Tag Archives: fiesta

Voladores Fly in Cuetzalan del Progreso, Puebla, Mexico. So Do Bees!

Everything leading up to October 3 in Cuetzalan del Progreso is a preview for what’s to come. This is the day each year that the Voladores fly: Danza de Voladores.

When the Voladores fly, everyone pays attention.

When the Voladores fly, everyone pays attention. They are 120 feet high.

There is a huge carnival in the church courtyard and troupes of costumed, masked revelers come in from the villages to dance, sing and raise some hoopla.

Masked revelers dance in church courtyard and before the altar inside

Masked revelers dance in church courtyard and before the altar inside

Handmade beeswax candles adorn the church altar in huge displays of tiered confection, just like wedding cakes. The colors dazzle.

Handmade candles adorn the church, stacked like confeccions

Handmade candles adorn the church, stacked like a tiered wedding cake

On October 4, the queen of the festival is crowned. Cuetzalan is packed with people, a few extranjeros (foreigners), visitors from other parts of Mexico, and lots of locals who come in from mountain villages by colectivos (shared taxis) and camionetas (truck transport).

Wedding cake hand-crafted beeswax candles, Cuetzalan church

Wedding cake hand-crafted beeswax candles, Cuetzalan church

The town square becomes a puesto (open market stalls) with alleys of textiles, beaded necklaces made from local coffee beans and seed pods, roasted corn on a stick layered with mayonnaise and chili, carved wood masks, sizzling comals (griddles).

Voladores circle the pole 52 times, in keeping with the Aztec calendar

Voladores circle the pole 52 times, in keeping with the Aztec calendar, before climbing

Hawkers, mostly the ancient ones, sell armadillo shell purses (yes, I bought one), gourd water jugs (I bought one, too), woven fiber bags (passed), wild mint (poleo) candies guaranteed to cure stomach ache (yes, though I didn’t have a stomach ache).

Four topple in unison, one stays aloft playing a flute

Four topple in unison, one stays aloft playing a pre-Hispanic flute

You can sidle up to a portable comedor (kitchen) to eat tacos, tamales, chicken with mole, squash blossom quesadillas. Thirsty? How about fresh fruit waters made with watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, oranges.

Young men learn to become Voladores very early, practicing, practicing

Young men learn to become Voladores very early, practicing, practicing

It’s hard to keep your money in your pocket!

Candles that will become part of the church altar to celebrate on October 3

Candles that will become part of the church altar to celebrate on October 3

The day before, Merry Foss took us to the famous candlemaker Eugenio Mendez Nava, whose family makes beeswax candles for church celebrations. He is a national treasure and won the Grand Prize in the 2016 National Folk Art Competition.

Grand master of beeswax candles prepares for church celebration.

Grand master of beeswax candles, Eugenio Mendez Nava, prepares for celebration.

We hopped on a colectivo to get to his workshop outside of town. We saw the preparations for the October 3 church celebrations in the making, were awed by the size of the candles, the intricacy of the molds, the bees swarming around the opening to the clay pot hives that were tucked into the workshop corner.

Makings of the church tiered wedding cake candle extravaganza

Makings of the church tiered wedding cake candle extravaganza

Fresh, wild honey is sold all over Cuetzalan. Here’s what the hives look like. Different from the white boxes we see all over the U.S.  I imagine that Puebla people use the resources that are easiest to make and keep for beehives.

Clay beehives at the candlemaking workshop of Eugenia Mendez Nava

Clay beehives at the candlemaking workshop of Eugenia Mendez Nava

Birdcage in the workshop of candlemaker Eugenio Mendez Nava

Birdcage in the workshop of candlemaker Eugenio Mendez Nava

There are multiple groups of Voladores flyers. Some of them are women, and why not. Courage and fortitude know no gender (as we move into the final days of the election in the United States of America).

Inside the church, at the altar, a frenzy of dance movement, drum beating

Inside the church, at the altar, a frenzy of dance movement, drum beating

They start flying at around 4 p.m. on October 3 and continue until after dark. At twilight, groups of dancers and costumed revelers come into the plaza, tooting horns, flutes, singing, beating drums.  They go in and out of the church, dancing at the altar, seeking blessings.

Whirlwind of color. No one stood still!

A whirlwind of color. No one stood still. I’m thinking blurry could be okay!

