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Yesterday, friends from California invited me to accompany them on one of their favorite pastimes — going to the source for artisanal mezcal. At our first stop, the palenque of Félix Ángeles Arellanes, Mezcal El Minerito, we were just in time to watch the beginning of the process of cooking the agave piñas.

The art of making mezcal at the palenque, Mezcal El Minerito.

Piling river rocks onto the red and white hot coals in the earthen pit that functions as the horno (oven).

Covering the rocks with bagaso (recycled crushed agave fibers).

Putting the long tobasiche agave piñas into the oven.

Adding the more rounded jabalí and tobalá piñas.

Topping it off with more tobasiche piñas.

Covering the piñas with more bagaso.

Félix’s sons worked nonstop — an hour and fifteen minutes from the time of the first photo, they covered the mound with tarps to enclose the oven. Though we didn’t see it, I suspect this was then sealed with soil.

Félix pours the “Nectar of the Gods” — a multilayered and complex artisanal mezcal.

Nothing like being at the right place at the right time. And, yes, we not only watched, we tasted and we bought!

I returned to Teotitlán del Valle late Friday afternoon to view the convite of of unmarried women of the village and Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 danzantes (dancers) process through town — an invitation to further festivities honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Though that wasn’t the only activity on my agenda; I would be spending the weekend with my amiga K, who was house-sitting for another amiga N. It would be a weekend in the countryside for this city gal!

I arrived late afternoon on Friday…

Canastas (baskets) lined up in front awaiting the procession under the gaze of the sacred mountain, El Picacho.

Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de Pluma 2019-21 arriving in front of the church, waiting to process.

Guys who launch the cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) announcing the procession.

The convite begins — unmarried women of Teotitlán del Valle carrying the aforementioned canastas (baskets).

After the convite, an early evening encounter with a burro as mi amiga K and I walked to Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua .

Saturday…

Early morning view of the campo in Teotitlán del Valle.

Breakfast gathering of cocineras (cooks) and friends in the cocina de humo at Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua.

Encounter with a bull while walking back to the house.

Returning to the church to watch the late afternoon performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

Following the Danza de la Pluma, late night watching the toritos, castillo, and fireworks in front of the church.

Sunday…

During mass, shopping baskets parked in the church atrium.

Off to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. The upside down St. Peter encountered in the Señor de Tlacolula chapel.

Taekwondo competition in front of the municipal buildings in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Returning to Teotitlán del Valle, still life in front of the sacred mountain, El Picacho, seen while walking back to the church in the afternoon.

Final Danza de la Pluma performance in the church atrium at the 2019 Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

It was a lively, delicious, and exhausting weekend. Did I mention, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day?  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Muchisimas gracias to all who made it an unforgettable weekend!

Catching the wind

Yesterday, Teotitlán del Valle’s new Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 did battle, not only with Cortes, but also with the wind — which grabbed their penachos/coronas/headdresses like sails, challenging their balance, intricate footwork, and Busby Berkeley-like choreography.

Moctezuma holding on to his penacho/corona/headdress

Danzantes holding on to their penachos/coronas/headdress

Danzante appealing to the gods to stop the wind?

Throughout the day, wind continued to challenge the danzantes

Grasping their penachos/coronas/headdresses, Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings kept to their feet

The danzantes of Teotitlán del Valle didn’t miss a step at this most important festival day honoring the patron saint of their village, La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Alas, the wind didn’t bring much needed rain to this agricultural community.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue for another three days.

Oaxaca is filling with tourists as “Julio, Mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) is upon us — a time when Oaxaca recognizes and celebrates the sixteen indigenous groups whose languages, traditions, and rich cultures long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (both military and religious) and permeate the character of the state.

San Francisco Sola delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Every year more parades, food and artisan fairs, concerts, and regional Guelaguetzas are added.  Drawing both foreigners and nationals, it has become THE major tourist attraction for Oaxaca. [Click on images to enlarge]

While the streets are filled with a party atmosphere and those who can afford the high-priced tickets are treated to a true spectacle — fabulous views, colorful costumes, music and dance — people question how the indigenous communities (over 50% of the state’s population and some of its poorest) actually benefit.

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec delegation – Guelaguetza July 21, 2018 desfile

The dancers are not professional dancers, are not paid to perform, and most must travel from villages hours and hours away.

