaxaca. [Click on images to enlarge]

While the streets are filled with a party atmosphere and those who can afford the high-priced tickets are treated to a true spectacle — fabulous views, colorful costumes, music and dance — people question how the indigenous communities (over 50% of the state’s population and some of its poorest) actually benefit.

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec delegation – Guelaguetza July 21, 2018 desfile

The dancers are not professional dancers, are not paid to perform, and most must travel from villages hours and hours away.

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July 22, 2018 morning

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July 22, 2018 evening

They do it for the love of their villages, pride in their heritage, and to share a little of their traditions with the world outside their communities — and I can’t help but be swept along in the joy and moved by their dedication.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Genoveva Medina delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

To support their communities, I strongly recommend you do your shopping at the craft fairs in the city and visit the indigenous villages — buy directly from the artisans or shops that can show provenance.

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July 29, 2019 morning

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July 29, 2019 evening

The above four Guelaguetza performances, along with Donají, La Leyenda (tragic legend of the love between a Zapotec princess and a Mixtec prince — it doesn’t end well, but her face graces the official shield of the city of Oaxaca de Juárez) are usually shown live on CORTV — both on their television station and their YouTube channel.

Putla Villa de Guerrero delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Friends are arriving and my calendar is rapidly filling. Perhaps I’ll run into you at a regional Guelaguetza, at one of the desfiles in the city, the Festival de los Moles, the Feria de Hongos Silvestres in Cuajimoloyas, the Expo Feria Artesanal, the Feria del Tejate y Tamal, or at any one of the scores of other events happening here in July!

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2019 has been proclaimed the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the United Nations.  The issue of “lenguas maternas” (mother tongues) has a particular resonance in Oaxaca, as the state is home to 16 distinct ethnolinguistic groups:  Amuzgos, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocho, Chontal, Cuicateco, Huave, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl, Popoloca, Triqui, Zapoteco, and Zoque.

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As anyone who has visited the villages of Oaxaca has discovered, sometimes the abuelos and abuelas only speak their mother tongue, not Spanish.  To honor and celebrate them, their ancestors, and their children and grandchildren, today on the zócalo, Oaxaca celebrated those languages with songs, poetry, and recitations.

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However, like indigenous languages throughout the world, Mexico’s indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing.  The importance of passing these languages and the world views they express to the younger generations cannot be underestimated.

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Thus here in Oaxaca, on February 21, 2019, Mother Language Day, you can walk The roads of the feathered serpent: revaluing one of the variants of the Zapotec Valley of Oaxaca” and “Meet the Zapotec of Teotitlán through storytelling and other activities!” at the Biblioteca Infantil (Children’s Library). 

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As I write, Diosa Centéotl 2018 is presiding over this year’s first Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).  This is corn planting season and the figure of the goddess Centéotl represents the deity to whom rituals were offered to guarantee a good harvest.  She was elected from among 27 young indigenous women, representing the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.

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The first stage of the competition was held Friday morning at the Jardín del Pañuelito, with contestants speaking about their regions and communities.  During stage two, later in the afternoon, the participants talked about their distinctive clothing.  (For a few photos, check out Of Goddesses and Food.)  The judges, including Las Quince Letras cocinera and ambassador of traditional Oaxaca cooking, Celia Florian (2nd from right), then deliberated.

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Saturday morning the venue moved to the elegant early 20th century Macedonio Alcalá theater where at least 500 people listened as the “Court” of the Diosa Centéotl was announced:  Hillary Naxhiely López (San Blas Atempa), Adriana Ramón Guzmán (de Asunción Ixtaltepec), Yoali Josabet López Quiroz (Santo Domingo Tehuantepec), Socorro Hernández Santiago (Putla Villa de Guerrero), and María del Carmen Vásquez Díaz (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

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A beautiful scepter, carved and painted by Jacobo and María Ángeles from San Martín Tilcajete, waited in the wings to be presented to the new Diosa Centéotl.

