Martha, Marianne, and Judy arrive from the city for dinner on December 23 and then we gather at the house of the eighth posada. Earlier, I go to the local morning market and find a fish vendor from the coast. We eat organic and fresh talapia, squash, potatoes, carrots, onions seasoned with kumquats, candied ginger, carrots, prunes, dates, and raisins all cooked together in the tagine. Later, I use the head and bones for stock.
The posadas continue through December 24, when baby Jesus appears on Christmas Eve at La Ultima Posada, the last posada, which is the grandest and most magnificent of all.
On the street we meet a young woman and her mother who are originally from Teotitlan del Valle, and now live in Chicago. She tells us she and her family put their name on the list to host La Ultima Posada ten years ago. They will welcome baby Jesus in 2014. The cost to host is about $50,000 USD, which includes a magnificent array of food for three days — enough to serve hundreds, two bands, drinks and refreshments, candles, lanterns, decorations. She explains to us that it is an honor and a commitment to community and God to be able to do this. They meet with the church committee twice during the year to review details that will ensure a traditional celebration. Service and community cohesiveness is essential for Zapotec life. They have lived in this valley for 8,000 years.
On December 24, I make a last minute run to the village market once more to discover it packed with shoppers and sellers at eight-thirty in the morning. This is likely the biggest market of the year! Every one presses up to buy fresh moss and flowers from the Sierra Norte to make the creche that will bring baby Jesus to their home, too.
There is fresh pineapple, bananas, papaya, mandarin oranges, apples, and spiced guayaba (guava). Lilies, roses, and flowering cactus lay on tables ready for plucking. Live chickens and turkeys, feet secure to keep them from flying away, lay subdued, waiting.
Children hide under their mother’s aprons or eat fresh morning bread or sip a horchata. Who can resist the blue corn tortillas? Not me.
Piñatas are an integral part of the baby Jesus birthday celebration. The market is filled with them on December 24. Children adore the rain of candy. Me, I adore the perfectly ripe avocados, organic lettuces and eggs.
I bump into Janet and Jan, expats from France and Holland who winter here. They eat breakfast at the stand set up in the middle of the market, quesdadillas fresh off the griddle.
Later, I join my family for the traditional dinner at eight. Elsa brings homemade bacalhau, there is organic salad, roasted pork leg infused with bacon, garlic and prunes, pinto beans, with plenty of beer, mezcal and wine. Dessert? Why tiramisu cake from Quemen bakery, of course!
Omar entertains Christian. Lupita entertains Christian. The children kick the soccer ball and jump on the piles of wool waiting for the loom. We sip spiced ponche (hot fruit punch) made with guayaba fruit sweetened with sugar cane. Some will go to the church for midnight mass. Others will go on to aanother supper at midnight.
Christmas day presents another dinner feast on Roberta’s terrace, this time a potluck with organic lettuces, Annie’s garden arugula, enchiladas with green salsa, roasted chicken, red wine, fruit salad and Susanna Trilling‘s Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding that Jan prepares. The patio is filled with flowering cactus and the sunset can’t be better.
All is well with our world. I hope your holiday season is spectacular, too. Feliz Navidad! Gracias a todos.
Our next photography workshop is this summer 2014 for Dance of the Feather. Find out more!