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I’m home in Barrio de Jalatlaco — rested, recovered, and caught-up — after a three-day fiesta at the home of my compadres in Teotitlán del Valle. Tranquil before photos…

Dried corn husks in waiting.
Shadows on the wall.
Nixtamalizing dried corn kernels.
Courtyard art of the arrangement.
Dried corn: To be cleaned, rejected, and keepers (top to bottom).

Three days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with 20 to 160 family members and compadres, formal presentations, and a ritual ceremony — all to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of marriage between the youngest daughter and her intended. More from the celebrations to come.

Beatles in a Beetle

Meet The Beatles in a Beetle! You just never know what you will see on the streets of Oaxaca.

Now I can’t get, “Drive My Car” out of my head!

Leaves gone, time to bloom

The 361 year old decidious Coquito de la Iglesia de Jalatlaco trees in the atrium of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco are beginning to bloom.

El Coquito (aka, Pseudobombax ellipticum, Amapola, Xiloxochitl, Sospó, Clavellina, Shaving brush tree, Cabellos de Ángel, Angel hair) is one of my favorite trees in Oaxaca.

Light and shadows

It feels so good to feel good again and be able to go out and about!

Yesterday, with every step I took…

I gathered energy from the light and shadows and the sound of papel picado fluttering above.

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” —Nathaniel Hawthorne

My Three Kings

Today is Día de los Tres Reyes Magos — a day the children of Mexico receive gifts from the Three Kings (aka, Three Wise Men, Magi). Alas, I am in quarantine at home with a possible case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. I say “possible” because, though the rapid antigen test result was negative, Emerging Data Raise Questions About Antigen Tests and Nasal Swabs. Plus, three days after attending an event where I took off my mask to eat and drink, I began experiencing all the symptoms — stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, dry cough, and no energy. Ugh! Fortunately, I am double vaxed and boosted, and after two days of feeling miserable, I am beginning to feel somewhat human again.

Instead of greeting the Three Kings on the street and watching them bring smiles and gifts to the children of Oaxaca, I will content myself with keeping company with my Melchor, Baltasar, and Gaspar — woven of palm fronds in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. And, I will treasure the gift of wonderful friends and neighbors who have kept my larder stocked and generously offered their help while I’m confined to quarters. They are my reinas y reyes (queens and kings)!

I’m bidding a fond, but with a hint of “good-riddance to bad rubbish,” farewell to 2021. In truth, I’m trying not to view the recent piles of basura (garbage) in the streets and bloqueos (blockades) by the garbage collectors as a metaphor for this past year of pandemic, fires, floods, and general pandemonium in the world.

Long walks around the city sufficed to fill my need to “travel” until the spring when my world expanded — with untold gratitude to scientists for their work in developing vaccines to help protect us from worst case Covid-19 scenarios. After fourteen months, armed with the vaccine, cubrebocas (face masks), caution, and excitement, I began venturing out of the city (even up to el norte twice), spending time with family and friends, and actually attending activities and events in person, not just via Zoom. It was almost, but not quite, like normal — and it was good!

January 17, 2021 – Templo y Convento de San Francisco de Asís Oaxaca
February 7, 2021 – Tapete woven by Mario González Pérez; Sangre y Herencia exhibition at Hotel Casa Antigua.
March 8, 2021 – Busy street corner in the city.
April 2, 2021 – La Morada de Colibrí, one of my favorite stalls at Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.
May 26, 2021 – Rooftop art in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
June 25, 2021 – Bike rally passing the ADO bus station — saying “No to violence against women” by students from Colegio Superior para la Educación Integral Intercultural de Oaxaca.
July 13, 2021 – Outside wall of La Mano Magica Gallery/Galería promoting the Shinzaburo Takeda exhibition.
August 1, 2021 – Guerreros baseball game dining at Estadio de Béisbol Lic. Eduardo Vasconcelos.
September 4, 2021 – Tree down on Czda. de la República after strong winds and very wet rainy season.
October 19, 2021 – “No Llores Por Mi” sculpture by a Santa María Atzompa artist — Día de Muertos exhibition at ARIPO.
November 1, 2021 – Neighbor weeding and cleaning the street in preparation for the evening’s Muerteada.
December 12, 2021 – In honor of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the last dance by Danza de la Pluma de Teotitlán del Valle, Promesa 2019 – 2021.