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July 22, 2018 morning

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July 22, 2018 evening

They do it for the love of their villages, pride in their heritage, and to share a little of their traditions with the world outside their communities — and I can’t help but be swept along in the joy and moved by their dedication.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Genoveva Medina delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

To support their communities, I strongly recommend you do your shopping at the craft fairs in the city and visit the indigenous villages — buy directly from the artisans or shops that can show provenance.

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July 29, 2019 morning

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July 29, 2019 evening

The above four Guelaguetza performances, along with Donají, La Leyenda (tragic legend of the love between a Zapotec princess and a Mixtec prince — it doesn’t end well, but her face graces the official shield of the city of Oaxaca de Juárez) are usually shown live on CORTV — both on their television station and their YouTube channel.

Putla Villa de Guerrero delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Friends are arriving and my calendar is rapidly filling. Perhaps I’ll run into you at a regional Guelaguetza, at one of the desfiles in the city, the Festival de los Moles, the Feria de Hongos Silvestres in Cuajimoloyas, the Expo Feria Artesanal, the Feria del Tejate y Tamal, or at any one of the scores of other events happening here in July!

While Juana was wrapping the branches and trunk of my newly acquired hat stand (my aforementioned decade-in-Oaxaca anniversary present to myself), I wandered around the Matlacihua Arte.  My eyes and feet kept drawing me to a back corner of the showroom where a lamp, assembled from three intricately carved and painted jícara gourds, beckoned.

It is the work of Gabriel Sosa Ortega, the son of Jesus and Juana.  Working in a variety of mediums, Gabriel is one of the up and coming talented young artists being recognized in the state.  He was part of the Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art (FOFA) exhibition of young artists at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) and he collaborated with Jesus Sosa Calvo (his father) and US-based artist Joe Lewis in a piece for the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky — an exhibition of international collaboration at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

Gabriel’s lamp made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!

As of today, it has been ten years since I, accompanied by two suitcases and a backpack, arrived to begin making lemonade out of lemons by moving to Oaxaca.  And, in case you haven’t guessed, I haven’t regretted it for a minute.  Oaxaca, how do I love thee?  There are too many ways to count!  However, being embraced by the warm and welcoming arms of Oaxaqueños and being surrounded by art, culture, and history are at the top of my list.  So, what better way to celebrate the past ten years than to commission a piece of functional art — a hat stand — from the San Martín Tilcaje workshop of Jesus Sosa Calvo.

Juana Vicente Ortega Fuentes and Jesus Sosa Calvo with my new hat stand.

Sunday, blogger buddy Chris and I pointed his little Jetta towards San Martín Tilcajete to pick it up.

When I discussed the piece with Jesus, my only instructions to him were that he incorporate hummingbirds (colibries, en español) in the design — and he certainly did! (Click on images to enlarge.)

The initial plan had been for the hat rack to reside in my bedroom.  However, it was way too beautiful not live near the entrance to Casita Colibrí, for all visitors to see.

My new piece of functional art already looks at home in Casita Colibrí.

Muchisimas gracias to Oaxaca and her people for enriching my life for the past ten years.  Here is to many more!!!

On my way to the supermarket this morning, look what I came upon in the Plaza de la Danza.  The candidates vying to become Diosa Centéotl, the fertility goddess of corn who presides over July’s Guelaguetza festival, were rehearsing the blocking for this evening’s first stage of the competition.

Down the stairs of the Plaza de la Danza they processed to the solemn sound of the Himno a la Diosa Centéotl.

According to the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca (Seculta), this year there are 43 women, all over 18 years old, hoping to be the one selected.

Onto the stage to their assigned seats, where, cued by the director, they each, in turn, practiced walking up to the microphone.

Representing the regions of the state, twelve are from the Central Valleys, eleven from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, six from the Sierra Sur, five from the Mixteca, four from the Papaloapan, four from the Coast, and one from the Cañada.

Accompanied by their shadows, they climbed the stairway to the stars to start all over again.

Tonight’s competition begins at 6:00 PM, when each participant will talk about the myths and legends, gastronomy, traditions, and tourist attractions in their village.  The second stage of the competition begins tomorrow (June 30, 2019) at 11:00 AM.

(ps)  This is not only a venue change, the date of the competition was moved up almost three weeks — perhaps to have Diosa Centéotl preside over more of the Guelaguetza’s ancillary events.