In the naves, young men stopped to take a breath, take a drink, fix broken decorations, tie shoe laces, and give each other the Mexican handshake — first brushing open palms together, then giving each other a bump with the closed fist.

Repairing the feather headdress before joining into the next blessing dance

Repairing the feather headdress before joining into the next blessing dance.

Meanwhile, outside, the next set of Voladores assembled ready to climb the pole. Humans in flight, spinning, ribbons fly in the wind, arms wide, feet wrapped around the rope, upside down, a several minute suspension.

Climbing a wood and rope ladder high into the sky

Climbing a wood and rope ladder high into the sky

There were not many foreign visitors here. Is it because people are afraid to come to Mexico. We took a 6-hour bus ride from Mexico City to get to Cuetzalan. A perfectly safe adventure. And, then a 4-hour bus ride from Cuetzalan to Puebla. Also, very safe. See what you are missing?

The next group of Voladores waiting their turn.

The next group of Voladores waiting their turn.

The flying men gather in prayer before climbing the pole.

The flying men gather in prayer before climbing the pole.

Caps with ribbon tassels, decorated with flowers, worn by Voladores

Soft landing, upside down, but he'll turn over soon enough!

Soft landing, upside down, but he’ll turn over soon enough!

The eagle has landed!

The eagle has landed!

As night descended, Barbara and I left the church. There was a light drizzle that turned to a gentle rain. The scene was obscure, dramatic, filled with shadows of retreating people. This region is tropical, damp and lush. We don’t go anywhere without an umbrella!

Our evening ends amid the rain drops and shadows of retreating dancers

Our evening ends amid the rain drops and shadows of retreating dancers

One more shadowy night on the zocalo, Cuetzalan

How to Get There: From Mexico TAPO bus station, take the ADO bus to Cuetzalan del Progreso, Pueblo. Cost is about $20 USD. Trip length: 6 hours.

Where to Stay: Casa la Piedra, Cuetzalan del Progreso.

How to Return: From Cuetzalan buy a bus ticket at the new bus station in town on the Via line to Puebla CAPU. Cost is about $16 USD. Trip length: 4 hours.

How to Get From Puebla to Mexico City: Buy a bus ticket on Estrella Roja leaving Puebla every 30 minutes to the Mexico City airport, direct. Cost: About $16 USD. Trip length: 2.5 hours.

Where to Stay in Puebla: Hotel Casareyna is one of our favorites! They have a new addition and can accommodate many more guests. Sublime luxury. Try Bookingdotcom for bargain prices available.

Happy Birthday, Mexico: Celebrating Independence Day

On September 16, 1810, Mexico declared her Independence from Spain. Hidalgo, a priest from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, gave out El Grito, the cry for freedom and the war began. The Spanish conquest of Mexico began in 1521, and after almost 300 years of occupation, the country followed the United States independence model to set itself free from European rule.

Many confuse Mexico’s Independence Day with either Cinco de Mayo or the 1910-1920 revolutionary war. Don’t be confused!

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

The celebration began last night with the president of every state, municipality and village letting out the battle cry. Here in Teotitlan del Valle, the call for freedom was accompanied by the bands from the elementary, middle and high school — Bandas de la Guerra — drumming and tooting well into the night. The cohetes, firecracker missiles, rang through the air. And, it started again this morning with a desfile (parade) through the streets.

Accoutrements of birthday celebration!

Accoutrements of birthday celebration!

The ubiquitous Banda de la Guerra, this one in Patzcuaro, Michoacan

The ubiquitous Banda de la Guerra, this one in Patzcuaro, Michoacan

Red, white and green as a food display.

Red, white and green as a food display.

Happy Birthday, Mexico, our sister nation.

A drum for every child? Why not!

A drum for every child? Why not!

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Celebrates Her Patron Saint Today

The patron saint of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico is the Virgin of the Nativity — La Virgen de la Natividad. It is celebrated here on September 8, today.

Los Danzantes de la Pluma, Dance of the Feather, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Los Danzantes de la Pluma, Dance of the Feather, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

There are two days of fiestas that started on September 6 with a Parade of the Canastas, this year’s group of Las Danzantes de la Pluma (Feather Dancers), and dances and fireworks last night.

