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Sometimes, you just have to stop and marvel at the artistry of organ cactus planted against a wall.

Calle Pajaritos, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez
Casa Ocho Regiones, Av Benito Juárez, Oaxaca de Juárez
Calle 5 de mayo, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

The sculptural effects of organ cactus always seem to create a WOW factor.

Rain on the rooftop

At long last, thunder is rumbling and rain is pouring down on the highways, byways, and rooftops of Oaxaca. If you look closely, you can see the buckets collecting the runoff from the new pergola.

View from the shelter of the new pergola.

Oaxaca, a largely agricultural state, desperately needs the rain. Let’s hope it lasts!

Project pergola perfection

After four seasons of living with the blazing sun on the rooftop of the new Casita Colibrí, I decided the lone, albeit large, umbrella over the table was completely inadequate in making the terrace compatible with human occupation. Thus, a pergola project was begun. Much web surfing and consultation with friends with engineering and construction experience ensued — including Tom H. (thank you!) who designed and supervised the shade structure at the old Casita Colibrí.

May 30, 2021 – The rooftop before I moved in.
July 22, 2021 – A month after my garden moved in.
August 1, 2022 – Construction of the pergola begins.
August 1, 2022 – With a crew of 5, the framing went up quickly.
August 1, 2022 – Lamina being attached to the framing.
August 1, 2022 – More welding of the frame (those are sparks in lower center of the photo).
August 2, 2022 – Installing the final lamina panels.
For those engineering folks, here is how the steel posts are bolted to the floor of the terrace.
August 4, 2022 – Tables, plants, and chiminea positioned and wind chimes finally hung.

A huge “muchisimas gracias” to Civil Engineer, Omar Rito and his crew of five for their wonderful work constructing a perfect rooftop pergola in two days!

In Teotitlán del Valle, the dancers of the Danza de la Pluma (Feather dance), make a solemn commitment to their faith and to their community to dance for three years at each of the four major annual religious festivals in their village. 2022 brings a new group and the festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo the first of their public performances for the residents of their village and visitors. They dance four times during this festival — two half days and two full (7 hours) days.

July 5, 2022…

La Malinche (Silvia Melissa González Pérez), Moctezuma (Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz), and Doña Marina (Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.)
Teotitlán de Valle, Danza de la Pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Danzantes dancing like puppets on a papel picado string.
Subalterno helping Rey 4, Luis Ángel Bazán Ruiz, with his penacho (headdress).
Subalterno taking a selfie with a “borrowed” phone.

July 6, 2022…

Capitán 2, Hugo Félix Santiago Jiménez.
Dancers of the Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Moctezuma, Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz.
Doña Marina, Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.
La Malinche, Silvia Melissa González Pérez.
Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024, Teotitlán del Valle.

On the superficial level, the Danza relates the story of the Conquest — the Spanish, Moctezuma, his allies, and Malinche/Doña Maria. But, as is the genius of art, it reaches into our hearts and souls and explores and communicates the truths we know and feel.

In 2022, they will dance again for Natividad de la Virgen María in September, Rosario de la Virgen María in October, and the Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12.

After a two-year hiatus, La Guelaguetza is back. Papel (actually, plastic) picado, in the colors of the rainbow, is draped over the streets, Tiliches (iconic participants at Carnaval in Putla de Guerrero and this year’s chosen image to represent Guelaguetza) are hanging around on sidewalks, walls, and rooftops, and the streets are filled with tourists, both foreign and domestic.

Decorations hanging above Calle de Miguel Hidalgo in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Tiliche hanging around Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Principal Guelaguetza 2022 events.

This morning, the dancing will begin at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín. The list of delegations by date, time, and the dance they will be performing follows.

July 25, 2022, 9:00 AM delegations and dances.
July 25, 2022, 5:00 PM list of delegations and dances.
August 1, 2022, 9:00 AM list of delegations and dances.
August 1, 2022, 5:00 PM list of delegations and dances.

