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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.  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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Pride and joy on parade

Unlike last Saturday, there was no rain on yesterday’s Guelaguetza parade.  There was music, mezcal, and tepache. (Click on photos for full image.)

There were headdresses and bling.

There was awesome pride and joy.

And, there were kids to carry on the traditions.

Muchisimas gracias to the extended family of Hotel Casa Catrina who allowed me to seek shelter from last Monday’s rain and yesterday, saw me across the street and invited me for a shot of mezcal and to watch the desfile with them.  That’s Oaxaca — warm, welcoming, and wonderful!!!

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A pause in the Guelaguetza action…

I was last on Callejón de Hidalgo about a month and a half ago and a new (to me) mural charmed me.  I’ve been meaning to post photos, but there has been way too much going on and they got lost in the pictures shuffle.

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Murals are usually a “no-go-zone” for graffiti.  However, yesterday, walking with friends, I again found myself on that lovely little lane, but was dismayed to discover someone(s) had tagged Peter Cottontail and his tree-lined neighborhood with graffiti.

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I don’t know who you are, Mainy-Dauer, but I want you to know your mural made be smile.

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I’m glad I have the above photos to remember it by.

 

As regular readers know, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the people and cultural traditions of the Zapotec village, Teotitlán del Valle.  Blogger buddy Chris and I go out there often, especially for their major festivals where the Danza de la Pluma is performed.  Earlier this month, a new group of danzantes de promesa assumed the sacred 3-year commitment to perform the Danza de la Pluma and, for the first time in recent memory, they were selected to dance in this year’s official Guelaguetza.  As you can see from the Vive Oaxaca video below, their 17-minute performance Monday evening was spectacular!

¡Felicidades! to the band, Los Reformistas, led by Maestro Antonio Servando Bautista González; to the breathtaking dancing of Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma), who was front and center and flawless during the entire performance; and to all the Danzantes, who impressively executed the complicated and visually stunning choreography of Maestro Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez.  While I may only be a (albeit, frequent) visitor to Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud of the dancers and the way they represented their strong, vibrant, and historic community.

Yesterday, two friends and I hailed a taxi and headed out of the city.  We disembarked at the Viguera crucero, where we crowded into blogger buddy Chris’s car enroute to the intimate Guelaguetza in Las Peñitas Reyes Etla.

The day was overcast and there were a few light sprinkles, but the welcome we received on this grey day warmed our hearts.

As they have in past years, for three and a half hours, the members of the folkloric dance group, Danza Balachi, danced, changed costumes, danced, changed costumes, and danced some more.

The sun eventually made an appearance and our day ended with very yummy estofado at our favorite restaurant, Comedor Colón in Villa de Etla.  It was a great day!

Danzantes in the rain

Yesterday, as the Guelaguetza dancers gathered at the Cruz de Piedra and Conzatti Park waiting for the desfile (parade) of delegations to begin, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed, the wind picked up, and the rain began falling.  While they may be making their first appearance (in recent memory) at the Guelaguetza, the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle came prepared.

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They donned rain ponchos and covered their penachos (headdresses) with clear and specially sized plastic bags.

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They were good to go!

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Dance master and choreographer extraordinaire, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez, must have hauled his old costume out of storage to fill in for one of the danzantes.  But he looked stoked!

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I’m not sure which Subalterno this is.  Florentino Martínez Ruiz is that you?  Or, is it Juan Bautista Ruiz?  Before and during the desfile, both clowned around a little and assisted the danzantes a lot.

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There is something about kids and rain…  Five year old, Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) looked happy as a clam.

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Perhaps there was a little trepidation among the danzantes at the conditions and concern if the desfile was really going to happen.

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However, at almost exactly 6 PM, police sirens sounded, the leading band struck up, and the parade of Guelaguetza delegations began dancing their way through the city’s rain slicked streets.

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Not long after it began, the torrential downpour subsided and the plastic began coming off the danzantes penachos.

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After 35 minutes of dancing through, what became, a light drizzle, they reached the intersection of Crespo and Morelos, only a half a block from the parade’s end at the Plaza de la Danza.  Next on their dance card, Monday evening’s Guelaguetza performance!  I’ll be watching on the local CORTV station.  However, if you are not in Oaxaca, CORTV will also be streaming the 10 AM and  5 PM Guelaguetza performances live, this week and next.

Oaxaca pride

Orgullo is the Spanish word for pride and you hear it a lot in Oaxaca.  But, rather than just the personal, it encompasses the dignity, honor, and respect felt for one’s community’s history and cultural heritage.  Remember, there are 16 indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca – each with its own language, dress, culinary traditions, music and dance, celebrations, and crafts.  While the modern Guelaguetza is an invention to attract tourism, it doesn’t detract from the pride expressed by its participants in their unique contributions to what makes Oaxaca.  Thus, a few scenes from Friday…

Fresh handmade tortillas accompanied the mole at the Festival de los Moles luncheon. Chefs from all over the state, presented their moles — I lost count at twenty different kinds — which were served by culinary students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.

Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) competition to reign over the Guelaguetza.  Young women representing the regions of Oaxaca showcased and explained the costumes and traditions of their communities, as well as, speak a few lines of their materna lengua (mother tongue).

Calenda (procession) on the Alcalá by people from the Gulf of Tehuantepec region.  They were heading toward Santo Domingo — and yes there were a few Muxes among the participants.

During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

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