Stay Safe at Home. Today, on Good Friday, I immediately think of the 1964 Simon & Garfunkel song, The Sounds of Silence, knowing that the traditional Semana Santa celebrations in Oaxaca and my town, Teotitlan del Valle, have been cancelled. For religion to be cancelled in Mexico, this is a very serious time!
On April 8, the Oaxaca Public Health Service (on Twitter: @SSO_GobOax) reported 37 positive cases of COVID-19, one death, and that 17 people who were diagnosed recuperated. These numbers are probably misleading since testing is not in place, just as the numbers are inaccurate in the USA, too. Reporting from remote villages is spotty at best. Comments on the Twitter feed note that numbers do not specify particular Oaxaca regions, like the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, for example. People are questioning.
The over-arching message is #STAYHOME.
Oaxaca celebrates Good Friday in silence. This is usually a big day, one of the biggest on the annual religious festival calendar. A traditional day of processing through the streets to re-enactment the Stations of the Cross journey of Jesus to Mount Calvary along the Via Dolorosa — the Way of Pain.
In Teotitlan del Valle, the community radio station broadcasts in both Spanish and Zapotec, the indigenous language of the village. It is the first language for most. Everyone is urged to stay home. All public celebrations related to Easter here have been canceled, starting with Lunes Santo (Holy Monday) and the church is closed. I replied to @TeotitlanDValle on Twitter that this was very good news, indeed.
I have family and dear friends here. I want them to be safe.
My friend Shannon published a post today, Silent Good Friday, with her collection of past photos of the celebration in the city. You might enjoy seeing these.
In these days, silence is a good thing.
Stay healthy, everyone.
Good Friday in Oaxaca, Mexico: Procession of Silence
Holy Week or Semana Santa in Oaxaca, Mexico, is coming to a close for 2016. On Good Friday, the Procession of Silence that re-enacts the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus (14 Stations of the Cross) starts around sunset and winds through the main streets of the historic center.
Leading the procession is Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Antequera, Oaxaca.
(FYI: Oaxaca was named Antequera in 1529. Later, it reverted to Oaxaca, adapted from the Nahuatl Huaxyacac, which was Hispanicized to Guajaca. The predominant tree of the region is the guaje, which produces an edible seed pod, the source of Oaxaca’s name.)
Spanish Catholicism came to Mexico with the conquest and many areas here observe Semana Santa with devotion that include influences from indigenous tradition. In Oaxaca city, the Procession of Silence is probably more akin to its Iberian Peninsula origins.
Solemn, spiritual, filled with the images of belief and sacrifice, the procession draws visitors from throughout the world. At its apogee, the crowd was at least 10 people deep.
The mystery is further heightened by the metered beat of a drummer, candlelight, rebozo draped women, hooded men, the eerie sound of crosses dragging on the cobbled streets, and the illumination of a full moon.
I usually spend Easter week in Teotitlan del Valle, so this was a new experience. What I heard about from friends beforehand was the description of men wearing pointy hats, a reminder of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Let’s be clear. We don’t want to confuse the two!
The conical hood, called a capriote, hides the face of the person wearing the nazareño cloak. This is a garment of Medieval origin and associated with the Passion of Christ.
I am not Catholic nor am I religious, but I consider myself spiritual, observant and respectful, so understanding the rituals and traditions of Catholicism in Mexico, where I spend a good part of my life, is important to me.
We had a great perch on the rooftop patio at Mezzaluna, at the corner of Garcia Virgil and Allende, in clear view of Santo Domingo Church and the procession as it passed below. This is the corner where the procession began and ended.
Cost of admission was a delicious pear and gorgonzola pizza, sueros (I like mine plain, Victoria beer. fresh squeezed lime, and a salt-rimmed chilled glass) and mezcal. The house espadin mezcal was especially delicious, especially since it came in a double-shot tumbler size glass!
As the procession ended, the crowd dispersed to fill the walking street/andador Macedonio Alcala, the adjacent artisans markets, and restaurants open late to feed all the hungry visitors.
As I walked by Templo de Sangre de Cristo at the corner of Alcala and M. Bravo, I was moved to enter where I saw figures carried in the procession at rest inside the church. The altar was draped in red cloth as were all the saints in their wall niches. People sat in silent prayer.
Back on the street, I passed Ave. Morelos, where the full moon hung low in the sky, a backdrop to street lights and headlights. As I meandered back to where I stay in the city, it was a perfect ending to a great day and a reminder that life is in the beauty of each moment.
And, of course, there are the children, who hold all the promise of a future yet to unfold.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Travel & Tourism
Tagged conical hood, Good Friday, Holy Week, Mexico, Oaxaca, Procession of Silence, re-enactments, religion, Semana Santa, Stations of the Cross