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Felicidades Tlamanalli

Valentine’s Day in Mexico is known as Día del amor y la amistad (Day of love and friendship) and I had the extremely good fortune to spend it in Teotitlán del Valle (one of my favorite places in the world) among friends at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the restaurant, Tlamanalli.

Iconic Restaurant Tlamanalli tapete.

Special garlands of papel picado fluttered above the heads of the 150-200 invited guests, centerpieces of jicalpextles filled with handmade sugar flowers, papel picado flags, and marshmallows wrapped in colored tissue paper graced the tables, and each place setting included a commemorative menu.

Papel picado celebrating 30 years of Tlamanalli.

One of Teotitlán’s several bands was positioned just inside the door and played throughout the afternoon.

Musical entertainment to accompany the dining.

The open kitchen was a beehive of activity and, no doubt, had been for at least two weeks — in preparation for this auspicious anniversary.

Family working together in the kitchen.

Four courses honoring their Zapotec heritage were prepared with love and respect by world famous cocinera Abigail Mendoza Ruiz, her sisters Adelina, Marcelina, Maria Luisa, Rosario, Rufina, and her niece Diana.

Soups: Higadito de fandango, Flor de calabaza con quesadilla, and Garbanzo molido con tortillita.

Tamales: Chepil en totomoxtle, Mole amarillo con carne de conejo en hoja de milpa, and Frijol en totomoxtle.

Moles: Rojo con carne de gallina, Seguesa con lomo de puerco, and Negro con carne de guajolota.

Desserts: Nicuatolli de maiz azul con tinte de cochinilla, Flan Tlamanalli, Dulce de calabaza, Nieve de zapote negro, and Nieve de pétalos de rosa.

And, I got a bit of a chuckle when it was pointed out to me that it was the men in the family who were on washing and drying duty.

The men continued washing and drying throughout the day.

We were surprised we recognized so few of the attendees — only later discovering, thanks to this article, that many were dignitaries (not our usual crowd). However, we were more than delighted to have been seated at one of the tables in the section reserved for family members, several of whom we knew, and where conversations were in equal parts Spanish and Zapoteco, with only bits of English thrown into the mix — keeping us on our toes!

Commemorative jicalpextle centerpiece.

What an honor it was for us to be invited to share this special day with the Mendoza family — a day filled with love and friendship and very good food!

(For more photos and commentary, check out Chris’s blog post.)

Kapok update

What a difference two months make.

The Pochote pods on the previously blogged Kapok (aka, Ceiba) tree have opened.

And, cottony fluff occasionally floats in the air…

… even from the Ceiba that soars above the courtyard of La Biznaga.

Not for sale!

I am, at long last, back in home sweet home Oaxaca. The weather is warm, the garden looks great, and the building at the end of the block that has looked to be on the verge of collapse since I first laid eyes on it thirteen years ago, has had a new paint job — announcing in a very creative way that, despite its dilapidated condition, it is not for sale.

And, don’t just take my word for its neglected and decrepit condition. There is a precaution notice from the city of Oaxaca warning passersby that the building is in a bad state.

All one has to do is peek through one of the broken windows to see there isn’t much there, there.

Located at the corner of Crespo and Matamoros, it is one of the more than five and a half thousand historic structures in the state of Oaxaca listed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History).

There is currently a building boom going on in the city, especially of upscale hotels, to meet the snowballing tourist demand. I suspect that restrictions and costs related to remodeling these cataloged buildings is why the much-needed renovation to this one hasn’t happened.

However, the owner of this building, whoever she or he may be, has let it be known, in a variety of designs, fonts, colors, and in no uncertain terms, that it is NOT FOR SALE!

The artwork covering the building is quite an improvement. However, I can’t help thinking of one of my grandmother’s sayings, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

I fell in love with Oaxaca the first time I saw her when visiting a friend in 2007.  The city was teeming with energy and color and I felt embraced by its welcoming warmth. The day after my arrival, the sounds of Trío Santo Domingo drew us down to the zócalo on a balmy August evening. I was captivated by the melodies, guitars, and harmonies of the boleros they played. I bought their CD  and discovered many of my favorites were written by beloved Mexican composer and Oaxaqueño, Álvaro Carrillo AlarcónSabor a Mí, El Andariego, Luz de Luna, Un Poco Más, Amor Mío, and so many more. His music captured my heart and continues to nourish my soul.

Bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón in Oaxaca’s Jardín Carbajal includes lyrics from “Sabor a Mí”

Thus, two months ago, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a concert honoring the musical legacy and celebrating the 100th birthday of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. The performers paying tribute to him were among Mexico’s most loved and were accompanied by a full orchestra and the guitars and harmonies of Trío Los Panchos. They did not disappoint!

In addition to the above singers, Jean Venegas and Álvaro Carrillo’s sons, Mario Carrillo and Álvaro Carrillo Jr., also performed. Young and old, the audience sang along the entire night and more than a few tears were shed — for lost loves, fond memories, and pride in their native son. Álvaro Carrillo died tragically in a car accident at the age of 47 but new generations continue to rediscover and cover his songs and, thanks to the internet, we can hear from the man, himself.

Oaxaca, you had me at Sabor a Mí.

In Mexico, the hummingbird (colibrí) is known as the protector of warriors and messenger of the gods — two of the most revered roles in indigenous cosmology. How lucky I am that several of the varieties seen on the poster below continue to capture my attention and fill my heart with joy as they flit from tree to fence to fountain for a bath and zigzag across my terrace playing their version of tag and king of the hill.

Hummingbirds of Mexico and North America poster

Muchisimas gracias to my friend K for the link to this poster from CONABIO (National Commission for Biodiversity). In addition, if these tiny creatures also captivate you, a PDF of the CONABIO book, Colibríes de México y Norte América / Hummingbirds of México and North America is available online with text in both Spanish and English (click title link).

Dreaming of home

I subscribe to the bumper-sticker wisdom seen many years ago, “When you live in your heart, you are always home.” However…

I’m still in el norte — but dreaming of the view from Casita Colibrí.

Window on a tinaco

Flying into any airport in Mexico, you see them dotting the landscape below — Mexico’s ubiquitous rooftop tinacos.

View through a Casita Colibrí window of the tinaco across the street.

For those of you who are dying to know how the water system here at Casita Colibrí works: An underground pipe regularly (or, not so regularly, as the case may be) delivers municipal water into an aljibe (cistern) — a storage tank under our courtyard and driveway.  A bomba (pump) is run daily for an hour (más o menos) to bring water from the aljibe up into the tinacos sitting on the various rooftops of the apartment complex.  When we turn on our tap, water flows (or dribbles) from our faucets courtesy of gravity.

By the way, this is non potable water.  Drinking water is a different story involving garrafones (5-gallon water jugs).

Kapok, who knew?

It was only recently that I learned that Oaxaca’s ubiquitous and beloved Ceiba tree was also known as the Kapok tree. Yikes, kapok was the stuff that stuffed the overstuffed furniture in my grandparents’ living room.

Those avocado-like pods (also known as pochote) contain a fluffy cotton-like fiber that is difficult to spin but is light and-water resistant — thus its use in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, stuffed animals, and life jackets. All hail and much respect to the “the mother tree of humankind.

Murals of Jalatlaco

The Jalatlaco neighborhood always yields artistic surprises…

November 13, 2019

November 13, 2019

November 13, 2019

October 22, 2019

October 22, 2019

Happiness is wandering the streets of Oaxaca.

Three Kings coming to town

Today Mexico is celebrating el Día de los Reyes Magos. Traditionally, it is the Three Kings — Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar — who bring gifts to children on Epiphany (aka, Twelfth Night — yes, that Twelfth Night).

Tres Reyes in totomoxtle (corn husks) – Noche de Rabanos 2012

According to Oaxaca Día a Día, over 5,000 toys have been donated by individuals, companies, public servants, the media, and the governmental DIF Oaxaca. 1.2 kilometers of dolls, balls, games, stuffed animals, and other toys line the Plaza de la Danza to be distributed today to disadvantaged school children.

By the way, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, events celebrating el Día de los Reyes Magos are also happening.

Not seeing sights like this up here in el norte…

Ahhh… finding one’s niche in Oaxaca!

Looking in the rear view mirror at images from 2019. They bring fond memories of life in Oaxaca — ferias, festivals, food, and friends, not to mention exhibitions, random street scenes, and the unexpected at Casita Colibrí. They were also a reminder of many days and nights spent in Teotitlán del Valle this year.

January – San Juan Guelavía town hall.

February – Wall on Niños Heroes, remembering the Ayotzinapa 43.

March – Cactus flower on the Casita Colibrí terrace.

April – View from a gas station along Carretera Federal 175.

May – Construction assistance from the balcony of Casita Colibrí.

June – The tamales brigade at a 50th birthday fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle.

