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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> La Celebración por el Señor de Esquipulas en Santiago Tetla, Puebla tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

La Celebración por el Señor de Esquipulas en Santiago Tetla, Puebla

I returned to Huaquechula, Puebla in March 2017 so I could photograph the artists who are responsible for building the altars and the folk art that is placed on them during day of the dead. I didn’t have any time to do this when I was there in November of 2016 as it took me two solid days to photograph all of the altars. These objects include the ceramic incense burners, candles, candlestick holders, tinwork, floral bouquets made from satin fabric, alfeñique (sugar figures) and barandales (cut decorative borders created in the style of papel picado). When I made my airplane reservations toward the end of 2016 I had no idea that I would be there during the fourth Friday of Lent. On this day Santiago Tetla, which is a part of the municipality of Huaquechula, celebrates the miracle of the Lord of Esquipulas. Santiago Tetla or Tetla is about a mile and half south of Huaquechula. This non-indigenous village of around 735 residents swells to around 15,000 on this particular day. Many of the people come from the states of Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, Morelos and areas within Puebla. The pilgrims ride their bicycles, take collectivos or walk. I spoke to a lady who walked from the city of Puebla, which is about 35 miles away on the day of the celebration.

The brightly painted yellow santuario is modest in size. The statue of the Lord of Esquipulas, which was brought here from Guatemala in 1886, is approximately thirty-nine inches tall. Throughout the day on March 24th, visitors lined up to go inside the santuario where they could walk behind the altar and touch the clothing of the Lord of Esquipulas. A mass was held every hour and a half inside the santuario. In the afternoon around two o’clock, an outdoor mass took place under a tarp as it could accommodate more people. The heat from the day became extremely intense around noon as the temperature peaked to nearly ninety degrees. Visitors were lying down on the sidewalk or resting on the pews that had been placed outside for the outdoor mass. There was a capilla near the santuario that had a reproduction of the Lord of Esquipulas. Many people bought veladores and placed them on a small metal table to the right of the statue. There was a tremendous amount of faith, reverence and devotion for the Lord of Esquipulas during the day. When some of the pilgrims made their entrance into the courtyard of the santuario a band accompanied them. Many of them were carrying shadow boxes, which contained the Lord of Esquipulas whereas others carried huge floral bouquets. They were allowed inside the santuario immediately.

A fería (fair) also took place. Collectivos ran non-stop from Huaquechula to the entrance of Santiago Tetla. Once I was dropped off I proceeded to walk down the main street, which was now lined with hundreds of stalls. These stalls also surrounded the zócalo (the main square) and the surrounding area of the santuario. Most of the merchandise being sold was regional candies, straw hats, compact discs, rebozos, religious trinkets, votive candles, agua fresas, local bread know as pan de fiesta or pan de burro, pizza and ceramics. The sweets were made from peanuts, amarath, tamarind, bizanga, coconut and squash. Many of the candies were crystallized. There were stacks upon stacks of the pan de fiesta available for purchase. It was decorated with leaves on the top of each loaf. This is sweet bread. Some of the bread had nuts in it. Shrimp mole and shrimp cakes were served in the homes of the residents of Tetla. This is a traditional dish that is made specifically for this time of year. It was served in a bowl. The cakes were baked with a breaded crust and covered with the mole, nopales and a side of potato.

Most of the ceramic merchandise being sold was mainly casserole dishes, huge mole bowls, ollas, jugs and mugs. One could also purchase petates (woven mats). There was definitely a festive mood in the air as people moved from booth to booth. Carnival rides were set up next to the santuario. There was another area that was similar to a food court. Barbacoa (barbequed meat), fish, salads, cookies, ice cream, quesadillas and other food was available for purchase. I had never seen such a huge quantity of food being served during a fiesta.

Once the outdoor mass concluded, my friend Antonio Cazabel who works in the office of tourism in Huaquechula, presented his dance group called Yoloxochitl in Náhuatl or Flor de Corazón (heart of the flower) on the outdoor stage. Antonio is the mastro de la danza. The group performed three dances; one from Huaquechula, the second one from Santiago Tetla and the last one was from Tlaxcala called la Danza de Cuchillos.

What amazed me about this particular visit is the amount of culture within the Valley of Atlixco. When I went to photograph Don Ignacio (Nacho) Peralta whose ceramic work is featured in Banamex’s book from 1998 Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular, he gave me a book on the artists of Huaquechula. I had no idea that masks are created here, along with artists who create toys, palm weaving, religious panels made from seeds and furniture. I have been visiting Mexico for twenty-six years. I must admit, I'm never disappointed in my travels and new discoveries!
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Lady praying to the Lord of Esquipulas
Lady praying to the Lord of Esquipulas
Greeting over front door of the santuario
Greeting over front door of the santuario
Morning Mass
Morning Mass
Praying to Our Lord of Esquipulas
Praying to Our Lord of Esquipulas
Waiting to enter the santuario
Waiting to enter the santuario
Pilgrim carrying floral bouquet
Pilgrim carrying floral bouquet
Crown made from the hearts of palm
Crown made from the hearts of palm
Pilgrim carrying Lord of Esquipulas in shadow box
Pilgrim carrying Lord of Esquipulas in shadow box
Cristo inside the santuario
Cristo inside the santuario
Purple corona
Purple corona
Our Lord of Esquipulas
Our Lord of Esquipulas
Dealing with the heat
Dealing with the heat
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