Patron Saints Days in Puerto
Barra de Navidad Fiesta de la Natividad, Calenda Dec. 23
Lázaro Cárdenas Fiesta de Ntra. Sra. de los Pobres, Calenda Jan. 13, Fireworks with castillo Jan. 14
Bajos de Chila Fiesta de San Isidro Labrador, Convite with canasteras Feb. 13, Fireworks with castillo Feb. 14
Virtually every community on the Oaxaca coast big enough to have its own church celebrates its saint’s day with a fiesta. Sometimes, as in Bajos de Chila, the actual saint’s day is preceded and followed by days of more secular events like rodeos and sports tournaments, but always there are masses, a communal dinner and a procession led by a brass band. And there are fireworks.
The dance of the canasteras and of the monos (giant figures with papier mâché heads) are typically part of the calenda (procession through the streets starting at the church). In Chila, however, it is part of the convite, or invitation to the fiesta, which may also include a procession. Eventually there will be a communal meal of tamales or other dishes.
In traditional Oaxacan communities, a group of mayordomos is chosen every year to organize and pay for the events (the bands, the food, and the fireworks). It is a great honor to be named mayordomo.
Unless the mayordomos are very rich, they count on the help of others. Customs vary widely. In Santiago Cuixtla, for example, the mayordomos are chosen by lottery.
Locally, the mayordomo system has been replaced by the fiesta committee. Residents and business owners are asked to make contributions and there may be raffles.
The most important function of the fiesta, according to the Vicar of Puerto Escondido, Héctor Alfonso Santiago Pacheco, is that it strengthens community life. Sometimes a mayordomo is working in the U.S., but by accepting the cargo he maintains his position as a member of the community.
Occasionally, when members of the same community live in proximity in the U.S., they will pay for the parish priest to fly there for the fiesta, a few weeks after it’s celebrated in Oaxaca.