The Far Side of Oaxaca

The parts that didn’t make the Christmas newsletter:

The Virgin of Guadalupe Festival, which rolled a street carnival, religious celebration and Christmas event all into one over-the-top happening. You could sing karaoke with Michael Jackson, get your picture taken with the Virgin and a donkey – but it was the Shrek Donkey (or with Santa Claus AND the Virgin), and eat a million kinds of fried junk food, ladled from huge vats of boiling oil that the throngs threatened to upend.


P1050276The day ended with a huge fireworks tower outlining the Virgin in colored lights with metal parts spinning up towards the heavens and dancing guys in papier maché bull heads trying to throw fireworks sparks into the crowds. Where do those spinning firework wheels land?

The Night of the Radishes Dec. 23, listed in “1000 Things to Do Before You Die,” which even included a Virgin of Guadalupe with the light rays made of pointy radishes, and these little dancing radish guys.


Also a full Zapotec ruin site made out of corn husks. There were militia in full riot gear to hold back the crowds from the radishes, I kid you not. This particular event I love, love, love about Oaxaca.

This nativity scene in Jose’s Uncle Arturo’s house in the village of St. Peter the ApP1050390ostle; if you look closely in the lower right corner, you’ll see the traditional manger gorilla with a baby on its back, approaching the crêche with the rest of the animals.


Who’d have thought that a baptism party could be such a social event? It was a sit-down dinner for 200 (the connection being some cousin-relative of José’s) featuring grasshopper salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber and fried grasshoppers) through five kinds of grilled meats and a bottle of Chivas Regal on every table.


There were party favors from potted plants to tortilla baskets, plus pompons to dance with (or put on your head) and sombreros to go with some of the ranchero music.

Happy, happy new year, and may your strangest dreams come true. Just remember (as I didn’t find out until it was halfway too late), you’re not supposed to eat the grasshoppers’ legs — they get in your teeth.

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