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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

 

Independence Day

Is it cheating to post photos from the 2013 Mexican Independence Day desfile in Oaxaca?  What can I say?  It was raining today and, if it counts for anything, I never got around to posting these photos last year.

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However, I do have some news from this year:  The state police staged a protest and, besides your’s truly, Governor Cue did not attend — and I don’t think it was the rain that stopped him!

Ready for el Grito

My morning caller flew the coop and so did I.  After being confined to quarters for the past several days due to the rain and gloom, I walked downtown.

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Also, I was curious as to the state of the Zócalo, in light of the teachers, ambulantes, and the annual reenactment of “el Grito de Independencia” by the Governor, from the balcony of the Government Palace, at 11 PM tonight.

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I found, except for a handful of tents and tarps, the Alameda and Zócalo were back to normal.

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Castillos were being constructed on either side of the Government Palace.

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And, like every year, the Mexican flag was flying high, green, white, and red lights and banners were strung, and images of the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain decorated the front of the Palacio de Gobierno

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Most of the teachers and ambulantes have departed and all is being readied for el Grito de Independencia 2014.  And, nobody seems to miss the State Police, who are staging a “work stoppage.”   Ahhh, Oaxaca…  Ya gotta love her!

El Grito de Independencia
¡Mexicanos!
¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron la patria y libertad!
¡Viva Hidalgo!
¡Viva Morelos!
¡Viva Josefa Ortíz de Dominguez!
¡Viva Allende!
¡Viva Galeana y los Bravo!
¡Viva Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la Independencia Nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!

In English
Mexicans!
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland (and liberty)!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Galeana and the Bravos!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!

My morning caller

This morning’s sunshine (after days of gray) brought a visitor to my door…

Green grasshopper on screendoor

A Sphenarium purpurascens, also known as Chapulín de la milpa.  No cornfield nearby.  Hmmm… perhaps the recent storms blew it off course?

Boys watching girls

During the aforementioned convites, you will find the boys of Teotitlán del Valle, Standing On the Corner watching all the girls go by.  Not much has changed since The Four Lads had a hit with that song!

From my friend Samuel Bautista Lazo, who grew up in Teotitlán del Valle, “It’s funny to see boys with their cameras taking pictures and videos of the girls they like, often they watch the procession at one corner once they have seen everything, they run (or bike) as fast as they can to the other good spot to see all the girls again.”  And, he knows from personal experience!

Like Sam, I wonder how many couples have gotten together???  Perhaps meeting at the fireworks a night later…

Convite in cochinilla

Defining the terms…

According to Harrap’s Spanish and English Pocket Dictionary, convite means reception.  However, if I drag my weighty Larousse Standard Diccionario down from the shelf, convite translates to “invitation” or “banquet.”  And, if one turns to Google or Bing translation programs, a convite is a “treat.”

All pretty much agree, the English translation for cochinilla is cochineal.  As Wikipedia explains, “Cochineal is probably from French cochenille, Spanish cochinilla, Latin coccinus, meaning ‘scarlet-colored,’ and Latin coccum, meaning ‘berry (actually an insect) yielding scarlet dye.'”  It has been called, A Perfect Red and was much sought after by Europeans.  Home to said insect is the nopal cactus and guess who and where it was probably first cultivated?  In the valley of Oaxaca by her indigenous people, long before the Spanish set foot on the continent.

Which brings us to last Saturday (September 6) in Teotitlán del Valle, under the watchful eye of el Picacho, the sacred brother/sister mountain, for the convite that precedes the Virgen de la Natividad (Nativity of Mary) festival day, held annually on September 8…

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It is the custom in this Zapotec village for the unmarried women of the village to process through the streets two days before this (and a couple of other) important religious festivals, elegantly balancing handmade canastas (baskets), decorated with Catholic and Zapotec imagery, on their heads.  They wear brightly embroidered blusas (blouses) and, in this village known worldwide for its weaving, enredos, hand-woven red wool wrap skirts — the yarn dyed red with cochinilla.  They are accompanied by bands, men carrying enormous (and heavy!) marmotas (cloth globes), little boys carrying poles topped with miniature marmotas, sheep, and airplanes (the significance of the latter is a mystery to me), fearless pirotécnicas announcing the convite’s progress by shooting thunderous rockets into the air, and the dancers who will be performing the Danza de la Pluma in the church courtyard during the following two days’ of festivities.

Borrowing from the definitions above of convite, I would like to think of these processions as a lovely treat, an invitation to the impending fiestas/feast (banquet) days for the saints venerated by the village.  The beauty of the welcoming faces of the young, old, male, and female in the convite provide a warm reception to villagers, visitors, Catholic saints, and Zapotec ancestors, alike.

Rainy season rainbow

Last year the rainy season was almost non-existent and the campesinos were worried.  Four years ago it rained almost everyday from early July to late September and landslides and major flooding resulted.  This year the rains have been on again, off again, and on again.  But Mother Nature always manages to paint rainbows all over your blues.

Rainbow over bell towers of San Felipe Neri

View from Casita Colibrí of the bell towers of San Felipe Neri and the Indian laurels in the zócalo.

