Queen of Mexico: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe in Teotitlan del Valle

The three-day celebration in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, leading up to December 12 to honor Mexico’s favorite saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, started on December 10 with a 5 p.m. calenda (procession) that began in the church courtyard.

Parade of the Canastas winds through village streets for three miles

But, I arrived early, at 1 p..m., to find a couple celebrating a wedding in the church, followed by a group of cyclists from Teotitlan who arrived at 2 p.m. at the end of their journey from Juquila. They had pedaled 36-hours in a caravan complete with altar and bicycle repair sag wagon.

Bikes parked in church courtyard while cyclists receive blessings inside

A photo diary of the afternoon:

Celebrants holding fragrant poleo, part of the calenda ritual

You need to understand that in the hierarchy of religious symbols, the Virgin of Guadalupe is at the top. She is the embodiment of the pre-Hispanic corn goddess melded with the Virgin Mary by the conquerers. She is mother earth, goddess of nature and symbolic of life and the empowerment of women. God and Jesus are next in line. It’s what we call syncretism here.

Cousins Maya and Alicia were among the hundreds of young women chosen

Men volunteer to accompany, carry the bamboo baskets for relief

Onlookers at street corners take photos, applaud, acculturate children

And the band plays on, actually two of them!, accompanying Los Danzantes

At intervals, Dance of the Feather participants stop with a dance

Grandma Juana, Baby Luz, and Mama Edith along the way

Little girls are acculturated early to the importance of community ritual and tradition

This serape is old, woven in the 1960’s I was told

The young women started out at the homes of the Mayordomos, Fidel Cruz and Bulmaro Perez, who both live on the main entry road to the village, almost to the main highway, MEXICO 190 (Panamerican Highway). At the end of the night, they were tired. Mayordomo definition: The chief sponsor, organizer and funder of an major village event.

Yes, these baskets are very heavy. They walked at least five miles.

Watching from the second story along the parade route.

Ixcel Guadalupe gets ready to start the calenda from the church courtyard.

This dancer’s protective shield was hand-woven by his father years ago

After all had assembled in the church courtyard, the procession began: first the children holding papier-mache stanchions of turkeys, ducks, chickens, and dogs. Then came the chief of the fireworks, sending spiraling smoke bombs into the air, then Secundino (age 90+) playing the traditional Zapotec flute.

Barbara, David and Jo Ann came from California and New Mexico

He was followed by the Danzantes (Dance of the Feather participants), then the young maidens in traditional dress holding elaborate, heavy baskets on their heads.

All ages enjoy the pageantry

Since there were two mayordomos, there were two bands and two groups of young women, sponsored by each. It was quite a spectacle.

The calenda: firecrackers, music, giant balloons, children with duck, turkey flags

I decided to follow and the pace was easy enough that I found myself often midway or at the front of the group — until I recognized village friends, stopped to chat, and got left behind, only to dash to catch up again. The three miles went quickly.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico

Dance of the Feather group with Moctezuma, La Malinche and Doña Marina

At the end, I joined Barbara, David, J0 Ann and Beverly for a quiet dinner of homemade memelas, yogurt jello, atole, and fruit provided by  host Bulmaro Perez and family. I brought the cuishe mezcal!

Assembly in the church courtyard at the end of the calenda, at dusk.

Tonight, Monday, the fireworks start at 9 p.m. The last fireworks I attended announced for 9 p.m. got going around 11 p.m.

I’m not sure I can stay up that late!

I took the dogs on a long, three-mile walk out to the border of our neighboring village, and I’m not very energetic.

Today’s walk in the campo, with a new discovery: swimming hole

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 12, the Dance of the Feather begins in the church courtyard, they say at noon and will go until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. followed by another calenda of the church committee.

Leaping Danzantes. They get off their feet.

The Juquila bicyclists’ sag wagon

Long live the Queen of Mexico, Virgin of Guadalupe


6 Responses to Queen of Mexico: Celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe in Teotitlan del Valle

  1. Oh Norma!
    How beautiful to see all the different ages of men and women and kids participating in this celebration! We don’t have many events like this in the USA!
    I have to recommend the movie COCO from Pixar, who knows how long before it’s in Mexico, but see it when you’re back! It’s all about Dia de los Muertos, and the families and the ancestors etc! A beautiful commemoration to the Mexican people and their culture.
    Love Lynn

  2. What a spectacular day. Thank you for sharing. When community in the United States is slipping away and being replaced by social media, it is heartwarming to see this community outpouring of tradition steeped in history. Ahhhh, it makes the heart warm with hope for the future.

    • Hi, Susan, yes, we have a breakdown of family in the USA, with dispersion of children to far away places for work and life, with few traditions left except for holiday shopping. Keeping traditions requires work and commitment. Even here, there are family members separated by the border and immigration policies. It takes a lot of money to fund these celebrations and only the very wealthy are able to become mayordomos. That said, the children are learning and many make promises to fulfill their community obligations. It is heartening to see, I agree.

  3. I would love to experience this some day! I have attended an important pre-Easter event in Teo, when the statues of Jesus, Mary Magdalene (I think) and Mary are carried to each Station of the Cross, stations being created, uniquely, by rugs draped over little structures. It’s considered an honour for various households along the way to provide refreshments. I was with the sisters of the late Arnulfo Mendoza, and their restaurant provided a mighty feast….and served only on washable plates, no disposables for them. I had fun washing dishes and laughing. Quite magical, as much as the Easter Sunday procession that follows later in the week.
    Love you, love your dogs,

    • it’s been very cold at night here, Kate. Maybe not as cold as Toronto, but for us 40 degrees F. is a bit frigid at night. So, this event last night brought out the hale and hearty, since the fireworks, promised for 9 p.m., didn’t really start until after 11 p.m. I heard some visitors were up well beyond 1 a.m. Nevertheless, there is so much to observe and do here, and it’s truly wonderful to watch the Dance of the Feather for the umpteenth time — something I never tire of. So, come back when you are ready. We are waiting for you.

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