Oaxaca festivals are more than colorful. They are a sacred experience. Every year beginning on July 5 and lasting for a week, the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle celebrates its Catholic origins and saint day to honor the church–La Iglesia de Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo. The festival includes an opening celebratory parade — the Parade of the Baskets (Calenda de las Canastas), followed by the Dance of the Feather (Danza de la Pluma), special dinners, and a traveling carnival that overtakes the entire market area complete with rides and food stalls.
During the late afternoon on July 5 more than a hundred young women participated in with the Calenda de Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. They first gather in groups of about 25-30 at the various homes of the members of the village governing committee.
Then, they travel by truck to the church where they assemble and form the parade line, accompanied by their family sponsors.
I am fortunate to know the family members of Casa Santiago. Our photography expedition group had the privilege of being invited to the home of Pedro Santiago Mendez, the president of the church, where the young women gathered and waited to be transported. It was a delicious photo opportunity to capture the intimacy and mystery of the celebration through portraiture.
All the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews gathered at the patron’s home to begin the celebration, prepare the celebratory meal to be taken at the end of the calenda, and offer traditional family support and camaraderie.
The young women who participate in make a commitment to the traditions of the village by wearing the indigenous dress and honoring their history. A requirement is that they are unmarried.
Now, only the older generation wears the traditional dress in daily life, so preserving this through the calenda is an important Teotitlan del Valle value.
Our photography expeditions create an intimate experience. See our Day of the Dead Photography Expedition that will offer a similar opportunity for access and exploration.