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Overnight, as the calendar page turned from August to September, green, white, and red appeared around the city. The colors of the Mexican flag festooned buildings — both public and private and flags began flying from rooftops.

Papel picado hanging above Plazuela Labastida.

Vendor carts, selling all things patriotic, noisy, and green, white, and red, began appearing on busy street corners and green, white, and red lights were strung above major streets and in the zócalo. September is El Mes de Patria — an entire month of celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Kiosk in the zócalo.

September 16 is Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) marking Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) announcing the start of a ten-year long war for independence. However, all over Mexico, re-enactments “El Grito” (the Cry of Dolores) are staged at 11:00 PM on September 15 —  by mayors from municipal city halls, governors from state building balconies, and by the President of Mexico from the the National Palace. September 16 is marked with military parades.

Camera scaffolding in front of Oaxaca’s Government Palace.

As an article in yesterday’s El Imparcial proudly proclaimed, Oaxaqueños like Antonio de León, Carlos María Bustamante, José María Murguía y Galardi, and Manuel Sabino Crespo “contributed their sacrifice and courage to the creation of a free, sovereign and guaranteed homeland.” (my translation) By the way, for those who live or have visited Oaxaca: Do those names ring a bell?

Señorita América on her way to sing the Himno Nacional (Mexican National Anthem) in the zócolo after the governor gives the Grito.

Last night’s Grito was the first given by Mexico’s new President, Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka, AMLO). The media pointed out that he gave 20 “Vivas” from the balcony of the Palacio Nacional, while his predecessor only gave 11. Among the added “Long live’s” were, “¡Vivan las comunidades indígenas!” and “¡Viva la grandeza cultural de México!”

Long live the independence! Long live Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla! Long live Morelos! Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez! Long live Ignacio Allende! Long live Leona Vicar! Long live anonymous heroes! Long live the heroic people of Mexico! Long live the indigenous communities! Long live freedom! Long live justice! Long live democracy! Long live our sovereignty! Long live the universal fraternity! Long live peace! Long live the cultural greatness of Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!

And, there was more Oaxaca pride present in the nation’s capital as the Banda del Centro de Capacitación Musical y Desarrollo (CECAM), a youth band from the Mixe village of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, performed following the Grito.

Art of a garden

Who knew that there was an amazing garden, built on a former garbage dump, and open to the public in Xoxocotlán? Not me, until a friend mentioned it and invited me on a field trip to visit.

Thus, a few days ago, I found myself at Vives Verdes — a delightful labor of love — a marriage of plants, recycling, art, education, and the environment.

Nine years ago architect, Francisco Martínez began a project of landscaping a healing, artistic, and environmental garden — not only utilizing plants, but also converting found objects into planters and whimsical art.

Vives Verdes incorporates more than 200 species and 2000 plants — mostly from Oaxaca, but also from other arid climates throughout the world.

A water catchment system utilizing paths, beds, and ponds irrigate the garden and no chemicals are used.

Vives Verde is open to the public and school groups. It is located in the Las Culturas neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca.

Exploring his inner artist

I can’t think of a better way to honor the memory of Maestro Toledo, than to acknowledge, encourage, and celebrate young artistic talent. “Disguise the new water pipes,” she (the dueña) said.

And, so, Ulises, the 18 year old handyman/mozo in our apartment complex complied — and we were all impressed.

From what we gathered, Ulises had no formal artistic training. Yet, next thing we knew, courtesy of Uli, a rat had invaded our compound!

Soon thereafter, Uli had put Mara and Notte (our resident gatitos/cats), a tree, and a colibri/hummingbird on the scene.

Uli continued to explore his talent.

And, we now have a fierce, but lovely, jaguar on the scene! If only, every young person had the opportunity to explore their inner talent.

Oaxaca is in mourning. Last night, word of the passing of one of her greatest champions, Maestro Francisco Toledo was announced by Mexico’s president — an indication of the importance and esteem the Maestro is held. Born in Juchitán, Oaxaca on July 17, 1940, Toledo died in Oaxaca city on September 5, 2019, at age 79.

This morning outside the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO), which he founded and funded.

Besides being a world renown artist, he was a fighter for social justice and the environment, a very generous philanthropist, and crusader for the respect of indigenous peoples and character of Oaxaca. People are still chuckling over the unique form of protest he led when a McDonald’s threatened to open in the zocaló.

