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Posts Tagged ‘Virgen de La Soledad’

As darkness fell and a hush stilled the spectators, the Procession of Silence proceeded along the prescribed route.

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Blindfolded Jesus and banner

Image of Señor de La Columna

Purple hooded penitents carrying crosses

Jesus image carrying cross

Virgen de los Dolores standing above prone Jesus images

Virgen de la Soledad image carried by women

Good Friday in Oaxaca.

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All is quiet now, but for the last few days (and nights!) there has been no solitude for Soledad, or her neighbors (of which I am one).  For several days leading up to December 18, the feast day of the Queen of Oaxaca, La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (Virgin of Solitude), Oaxaca has been celebrating.  For those unaware of this virgencita, Soledad is adored and venerated in a manner similar to the Virgin of Guadalupe and is carried through the streets of Oaxaca (both city and state) during many religious celebrations.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

She resides in the church dedicated to her, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.  Designed by Father Fernando Méndez, construction began in 1682, it was sanctioned by the Viceroy Tomas Aquino Manrique de la Cerda, and consecrated in 1690 by Bishop Isidro Siraña y Cuenca.

Castillo spelling out, “Viva La Virgen de la Soledad” (Long live the Virgin of Solitude) and “Nuestra Senora de Oaxaca” (Our Lady of Oaxaca).

Being that this is Mexico and Catholicism is tempered (enriched) with indigenous practice, the night of December 17, after religious rites and rituals were performed at said Basilica, there were fireworks in the church atrium, including toritos and a castillo, in honor of La Reina de Oaxaca.  Despite the late hour, I managed to leave the comfort of my rooftop and head over to the Plaza de la Danza to watch — and they were spectacular, as always.

Many of the faithful spent the night in the Basilica’s atrium.

Alas, I didn’t have any energy left to stay and hear the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca) Tuna band serenade Soledad with a concert inside the Basilica at midnight.  Silly me!  I was dozing off to sleep at midnight when the Basilica’s bells began chiming furiously and cohetes (rockets) sounded and I woke with a start.  Next year, I’m staying up!

Prayers before the La Virgen de la Soledad.

Sleep finally returned, only to be interrupted about 4:15 AM with more cohetes and a band and then again around 6:30 AM.  Needless to say, I gave up on sleep and got up.  All during the night La Virgen was not alone.  The faithful, coming from near and far, spent the night in the atrium of the church, food stalls set up on the stairs leading down to the church fed one and all, and live music entertained her all night long.

The ever-present vendors selling flowers to the faithful.

Like most, her story has several versions.  According to one legend, in 1620 a mule train bound for Guatemala camped outside the city of Oaxaca, discovered an extra mule which did not belong to anyone in the group.  The mule refused to move and when prodded rolled over and died.  When the pack it carried was opened, it was found to contain the statue of La Virgen de la Soledad. Taking this as a sign from heaven, the inhabitants built a shrine, later a church, and finally the imposing Basilica.

Food vendors lined the stairs down to the Basilica’s atrium.

In another story, a muleteer from Veracruz, en route to Guatemala, noticed he had one too many mules in his pack upon his arrival in Oaxaca.  Outside the San Sebastian hermitage, the mule collapsed under the burden it was carrying.  All attempts by the muleteer to get it back on its feet were futile; to avoid punishment, he notified the authorities.  When he lifted the load off the mule, it got up but then immediate died.  The burden was inspected and an image of the Virgin, accompanied by Christ, along with a sign that said, “The Virgin by the Cross.”  Faced with this momentous event, Bishop Bartolome Bohorquez ordered a sanctuary to be built in honor of the divinity.

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad inside the Basilica wearing her gold, diamond, and pearl encrusted vestments.

Still another legend:  a heavily laden burro of mysterious origin appeared outside of town in 1534, fell to the ground, spilling its load next to a rock (still on-site) containing the beautifully carved Virgin (thought to be carved in Guatemala or the Philippines) and a chapel was built on the spot.  However, apparently there was an adobe shrine to the Virgin of Solitude atop Cerro Fortín as early as 1532 — and the rock may have even been moved from the mountain in 1617 to the current site (immediately to the right as you enter the Basilica).

La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (body double) under the tree in the atrium of the Basilica — wearing the traveling attire.

Her vestments are encrusted with pearls and 600 diamonds — and she wears a 4-lb gold crown.  As all that bling is quite heavy and valuable, she has a body double who wears a velvet mantle and crown that aren’t quite so ostentatious.  It is she who is carried through the streets during processions and has been residing in the church atrium during the festivities in her honor.

All was not completely serious yesterday at the Basilica — there was also entertainment.  In the late afternoon, Soledad was treated to a command performance by the Cuadrilla de Mascaritas from Asunción Nochixtlán, in the Mixteca.  I had never seen nor heard of this dance before.  According to this article (in Spanish), in 1865, a year after the defeat of the Franco-Austrian army at Las Tres Cruces (between Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán and Asunción Nochixtlán) by the joint forces of the Mixtecs and General Porfirio Diáz, Mixtecos commemorated the victory with the mascaritas dance, which ridiculed the supposedly invincible enemy.  I learn something new every day!