Please note, next Monday evening’s performance will include the previously mentioned Teotitlán del Valle, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024. If you are not in Oaxaca or, like me, don’t have tickets, you can watch courtesy of CORTV via television, their website, and Facebook live.

Invitation to July

The annual convite at the beginning of July in Teotitlán del Valle has not only been an invitation to the village’s patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Cristo. For me, it has also served as an invitation to a month of non-stop celebrations and events — an excuse to set aside my daily routines and chores and, instead, revel in the color and culture on display in the streets of the city and the small towns dotting the valley of Oaxaca.

The church, Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, ready and waiting for the convite to begin.
Picacho, the sacred mountain envelops the community in its protective arms, as the canastas and unmarried young women and girls of the village take their place in line for the convite.
Boys clutching their mini marmotas patiently wait for the deafening sound of the cohetes (rockets) signaling the convite’s start.
Boys and their mini marmotas at the head of the convite — accompanied by a few dads, big brothers, uncles, and officials to keep them in line.
Two monos (new addition this year) and one of several gigantic marmotas follow close on the heels of the young boys.
Of course there is a band to set the tempo.
Arms raised, contingents of unmarried women and girls carry canastas decorated with religious imagery.
Most are dressed in the valley’s traditional enredos (wool wrap skirts) and colorfully embroidered white blusas from Oaxaca and Chiapas.
In this Zapotec villlage, the beauty of the faces and strength of their arms are a sight to behold — especially Beatriz (foreground), who is very dear to my heart.
A second band marks the approach of the danzantes.
Danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024 alternately march and dance their way along the cobblestone streets.
Picacho watches as the danzantes wend their way along the meandering streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Villagers watch as danzantes Moctezuma, Malinche and Doña Marina, followed by another marmota, and town officials mark the last of the convite’s participants.

After almost an hour, the convite and its contingents returned to the church atrium. Their work, of extending an invitation to the festival, is finished — until next time!

And so July begins

Yikes, I realized it’s been nine days since my last blog post. Time does, indeed, fly when you’re having fun. And, fun is what I’ve been having, especially during the last four days.

July 4, 2022 – Convite in Teotitlán del Valle for their patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
July 5, 2022 – Morning hike in the hills of Teotitlán del Valle.
July 5, 2022 – Afternoon presentation of the Danza de la Pluma in honor of Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 6, 2022 – Full day of Danza de la Pluma honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 7, 2022 – Calenda celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Galería La Mano Mágica in Oaxaca city.

More on the convite, Danza de la Pluma, hike, and calenda to follow. But, first, a return to Teotitlán del Valle today for the final Danza de la Pluma presentation for this festival.

These are the scenes that soothe my soul…

Metates, molcajete, and comal.
Barro rojo and cactus.
Chiles and bean pot.
Black beans.
Cactus and agave.

A long weekend spent with my comadres and compadre at Tierra Antigua.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend K and I spent the day in the land of red clay, San Marcos Tlapazola, at the home of potter, Valentina Cruz. I have accumulated quite a collection (though not nearly as much as K) of barro rojo and several of my favorite pieces are by Valentina.

Getting there was quite the adventure. Leaving from Teotitlán del Valle (where I was spending a long weekend), the journey entailed taking a 3-wheeled moto (aka, tuk-tuk) to the highway, catching a bus to Tlacolula de Matamoros, multiple times asking for directions re where to find transportation to take us to Tlapazola, a bit of wandering around, ten blocks of walking, followed by waiting and wondering if we were in the right place. After 1/2 hour, a combi (a glorified pickup truck with wooden benches in the truck bed) arrived and took us up towards the mountains. Needless to say, the bouncing caused by the dirt roads and potholes were felt! Unfortunately, because the back of the truck was covered, we couldn’t even enjoy the views — that had to wait until we finally arrived at Valentina’s home/workshop/store.

