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