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Posts Tagged ‘Virgen de la Natividad’

Defining the terms…

According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  However, if I drag my weighty Larousse Standard Diccionario down from the shelf, convite translates to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”

All pretty much agree, the English translation for cochinilla is cochineal.  As Wikipedia explains, “Cochineal is probably from French cochenille, Spanish cochinilla, Latin coccinus, meaning ‘scarlet-colored,’ and Latin coccum, meaning ‘berry (actually an insect) yielding scarlet dye.'”  It has been called, A Perfect Red and was much sought after by Europeans.  Home to said insect is the nopal cactus and guess who and where it was probably first cultivated?  In the valley of Oaxaca by her indigenous people, long before the Spanish set foot on the continent.

Which brings us to last Saturday (September 6) in Teotitlán del Valle, under the watchful eye of el Picacho, the sacred brother/sister mountain, for the convite that precedes the Virgen de la Natividad (Nativity of Mary) festival day, held annually on September 8…

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It is the custom in this Zapotec village for the unmarried women of the village to process through the streets two days before this (and a couple of other) important religious festivals, elegantly balancing handmade canastas (baskets), decorated with Catholic and Zapotec imagery, on their heads.  They wear brightly embroidered blusas (blouses) and, in this village known worldwide for its weaving, enredos, hand-woven red wool wrap skirts — the yarn dyed red with cochinilla.  They are accompanied by bands, men carrying enormous (and heavy!) marmotas (cloth globes), little boys carrying poles topped with miniature marmotas, sheep, and airplanes (the significance of the latter is a mystery to me), fearless pirotécnicas announcing the convite’s progress by shooting thunderous rockets into the air, and the dancers who will be performing the Danza de la Pluma in the church courtyard during the following two days’ of festivities.

Borrowing from the definitions above of convite, I would like to think of these processions as a lovely treat, an invitation to the impending fiestas/feast (banquet) days for the saints venerated by the village.  The beauty of the welcoming faces of the young, old, male, and female in the convite provide a warm reception to villagers, visitors, Catholic saints, and Zapotec ancestors, alike.

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Waiting for the convite… Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María.

Cloudy sky; young girl surrounded by plastic covered canastas; Cerro Picacho in background.

September 8 was a rainy day in Teotitlán del Valle.

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