Happy New Year 2020 from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Las Cuevitas

In the hills beyond the Oaxaca village of Teotitlan del Valle, there is a sacred Zapotec site. It is said a virgin appeared and whomever comes to the ancient Zapotec grottos to offer tribute and make wishes will be blessed for the coming year.

Las Cuevitas means little caves.

Beginning on December 31, people of the village gather on the hillside, set up a campsite, welcome the new year, light bonfires, shoot off fireworks and celebrate. Some build small rock structures that represent wishes for additions to houses, a new second story, a corral for livestock, a car or truck, a new roof. Wishes are concrete and often basic.

Standing in line to make a wish at the grottos
Sacred prayer site at Las Cuevitas

Wishes are also for good health, longevity, improved family relationships, abundance.

A prayer in the small chapel with the Virgin of Guadalupe

At the three grottos and in the small chapel, after waiting in a queue with locals, my sister, brother and I said our prayers, gave our donation, and felt the luster of the warm late afternoon.

Looking out over the Tlacolula Valley at sunset

In ancient times, Zapotecs hurled burning coals to make the night sky glow. Today, there are sparklers and shooting stars.

People from other villages comes, too. We can tell by the aprons the women wear. Most prominent are the fancy, flouncy aprons from San Miguel del Valle.

This year the celebration is more in the Guelaguetza style with professional costumed dancers and a band to accompany them. Formal festivities started at 4 p.m. and continued until well after dark. It seemed like there were more people than ever, but most of them were riveted to the dancers rather than constructing rock wishes on the hillside.

Campers, picnickers, and hillside revelers — dining al fresco

I was told that there is a new village committee every year to organize the Las Cuevitas celebration.

Fire hurlers at Las Cuevitas

We did not have the village band with the ancient Zapotec flute player (both the flute and player are ancient) this year. It was more polished, and I missed the old traditions. Everyone, however, seemed to revel in the opportunity to see something new and different.

There was a big outdoor food court to buy snacks and tacos and pastries. There were stands with local people selling votive altar candles and fireworks, chili-spiced potato chips and chicharron, a favorite.

Such pleasure in a colorful windmill
Fathers adore their babies here, hold them close

We climbed the rocky slopes to watch the sun set over the Tlacolula Valley, ate our tacos al pastor and quesadillas, and went home with sweet dreams.

Las Cuevitas at sunset is spectacular

If you are in Oaxaca during New Year in the future, I encourage to join in this experience. It is magical, renewing and heartfelt. A great way to start fresh and welcome the new year.

Tacos al pastor at a puesto from Diaz Ordaz village

The next celebration is Day of the Three Kings, January 6. This is the traditional time of gift giving for children. We cycle through the year going from one celebration to the next!

A big, beautiful Oaxaca sky. It was 76 degrees F. today

6 responses to “Happy New Year 2020 from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Las Cuevitas

  1. I love the celebrations that are traditional and truly Mexican in origin. So many in the big cities have morphed into the Hollywood versions. Fun as well, but something is missing in the tradition.

    • Thanks, MA. The big splash in Oaxaca city is a tourist attraction. This is the first time Teotitlan replicated a mini-Guelaguetza for Las Cuevitas. Everyone was mesmerized by the dancers and it was fun. Was it traditional? Not really.

  2. I am in Oaxaca now. Is it too late to go?

  3. Oh, how I wish I were there!

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