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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 a 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A little “splendor in the grass” for Juan?

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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!

 

 

Shades of grey

Today was supposed to be the first day of school in Mexico, but not for most in Oaxaca.  According to Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers’ union), 90% of public schools did not open today.  The Instituto Estatal de Educación Pública de Oaxaca (the government’s Institute of Public Education) puts the number at 52% of public schools in the state that remained closed.

Classrooms may have remained empty, but from the Monumento a Juárez to the Plaza de la Danza, teachers and their allies filled several of the main streets of the state’s capital in a mass march that took over an hour and a half to pass –part of the ongoing protests against the federal government’s education/labor reform.

Today, there are no winners, only losers — the kids.  The weather provided a metaphor for the day — grey and depressing.

While not specific to Oaxaca, a new documentary by Al Jazeera, Child labour in Mexico, adds some context to the issue of education in Mexico, especially in the poorer regions of Mexico.  At 16:36, the focus of the conversation turns to relating child labor to the problems of education, corruption, and poverty.

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Rainy season star

Yesterday morning, as I made the rounds bidding each of my plants a “muy buenos días,” peeking out from the bottom of one of my garden pots…

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A star looked up and wished me a very good morning.

A Quaqua mammillaris flower for Cee’s photo challenge.

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God and resistance…

Murals seen in mid July on Garcia Vigil, between Independencia and Morelos.  A month later, they have been painted over, but in Oaxaca, god and resistance never die…

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The public school fall semester is scheduled to start Monday, August 22 and, as you can see from the Oaxaca-The Year After blog post, for good reason, no one is holding their breath.

So, while we wait, take a deep breath, exhale, and watch Lila Downs performing Dios Nunca Muere live HERE.

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Fallen flower petals

Rainy season means wind, rain, and fallen Flor de Mayo flower petals.  What to do?

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Nothing like the scent of Plumeria to perfume the room.

My entry in Cee’s photo challenge.

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Taxi driver day

The morning of August 12:  Almost continuous explosions of cohetes (rockets), shrill incessant traffic whistles, honking horns, and the distant sounds of a band (or two or three).  What in the world?  I had errands to run, so out into the cacophony to confront the unknown, I went.  It only took walking to the end of my block to realize what I’d forgotten.

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It’s Día del Taxista, the day when cab drivers and their families decorate their taxicabs and process en mass through the streets of the city, accompanied by bands, monos, and pirotecnicos (hence the booms and bangs).

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I not only forgot what day it was, but I also forgot my never-leave-home-without-it little Lumix, so the above were taken with my iPhone — something I almost never do and which explains the “creative” image below.

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I have NO idea how it happened, but I’ve got to say, it does illustrate what riding in a taxi in Oaxaca often feels like!

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Today, August 9, is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, so designated by the United Nations.  This year’s focus is on the right to education — a timely and white-hot issue in Oaxaca and several of the other Mexican states with significant indigenous populations.  I can think of no better way to honor the day and native peoples worldwide, than to share yesterday’s adventure in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle.

As I previously mentioned, in my endeavor to single-handedly boost the local economy, I commissioned the weaving of a tapete (rug) from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  The design is a Tree of Life, with a light moss green background.  Thus, yesterday, led by Sam, we (a young Aussie fellow staying at the family’s Airbnb, blogger buddy Chris, and I) ventured out near the far end of the village dam to gather yagshī, the plant to be used to dye wool the desired color.

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Sam is explaining that his mother wants the young bright green shoots for the dye bath, as she wasn’t at all satisfied with the color the older leaves yielded.

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Sam, about to hand off a bundle of yagshī to me to put on our pile.

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Into the cauldron of hot water, it went.  That’s Sam’s tiny powerhouse mother, Leonor Lazo González.  She was making that face because the smoke from the hardwood fire below really stung the eyes.

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Like strands of spaghetti, into the yagshī dye bath, the lana (wool) yarn went.

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Now you see Sam, now you don’t!

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Leonor stirring the pot.

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Leonor measuring the weight of the alum mordant to be used to set the dye.  Yes, she’s using a tortilla press as a table.

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Sam adding the alum (dissolved in water) to the pot.

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Pasta al pesto?  The yarn will marinate in the dye bath overnight.

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Mom knows best and seemed to be pleased with the day’s results!

Sam is a very smart guy and has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing from the University of Liverpool.  However, being schooled in the traditions, language, and Zapotec way of knowing by his parents, grandparents, and elders of the community is an education that is just as valuable and should never be lost.

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This year’s “like it used to be” rainy season has brought Morning Glories climbing their way to my doorstep and adding a little color to an otherwise grey morning.

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Obviously, I’m not the only one who enjoys the green of their heart-shaped leaves.

Helping the local economy

The reports are in regarding tourism during the Guelaguetza and, unfortunately, they confirm our observations and discussions with merchants, restaurateurs, and hoteliers.  Hotel occupancy was only at 53% and tourism was 37 points below estimates for the period, July 22 to August 1.  Artisans had to pay 2,600 pesos (US$138.00) for a stall at the state sponsored, Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza (exposition and sale), which ran from July 16 to August 1, and many said they barely broke even, especially when taking into consideration expenses getting to and from the site and having to purchase meals.

However, I tried my very best to help the local economy throughout Guelaguetza.  As regular readers know, I love the textiles of Oaxaca and thus I have a few new treasures hanging in my closet.  First, this modern take by Muchitos on the traditional huipil.

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I purchased it at Letra Capital, a 4-day contemporary design market, held in the courtyards of the Biblioteca Pública Central de Oaxaca.

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And, then there was this traditional huipil woven by Juana Reyes García from San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, and purchased at the 4-day Tianguis Artesanal at the Centro Cultural San Pablo.

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Juana has been recognized for her work using natural dyes and has won several prizes.

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Then there was the tunic-length (at least on me) blusa from one of the extraordinary embroiderers of San Antonino Castillo Velasco — bought at the above-mentioned Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza.

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I have been wanting one for years and years.  However, whenever I’m in San Antonino, it’s usually for a festival or during Día de los Muertos and, while there are stalls upon stalls selling blouses and dresses,  I’m distracted by the event at hand — never mind, that I don’t usually carry enough money to pay for one of these treasures.  Isn’t the work exquisite?

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I’ve already worn all three of my new textile treasures several times.  And, that wasn’t the end of my shopping spree.  My other big splurge was commissioning a tapete from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  They had a stall at the Encuentro Artesanal Guelaguetza and a rug I fell in love with.  Alas, it was too big, so they are making me a smaller one.  Sam has promised it will be done within a month.  Blog post to follow!

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