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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 are a few Muxes among the participants.

During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

Nourishing body and soul

This morning I was greeted by several flowers on my night blooming cereus, with one acting as a rich playground and dining room for a guest in the garden — a very welcome honey bee.

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I have no idea how long she had wiggled and wallowed before I saw her.  I stood mesmerized for a minute or two before running into my apartment to get a camera.

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I continued to be intrigued by her industry and pleasure for another five (plus) minutes before returning inside — letting her continue in privacy, while I turned to my morning cup of coffee and bowl of cereal.

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She may have been nourishing her body, but she was also nourishing my soul.

My entry in Cee’s photo challenge.

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Timberrrr!

If you’ve been to Oaxaca, you have probably gazed up at the palms along Constitución next to Santo Domingo — an area known as Jardín del Pañuelito.  In early 2012, color changing mood lighting was added to illuminate the trees.

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However, last Thursday, on my way to the Oaxaca Lending Library, I noticed something was amiss; fronds had been removed from the tops of two of the palm trees.

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Saturday, the image was more ominous; one of the denuded palms was missing and crowds were focused on another.

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Most everyone had their cell phone cameras out, aimed aloft.  And then…

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Timberrrr!!!  Down it went, amidst oohs and aahs.  Then the soundtrack turned to the buzz of chainsaws, as workmen began cutting the trunk into manageable pieces.

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Sad…  I know about the where and how, but I’m not sure about the who, what, and why.

 

Events of Guelaguetza

July is the month of the Guelaguetza.  It has its origin in pre-Hispanic corn festivals — a time when maíz seeds were (and continue to be) sown in many of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca and people gathered to exchange seeds and celebrate.  The annual festival was resurrected in 1951 by the city’s leaders to encourage tourism — and it has worked.  Ancillary activities, in the form of fairs, festivals, and cultural presentations have been added over the years to attract and entertain even more domestic and international tourists.

And so, despite the continuing and contentious issues regarding education/labor forms, the show must go on!  Calendas (parades) are already occurring on the city’s streets and banners advertising Guelaguetza events are hanging from street lights on the major calles.  Below is the official Guelaguetza 2016 program of events and a selection of some of the addition activities happening this month.  (Click each poster for a larger and more readable image.)

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If you are in Oaxaca, there is no reason to be bored.  ¡Disfruta!  Enjoy!

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Artisan show & sale

Artisans from the eight regions of Oaxaca have moved their hand-crafted textiles, pottery, wood carvings, jewelry, and more into the previously mentioned booths near the top of the Andador Turístico (Alcalá/walking street) and Paseo Juárez el Llano (Llano Park).  Not all the signs are in place, but the artisan vendors are.  The exposition and sale will run through the last Guelaguetza performance (August 1), so today’s mission was just to do an initial reconnaissance — to check out new vendors, see what I absolutely cannot live without, and connect with some of my favorite vendors.

Samuel Bautista Lazo

First up were the artisans in Llano Park, where I rendezvoused (stall #70) with my old (though he’s young) friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo, from Teotitlán del Valle.  As I’ve mentioned before, I met Sam and his family during my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007 and (of course) bought two tapetes to bring back to the San Francisco Bay Area.  The rugs returned to Oaxaca with me when I moved here in 2009.  Between then and now, Sam has gotten his Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool (yes, England!), returned to Oaxaca, and is currently helping his family market and manage Dixza Rugs & Organic Farm — their weaving and Bed & Breakfast business.

Daughter of Amalia Martínez Casas

At one of the stalls along the Alcalá, I spotted the unmistakable work of Amalia Martínez Casas from Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, a mountain village in the Mixe.  Alas, it was her daughter staffing the booth.  She assured me that Amalia’s health was okay, but that she’s getting old and had decided not to make the tiring journey down from the mountains into the city.  I have several huipiles and a serape of Amalia’s but I must admit, I am very tempted to add another piece to my oft-worn collection.

Honorina Goméz Martínez

Lastly, I stopped by to greet Honorina Gómez Martínez and Pablo Martínez Martínez from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, also in the Mixe, and just a few miles up the mountain from Tamazulapam.  It never ceases to amaze me how clothing styles vary dramatically in Oaxaca, not only from region to region, but also from village to village, within the same region.  You may remember, Doña Honorina Gómez was a leading spokesperson in the plagiarism dispute with a couple of French designers, which the embroiderers of Tlahuitoltepec eventually won and which prompted Oaxaca’s congress to declare indigenous costume and language as part of the state’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

However, a new charge of plagiarism is being reported— this time, against Argentine designer Rhapsodia — for copying designs from San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  When I return to the expoventa in the next couple of days, I will have to ask one of the artisans from San Antonino about it.  Besides, I’ve always coveted a dress from San Antonino.

