On the fourth Friday of Lent in Oaxaca, Mexico, it is the custom to hand out glasses of Aguas Frescas to anyone who passes by. We had no idea that we were about to encounter La Dia de La Samaritana when we stepped into the home of the artist Rodolfo Morales in the town of Ocotlán, Mexico. Actually, there were several things I didn’t know when my impromptu tour group passed through the front gate but when I was offered a glass of Agua Fresca De Chilacoyote, scooped from the large bowl atop the courtyard’s covered well, I paid close attention. It was already pushing toward the day’s high of 93 degrees even though it wasn’t yet noontime and the glass offered was a truly refreshing drink.
The Day of the Samaritan Woman has been celebrated on the fourth Friday in Lent in Oaxaca for over a century. It started in the narthex of a couple of churches and has now become both a major event along restaurant row and a simple act of hospitality outside the front gates of homes and small marketplaces.
La Dia is based on the story, (John 4), of the Samaritan woman who finds Jesus sitting next to the central well of her village. It is a story rich with the metaphors of what happens when strangers of two opposing cultures encounter each other at the center of a common need. Hours and hours of sermons have been preached and reems and reems of papers have been generated on the conversation between the two but in Oaxaca, every Spring, real people hand out real glasses of refreshment to each other with great big smiles and good wishes.
It’s like Halloween in the United States only without the shadows and the mass marketing of costumes and decorations but with the part where everyone welcomes the children and their parents with gifts of candy. It’s a ritual of strangers trusting each other to do no harm. Strangers offering to others a small gift and strangers accepting the gift offered.
I love La Dia de la Samaritana. I think we should be doing this everywhere. It’s such a simple thing really.
Here, are you thirsty? Please, drink this, it is refreshing.
Yes, thank you, I am grateful.
Anitra Kitts lives, works, and writes in Sonoma County, California. A certified candidate for the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament, (ordainable call anyone? anyone?) she dreams of Oaxacan Markets when pushing the shopping cart down the sterile aisles of the local corporate grocery edifice.