The longest celebration in Mexico begins: Las Vírgenes de Copoya

Tuxtla Gutiérrez was this Wednesday, January 30, chaos. There were blockages at different points which caused the city to become congested in different areas, the rush with which the population is regularly managed on a normal working day increased, in the middle of this is that the Virgins of Copoya fell for the celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria, but the atmosphere in the procession was another.

The celebration this year will take 47 days. Photo: Diario de Chiapas
The celebration this year will take 47 days. Photo: Diario de Chiapas

A hundred people walked from the community of Copoyn, in the upper area of Tuxtla, to the Terán colony, about 15 kilometers, carrying the so-called Virgin of Copoya, which are the images of the Virgin of Candelaria, Rosario, and María de Olochea, that really is an image of Santa Teresa.

The procession left Copoya at about 9:00 am and crossed the entire city by the south road until it reached Terán past noon. During the tour, the images go in wooden boxes, which are wrapped in straw and flowers. They are loaded by the faithful themselves, who take turns throughout the journey.

The celebration of the "descent of the Virgins of Copoya" is hundreds of years old and has remained despite the fact that more than a decade ago the Zoque stewardship, which is the one that maintains the tradition, broke with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Tuxtla, who was against the procession on the grounds that he had pagan elements.

The images of the Virgins remain throughout the year in a hermitage in the Ejido Copoya and go down twice a year. The first is on January 30 for the celebration of the Virgin of Candelaria, which is February 2; and the second time is for the festivities of the Virgin of Olochea from October 14 to 23.

The festival of the Virgins is considered the longest of all Mexico. This year will be 47 days because it concludes until the Palm Sunday, which will be on March 17. There are years that the celebration takes more days because the Palm Sunday date changes.

During the 47 days of celebration, the Virgins are moved to different houses in different parts of the city, so in addition to being a very long celebration, it is also itinerant.

In each house to which they are taken they are received with music, dances and traditional food from the Zoque gastronomy such as guacasiscaldú, which is a kind of beef broth; puctzasé, it is made with guts of beef and chile guajillo; tamales and pozole.

The Zoque stewardship keeps in its celebrations different rites and in some, they are very strict. The women of stewardship are still sitting in a place apart from men. It is not allowed to take photographs or film when the images of the Virgins are exposed.

On the one hand, what is considered traditional food is distributed, but there are also beers and coke everywhere. It is part of a celebration that has survived for centuries and that everyone has and will continue to have changed because it is a living tradition.

On the first day of the festival that was on Wednesday with the fall of the Virgins, the Yomoetzé dance was performed, which is also known as "la robadera" or "la casita". The dance takes more than an hour and women participate, men dressed as women and men with plumes, representing the sun.

The ritual is done in honor of the women who lost their lives during childbirth, but it also refers to the obtaining of fruits and sacred seeds that will allow good harvests for the next agricultural cycle.

"This party has a lot of spins," says one of the zoques butlers, referring to all the rituals that take place during these days as part of the celebration.

The celebration of the Virgins of Copoya unites inhabitants of different areas of the city, who continue to generate the images, and also to different generations, who participate either as dancers, comideras or musicians.

Tuxtla is a city where, constantly, there are blockades, marches, and even confrontations; but it is also a place where there are people who on a "normal" day decide to celebrate their faith, their beliefs, their rites, decide that this place is also theirs.

The original text of this article was published by the Chiapas Paralelo at the following address: https://www.chiapasparalelo.com/trazos/cultura/2019/01/inicio-la-celebracion-mas-larga-de-mexico-las-virgenes-de-copoya/