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Tonight, from the valley where corn was first cultivated, I’ll be watching my San Francisco Giants play game one of Major League Baseball’s, 2014 World Series.

I was amazed to discover that one of San Francisco’s ace relief pitchers, Yusmeiro Petitt, the Giants’ do-everything man, played for the Oaxaca Guerreros in 2011!!!   The Guerreros, a Triple-A team in the Mexican League play at Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos, within walking distance (albeit, a long walk) from my apartment.  I attended several of the Guerreros’ games in 2011 and, who knows, maybe I saw him.

When I was in Mexico, I always said to myself, “This is going to be my goal, to go back to the United States and be successful,” said Petit, through a translator. “I always knew that this could happen. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew this could happen.”  (from article, Giants’ do-everything man Petitt ready for any task)

¡Felicidades Yusmeiro Petitt y vamos Gigantes!

Bici friendly

In the 5+ years that I have been living here, Oaxaca has become much more bike friendly.  It’s a good thing too, because traffic, even without the bloqueos (blockades), has gotten much worse.  I mentioned last Sunday we had to detour due to a bike race and passed these spandex warriors, out for a Sunday ride.

2 guys in spandex on country road

In the city, the narrow streets, often with double-parked vehicles, weren’t designed for a growing middle class and their desire for cars.  However, poco a poco (little by little), accommodations are being made to achieve a modicum of safety and peaceful co-existence between cars and bikes.  Bike racks began appearing in early summer.

Bike racks

And, much to my amazement, a couple of weeks ago, I saw actual bike lanes.  Wonders will never cease!!!

Bike lane:  "BICI" spelled out with line drawing of a bike

However, I’m not exactly sure what someone is trying to say, here.  (Update:  thanks to some helpful blog readers, I have sadly been informed, “a white bike is put where someone has been killed on a bike.  They are called “ghost bikes”.

Bike near top of street light

Bike on, mis amigas y amigos… even in the rain… Mother Nature will thank you!

Bike riders on wet cobblestone street

If you are in Oaxaca and like to ride, you might want to check out “Oaxaca es más bella en bicicleta” (Oaxaca is More Beautiful on a Bicycle) on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 PM to 10:30 PM.  They meet in front of Santo Domingo church.  There is also a Sunday ride from the city to Santa María del Tule.

 

Butterflies & blossoms

What can I say?  I guess I have become a true Oaxaqueña — at least when it comes to temperatures below 70ºF.  Doors and windows have been closed all day, I’m wearing wool socks and a sweater, and space heater is on.  (Note to self:  Heater and toaster-oven cannot be turned on at the same time.)  Oaxaca is being visited by Tropical Depression Twenty-e (now, upgraded to Tropical Storm Trudy), the temperatures haven’t risen above 64ºF, and it’s been drizzling ALL day!!!  Trying to channel butterflies, blossoms, and sun flowers… even if they are blue!

Mural on the wall across from the mercado Sanchez Pascuas on Tinoco y Palacios.

Vinyl lives in Oaxaca

Look what I came across today at Porfirio Diaz #102…

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Konexion Musical, a new record store.  And, I mean record — they feature vinyl!!!  There’s an actual turntable playing the vinyl.

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They also have CDs and even some cassette tapes.  Yes, Mill Valley peeps, that’s Huey and the boys in the photo below.

P1020876 copyAnd, like all good record stores, they have posters…P1020887 copy… and music magazines.  The Red Not Chili Peppers and Thelonious Monk, what’s not to like?

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It may not be Mill Valley’s late and very lamented, Village Music, but it’s a start AND it’s in Oaxaca!

Scenes from a Sunday drive

Sometimes a Sunday drive is just what the doctor ordered.  Though when in Oaxaca, one can’t assume the course will run smooth.

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After being blocked by bloqueos a couple of times last week, blogger buddy Chris and I were in the midst of congratulating ourselves when our leisurely drive south on Hwy. 190 came to a halt as we attempted to turn west at San Dionisio Ocotepec.  At least ten men and a few trucks were positioned across the turnoff.  Oh, no, not again… another protest?

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No, a bike race had closed the road.  Seeing our disappointment, we were directed to make a U-turn, backtrack a mile (or so), and turn onto the dirt road that skirted the hillside, in order to bypass the race.  It was easier said than done, but after a few fits and starts, gullies and rocky outcroppings, and inquiries of all manner of vehicles coming from the opposite direction, we eventually wound up back on the paved road — right where we wanted to be!

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We weren’t the only ones westward bound.  These guys, while not part of the race, were also enjoying a Sunday ride.  We passed them on our way to San Baltazar Chichicapam.

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And, why were we going to Chichicapam?  To fill up our 5 liter “gas” canisters with some of our favorite mezcal made from locally grown agave, of course!  Muy suave…

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Sunday or not, a campesino’s work is never done.  Cattle, burros, and herds of goats were a common sight as we continued our Sunday drive.  And, speaking of goats…  By the time we turned north at Ocotlán de Morelos, we were starving.  Lucky for us, Los Huamuches, our “go to” roadside restaurant between Santo Tomás Jalieza and San Martín Tilcajete, wasn’t far away.