This morning, inside the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO).

We awoke this morning to see the gigantic Mexican flag that flutters above the city of Oaxaca flying at half staff and large black bows, indicating a family in mourning, had been fastened above many of the institutions that benefited from Toledo’s philanthropy.

Biblioteca Pública Central Margarita Maza de Juárez – Oaxaca’s main public library.

The streets of Oaxaca are little more subdued today — less laughter, music muted, and even the traffic doesn’t seem as chaotic.

On the sidewalk outside the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO).

A public tribute to the Maestro is scheduled for 2:00 PM today at the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.

First we eat…

Food with friend in Oaxaca during the last two weeks…

First we eat, then we do everything else. –M.F.K. Fisher

Tostadas de mariscos – Marco Polo, August 15, 2019

People who love to eat are always the best people. –Julia Child

Chiles Rellenos – Tierra del Sol, August 17, 2019

Food is our common ground, a universal experience. –James Beard

Mole Negro – Teotitlán del Valle, August 18 2019

Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is. –Irish Proverb

Ensalada de Papa y Pulpo — Ristorante Italiano Epicuro, August 30, 2019

The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. –Mark Twain

And, while we are on the topic of dining well in Oaxaca, we are all looking forward to the long delayed, but eagerly anticipated, Tercer Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca (3rd Gathering of Traditional Oaxacan Cooks) to take place September 19-22, 2019 at the Centro Cultural y De Convenciones Oaxaca (note venue change). According to reports, there will be 60 traditional women cooks, 15 people making traditional beverages, 6 pastry chefs, and 6 makers of iced desserts.

In commemoration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas (INPI) is hosting a Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena de Oaxaca.

It is a four-day festival honoring and promoting the state of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples and their communities with artesania, textiles and other products for sale, cultural performances and workshops, food booths, and even healing treatments — and it’s happening a block from Casita Colibrí in the Plaza de la Danza!

Yawi Naka – Triqui – La Laguna Guadalupe, Putla Villa de Guerrero

INPI has an excellent online atlas of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and it, along with the statistics I previously posted regarding poverty, discrimination, and the results thereof affecting Mexico’s indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples are abysmal.

Na Jacinta Charis – Zapoteco – Juchitán de Zaragoza

According to this article (in Spanish), the charge of the INPI is to advocate for indigenous and Afro-Mexican rights and to recognize that in order for these peoples and their communities to survive, institutional efforts must be taken to guarantee their full exercise of social, political, cultural, and economic rights.

Productores de Maguey y Mezcal Lucas 2010 SPR de Ri – Zapoteco – San Isidro Guishe, San Luis Amatlán

The INPI is also attempting to advance an understanding that the family/community economy of these communities has a different production logic than the commercial market economy and that their economic model must be respected.

Organización de Medicos Indigenas Tradicionales de laCañada – Cuicateco – San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán

This festival provides a space to promote the various community projects and to showcase the artistic and cultural expressions in the city.

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Chenteñas Hazme Si Puedes – Zapoteco – San Vicente Coatlán

I’ve aready been twice to the event — talking with various vendors, buying the blouse above (along with cheese, sal de chicatanas, and olive oil with fresh organic herbs), and sitting at one of the long tables enjoying a tamal, empanada, and a jícara of tejate

The Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena runs through late afternoon tomorrow (Sept. 1, 2019). If you are in Oaxaca city, be sure to check it out (schedule below).

Blessed construction!

Construction is going on all over the city. A blessing or a curse?

The cross was probably put up on May 3, Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross) — which also happens to be Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer). It is tradition for workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on construction sites.

So close and yet…

Late yesterday afternoon storm clouds gathered, thunder began rumbling in the distance, and rain began falling to the south.

The sky darkened to the east.

But all we got was this lovely rainbow.

80% chance of rain they said. But, alas this on again/off again rainy season continues to be mostly off.

Sunday, August 18, 2019, Teotitlán del Valle celebrated the first anniversary of their Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle (CCCTV). During the day-long event, not only was there food and music, the village also celebrated passing on of their cultural riches and traditions to upcoming generations.

The Cultural Center’s, Danza de la Pluma Infantil (youth Danza de la Pluma group) donned their costumes, gathered on the Municipal Plaza, and performed dances from this ritual retelling of the Conquest. (Check out the up close and personal photos by blogger buddy Chris.)

