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I’m in el norte and it is all quiet on the norther front on this day honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. In fact, the sound of silence was one of the things that struck me as the taxi drove me and my luggage through the streets of my little hometown at the base of Mount Tamalpais. The Oaxaca I left a few days ago, was a cacophony of rocket booms and bangs, church bells ringing, processions with enthusiastic bands, and barking dog. From my terrace, yesterday and today, I would have been treated to sound on steroids honoring Guadalupe. Funny what one gets used to…

The above images of the Virgin of Guadalupe were created for an altar dedicated to Guadalupe at the Roses and Revelations textile exhibition and are by painter and sculpture, Demetrio Garcia Aguilar, a member of the talented Aguilar family of potters of Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca. The indigenous symbols used pay homage to the pre-Hispanic fertility and earth goddess, Tonantzin (“Our Sacred Mother” in the Nahuatl language), whose temple at the top of Tepeyac Hill had been destroyed by the Spanish conquerors. Syncretically, this became the site where the apparition the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego asking that a church be built on that site and thus the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe began — another step in the blending of the old and new religions and the original peoples and the Spanish newcomers.

By the way, the Roses and Revelations exhibition is on tour and is currently at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Popular in Coyoacán, in Mexico City. It will run to April 19, 2020.

It began long before dawn this morning; the cohetes (rockets) announcing the celebrations of Oaxaca’s three virgins. First up is the Virgin of Juquila on December 8.

Image of la Virgen de Juquila at a palenque in Santa Catarina Minas.

Next up is the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12.

Decorative image of la Virgen de Guadalupe at the Museo Belber.

And, to top the celebrations off, the feast day of the Queen of Oaxaca, the Virgin of Solitude on December 18.

La Virgen de la Soledad through the window of a store on Abasolo.

December may not be quiet, but the celebrations are amazing!

Five bags full

Shopping baskets ready and waiting to be filled…

Bounty from Abastos ready and waiting to be prepared…

Salad ready and waiting to be eaten…

There was more, but I was too busy eating to stop and take photos!

Tip of the hat

Yesterday’s excursion south of the city brought an unexpected surprise.

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In San Martín Tilcajete…

I spotted a mural by my favorite mural colective.

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A tip of the hat to the Tlacolulokos of Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Mining mezcal in Minas

What can I say? The poster for the 4th Annual Mezcal Fair in Santa Catarina Minas came across my Facebook page and I said, let’s go! Thus, friends and neighbors rented a van (with non-drinking driver) to head an hour south of Oaxaca city for day two of the 2-day fair.

A barro for distilling mezcal enhancing the basketball hoop.

Naturally, it was held in the municipal basketball court, adjacent to the church!

Food vendor and family member setting up.

Of course, being gringos, we were early, so we headed for the food stalls (all the better to absorb the mezcal to come) — including empanadas from San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Though, in all honesty, they weren’t nearly as good as the gal we usually go to in San Antonino.

Maestro mezcalero, Don Pablo Arellanes Ramírez.

The mezcal stalls hadn’t quite begun to be staffed.

Luis Arellanes Cruz atop the outdoor oven pit used to cook the agave piñas.

However, thanks to mi amiga K, who went in search of cervesa (beer) to wash down our empanadas, we were introduced to Luis Arellanes Cruz, who then took us to the Los Arellanes palenque, explained the process of turning agave piñas into mezcal to the new initiates among us, and introduced us to maestro mezcalero, Rufino Felipe Martinez.

Félix Ángeles Arellanes

Returning to the feria, several of us were delighted to renew our acquaintance with Félix from Mezcal El Minerito where, the last time I was there, friends and I watched the process of layering agave piñas, bagaso, and a tarp to begin the cooking process.

Folkloric dancers from Sección XXII of the teachers’ union of the City of Oaxaca.

Of course, no feria would be complete without entertainment. According to the schedule, there were bands and presentations and parades and dancers and…

The road out of town.

After three hours of wandering, eating, tasting, and enjoying, it was time to head back to the city. As they say, a great time was had by all!

Feliz Día de Santa Cecilia

A belated feliz Día de Santa Cecilia! November 22 commemorates the day Roman born Saint Cecilia was martyred at the hands of Turcius Almachius (sometime between 222 and 235 AD) and has been celebrated as her feast day since the fourth century.

According to legend, “despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians.[3] When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.[3]

Santa Cecilia also sang during the torment of her martyrdom by decapitation, in which she was struck three times in the neck with a sword, and remained alive for three days. Pope Urban I consecrated her house in the Trastevere as a basilica. Her devotion and singing earned her the title of patron saint of musicians. Bands are named after her and she is honored with concerts and music festivals on her feast day.

Sculptures depicting musicians of the Mixe mountain village, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, in the courtyard of Andares del Arte Popular. Sculptures by Sculptor Na’pë Jääy — an artist from Tlahuitoltepec.

 

And, for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite bands named La Santa Cecilia.

Come hither

Friends have arrived in Oaxaca — lots of time for orienting, eating, shopping, and entertaining, but not much time for blogging.

