Night of Radishes, the 123-year-old Oaxaca tradition canceled this year


The 123-year-old tradition was interrupted this year by Covid-19.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many continuities have been broken. Certain traditions that had been going on for decades, and even centuries, to be celebrated annually were canceled for the first time. The Night of Radishes, unfortunately, is one of them.

The Night of Radishes is a traditional celebration in the City of Oaxaca of Zapotec origin that takes place on December 23 in the Historic Center of the city consists of a contest of figures carved in radishes, the contestants are usually market gardeners and flower growers.

The event drew crowds of people eager to see the creativity and imagination of gardeners embodied in radishes. Due to the pandemic, the traditional celebration had to be interrupted this year.

The Secretariat of Agricultural Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Sedapa) of the state of Oaxaca reported: “After the official announcement to suspend all public events, to reduce the number of infections and avoid the concentration of people, Sedapa decided to suspend the festival, this with the intention of protecting the health of the gardeners who every December 18 met in the nursery to harvest the radishes that the artisans transformed into artistic creations that could be appreciated on the night of December 23 ”.

The origin of the celebration is not entirely clear, but different sources agree that the horticulturists and sellers of radishes at the end of the 19th century carved figures in the vegetables to attract vendors in the Christmas vigil market. On December 23, 1897, back then municipal president Francisco Vasconcelos organized the first contest among horticultural artists.

Until last year tourists and natives of the city gather to see the ingenious artistic figures carved in radishes. The exhibition of this unusual art lasts only a few hours, as the roots do not take long to begin to decompose.

The artists compete in various categories, some of them are:
Traditional that seeks to recreate scenes related to festivals.
Emblematic characters of the state.
The Guelaguetza.
Free, in this category, the horticulturists have greater artistic freedom and the themes may vary.

Generally, the various techniques necessary to carve these works of art are inherited from mothers and fathers to daughters and sons. Many of those who exhibit their radish figurines at the Night of Radishes claim that it was past generations of their families who initiated them into this unusual artistic practice.

The radishes used in this contest were previously produced by farmers in the Valley in which the Oaxacan capital is located, however, as the city and the demand for radishes for the contest grew; the production of this rich root began to be insufficient for the demand. Therefore, the municipal government designated a cultivation area, in the vicinity of Tequio Park, specifically for the production of radishes used in this contest.

The land used for this purpose is fertilized and chemically treated so that the radishes develop in more optimal conditions than the average. Some of these roots can measure more than 50 centimeters and weigh 3 kilos.

Let’s hope that the cancellation of the Night of Radishes is just an interruption and that in the years to come, health conditions will allow this traditional and unusual celebration of creativity to be celebrated again.


The Oaxaca Post