Friday, December 24, 2010

Noche de Rabanos

Radishes are not native to Oaxaca, but were first cultivated in China, and were introduced to this part of the world by the Spaniards. The radishes grown for Night of the Radishes are a special species. They grow to about two feet long and can weight up to ten pounds. The carving of the radishes goes back a long way and no one knows exactly how the tradition began.

In 1897 the Mayor of Oaxaca declared December 23 to be La Noche de Rabanos (The Night of the Radishes). It is a one night festival that happens only in Oaxaca. A prize of around $13,000 pesos is given to the artisan deemed the best sculptor. A substantial prize to be sure because Mexico’s average wage is $5.46 American dollars a day. ( I’m sure the average salary is lower here in Oaxaca.)

Two to three months before the festival the seeds are sown in a plot near El Tequio Park. On December 18 the radishes are delivered to the artisans. The artisans arrive at the Zocalo (city center) in the afternoon to setup their displays.

Like the Semana Santa afrombras of Antiqua, Guatemala that I’ve previously written about, the radishes have a similar fate, painstaking work to be quickly discarded. Sculpted vegetables only last a few hours.

People from around the world come to see the radishes. There is a platfom build to accomodate the onlookers, and around the platform a temporary fence is constructed. I stood in line, walked slowly around the circumfernce and snapped about fifty photos. International press were also gatherted, but had badges of identification and special status.

Along with the radish scu;lptures there were totomoxtle, corn husk art and inmortal flor, flower works.

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