Mexican ‘aguas’, literally translated as ‘waters’ are very refreshing natural fruit flavoured drinks. Keep in mind that juice, which is ‘jugo’ and ‘aguas’ are not the same in Mexico. Jugos are more concentrated.
Aguas are usually made in homes or on site where they are sold. There are many different kinds but popular ones are ‘Agua de Jamaica’ (hibiscus), ‘Agua de Tamarindo’ (made from the tangy fruit in tamarind pods, and ‘Agua de Horchata’ (A rice based water, tasting like a liquidy rice pudding).
Other include cucumber, guava (one of my favourites), lime, orange, strawberry, papaya, pineapple, and just about any other fruit you can think of that grows in Mexico. They even have banana water.
So back to Dia de la Samaritana. Why the free aguas? I’ll tell you why: This day is the fourth Friday of Lent. In Oaxaca this is observed by recreating a passage in the bible where a Samaritan woman by the name of Photine gave a thirsty Jesus a drink of water at a well (John 4).
Samaritans were citizens of an area known as Samaria during biblical times. There was a great deal of animosity between the Samaritans and the Jewish due to a separation of religious beliefs. The fact that the woman offered Jesus water even though he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan was very significant at the time.
The term ‘Good Samaritan’ comes from another parable where a traveling Samaritan helps an injured (non-Samaritan) robbery victim after his own neighbours pass him by (Luke 10).
The moral of both of the passages lead to the meaning of the term still used today: Be a good Samaritan-be kind to people, regardless of their race, beliefs or creed. Dia de la Samaritana follows this notion and offers free water to one and all.
It is a very social day and under the hot Oaxacan sun, a glass of cool agua, a spot of shade and some friendly chit-chat make for a pretty nice morning. Get to the ‘andador’ (main walking street) early if you want to make it before all the waters run dry.
If you are interested in some of the other Lenten traditions in Oaxaca, have a peek at my article on Mexconnect.
Have you tried any of the Mexican aguas? Any favourites or unusual ones that you have found? Ever come across any Good Samaritans in your travels? If so, please share a story!
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