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From top to bottom, Guelaguetza preparations are in full swing.  There is yet another attempt in the Never-ending tale of a velaria, as workers scramble hundreds of feet in the air to add the missing “wings” to the Guelaguetza Auditorium canopy.

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Workmen are prepping buildings in the Historic District for fresh coats of paint.

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Construction is underway in Llano Park (aka, Paseo Juárez “El Llano”) to ready it for the XIX Feria Internacional del Mezcal 2016.

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Near the top of Macedonio Alcalá (aka, Andador Turístico), puestos (booths) have been erected for artisans, invited from throughout the state, to display and (hopefully) sell their wares.

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And, everyone is holding their breath and making offerings to the gods overseeing phase two of the García Vigil pedestrian walkway) that the work will be completed before the first Guelaguetza desfile (parade of delegations) on July 23.

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And, me?  I just bought tickets to the Mole Festival degustación at the Jardín Etnobotánico on July 22!  Yummm…

Guelaguetza 2016

The program of delegations for Guelaguetza 2016 is out and, according to all reports, the show will go on!  And, at long last, this year the Danzantes de Promesa from Teotitlán del Valle have been invited to perform.  It was the talk of the village this past weekend; the pride in their history and traditions and in this new group of dancers was palpable.

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As you can see above, they will be performing on Monday evening, July 25.  Though I won’t be there in person, I will be rushing home from the Guelaguetza celebration in Reyes Etla to watch the live TV broadcast.  Hopefully, as in past years, both the morning and evening performances on both Mondays will be live-streamed.  I will post the link, once I know.

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To whet your appetite, here is my short video of the Guelaguetza 2014 performance I attended at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín.

If this tempts you to come, please do!  Hotels have experienced a 32% cancellation rate, so you should have no trouble reserving a room.  And, the restaurants and artisans could really use your support.  While there are only a few reserved seats available through Ticketmaster at the performances up on Cerro del Fortín, local communities in the valley host their own Guelaguezas that are small, free, and provide an up-close and personal view.  In addition, the delegations dance their way through the streets of Oaxaca on the two Saturdays prior the performances, there are artisan ferias and food festivals in the city and surrounding villages to experience and enjoy.

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Dancers of promise

One of the much anticipated features of this year’s Fiesta Titlular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle was the debut of the new Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

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Danzantes

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Danzantes

Unlike in many of the other villages, where the Danza de la Pluma is danced by folkloric dance troupes, in Teotitlán del Valle nineteen young men and two little girls make a promise to their god and, thus, their community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village for three years.

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Moctezuma with Malinche and Doña Marina

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Danzantes woven wool leggings

This is not a commitment to be taken lightly, as there are 40+ dances that comprise this Zapotec retelling of the story of Moctezuma and the Aztecs battle with Cortes and the Conquistadors.  The entire telling of the story takes almost eight hours to perform in the church plaza — in conditions that can vary from brilliant sun with sweltering temperatures to gusty winds to drizzling rain.

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Subalterno offering water

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Subalterno imitating the danzantes

It’s been almost six months since we first saw the new group at one of their early practice sessions.  In jeans, t-shirts, and gym shoes, the guys were at the beginning stages of learning the steps.

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Moctezuma, a danzante, and Doña Marina

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Moctezuma and the danzantes

They have learned well and it’s going to be an outstanding three years!

 

 

 

You are invited…

Late yesterday afternoon, under a dark and threatening sky, we gathered in front of Teotitlán del Valle’s church for the first *convite of the Fiesta Titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, the village’s patron saint festival.

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Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

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Peeking out from the canastas

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Danzante and daughter

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Subalterno entertaining the crowd

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Kids in the ‘hood patiently waiting and posing

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Leaving the church

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Through the streets with one of several marmotas

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Hundreds of unmarried girls and women parade through the streets

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Balancing canastas with dignity and pride

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The debut of the new Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa (2016-18)

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The rain held off, as the procession returned to the church

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And, the banda played on…

Major festivities of the Fiesta Titular a la Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo continue through Sunday.  We shall return!

* Convite:  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.”  To me, it is all of the above!

