Last Monday, L and I had a leisurely hike up the hill from my apartment to the Guelaguetza Auditorium, sat in stadium seats almost 20 rows up, looking down on the enormous circular concrete stage with the city and mountains providing a picturesque backdrop.

Yesterday, I hopped on a bus, heading for another Guelaguetza performance, this time in Villa de Etla.  However, a bloqueo (blockade) by Sección 22 of the teachers’ union had the bus turning around, doubling back, and taking a cirquitous route that eventually wound its way through the narrow streets of Santa Rosa.  Once we got back on the main road, I transferred to a colectivo and arrived in Etla just as the dancing was about to begin — this time on a small temporary wood-plank stage, that seemed to shake with every dance step.  The setting wasn’t quite as spectacular, but, there I was, within an arm’s reach of the dancers!




Danza de la Pluma

Danza de la Pluma




Flor de Piña

With the exception of the Danza de la Pluma, these dancers are from a folkloric group that performs each of the traditional regional dances.   As you can see from their faces, they dance with as much joy and pride as the delegations from the villages at the big Guelaguetza.







Returning home was its own adventure.  Last week, L and I only had to navigate sidewalks, pathways, and stairs along with the other 11,000 attendees.  Yesterday, Chris (see his Guelaguetza in Etla – 2014 post) gave me a ride to a bus stop where, after about 10 minutes, I caught the bus that would deposit me a half block from Casita Colibrí.  Alas, the best laid plans…  Just before the intersection up to Cerro Fortín, masked maestros (teachers) surrounded the bus, our driver shrugged, opened the doors, and off we passengers got.  It was hot, I was tired, but what else was there to do?  I hoofed it to halfway between the Museo del Ferrocarril (Railroad Museum) and Morelos Park, when another bus materialized, I climbed aboard, giving my feet a much-needed rest, and let the driver navigate the clogged streets that took me back to home sweet home.

It was a fun and frustrating AND exhilarating and exhausting kind of day.

Lila last night

One of the qualities that amazes me about most Oaxaqueños is their patience with waiting in interminable lines.  On the one hand, I think those north of the border could take some much-needed lessons in civil and well-mannered behavior.  However, on the other hand, I think Oaxaqueños deserve much better than having to stand in endless lines, be it the bank, a government agency, or to get tickets to a concert by their favorite daughter, Lila Downs.

Lila Downs with bottle of mezcal

Last year, unable to figure out the hows and wheres of getting a ticket to her free concert during the ten days of the Guelaguetza festivities, I was on the verge of giving up getting tickets to see Lila Downs, when friends coming in from out-of-town(!), offered a couple to me.  Of course, I accepted!

Lila Downs fluttering skirt

This year, after several false leads, on Tuesday morning L and I climbed back up to the Guelaguetza Auditorium to try to score some tickets to this year’s free concert.  The box office was scheduled to open at 9 AM, we got up there at 8:30 AM and found ourselves at the end of a line that stretch halfway to the planetarium AND that continued to grow as the hours ticked by.  Abuelos, niños, moms, dads, and teens lined the pathway, talking on cell phones, eating, talking, and laughing — without a raised voice or harsh word spoken.

Lila Downs with guitar

At almost 10 AM, when the line hadn’t moved an inch, I walked down the hill to the box office to see what was happening.  Nothing, as it turned out!

Projected image of Lila Downs

However, good-natured patience finally succumbed to whistles and shouts by those who were in the line of sight of the ticket booth — after all, according to the newspaper they had begun lining up at 4:30 AM!!!

Lila Downs arm raised

I wound my way back up the hill to report my findings to L.  Alas, after another 45 minutes of no movement, impatient gringas that we are, we gave up.  However, to borrow from the musical Sound of Music, “somewhere in [our] youth or childhood, [we] must have done something good,” because 48 hours later, my neighbor presented us with tickets!  And so last night, we climbed back up Cerro Fortín to see Lila Downs.  We were very happy campers.


She put on another spectacular show — mixing new tunes with old, incorporating several of the Guelaguetza delegations into the production, and generally bringing cheers and sing-a-long voices from the hometown crowd.  By the end, everyone was on their feet.

