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Once I heard about the Night of the Radishes, I knew I had to see it. So when my friend Kate, who lived at the time (2016) in Mexico, invited me to take a Christmas/New Years guided tour to Oaxaca, -- I was IN!
Since colonial times, Oaxaca has had a Christmas Market on December 23 in the Zocalo (main plaza). The vendors carved radishes as a way to draw attention to their wares. Then, in 1897, the Mayor declared that there would be a competition for the best radish sculptures every year.
As Oaxaca grew and farmland disappeared, the growing of the radishes was taken over by the city. The radishes stay extra long in the ground and are over- fertilized, so they're very big and can take very weird shapes. Some of these enlarged and artsy veggies weigh over five pounds! That's a hella big radish! These babies aren't destined for a salad.They're inedible by the time they're picked. They're the raw material for ARTISTS! Kinda like Oaxaca's version of Carrera marble.
There's a special competition for children. I was there earlier in the day, so I didn't see any of their finished work.
There are many competitions, organized by the theme the artist has chosen. The Grand Prize goes to the winner in the Traditional category, which includes religious scenes and scenes of Oaxacan life.
The contestants need to wait to design their sculptures until they actually get their portion of Oaxacan marble on December 18, because they have no idea what shapes and sizes they'll have to work with. You can see on the left how the artist used those two equally crooked radishes for the uplifted arms of the main figure.
Above is a very detailed recreation of a religious procession. The Trinity on the left. It looks like the Virgin as Consolation in the middle. And the statues are riding on little radish trucks! Wow. I couldn't even get the whole thing in. Looks like Grand Prize material to me. The Grand Prize is 15,000 pesos, which equals $755 U.S.
If you'd like more information on the Night of the Radishes, you can find it on Wikipedia.
The radishes wilt after a few hours, so the festival has to happen on ONE DAY. The artist/designers arrive early in the afternoon with their all their fixings. There are usually about 100 entrants. Each booth has a banner above it, announcing the title of the radish creation and the names of the creators. The major public event is after dark -- ie NIGHT of the Radishes. But we got there early. This unique event has become quite famous and crowded when the official festivities begin.
You can wait hours in line to slowly walk by the booths at night. There are thousands of people. I mean, let's face it: If you've got a yen to see carved radishes, you have no other choices! Ya gotta get yourself to Oaxaca on December 23rd!
We went in the late afternoon, so we could avoid the crowds AND see people creating their displays. We could actually even chat a bit with the artists, in our rudimentary Spanish.
The trade-off was that we didn't see all the finished work and I don't know who won the Grand Prize. But that's alright.
For me, the most exciting thing is to see the CREATION of the performance, not the performance itself.
There are also cornhusk creations and dried flower creations. Left is an almost life-size cornhusk woman. Below the photo of me is a close-up of a very large cornhusk & cob orchestra.
These are called "immortal flowers," because they don't lose their color when dried.
And the rest are radishes. A small selection from so many amazing creations.
Zocalo on Market day,
with cheese, bread, pottery & other things for sale.
The Zocalo with a gazebo, a mezcal stand and dogs playing. Mezcal is a very big deal in Oaxaca. It's a form of tequila that's supposed to have psychedelic properties.
of the Zocalo.
I don't know where these little radish dogs ended up. They are so ALIVE!
Well, Bloggelinis, this is a small sampling of The Night of the Radishes -- or perhaps I should say The AFTERNOON of the Radishes, which is when these photos were taken. If you go, I recommend staying 3 or 4 blocks from the Zocalo, because it's REALLY noisy. I'm not a Christmas kinda person, but Christmas in Oaxaca is something else. And the Radishes aren't the only thing that's happening.