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Posts Tagged ‘Virgen de Juquila’

Tapetes de arena (rugs of sand) are a traditional feature of the celebration in Oaxaca of Día de Muertos.  When I first arrived to live here, they were drawn in front of the Cathedral.  Next, they moved for a year or two to the Government Palace and for the last several years they have graced the Plaza de la Danza.  This year’s offerings were the work of twelve artisans and feature the most beloved and revered of the Jesús and María señores y señoras in Oaxaca.  This post will highlight the ladies…

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Virgen Dolorosa — Our Lady of Sorrows

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Virgen del Carmen — Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Sra. Virgen del Rosario — Our Lady of the Rosary

Interestingly, in previous years the themes of the sand paintings in these public spaces have been Día de Muertos related.  I’m not sure of why the change this year to religious imagery.  Indigenous Day of the Dead celebrations pre-date the arrival of the Spanish and the All Saints Day of the Catholic church.  And in Oaxaca, one of the most indigenous states in Mexico, as Shawn D. Haley points out in his book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca, “there is little of the Spanish influence to be found in the Oaxacan Day of the Dead.  The Spanish version… is bleak and dismal…. For the Oaxaqueñans, these days are… joyous and exuberant.  It is not a mourning of lost loved ones, but a celebration, a reunion with the dead.”

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Santa María de Guadalupe — Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Nuestra Señora de la Solidad — Our Lady of Solitude

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Inmaculada Concepción de Juquila — Virgin of Juquila

For more of these sand paintings, check out the recent post by blogger buddy Chris.  By the way, the feast days for these last three señoras are coming up in December.  First on the calendar is Juquila on December 8, then comes Guadalupe on December 12,  and, finally, Oaxaca’s patron saint, Soledad on December 18.  There will be special masses, processions, and rockets. December is a noisy month!

But first, we must welcome the difuntos (departed) who begin arriving tonight.

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December seems to be el mes de las vírgenes (the month of the virgins) in Oaxaca.  Early this morning cohetes (rockets) and church bells announced the first of the month’s three virgin days; the feast day of la Virgen de Juquila.  And, this afternoon, on the Alameda in front of Oaxaca’s cathedral, a small procession gathered.

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According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since.

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Alas, that wasn’t the end of the story; the priest in the village of Juquila convinced the “powers that be” that she should be moved to the bigger and better church in Juquila.  She, however, had other ideas and returned to Amialtepec.  This back and forth continued another three times.  Finally, in 1719, La Morenita (the dear dark one), as she had come to be known, gave up her traveling ways and agreed to call Santa Catrina Juquila her permanent home.

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The faithful make pilgrimages to both her old and new mountain homes (about four hours southeast of Oaxaca city).  They come year round on foot, on bicycle, and in all other manner of transport, to make offerings and pray for miracles, but especially during the days leading up to December 8.  October 8, 2014 marked her crowning achievement; in a grand ceremony, she received a papal coronation, joining her previously crowned (1909) Oaxaca sister, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

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The bells, bands, and booms have been soundtrack of the city for a week — the virgins are being celebrated!  First in line, on December 8, for chiming church bells, processions, and fireworks was the Virgen de Juquila and third will be Oaxaca’s patron saint, the Virgen de la Soledad on Dec. 18.  However, in between the eighth and eighteenth, all of Mexico honors the Virgin of Guadalupe.   Today, December 12 is her day but, like the others, the festivities began days in advance.

Scenes from last night in front of the Iglesia de Guadalupe in Oaxaca city…

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Now on to Teotitlán de Valle for this afternoon’s Día de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  We have been told the festivities will last all night, as the community will also be saying “adios” to this group of dancers — their three-year commitment is at an end.  It will be a miracle of the Virgin if we can party hardy until even midnight, but we will give it the old college try!

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Today, in Santa Catarina Juquila, about 200 km southwest of the city of Oaxaca, la Virgen de Juquila, is receiving a papal coronation.  Roads leading to this remote mountain village have been repaired and repaved and extra emergency services have been in place since Monday, all in anticipation of the thousands of pilgrims who were expected to descend on Juquila.

However, for those who chose to stay closer to the city, celebrations in honor of the Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary) have been occurring for the past week throughout the valley of Oaxaca.