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And, the winner was… Francisca Pérez Bautista from Santa María Zacatepec.  A member of the Tacuate ethnic group in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, she was wearing the traditional cream-colored huipil with red ribbons and embroidery.  On her head, she wore the customary bowl-shaped jícara head covering made from the fruit of the calabaza tree.

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There was a twenty-minute break in the action — the governor, Alejandro Murat, was delayed in traffic.  In the interim there was much affection and camaraderie displayed among the contestants.  Eventually, he arrived and presented the scepter to Francisca.

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There was no rest for the new Diosa Centéotl.  Her official duties began immediately — a luncheon with the Guelaguetza delegations, followed by leading the desfile of delegations through the city’s streets.

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The United Nations declared November 20 as Universal Children’s Day.  However, that is Día de la Revolución in Mexico, thus April 30 was designated Día del Niño — the day Mexico celebrates her children.  Schools organize parties with games and treats, communities organize special activities, and parents may give their hijas and hijos gifts.

However, one of the features of life in Oaxaca that I appreciate most is the way children are welcomed and are included in all of the celebrations that I have had the privilege of attending — and that’s quite a few!  Enjoy the following photos taken during the past year.  (Click on an image for a full description of the event.)

 

¡Feliz Día del Niño!  And parents everywhere, please remember to “teach your children well.”

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It’s been all about boys in my family — two sons, a stepson, and a grandson.  That is, until eleven months ago when finally a girl — my granddaughter — made her much welcomed entrance into the world.  Of course she is adorable, but so were her brother, dad, and uncles.  However, I must admit that clothes shopping for a little girl is so much more fun, especially here in Oaxaca.

Naturally, I had to go to the current Museo Textil de Oaxaca exhibition, Vestir hijos con amor (Dressing children with love) — very timely for the upcoming Día del Niño on April 30

Cotton baby hat – probably Santiago Mexquititlán, Querétaro, Mexico (c. 1960) Otomí village.

Woven baby hat – San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala (c. 1990s) Tz’utuoil community.

The curator’s note explains that the textiles shown “are not the sumptuous accoutrements of an ancient aristocracy, but children’s clothing of the poorest people in Mexico and Guatemala… made of cotton and wool.”

Girl’s huipil from Palín, Guatemala (c. 1980s). Community speaks Pokomam, a Mayan language.

Girl’s huipil from San Bartolomé Ayautla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950s) Mazateco community.

“In setting up this exhibit, we have tried to show how textiles intended for children make visible the love felt for them by the first nations of this land.”

Girl’s clothing from Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico. (c. 1940s) Purépecha village.

Costume of baptism – Chachahuantla, Puebla, Mexico (1999-2017) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village.

Huipil of black velvet with cotton embroidery from districts of Juchitán and Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1950-1960) Zapotec communities.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village.

Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, Oaxaca, Mexico (c. 1990). Zapotec village. Embroidery detail using rayon threads.

It isn’t just the girls who are dressed with love in these indigenous communities.  The clothing of the boys is also just as lovingly detailed and decorated.

Boy’s clothing from San Andrés Tzicuilan, Puebla, Mexico. (c. 1988-1993) Community speaks Náhuatl.

Boy’s clothing from Santiago Ixtayutla, Oaxaca, Mexico. (c. 1990s) Mixtec village.

(R) Boy’s clothing from Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, Mexico. (c. 1950s). Tsotsil village. (L) Teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

Detail from teen boy’s clothing from Sierra Madre Occidental to the north of Jalisco and east of Nayarit. (c. 1930s) Wixárika (Huichol) community.

There are so many more pieces to see and there is even an interactive component for children — a play area where they can assemble and decorate textile pieces.  The Museo Textil de Oaxaca is located at Hidalgo 917, at the corner of Fiallo and the exhibition, in the Caracol room, runs until July 1, 2018.

