Still life in Oaxaca

Yesterday, a sidewalk still life seen walking home from the market…


We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity.  Life is eternal.  We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.  This is a precious moment.  It is a little parenthesis in eternity.   — Paulo Coelho



The Catrinas are coming

Dressed in their best festival finery…


The Catrinas have begun arriving in town…


You see them loitering on street corners…


Hanging out on balconies (I think she’s in drag)…


All the better to see and be seen.


However, in the end, no matter how fancy their finery and glittery their jewels, as José Guadalupe Posada wrote,

La muerte es democrática, ya que a fin de cuentas, güera, morena, rica o pobre, toda la gente acaba siendo calavera 

(Death is democratic, because after all, light-skin, brown, rich or poor, everyone ends up being a skull)

Season of marigolds

Marigolds have begun appearing in the city.  The yellow of this flor de muertos (flower of the dead) will help guide the difuntos (deceased) home to feast with their families during the upcoming Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Known as cempazuchil (also spelled cempasúchitl), flower pots and/or vases of marigolds may find their way onto ofrendas (the offerings on home altars for the difuntos).  Some scatter the petals on their muertos altar, others in a trail leading from the street into the house and up to the ofrenda.


Next week, seasonal Day of the Dead markets will spring up and shopping will go into high gear.  Needless to say, I will join in buying the traditional fruits, nuts, flowers, and sugar skulls to place on my ofrenda.  And, along with friends, I will pay my respects to the difuntos of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  It’s a special time of year in Oaxaca.

Once a librarian, always a librarian, thus a few resources about Day of the Dead:

A brief note:  Celebrations vary throughout Mexico and, even in the valley of Oaxaca, traditions differ from village to village, but the above articles will give you a general idea.  You can also click HERE for my Día de Muertos blog posts from previous years.

Colors of Casa Cruz

Returning to Casita Colibrí last Sunday afternoon, I unlocked the door, set down my way-too-heavy backback, and, having been away for a month, I savored the scene my Oaxaca home presented.  There was my new Tree of Life tapete hanging on the wall of my dining area looking like it had always been there; on the floor, separating living spaces, the beautiful mohair rug woven for me by Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez presided.

AND (drum roll, please), in front of the sofa, my most recent purchase — a stunning rug from Casa Cruz in Teotitlán del Valle.

Maria Luisa Mendoza, wife of weaver Fidel Cruz Lazo, displaying their wares in their taller in Teotitlán del Valle.

Maria Luisa Mendoza, wife and partner of weaver Fidel Cruz Lazo, displaying their wares in their taller in Teotitlán del Valle.

Metates at Casa Cruz used to hand grind cochineal and indigo dyes.

Metates leaning against the wall, waiting to to be used to hand grind the natural dyes.

Array of some of their brilliantly colored naturally dyed yarns.

An array of some of their brilliantly colored naturally dyed yarns.

After much indecision (they were all so beautiful!), Fidel Cruz Lazo displays my final choice.

After much indecision on my part (they were all SO beautiful), Fidel displays my final choice.

My rug in its new home here at Casita Colibrí.

My rug in its new home in the living room area of Casita Colibrí.

The book,

It wasn’t until I took this photo, that I realized the design on the cover of  the book, The Colors of Casa Cruz, is the same as my new rug.

The yarns of my new rug were dyed using indigo, cochinilla, nuez (walnuts), musgo (moss), achiote (annatto), and cempazuchil (marigolds) and the primary design element is the diamond, representing the four cardinal points, and symbolizing the continuity of life.

Art walk, Oaxaca style

Street art in Oaxaca comes, goes, and appears anew…

p1220634After being away for a month…


New art greeted me on the walls and poles of Calle de Tinoco y Palacios…


As I made my way up the hill on Monday’s grocery shopping trip to the Mercado Sánchez Pascuas…


One of the delights Oaxaca brings to the mundane…


And, being car-less, one of the joys of errand walking!

Bountiful basket beauty

Back in the land of putting TP in the wastebasket and non-potable tap water.  However, grocery shopping at my local mercado more than makes up for it with warm greetings from my favorite vendors and its rich bounty of fruits, vegetables, tortillas, salsas, tamales, and cheeses.


The larder has been restocked with the above high quality essentials, all for only 230 pesos — that’s $12.18 (US) at the current exchange rate.  It’s good to be back!

Back to Mexico

It’s been a wonderful Bay Area visit, but Saturday at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass the performance by Los Cenzontles with Max and Josh Baca of Los Texmaniacs brought a wave of homesickness for Mexico.

Guess it’s time for me to go…  Next stop, Mexico City!

Two years and counting…

It’s been two years since that tragic night in Iguala, Guerrero when busloads of students (normalistas) from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College were violently attacked.  Six students were killed, 25 were injured, and 43 disappeared.  It’s been two years of agony for families and friends.  It’s been two years of questions and discredited answers for the people of Mexico.  And, it’s been two years of artists around the world doing their part to not let us forget.