Feliz año nuevo y muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers for “hanging in” and for your encouraging comments during these challenging times — it means the world to me! May 2022 be kinder to all and bring you peace, joy, and health.

Toy Drive for 3 Kings Day

While Santa Claus is making inroads into Mexico, it is los Tres Reyes Magos (the Three Kings) who bring gifts to children on Epiphany, January 6.

Every year toy drives are held to assist Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar in acquiring enough toys so children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not left wanting.

I stumbled upon this toy drive, sponsored by the youth group Colectivo Yú Guelnaban and Fundación Comindi, at the north end of Llano Park.

Today’s drive is almost over, but I have no doubt there will be other opportunities to donate a new or gently used toy between now and January 6. “Recuerda que regalar un juguete es regalar una sonrisa” (Remember that giving a toy is giving a smile) — quote from a Colectivo Yú Guelnaban post on Facebook.

La Noche Before Christmas

It’s the night before Christmas and the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco are aglow with Christmas lights.

My little Christmas tree is decorated with earrings, necklaces, and tiny alebrije. Beneath the tree stands my miniature nacimiento (nativity scene) woven of palm fronds in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca.

In keeping with my blog’s Noche Buena tradition, a new interpretation of Pancho Claus — with the generous permission of the authors.

La Noche Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring, My goodness! ¿Qué pasa?
The children were all tucked away in their camas,
The girls in their sleepers, the boys in piyamas.

The stockings were hung, with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado,
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
Muchísimo candy, and other regalos.

When out in the yard there arose tanto grito,
That I jumped to my feet like a scaredy-gatito.
I ran to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?

Saint Nick on his sleigh in a big red sombrero,
Came dashing toward me like a loco bombero.
And pulling his sleigh, instead of venados,
Were eight little burros venir-ing volados!

I watched as they came and this kindhearted hombre,
Was whistling and shouting and calling por nombre:
“¡Ay Pancho, ay Cisco, ay Chuy, ay Flaco!”
“¡Ay Bella, Estrella, Chiquita y Paco!”

Then he jumped off his sleigh with his hands on his pecho,
After landing on top of our very own techo.
And struggling to squeeze down our old chimenea,
He bounced off the hearth like a bowl of jalea.

Now huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his vestido de gala,
He filled all the stockings with buenos regalos,
For none of the niños had been muy malos.

Then chuckling aloud feeling muy contento,
He turned in a flash and was gone like el viento.
And I heard him exclaim, y es la verdad,
“Merry Christmas to all, y ¡Feliz Navidad!”

***Inspired by the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore, 1822, and by the original song and lyrics “Pancho Claus” by Lalo Guerrero, 1956 (with permission from the estate of Lalo Guerrero). Conceived of and written as “The Noche Before Christmas”, (date/author/copyright uncertain, c. 1956-2001?). This revision by Bill Stryker and Norma Verdugo Stryker, 2019 (Copyright Registration Number TXu002156234).

Wishing one and all peace, joy, and health. !Felices fiestas!

Village holiday decor

No sooner had I returned to Oaxaca than I left again. However, this time it was to spend only a few days in Teotitlán del Valle for Guadalupe’s feast day and the celebration ending the three year commitment by the dancers of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2019-2021. (More about that in a later post.) In addition, after almost a two year absence, I also managed to spend a few hours in Tlacolula de Matamoros and San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Umbrellas of Mitla – December 13, 2021
Nacimiento of Tlacolula – December 13, 2021
Papel picado of Teotitlán – December 12, 2021

My friend K and I took local buses and I am happy to report everyone on the buses was masked and we even had to disembark at a checkpoint before entering Mitla. Once we and the interior of the bus were disinfected, we reboarded and headed into the town.