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Stinky stapelia thrives

Five or six months ago, I took multiple cuttings from my Stapelia gigantia and planted them in six planter boxes on top of my terrace wall.  I used them to fill in around agave that I’d planted in the middle of each box.

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Once the rains came, they began spreading their prehistoric-looking tentacles…

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And, the flowers have exploded in their carrion-smelling bloom, attracting green bottle flies, as designed.

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I think my stinky stapelia like their new homes!

Let’s dance

Oaxaca quote of the day, as posted on Facebook by my friend and neighbor, J:  “Antes, no salía sin checar el clima.  Ahora no salgo sin checar los bloqueos.”  Translation:  “Before, I didn’t go out without checking the weather.  Now, I don’t leave without checking for blockades.”

Mexico’s Interior Secretary, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, is refusing further dialogue with the CNTE (teachers and education workers union) until the blockades are lifted, the CNTE is vowing to intensify its actions around the country, and rumor has it that masses of vacant hotel rooms in Oaxaca (thanks to large-scale cancellations) are being filled by federal police.  There’s a dance going on in Oaxaca, I don’t know the steps, but in the meantime, let’s put on our red shoes and dance the blues.

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Let’s Dance
by David Bowie

Let’s dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song
they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway
while color lights up your face
Let’s sway
sway through the crowd to an empty space

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Let’s dance for fear
your grace should fall
Let’s dance for fear tonight is all

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes
Let’s sway under the moonlight,
this serious moonlight

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Let’s dance put on your red shoes
and dance the blues

Let’s dance to the song
they’re playin’ on the radio

Let’s sway you could look into my eyes
Let’s sway under the moonlight,
this serious moonlight

 

Under construction

I usually don’t spend much time walking along Crespo — the bus fumes and traffic noise are enough to have one holding one’s nose, covering one’s ears, and detouring to another street, as soon as possible!  However, a (not-so-little) birdie told me to check out the stairs up to the Guelaguetza Auditorium.

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Yikes!!!   An improvement project has been underway from Crespo all the way up to the Auditorium since the end of April.  Runners, walkers, and residents need to use an alternative route.  As the sign says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

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I spoke to one of the workmen and asked, if the project is going to be finished in time for the Guelaguetza.  After all, the first performance of Donají la Leyenda is scheduled for the night of July 24 and la Guelaguetza begins the following morning — that’s less than a month away.  He assured me the work would be completed.

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Speaking of the Guelaguetza…  Vive Oaxaca has a notice (in red, no less!) essentially saying, that because of the number of messages they have received regarding information about the current conflicts in Oaxaca, they feel compelled to announce that they have no information about the cancellation of Guelaguetza.  As far as they know, everything is continuing as planned, but advise visitors to monitor official information from the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Development of the State of Oaxaca.

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Market day in Tlacolula

Sunday is market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros and I was so ready to escape the city.  No bloqueos blocked our way and Sunday traffic was even lighter than usual, thus the drive was uneventful.  In addition, though rumors of gasoline shortages have been rampant, we had no trouble filling up at one of the numerous Pemex stations along our eastbound route.  Once we arrived, we found the market was a beehive of activity, aisles had us crowded shoulder to shoulder with shoppers from Tlacolula and the surrounding villages.

The color… the energy… the bounty… the people… the smells… the street food…the life.  It was all just what the doctor ordered!  And, when I got home and turned on my computer, a documentary on market day in Tlacolula popped up on my Facebook news feed.  (h/t Zeferino Mendoza)

It may be from 2012, but not much has changed.  This Sunday open air market (tianguis) is one of the oldest continuously operating in Mesoamerica.

Halftime in Oaxaca

It’s halftime in Oaxaca and all is quiet.

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Local vendors are selling food, drink and paraphernalia. Though El Financiero is reporting that grocery chain Soriana is temporarily closing some of their stores in Oaxaca and Chiapas, blaming blockades and security concerns.

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The teams have retired to their respective locker rooms to tend to the wounded and bury the dead (literally).

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Mascots continue to fire up their supporters in a war of Tweets, Facebook posts, and media talking heads…

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As fans (fanáticos en español) await the resumption of play.

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But, all most Oaxaqueños want is a peaceful and fair end to this infernal battle.  Let’s hope something can be worked out when negotiations resume on Monday.

During this lull, English speaking readers might want to check out Dave Miller’s blog and/or listen to an interview with Laura Carlsen (Center for International Policy) for background on the issues involved between the education workers and the government.

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