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Thus, blogger buddy Chris and I headed to Tlacolula de Matamoros on Friday for their annual procession.

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Beginning on the street in front of the panteón, young women wearing traditional red wool skirts and beautifully crocheted white cotton blouses…

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…danced their way through the streets balancing towering canastas (baskets) on their heads — the letters spelling out “Virgen del Rosario.”

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The arm and neck strength it takes to carry the canastas is phenomenal and can only come from years of practice.  As you can see, they begin early…

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Rockets announced the procession’s arrival.

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Bandas provided the music.

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And, “boys to men” carrying marmotas two-stepped and twirled their way along the route.

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Years of practice is required to do this, too!

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Participants stop at altars throughout the village, where prayers are recited, rest breaks are taken, and tamales, sweets, and beverages (yes, including mezcal) are consumed.

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This goes on until 1:00 or 2:00 AM.  We arrived at 4:00 PM, stayed for a couple of hours, carried nothing heavier than our cameras and daypacks, and were ready to call it a day!

However, this is a bittersweet post.  While we were reveling in the festivities, a family in Tlacolula de Matamoros was in agony.  It was reported last night that 18-year old, Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica, from Tlacolula de Matamoros, is one of the 43 students at Normal Rural ‘Raúl Isidro Burgos’ in Ayotzinapa who went missing on September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero after police opened fire on the students, who were soliciting funds for an Oct. 2 demonstration protesting funding cuts to their state-financed school.

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No doubt, tomorrow I will be awakened, long before the crack of dawn, by the cracks and pops of cohetes (rockets — all bang no bling) and the seemingly non-stop clangs and bongs emanating from the bell towers of the countless churches that surround me in Oaxaca city’s historic district.  And, I’m sure, I will hear the sounds of a procession — December 8 is the feast day of the Virgin of Juquila (La Virgen de Juquila).

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Flatbed truck on Constitución in Oaxaca city, Dec. 6, 2012.

According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes.  She was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke, causing her to more closely resemble the Chatino people, who live in this remote mountainous region.  Local priests declared her survival a miracle and she has been venerated ever since and her image appears throughout Oaxaca.

An image of Juquila along highway 175.

Image of La Virgen de Juquila along highway 175.

In 1776, the Bishop had a new temple built for La Virgen de Juquila in the nearby, but larger, village of Santa Catarina Juquila.  Today, pilgrims continue to come, not just on her feast day, often making the arduous journey up into the mountains by bicycle or even on foot.  They go to La Capilla del Pedimento in Amialtepec to fashion images from its clay soil — replicas of wished for items (cars, houses, healed body parts, etc.) to lay at her feet.

La Virgen de Juquila painted on side of building

Side of a building in residential neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca

According to this morning’s Noticias, the Archbishop of Antequera Oaxaca has called upon Catholics, as part of tomorrow’s feast day, to pray for reconciliation and peace in Oaxaca.  That’s a tall order.  The miracle of her survival has given La Virgen de Juquila the power to bestow miracles — such is the faith of her believers.  We shall see…

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Riotous clanging from Soledad’s bell towers at 4:45 AM yesterday rudely interrupted a peaceful sleep.  Explosions of cohetes and other church bells soon joined the morning’s 2-hour long Virgen de Juquila soundtrack.  Chimes, rockets, loudspeakers announcing the presence of the water and gas vendors, fried plantain wagon steam-whistles, horns honking, bus gears grinding, and booming base emanating from open car windows; it’s all part of the cacophony one comes to know and love when living in Mexico.

And, then there is the music…  Looking for signs of Juquila yesterday (with all that noise, I figured there must be something going on), I stumbled upon the Sexto Festival Low-Fi 2012.  (Fyi:  sexto = 6th, in case you were wondering.)

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There were vendors…

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This definitely didn’t have anything to do with virgins!

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This was a music festival that almost didn’t happen.  According to event promoter, Thorvalo Pazos Hoga, they were initially denied a permit, “on the grounds of religious and traditional festivals that are celebrated in the month of December in the city.”  A silly argument, was his response.

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I arrived in the early afternoon and fanaticos (love that word for fans!) were just beginning to gather at the Plaza del Carmen Alto.  Ska, hip hop, heavy metal, rock, electronic music, and more would be adding to Oaxaca’s soundtrack until 11 PM.

