Here are some of the celebrations I observed during my time in Oaxaca (including weddings, funerals, and religious events).
During my visit to Oaxaca, I had no idea I would have the opportunity to witness so many celebrations. It is like events we tend to celebrate with our families and close friends, in Oaxaca are celebrated with the entire community. Furthermore, events are celebrated with music, no matter if they are related to joy or sorrow.
Here is a peek of what the celebrations observed:
On our first day touring the many interesting sites of Oaxaca, we saw a funeral procession at the Ex-Monastery Santiago Apostol located at Cuilapam de Guerrero (a small town located 10 miles from the capital’s center). Men carrying a coffin were followed by women and children holding big flower bouquets. A band was playing a funeral march while following the group.
Minutes later, we were able to observe a priest officiating the present body mass. I didn’t take pictures or videos because I wanted to show respect towards the moment. However, the band and the music caught my attention because it is not something we are used to seeing in the U.S.
The following day, while visiting the Santo Domingo Church in Oaxaca’s historic center, we observed a wedding party arriving at the ceremony. It was interesting to see the bridesmaids taking their positions, the bride arriving and the priest waiting for the entire party in front of the church. Oh, and it is always a good time to take a look at wedding dresses.
The bride was wearing a gorgeous one. The ceremony was open to the public since I believe the church cannot be closed for private events. Once again, we left because I felt weird staying in an event where we didn’t know anybody (we saw some visitors entering the wedding party).
We were surprised by what we saw and heard about an hour later. We also entered the monastery which is an integral part of the Santo Domingo Church. It houses the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cultures Museum) and, most important, the treasure of Monte Alban.
While walking around the museum, we heard loud explosions. It wasn’t surprising since the night before we heard a lot of firecrackers exploding. We walked towards a courtyard open to the space in front of the Santo Domingo Church.
There was a big crowd surrounding a band, dancers, and giant puppets. The carnival atmosphere was celebrating the newlyweds! We got infected by the happiness surrounding the plaza. I am pretty sure the wedding party was heading towards the reception later during the day. The celebration in the plaza was like a public announcement of two people joining their lives.
One night while walking around the zocalo, I got a glimpse of a group of men wearing tight-fitting jackets, baggy trousers, and cloaks. They were singing popular songs with guitars. Any person would have passed the group without paying any attention. But, I knew what they were and I have not seen a group like that in about 15 years.
This musical group is called a tuna. It usually consists of college students who play guitars and sing songs in traditional dress. The university I attended (University of Puerto Rica) has one of these groups (Tuna Bardos). This is a tradition we inherited from Spain and Portugal. It was incredible to enjoy a musical performance by a tuna in Oaxaca. Research shows there are tunas in Spain, Portugal, France, Canada, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean.
Day of the Virgin of the Rosary
We spent a weekend in Oaxaca and were able to experience the festive ambient. There were musical groups playing next to the main cathedral. People were wearing different costumes. There were giant puppets walking around the streets. The columns of the cathedral were covered with fresh flowers.
Later, I discovered we visited during the Virgin of the Rosary festivities (October 18). However, I am not sure if Oaxaca is always celebrating something or if they were really celebrating something special.
We also saw a lot of young ladies in front of the cathedral. By their puffy dresses and ages, we assumed they were celebrating their 15 years. Again, it was interesting to observe the intricate (and expensive) dresses they wear for occasions like that.
Have you observed similar celebrations? Let me know in the comments section below.