Carnival in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Carnival is a Catholic festival traditionally celebrated before Lent, six weeks before Easter.  In Mexico it combines masquerade, dancing, music and mucho mezcal and is usually a two-day event that goes long into the night.

Here in Teotitlan del Valle, the rug weaving village located about 15 miles outside of Oaxaca city in the Tlacolula valley, Carnival begins the Monday after Easter and continues for five days.  The Teotitecos believe the time to let loose is after Easter Sunday.  Each of the five districts in the pueblo will host a daily festival that begins around 3 p.m. Oaxaca time.  If you come, look for the big red and blue striped fiesta tent that will cover the patio of the host home.


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We were told the festivities start in the municipal plaza at 5:00 p.m. Teotitlan time.  This can be very confusing since Oaxaca city goes on daylight savings time but in Teotitlan time never changes.  So, Oaxaca time is one hour later than Teotitlan time.  I have found it is important to clarify an appointment hour by asking: Oaxaca time or Teotitlan time?  Otherwise, you run the risk of being too early or too late.  The ancient Zapotecs believed that whomever controlled time controlled the world.  They adopted this from the Mayan concept of time. They were right!


My friend Merry Foss and I arrived in the plaza at 5:15 p.m. to find it empty.  The benefit was that we got a prime seat at the top of the steep stairway that was once the foundation of the ancient Zapotec temple.  We had a vantage point high above the plaza.  Soon, the abuelas with their grandchildren arrived and filled in the seats around us.  Merry had a conversation with the woman next to us who was wearing a traditional 20-year-old silk rebozo with an extraordinary hand-tied punta (fringe).  The discussion focused on the merits of weaving and wearing rebozos in cotton, silk or art silk/rayon, and how well they drape.  It was a good way to pass the time.


By 7:00 p.m. Teotitlan time, Carnival was in full-swing.  Vendors selling bags of potato chips seasoned with salsa and fresh-squeezed lime juice made their way through the crowd. Ringing the plaza were street vendors whose carts were filled with cakes, cookies, churros, cream cones, nieves with fruit flavors like tuna and limon, corn cobs on a stick smeared with mayonnaise and sprinkled with chili, and aguas de sandia or horchata or lemonade.

Nearly the entire village was present represented by all the generations.  The ceremonial aspects include honoring the village leaders who volunteer for one to three-years to keep the services operating.  They sit in prominent reserved seats.  The volunteer police force are present in new green manta cotton shirts and symbolic clubs.  They are watchful that every one behaves themselves.


The band tonight was in fine form and the music was definitely perfect for toe-tapping from the bleachers.


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5 responses to “Carnival in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. Pingback: Carnival in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: To Be Continued | Oaxaca Cultural Navigator : Norma Hawthorne