So much to see and do, so little time to process photos and post — should all our problems be so enjoyable!  However, before tonight’s Lila Downs concert, tomorrow’s Desfile de Delagaciones (parade of delegations), and Monday’s Guelaguetza in Etla (and that’s only a few of the activities on the dance card), a glimpse from the beginning of Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance.

Diosa Centéotl, Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia began the presentation of Lunes del Cerro (aka, la Guelaguetza).

Diosa Centéotl,  Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia

As tradition dictates, she was followed by the convite (procession) of Chinas Oaxaqueñas with their band, monos, and banners.




They filled the stage, dancing the Jarabe del Valle to the cheering crowd.


It was a balmy evening, the view was spectacular, fourteen more delegations danced their way into the night, and a dazzling display of fireworks exploded above the open-air auditorium to conclude the show.

And, they do it all again this coming Monday — hopefully, the kinks will be worked out for the live streaming, so no matter where you are, you can watch and enjoy the morning and/or evening performances.

Queens rule!

This post is really just an excuse to post photos of two young women who are presiding over this year’s Guelaguetza activities.  The first is the Reina (queen) of the 4th Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo.  She is a writer, loves books, and her eyes lit up (even more!) when I told her I was a librarian.  She and her mother were so gracious and radiated joy and warmth.  Alas, I didn’t catch her name; if anyone knows, please post in comments.

Friday evening, the Diosa Centéotl (corn goddess) was chosen to reign over this year’s Guelaguetza.  Jacqueline Reyes Rosario Sarabia, a native of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, was selected from 33 participants who represented the 8 regions of the state of Oaxaca in a 2-part competition.  Each entrant was required to make a presentation, in both her native language and in Spanish, about the gastronomy, crafts, dances, legends, traditions, and customs of her village and on the clothing of her region.  Even though we were way in the back, Jacqueline caught our attention with her impassioned speech.  One of the first of her duties was to lead yesterday’s desfile (parade of the Guelaguetza delegations) through the streets of the city of Oaxaca.

I love Jacqueline’s reaction when her name was announced as Diosa Centéotl 2014.

Watch Guelaguetza live

Live streaming of the Guelaguetza performances at the Guelaguetza auditorium atop Cerro del Fortín, July 21 and 28 at 10 AM and 5 PM (Central Daylight Time).


Food glorious food!

I’m eating my way through the Guelaguetza festivities.  It all began on Friday with the kickoff banquet for the Festival de los Moles.  Remember the chicatanas from last month?  They were there.  Check out the mole on the middle left.  Giving the mole a little “crunch,” it was muy sabroso!

Then yesterday, we ventured out to Reyes Etla for the Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo (cheese fair), followed by comida at Comedor Colon in Villa de Etla.

Today, we were supposed to go into the mountains of the Sierra Norte to San Antonio Cuajimoloyas for the Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres.  Alas, bloqueos blocked our way and so L and I were “forced” to browse (and shop) our way through the countless artesan stalls at the top of the Alcalá and in Llano Park.  Of course, this required major nourishment.  At a time like this, nothing beats street food!

Tacos with roasted onions and chopped pork

Tacos with roasted onions and chopped pork

All I can say is, yummmm!  And, next weekend, we will again attempt to venture up into the mountains for the wild mushrooms festival.

I’m back in Oaxaca — and I’m not the only one!  The city’s streets and sidewalks are more congested than usual as tourists, both national and international, have begun pouring in.  Why? you ask.  They have come for the annual Guelaguetza folkloric performances the next two Mondays on Cerro Fortin in Oaxaca city.  And, a few might even venture out to join locals at the more intimate Guelaguetzas in many of the villages that surround the city.

There will be food and drink ferias and festivals…

There will be calendas (parades), expo-ventas (artisan sales), and exhibitions…

There will be concerts, including this one by Lila Downs…

lila downs concierto guelaguetza 2014

And, SO much more!  The above posters illustrate just a fraction of the activities surrounding the Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the hill).  For a more comprehensive, though not by any means complete, list of events, check out the calendar below.

