Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Guelaguetza..... and more!

Hello, dear readers! Thank you to those of you still checking up on the blog after this little hiatus... Some snaps from an eventful few weeks:

Pronounced "gay-luh-gets-uh", the name of these annual late-July festivities means "offering" in the indigenous Zapotec language. For the 80th year in a row, delegations from communities all over Oaxaca unite in the capital to showcase their traditional clothing, music and ceremonies in parades, dance performances and general chaotic merriment.... The Guelaguetza itself is an all-day extravaganza that occurs two Mondays in a row. The government-sponsored festivities are somewhat controversial due to the high admission prices and long waiting lines, as well as the simple fact that they are presented by the less-and-less popular Mexican government... Thus, several thousand people opt to attend the alternative festivities sponsored by smaller surrounding villages or the Oaxacan teachers' union, called the Guelaguetza Magisterial y Popular, which is pictured above.

People of all ages appreciate the joyful festivities.

Our niece and Harold's sister flew in from Canada to join in the festivities and visit with the family. Above is a yoga-turned-jumping session with my four-year old niece. This is supposed to be Warrior II...

Local teenagers rehearse for the Donaji: La Leyenda show, based on a Zapotec love story. Harold and his sister both participated in the show for many years as youngsters, with Harold as a Zapotec warrior and his sister as Princess Donaji.

This is our Mexican lasagna that was a big hit among the pharmaceutical company employee takeout clients, as well as the regulars that dine in our home. We made it with super fresh local vegetables, and Oaxacan cheeses; I don't think it's ever turned out better. Score!

When traveling in Mexico, eating quesadillas or empanadas filled with flor de calabaza (squash flower) is essential. It just is.

Cohetes are a feature of Mexicanity that often freaks out foreigners; they are fireworks that sound quite a bit like gunshots, but offer little visually. Originally utilized to alert surrounding villages to the festivities, they add a noise element to any spectacle taking place, in this case the wedding of a well-to-do Oaxacan couple.

The aforementioned couple tied the knot at the Santo Domingo Cathedral in downtown Oaxaca City. The above monos, or tall puppets, represent a Oaxacan parade tradition with fairly vague pre-Hispanic origins.

Foreigners are often the victims of clown shows. Clowning is a decent career option here in Mexico, and the talent is usually quite impressive, as evidenced by the size of the crowd gathered here in the Oaxaca City town square. The routines feature a lot of doble sentido, sexual innuendoes, and slapstick humor.

Many smaller events take place in the surrounding areas during the Guelaguetza season. We attended a Oaxacan cheese fair in Etla last week, which mostly featured the crumbly queso fresco, and the quesillo, or Oaxacan string cheese. This cheese contains the colors of the Mexican flag, with local herbs and chiles providing the green and red colors. Yum. Just, yum.

Me with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background.

Cheese with roasted grasshoppers inside! Delicious; really!

Pulque was served at the cheese fair, too. Originating as the Aztec drink of the gods, it is essentially fermented aloe vera juice, with fruit nectars sometimes added. It tends to elicit a "love it or hate it" response. I first imbibed pulque ten years ago as an exchange student in central Mexico, where its popularity is concentrated. I enjoy it, but a lot of people make the face demonstrated by the woman in the picture when they first try it... That's a pucker.

Etla, location of the cheese fair, is where Harold's birth certificate was registered; in other words, he and Etla go way back.

Harold says this is his appropriate beer size.

Three children momentarily pause their play to observe the stunning Oaxaca central valley scenery. Etla, Oaxaca.

A pina loca! The pineapple is artfully cored, sliced, and decorated with chili sauce and powder, as well as the obvious marshmallows, umbrellas, and tamarind stick. Delish. Etla, Oaxaca.

The Simpsons are ubiquitous in Mexico, as evidenced by the Homer (?) banner on display at an artisan store. Oaxaca City.

My grumpy niece (whom I love to bits!) was forced to pose with this polite little girl dressed for the calenda, or traditional Oaxacan parade preceding the Guelaguetza festivities.

This man's traditional cattle-ranching highland outfit is simply awesome, featuring @$less chaps, bandannas and a genuine leather bull on his head.

More chaps, bandannas and a mask!

These ladies are from the coast.

Another delegation from the coast of Oaxaca, at the calenda, or pre-Guelaguetza parade.  Oaxaca City.

A lil' mister in a traditional outfit at the calenda.

The wavy things look like pasta. The elaborate dress in the background is typical of the "istmo" region, or southwest corner, of Oaxaca.

The highlands.

Some wild turkeys! Dressed up!

Some ladies from the coast.

Ladies from the istmo region.

Don't recall what region these guys are from, but I like their headpieces.

There are those cool highland leather outfits again. The skirts are fun, too.

Monos, or large traditional puppets, add another dimension to the parade.

These elaborate, fuzzy headdresses are from the central valley region where Oaxaca City is located.

Swishy, flirty skirts from a coastal delegation.

A leopard headdress from the coast.

We joined the parade!

A budding photographer.

There were thousands of people, with lots of foreigners taking pictures and video, and local dudes giving out mezcal, the local (very strong!!) liquor.

The Pinotepa Nacional delegation is the rowdiest, and did an extra dance performance in front of the Oaxaca Cathedral at the end of the calenda.

Lovely Pinotepa Nacional ladies. I danced with them for one of the numbers! This is captured on video only, to be shared in the future...

A nighttime food stand selling tlayudas, or Oaxacan giant meat and cheese filled quesadillas. Makes an awesome fourth meal for those active nights.

A composed young woman from Loma Bonita, Oaxaca, wins the indigenous beauty pageant and will represent the corn goddess Centeotl for 2012.

Other beauty pageant contestants in my hands-down favorite traditional outfits, from the istmo region of southwest Oaxaca. All that glitters is gold!

The escuincle, a Mexican breed of dog originating in the Aztec culture, is absolutely delightful. Though rare worldwide, they can be observed with their owners in Mexico, frolicking joyfully in the sunshine or peering curiously at people.

It is currently the rainy season, apparently until September.

Harold fixes some leaks in his mom's kitchen sink.

We attended an upscale (and overpriced) presentation of the Sandunga festival of the istmo region at the impressively ornate Teatro Macedonio Alcala in Oaxaca City.

Look! It's Benito Juarez (the first Oaxacan president of Mexico) and revered president Porfirio Diaz from the 1940s! Oaxaca City.

A temazcal, or traditional Aztec spa, enjoyed with steaming herbs and reflections about life. In Harold's mom's backyard! I have yet to participate...

Harold relaxes in our room at his mom's house.

We attend an Argentine family friend's son's birthday party, which featured ham and cheese empanadas! Lucky us!

Like I said, the Simpsons are a cultural fixture in these parts.

Our fourth (and apparently final!) visit to the Canadian embassy in Mexico City.

Permanent resident visas issued! It was even cold in Mexico City for the occasion :) Off to British Columbia we go, to start the rest of our lives in the Great North. Thank you, Canada!