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Roots or Rapunzel?

One of the apartments in this higgledy piggledy complex is being readied for a new occupant.  Opening the door to begin the job, Luci was greeted with an unexpected wall hanging.IMG_1815She ran upstairs, laughing and calling me to come down and see what she had discovered.  Hmmm…  Rapunzel’s tresses?  If so, like everyone else suffering Oaxaca’s hard water, she needs to start using a good hair-conditioner.

IMG_1817Of course, closer inspection revealed it to be the roots of something.  A tree, perhaps?  But, there are no trees in the vicinity and, in reality, it seemed to be coming from my terrace.  I dashed upstairs, as Luci came outside to stand and point to where the fibrous cascade seemed to be coming from.  P1130530Yikes, on the west wall, the culprit was exposed; the roots of one of my pitayas had grown into the concrete!!!

IMG_1821Alas, the pitaya’s tenacity could not be allowed to continue; the garden shears came out and the problem was nipped at its root.  The same was done below, leaving golden tresses lying on the ground waiting to be swept away.

P1130510All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

My friend G called this succulent, the Chrysler Building.  Anyone who has seen the original, or photos of it, in New York City can understand why.P1130505This Kalanchoe luciae  is one of the great, great, great… grandchildren of the original plantlet G had given me six years ago when I first moved to Oaxaca.

Ambassador of embroidery

The celebration of Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indigenas continues in Oaxaca this weekend, with music, dance, food, and an artisan expo-venta (sale) in Jardín El Pañuelito.  As I walked through the exposition, one woman’s embroidery drew me back for a second look.  I was especially drawn to a huipil that had been hanging next to the one below.  It’s not in this photo, because one of the “Diablos” from the Santiago Juxtlahuaca dance troupe (who were performing later) had already volunteered to climb up on a chair to take it down for her to show to me.

However, before I could get my money out, a delegation of dignitaries came by for a photo shoot.

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This popular and exceptionally talented woman is Carmen Vásquez Pérez, from San Mateo Yetla, Valle Nacional, located 172 kilometers northeast of Oaxaca city in the Papaloapan Region.  According to the article, Mujeres preservan bordado en Yetla, the village is surrounded by waterfalls and lush vegetation and is rich in Chinanteca customs.

P1130484Doña Carmen learned to embroider as a child and has been instrumental in an effort to preserve and promote the local traditional designs and techniques.  As you can see below, her workmanship is exquisite.

P1130489 After returning home and doing a little research, I’m even more pleased with my purchase.  And, by the way, I did not “bargain” — my new treasure is worth every peso of its 600 peso price tag, and then some!

As I’d discussed in a previous post, August 9 was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  That day, on my way to the mercado, a youth band had me stopping at the city’s cultural celebration on the Alameda de León.

This young girl, without accompaniment, brought tears to the eyes as she sang, “Canción Mixteca” by Oaxacan composer José López Alavez.  He wrote the melody in 1912 and the lyrics in 1915, expressing his homesickness for Oaxaca after moving to Mexico City.  It has since become an anthem for not only Oaxaqueños, but all Mexicano expats yearning for their homeland.

Yaa Savi (Mixtec language)
NDA XIKA NAKAI
NOO ÑO’O NOO NI KAKUI,
NDIKANO KUNDAVI INI
XI’IN MIA NTOONI.

TA XANDEI’MI TA ITOI
TA NDAVI NDEI NDAA NOO TACHI,
NDI KUNI KUAKUI
NDIKUNI KUI’VI XAA NDOI’ INI.

(Bis)
NOO ÑO’O ÑAA ÑU’U
XAKA INI KANDEI’YOO
TA VITI NA XIKA
YEE YOI NI ÑO’O, NI ÑAA MANI.

TA XANDEI’ MI TA ITOI
TA NDAVI NDEI NDAA NOO TACHI
NDIKUNI KUAKUI
NDIKUNI KUI’VI XAA NDO’INI

Canción Mixteca (en español)
Que lejos estoy del suelo
Donde he nacido.
Inmensa nostalgia
Invade mi pensamiento.
Y al verme tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento.
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Oh! tierra del sol
Suspiro por verte.
Ahora que lejos
Yo vivo sin luz.
Sin amor.
Y al verme
Tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Canción Mixteca (English translation)
How far I am from the land where I was born!
Immense nostalgia invades my heart;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

Oh Land of Sun! I yearn to see you!
Now that I’m so far from you, I live without light and love;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

Luís interrupted his Sisyphusean task of sweeping the African tulip tree blossoms off the driveway this morning, to come upstairs to show me this baby hummingbird sitting on the driveway.

Baby hummingbird on drivewayThere’s a lot of hummingbird action going on in the African tulip tree above and we decided it was best to leave baby alone and hope mom flies down to give it some help.

Minions of transport

As the announcer used to say, “And now for something completely different…”

Apparently, when the Minions went in search of their next evil boss, they must have stopped off in Oaxaca.  My first sighting was on the bus back to the city from the Guelaguetza in Etla two weeks ago.