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After three weeks in el norte, all my bags are packed and I’m ready to return to Oaxaca.  While malls and supermarkets abound here in the San Francisco Bay Area, shopping doesn’t hold a candle to experiencing the Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Sidewalk murals greet shoppers on their way to the mercado.

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Wearing traditional skirts, blouses, rebozos, and aprons, vendors compete for customers.

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Stopping inside the mercado for barbacoa de chivo is a delicious way to take a break.

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The apron selection, like everything else, is mind boggling!

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Lastly, another sidewalk mural to send shoppers on their way home.

There is nothing like the life and color of shopping in Oaxaca.  ¡Hasta pronto!

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A challenging year 2017 was — for Oaxaca, Mexico, USA, and the world.  However, lovely Oaxaca continues to survive with beauty and grace and helps keep me focused on trying to do the same.  I am grateful to her every day.  Thus, my New Year’s gift to you — sharing a month-by-month look back at the little things in 2017 that nourished my body and soul.

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January 2017 – Shibori flags flying over the courtyard of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca

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February 2017 – Agave somewhere between San Dionisio Ocotepec and Ocotlán de Morelos

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March 2017 – Quinceañera celebration in front of Santo Domingo de Guzmán

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April 2017 – Chapulines at the first Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales Oaxaca

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May 2017 – Teotitlán del Valle’s garbage truck.

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June 2017 – Grinding lime tree leaves for té de limon in Teotitlán del Valle

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July 2017 – Six layer rainy season view from Casita Colibrí

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August 2017 – Unión de Palenqueros de Oaxaca — and that means mezcal!

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September 2017 – Chickens roasting at earthquake relief benefit at Criollo restaurant

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October 2017 – Grilling at an outdoor “hall of smoke” in Villa de Mitla

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November 2017 – Dried chiles at Mercado Benito Juárez

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December 2017 – Decorated molinillos at the Feria del Pan y el Chocolate in Tlacolula de Matamoros

In the words of Linda Oaxaca, “Oaxaca you live in me.”  From my home to yours, adiós 2017 and bienvenidos 2018!!!

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The Guelaguetza Muy Especial, danced by Los Ángeles de Luz, gets bigger every year.

Convite – China Oaxaqueñas, City of Oaxaca

Early yesterday evening, all seating was filled and it was standing room only at the Plaza de la Danza — and that is a very good thing because Los Ángeles de Luz is group of 18 children and young people with Down’s Syndrome.

Jarabe – Ejutla de Crespo, Valles Centrales region

It was formed in 2003 with the purpose of facilitating the integration of people with Down’s syndrome and offering them creative experiences that exercise their motor skills, intelligence, language, and sensitivity in an environment of respect, trust, and love. (Ángeles le dan luz a las fiestas del Lunes del Cerro, 07/25/2016)

Jarabe – Tamazulapam Espiritu Santo, Mixe region

Their talents also extend to theatrical productions, including performances of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Romeo and Juliet.”  In addition, they have mounted an interdisciplinary spectacular, “Ellos le bailan a México, a un México muy especial.”

Wedding jarabe – Huautla de Jiménez, Cañada region

At the Guelaguetza Muy Especial, these young people make the requisite costume changes and perform traditional dances from the eight regions of Oaxaca.

Jarabe – San Melchor Betaza, Sierra Norte region

This year’s show brought Oaxaca’s dignitaries, including Diosa Centeotl, Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez — she looked incredibly moved when they performed dances from her town of San Melchor Betaza.

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez – Diosa Centeotl 2017

As I have mentioned before, perhaps it is because I have a special needs nephew or that both my sister-in-law and daughter-in-law are special education teachers, that I am drawn to this event every year.

Jarabe – Pinotepa Nacional, Costa region

Tears always well up in my eyes as I share in the joy and pride exhibited by the dancers from Los Ángeles de Luz.

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On Friday, Diosa Centéotl was selected to reign over the Guelaguetza festivities.  The eight regions of the state of Oaxaca were all represented by the 33 contestants competing for the honor.  (My photos of each of the contestants are from the morning phase of the competition.)

