Oaxaca has so many interesting and unique traditions and yesterday we learned first hand about another one. The fourth Friday of Lent is known here as El Día de la Samaritana, (Day of the Samaritan Woman) referring to the woman with whom Jesus chats by a well while traveling through Samaria in John 4. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water and the two end up in a candid conversation where Jesus reveals his identity as the Living Water and the Christ.
On this day, people all over the city honor the woman at the well by offering a free, cold drink to passers-by. It is common to see a table set up in front of a church or a home or a business serving typical Oaxacan aguas. At the torta shop around the corner from our house, we were given the choice of horchata, which is sweetened rice water served with diced up cantaloupe and pecans, or chilacayote, a drink made from a squash of the same name and sweetened with sugar, honey and cinnamon. (For the record, I love horchata, but still have a hard time with chilacayote. It’s just that it is so thick with squash pulp you literally have to drink through clenched teeth in order to strain the drink and then you chew the pulp.)
It is a beautifully simple yet rich tradition that both demonstrates the generous side of the stoic Oaxacan culture and celebrates the Samaritan woman’s transformative encounter with Jesus.