“I think we are ‘off guidebook’ now.”
“Yes. Yes we are.”
Scroll to the bottom for a video of Zapotec New Year festivities.
Fire glowed everywhere in the darkness. The low hum of conversation punctuated by bursts of loud laughter bounced between the hills and over the river. Sparklers, small explosions, and the boom…crackle of larger explosives. Burning wood flew from hand to hand across the blackness. Quick, tense tosses meant to avoid burned fingers. And by the light of a bonfire, or sometimes a cell phone, families built miniature homes out of stones complete with space for animals and tiny fences.
Just minutes before, our small “family camp” group maneuvered up the hill from Teotitlan del Valle to Cuevita del Pedimento. Gray couples, young families, jostling teens…the whole community was gathering at dusk. Teotitlan del Valle is a small Zapotec community about 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City in the foothills of Sierra Juarez. Its Zapotec name is Xaguixe, which means “at the foot of the mountain.” And that is where we were, at the foot of the mountain. The story goes that many years ago farmers came to the three small caves. The Virgin Mary appeared and granted their plea for water for their crops and animals. Since that time, on the first day of the new year people come to appeal for favors in the coming year.
We bought candles from a vendor who was also selling tiny cows, sheep, wells, cars, babies, miniature money and common things that members of the community might long for. The line to the caves was long. People waited their turn with hopes held in their hands. The brass band serenade, fluttering papel picado, and fireworks made the wait easy. We lit our candles with the fires of other people’s hopes and dreams and set them carefully among the offerings. I hope our kids didn’t envision cows or babies arriving magically at our doorsteps in 2019, but it makes me happy to imagine that everyone in that eager line has New Year’s dreams that come true.
All the gringos you see in the video are with us.