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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> La Danza de los Viejos o Lanii Xhtée Guul-iush en Teotitlán del Valle 2015 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

La Danza de los Viejos o Lanii Xhtée Guul-iush en Teotitlán del Valle 2015

The first and second time I went to Teotitlán del Valle for La Danza de los Viejos (the dance of the grandparents) was in 2001 and 2002. At that time I only took photos in section one of the village. When I returned in 2012, I took photos in all five sections however, I didn’t photograph the dancing for section four on the Palacio Municipal as it rained. Due to fatigue from the heat, I only photographed the procession and the dancing in front of the Palacio Municipal for section 5. This year I photographed all five parties, all the processions and all of the dancing in front of the Palacio Municipal for the five days of the festivities.

This Zapotec village is divided into five sections. Each day a different section sponsors the fiesta that takes place before the viejos or elders known as Guul-iush in Zapotec and their wives known as Xhoós process to the Palacio Municipal. The viejos represent authorities from the past. Their wives are men dressed up in the traditional traje of the village. The viejos are picked for their knowledge of the customs in the village along with the ability to tell good jokes in Zapotec. Their identity is unknown. The role of the wives is secondary as they assist the viejos up the stairs to the office of the presidencia and they laugh at all of their jokes. As the viejos are quite old they walk hunched over carrying walking sticks. Their voices are low, raspy and they grunt quite a bit. Their hinged masks clap as they open and shut. The wives have an extremely high pitch voice known as “el grito”.

The viejos and their wives are different for each section. Even the masks are different that the viejos wear from section to section. They all have different personalities and different styles of dancing. There is live music and comida (lunch) in the five homes that sponsor the parties prior to the dancing in front of the Palacio Municipal. It is a huge undertaking to sponsor these parties. The women from each section do all the cooking. They must feed around one hundred people. Section five has the greatest responsibility as they provide presents for the people who place in the concurso (contest) for the best costumes on Friday evening. The concurso concludes the activities of La Danza de los Viejos.

What I particularly admire about Teotitlán del Valle is the reverence of traditions. The graciousness one witnesses here is exceptional when attending a fiesta in the home. When one arrives at each of the homes, the hosts greet you in their altar room. The hosts cup your hand and welcome you in Zapotec. You thank them for the invitation to attend their party and they thank you for coming. In turn, you as the guest either present them with a monetary donation for the party or you bring them a case of beer or a bottle of mezcal. All monetary donations are logged into a book with your name and the amount of your donation to the fiesta. The hosts kiss the bottle of mezcal or your monetary donation. It’s very touching and quite sweet.

The guests are all men. The only women seen at the party are the women from each section preparing the food. There is quite a bit of mezcal and room temperature beer served before the comida. The men are fed first and then the band. Once the band has finished eating the women finally get a chance to enjoy the food they prepared. They enjoy drinking mezcal and beer as well. Once the women finish eating the band begins to play the jarabe. This is a traditional dance where the men dance in one line and the women dance opposite of them in another line. Stocks of poleo are given to everyone who dances the jarabe. This herb is used to bless the fiesta. It can also be used to prepare a tea for a hangover.

Once this custom is completed the viejos and their wives appear. They immediately enter the altar room of the house where they say a prayer and remove their hats. Once this is completed, they greet the hosts of the party. The wives of the viejos are given a huge, beautifully painted xiapextle (a painted gourd) that has been filled with flowers made from sugar and candies. These gourds were prepared by the women from each section. After receiving these gifts, the viejos and their wives proceed to dance the jarabe.

Once they have completed dancing the jarabe everyone gets ready for the procession to the Palacio Municipal. Men from the respective sections carry the xiapextles; another man carries a huge, green ceramic pitcher of tepache (a fermented beverage made from the rind of pineapples, sweetened with brown sugar and cinnamon),another man carries a bundle of poleo that will be distributed to the authorities of the village, fruit, bottles of mezcal, beer and cigarettes. Usually waiting outside of each fiesta house are men and boys dressed up as women who join the viejos and their wives in the procession. Most of the boys wear Halloween masks and contemporary clothing. Some of the sections have two men who are known as Chihuahuas. Originally, the Chihuahuas played an important part during La Danza de los Viejos as they carried buckets of water to serve to the crowd that comes to the Palacio Municipal to watch the dancing. Due to the fact that it is normally very hot this time of year, the Chichuahuas would scoop water into a cup and serve water to the people attending the fesitivities.

Once the procession has arrived at the Palacio Municipal the viejos, their wives and the men from each section enter the office of the presidente. The viejos greet the presidente with much respect by removing their hats once again. The viejos need to obtain permission from the presidente to become the authorities for about three hours. After much formality on the part of the viejos the presidente grants permission to them to become the authorities for a short time. A benediction is then said. The viejos now are allowed to proceed onto the main plaza in front of the Palacio Municipal where the dancing will begin after respects are paid to all of the local authorities. The viejos and their wives will dance with all the authorities in the village.

