Fiesta of Our Lady of Solitude

Our Lady of Solitude, Fiesta of

December 18
The Virgen de la Soledad, or Our Lady of Solitude, is the patroness of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. According to legend, she first appeared in the city in 1543 when a man leading 12 burros arrived in town one night and discovered the next morning that there was a 13th among them. The mysterious animal passed away almost instantaneously, and when the man opened the huge chest it was carrying he discovered an almost life-sized image of the Virgin. A church was built on the site, which was discovered to lie over an immense deposit of silver, and the sealed entrance to the mine can still be seen to the right of the main aisle. Legend has it that the priest used to descend into the mine when it was dark and carry out silver through a tunnel that led to the church.
Preparations for the fiesta begin several days before December 18, when carnival rides and food and gambling booths are set up in the vicinity of the church. For several evenings there are calendas, processions of men and women carrying colored paper lanterns illuminated by candles and poles topped with figures of birds, boats, and other objects made out of flowers, leaves, or colored paper. There are also floats with various themes and huge papier-mâchÉ caricatures of well-known individuals.
Thousands of pilgrims come from all over the state of Oaxaca to see the Virgin, who is dressed in velvet and satin gowns and who wears an emerald-and-diamond-studded crown for the fiesta. Despite her elegant attire, however, she is the patron saint of Mexican sailors, and a folktale holds that she often disappears from her niche at night and comes back at daybreak wet with drops of sea water.
CONTACTS:
Mexico Tourism Board
21 E. 63rd St., Fl. 3
New York, NY 10021
800-446-3942 or 212-821-0314; fax: 212-821-0367
www.visitmexico.com
SOURCES:
FiestaTime-1965, p. 182