Having spent a lot of time in Teotitlán del Valle, the village in Oaxaca where most of our artisans live, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of Zapotec tradition. That is, until I went to my good friend’s son’s wedding and a whole new set of customs and traditions ensued.
The mother-of-the-groom Crispina had set the date so that I would be able to attend and serve as the Godmother of the Cake. It was an honor for me and a practicality for them. Since these events (such as baptisms, weddings and funerals) are really expensive for people with little money, the cost is mostly divided up among friends who are willing to serve as godparents.
While the celebration spanned four days, the main event takes place in one day and night. The mass at the 400-year-old church seemed familiar enough, but there my prior experience ended. I followed the movements of the crowd of 300 people, a good portion of the village, as we marched from the church to Crispina’s house where the reception took place, accompanied by the community band.
This same band continued to play all day and all night long, through the various ceremonies, eating, and dancing. The songs were totally traditional, and the band certainly would get my award for endurance!
There were too many traditional ceremonies to count. From the individual blessings given to the bride and groom by each guest, to the girls running under the bride’s veil, to the groups of 12 dancing very seriously back and forth in five-minute stints until every last guest had danced, there were so many special moments.
The food was of course amazing in grand Oaxacan tradition, with home grown vegetable soup, chicken mole and tortillas. The women of the village had worked for days preparing all the food and decorations.
It was such an honor to be included in such a momentous event and to be a part of the Zapotec community. It’s people will always be in my heart.
By Shelley Tenneson