After all the authorities have danced with the viejos and their wives, the viejos must return their authority back to the presidente. After going through the necessary rituals to relinquish their authority the viejos, their wives, the men from each section and the band proceed to the home of the centurion. The centurion is a young boy around the age or eight or nine who portrays a Roman soldier asking for Christ’s death during Semana Santa. He is the mayordomo of La Danza de los Viejos. His parents take on a huge promesa as they sponsor all five of these parties. About four hundred guests attend these parties that usually last until three or four in the morning.

Finally, I would like to thank my good friend Don Isaac Vásquez and his son Jeronimo for assisting me in documenting this event, along with the Presidente Hilaro Bautista Lazo and the hosts from all five sections. It was a joy to completely document this joyous and fabulous event. ¡Muchas gracias a todos!
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The Viejos from Section 2
The Viejos from Section 2
Procession with Section 1
Procession with Section 1
Dancing away at Section 1
Dancing away at Section 1
The Trumpet player, Section 1
The Trumpet player, Section 1
The Ladies at Section 1 having comida
The Ladies at Section 1 having comida
Evaristo greeting his guest, Section 1
Evaristo greeting his guest, Section 1
Un Grupo, Section 1
Un Grupo, Section 1
Los Chihuahuas, Section 1
Los Chihuahuas, Section 1
Group of Masked Participants
Group of Masked Participants
Los Viejos y Las Esposas, Sección 4
Los Viejos y Las Esposas, Sección 4
Los Niños en la procesión
Los Niños en la procesión
The Presidente having a toast with Section 5
The Presidente having a toast with Section 5
Saludos, Section 4
Saludos, Section 4
Retrato de Un Viejo, Section 2
Retrato de Un Viejo, Section 2
Section 1 arriving at the Palacio Municipal
Section 1 arriving at the Palacio Municipal
Section 2 entering the office of the presidencia
Section 2 entering the office of the presidencia
La Abuela from Section 1 dancing the jarabe
La Abuela from Section 1 dancing the jarabe
Las Mujeres from Section 4
Las Mujeres from Section 4
The Men from Section 1 praying at the altar
The Men from Section 1 praying at the altar
The Presidente  and Sindico having their first shot of mezcal
The Presidente and Sindico having their first shot of mezcal
The men from Section 1 greeting the band
The men from Section 1 greeting the band
Wearing Mask of Viejo, Section 2
Wearing Mask of Viejo, Section 2
Las Mujeres of Section 1
Las Mujeres of Section 1
Dancing in the Streets
Dancing in the Streets
2 Masked Dancers at Section 2
2 Masked Dancers at Section 2
La Banda for Section 3
La Banda for Section 3
Paco and friend carrying xiapextles
Paco and friend carrying xiapextles
Los Viejos greeting the hosts of section 1
Los Viejos greeting the hosts of section 1
Los Dos Hombres, Section 2
Los Dos Hombres, Section 2
Salomon and Don Isaac dancing the jarabe
Salomon and Don Isaac dancing the jarabe
Section 1 having a toast with the Presidente
Section 1 having a toast with the Presidente
Section 4 praying at the altar
Section 4 praying at the altar
2nd Viejo from Section 3
2nd Viejo from Section 3
Anastacio and his wife, Section 2
Anastacio and his wife, Section 2
Antonio carrying the tepache
Antonio carrying the tepache
Los Viejos greeting the ladies at Section 1
Los Viejos greeting the ladies at Section 1
Las Mujeres from Section 3 watching the dance
Las Mujeres from Section 3 watching the dance
Tomás the host of Section 4
Tomás the host of Section 4
The Viejos meeting the men from Section 2
The Viejos meeting the men from Section 2
Time for a mezcal, Section 4
Time for a mezcal, Section 4
Un Niño como una Niña
Un Niño como una Niña
Viejo from Section 5
Viejo from Section 5
Viejo from Section 4
Viejo from Section 4
Section 2 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 2 off to the Palacio Municipal
Masked guests greeting the hosts of Section 4
Masked guests greeting the hosts of Section 4
Masked Dancers in Section 3 Procession
Masked Dancers in Section 3 Procession
Masked dancers in Section 2 procession
Masked dancers in Section 2 procession
Masked dancer with rebozo
Masked dancer with rebozo
Carrying xiapextle in procession
Carrying xiapextle in procession
Having the first shot of mezcal
Having the first shot of mezcal
Little Chihuahua, Section 5
Little Chihuahua, Section 5
