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Tlacolulokos at work

Today, I decided to change up what has become my Friday shopping routine. Instead of walking north to the fruit and veggie vendor, I headed south to explore the Friday tianguis — relocated from Llano Park a couple of years ago and now residing near the Polideportivo.

And, what an excellent decision it was! Only blocks from home, I came across a massive mural in progress on Calle de la Noche Triste at the corner of Calle Ignacio Aldama.

With scaffolding and tools of the trade in place, men were at work.

The style looked familiar, so I stopped to ask, and discovered they were the Tlacolulokos – my favorite artist collective from Tlacolula de Matamoros!

I think the guy I spoke to was a bit taken aback to find that this gringa was quite familiar with their work — including the murals for the Downtown Central Library in Los Angeles, California. Stay tuned…

Weird sky at dusk

Pink sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Pink sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

What about a weird sky at dusk?

View from the rooftop — looking northwest, not so weird.
View from the rooftop — looking east was ominous.
View from the rooftop — looking southeast was seriously eerie and beautiful.

Last night’s sky over Oaxaca was the talk of locals on Facebook. Rain came an hour later.

Decorations in green, white, and red began going up the first of September.

Papel picado flying above calle Ignacio Aldama in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

No, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Window of a school in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

The entire month of September is designated the Mes de la Patria — a month celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — a war which began on September 16 1810 and finally ended 200 years ago on September 27, 1821.

Mexican flag flying in the yard of one of my neighbors in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

This is rain!

Yesterday’s view from my front door…

A late afternoon deluge. This is the rainy season in Oaxaca!

In the first chapter of The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz reflects on the face of an old man… “features are seen as a face, and later as a mask, a meaning, a history.”

Mural seen on Calle de Narciso Mendoza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

And John Dalberg-Acton wrote, “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”

Rainy season skies

With storms to the north and storms to the south, Oaxaca is stuck in the middle. And the rain keeps falling. Sometimes, the sun peeks through the clouds…

On the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.

And, sometimes it doesn’t…

View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday.
View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – midday.

Sometimes it rains in the late afternoon, sometimes at night, and sometimes (like today) the rains come on and off throughout the day. ‘Tis the season.

If it’s Friday, in addition to flowers, it is the day a produce stand sets up just a few blocks away. Mi amiga Kalisa and I stumbled on it during one of our Friday morning walks and little did I know that eight months later I would move nearby and it would become my weekly fruit and veggie vendor.

Weekly produce stand on Privada Lic. Primo Verdad.

The stand has both imported and local fruits and veggies. Three weeks ago I couldn’t resist some of the freshest looking huitlacoche I’ve seen.

Huitlacoche sauteed with onions, garlic, dried chiles, and verdolaga (purslane) — the latter from my garden.

For the uninitiated, huitlacoche (aka, corn smut) is a fungus (Ustilago maydis) that can attack ears of corn during the rainy season. Here in Mexico it is a delicacy. I sauteed it with some other goodies (see above photo) and used it, along with quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), to fill an omelette.

Quesillo and huitlacoche omelette garnished with sliced avocado.

One would never guess that, as a child, I was a picky eater!

People in my neighborhood

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

It’s Friday and I wanted to introduce you to my aforementioned flower vendor. His name is Moises and he also sells sprigs of herbs.

Today I bought two bunches of agapanthus and one of romero (rosemary). And, the Sesame Street song, People in Your Neighborhood, keeps spinning around my brain and singing in my heart.

Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
.

Home delivery

One of the delights of my new and improved Casita Colibrí home is that it is located in a real neighborhood — one with the feel of a small town. Most everything I need is available within a few blocks. Then there are the vendors! They traverse the cobblestone streets plying their wares — the gas trucks with their distinctive horns, moos, and jingles blasting from loud speakers, the guy shouting “tamalestamalestamales” so fast that it’s hard to understand at first, the paletas (Mexican popsicle-like frozen treat) vendor pushing his cart and calling “palEtas,” and the flower seller who, after I happened to be at the apartment complex entrance and bought agapanthus and a few lilies, doesn’t even yell “flores” when he arrives every Friday in front of the gate, he now just rings my buzzer.

This week, I bought two bunches of alstroemeria.

The previous week, it was two dozen long-stemmed yellow roses.

The quality is excellent — the roses lasted almost an entire week!

Filling the hearts

Recycling in Oaxaca continues — slowly but surely. But, honestly, who can resist filling these hearts around Parque El Llano/Paseo Juarez?

Here in Jalatlaco, we are not asked to separate our trash, but I think I will begin taking my plastic agua mineral (mineral water) bottles down to this heart next to the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco.

This is a program, begun in 2019, by the city’s Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, a governmental agency charged with strengthening and developing the welfare of the Mexican families.

Unsurprisingly, on Monday Oaxaca went back to Covid-19 Semáforo Naranja (orange traffic light) — meaning there is a high risk of contagion of the virus. On Wednesday, it was reported there were 479 new COVID-19 patients, the highest figure of the year.

Unfortunately, having had to run a few errands over the past few days, I haven’t seen any changes in people’s behavior, business/government/museum closings, nor enforcement of the mask wearing mandate — only an announcement by the archbishop that churches would be limited to 25% capacity.

It is demoralizing and infuriating and all I can do is continue to wear a cubreboca (face mask) whenever I’m out and about, practice social distancing, and try to stay sane. As for the latter, I’m choosing to concentrate on and appreciate my favorite things.

People, real and imagined, waiting for the bus on Av. Benito Juárez.
Ensalada de pulpo (Octopus salad) at Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante.
A turquoise building, meters, and mural on Calle La Alianza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Water lily in the pond of Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum).

We are all tired. However, unless people take this extremely seriously, get vaccinated, and continue to mask up and practice social distancing, “normal” will not return and our fellow humans (including loved ones) will needlessly continue to suffer and die. As a current meme suggests, let us all practice humility, kindness, and community.

Cereusly busy bee

This morning: Four Night Blooming Cereus flowers and one seriously busy bee!

Life in the rooftop garden.

When last we left Casita Colibrí’s garden, it had weathered Moving days and the plants were Surviving and thriving wherever they had landed at their new home.

Much to the movers’ relief, some (though, not a lot!) of the plants were to remain on the ground floor. With those, it was within my artistic ability to create an entryway and to arrange the palms and other shade-loving plants in my new apartment’s atrium.

However, the landscaping on the rooftop, where the majority of the plants landed, was left to the imagination — as I had neither the strength nor the skill. Consequently, two and a half weeks ago, under a blazing hot and unrelenting sun, my friend and excellent landscaper Jose Ruiz Garcia and his nephew came over to move, position, and re-position trees and succulents and shrubs — oh my!

Most mornings it’s now where I begin my day. With coffee in hand, I cautiously wend my way up the narrow spiral staircase to commune with my plants, listen to the birds sing and chatter, and enjoy this beautiful and tranquil garden that Jose has created. It’s also a perfect setting to sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

Another year of Covid-19 means another year without an up close and personal Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Like last year performances and events are going virtual. However, unlike last year, when video of the dancing was taken from the years 2017 to 2019, this year the delegations will be performing live from their villages.

La Guelaguetza 2021 schedule of cultural events:

July 19, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 19, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

Transmissions can be viewed at CORTV– on local television, their YouTube channel, and on their Facebook page.

Let’s dance!

In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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