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Yes, we have no marimbas; the music was not your grandparents’ sones and jarabes.  The bands had names like:  K-OS Party, Cayune, Pichancha, Rekto de Cerdo, Dr. Jekill y Mr. Hyde, Herpes, Coito Violento, Forever, and Survival.  Probably not even your parents’ music!

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Oaxacan graphic artists designed the stage set.  Love how they re-imagined the traditional Navidad piñata.

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For the first time since I began nesting in my cozy little rooftop casita, I’m not heading north for Christmas.  I admit to having decidedly mixed feelings; my family and most of my closest friends are up in El Norte and I’m already missing them and the traditions we have created.  However, this year I get to share the holidays with new friends, create new traditions, and experience festivities heretofore unimagined — Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes)?  I can’t wait!

In the meantime, to bring a little of the familiar into the mix, I bought a Christmas tree.  Not a real one (sad face) and not one of those seen below that my local supermarket has had for sale for several weeks.  Mine is decidedly smaller, measuring exactly two feet, and…

Three decorated Christmas trees with 30% discount signs

too small to hang my favorite Mexican ornaments on its un-scented, wiry but green(!) boughs.  These colorful and wonderfully bouncy decorations will be purchased and a place for them in and around Casita Colibrí will be found.

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Trimming my tree will present some challenges.  No cartons of ornaments, lovingly collected and stored by four generations of the family, to bring down from the attic.  And, as I’ve said, the tree is tiny.  I’m thinking… digging into my earring collection might be a good place to start.

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However, these earrings will have to wait to adorn the tree until after I wear them tomorrow.  December 8 is the celebration of the Virgen de Juquila — the first of three Vírgenes honored by Oaxaqueños in December.  There will be parades.  There will be fireworks.  There will be wildly clanging church bells.  And, there will be an abundance of magic this month, of this I have no doubt!

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December seems to be quite a month for the Virgins of Oaxaca.

December 8, I was awakened by cohetes (rockets… all bang, no bling) at 4:45 AM.  They continued sporadically until about an hour later, when wildly clanging church bells heralded a non-stop barrage of more cohetes for several minutes… they eventually faded away, but a banda was heard in the distance.

It was the feast day of the Virgin of Juquila (La Virgen de Juquila), one of Oaxaca’s own.  According to legend, in 1633, when a fire burned the small Chatino village of Amialtepec to the ground, a small statue of the Virgin Mary was rescued amidst the ashes. It was a miracle; she was undamaged, save for her light skin color, which was permanently darkened by the smoke… causing her to look more like the Chatino people, who revered her.

Here she is, in a field alongside La Virgen de Guadalupe, almost at the crest of the new carretera between Oaxaca and San Martín Tilcajete.

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La Virgen de Guadalupe on the left and La Virgen de Juquila on the right.

Sand paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin of Juquila on a mountainside.

The Virgin of Guadalupe had her day only four days later, on December 12.  La Virgen de Guadalupe is known as the Queen of Mexico and Empress of America, and is the patron saint of México.  Reports estimate that 5.8 million of the faithful made the pilgrimage this year to Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City to honor the dark-skinned virgin who appeared to Indian peasant Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531 near what is now Mexico City.

In Oaxaca, worshipers flocked to the Chapel of Guadalupe at the north end of Llano Park and a carnival filled the park for all the little Juan Diegos and girls in period costume to be entertained.  However, I headed out to Teotitlán del Valle to see this Zapotec village honor La Virgen de Guadalupe with their traditional Danza de la Pluma.  Several of the Danzantes (dancers) were wearing capes woven and embroidered especially for this day…

Virgin of Guadalupe embroidered on the back of the cape of a Danzante.

The weaving and embroidery were spectacular!

Closeup of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the back of Moctezuma's cape.

And, at least one of the Danzantes had an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the middle of his corona (feathered headdress).

Feathered headdress with image of the Virgin of Guadalupe  in the center.

Malinche and Doña Marina also had similar images on the skirts of their dresses.  To see those and several other photos of the dancers, you should take a look at what Chris has posted at, Oaxaca-The Year After.

Next on the “Virgin” calendar is December 18, the feast day of La Virgen de la Soledad (the Virgin of Solitude), Oaxaca’s patron saint.  Stay tuned…

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