Los Viejos y Las Mujeres, Section 1
Los Viejos y Las Mujeres, Section 1
Section 4 greeting their hosts
Section 4 greeting their hosts
Section 5 Viejo greeting host
Section 5 Viejo greeting host
Section 4 speaking with the Presidente
Section 4 speaking with the Presidente
Dance of the Viejos Section 3
Dance of the Viejos Section 3
La madre y su hija, Section 1
La madre y su hija, Section 1
Las Mujeres, Sección 4
Las Mujeres, Sección 4
Lady from Section 3 dancing the jarabe
Lady from Section 3 dancing the jarabe
Serving up the mezcal, Section 2
Serving up the mezcal, Section 2
Los Viejos dancing the jarabe, Section 1
Los Viejos dancing the jarabe, Section 1
Man from Section 4 dancing the jarabe
Man from Section 4 dancing the jarabe
The Men from Section 1 dancing the jarabe
The Men from Section 1 dancing the jarabe
Tomás's son dancing the jarabe, Section 4
Tomás's son dancing the jarabe, Section 4
Esposa from Section 3
Esposa from Section 3
Masked Dancer greeting the Sindico
Masked Dancer greeting the Sindico
Natala pouring mezcal, Section 4
Natala pouring mezcal, Section 4
Preparing the chicken for the mole, Section 1
Preparing the chicken for the mole, Section 1
Section 1 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 1 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 3 carrying the xiapextle
Section 3 carrying the xiapextle
Section 4 meeting with the Presidente & the Sendico
Section 4 meeting with the Presidente & the Sendico
Section 4 preparing higadito
Section 4 preparing higadito
Alberto como un diablo
Alberto como un diablo
The Band for Section 1
The Band for Section 1
The Chihuahuas dancing, Section 2
The Chihuahuas dancing, Section 2
The Hosts of Section 1 greeting the guests
The Hosts of Section 1 greeting the guests
The Band for Section 2
The Band for Section 2
Serving Up the Mole Colorado, Section 2
Serving Up the Mole Colorado, Section 2
The Mayor de Vara speaking with the Viejo
The Mayor de Vara speaking with the Viejo
Swing your partner, Section 4
Swing your partner, Section 4
The Esposa of the Viejo, Section 1
The Esposa of the Viejo, Section 1
The Presidente helping Section 4 Viejo
The Presidente helping Section 4 Viejo
The Ladies of Section 4 having a good laugh
The Ladies of Section 4 having a good laugh
The Men from Section 4
The Men from Section 4
Masked Dancers greeting the Mayor de Vara & the Topiles
Masked Dancers greeting the Mayor de Vara & the Topiles
Preparing the comida at Section 3
Preparing the comida at Section 3
Section 1 procession
Section 1 procession
Section 3 Viejos and Esposas at altar
Section 3 Viejos and Esposas at altar
The Men from Section 1
The Men from Section 1
The Viejo presenting the Presidente with glasses for drinking mezcal
The Viejo presenting the Presidente with glasses for drinking mezcal
Section 5 Viejo
Section 5 Viejo
Section 1 in the office of the Presidencia
Section 1 in the office of the Presidencia
Viejo from Section 3 coming down the stairs
Viejo from Section 3 coming down the stairs
Viejo from Section 3
Viejo from Section 3
Viejo from section 5 inviting the Presidente to dance
Viejo from section 5 inviting the Presidente to dance
Section 5 Esposa dancing with the Presidente
Section 5 Esposa dancing with the Presidente
A Lively Couple, Section 1
A Lively Couple, Section 1
Soledad having a beer, Section 4
Soledad having a beer, Section 4
Section 5
Section 5
The Viejos from Section 4 dancing
The Viejos from Section 4 dancing
Section 2
Section 2
Esposa from section 3
Esposa from section 3
Section 4 meeting with the Presidente
Section 4 meeting with the Presidente
Preparing the comida at Section 4
Preparing the comida at Section 4
Retrato de Manuel el tiene 93 años
Retrato de Manuel el tiene 93 años
Masked Guest at Section 4
Masked Guest at Section 4
Preparing the dough for the tortillas at Section 1
Preparing the dough for the tortillas at Section 1
Section 3 Viejos approaching the office of the Presidencia
Section 3 Viejos approaching the office of the Presidencia
Section 4 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 4 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 2 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 2 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 3 dancing the jarabe
Section 3 dancing the jarabe
Section 4 entering the office of the Presidencia
Section 4 entering the office of the Presidencia
Carrying tepache in procession, Section 5
