Easter Week Begins: Lunes Santo or Holy Monday in Oaxaca

Lunes Santo or Easter Monday is celebrated with reverence in the Oaxaca village of Teotitlan del Valle where I am living.  This is a day of prayers and offerings, of procession and peace.  The week before Easter, known as  Semana Santa in Mexico, begins on Palm Sunday.  After a 7:30 a.m. mass, the volunteer church committee begins the procession followed by the townspeople.  A key figure is the Centurion, represented by a young boy dressed in Roman soldier garb, and riding a beautiful horse.  They are followed by a contingent of boy-soldiers, the legion of one hundred.

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There are thirteen stops along the processional route where villagers in the procession stop to worship, take refreshment, and rest. This is Teotitlan’s tribute to the pilgrimage along the Via Doloroso, Way of Sorrows and the Stations of the Cross.  The altars may be ornately decorated with tapetes or handwoven rugs, which the people of Teotitlan del Valle are famous for weaving.

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If Lunes Santo is about the solemnity of Easter, it is also about honoring infants and toddlers who are dressed like angels and represent the promise for new life and new beginning.

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Many women wear purple, the color of royalty, symbolic of Jesus as king.

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Both men and women carry lit beeswax candles, and a designated man at each stop hands out roses to the worshipers to lay before the altar.

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The aroma of copal incense and chanting fill the air, along with the sound of the village band out in front of the procession.  At each stop, they take a rest too, then start up again as signal for the time to start walking again.

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It is a hot day and those who are not carrying umbrellas to shield them from the sun seek the shade along sidewalks where buildings cast longer shadows.  I picked up the procession in Section Three of the village, where I met up with friend Ernestina and her daughter Guadalupe, who we call Lupita.

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People here have a strong commitment to their families, their beliefs, and their desire to continue traditions that are centuries old and more, since most of Mexican Catholicism blends with the mysticism of pre-conquest indigenous practices.

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And, who can resist the resting stops with delicious offerings:  tamales, locally made ice cream, and drinks.  Today I had the most delicious bean paste stuffed tamal flavored with avocado leaf and a  tamale with mole rojo and chicken.  Each person in the procession got a plate of three at each stop!  Thanks to the women who do the cooking and the men who serve and each family who supports the community.

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Then to quench thirst, the pilgrims are offered hibiscus flower juice (agua de jamaica) or atole, a corn, water and chocolate drink, special for celebrations and served in hand-painted gourds.  Children and adults alike loved the nieves, the Mexican flavored ices.  Today we had tuna and nuez (tuna is the fruit of the nopal cactus and nuez is nuts) or lime sorbet with mamey ice cream, with a cookie to top it off.

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