Folklore and Latin America

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Oaxaca Celebration: Family, Food, and Fiestas in Teotitlán

Mary Jane Gagnier de Mendoza

Almost twenty years ago, a young Canadian woman, Mary Jane Gagnier de Mendoza, traveled through Mexico on a journey of self-exploration. One evening on the zocalo in Oaxaca, she met a weaver from the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle, who offered his uncles' help in repairing her broken clarinet. Shortly thereafter the two were married, and rather instantly the Ontario native with wanderlust found herself intimately immersed in the culture and traditions of her new home. Fiestas are synonymous with Mexico and daily ceremonial rituals and celebrations are at the center of Oaxaca's spiritual and social life. Gagnier de Mendoza chronicles the festival cycle in Teotitlán, a Zapotec village located fifteen miles from the capitol. The fiestas here center on the complex art of hosting, whether for family gatherings or religious ceremonies, that involves traditional cooking and flower arranging, candle making and fireworks. Throughout the year village brass bands regularly line the streets in processions featuring plumed dancers and masked actors. Beginning with Christmas posadas through Fiesta of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, prewedding and wedding celebrations, Lent and Holy Week, post-Easter revelry celebrating the patron saints, and ending with the conclusion of the festival cycle with Day of the Dead, this memoir chronicles the spirit-life of an ancient community that day after day honors its gods.


Mary Jane Gagnier de Mendoza has lived in Oaxaca since 1987 when she married master weaver and painter Arnulfo Mendoza in Teotitlán. The same year they opened La Mano Magica, a gallery in Oaxaca featuring fine folk art, textiles, and contemporary painting. Gagnier de Mendoza has lectured on Oaxacan traditional culture and folk traditions and offers cultural immersions programs. As a curator of the arts of Oaxaca, she has organized exhibitions in the United States.

Published By Museum of New Mexico Press

7.5 x 10.5 in. 160 pages 100 color photographs, 1 map