Carrying tepache in procession, Section 5
Section 5 Band
Section 5 Band
The Presidente and Sindico pouring the tepache
The Presidente and Sindico pouring the tepache
The Topiles
The Topiles
Section 1 greeting the Presidente and the Sindico
Section 1 greeting the Presidente and the Sindico
Chihuahua holding bucket of water
Chihuahua holding bucket of water
Section 4 approaching the Palacio Municipal
Section 4 approaching the Palacio Municipal
Esposa from Section 1
Esposa from Section 1
Drummer in Section 5 procession
Drummer in Section 5 procession
Everyone dancing the jarabe
Everyone dancing the jarabe
Festive group at Section 5
Festive group at Section 5
Little Viejito dancing away
Little Viejito dancing away
Viejo greeting the topiles
Viejo greeting the topiles
Un Viejo from Section 2
Un Viejo from Section 2
Salomon dancing  the jarabe, Section 3
Salomon dancing the jarabe, Section 3
El Viejo from Section 3
El Viejo from Section 3
La Abuela at Section 3
La Abuela at Section 3
Section 1 presenting bottle of mezcal to the Presidente
Section 1 presenting bottle of mezcal to the Presidente
La Abuela, Section 2
La Abuela, Section 2
The Viejos and their wives meeting the hosts of Section 3
The Viejos and their wives meeting the hosts of Section 3
Section 3 pasing out poleo to the authorities
Section 3 pasing out poleo to the authorities
Helping Section 5 Viejo down the stairs
Helping Section 5 Viejo down the stairs
Section 4 coming up Avenida Juarez
Section 4 coming up Avenida Juarez
Section 5 climbing up the stairs
Section 5 climbing up the stairs
Section 5 Viejo dancing the jarabe
Section 5 Viejo dancing the jarabe
Shall We Dance?
Shall We Dance?
Tuba players at Section 3
Tuba players at Section 3
Section 4 speaking with the Presidente
Section 4 speaking with the Presidente
Section 3 dancing
Section 3 dancing
Section 2 pouring a shot of mezcal for the Viejos
Section 2 pouring a shot of mezcal for the Viejos
Section 3 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 3 off to the Palacio Municipal
Section 1 Walking to Palacio Municipal
Section 1 Walking to Palacio Municipal
La Danza de los Viejos, Section 2
La Danza de los Viejos, Section 2
Section 5 meeting with the Presidente
Section 5 meeting with the Presidente
Section 5 musician
Section 5 musician
Section 5 off the to Palacio Municipal
Section 5 off the to Palacio Municipal
Waiting for the next dance
Waiting for the next dance
Section 2 Viejo greeting the crowd
Section 2 Viejo greeting the crowd
Dancing on the Plaza
Dancing on the Plaza
Una Chihuahua at Section 1
Una Chihuahua at Section 1
Antonio or Antonina, the Flirt
Antonio or Antonina, the Flirt
Un Viejito, Section 1
Un Viejito, Section 1
Viejo from Section 4 dancing the jarabe
Viejo from Section 4 dancing the jarabe
Handing out nieves
Handing out nieves
Dance Couple
Dance Couple
Dancer in white
Dancer in white
Dancers on the plaza
Dancers on the plaza
Dancing Away
Dancing Away
Strike a Pose
Strike a Pose
The Presidente helping Viejo from Section 2
The Presidente helping Viejo from Section 2
The secretaries dancing the jarabe
The secretaries dancing the jarabe
Another viejito dancing
Another viejito dancing
Las Dos Esposas Section 3
Las Dos Esposas Section 3
Mariachi Dancer, Section 5
Mariachi Dancer, Section 5
Section 1 entering the office of the Presidencia
Section 1 entering the office of the Presidencia
The Hosts of Section 4
The Hosts of Section 4
Viejo and Eposa from Section 3
Viejo and Eposa from Section 3
The Viejos from Section 3
The Viejos from Section 3
Soledad dancing the jarabe, Section 4
Soledad dancing the jarabe, Section 4
Section 2 moving along
Section 2 moving along
El Diablo y La Mujer
El Diablo y La Mujer
Getting a shoe shine
Getting a shoe shine
Chihuahua from Section 4
Chihuahua from Section 4
All Bundled Up
All Bundled Up
Antonio or Antonina dancing
Antonio or Antonina dancing
Dancer with turkey
Dancer with turkey
La Familia
La Familia
Mask dancer on the plaza
Mask dancer on the plaza
Las Esposas from Section 4
Las Esposas from Section 4
Section 2 procession
Section 2 procession
La comida higadito
La comida higadito
Section 5 Viejo dancing away
Section 5 Viejo dancing away
Handing out nieves to the authorities
Handing out nieves to the authorities
Masked dancer in women's traje
Masked dancer in women's traje
Masked Dancer with bonnet
Masked Dancer with bonnet
More Masked Dancers
More Masked Dancers
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