P1130164Then, there they were today, as taxis paraded through the streets of Oaxaca, celebrating Día del Taxista.

P1130381P1130383Hmmm…  Is there something about the movie that resonates with the transportation workers of Oaxaca?

P1130396copyScarlett Overkill (the Supervillainess):  DO you know who this is?
[points at a British Royal portrait]

Kevin (the Minion):  Uh… la cucaracha? 

Minions

Day of Indigenous Peoples

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) ranks the state of Oaxaca first in Mexico, in terms of indigenous population. [SIPAZ, Población Indígena]   Out of 3,405,990 inhabitants of Oaxaca, 34.2% are indigenous.Grupos Etnicos Oaxaca La Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s July celebration of its indigenous cultures is in the rear view mirror.  The streets were filled with tourists and hotels and restaurants were happy.  However, the debate continues regarding the role of this annual event.

Santos Reyes Nopala, Chatino

Santos Reyes Nopala – Chatino

Does it benefit Oaxaca’s indigenous population or just the tourist industry?  Does it present reality or reinforce stereotypes?  However, all agree, poverty and inequality ARE problems that disproportionately affect the indigenous people of Oaxaca.  And, Oaxaca and Mexico are not alone…

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate Mixteco

Tomorrow is August 9, designated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994.  This year’s theme is, Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples health and well-being.  As the UN Women website explains:

Indigenous women experience disproportionate difficulties in access to health care, as well as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Though indigenous women are counted upon to support the health and well-being of their families, they often face hurdles to access the resources to build the foundation of a better life, such as education and land.

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

 According to a recent article in Noticias, a woman born in Oaxaca has a four times greater risk of dying from maternal causes than in the rest of Mexico, and 56% of these deaths are of indigenous women.
San Pablo Macuiltianguis, Zapoteco

San Pablo Macuiltianguis – Zapoteco

The Chief of the National Commission for Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) Oaxaca delegation, reported that Oaxaca has the highest indigenous poverty rate in Mexico, with 1,719,000 indigenous in Oaxaca living in conditions of substandard infrastructure, health, and education, which, he acknowledged, affects women more.

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla, Mixe

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla – Mixe

In Oaxaca city, on August 9, a cultural event will be held at the Alameda de León, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM with bands, poets, and artists supporting the campaign “What happened to my rights?”

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Mazateco and Chinanteco

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec – Mazateco and Chinanteco

Let’s hope there will be answers and action.
(Photos are from Guelaguetza 2015 desfiles (parades) and Diosa Centéotl contest.)

Last week, walking down Crespo, I spotted a mural at the corner of Zona de Monumento and discovered it was the work of Jesus Kobe.

Hmmm… Recently, I’d seen another of his works on Allende near Crespo.

I was familiar with the artist because last year, friends and I were walking along Panorámica and stopped at this mural.

We walked further along to find another mural, but without a signature.  It turned out the artist was walking by and when he saw us admiring the work, he graciously stopped to chat.  It was Kobe and he explained that he only signs his work once it is completed.

Serendipity, why this place never ceases to surprise and delight!

And, watch and hear Kobe explain the inspiration that underlies the mural he created for Santa Fe Taqueria in Portland, Oregon:

Behind every mask

I wonder…  What is artist Nicko Foster saying along the walls of calle Constitución?

Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.
–Marty Rubin

P1130219The human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.
Agatha Christie

P1100946I believe in my mask–The man I made up is me
I believe in my dance– And my destiny
Sam Shepard

Last night in B&W

Late last night, twelve buds on my pitaya burst open; my favorite the cluster of four at the top of the eight foot tall chain link fence.

P1130210cropB&WAlas, now, less than twenty hours after their night-blooming show began, they are no more.  Hopefully, the brilliant white flowers with their sweet scent attracted the desired pollinators, Dragon Fruit will begin forming at the base of the blossoms, the fruit will ripen to a blush red, and be ready to pick in 45 days (más o menos).

Very special Guelaguetza

The Plaza de la Danza was filled with cheering crowds early Sunday evening as ten girls and eight boys from Los Ángeles de Luz took the stage for the 13th edition of this very special Guelaguetza.  Perhaps it is because I have a special needs nephew or that both my sister-in-law and daughter-in-law are special ed teachers that I am drawn to this event every year.  In any case, the joy and pride exhibited by these young people with Down’s Syndrome, as they make the requisite costume changes and perform traditional dances from the eight regions of Oaxaca, always lifts my heart.

I had to leave before it ended, but hopefully through this slideshow I can share a little of the professionalism and accomplishment of these performers and the emotion experienced by those of us who had the privilege of being in the audience.

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President of Los Ángeles de Luz, Flor Verónica García Ávilan explained in El Imparcial, that the group was formed after “realizing that contact with music, dance, and the audience makes them happy, cheerful, communicative, committed and disciplined beings, facilitating their development holistically within society.” [translated from Spanish]

And, I would like to add, for those of us watching their performance, it facilitates our acceptance of those who many be a little different from us.  If you are in Oaxaca for next year’s Guelaguetza festivities, try to attend this heartwarming and uplifting event.  Also, there is always a calenda (parade) a couple of days before AND scrambling for gifts tossed into the crowd after each dance.

