Our first day in Oaxaca was the day before Christmas Eve, and in Oaxaca, that means radishes. December 23 is La Noche de Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes, and the participants line the main city square (called the Zócalo) with booths displaying elaborately carved scenes built of enormous radishes. The story I heard is that the Spanish introduced radishes in the 16th century, and some priests began carving them to make them more attractive at the market. The festival itself dates from the 19th century, and there is a cash prize for the winner (I think it was about $1000 this year.)
Although the festival opens at 5 in the evening, my excellent guidebook firmly instructed would-be photographers to go early, so I dutifully trotted down to the Zócalo around 10am to watch the participants assembling their displays.
The authors were absolutely right, too. Raised viewing platforms surround the display booths, and they are not opened to the public until evening, so with a good telephoto lens you can get clear shots of the work:
There were mild crowds watching the work proceed, but later in the evening, the square and the platforms were packed, and the line for the platforms went several times around the block:
So thanks for the tip, Viva Oaxaca!
It was fascinating to watch the process of carving the radishes and sticking them together with toothpicks and string.
The radishes dry out, so the exhibitors spray them frequently with water.
I took a couple thousand photos in Mexico, of which I plan to throw away all but a couple hundred. Even with that rate of attrition they won't all fit here on the blog, so if you want to see more, come over to the 'Mexico' set on my Flickr page.