On Friday, December 30, I drive away to Albuquerque from Taos and on Saturday, December 31 (my birthday!), I fly away to Oaxaca. Yes, a lot has changed since March 12, 2020, when I flew from Oaxaca to California to visit my son for a week and ended up staying with him for two months. Then, the Covid Pandemic was an unknown, we were scared of everything, only to learn that so many people became infected and died. It’s almost three years later and I have not contracted Covid … yet.
I’m still very cautious, wear a face mask the moment I step into an airport and keep it on until I reach my destination … either Oaxaca or New Mexico! I don’t take it off until I am outside. Such is not the case for most now. On my recent travels returning from Oaxaca to Taos in November, maybe 15% on the plane were masked. I am writing this because our study tour season is about to start. Our first group starts on January 3, and we have three more after that, going to the Oaxaca Coast, to Mexico City and Michoacan, and then wrapping up with Chiapas.
We have alerted all travelers to take precautions and we continue to send out reminders. We want all travelers to be respectful of each others’ health, to protect self and others, and especially to protect the indigenous people of Mexico whom we will visit, who do not have the benefit of quality vaccines, and who are more prone to disease because of underlying chronic health conditions (like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness).
Why? Because Covid has not gone away and now it is on the rise again as winter digs in.
Here is our Covid Travel Advice:
- Take a Covid home test the day before you are set to travel to be certain you are negative
- Mask up before you enter the airport
- We require N95 or KN95 face masks
- Keep your mask on throughout your travel day in the airport and on the airplane
- Yes, we know that mask-wearing is uncomfortable, because it is for me, too! This is no excuse!
- Test again 2-3 days after arrival
- Wear masks whenever indoors and in crowded places like markets
- Understand the importance of traveling respectfully in Mexico where mask-wearing is still a norm among local people
- Know that all our travelers are required to have vaccines and the latest boosters, no exceptions, to ensure each others’ safety
What motivated me to write this? Christmas!
We just finished a modified Christmas Feast celebration with fourteen people, family and and dearest friends who are akin to family. The organizers traveled from Philadelphia and New Jersey to participate. The men have been doing this since 1982. They choose a different cookbook each year, parse out the recipes, and everyone participating makes something very elaborate from scratch. My daughter-in-law and I made the agnolotti, a version of ravioli stuffed with seasoned butternut squash and topped with shallot butter infused with truffle oil. It took us all day. Since we didn’t have anything but a French rolling pin, which we were told wouldn’t work, we adapted and used an empty Gracias Adios Tepeztate Mezcal bottle. Hummph.
Ok, so we’ll get to the crux of the story … the Chief Feast Leader tested positive for Covid on Christmas morning. That shifted everything, of course. We moved the Feast to my west patio facing the Rio Grande Gorge so we could be outside and protect ourselves. I required that anyone coming into the house had to wear a face mask. The Chief Feast Leader was isolated at a separate table and wore a mask the entire time. We managed, but we were cold despite building a fire pit and having a propane heater. As the sun set, the temps dropped to below thirty degrees. This was a short dinner, despite the elaborate menu and French wines. I could run through the menu, but that’s not the point.
And, why did the Chief Feast Leader get Covid? He traveled from the East Coast without wearing a mask — including nine hours in the Dallas airport because of flight delays as the country was experiencing the start of the Bomb Cyclone blizzard. And, even though we had reminded everyone to please take all necessary health precautions, he chose to ignore this. The couple staying with him and his partner in the shared Air BnB tested positive on December 26.
I tested negative yesterday. I’ll test again tomorrow. Fingers crossed I will escape this once more. Meanwhile, I urge all of you getting ready to travel to Oaxaca or wherever your journey takes you, to take care, be respectful of others, and to know that we are all still vulnerable. Your choices affect the health of those you come in contact with.
Blessings for 2023.
Who is the Virgin of Guadalupe, Patron Saint of Mexico
Monday, December 12, 2022 is the Feast Day to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, canonized in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII, revered. Most of us who live in Mexico know the story and many of us have been to the Basilica named in her honor in Mexico City, the most visited Catholic shrine in the world. She is the amalgamation of the Virgin Mary and Mother Earth, Goddess of Corn, Fertility and Abundance known in pre-Hispanic Aztec Mexico as Tonantzin, the Divine Mother, and protector of women.
Syncretism is what made the adoption of Spanish Catholicism possible in the Americas, and especially in Mexico. Combining the figure of the Divine Mother with the Virgin Mary was a way to ensure acceptance of the new religion without completely discarding the feminine-centric belief system, although the conquerors had hope to do just that! Today, the Virgin of Guadalupe is more revered than the central Christian figure of Jesus.
Because the Virgin of Guadalupe represents empowerment, compassion, motherhood, goodness, social justice and independence, it is easy for non-believers to join the millions of Mexican and Mexican-American faithful to adopt and honor her for these attributes on December 12. She is symbolic of Mexican identity and culture.
Here in New Mexico, once a part of New Spain and then a Mexican territory, the Virgin of Guadalupe is also ubiquitious. As I drive from Taos to Santa Fe, I pass road signs pointing to small villages where a Virgin of Guadalupe church or chapel administers to the local people. Taos artist Lynn Garlick creates retablos that feature the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the Virgin figures predominantly in the Colonial arts section of the Millicent Rogers Museum, along with primitive Santos and Bultos, paintings and carvings of saints created by locals who had no access to sophisticated Spanish religious art.
She is reproduced on everything: refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, jewelry, handbags and tote bags. She adorns the backs of jean jackets sold in Oaxaca clothing and folk art galleries. Even Walmart sells t-shirts with her image emblazoned on the front. As an iconic figure, the Virgin of Guadalupe is definitely part of the popular culture.
We see her on aprons, dish towels, and tablecloths. And, as things go in this direction, it’s important to reflect on the history of her development in the Americas and what she represents today for women who live in rural, male-dominated societies that are repressive, oppressive, and often manifest in femicide.
I see the Virgin of Guadalupe as a universal image to embrace as the embodiment of unconditional love, acceptance, perseverance and fortitude. For me, she is more than and goes beyond her religious roots to encompass all that is beautiful and hopeful. It is easy to embrace and honor her! They say that to be a true Mexican, one must believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. Count me in!
In recent years, I have written much about the Virgin of Guadalupe. You may want to read these posts, too.
My bet is if you go to a Mexican grocery store (or even a Walmart that caters to Latinos), you will find a tall votive candle with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Lighting it would be a great way to honor her and all women everywhere, especially those who struggle in repressive systems that abuse their personhood.
And, we are not immune in Oaxaca!
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture
Tagged Mexico, Oaxaca, Virgin of Guadalupe, Who is she