You can’t say Oaxaca doesn’t have it all. Today, even as Oaxaca City is celebrating Candelmas – a religious holiday commemorating baby Jesus’ presentation at the temple – the Oaxacan beach resort of Zipolite is hosting 4,000 or so brave souls in the Fourth Annual Latin American Nudist Festival. But hurry, there’s just one more day to this event billed as the largest nudist festival in the world – you could just jet on down, as you probably won’t need more than a carry-on bag anyway.
Back in el norte, people celebrate February 2 as Groundhog Day, waiting with bated breath to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and we’ll have more or less winter, but that’s another story for another day. Certainly it’s just another tradition from another cultural playbook, neither one weirder than the other.
Candlemas (Candelária in Spanish) is celebrated as the day that Jesus’ earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, presented him for the first time in the temple in accordance with Luke 2:22-40 – graduating, as it were, from swaddling clothes and ending the 40-day home confinement that new mothers and babies adhered to according to Jewish law. (Birth on December 25 + 40 days = February 2).)
Everyone here is carrying around their niño Dios (God child) in various clothes, seated in a chair, and will present him at mass this evening. (See Jesus Gets a Lab Coat for a full accounting of this holiday). If you found the plastic Jesus in your King’s Day bread January 6, this is also the day that you bring tamales to your homies.
Meanwhile, on the beautiful Pacific coast of Oaxaca state, some eight hours up, over and down the mountains, a group of brave souls have gathered to celebrate . . . not having to wear the clothes that baby Jesus is wearing in the city?
The Facebook festival page of events is mind-boggling. It kicked off Feb. 1 with a cultural and musical presentation, even featuring a calenda (a parade featuring dancers with baskets on their heads – but is the parade nudist or just the spectators? How do you politely shove your way onto the parade path without getting too friendly?)
There’s nudist yoga, but isn’t that redundant to even have “nudist” in front since it’s a nudist festival? Day One also featured a beach volleyball tournament, no other comment necessary, and body painting, which one imagines had far more canvas available than usual.
Day two had more yoga and nudist group meals, a boat tour (don’t forget that sunscreen, people!), a cycling event (ouch!), a musical presentation and a talent show. Baton twirling? Romantic ballad singing? Tap dancing, anyone?
Day three – that’s tomorrow! – has surfing classes, more bodypainting and some drum-beating (!). The whole event closes with a “stellar presentation” by Oaxacan native daughter, internationally renowned singer Lila Downs. Now, I saw Lila and her husband, saxophonist Paul Cohen, in a small local concert in Oaxaca City a couple of weeks ago, fully clothed.
Will it be just the audience going without clothes? I can’t imagine Lila performing naked, on stage with all of those microphone cords and all.
Does clapping get things shaking front of the stage? How exactly does it work sitting on plastic chairs? Does everyone bring their own towel? What if you have to catch a cab back to your hotel after the concert?
So many questions, so few answers. A few years ago when I visited Zipolite, nudism was confined to the Playa del Amor (Beach of Love) way down at one end of the whole beach and visually separated by a large rock outcropping.
A year ago, when my son and his best friend spent Thanksgiving on the Oaxacan coast and we day-tripped down to Zipolite, the nudies had pretty much taken over the whole beach and it was a little, well, awkward to say the least. Most of what’s on display is not what you want to be seeing in broad daylight.
And now, well, I guess all 4,000 of them have taken over the entire beach and tiny two-street town. Maybe you’d recognize them after hours by the way they gingerly set those sunburned bottoms onto plastic chairs. And they’ll probably be packing their own towels.
But if if you just can’t get there tomorrow, there’s always next year.
Susan Bean Aycock, embracingthechaos.org