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Tonight, the streets of Oaxaca are alive with the sound of music and cohetes (rockets) as a calenda (parade) in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) celebrates the approach of the feast day of the mother, queen, and patroness of Oaxaca.

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A young Soledad making the rounds on a float.

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Accompanied by an angel.

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Monos taking a break in front of the Basilica de la Soledad.

There will be no solitude for Soledad during the next couple of days and nights.  If you don’t believe me, check out her festival schedule.

virgen de la soledad programa 2017

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Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is the patron saint, queen, and mother of Oaxaqueños — and she is my vecina (neighbor).  Thus, I shall not want for revelry!

Inside the Basílica, Soledad -- Dec. 17, 2016

“Inside” Soledad, in the Basílica — Dec. 17, 2016

Despite her name, there is no solitude for Soledad or her neighbors on her December 18 feast day  — or the days and nights leading up to it.  Like her sister December virgin images, Juquila and Guadalupe, she seems to thrive on the cacophony that is fiesta life here — after all they are Mexican Marías.

So, bandas playing traditional music (loudly), fireworks and rockets booming and banging, church bells urgently chiming, and lively recorridos (travels) through the streets of the city, beginning early in the morning and continuing well beyond midnight, are welcomed.

The celebrations began at 5:00 AM on December 7, with a ringing of church bells and a “dawn journey” and culminated with a grand fiesta yesterday, December 18, her feast day.  She seemed to enjoy the festivities, including these guys from the Istmo performing for her, *La Danza de los Negros.

Soledad’s fiesta will end tomorrow (Dec. 20) with a concert of Christmas carols at 7:00 PM.  It’s been great fun, but I’m already looking forward to Noche de Rabanos on December 23!

Outside Soledad in the Basílica courtyard - Dec. 18, 2016

“Outside” Soledad in the Basílica courtyard – Dec. 18, 2016

*La Danza de los Negros is another of those complex and multilayered dances traditional to specific indigenous cultures in Oaxaca.  For more information, check out the article (en español), Los Negros, tradición bixhahui, ícono de Chihuitán.

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Jesus and Mary up close and in color from their Viernes Santo (Good Friday) morning meeting in front of Oaxaca’s Cathedral.

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I know, some photos just beg for a caption.  Once all the Marys and Jesuses had gathered, prayers had been recited, and rituals performed, they all processed back to their home churches to rest up for the evening’s Procession of Silence.

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… including Soledad.  Since she was going my way, I walked her home.

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And, yes, she made it back to the Basilica safe and sound.

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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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Tuesday morning, from the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad, the sound of speeches, music, and explosions announced Día del Barrendero — a day celebrating the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo.  These are the street sweepers, garbage collectors, and laborers of Oaxaca.

Earlier in the morning, a procession brought union members, their families, and friends from Cinco Señores to the Basílica, where a special mass was celebrated to honor the patron saint of Oaxaca, la Virgen de la Soledad.  Raul, a lifelong street sweeper whose work day begins at 3 AM, is quoted as explaining, “We have to thank our mother, the Virgin of Soledad, for the blessings every day gives us.”

March 3rd — brought to you by the gals and guys who keep the city clean.

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Good Friday in Oaxaca… Jesús may be the one who they say was crucified and resurrected, but María is never far from his side.

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From frequent traveler to Oaxaca, Liza Bakewell’s book, Madre:  Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun:

One can travel all over Spain and its former viceroyalties and never see as many elaborately bedecked and bejeweled Virgins as one will see here in Mexico — neither in number, nor in glory.  Yes, in Peru there are many famously ornate ones.  In Colombia, too.  Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador have their share.  The Philippines is a runner-up.  But Mexico has all of them beat.  Marian devotion, the worship of the Virgin Mary in all her forms through song, prayer, writing painting, sculpture, and shrines, went wild in Mexico.  (p. 169)

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Today is the feast day of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, the mother, queen, and patron saint of Oaxaqueños.

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If you enter the word “soledad” into a Spanish to English translation program, “solitude” and “loneliness” result.  However, for the past ten days, Our Lady of Solitude hasn’t had much of an opportunity to be lonely.  On December 15, she was taken down from her glass encased niche in the Basílica, that bears her name, and carried out into the fresh air of the church plaza.  On the 16th, she took a road trip through the streets of Oaxaca, stopping to visit several other churches along the route.

The faithful have been coming to honor her.

And, over the past 24 hours, she has been entertained by fireworks, bands, and the ringing of bells.

Food stalls surround her from Morelos to Independencia…

along with vendors of the sacred…

and the profane.

There is even a carnival for the kids.

With crowds, like these…

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad might just be looking forward to returning to the solitude of her glass enclosed niche.  I know I’m looking forward to a quiet night’s sleep!

