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Prickly in Oaxaca

This article, Tourists are welcome in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their increasingly bad behavior is not, is one of the reasons these images from my garden express how I’m feeling these days.

Then there is the fact that I haven’t set foot out of the city for exactly one year. Color me prickly and awaiting the vaccine.

Returning from an errand in the Jalatlaco neighborhood, I was stopped in my tracks by this massive mural on Calzada de la República. It is titled, “No Discriminación e Inclusión” (No Discrimination and Inclusion), and was unveiled in October 2020 as part of the Movimiento Vecinal — a program created by the Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca (State Public Security System of Oaxaca) to involve youth, through cultural, athletic, community, and educational activities, in the recovery, appropriation and rescue of public spaces. Importantly, a collaboration has also been established with the civil association Conquistando Corazones to eradicate violence towards the community of sexual diversity.

(Unfortunately, trees and other foliage prevented a clear photo of the entire mural and so I offer you the full mural in six parts — moving from left to right facing the mural.)

According to José Manuel Vera, Executive Secretary of Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca, “We work to achieve equality and dignity for people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and we continue to create spaces for youth that represent freedom of action and thought. In a just and egalitarian society, everyone has the right to their individuality, to be who they are, to do so in peace, without fear of rejection, hatred or violence, but rather enriched by diversity” (my translation).

Remembrance of Carnivals past

If all was right with the world, on this Día de Carnaval (aka, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday), the day before Christians celebrate the beginning of Lent, I would be in San Martín Tilcajete — where the streets would be alive with the sound of bells, as los encabezados (guys covered in motor oil or paint and wearing cowbells tied around their waist) roam the streets startling the unaware, making mischief, and welcoming all to the festivities.

2014

2015

This predominately Zapotec village has seized on the holiday, brought to Mexico by Spanish Catholicism, to create elaborate masks to showcase its woodcarving skills. It is no coincidence that Carnival conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” It is also no surprise that it caught on, “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities” — and make fun of them.

2016

2017

The festivities revolve around a mock wedding — a parody of a traditional village wedding. It includes much pomp and circumstance, hilarity, music, food, and fireworks. Young and old move from the houses of the principal players to City Hall for the “civil ceremony,” dancing in the plaza, followed by another procession through the streets to another house where the happy “couple” kneel before a “priest” for the religious ceremony. You might want to take a second look at those beautiful wedding guests with the smoldering eyes and modeling the gorgeous gowns.  They are not what they seem — and neither is the bride.

2018

2019

2020

San Martín Tilcajete isn’t the only village in Oaxaca that celebrates Carnaval in its own wild and wacky way. Beginning in 2019, in an effort to promote tourism to other villages, residents and visitors in Oaxaca city have been treated to a boisterous parade down the Macedonio Alcalá on the Saturday preceding Fat Tuesday sampling the pre-Lenten traditions from various parts of the state. Though festivities were canceled due to Covid-19, the city’s tourism department put together a video of celebrations from past years by several villages.

Days of love and friendship

February 14th isn’t just a day for lovers. In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as the Día del Amor y la Amistad — Day of Love and Friendship.

By the artist known as ARCH

Decorations have gone up and I have no doubt kilos of chocolate, bouquets of flowers, and heart shaped balloons with confessions of amor will be purchased.

Unfortunately, with the virus continuing to rapidly spread and Oaxaca still under semáforo naranja/orange traffic light (though many think it should be rojo/red), I’m not sure restaurants will or should be filled to capacity with friends, sweethearts, and families.

By the artist known as Efedefroy

Given the trauma and uncertainty the world has experienced over the past year, I hope we have learned to cherish our friends and family and to let them know how much they mean to us every day. Let us celebrate days of love and friendship and not just limit it to one day a year.

And, if you would like to say I love you (te amo) in 7 of the 69 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico — including several spoken in the state of Oaxaca — click HERE.

Flocking together

Snowbirds continue to arrive in Oaxaca. For the past several days, Cedar Waxwings have been flocking to my fountain — the first year they have come to Casita Colibrí. They are great fun to watch and seem to have distinct personalities.

Make room for me!
Coming in for a landing.
What are you looking at?

Though I must say, they make a huge mess!

It’s been a whole month, so I figured it’s about time to again showcase the culinary creations by my friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire, Kalisa. If you can’t take the mouthwatering temptation, I advise you to step away from the blog post now.

January 4, 2021 – Flor de Frijolón salad.
January 4, 2021 – Pork pozole.
January 10, 2021 – Quiche Lorraine.
January 10, 2021 – Chicken wings.
January 17, 2021 – Cassoulet with duck, sausage, pork, and organic French Tarbais beans.
January 23, 2021 – Picadillo stuffed cabbage leaves.
February 3, 2021 – Pan seared Norwegian salmon in brown butter lemon sauce accompanied by baby new potatoes and carrots.
February 3, 2021 – Mixed berry tart.

Just so you know, the last two are not everyday fare — they were for my birthday. (Please, don’t ask.) I think Kalisa outdid herself!

Tamales for Candlemas

Today, besides being Groundhog Day, it is the Christian holy day, Día de la Candelaria (aka, Candlemas, Presentation of Jesus at/in the Temple, and Feast of the Purification of the Virgin). In Mexico, tradition calls for families to bring their Niño Dios (baby Jesus), decked out in new clothes, to the church to be blessed. Alas, in the time of Covid-19, the Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca (health department) has called upon Oaxaqueños not to gather this year and, while the doors of the Cathedral will be open, the faithful are asked to stay home if their Niño Dios was blessed in previous years.

Tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante: Tamal Adobo, Tamal Chile Ajo, Tamal Mole Negro, Chancleta Guajolote, and Tamal de Fiesta (not in order)

Custom also calls for the person who bit into the baby Jesus figurine hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (3 Kings Cake) during Día de los Reyes Magos to host a tamalada on Candelaria. As I write, tamales are steaming all over the state. The virus will not stop the cocineras of Oaxaca from rising before the crack of dawn to make and serve tamales. As I previously mentioned, I munched down on a figurine. And I wasn’t the only one — my neighbor and friend Kalisa also had the “pleasure.” I must confess, we took the easy way out and pre-ordered our tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante. I can’t wait to eat them!

Tree of masks

You may remember the beautiful hat tree I commissioned from the San Martín Tilcajete workshop of Jésus Sosa Calvo. In these mask-wearing times of Covid-19, it has taken on a new function.

No longer serving as a place to hang my hat or market baskets, it now holds my collection of cubrebocas (face masks).

In case you are wondering why there are seven of them hanging on the tree, each KN95 mask is labeled with a day of the week, so I can rotate them.

New function following fabulous form!

January’s sunsets

January sunsets in Oaxaca are spectacular. Looking west, behind Templo de San José, Basílica de la Soledad, and the mountain Monte Albán sits atop, they often have me dropping whatever I’m doing, dashing out the door and onto the terrace to gaze — before the magic disappears into darkness.

January 1, 2021 – 6:11 PM (CST)
January 12, 2021 – 6:05 PM (CST)
January 23, 2021 – 6:28 PM (CST)
January 24, 2021 – 6:22 PM CST

Occasionally, the camera is nearby.

Bringing the light

Four years ago today, we were marching in the streets of Oaxaca — part of a worldwide post inauguration day response to the dark days we could see coming following the results of the US election. Alas, it was far worse than our imaginations could take us. What a difference four years makes! At yesterday’s inauguration we watched as a young woman in a dazzling yellow coat, with her brilliant words and luminous spirit, captured the dark and replaced it with trust in our power to bring light to an imperfect country. Thank you Amanda Gorman for your inspiring words and presence.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never ending shade?

And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us

For there was always light.
If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Quotations from The Hill We Climb, a poem written and read by Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamela Harris.

Second Sunday in Xochimilco

The second Sunday in 2021 walk took us to Xochimilco (“X” pronounced like “S”).

We never know where our feet will take us and who we will meet along the way.

Christmas gift to myself

When I was twelve years old, I met one of my (still) best friends. While my family’s garden consisted of roses, camellias, fruit trees, colorful annuals, and lawn and our indoor plants were limited to African violets, hers had Japanese inspired landscaping outside and tropical plants inside. After all, they had been to Hawaii! The orchids and anthurium seemed so exotic and I was impressed. Eventually, over the years, orchids became one of my houseplants of choice but, for some reason (maybe cost?), I’ve never had an anthurium until now.

While shopping for poinsettias last month at my favorite seasonal plant pop-up shop (1/2 block up from Mercado Sánchez Pascuas on Tinoco y Palacios), I saw this anthurium (anterio en español), the price was 1/5th the cost in el norte, and couldn’t resist.

My goal is to find a talavera pot for the anthurium (aka, flamingo flower, tailflower, painter’s palette, and laceleaf). In the meantime, set against my beautiful old hand-carved and painted desk from Michoacán, my Christmas gift to myself brings a smile — much needed during these challenging times. And, according to Wikipedia, it is “effective in removing formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from the air” — though I suspect that’s not a problem here at Casita Colibrí.

Art of the Sunday walk

Last Sunday’s first Sunday of 2021 walk…

Going to and from Barrio de Jalatlaco, there is always something old and new to see.

3 Kings and cake

Feliz Día de los Reyes Magos / Happy Three Kings day! Today is the day Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar bring gifts to the children of Mexico. In normal, non Covid-19 times, the municipal DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia) agency and private organizations sponsored a toy drive. Toys filled the Alameda to be given to the city’s disadvantaged children, along with milk and juice. Crafts, games, and music were set up to entertain. I haven’t seen or heard of any evidence it is happening this year. Let’s hope these children have not been forgotten.

In addition to kings bringing kids gifts, January 6 also calls for a special cake — the wreath shaped Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings bread). This morning, I walked up to Pan con Madre bakery to buy mine to share with apartment staff and friends.

And, surprise, there is a plastic Niño Dios figurine hidden in each Rosca de Reyes, remembering Mary and Joseph concealing baby Jesus from King Herod. If you are the “lucky” person to bite into it, you must host a tamales and atole party on February 2 — Candelaria (Candlemas).

Guess who the lucky person was? Yes, it was me!

December’s fine dining

Kalisa, my many times mentioned friend, neighbor, and cook extraordinaire, outdid herself in December.

December 4, 2020 – Chicken cutlets
December 12, 2020 – Honoring Hanukkah with sweet and savory latkes and rugelach
December 24, 2020 – Shrimp fettuccine on Christmas Eve
December 25, 2020 – Socially distanced Christmas dining on the terrace
December 25, 2020 – Pork loin for Christmas dinner
December 25, 2020 – Glazed carrots with mint
December 25, 2020 – Polenta
December 25, 2020 – My contribution of a garden greens salad
December 25, 2020 – The piece de resistance, Kalisa’s poached pear and frangipane tart
December 31, 2020 – New Year’s Eve dinner of paella with shrimp, chicken, sausage, asparagus, and fresh peas

It was a challenging but definitely delicious year!

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