First a little history…  According to the pamphlet that was distributed to the hundreds of locals, family and friends of contestants, and tourists attending the competition at Jardín el Pañuelito, the little “pocket” garden along the side of Santo Domingo de Guzmán:

“In the pre-Hispanic worldview, Goddess Centéotl possessed the divine power to germinate corn and all the plants of the milpa:  tomato, squash, chile, quelites, beans, and other vegetables that constituted the Mesoamerican diet….”

“For that reason, prayers, dances, music and flowers were offered in each planting cycle…”

“[Later] the relationship between peoples, nature and the gods was manifested through a liturgical calendar carried out with much scrupulousness by both priests and the common people, for the survival of all was at stake, since a failed crop condemned them to famine, disease and moral suffering.”

“By contrast, an abundant harvest filled the people with happiness and they understood that the Goddess of Fertility – Centéotl – had listened to their requests.”  — my translation from the Spanish

The competition to be Diosa Centéotl is not a Miss Universe/Miss America style beauty pageant.  Dressed in the typical costumes of their villages or neighborhoods, these young women had to communicate their knowledge of their communities. They were required to give two 4-minute oral presentations in front of five judges:  Jorge Bueno Sánchez (city chronicler), Celia Florián (chef/owner of Las Quince Letras), María Concepción Villalobos (coauthor of Centéotl en los Lunes del Cerro), María Concepción Guzmán Concha (textile expert), and Claudio Sánchez Islas (writer and journalist).

In the morning session of the competition, each was required to speak about their traditional cuisine, crafts, festivals, customs, myths and legends, or tourist attractions. During the afternoon stage, each had to discuss the history, composition, elaboration, and utility of their costumes.  In addition, as Oaxaca has sixteen distinct ethnolinguistic groups, contestants from the various indigenous communities spoke several lines in their materna lengua (mother tongue).

It is in the dignity, pride, and poise expressed by each of the contestants where we see the essence of their beauty expressed.  And the winner is…

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, San Melchor Betaza

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, from San Melchor Betaza in the Sierra Norte region of the state.  At being selected she exclaimed, “Doxhkenho dazhan” —  Muchas gracias in Zapoteco.

(ps)  If anyone has or can find a list of all the contestants, I would really love to add their names and communities to each photo.  I think they all deserve to be recognized.

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Yesterday was SO much fun!!!  I’m spending Christmas with family in New York and was invited by my daughter-in-law to speak to her special education class. Wearing one of my huipiles from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca, I filled them in on “life in Oaxaca.”

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We looked at a map of Mexico and I pointed to where the state of Oaxaca is located.

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We spoke a little Spanish and discovered that some familiar foods, like chocolate, gum (chicle), corn (maíz), and turkey (pavo), originated in Mexico.  They learned that there are many artisan crafts made in Oaxaca and I showed them a tapete (rug) that was woven in Teotitlán del Valle.

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We talked about festivals with processions, bands, marmotas, monos, and dancing.  And, to illustrate the diversity of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, I created a short video from La Guelaguetza 2014.

We discussed the differences between Christmas traditions in Mexico and the USA — that Christmas trees aren’t as common, but most everyone sets up a nacimiento (nativity scene) in their home.

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Of course, they loved the idea of breaking open a piñata filled with candy and trinkets.

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I concluded with a video I’d made and previously posted of the castillo in Teotitlán del Valle during the festival honoring the Virgen del Rosario.  Needless to say, they were awestruck by the fireworks.  And then I gave them each a woven palm leaf piñata ornament.  Alas, no candy inside!

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I was very touched that my daughter-in-law returned home later in the afternoon bringing individualized thank-you notes from the students.  However, I would like to give a big “muchisimas gracias” to her for inviting me and to her students for being such an attentive, engaged, and delightful audience!