Flowers of summer

Summer showers bring more flowers.

Night blooming cereus on the terrace of Casita Colibrí

Flamboyán at Tierra Antigua, Teotitlán del Valle

Hibiscus at the home of Edmundo Montaño and Alicia Lorenzo, Teotitlán del Valle

Beauty and blessings brought to the land and people of Oaxaca by Cocijo.

 

Oaxaca strong

Ahhh… While in el norte, along with Sunday scenes in Tlacolula, I missed sights like this.

Seen on Matamoros between Crespo and Tinoco y Palacios in Oaxaca.  Signed by @Mortales333

I returned to Casita Colibrí early Friday morning, weary from Aeromexico’s red eye from San Francisco.  After emptying the suitcases, bed beckoned!  No need to drag myself to the market, as neighbor and gal pal, K, welcomed me home with a delicious dinner.  Saturday, was spent putting things away, tending to the garden, and raiding the freezer for a tamal to go along with leftover salad from the night before.  However by Sunday I was recovered enough to accompany K on her weekly pilgrimage to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Doña Aurelia, cocinera at her Puesto de Barbacoa. A yummy way to begin the day!

A stop in the Capilla del Señor de Tlacolula of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asunción for a reminder from Señor de la Paciencia (Lord of Patience).

The bell tower of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asuncón, Tlacolula de Matamoros.  It always pays to look up.

“The sense of responsibility is latent in the human being, with sensitivity we should look for it from childhood, channel it in adolescence, perfect it in the youth to understand and better serve society.”

Far from the madding crowd in search of a baño.

Aprons on and baskets in hand: Marketing on market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

What better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca.  Chicken soup for this soul!  Gracias a mi amiga.

Oaxaca te amo

Home soon and looking forward to returning to these sights…

View of Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Metates and garlic — market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Monos and marmotas waiting for a wedding at Santa Domingo de Guzmán.

Oaxaca, I love you.

 

Dreaming Oaxaca

I’ve been in el norte for a month and loving spending time with family and friends, but now dreaming Oaxaca dreams.

From the mural, painted in 1980 by Arturo García Bustos, depicting the history of Oaxaca in Oaxaca’s Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace).

As previously mentioned, I am currently in el norte.  Visiting my family and friends has taken me from Oaxaca to New York, across the country to California, followed by Colorado, and then back to California.  I have been on multiple airplanes, traversed through multiple airports, and been complimented multiple times on my earrings.  We are not talking gold or silver filigree, we are talking about earrings made from jícara — the fruit of the Crescentia cujete (aka, Calabash tree).  [Click on images to enlarge.]

 

 

Earrings are not the only things made from the dried fruit of these humble trees that grow in less-than-ideal environments.  The Tacuate women of Santa María Zacatepec (Oaxaca) use them as hats.

The gourds are cut in half, washed, and with seeds removed, set out in the sun.  Once dry, throughout southern Mexico, they frequently are lacquered, decoratively painted, and used as cups for tejate and other traditional beverages.

 

 

As youi can see, in Villa de Zaachila, in the valley of Oaxaca, this use is even celebrated in a Día de Muertos mural.

Larger jícaras, known as jicalpextles, are a specialty of Chiapa de Corzo (Chiapas).  However, they have assumed a special role in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca), where they are filled with handmade sugar flowers and carried during weddings, religious celebrations, and other important fiestas.

 

 

And, recently there was an exhibition of carved jícaras by Salomón Huerta and José Cruz Sánchez from Pinotepa de Don Luis (Oaxaca) at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO).  At last, the talent of the artisans who create these pieces is being given the recognition it deserves and their creations are being appreciated as works of art.

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So, hurray for the not-so-humble jícara and the ingenuity and creativity of the indigenous peoples of the world whose traditions teach them to honor and not waste the gifts of planet earth.

I’m visiting family and friends in el norte and trying not to get caught up in the constant barrage of ignorant, disgraceful, and infuriating news coming out of Washington D.C.  However, sometimes it can’t be ignored.

This is all I have to say…

(If you don’t know and can’t figure out what “pendejo” translates to in English, click HERE.)

Another mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor outside Santiago Matatlán.

 

Doorway into Zaachila

From the land of Zaachila yoo (house of Zaachila)…

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Villa de Zaachila pride in black and white by YNKL/Sanez.

 

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