Manteleta Final 43x28

Sheesh, it seems like they add more things to do and see every year.  However, I’m looking forward to showing and sharing as much of it as possible with friends.

Click on each poster for a larger (more readable) image.

Plumed and hairless

Four days of non-stop sights, sounds, and adventures in Mexico City with my BFF is coming to a close.  So much to do and see, there’s been no time for blogging.  However, all my bags are packed and I have a few minutes…

Today, L and I ventured out to the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco, at the southern end of Mexico City.  The museum houses her extraordinary collection of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work (25 of her pieces and 145 of his), 6000 pre-Hispanic figurines and sculptures, exquisite Chinese ivory, porcelain, cloisonné and lacquer, along with other works of art and artesania.  The gardens of this former 16th century hacienda are beautifully landscaped and provide a tranquil escape from the big city.  And, they are home to a muster of peacocks.  I have no idea how many, but they seemed to be everywhere.

And that’s not all.  A pack of Xoloitzcuintles (Mexican hairless dogs) also reside on the grounds, seeming to “pose” for visitors; they especially like the Xolo sculpture in their part of the garden.  As anyone who has seen the dogs depicted in pre-Columbian figurines can see, their origins date long before the Spanish ever knew of the Americas. 

Museo Dolores Olmedo isn’t easy to get to — it took several metro lines, a train, and a bus to get us there and back — but it was well worth it!!!

Now back to Oaxaca for desfiles (parades), ferias, artesania, and Guelaguetzas.

View from the bus

Late Friday morning, I boarded an ADO GL bus bound for Mexico City to rendezvous with L (a BFF since age 12), who was arriving from Colorado.  For anyone laboring under the myth of the “chicken bus,” I will dispel the stereotype right now.

ADO’s GL and Platino buses are like flying first class (minus the attendant) — the height of luxury and a considerable contrast for anyone who has had the misfortune of taking a cross-country bus ride in the USA.  They are comfortable and well maintained; have men’s and women’s WCs and hot water for the tea bag or instant coffee packet passengers are given when they board.  (We also received a bottle of water or soft drink of our choice and ear buds for the movies that are shown on drop down screens.)  The drivers are professional and miraculously manage to make the drive over one of the formidable mountain ranges that surrounds Oaxaca, a smooth one.

Of course, this is Mexico and at the two-hour mark, break-time for the driver meant pulling over on a mountain road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where vendors awaited.


The views along the Carretera Internacional 135D and 150D were spectacular, as the bus wound its way through Oaxaca’s rugged Mixteca region and down into rolling countryside of the state of Puebla.


From the air and from the road, the sight of Pico de Orizaba always takes my breath away.  At 18,491 feet (5,636 meters) above sea level, Citlaltépetl (its Nahuatl name) is the third highest peak in North America, trailing only Denali in Alaska (20,237 feet) and Mount Logan in the Yukon (19,551 feet).


The highway flattened out and rich farmland emerged.


Eventually, signs of the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere came into view.


A little less than six and a half hours after I left Oaxaca, the bus deposited me and my fellow passengers off at Mexico City’s TAPO bus terminal.  I purchased my ticket for a “secure” taxi, an attendant hailed the next cab, my luggage was loaded into the trunk, and off I went to the hotel and my waiting BFF.

We returned to Teotitlán del Valle on Tuesday and Wednesday the Danza de la Pluma — more of the multi-day fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

Moctezuma and Danzantes

An airborne Moctezuma and the Danzantes

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The story is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is an honor to be a participant — the Danzantes, Moctezuma, the Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to the church and community to perform their roles for 3 years.

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

Dance of Malinche and Doña Marina

All is not completely serious — the Subalternos provide a little levity along the way.

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

Subalterno trying on the Penacho of a Danzante

The subtext and “hidden” narratives of the danza are multiple and complex and after 5 years, I’m only in the infant stages of understanding.  I will leave it to the two scholarly articles listed below to attempt interpretation.

Danzantes with El Picacho in background


Cohen, Jeffrey.  Danza de la Pluma:  Symbols of submission and separation in a Mexican Fiesta.  Anthropological Quarterly, Jul 93, Vol. 66 Issue 3, p. 149-158.