September is El Mes de la Patria in Mexico (the month of the homeland) and green, white, and red decorations have gone up all over the city.  The governor is scheduled to recreate “El Grito” (the Cry of Dolores) from the balcony of the Government Palace at 11 PM on September 15.  The following day, there will be an hour-plus long patriotic parade through the streets of the city celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Neveria decorated with green, white, and red

Neverías in Jardín Socrates

The teachers’ planton (encampment) on the zócalo expanded again to adjacent streets yesterday, though it is supposed to end by September 9.  Oaxaca is holding her collective breath.

Fruit and flowers

Remember the night my Pitahaya (aka, Pitaya or Dragon fruit) blossom was ready for her close-up?  Three months later, here she is…

Pitahaya fruit

Though there is fruit, flowers continue to put on their bloomin’ after-dark show.

Pitahaya flower and fruit

Their beauty never ceases to enchant.

Pitahaya flower

From terrace to table…

2 halves of Pitahaya fruit

My version of “farm fresh.”

Animal blessings

Under a cloudy sky, the faithful and their mascotas (pets) gathered in the plaza in front of the Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Merced for the Bendición de los Animales (Blessing of the Animals).
Human and dog faces
This annual event, held on August 31, celebrates the feast day of San Ramón de Nonato (aka, St. Raymond Nonnatus), patron saint of women in labor, persons falsely accused, and keeper of animals.  This last, though not often mentioned, seems to come from the story that he was raised on a farm and, according to this website, “chose for his occupation the care of the sheep, in order to gain more time for prayer and meditation.”  Today’s El Imparcial states that La Merced is the only church in the city with an image of the saint.
Figure of San Ramón Nonato
Here in Oaxaca, instead of sheep, San Ramón was surrounded by dogs of all sizes, shapes, and temperament.  By far, they outnumbered all other animal species put together — except humans.  Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in pet (as opposed to roof and street) dogs in Oaxaca.  Perhaps a sign of a growing middle class?  And, many dressed for the occasion.  However this dalmatian must have also paid a visit to a makeup artist.  Lipstick on the collar (muzzle, forehead, and ear) of a new friend tells the tale (tail?).
2 dogs nuzzle to nuzzle
There were also the other usual pet suspects — cats and kittens, though most looked like they would like to be anywhere else but there, and canaries and cockatiels, the latter both in cages and perched on shoulders.  This guy seemed more interested in the pin-up girl lining his cage than getting blessed by a few drops of holy water from the temple’s priest, Víctor Hernández Antonio.
Parakeet in cageHowever, my vote for the most exotic pet of the day goes to the hurón, known in English as a ferret.  Oh those piercing eyes and those claws.  I’d hate to get on her wrong side!
Ferret with red bow on head
I wonder…  What do you think the abuelas and abuelos, who remembered the old days when it was donkeys, goats and farm animals who were led along Oaxaca’s dirt streets to be blessed, thought?

Stinky stapelia

This has been a good year for my stinky Stapelia gigantea.

Stapelia gigantea unopened blossom

Feather-light blossoms open to reveal zebra-striped, hairy flowers.  Apparently, to carrion eating insects, these tiny soft white hairs resemble mold growing on rotting meat — a disgusting thought!

Part of Stapelia gigantea hairy petal

And, to complete the putrid package, the flowers smell like rotten meat.

Stapelia gigantea open flower with 7 green bottle flies

An odious odor only a green bottle fly could love.

Hall of smoke

One of my favorite things…

Woman at grill behind smoke

The women and their grills in el pasillo de humo (the hall of smoke).

Woman grilling grilling onions & meat

Another Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Nourishing body & soul

Yesterday, as I was walking home, the eyes of these guys caught my eye.

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More eyes beckoned me across the large driveway/parking area, that separated the mural filled walls from the sidewalk.

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A sign for Okupa Visual Oaxaca was pointing the way, so I figured I must not be trespassing and might even be welcome.

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More eyes drew me toward an open door…

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I peered inside the Taller de Grafica Experimental de Oaxaca and was greeted with the warm smile of artist, Guillermo Pacheco López.  He showed me around the light airy gallery and studio and explained the programs they offer.  We then proceeded through an open doorway into a another multipurpose space.

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Besides more gallery and workshop space, it is home to Café Panartesano and where his delightful wife, Kate, along with an assistant, bake brownies, blondies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, and other yummy looking sweets.  In addition, they make homemade pizza and tortas.

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As you may have guessed from the above menu, Kate is from the USA — San Francisco to be geographically precise.  We had much in common and I stayed for almost half an hour chatting with her.  Naturally, I couldn’t resist buying a chicken with zucchini and red bell pepper torta on focaccia, which was muy sabrosa!

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If you are in town, I highly recommend stopping by Taller de Grafica Experimental de Oaxaca and Café Panartesana.  They are located at La Noria 305 (at the corner of Melchor Ocampo).

Nourishing body and soul — that’s Oaxaca!

Wonder women

Today, south of the zócalo, the streets were well protected…

Don’t tread on the women of Oaxaca!

Just because the concrete stairs were ugly, the bodega held more tile, Nalo is a maestro…

2 concrete stairs

and what’s a little more talavera between friends?

2 stairs with tile on risers

The end, I promise!

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