Alas, only time for a come hither look.

I always look forward to the arrival of the folks from El Camino de los Altos — the non-profit textile design organization created in 1996 that brings French designers together with Mayan weavers from the highlands of Chiapas. (Click images to enlarge)

Today was the first day of a 3-day expo-venta showcasing their collection that “conserves traditional techniques and motifs while offering fresh designs and a range of refined colors on colorfast cotton.” — El Camino de los Altos brochure

While the 150 weavers use traditional prehispanic backstrap looms, their designs and color palette are contemporary and sophisticated. Their work is of the highest quality — be they tablecloths, pillow shams, bags, rebozos (shawls) that can double as table runners, or coin purses.

 

If you are nearby and love textiles, I would strongly urge you to make your way over to Niños Heroes 213, Barrio Jalatlaco, Oaxaca city before the show and sale ends on Monday, November 18. The hours are: 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Sat. and Sun.) and 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Mon.). By the way, the expo-venta space is large, light and airy — all the better to see these beautiful pieces.

The art of walls

While I continue to sort through, delete, and process the hundreds of Día de Muertos photos, how about a little more art from the walls of Oaxaca, seen during the last month?

Stencil on a wall in Oaxaca city by artist Efedefroy.

Wall in Tlacolula de Matamoros by the Chiapas artist, Dyg’nojoch.

Stencil in Oaxaca city by the artist, Aler.

Seen in Zaachila by unknown artist.

How can one not smile, think a little, and be somewhat intrigued when walking passed art like this?

(ps) If anyone knows who this last piece is by, let me know, so I can give her/him credit.

The strength, power, and spirit of Oaxaca seen in a mural on Calzada de la República near Calle La Alianza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

Hot off the comal

An hour south of Oaxaca city, the Zapotec village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco has much to recommend it. Besides the fields of flowers raised to decorate graves and altars throughout the valley and inspire elaborate floral designs on its blouses and dresses, the cocineras (cooks) of San Antonino serve a distinctive and delicious Empanada de Amarillo — a dish I never miss and one that has earned the village the (perhaps self-proclaimed) title, “world capital of the empanada.”

The main ingredients of the filling are pork broth, chile guajillo, masa, manteca, and cilantro. However, undoubtedly each cook adds her own secret seasoning(s).

Hot off the (tortilla) press, tortillas are placed on the comal to cook.

Once they reach the correct texture, the filling is spooned onto the tortilla and it is folded in half to be cooked, flipped, cooked, and flipped again until ready to serve.

The empanadas are traditionally served on a bed of lettuce and garnished with radishes and lime wedges and there is usually a small dish of pickled onion slices to further enhance the flavor. Yes, I ate the whole thing and it was riquisima!

Today, November 3, blogger buddy Chris and I made our annual pilgrimage to experience the flowers and families of the panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. We have been doing this for many years and are always surprised and delighted by the creativity of the living, as they decorate the graves of their departed. This year was no exception — especially the sculptures on two of the graves. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Below, the plaque on the simple wooden cross read, 1994 – 2018 Fernando Moctezuma Valencia García “Tachuma” Te amoremos por siempre, tu familia (We love you forever, your family). A little internet research revealed that the young Fernando was already a talented ceramicist.

The hands of a loved one honoring Fernando by creating this exceptional sculpture on his grave, moved me to tears.

Nourishing the departed

The difuntos have begun arriving and, like every year on November 1, I escape the tourist craziness of the city to spend time in the tranquility of the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros. Under the dappled sunlight of early afternoon, families clean, bring flowers, and celebrate. The departed must have nourishment for their travel between the world of the living and dead, thus fruit, nuts, bread, and beverages are placed on the graves.

The difuntos also seem to appreciate artistry.

Calaveras, calacas, catrins, and catrinas, oh my!  (Click images to enlarge.)

In the city and villages, walls and windows, sitting and standing, happy and sad — they are everywhere in Oaxaca!

Tonight, the living began welcoming the dead with a Gran Comparsa through the streets of Oaxaca, beginning at Parque Juárez El Llano and ending at the Plaza de la Danza — the latter, almost on my doorstep! Visitors and Oaxaqueños, young and old, lined the parade route in anticipation.

With bands leading the way, catrinas in regional dress and dancers in traditional muerteada attire whirled and twirled, high-stepped and jumped, and moved and grooved their way through the streets.

Día de Muertos observances are different in the indigenous villages — the mood is more formal and each village has customs and rituals that tradition dictates must be followed. Even the dates and times the difuntos arrive to join their living families can differ. However, in both ciudad and pueblo, the goal is to bring together the living and their dead to eat, drink, and reminisce.

After the comparsa passed, I walked around the corner to Casita Colibrí. However, no sooner had I downloaded my photos, the unmistakable sound of fireworks being launched from the Plaza de la Danza called me out onto my terrace. The music and partying continued until 10:30 PM.

The celebrations have only just begun! Click HERE for the very long list of Día de Muertos cultural events in the City of Oaxaca. And, below are some of the activities happening in many of the villages outside the city. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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