Harris, Max. The Return of Moctezuma.  The Drama Review, Sp 97, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p. 106, 29 p.

Bienvenidos a julio

July in the valley of Oaxaca has begun!  There will be festivals of mole, mushrooms, cheeses, and tamales.  And, there will be the costumes, calendas, and music of Guelaguetza in the city and in several of the surrounding villages.  But first…

Subalterno with open arms

Under a dark and threatening sky, the people of Teotitlán del Valle began their week-long Fiesta titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Festival to the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ).  Wearing traditional embroidered blouses and wool skirts woven in this Zapotec village known for its weaving, the unmarried young women and girls gathered in front of the church (Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo) for the convite (procession) that kicks off Teotitlán’s most important fiesta of the year.

Young Zapotec women and girls in front of church

The rain held off and the procession left the confines of the church courtyard.

Marmotas and people leaving entry gate

Marmotas (giant cloth globes), music, and pyrotechnics led the way…

Banda marching down street

along with little boys holding canes of carrizo and poles topped with small marmotas, fluffy sheep, and airplanes (don’t ask me).

Little boy carrying small marmota

And then came the young women and girls, carrying canastas with images of the saints on their heads.  I have to note here, these baskets are REALLY heavy.  I know, because last year one of the gals asked if I’d like to try — I did for all of about five seconds.  They carry them for almost an hour!!!

Young women with carry canastas on their heads

Most of the residents came out to watch at prime viewing locations.  (Teenage boys were especially prominent, but they deserve another blog post.)

Men, women, and children standing on street

Under the watchful eye of El Picacho (the sacred mountain of Teotitlán), the procession wound its way up and down the cobblestone streets…

Procession in mid-ground and mountain in background

and eventually returned to the church courtyard, where it all began.

For more photos, including some of the pyrotechnic guys in action, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

Here are some of the more colorful people in mine…

More from Friday’s walk up to Barrio Xochimilco.  Couldn’t help thinking of the Sesame Street song, Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood?

Just passing through…

I felt like I was being watched, as I walked through Barrio Xochimilco this morning…

Mural of creatures painted by SCOM on wall

Stumbled upon, what could be, the stairway to heaven…

Outside stairs at Templo Santo Tomás Xochimilco

Just passing through…

2 women in front of mural with2 dancing skeletons

Aren’t we all?

Azucenas in Oaxaca

The azucena is a variety of tuberose and its name is familiar in Oaxaca.  A popular boutique hotel near Casita Colibrí and  a well-known restaurant at the entrance to San Martín Tilcajete are both namesakes. This must be a special flower.  It is!  A few evenings ago, I went out onto the terrace to soak in the view, as lights came on in the city, and discovered azucenas blooming in an old planter box on the terrace wall.  Another night bloomer joins my pitahaya and night-blooming cereus.

Stalks of flowering azucenas

As Judy Sedbrook at Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension, explains, flowering plants on The Night Shift take over as the sun sets.  They are often white or light-colored, to better reflect the moonlight, and exhibit a heady scent, both in an effort to attract their night flying moth and bat pollinators.

2 azucenas flowers against dark sky

I love these sweet-smelling nighttime surprises!

The bells are ringing

Awaking to the sounds of church bells chiming.  I must be back in Oaxaca.

Templo del Carmen Bajo, Oaxaca de Juárez, OAX

Templo del Carmen Bajo, Oaxaca de Juárez

Iglesia de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora, Tlacolula de Matamoros, OAX

Iglesia de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora, Tlacolula de Matamoros

Parroquia de San Juan de Dios, Oaxaca de Juárez, OAX

Parroquia de San Juan de Dios, Oaxaca de Juárez

Church bell tower

Church somewhere between San Baltazar Chichicapam and Oaxaca de Juárez

Anyone know the name and location of this church?  I think maybe I should turn on my camera’s GPS!

And, just one more…

Templo de San Cosme y San Damian, Oaxaca de Juárez

Templo de San Cosme y San Damian, Oaxaca de Juárez


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