Images of some of the missing by Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (ASARO) seen June 18, 2016 on Av. Morelos in Oaxaca, including 18-year old Cristian Tomás Colón Garnica from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca.

Celebrating commonalities


Despite 2000 miles between here and there, similarities abound between the two places I call home.

Art on walls.  (Left) A massive new mural in Mill Valley, above the side wall of the Sequoia Theater, by Zio Ziegler.  (Right)  One of the many murals by Sanez (Fabián Calderón Sánchez) in Oaxaca.  By the way, I’ve previously posted murals by both artists:  click Sanez and/or Zio Ziegler.

Agave.  (Left) Of course in Mill Valley (California), it’s solely ornamental for those meticulously landscaped gardens.   (R) Whereas in Oaxaca, it’s vital crop — land without agave means life without mezcal!

Fluttering swags of flags.  (Left) Cloth Tibetan prayer flags flying outside the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley welcome patrons to the Mountainfilm festival.  (Right) Ubiquitous papel picado found inside and out in Oaxaca, in paper or plastic, for events special or just because.

Sacred mountains.  (Left) Mt. Tamalpais, the Sleeping Lady and mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and adult peace, joy, and renewal.  (Right) Cerro Picacho (in Zapoteco, Quie Guia Betz), brother/sister mountain — the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle, where, among other times, villagers make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

And, last but not least, colorfully costumed couples.  (Left) Soon after arriving at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, I ran into this twosome.  Turns out, in the “it’s a small world” universe, they are actually friends of a couple I know in San Miguel de Allende.  (Right) During July’s Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, the delegation from Putla de Guerrero representing their celebration of Carnaval, is garish and gaudy and wild and wacky — in other words, fantastic!

Creativity is a challenge. It requires us to be fully human — autonomous yet engaged, independent yet interdependent. Creativity bridges the conflict between our individualistic and our sociality. It celebrates the commonality of our species while simultaneously setting us apart as unique individuals.  —Greg Graffin










Talent and taste

I know, it’s been a week since a new post has appeared on this blog.  My excuse is that I flew up to the San Francisco Bay Area last Saturday — an all day event that, under the easiest of circumstances (and this was), is exhausting.  However, an email this morning from Margie Barclay (formerly of Oaxaca Calendar) alerted me to the next Waje dinner.


What is Waje, you ask?  It is a monthly pop-up dining experience created by two young (early 20s) Oaxacan chefs, José Daniel López Delgado and Maday Alexander Luis Garfias — both recent graduates of Universidad Anáhuac.


With an appreciation of, and dedication to, the bounty and traditions of Oaxaca, they create themed dinners that fill the senses, educate, and encourage communication.


Traditional ingredients are married in new and innovative ways and artfully presented.


With amazing energy and pride, both chefs emerge from the kitchen to describe the ingredients, preparation, and thought behind each course.


Their creativity and attention to flavors extends to the beverage pairings.  For the July dinner, a different flavored pulque was presented with each course and in August, mezcal cocktails were served.


The venue for the dinners was a secret and, in both instances, we were picked up at a pre-arranged location and taken to the final destination.  The photos are from the July dinner, which was held on the front lawn of a stunning private home in San Andrés Huayapam.


Their next offering, September 24, 2016 at 7 PM, is to be a cena of six desserts paired with coffee cocktails in a collaboration with Axiom Coffee Ventures and Viajero Café Arte.  Seating is limited and prepayment is required.  Reservations can be made by calling 951 236-868 or 951-124-9090 or sending a message from the Waje Facebook page.


By the way, both times, my friend and I were the only gringos and oldest people in attendance.  You will definitely meet some young hip and very eloquent Oaxaqueños.  I wish I could be there…  Alas, I’ll still be in el norte.  ¡Buen provecho!



Independence Day is coming

Mexico’s El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) is upon us and overnight, as August turned to September, the streets erupted in green, white, and red.


Mexico celebrates September 16, 1810 as the beginning of its fight for independence from Spain.


Flags are flying everywhere and are for sale on every other street corner, along with all manner of patriotic tchotkes.


From buses in the city to moto-taxis in the villages, everything is decked out in the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.


As for Oaxaca?  The five-month renovation project at Mercado Benito Juárez has been completed and vendors have moved from their temporary stalls on the surrounding streets back into the market; Sección 22 teachers have returned to their classrooms and 80% of the encampment in the zócalo has been disassembled; the governor will give his final Grito de DoloresGrito de Dolores at 11:00 PM on September 15th; and the annual patriotic parade will fill the streets of the Historic District with participants and observers on the 16th.


That’s entertainment!

While waiting for yesterday’s convite to begin, the Danza de la Pluma subalternos, Florentino Martínez Ruiz and Juan Bautista Ruiz, knew how to keep young, old, all those in between, and the photographers entertained.


A little “splendor in the grass” for Juan?