Janet Chavez Santiago in the Parade of the Baskets, Convite de las Canastas, Teotitlan del Valle

Janet Chavez Santiago, Parade of the Baskets, , Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Today, starting at 1:00 p.m., there is a festival all day in courtyard in front of the church. The Dance of the Feathers is a spectacle, but it is also an important three-year commitment the young men make to the church, religious and cultural traditions of the Teotitlan del Valle.

Come see how high they leap, Dance of the Feather, Teotitlan del Valle

Come see how high they leap, Dance of the Feather, Teotitlan del Valle

Fiesta time brings live music, traditional dancing, lots of beer and mezcal, and a chance to visit one of the most beautiful villages in the Oaxaca valley.

Unmarried young women in the Convite de las Canastas, Teotitlan del Valle

Unmarried young women in the Convite de las Canastas, Teotitlan del Valle

The band is a very important part of the tradition

The band is a very important part of the tradition, with pre-Hispanic flute (left)

If you decide to spend the night, consider Casa Elena or Las Granadas B&B. Both offer wonderful hospitality.

Felipe Flores has a 2-year volunteer commitment on the village police force

Felipe Flores has a 2-year volunteer commitment on the village police force

Lupita Chavez joins the young women's processions this year

Lupita Chavez joins the young women’s processions this year

 

Flags blew in front of her smiling face at the perfect moment

Flags blew in front of her smiling face at the perfect moment

Holding up papier mache chickens, at the parade start

Holding up papier mache chickens, at the parade start

Clown serves as distraction for crowd and dancer cheerleader

Clown serves as distraction for crowd and dancer cheerleader

Pre-Hispanic Zapotec carvings embedded in church wall

Pre-Hispanic Zapotec carvings embedded in church wall

The conquerors of Mexico built churches atop indigenous temples, using the stones and carvings for foundations and to attract the people to the new religion.

Festival banners and balloons lead the procession

Festival banners and balloons lead the procession

Entering the staging area inside the church courtyard

Entering the staging area inside the church courtyard

Lining up to begin the procession through town

Lining up to begin the procession through town

Ana Paula Fuentes visited with other friends for lunch

Ana Paula Fuentes visited with other friends for lunch; at the fiesta

Janet Chavez Santiago in front of Teotitlan's church

Janet Chavez Santiago in front of Teotitlan’s church

Preciosa de Sangre de Cristo Church, Teotitlan del Valle

Preciosa de Sangre de Cristo Church, Teotitlan del Valle

Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage in Teotitlan del Valle: Felicidades Gloria y Porfirio

Family is more than important here in Teotitlan del Valle. Being and staying connected, committed to each other’s well-being, is a way of life. The social fiber of the village is based upon maintaining strong family ties and mutual support. That manifests by participating in ancient rituals and celebrations tied to life cycle events such as birth, death, birthdays, engagements and marriage.

Porfirio and Gloria with their six children

Porfirio and Gloria with their seven children

Yesterday was no exception when at least a hundred extended family members — brothers, sisters, children, nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws — gathered to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Gloria Bautista and Porfirio Santiago.

Family gathers at the altar to congratulate the couple

Family gathers at the altar to congratulate the couple

We first gathered in Teotitlan del Valle’s beautiful church for a 1:30 p.m. mass to honor the couple. While I am not Catholic, I am spiritual. So, being inside the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo church, now undergoing fresco restoration in its interior, gave me time to reflect on what it means to be married to one person for half-a-century.

Gloria and Porfirio with wives and husbands of their sons and daughters

Gloria and Porfirio with daughters-in-law and sons-in law

Many in the United States are unable to endure the longevity of marriage and respect its attending responsibilities. There are many reasons for divorce. There is ample cause for celebration when a couple honors this promise and commitment they have made to each other for a lifetime. This was a reason to celebrate. In addition to their 50th, Porfirio recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

And now, all the grandchildren!

And now, all the grandchildren

Gloria and Porfirio were surrounded with love. They have devoted their lives to their family and now it was their children’s turn to honor them. At the end of the mass, everyone took turns surrounding them at the altar, taking group photos and exchanging hugs and kisses.

Preciosa Sangre de Cristo church, Teotitlan del Valle

Preciosa Sangre de Cristo church, Teotitlan del Valle

People lingered. They took photos. Took turns gathering. First the sons and daughters. Then their husbands and wives. Then the grandchildren. My friend Hollie said we were in the middle of a love fest.

 

Then, we all went to the family compound for a meal of goat consomme, barbecue goat, handmade organic corn tortillas, plenty of beer and mezcal. The toasts were ample. A trio of musicians entertained the group under a large fiesta tent.