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What can I say?  Mild temperatures, spectacular scenery, good company, and barbacoa muy sabrosa — the “doctor” was right!

Kaleidoscopic

Many of you may remember Juan Martinez, mi amigo and carpenter extraordinaire of Adios mosquitos and A terrace transformed fame.  Well, he is a man of many talents — and one of them is building kaleidoscopes.  Given that his “day job” is working in the office of Gorilla Glass, he has come into contact with many of the hip, young, and talented artists currently creating in Oaxaca.  Thus, a natural collaboration ensued.   Juan + Gorilla Glass + Lapiztola stencil = an exhibition of the Lapiztola Collective’s artistry at Gorilla Gallery.

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Looking into the eye of the kaleidoscope.

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What do you see?

There is the second kaleidoscope — this one a hand-crank.  Come by Gorilla Gallery on one of the next couple of Thursdays from 2 PM to 8 PM, to give it a try.

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And, be forewarned, they are working on a special Día de los Muertos kaleidoscopic project.  Prepare to be amazed!

Virgins in our midst

Today, in Santa Catarina Juquila, about 200 km southwest of the city of Oaxaca, la Virgen de Juquila, is receiving a papal coronation.  Roads leading to this remote mountain village have been repaired and repaved and extra emergency services have been in place since Monday, all in anticipation of the thousands of pilgrims who were expected to descend on Juquila.

However, for those who chose to stay closer to the city, celebrations in honor of the Virgen del Rosario (Virgin of the Rosary) have been occurring for the past week throughout the valley of Oaxaca.

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Thus, blogger buddy Chris and I headed to Tlacolula de Matamoros on Friday for their annual procession.

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Beginning on the street in front of the panteón, young women wearing traditional red wool skirts and beautifully crocheted white cotton blouses…

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…danced their way through the streets balancing towering canastas (baskets) on their heads — the letters spelling out “Virgen del Rosario.”

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The arm and neck strength it takes to carry the canastas is phenomenal and can only come from years of practice.  As you can see, they begin early…

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Rockets announced the procession’s arrival.

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Bandas provided the music.

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And, “boys to men” carrying marmotas two-stepped and twirled their way along the route.

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Years of practice is required to do this, too!

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Participants stop at altars throughout the village, where prayers are recited, rest breaks are taken, and tamales, sweets, and beverages (yes, including mezcal) are consumed.

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This goes on until 1:00 or 2:00 AM.  We arrived at 4:00 PM, stayed for a couple of hours, carried nothing heavier than our cameras and daypacks, and were ready to call it a day!

However, this is a bittersweet post.  While we were reveling in the festivities, a family in Tlacolula de Matamoros was in agony.  It was reported last night that 18-year old, Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica, from Tlacolula de Matamoros, is one of the 43 students at Normal Rural ‘Raúl Isidro Burgos’ in Ayotzinapa who went missing on September 26 in Iguala, Guerrero after police opened fire on the students, who were soliciting funds for an Oct. 2 demonstration protesting funding cuts to their state-financed school.

What is it about October?

What is it about October?  If I was still living in Mill Valley (California), this weekend I’d probably be joining friends in Golden Gate Park at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco.  Of course, I’d have to weigh the days and times of “can’t miss” performers with “must see” films at the Mill Valley Film Festival, which opened October 2 — not to mention trying to catch the San Francisco Giants post-season games.  Here in Oaxaca, the song is the same!  The Oaxaca FilmFest opened Friday night (Oct. 4) and runs through October 11.  Yesterday, the Día del Amaranto (Day of Amaranth) festival was held in the Plaza de la Danza.  In addition, during the week, various communities, both in the city and out, are celebrating the Virgen del Rosario (more to come on this).

AND, on Friday and Saturday Oaxaca city’s Mercado Organico (also known as, Pochote-Xochimilco or Pochimilco) located in the plaza of Templo de Santo Tomas Xochimilco, celebrated its 11th anniversary.  There was music, folkloric dancers, stalls filled with food and drink, and people (including me) enjoying it all.

A grandmother and little girl sharing plate of food

The produce at this stand was SO fresh and tempting, even though I didn’t need anything!

Carrots, lettuce, squash blossoms, fennel, and more.

Lucky for me, I found the gal who sells my favorite jamaica (hibiscus) concentrate, as I’d run out last week.

Woman selling jamaica products

Then there was this guy selling jars of homemade chutney.  He even remembered me, even though I hadn’t been there for several months!  I wanted them all, but managed to restrain myself and come home with just the peach chutney.