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As I’ve previously written, two separate (and battling) French designers were exposed as plagiarizing the traditional embroidery designs of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, a village in the mountainous Mixe region of Oaxaca.

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However, at last there is a triumph for the embroiderers and the time-honored motifs handed down from their ancestors and inspired by the land — A Court Rules High-End French Label Doesn’t Own Rights to Indigenous Oaxacan Design.

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The people of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec may not be financially wealthy, but they and their community are rich in culture and pride in their history and traditions.  They are not angling for a monetary settlement — all they want is that their work and designs be recognized and respected.

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While we are on the topic of disrespect of indigenous peoples, we have the recent disgraceful Coca-Cola México advertisement, showing Hipsters Bringing Soda To Indigenous Mexicans — another Mixe village, Totontepec Villa de Morelos.  After an immediate social media campaign challenged the ad, Coca Cola pulled it.  As this teleSUR article details, This New Coca Cola Ad Shows Mexico’s White Savior Problem.  In addition, like the USA, obesity is growing problem here, thus a Reply to Coca-Cola comes in new video by the Alliance for Food Health featuring two Mixe students speaking about the health risks posed by these kinds of “soft drinks” that lack any nutritional value.

By the way, the English language Mexico News Daily is running a poll, asking if you “agree that the controversial Coca-Cola Christmas video was racist or offensive?”  And, I’m appalled that as I write, the results are:  32% yes and 68% no!!!

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The celebration of Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indigenas continues in Oaxaca this weekend, with music, dance, food, and an artisan expo-venta (sale) in Jardín El Pañuelito.  As I walked through the exposition, one woman’s embroidery drew me back for a second look.  I was especially drawn to a huipil that had been hanging next to the one below.  It’s not in this photo, because one of the “Diablos” from the Santiago Juxtlahuaca dance troupe (who were performing later) had already volunteered to climb up on a chair to take it down for her to show to me.

However, before I could get my money out, a delegation of dignitaries came by for a photo shoot.

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This popular and exceptionally talented woman is Carmen Vásquez Pérez, from San Mateo Yetla, Valle Nacional, located 172 kilometers northeast of Oaxaca city in the Papaloapan Region.  According to the article, Mujeres preservan bordado en Yetla, the village is surrounded by waterfalls and lush vegetation and is rich in Chinanteca customs.

P1130484Doña Carmen learned to embroider as a child and has been instrumental in an effort to preserve and promote the local traditional designs and techniques.  As you can see below, her workmanship is exquisite.

P1130489 After returning home and doing a little research, I’m even more pleased with my purchase.  And, by the way, I did not “bargain” — my new treasure is worth every peso of its 600 peso price tag, and then some!

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The Plaza de la Danza was filled with cheering crowds early Sunday evening as ten girls and eight boys from Los Ángeles de Luz took the stage for the 13th edition of this very special Guelaguetza.  Perhaps it is because I have a special needs nephew or that both my sister-in-law and daughter-in-law are special ed teachers that I am drawn to this event every year.  In any case, the joy and pride exhibited by these young people with Down’s Syndrome, as they make the requisite costume changes and perform traditional dances from the eight regions of Oaxaca, always lifts my heart.

I had to leave before it ended, but hopefully through this slideshow I can share a little of the professionalism and accomplishment of these performers and the emotion experienced by those of us who had the privilege of being in the audience.

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President of Los Ángeles de Luz, Flor Verónica García Ávilan explained in El Imparcial, that the group was formed after “realizing that contact with music, dance, and the audience makes them happy, cheerful, communicative, committed and disciplined beings, facilitating their development holistically within society.” [translated from Spanish]

And, I would like to add, for those of us watching their performance, it facilitates our acceptance of those who many be a little different from us.  If you are in Oaxaca for next year’s Guelaguetza festivities, try to attend this heartwarming and uplifting event.  Also, there is always a calenda (parade) a couple of days before AND scrambling for gifts tossed into the crowd after each dance.

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