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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.

Welcome to the fiesta

A much needed pause in nesting at the new Casita Colibrí was in order. Teotitán del Valle’s patronal festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo beckoned. The pandemic had closed the village for many months and precluded attending any of the 2020 fiestas. However, with mask on, I returned to spend three days. First on the schedule was Monday evening’s convite (procession) inviting the community to the fiesta.

Lining up in front of Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo for the convite.
Canastas ground level before being lifted onto the heads of the young unmarried women chosen to participate.
Cohetero (aka, rocket man) mugging before lighting the fuse.
Anticipating the big bang!
Tambor player who has walked many miles.
Young percussion player with many miles yet to walk.
As the shadows lengthened, the convite wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Doña Marina, Moctezuma, and La Malinche bringing up the rear.
Villagers gather at their favorite location to watch the passage of the convite.
Convite taking over the main street in Teotitlán del Valle.
Danzantes under the watchful gaze of El Picacho.
Subalterno keeping on keeping up.
The return trip to the iglesia.
After almost an hour, the convite re-entered the atrium of the iglesia.
Watching and contemplating — the end.

The last festival in Teotitlán that I attended, before Covid-19 turned the world sideways, was the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in October 2019. The warm welcome I received at the convite on Monday was incredibly touching and I admit to tearing up a little as it began.

Many of my View From Casita Colibrí regular readers have expressed concern regarding how the garden survived the move. I want to assure you, though it desperately needs landscaping, the plants are surviving and thriving in their new home.

Flor de Mayo
Night Blooming Cereus
Cayenne pepper
Crown of Thorns
Madagascar Jasmine
Buddha belly plant (Jatropha podagrica)

Methinks it is, in no small part, due to our daily late afternoon downpours. It is the rainiest rainy season since 2010 — at least that I can remember!

Moving days

Yes, that is moving days, plural! However, neither rain nor breakdowns nor dark of night kept Casita Colibrí (the name moved, too) from moving twelve years of furniture, art and artesanía, kitchenware, clothing, books, and her massive container garden to its new home.

Day one began at 4:00 PM and consisted of four trips and a little rain to move from the old casita to the new — hauling furniture, boxes, and some of the smaller plants. Some of it was carried down the dicey stairs and some went over the balcony. Needless to say, the crew of five, plus yours truly, were worn out when we called it quits at 10:00 PM.

With all the furniture ensconced in its new home, the task of day two (postponed a few days due to mechanical issues with the truck) was to move the trees, their ginormous pots, the chimenea, and worm-rich barrels of soil that I have been cultivating for several years. It wound up taking two trips and almost four hours to lower the plants, etc. from one rooftop and then hoist them up to another. Oh, and did I mention, having to detour several blocks due to an accident. Another day of sheer exhaustion!

However, when all is said and done, everything arrived safe and sound, save for one cracked pot. Of course, that doesn’t count the sore backs and the revenge of cactus thorns. Willie Delfín and his crew were amazing.

Now the decorating and landscaping fun begins!

My new neighborhood

Coming or going…

rain or shine…

Barrio de Jalatlaco — my new neighborhood!

I know, the recent blog posts have been few and far between — and they will continue to be so for a couple of weeks. After twelve years, I am moving across town to a new-to-me, but old to the city, neighborhood. In the meantime, enjoy photos from our recent comida at the Tierra Antigua cocina de humo (traditional outdoor kitchen).

Tierra Antigua cocinera, Carina Santiago
Sopa de guías
Tortillas hot off the comal
Mole almendrado
Kalisa and the sheep
Nieve de mango

Stay tuned for news from the new Casita Colibrí neighborhood and home.

Several days ago, I finally returned to Teotitlán del Valle.

This was my first visit since the 30th anniversary celebration of Tlamanalli on February 14, 2020.

The pandemic hit soon thereafter and my adventures outside the city ceased.

Needless to say, I got a little emotional as I reconnected with sights, sounds, and, most of all, friends.

There wasn’t nearly enough time to check in with everyone as we (visitors from California and I) had been invited for comida at Tierra Antigua.

We spent hours and hours dining on delicious food prepared by Carina Santiago and her staff and catching up with her family and Kalisa, who is now based in Teotitlán.

However, now that I and many of my older friends in Teotitlán are fully vaccinated, I will be back soon!

It feels so good to be back in this walkable city where simple errands offer the opportunity for exercising one’s body and mind.

“Free Palestine! Colombia lives!”

Connections are made and internationalism lives.

Reading the walls of Oaxaca is like reading the news.

Back in Oaxaca

Alive, well, back in Oaxaca, and enjoying the views from Casita Colibrí.

Looking west at Templo de San José and the Basilica de la Soledad with Monte Albán in the distance.

I arrived three days ago and, unbeknownst to me (as it was supposed to go all the way through to Oaxaca) my checked bag was held up in customs at the Mexico City airport. I can’t imagine what the problem was. Perhaps 5 dry sticks of Sure deodorant? 4 pairs of gardening gloves (1 for me 3 for gifts)? 3 used books? Or, maybe the 15 used compost-able plastic bags I brought back to line my waste baskets? No explanation was forthcoming, but they did put my suitcase on the next flight that evening and delivered it to my apartment around 9 PM — nothing confiscated, no customs fee, and NOTHING missing!

Looking south toward Oaxaca’s airport.

From the evening I returned, I began sneezing, nose began running, and I developed a head-crushing sinus headache. Except for a quick trip to the pharmacy to buy an allergy medicine, I spent all Tuesday in bed. This has never happened before, but everyone is telling me that this season, this year is really bad for allergies. By Wednesday, I was feeling a little stuffy, but much better.

Sunset looking north.

The rainy season was just beginning when I left six weeks ago and now, the hills are turning green, the garden is lush, and tonight, as the sun sets, thunder is rumbling, lightening is flashing in the distance, and a few raindrops have fallen. It’s good to be back!

My trip to el norte is drawing to a close and tomorrow morning, before the sun rises, my day-long journey back to Oaxaca begins. After being away for 5-1/2 weeks, I wonder what changes I will see. In the meantime, a couple of cute animal photos from here and there…

Chipmunk that perches on this rock every morning at my son’s house in upstate New York.
Squirrel feeding station set up by neighbors in Barrio de Xochimilco, Oaxaca.

Now that I am fully vaccinated, I’m looking forward to venturing out and about a lot more and hopefully having more fodder for the blog!

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