Smiling young man selling jars of chutney

The chutney samples were offered on tostadas with a small slice of queso de cabra (goat cheese).  ¡My sabroso!  “Where?”  I asked.  “Right over there,” he answered.  I made a beeline for the aisle where he pointed and bought some of this yummy cheese.

Packages of goat cheese.

As always, whenever I venture up the hill to the organic market, I came home with way more than I can possibly eat in a week.  Guess I need a little help from my friends.  ¡Feliz cumpleaños, Pochimilco! — another of Oaxaca’s treasures.

For more on the market, check out the Pochimilco page on the Oaxaca Wiki.

Nothing but blue sky

The calm after the storm.  What a difference 36 hours makes!

Basilica de la Soledad and blue sky

The beginning of the dry season?  Only Mother Nature knows…

Yesterday, the Virgen del Rosario convite beckoned us to Tlacolula (more to come).  After an hour and a half of photographing and relishing in the music, marmotas, monos, impossibly cute kids, and hospitality, we began losing the light as a dark and threatening sky began moving in.  However, Mother Nature put on quite an extravaganza for our drive back to the city — towering clouds, sheets of rain, lightening streaking towards the ground, brilliant sun, and rainbows.

Basílica de La Soledad with red-gray sky

Once home, a weird and wondrous sunset.

 

Back to the beach

A gray, rainy day in Oaxaca has me returning to the beach in my dreams…

Pacific Ocean waves crashing onto the beach San Agustinillo, Oaxaca.

San Agustinillo, Oaxaca.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.  ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

San Agustinillo, Oaxaca

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  — Mark Twain

Coconut tree, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Mazunte, Oaxaca

Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.  — Langston Hughes

Lifeguard tower, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined.  —Thoreau

Estrella Fúgaz restaurant, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Estrella Fúgaz restaurant, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.  ― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora

Sunset in Mazunte, Oaxaca

Mazunte, Oaxaca

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.  Go forward and make your dreams come true.  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

From this morning’s walk in Teotitlán del Valle…

Blue flower surrounded by green leaves

White blossom

Yellow flowers

Pomegranate on branch

Splashes of color on a gray, rainy season, Sunday.

Beach boys of San Agustinillo

Don’t be afraid to try the greatest sport around
Everybody tries it once
Those who don’t just have to put it down
You paddle out turn around and raise
And baby that’s all there is to the coastline craze
You gotta catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world

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Not just a fad cause it’s been going on so long
All the surfers going strong
They said it wouldn’t last too long
They’ll eat their words with a fork and spoon
And watch ‘em they’ll hit the road and all be surfin’ soon
And when they catch a wave they’ll be sittin’ on top of the world

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So take a lesson from a top-notch surfer boy
Every Saturday boy
But don’t treat it like a toy
Just get away from the shady turf
And baby go catch some rays on the sunny surf
And when you catch a wave you’ll be sittin on top of the world

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Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world
Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world
Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world

– Beach Boys, Catch a Wave

Up into the clouds

Having lived most of my life with the Pacific Ocean fifteen minutes to the west and the San Francisco Bay five minutes to the east, I never thought I could live where I was landlocked.  But here I am, living in Oaxaca de Juárez, a city nestled in a valley surrounded by rugged mountain ranges, with not a beach in sight.  This daunting terrain has not only helped to preserve the area’s indigenous traditions and colonial architecture, it has also prevented easy access to the state of Oaxaca’s beautiful beaches only 160+ miles from the city.

Yes, there are regular flights to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, but they are costly.   Most people choose to take one of several buses/vans or to drive themselves up and over the narrow, winding, pot-holed, and tope (speed-bump) laden roads through the Sierra Madre del Sur.  It takes from six to seven hours, depending on how fast one drives, how many slow-moving vehicles one encounters, and how much road repair brings the car to a halt.  Thus, I haven’t been to the coast of Oaxaca for almost five years.  And so, when a friend offered a trip to the coast, I accepted.

Foreground pine trees; background mountains

However, instead of a day-long grueling drive to the beach of San Agustinillo, we climbed 8,400 feet up into the clouds, where we stopped in San Jose del Pacifico.  Home for the night was one of the sweet little cabañas at La Puesta del Sol.  Lightening lit up the sky and thunder rumbled, but I was warm and cozy courtesy of a roaring fire one of the staff had set in the stone chimenea (fireplace).

3 cabañas and trees

The village of San Jose del Pacifico rests on a ridge and is often encircled in Brigadoon like fog.  This is mushroom (magic and otherwise) territory and it is home to quite a mixture of temporary and permanent residents — one of whom runs a fabulously funky restaurant, La Taberna de los Duendes.  The food is fabulous, but a warning is in order:  The portions are enormous!

Mural on wall, La Taberna de los Duendes

After a leisurely morning, we set off for the (mostly) downhill drive to the coast!  Do you see me smiling?

Faces of Oaxaca in B&W

After a visit to Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo, I’m seeing the color of Oaxaca in black and white…

“To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.” – Andri Cauldwell

 

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