Night of the Radishes
At this Oaxaca contest, artists turn purple produce into stunning depictions of saints, buildings, and La Pietà.
Every December 23, crowds gather in Oaxaca’s main square to celebrate the Night of the Radishes, or La Noche de Rábanos. It’s a competition between artists who use the purple produce to make sculptures and, hopefully, win the big prize of the night.
The competition’s origins date back to when holiday market vendors tried to make their vegetables more enticing by making sculptures with them. It was such a hit that the governor, Francisco Vasconcelos, decided to create an official contest in 1897. It’s been a tradition in Oaxaca ever since.
All kinds of sculptures can be seen—saints, musicians, buildings, even a tiny cemetery where little radish people are celebrating the Day of the Dead. As Mexico is a heavily Catholic country, religious themes are common. Radish replicas of Michelangelo’s La Pietà and da Vinci’s The Last Supper have made appearances. To ensure fair competition, everyone uses vegetables grown by the government for the festival. And these radishes are big: Some grow 1.5 feet long and can weigh almost seven pounds.
The festival starts in the morning, when everyone can see the artists working on their sculptures, but wait until night if you want to see the finished masterpieces. The festival also features concerts around the city, fireworks, and light shows.
Know Before You Go
If you don't like big crowds, try to visit earlier when the artists are working on their sculptures. It’s the best way to see details.
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