The people gather for a 5 day weekend in celebration of their family and friends that have gone to the next world. They serve you a steaming hot bowl of thick, foamy chocolate that is by far, the best chocolate I have ever tasted. They bake faces of women into the loaves of bread. They each will probably have a shrine at home that will include marigolds, cocks comb, loquats, bananas, papaya, peanuts, oranges and limes; mescal; coca cola; candles and the little smiling skeletons, katrinas, dolls dressed up to resemble the deceased's life on this earth. Everyone smiles and is joyful; it is a time of great festival in honor of this life and the next and of being together.
Yesterday in Santo Domingo, homebase for chastity, poverty and obedience, I saw a man stop and fold his hands in prayer at the gigantic altar of Guadalupe. Then he did the most extraordinary thing: he produced a vivid pink rose, unique among the dozens of red roses that abound here in Oaxaca, and proceeded to bath his face and neck with this pink rose. Then he held the rose over the altar and crushed the rose with one hand, separating the petals from their stem, letting the fragrant pink tears fall in offering to our Lady at her shrine in the most beautiful baroque church in all of Mexico. Pure unapologetic adoration.
Knelt in the very front row of Santo Domingo last evening about 5, when all of a sudden the lights came on, men in silk suits came down the aisle, followed very shortly by bridesmaids. I waited for someone to ask me to leave or sit in the back o f the church, but no one did. So I had front row seats at dusk for the wedding of a petite, beautiful Zapotec princess and her spectacularly handsome new husband. Apparently, it didn't seem inappropriate to anyone but me that I became gathered up with these people on this very special day in their lives and I was practically overcome with honor, delight and fascination. I was more than a bit troubled by the music that played as she walked to the altar to stand with her parents and her best girlfriends and sisters before the priest to give her wedding vows: Lohengrin! Here Comes The Bride! Her dress and those of the wedding party could have been worn by any bride in any Catholic church in the US: her colors were shades of magenta, violet pink and rose and her mother wore rust-colored garnet. With their burnished brown faces and black eyes and hair, you can imagine what a sight they were with the extraordinary main alter of Santo Domingo as background.
Later, I waited in the square outside the church for their triumphant recessional to their new life as man and wife; a dozen and a half dancers of the Oaxaca folkloric troop waited with me, brilliant in their lime, orange, purple, red, blue, pink, and yellow skirts. Their hair was pulled back and long black yarn braids, woven with brightly-hued ribbons hung down their back. They had big baskets of flowers that they, omigod, hoisted onto their heads and then, began to twirl and dance in a mad tornado, their nimble feet nipping in and out and back again into the lace hems of their petticoats. The bride and groom stood in the gigantic doorway of the church, delightfully reviewing this spectacle in pure rapture. And when it could not be any more graphic, any more sensual, any more surreal, any more unbelievable, everything changed. In a big way. From out of nowhere appeared gigantic, enormous bride and groom caricatures who began to dance and veer awkwardly among the dancers. The crowd roared their approval and delight and at the end of another frenetic whirlwind of smiles, braids, skirts, flowers and color, color, color, called raucously for besos! besos! besos! The two nuptial giants obliged and clumsily tilted toward each in devilish pecks. It was sheer magic.
The crowed dispersed then and walked among the beautifully adorned skulls on display, much like the people do for the floats of the Rose Parade in Pasadena. They'll be a parade tonight, with these gorgeous skulls being danced up and down the streets of Oaxaca on the shoulders of the jubilant Mexicans, who do not fear death and are not afraid of the dead, or even of the living. Not even the white-skinned living!
I realize only this morning that it's is quite possible that it is I who has gone to the next world…
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO