Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oaxaca, The Zocalo and The Virgin of Guadalupe, 12/2010

I have been here in Oaxaca for a few days, my first trip in a little over a year. I was wondering if I would see any changes since Cue, the new Governor, was elected, and yes, there is one really huge one, immediately visible: the Zocalo is absolutely jammed, more so each day, with vendors…..and not just vendors of nice locally made goods, but of Chinese

sunglasses and earrings, fresh food vendors with little braziers set up in front of the restaurants, black market CD stations, plus political dissenters (which I think is usually a healthy thing in the Zocalo but not in this instance) who have set up camp under the portal of the former

Presidential Palace with tents, plastic bags, and garbage sacks, who have covered the finally sand-blasted walls from the 2006 demonstrations with new fresh grafitti (which is very hard to remove off the centuries old stone blocks). It's a real mess. Other cities world-wide have limited such free public market space to the artisans themselves, to those who only sell their own hand-made goods. Might work here. There is no room now for the other folks who love to slowly promenade through the Zocalo day and night, one of the loveliest traditions of this great city.

The headlines in the paper this morning also discussed the carnival atmosphere which sprang up at Parque el Llano for the Virgin of Guadalupe Day, normally a solemn, sacred event -- carnival rides on rickety machines, game stands, loop-de-loops, stuffed animals for sale, and lots of fried food and cotton candy. Blaring music. I haven't been here before on December 12, but this certainly lowered the level a bit! The Presidente Municipal promises not to use force to make the vendors move, but there are so many hundreds of people spilling out of each corner, with double rows around the center Zocalo garden areas, that I'm not quite sure how this will get resolved before the traditional Christmas poinsettias and lights are readied for the Night of the Radishes celebration……which requires a clean thoroughfare to show off the carved radishes and cornhusk dolls contest. It is one of the biggest events of the year, and at this moment, has no place to go. I can only hope for a peaceful resolution......

The far northwest corner of Parque el Llano is where the Iglesia de la Virgen de Guadalupe is, and there were hundreds and hundreds of parents carrying their little children who were all dressed as Juan Diego and little peasant girls. They filed past the small image of the Virgen outside the church, kissing her shrine and lighting and leaving a candle at her feet; they then went into the small corner of the park to have their photos taken in front of special dioramas depicting the historic event. The story is that Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, saw a vision of a young woman on December 9, 1531, while he was on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City, Mexico. He told the local bishop, who asked for some proof. Three days later, according to legend, the image of Mary appeared miraculously on his cloak when he was showing it to the bishop. Today the cloak is displayed in the Basilica of Guadalupe nearby, one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico's most popular religious and cultural image (thank you, Wikipedia….). It was quite touching and the kids were absolutely adorable! Although with the donkeys present , and all the hubbub, it did remind me a bit of having my picture taken as a child with my parents on a painted donkey/zebra in Tijuana, Mexico many years ago.