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As yesterday’s post reported, fireworks late Monday night heralded the feast day of La Virgen de la Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca. P1030476

However, that was far from the end of the nocturnal tale.  At the stroke of midnight, only an hour after the snaps, crackles, and pops had ended, and when I had finally drifted off to sleep, the bells of the Basilica began a frenzied pealing.  They were immediately joined by repeated rocket explosions, and the unmistakable sounds of a tuna band; at 2 AM bells, rockets, and mariachis; at 4 AM more bells, rockets, music, AND a procession winding its way through the streets of the city; its sounds ebbing and flowing for  almost two hours.

At 6 AM, I gave up attempting sleep, threw on jeans, shoes, and a sweatshirt (didn’t even bother to wash my face or brush my teeth — don’t tell anybody), grabbed my camera, and headed over to the Basilica.  What a sight!!!

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The Plaza de la Danza was covered with food stalls offering barbacoa, molotes, empanadas, tacos, buñuelas, hot chocolate, breads, and pastries — the best of Oaxaca street food.  And, they were all open!

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On the Basilica’s plaza, the Banda Auténticos (from San Andrés Huayapam) was playing…

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Dancers were dancing…

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People were just waking up…

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Vendors were selling roses and bouquets of herbs…

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And, ubiquitous twig brooms (escobas de otate) waited to sweep-up the detritus from Soledad and friends pulling an all-nighter.

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After a breakfast of barbacoa (chivo) and hot chocolate, I walked back home.  Sleep deprived or not, it was a great morning!

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Today, Oaxaca’s patron saint, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, is having her day.  Well, that’s not quite accurate, as she has been enjoying ten days of celebrations.  However, December 18 is THE Día de la Festividad.  So, no surprise, last night around 10:30, from the plaza of the Basílica de la Soledad, the booms and bangs of fireworks and crackles and hisses of a castillo, sounded to herald the upcoming day.

Only a block (as the crow flies) from the action, how lucky am I to have a ringside seat??!!!

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On December 18, Oaxaqueños celebrated the feast day of the Queen of Oaxaca, La Santísima Virgen de La Soledad (Virgin of Solitude).  There are several minor variations to her story, but there is no doubt that in the State of Oaxaca, she is adored and worshipped in a manner similar to the Virgin of Guadalupe and is carried through the streets of the city during many religious celebrations.

Virgen de La Soledad being carried through the streets with plain purple cape

Virgen de La Soledad in her traveling clothes

According to one legend:  In 1620 a mule train bound for Guatemala camped outside the city of Oaxaca discovered an extra mule which did not belong to anyone in the group. The mule refused to move and when prodded rolled over and died. When the pack it carried was opened, it was found to contain the statue of the Virgin of Soledad. Taking this as a sign from heaven, the inhabitants built first a shrine, later a church and finally the imposing basilica which stands today on the spot where the statue first appeared.

Another story:  a muleteer from Veracruz in route to Guatemala noticed he had one too many mules in his pack upon his arrival in Oaxaca. Outside the San Sebastian hermitage, the mule collapsed under the burden it was carrying. All attempts by the muleteer to get it back on its feet were futile; so to avoid punishment he notified the authorities. When he lifted the load off the mule, it got up and died instantly. The burden was inspected, and they found an image of the Virgin accompanied by Christ on it, along with a sign that said, “The Virgin by the Cross.” Faced with this momentous event, Bishop Bartolome Bohorquez ordered a sanctuary built in honour of the divinity.

Still another legend:  a heavily laden burro of mysterious origin appeared outside of town in 1534, fell to the ground, spilling its load next to a rock (still onsite) containing the beautifully carved Virgin (thought to be carved in Guatemala or the Philippines) and a chapel was built on the spot. However, apparently there was an adobe shrine to the Virgin of Solitude atop Cerro Fortín as early as 1532 — and the rock may have even been moved from the mountain in 1617 to the current site (immediately to the right, along the wall as you enter).

She became the patron of not only the city but the entire state, as well as of the mariners who sailed to and from her ports. She wears a purple velvet cape, and her vestments are encrusted with pearls, 600 diamonds, and she wears a 4-lb gold crown.

Virgin of Solitude with purple cape encrusted with pearls and diamonds

Virgen de La Soledad her glass enclosed home at the Basilica

She resides in the church dedicated to her, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.  Construction began in 1682, it was designed by Father Fernando Méndez, sanctioned by the Viceroy Tomas Aquino Manrique de la Cerda, and consecrated in 1690 by Bishop Isidro Siraña y Cuenca.  The current baroque style facade was built between 1717-1719 and is unusual because it faces east (Photos are best in the AM).  It was built with the green cantera and a pinkish stone, used in the facade.  If one looks carefully, several ways in which the indigenous masons and carpenters introduced their own “pagan” symbology and pantheon into the wood and stone are in evidence.

Facade of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

East facing facade

It was intentionally built with low spires and towers, to better withstand earthquakes.  The atrial courtyard is enclosed and fitted with two simple access portals, one facing south, and the other east. The latter leads to the Socrates Garden (currently undergoing a major renovation) and the Plaza de la Danza.

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