 

Guests flowed in with flowers, cases of beer, bottles of mezcal and wrapped gifts. We all went to the altar room to greet Gloria and Porfirio and offer gifts, a customary tribute. The altar room is where all family celebrations take place, where promises are made, people honored, prayers offered.

Daughter Carina Santiago Bautista, Tierra Antigua Restaurant owner

Daughter Carina Santiago Bautista, Tierra Antigua Restaurant owner

The younger women of the family prepared and served the meal. Their husbands, brothers and sons pitched in, too to make sure there was enough for everyone. In this land of abundance and plenty, containers were passed for the leftovers to carry home. One sister told me six organic goats were slaughtered for the meal.

 

The ritual meal that can serve hundreds is part of this village tradition. I think of it as “let no person go hungry.” I think it is part of the strong values here to maintain family and community support, so show respect.

A 50th wedding anniversary cake like no other, baked by Norma Gutierrez

A 50th wedding anniversary cake like no other, baked by Norma Gutierrez

For the grand finale, we had cake. Not just any cake, but a multi-layered almond confection that looked like it belonged at a wedding. This was accompanied by the ubiquitous gelatina — a mosaic jello mold, only lightly sweetened, that everyone here loves, including me.

Young boys busied themselves on smart phones

Young boys busied themselves on smart phones

Gloria’s brother is director of the village symphony orchestra. They marched in, horns out front, and we all waited for them to strike up the Jarabe del Valle, the traditional Zapotec line dance, men on one side, women on the other, that is played at every fiesta gathering.

 

People here take their commitments seriously. There were three or four generations sitting together around these tables, each knowing their roles and what they were responsible for doing. This usos y costumbres village is based on the guelaguetza system of give and take, mutual support and harmony. To maintain the village, there are volunteer responsibilities that residents must accept and do.

An astounding practice is the way all guests are greeted individually. Instead of a receiving line, all arriving guests go around the tables and offer two hands extended to each person seated. They say hello in Zapotec (zak schtil) or Spanish (buenas tardes). This is practiced by adults and children alike, a show of respect and thanks for participating together. P.S. Zapotec is an oral, not written, language. There are researchers who are writing a transliterated oral dictionary. 

Gloria in a tete-a-tete with her mother. Chismes?

Gloria in a tete-a-tete with her mother. Chismes?

Porfirio served as president of the municipio, the village governing body, some years ago. That means that Gloria was by his side to serve the village, too. Honor, ritual, connection, keeping the chain of tradition going are admirable values. There is time given to celebration and to being with people. Lots of time for an eight hour fiesta. There were few cell phones in sight.

I love this photo of Gloria. It honors her strength, dependability and work ethic.

I love this photo of Gloria. It honors her strength, dependability and tenderness.

And, to cap it all off, just a couple of out-takes to keep you entertained!

 

 

 

 

Let the Posadas Begin: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

The Christmas season is upon us in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. Each morning I wake to the sound of the cojetes — the firecrackers — going off at six o’clock. They continue through the day and well into the evening.

Copal incense and flowers, Teotitlan del Valle posada 

This is a signal that Mary, Joseph and Jesus are traveling to Bethlehem and are resting overnight in the altar room of a local host.  Each evening around seven the posada (procession) will carry the trio to the next home, until the last posada on Christmas Eve, December 24.

Christmas Day Fiesta Meal

Christmas Day Fiesta Meal with Mole Amarillo, a Teotitlan tradition

If you haven’t experienced a village posada, this is the place to be. Book at room at Las Granadas B&B or at Casa Elena B&B.  You will be welcomed as a guest into the home of each of the posada hosts, I’m certain.

Handmade beeswax candles, a key part of the posada

Handmade beeswax candles, a key part of the posada

The last posada, La Ultima Posada, is the grandest celebration of the week. But at all resting places, there will be food, celebration, drink and firecrackers well into the night.

Street corner altar, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Street corner altar, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

This morning the church bells chimed. Last night, I could hear the band playing in the distance. Each of the administrative sections of the village hosts a posada and asks a resident of that area to be the mayordomo. After all, it’s a birthday party for Jesus! It’s a fascinating introduction into Zapotec life in Oaxaca.

Yarn drying on rooftop, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Yarn drying on rooftop, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca