Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Following the Fiesta
One of the first nights back in Oaxaca last November, I chanced upon a joyful procession with sky rockets and a marching band coming up M. Alcala, the pedestrian street of downtown Oaxaca. A society of people from the Istmus of Tehuantepec was having its annual fandango (dance and party). Beautiful young women in traditional embroidered, flowered velvet long skirts and tops and gold jewelry strutted their stuff up the street in front of those towering paper-mache puppets, called marmotes. These puppets appear at all these kinds of fiestas, their brightly painted faces smiling high above the parading crowd.
Without a thought I found myself tagging along behind the last couple saying to a man that I want to be a Zapotec in my next life. The procession found its way to the churchyard of Carmen Alta on Garcia Vigil. This part of the fandango involved paying tribute to Carmen, with various women carrying flowers down the church aisle to Carmen on the front altar.
Carmen Alta church was built over a shrine to a local, pre-Spanish goddess for whom the Guelaguetza. was staged. This gathering brought together Zapotecs from all over the area. They celebrated for days-- dancing, feasting and trading goods produced in their various pueblos. The guelaguetza is still celebrated annually on a nearby mountain top at the open air amphitheater with beautifully costumed indigenous dancers who throw the audience gifts from their particular area at the end of their exciting dance. Straw hats, oranges, pineapples are just a few offerings throw by the exultant dancers.
Meantime in the church yard, the band kept playing while the puppets and the young women danced. A large twirling painted ball was held aloft on a long, thick pole, turned by a young man who also danced the traditional jarabe at the same time. He had to be strong and balanced. When the band stopped he rested the giant globe’s pole on the paving stones in the hands of a friend. Another dancer took up twirling the globe and dancing when the band started up again.
I sat on the rim an empty fountain. I thought I might talk to some of the women but started trading observations with a mature man sitting on the fountain rim near me. He asked where I came from, calling me “chula”. I smiled to still be thought of as attractive. Only in Latin America. A woman came around with a bottle of mescal and tiny shot glasses made from bamboo pieces--the perfectly natural throwaway glass. I toasted “mi querida Oaxaca” to the indigo sky. My companion of the moment, Emiliano, and I toasted “salud” to each other. He said that he lives now at Zaachila, though he came from the Isthmus. A farmer, he related that the summer’s drought had meant no harvest this year for those in the valley’s agriculture production. No money......and no help from the government. I remember him commenting “now begins the suffering” a direct translation from Spanish. Still, given the party situation, he seemed cheerful.
About ten PM the fiesta began breaking up, and I wafted up Garcia Vigil
towards Calle Matamoros to a boarding house where I spent a few days. The mescal left me light headed and, though I know downtown Oaxaca really well, I almost got lost.
In late afternoon today I joined a protest march to El Palacio de Gobierno on the Zocalo. We are protesting lack of garbage pick up. Trash is piling up along downtown streets and in the Zocalo. Standing there in front of the Palacio de Gobierno, another protester gave me the low down. It seems that a bunch of people who recently moved near the dump site, no longer want it to function as a dump. It smells and it’s ruining their new neighborhood. Never mind the dump’s been there 15 years.....and they just moved in.
It’s la politica as always. Political garbage. The Governor (Murat), from the PRI party and the Mayor of Oaxaca from a different political party, are at odds. The Governor donated the land outside the City to the 50 families who want the dump closed, never mind a health hazard to the rest of us.
They shouldn’t have moved there in the first place, says Oaxaca’s mayor, Gabino Cue and los cuidanos. My solution would be take all the garbage and pile it at the Governor’s house still on Ave. Juarez nearby. That would get things moving. My idea provoked a few laughs from other protesters. One sign requested that the Governor drop his bad feelings towards the Mayor (Dejar de sus rencores.......) and get the garbage off the street.