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Trip Features

Immersion in the world of a village festival

Colorful parades and ritual feather dances
Traditional Feasts
Tamale making
Chocolate making
Mescal stills
Visits to the potter, the baker and the firework maker
Market and museum visits
Explore Zapotec society, both contemporary and a ruined city 2,500 years old
Lodging in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle and the UNESCO world heritage city of Oaxaca
Small group travel

Zapotec Festival, El Rosario
TOX1009-ER
Dates TBA - late September/early October, 2010
(For tour price and other information, please see the Trip Details sidebar on this page)

An unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the heart of a traditional Zapotec festival in one of Oaxaca’s most lovely and friendly villages, Teotitlan del Valle

Trip
Details
Where Oaxaca, Mexico
When TBA - late September/early October, 2010

 

Duration 8 nights
Size 7 to 10 participants
Cost $1,680. Includes all lodging (double occupancy, nights in Teotitlan with shared bathrooms), all listed meals and events, local transport by private van, small group. Does not include airport transfers, personal items, meals not listed. Single Supplement $200 .
Trip Guide Eric Mindling

Tonala pottery making - Traditions Mexico Tours

Participate in feasts and meet ritual dancers . . .

Once a year the village of Teotitlán del Valle pulls out the stops to celebrate the catholic festival of El Rosario. This festival involves the entire village and includes a parade of women adorned with flowers and images of saints, a marathon 8-hour ritual dance, brass bands, ceremony, communal feasts, a village dance, booming fireworks, hot tamales and a good time! This tour takes you into the middle of this festival. We will see it from the inside out, meeting the ritual dancers, participating in the feasts, learning to make tamales, visiting the fireworks maker and getting to know the village on a first name basis. For 5 nights we’ll stay in a small lodge on the edge of the village, close enough to be in on the action, far enough to escape from it when we’ve had our fill. Our travels will take us into the village and beyond, to a village of potters, to a baker’s workshop, the house of ceremonial candlemakers, and to the ruins of ancient Zapotec palaces. We’ll also take time to visit the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca, spending some time to explore the plazas and markets. We will eat well, meet good people and enjoy the pomp and boom of a village party.

 

This trip will be guided by Eric Mindling

Itinerary
(B, L, D = Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner provided)

Teotitlan is the weaving center of Oaxaca
Teotitlan is the weaving center of Oaxaca

Day 1. (D) Arrive in Oaxaca. We’ll gather as a group this afternoon to get to know each other and then head out into Oaxaca city for dinner. Evening in Oaxaca.

Day 2. (B,L) Today we take some time to get a sense of the history behind that culture that we’ll be immersed in the rest of the week. We’ll visit the spectacular Regional Museum of Santo Domingo in the morning, and after lunch we’ll travel up a nearby hill to explore the ruined Zapotec ceremonial and market center of Monte Alban, which in its heyday 1,200 years ago was something like a Oaxaca version of Rome.We’ll also have some time to explore Oaxaca city- sip a drink in the lively central plaza and peek into the old market nearby. Evening in Oaxaca.

Sunday Market in Tlacolula, Oaxaca
Sunday Market in Tlacolula, Oaxaca

Day 3. (L,D) Our journey into the festival begins with a visit to some of the tradespeople who supply elements for the festival.  One of the key elements in any Oaxacan festival, and this one is no exception, are fireworks. From huge bottle rockets to grand pyrotechnic displays burned in the church courtyard at the heart of the festival, the trade of the firework man, or cohetero, is essential. We’ll visit a fireworks shop (please, no smoking!) and see how this work is done. Bread is another essential element and we’ll step into a traditional bakery to watch some of the process of making ceremonial bread. And of course no fiesta is complete without good firewater. In Oaxaca there is a whole village dedicated to making good, strong brew from the agave or century plant. We’ll visit a still that creates some fine mescal. And since we’ll be in the neighborhood, we’ll visit the famous ruined Zapotec palaces of Mitla, once very much the center of festival activity! In the afternoon we’ll settle into our little hotel, which will be our home for the next five nights. Evening in Teotitlan del Valle.