Setting the Guadalupe stage

In pre-pandemic years, on December 11, the day before Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, little boys, dressed as Juan Diego and little girls (las Malinches) in traditional indigenous traje (costume), waited patiently in long lines with parents and grandparents to enter the Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (at the north end of Llano Park) to be blessed. Once they exited, at least fifteen “Guadalupe grotto” settings, and the photographers who constructed them, competed for pesos for portraits of the children placed in these elaborate stage sets.

This year, no doubt due to the pandemic, when I arrived in the afternoon, the church doors were closed, there were half the “Guadalupe grotto” sets, and almost no children around — despite the carnival rides, games of chance, food stalls, and tchotchke vendors filling the park and beckoning. The little girl in the last photo was the only child I saw being photographed. Click on Guadalupe’s children and The kids are all right for photos of adorable niñas and niños from previous years.

Guadalupe is never far

Tomorrow may be Día de la Virgin de Guadalupe, but she is never far from sight no matter the day or place.

May 25, 2021 – Somewhere between Oaxaca’s airport and Barrio de Jalatlaco.
July 5, 2021 – Convite in Teotitlán del Valle.
January 3, 2021 – Outside the Iglesia de San Matias Jalatlaco.
August 11, 2021 – Along a sidewalk in Oaxaca de Juárez.
December 13, 2020 – Vendor offerings on the sidewalk of the Macedonio Alcalá.

December in Oaxaca

December is a noisy month in Oaxaca. The cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) began shattering the sound of silence yesterday and, except possibly during the middle of the night (I fell asleep to the bangs and booms) have continued unabated today. Why? you might ask. December 8 is the day Oaxaca celebrates her very own Virgen de Juquila. Next up, on December 12, along with the rest of Mexico, there will be festivities honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe, and finally on December 18 the Reina y Patrona de Oaxaca (Queen and Patroness of Oaxaca), la Virgen de la Soledad (Virgin of Solitude) will have her day.

In the meantime, under clear blue skies and temperatures in the 80s (Fahrenheit), the city sparkles with Christmas decorations.

Alameda de León, across from the cathedral
Alameda de León, across from the cathedral
Andador Turístico, Calle Macedonio Alcalá
Andador Turístico, Calle Macedonio Alcalá
Barrio de Jalatlaco
Barrio de Jalatlaco

Today’s breaking news: According to the Director of Culture and Tourism, on December 23 the annual, and extremely popular, Noche de Rabanos (Night of Radishes) will be held in person, but with reduced participation and a change of venue — the Plaza de la Danza.

Hummingbirds in the ‘hood

It’s been a crazy busy visit to el norte gratefully sprinkled with some fun with family and friends. However, now I’m getting ready for my return to Oaxaca and the hummingbirds in my Jalatlaco ‘hood.

The last image is a commissioned watercolor by Raul Baños hanging in my living room. How many colibríes (hummingbirds) can you see?

Day of the turkey

It’s Thanksgiving Day (known as Día de Acción de Gracias in Mexico) in el norte and I’m thinking guajolote thoughts. When you sit down to your turkey dinner you will be following in the footsteps of the original inhabitants of the valley of Oaxaca. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of turkey domestication 1,500 years ago in the in the valley of Oaxaca’s Mitla Fortress.  And, according to Gary Feinman, Field Museum curator of Mesoamerican anthropology, “It’s a bird very, very similar to what a lot of people are going to eat on Thursday.”

An imperious guajolote at the Villa de Zaachila Thursday market.

Turkeys, or as they are commonly known in Oaxaca, guajolotes, continue to play a special role in many of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities. Turkey mole is prepared and served during religious festivals and weddings, among other special occasions. They are also given as gifts and the downy feathers under the wings are dyed and used to make penachos (headdresses) for the danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma.

Guajolotes looking cute at the Villa de Zaachila Thursday market.

So, to those in el norte, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey, give a little thanks to the Zapotecs of the valley of Oaxaca.  ¡Buen provecho!

Send in the clowns

Just because, up here in el norte, life seems a bit more intense…

I say, send in a few of Oaxaca’s payasos.

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