Tag Archives: Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca: Cena de los Apostales or The Last Supper

Welcome to Holy Week — Semana Santa in Mexico, a mysterious and magical experience for anyone who is religious or not. Today is Maundy Thursday in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle about 40 minutes outside Oaxaca city off the road to Tlacolula de Matamoros.  Catholic and indigenous beliefs merge here into what cultural anthropologists refer to as syncretism.

Cena de los Apostales – The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

For example, Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper  when Jesus and his followers gathered for a Passover seder the night before the crucifixion.

My friends tell me that the entire village will gather in the church courtyard to celebrate Cena de los Apostales.  Reports are that the starting time is 11 a.m. but it could also happen at 10 a.m. Time here is not fixed — an ancient pre-Hispanic practice of “Whoever controls time controls the world.

So this is not an evening event that happens at sundown in the ancient Jewish tradition. Here The Last Supper happens early in the day. Why? Quien sabe!

So you might want to get here early.  There will be the symbolic foot washing ceremony and then all gathered will eat — usually delicious tamales.

How to Get Here: Jump on the bus at Chedraui on the Periferico. Take any bus going to Tlacolula or Mitla. Get off at the Teotitlan del Valle crucero (crossroad) and get a village taxi or tuk-tuk into town. Or, you can get a colectivo at the Telcel/Volkswagen corner near the baseball stadium on Niño Heroes.

Where to Stay: Consider staying overnight to participate in the Good Friday ceremonies, too. Casa Elena B&B or Las Granadas B&B are good choices.


Portrait Photography Workshop: Maundy Thursday in Oaxaca

Semana Santa, the Easter season in Oaxaca, is magical and mystical.  It is especially so in Teotitlan del Valle where traditional Zapotec practices blended with Catholic ritual offer photographers an exceptional workshop experience.  On the evening of Maundy Thursday, almost the entire village arrived for the five o’clock mass at the church with the overflow spilling out into the church courtyard.  Our small group came to participate and experience the ritual.

Women covered their heads with traditional fringed shawls.  Men approached the sanctuary in reverence with their heads uncovered.

Children played tag around the church courtyard tended by a mother, an aunt or an older sister.


The bejeweled horse decked out in sparkling mirrored plumage was fed fresh sweet cornstalks by mesmerized little boys.  The seasoned veterans sat on the garden wall or under the ancient tree on a comfortable bench.


After the hour-long service, after everyone stood together in reverent prayer,  the priest and church committee of volunteers led a procession around the plaza to the clanging of wood beaters on top of the church, the blast of trumpets and the rhythmic clap of drum beats.

This would go on all night at regular intervals as is this village’s custom.  On Good Friday, another procession will begin at ten o’clock in the morning with figures of Jesus and the Virgin of Soledad circling the village each in a different direction and then reuniting at the church for another mass.


Our next photography workshop is set for summer 2012: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.