The red clay soil isn’t just good for making pottery. Agave, cactus, corn, and squash also seem to thrive under the tender loving care of Valentina and her husband, Don Luis.

When we arrived, Valentina was busy at the tortilla press and comal — making tlayudas (large crispy tortillas) to accompany the chicken soup prepared by her daughter. After we all finished eating comida, we watched as Valentina took out a smooth river rock and began to burnish several pieces. This extra step puts a lovely sheen on her pottery and is one of the things that makes her work stand out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying the two horn-playing rabbits (top photo) at the tienda in her home. They join the face with the lid (also in top photo), among my many utilitarian pieces expertly crafted by Valentina. She and her beautiful barro rojo pottery can also be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula. After this lovely, but long day, we opted for her to call us a taxi to drive back to Teotitlán.

Father’s Day wishes

Happy Father’s Day to all the loving fathers (biological and adoptive), stepfathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, and father figures everywhere.

Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have. May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.

Animal crossing

Returning home from the trip to el norte, I discovered an animal crossing in the works near my local Pitico.

Thanks to the artist, Waffloide, it’s a jungle out there!

Now I can’t get The Lion Sleeps Tonight out of my head.

We read the news today, oh boy. Early last night a violent thunderstorm brought gale force winds and torrential rain. It didn’t last long but it took its toll. The beloved giant Indian laurel that provided shade to the concerts, danzón, and other programs “bajo el laurel” on the zócalo toppled to the ground. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The iconic Indian laurels were planted on Oaxaca’s Zócalo and Alameda de León between 1870 and 1880. However, in the thirteen years that I have lived here, I’ve lost count of the number of laurels that have fallen.

As the late artist and heritage tree advocate Francisco Verástegui once explained to me, the trees suffered from damage caused by an aborted remodel of the Zócalo in 2005, along with improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot.

I wasn’t the only one to come to pay my respects to this magnificent tree. “Muy triste” (very sad) was the morning’s refrain, as people filed by shaking their heads and others stopped to watch as the body of the Indian laurel was prepared for it’s final resting place.

According to reports, Hurricane Agatha is the strongest to make landfall along Mexico’s Pacific coast in May since record keeping began in 1949. As of tonight, Oaxaca’s governor said there have been ten deaths and twenty are missing, mostly due to flooding on the coast and mudslides in the mountains. Fortunately, friends living on the coast have marked themselves safe on social media. However, given the images and video I’ve seen posted on Facebook, Twitter, and news websites, the devastation is great and much help will be needed to clean up and rebuild.

Here in the capital city of Oaxaca, up and over the mountains from where the hurricane made landfall, we had steady rain yesterday and today we had a couple of episodes of torrential downpours. In Barrio de Jalatlaco we haven’t been hit with gale force winds, our cobblestone streets haven’t become rushing rivers, and we’ve only experienced intermittent power outages. And, as I write, the Guerreros de Oaxaca baseball game is being played at Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos — I can hear the chants and cheers from the above rooftop.

Like doors everywhere, the doors of Barrio de Jalatlaco are doorways leading to comings and goings, the known and unknown, and the life stories we create from outside and in.

“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” -― William Blake

“Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. — Daisaku Ikeda

“Every doorway, every intersection has a story.” — Katherine Dunn

While visiting el norte, one of my “musts” is taking advantage of the ethnically diverse dining options on the west and east coasts. To date, twice I’ve eaten Japanese at my younger son’s favorite restaurant, had Chinese twice, and dined on Indian twice. However, I’ve now been away from Oaxaca for a month and I’m dreaming Oaxaca dining dreams. Until my return next week, photos from three recent meals I’ve eaten in Oaxaca will have to suffice.

Garnachas – Maguey y Maíz
Ensalada pulquera – Maguey y Maíz
Mole de Caderas – Las Quince Letras
Chocolate tamal – Las Quince Letras
Roasted beets with fermented lentils – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante
Grilled octopus – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante

Then there is the street food… tacos, empanadas, tlayudas, oh my!

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