Master potter creates a traditional form
Master potter
creates a traditional form

Day 4. (B,L,D) Chocolate is an ancient and important festival drink (remember, Mexico gave chocolate to the world) and this morning, after drinking some for breakfast, we’ll head to a mill, buy the raw ingredients and mill a batch of our very own Oaxacan chocolate. We’ll also visit a basket maker who uses cane to create bread baskets, market baskets and so on. We’ll also visit an amazing graveyard today, a place of topsy turvy gravestones all draped under the boughs of enormous cypress trees. After lunch we’ll spend some time exploring the silent ruins of the Zapotec palaces and fortress of Yagul, all alone on a small mesa surrounded by cactus, cornfields and soaring hawks.  Evening in Teotitlan.

Saint's images ready for the Sangre Preciosa festival in Teotitlan, Oaxaca
Saint's images ready for the Sangre Preciosa festival in Teotitlan, Oaxaca

Day 5. (BLD) Today we explore Teotitlan. We begin our day with a demonstration of natural dyeing techniques used by one of Teotitlan’s premiere dye masters. Then we visit a home workshop where the elaborate ceremonial beeswax candles, so important to Teotitlan ritual, are made. We’ll see how the tapers are poured and see how flowers are created from hot wax. Continuing our explorations, we’ll visit a rug weaver or two-there are 5,000 to choose from- but not all are made the same and we’ll take you to some of our favorites. We’ll peek into the lovely church, being prepared for the upcoming festival and have a good, country lunch in a weaver’s household. Evening in Teotitlan. 

Sangre Preciosa festival in Teotitlan, Oaxaca
Sangre Preciosa festival in Teotitlan, Oaxaca

Day 6. (B,L,D) Cooking and eating are, of course, central themes in any festival. With that in mind we head this morning to a nearby village of artisans who have produced cooking pottery for the last 3,000 years or so. We’ll meet a family of potters who will show us how they make their pots, and perhaps even put some of their pottery to work to cook us some Zapotec stew with mega-tortillas for lunch. Then we return to Teotitlan, for the festival begins today with a town wide parade of dozens of  Zapotec women adorned in flowers and images of saints accompanied by fireworks, a brass band, masked dancers and good fun. …. Evening in Teotitlan 

Day 7. (B,L,D) We start the morning in the cheerful, local market of Teotitlan, where folks from the village come to buy, sell and chit chat. We’ll then go to work doing what most Teotitlan households are doing this morning, making tamales for the fiesta. We’ll work hands-on with a Zapotec family making (and later eating) Teotitlan style tamales. Ground corn, cooked chicken, a mild pepper sauce and green leaves of corn. Today the festival continues, not only with tamales, but also with the beginnings of the ritural dances in the tree shaded plaza of the church. Teotitlan is famous, among other things, for the danza de la pluma, or the feather dance. This is a ritual dance preformed by 8 to 20 dancers that metaphorically depicts the conquest, and aside from that is colorful and a lot of fun to watch. Indeed, have a look- http://www.metamorfosisdocumentationproject.com/plumaDocumentary.html.

Later in the evening the party continues with the spectacular burning of the Castillo, the booming, sizzling, spark-filled fireworks exhibition in the courtyard of the church. If you are thinking 4th of July, you’ve got it wrong. It’s a bit more in your face and sizzling than that. Evening in Teotitlan.

 

Sangre Preciosa scene

Day 8. (B,L,D) Today is the final day of the festival and the day of the Virgen del Rosario. For those who wish to get up early this morning, we can visit the early morning mass for the feather dancers in which they offer their pledge to service as ritual dancers. This is followed by a breakfast for the dancers, families and friends. We are invited. Later is the open mass for the village in general. The feather dancers will dance 8 hours today, food will be eaten, the band will play, there will be fireworks, tamales, chocolate, mescal…when we’ve had our fill we’ll load up and head back to Oaxaca city for a quiet afternoon of exploring on our own before a final dinner feast together and some sharing of memories. Evening in Oaxaca.

Day 9, (B) Your breakfast is included this morning before you head to the airport and back to the far away land called home.

 

San Domingo, Oaxaca
San Domingo, Oaxaca
San Domingo, Oaxaca
San Domingo, Oaxaca

 

 

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