In the CCCTV, there was an exhibition of penachos/coronas (headdresses) used in the Danza de la Pluma that were crafted in a workshop by young people from the village.

“BaáGuiish” by Laura Ruiz Mendoza. Representing the four cardinal points to give thanks for each new day.

 

Detail of “Shia guibaa” by Jesús Brayan Jiménez Lazo.

 

“La cruz de Quetzalcóatl” by Juan Mendoza Bautista.

In addition, there was also an exhibition of tapetes (rugs) designed and woven by the young people of Teotitlán del Valle.

“El alma en manos de mi arte” by Omar Mendoza Martínez.

 

“Futuro Hermoso” by Constantino Lazo Martínez.

 

“Huitzilopochtli” by Anais Adelina Ruiz Martínez.

 

“Bineéty xunuax Xigie’ (Mujer Zapoteca) woven image of his grandmother by Mario González Pérez.

Celebrating and preserving the cultural riches of the Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle. Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday. Dixeebe! Zapotec for ¡salud! cheers!

Crossroads

At the crossroads.

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Morning walk in Teotitlán del Valle.

Homeland

Walking to the market, it was the light and color and composition that caught my eye — a sidewalk still life.

I zeroed in on the skill of the artist(s) and the imagery.

In one, a man in the baseball cap looking back to his ancestors and the bounty of the land. In the other, what is that in the mouth of “he who shall not be named?” And, what of the quote?

“Homeland: your mutilated territory dresses in calico and glass beads.” What does it mean? What is it from? Who is R. L. Velarde?

I found the answers in the article, The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo. Ramón López Velarde by Gwen Kirkpatrick. The quote is from the poem, “Suave Patria” (Gentle Homeland) by Ramón López Velarde, a poet of the Mexican Revolution — a poem that “celebrates the grandeur of Mexico’s simple, rustic life, as well as its glorious indigenous past.”

The daily education of the streets — more than meets the eye!

For someone who grew up in California and now lives in Mexico, the new exhibition at the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO), “Construyendo Puentes en Épocas de Muros Arte chicano/mexicano de Los Ángeles a México” (Building Bridges in the Epoch of Walls Chicano/Mexican art from Los Angeles to Mexico), was a must see.

America is for Dreamers by Patrick Martínez

The 53 works, by a multigenerational group of twenty-nine artists of Mexican ancestry from Southern California, explore the themes, “Rebel Diamonds from the Sun,” “Imagining Paradise,” “Outsiders in their Own Home,” “Mapping Identity,” and “Cruising the Hyphenate.”

Cartonlandia by Ana Serrano

According to the introductory essay by the exhibition’s curator, Julian Bermudez, “In over 50 years of existence, the ever-evolving Chicano art has shaped itself into one of the main currents of the American creative canon.”

A Lunchtime Conversation by Ramiro Gómez

“Sitting among four cultures – the Pre-Columbian, the invasive Hispanic, Mexico itself, and the United States of America – Chicano art draws on all four and evolves out of both its roots and the decades of oppression its practitioners and their families have sustained.”

Paleta Cart by Gary Garay

“These artists have expanded their creative expression, demonstrating an agility to develop and refine their own mythologies, methodologies and philosophies. They have introduced a remarkable, original school of art into the history of art itself.”

The Closing of Whittier Boulevard by Frank Romero

If you are in Oaxaca, I highly recommend checking out, “Construyendo Puentes en Épocas de Muros.” The exhibition will run until November 10, after which it will travel to the Museo de las Artes de la Universidad de Guadalajara (Musa) and conclude its tour at the Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT).

From front to back

Face the facts…

she’s turned her back on you.

The walls of Oaxaca tell all.

From rags to Tiliches

Remember these guys from my Everyone loves a parade post? They are known as Tiliches (aka, Los viejos, old ones) are a staple in the 3-day celebration of Carnaval in Putla de Guerrero, and a colorful part of the delegation from Putla during La Guelaguetza. Seeing them, it should come as no surprise that “tiliche” can be translated into English to mean junk, stuff, or rag.

Entering this year’s Festival de los Moles at the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Ethnobotanic Garden), guests were greeted by an exhibition of Tiliches — hosted by the newspaper archive, Hemoeroteca Néstor Sanchez.

Viejo de Tiliches – wearing the traditional costume of the Viejos/Tiliches during Carnaval in Putla.