And, the fun didn’t stop there, once the convite began, Florentino snatched a marmota from one of the little boys to give it a try.


And, everyone laughed, especially the boy!  That’s entertainment, Teotitlán del Valle style!

Lapiztola, cutting thru the…

For ten years, since the 2006 teacher uprising in Oaxaca, with scissors, paper, paint, and talent, the Lapiztola collective has been cutting through propaganda and meaningless phrases to lead, provoke, and inspire with their art.  Looking across the Alcalá from Santo Domingo, a new stenciled mural in front the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) caught my eye…


There she was, beckoning, much like the beautiful and haunting mural, We sow dreams and harvest hope on the Tinoco y Palacios wall of Museo Belber Jimenez (before it, along with others, was unceremoniously ordered removed by the city government).  Another mural by Colectivo Lapiztola.


The symbolism of the corn, the bandana, and a young indigenous girl is rich in the layers of rebellion and resistance of modern-day Oaxaca.  And so I went up the stairs of IAGO and into the courtyard where Benito Juárez presided over the entrance to the exhibit, Corte Aquí (Cut Here), by the Lapiztola collective.

P1210940 (1)

Lapiztola consists of three artists:  Rosario Martínez, Yankel Balderas, and Roberto Vega.  This small exhibit (3 stencils and 7 graphic works), with its larger-than-life images, covers three rooms and stimulates our hearts and our minds.


Over the past ten years, as the exhibition demonstrates, Lapiztola has taken on the issues of social protest, disappearances, the protection of natural resources, and drug-trafficking — the latter, as evidenced below.

Also included, is one of the first Lapiztola images that fascinated me.  It covered the front of the Espacio Zapata in 2012 and speaks volumes about modern society.


If you go to the exhibition, don’t miss the third room; in it hangs the three massive stencils (below) used to produce the brilliant mural I named the Art of Agave, celebrating the human face of agave cultivation.  It once educated and enlivened the wall of Piedra Lumbre on Tinoco y Palacios, before it, too, was painted over.


I’m not sure how long the exhibition will last.  However, if you are in Oaxaca, I encourage you to pay it a visit and to all, when you are in Oaxaca, make sure to pay attention to the walls — they have something tell you.

My Tree of Life

It’s here!!!  Sam messaged me Saturday night to say that my Tree of Life tapete was finished.  So, my trusty blogger buddy Chris (he had an ulterior motive) and I drove out to Teotitlán del Valle to pick it up.


This very unique Tree of Life was designed by Sam Bautista Lazo (above on the left) and I had been immediately drawn to the use of a corn stalk, instead of a tree.  After all, this is the valley where corn was thought to be first cultivated. Sam’s father, Mario Bautista Martínez chose the colors and, as I recounted in my Yagshī for my Tree of Life blog post, Sam’s mother Leonor Lazo González (above, second from right) dyed the wool.


The plan had been for Sam’s father to weave the rug, but farm work was taking the bulk of his time, so he turned it over to Jacinto (above left), a weaver in the village who specializes in the Tree of Life.  Sam was incredulous that Jacinto didn’t draw the design on the warp and, instead, just did it “free hand” — weaving from a photo of the larger rug Sam had provided.  And, if you are wondering, it took 72 hours to complete.


Here it is, up close.  As you know, the moss/celery green color came from the yagshī plant.  The brown was made from dried granada (pomegranate) skins and the yellow came from bejuco (dodder), a parasitic plant that can be seen draping itself over the branches of the Piru tree in Teotitlán.  Añil (indigo) supplied the blue and the reds came from cochinilla (cochineal).  While the other dyes can be gathered in the village, these latter two must be purchased and can be quite expensive.


Here it is, hanging in its new home at Casita Colibrí.  I am SO grateful to Sam, Leonor, Mario, and Jacinto for their creativity, talent, and hard work in bringing my tapete to fruition and to Mother Nature for the resources she provides Teotitlán del Valle.  It takes a village to make a Tree of Life!!!

Colors of Oaxaca

Five days ago, Norma Schafer blogger at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and moderator of the Facebook group, Mexico Travel Photography, issued a 5-day “Mexico Colors” photo challenge to the Facebook group — one photo a day for five consecutive days.  I think she was giving us a gentle prod, because up until then, most of us been pretty lax about posting photos.  However, with her challenge, the floodgates opened.  Unsurprisingly, my five entries were all about the colors of Oaxaca.


Day 1:  Naturally dyed yarn hanging to dry at the family home of Porfirio Gutiérrez and his sister, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras.


Day 2:  My empty wine bottles hand painted by Isabel in San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca — waiting to be filled with mezcal!


Day 3:  Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca — during this year’s patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.


Day 4:  The “only in Oaxaca” celebration of Día de la Samaritana in Oaxaca city.


Day 5:  Flor de Piña dancers from San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec at this year’s second Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca city.

Norma has hinted that there may be more challenges to come.  We shall see!



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