Teotitlan del Valle Sights & Sounds: Martha’s Journal

Looking over the soft, green mountains toward the city, I see on the street below a small boy walking with his mother. She wears the traditional daily dress of the Zapotec Indian villages – an embroidered plaid apron tied in back over a short sleeved cotton print dress. Her hair is in long braids which wrap around her head for stability if she wants to carry a basket on it. Her day is long, she goes to the local market for food and many days boils and grinds corn to prepare masa for tortillas which are cooked outside over a sheltered wood fire on a large flat metal disc called a comal.

In addition to caring for her family and her animals, spinning and dying wool and weaving rugs on a pedal loom, she participates in the life of this unique village. In the one to two years following marriage and again for shorter periods throughout one’s life, citizens of Teotitlan must “volunteer” in community positions such as the police department, water committee, school board, festival committee, etc.  There are no political parties or elections, as such, here.

The sound scape of this place is intense and captivating. Huetes,  fireworks which announce events of all kinds and are common in many parts of Mexico, are supplemented by church bells and announcements over the town PA system. Men hawking their wares walk or ride in trucks selling everything from  aaa-wah to mattresses. Bands practice or play for saint day parades, birthdays, weddings, kindergarten graduations, etc. Although only 20 miles from Oaxaca City, this is a rural community, still. On one side of this small B & B is a chicken yard, on the other one with turkeys. Burro drawn carts travel the streets daily encountered by moto taxis which carry people from one area to another. With donkeys, cows, goats and sheep in addition to the many dogs, moments of absolute silence are  rare.

In four days, the most important festival of the year will be celebrated, the Precious Blood of the Christ. The band that accompanies the centerpiece event, the Danza de la Pluma, or Dance of the Feather, finds 4 AM to be the best time for everyone to practice. There are times of silence but sound travels well through the valley; I have learned to sleep through almost everything.

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