Made of cloth, palm, and gourd with a mask of animal skin, suede gloves, and leather boots. It took one person a week to make.

Viejo Tapitas

Made from plastic water and soda bottle caps and hat of rafia. It took two people 45 days to make for a Carnaval 2018 costume contest in Putla and it weighs 30 kg. (66 lbs.)

Viejo Mecatero

Designed by Ángel Álvarez de Jesús and made from plastic rope, plastic thread, cardboard and silicone. It took seven people 45 days to make for the 2019 costume contest in Putla. It weighs 60 kg. (132 lbs.)

Viejo Azteca

Designed by Amando Herrera Villa and made of palm. It took him two months to make and weighs 15 kg. (33 lbs.)

The creativity here never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately, the exhibition only ran from July 15 to 30, 2019. What fun it would be to go to Putla for their three day Carnaval celebration — where one can see hundreds of Tiliches dancing though the streets!

The marathon that was La Guelaguetza 2019 has been run and not a day too soon for most residents. It was an exhausting and at times grueling two weeks — so much to do and so little time — streets choked with traffic and sidewalks clogged with people. According to state government figures, at its height, hotel occupancy reached 97%, which I’m guessing doesn’t include the growing Airbnb presence.

Woman pouring tejate

My participation ended as it began with food and drink — at the 13th annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal. Fortunately (for me), it’s held at the Plaza de la Danza, only a block away from Casita Colibrí. On July 30 and 31, seventy five women of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras de Tejate de San Andrés Huayapam came to my neighborhood to prepare and pour this prehispanic drink for the thirsty and curious.

Tejate with rosita de cacao blossoms

Tejate is a labor-intensive frothy, refreshing, nutritious, and (supposedly) aphrodisiacal non-alcoholic beverage made from corn mixed with tree ash, cacao beans, mamey seeds, rosita de cacao (Quararibea funebris) flowers, and peanuts or pecans (depending on the season).

Preparation takes at least twelve hours, as the beans, seeds, flowers, and nuts must be toasted on a comal and corn must be nixtamalized.  Ingredients are taken to a molino to be milled, then kneaded together, left to cool, eventually being hand-ground on a metate to make a thick paste — which is then thinned with water and (literally) mixed by hand.

jícaras

Tejate is traditionally served in brightly painted gourds (jícaras) which fits right in with this year’s effort by the feria organizers to eliminate the use of plastic, in keeping with recent legislation in Oaxaca to prohibit the sale and use of most single use plastic and styrofoam containers. Known as the beverage of the gods, as it was once reserved solely for Zapotec royalty, today tejate is for everybody and is also being made into cookies, ice cream, and nicuatole (traditional Oaxacan corn-based molded dessert).

nicuatole de tejate

However, this food fest wasn’t just about tejate. The other headliner of this event was the versatile tamal. Numerous varieties in steaming pots sitting on anafres (portable cooktops) sat behind rows of banquet tables filled with giant serving baskets covered in colorfully embroidered tea towels. Proud cocineras (cooks) listed their offerings and provided free samples to taste-test.

embroidered tea towel

Where to begin? There was a mind-boggling selection of tamales — at least a dozen kinds to choose from. Many are readily available daily at local mercados (of course, each family puts their own unique spin on the basic recipes). However, here in the city, tichinda (fresh water mussel) tamales are rarely seen. I tasted and they were yummy.

list of tamales

My primary goal, when it came to tamales, was “para llevar” (to go) and I came prepared with my own containers. On day 1, I wanted to bring home tamales for the staff who works at my apartment complex and a couple of carpenters who were onsite building door and window screens for a friend’s apartment. I made several rounds of the numerous vendors, studying their offerings (along with their lovely tea towels) and then just dove in! Besides buying a tamal de camaron (shrimp) for myself, I bought a mole verde (chicken with green sauce) and a mole negro (black mole sauce with chicken) for each the crew back home, along with tejate cookies for their dessert!

On day 2, I was in search of tamal de chichilo, made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves — the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor. It’s one of my favorites and isn’t usually seen in the mercados, as it is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms or when the crops have been harvested.

tamal de chichilo

Besides eating a tamal de chichilo as soon as I returned home and another for dinner last night, six more currently reside in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. Ahhh, preserving and celebrating the prehispanic riches of tejate and tamales — a couple of reasons why Oaxaca is a food lovers’ paradise.

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