A pause in La Guelaguetza action to remember…

It’s been ten months since that unspeakable night 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero went missing in Iguala.  They are not forgotten.  On the lower block of the Alcalá, an exhibition of sculptures by two Oaxaqueño sculptures, Victor Robinson and Emmanuel Guzman Sanchez is on display.

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One of the pieces, Faltan 43 y Faltamos Más (43 missing and we are missing more) speaks to the 43 students and to the countless others who have disappeared.

Guzman explains, that he feels it is necessary to speak out on social issues.  “I’m also installing a piece by the 43 missing normalistas; in this piece we find human remains and missing persons who do not know where they are; others that have been found in mass graves, and a broken country.”

P1120993

Three other students and three bystanders were killed outright and two dozen people were taken to hospital that horrific night.  Today’s CNN Mexico profiles one of the hospitalized students, Aldo Gutiérrez Solano, who remains in a coma.  The family must travel seven to eight hours to go from their home in Tultepec, Guerrero to Mexico City to sit at Aldo’s bedside.  According to his brother, Ulises, the bullet damaged 65% of his brain and “The prognosis is very bad.  Still in that state, is not yet known what will happen, how it will be.”  His family hopes for a miracle and that he will awaken to end the nightmare of Iguala.

Last Saturday, in the end, it did not rain on the parade.  With only minutes to spare before the first desfile of the Guelaguetza delegations was to begin, the torrential downpour stopped, the rockets sounded, bands played, and the delegates danced their way down Independencia.  I can’t believe how UN-bedraggled and energetic they were!

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Here’s hoping I managed to include one photo from each of the delegations in the slideshow above.

By the way, if you are in Oaxaca and planning to attend the second desfile tomorrow (July 25), see below for the parade route  — it has been changed!

Desfile2 ruta

Gastronomy, Oaxaca style

Oaxacan cuisine, with its pre-Columbian roots, is a major attraction and the state’s tourism board and restaurant association continue to do their utmost to promote this cultural heritage during the Guelaguetza festivities.  Last Friday, set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico, it was the opening degustación (sampling) for the Festival de los Moles.       P1110341This was my fourth time attending this buffet luncheon celebrating the 7 moles of Oaxaca.  And, like the previous years, my plate was swimming in moles and I came away sated and smiling!

P1110337 The Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo in Reyes Etla beckoned on Saturday.  When we arrived, students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca were giving a demonstration on the cheese making process.

P1110422Despite how tempting the various cheeses looked, I only managed tiny tastes of a couple; Alas, I was just too full from the previous day’s feast to fully appreciate them.

P1110426However, by Sunday, my mouth was watering for wild mushroom empanadas, but we were foiled in our attempt to head up into the mountains for the Feria Regional de los Hongos Silvestres in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.  A bike race had closed the highway and several of the major streets getting into and out of my part of town and, as you can imagine, alternate routes were gridlocked.  Grrrr…  I think the Guelaguetza events committee needs to rethink the schedule and transportation logistics!

Lucky for me, the Plaza de la Danza is only a block and a half from Casita Colibrí and so, late this morning, there were no impediments to walking over to the 10th Annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The women from the municipality of San Andrés Huayapam (about 7 kilometers northeast of the city), were ready and waiting to welcome visitors with their ancient drink and variety of tamales.

P1120599 The leis the women (above) are wearing are made from Rosita de Cacao flowers, one of the ingredients in tejate.  For the uninitiated, tejate is a foamy, quite refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers and is called, “la bebida de los Dioses” (the drink of the Gods).

P1120562The tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate prepared and served their tejate to inquiring novices and aficionados, alike.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activity in San Andrés Huayapam.

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And then there were the tamales… Pots and baskets, covered with hand embroidered and crocheted tea towels, were filled with steaming tamales nestled in corn husks — verde, chapulin, amarillo, frijol, dulce, rajas, chepil, and chichilo.  If you’ve never tasted tamales in Oaxaca, you are missing something!

P1120551Huayapam’s chichilo tamales are well-known and loved.  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings or when the crops have been harvested.  It is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  Of course, no tamal festival would be complete without mole tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

P1120557Today and tomorrow (July 22 & 23), if you are in Oaxaca, the Plaza de la Danza is THE happening place for tasting some delicious local specialties between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM.  ¡Buen provecho!

Before the rains came to put a damper on Saturday’s Guelaguetza pre-parade photo-ops, there were these moments with with moms and dads readying their impossibly cute kids for the desfile.

This last was my favorite moment.  I think dad was hoping for a lovely portrait of his beautiful daughter in all her finery, but as he began to take her digital device away, she gave him a look that said, “If you think your going to get a smile out of me, you’ve got another think coming.”  So, I said, let her keep it — still no smile, but there was another hour before the scheduled start time and parental experience told me, better to keep her occupied!

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