July – Newly made candles in Teotitlán del Valle.

August – Necklace from Monte Albán Tomb 7 exhibition at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.

September – Convite during the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle.

October – Danza de la Pluma at Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in Teotitlán del Valle.

November – Día de Muertos tamales in Teotitlán del Valle.

December – Nacimiento (nativity scene) in the Plaza de la Danza.

Many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue blogging from my rooftop terrace in Oaxaca. Wishing you all the very best in 2020!!!

Collage of murals

Hidden behind community tables and surrounded by food stalls, produce, textiles, and artesania, is a wall of murals at the newest location of the Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.

This incarnation of the Pochote Organic and Artisan Market is located in Colonia Reforma at Calle Almendros #417 (between Manuel Ruiz and Heroico Colegio Militar) and is open Friday through Sunday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

It’s a quiet Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) in my childhood home here in el norte. There are no sparklers to wave, no nacimiento (nativity scene) stands in the town square, and no posadas have knocked on the front door. Instead, my younger son and I bought a Douglas Fir and decorated it with four generations of Christmas ornaments hauled down from the attic. Stockings hang from the mantle, gifts are piling up, and in our dreams we channel our inner child and await Santa’s arrival.

In Oaxaca, a Christmas tree and holiday lights went up in the zócalo, along with plantings of nochebuenas (poinsettias), at the beginning of December. A nacimiento was constructed in the Plaza de la Danza, and if one looks up a piñata or two might be spotted floating high above.

As has been my blog’s annual Christmas Eve tradition: “Pancho Claus” by the man known as the “father of Chicano music,” Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero. This year’s version is the original from 1956. The song is a delightful parody of the Clement C. Moore classic, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” — and it has inspired real life Tex-Mex Santas.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Mama she was busy preparing the masa
To make the tamales for the tamalada
And all the ingredients for the enchiladas

Papa in the front room with all the muchachas
Was dancing the mambo and doing the cha cha
My brothers and sisters were out in the hall
Listening to Elvis singing rock ‘n roll

When all of a sudden there came such a racket
I jumped out of bed and I put on my jacket
I looked out the window and in front of the house
Was my old uncle Pedro as drunk as a louse
He ran in the casa he grabbed the guitarra
He let out a yell – “Ay, Ay, Ay” and sang Guadalajara,
“Guadalajara Guadalajara, Guadalajara Guadalajara”

I was starting to wonder as I lay there alone
How old Santa Claus was to visit my home
With all of this noise they would scare him away
When all of a sudden I hear someone say
Hey Pablo, Chuchito Hey! Arriba! Gordito, Jose
Get up there you bums or you don’t get no hay

And then to my wondering eyes did appear
Eight cute little donkeys instead of reindeer
They pulled a carreta that was full of toys
For all of us good little girls and boys

The fat little driver waved his big sombrero
And said Merry Christmas! Feliz Año Nuevo!
That means “Happy New Year”
And then I hear him sing

I am Santa’s cousin from south of the border
My name’s Pancho Claus and I bring you your order
I hear him exclaim as he drove past the porches
“Merry Christmas to all and to all Buenas Noches”

As a gift to us all, this year “Pancho Claus” the book, with illustrations by Bob Mackie, was published, along with “Pancho Claus Volume 2” featuring the lyrics of another Lalo Guerrero Christmas song, “Mario from the Barrio.” (El Paso Herald Post, Dec. 22, 2019) I’ve put them both on my list!

Many thanks for reading my blog. I wish you ¡Felices Fiestas! and peace and joy through the new year.

Dreaming rábanos dreams

Noche de Rábanos is coming and, while I’m shivering in California, I’m dreaming warm Rábanos, Totomoxtle, and Flor Inmortal dreams. This year promises to be bigger than ever — so big, the exhibition and competition have been extended to two days. December 22, 2019 will be reserved for Flor Inmortal, Totomoxtle, and, in the morning, the children’s category of rábanos.

Category: Flor Inmortal (Dried flowers)…

“Delegación de las Chinas Oaxaqueñas” by Juliana Galicia Péerez (2017)

Category: Totomoxtle Natural (Corn husks, natural color)..

“Esplendidas artesanías de Oaxaca” by Esmeralda Chavez Miguel (2017)

Category: Totomoxle Decorado (Corn husks, colored)…

“Chinas Oaxaqueñas de la Guelaguetza” by Pedro Leobardo Díaz Márquez (2017)

And, as is customary, the carved radish exhibition and competition will be held December 23. Get there in the morning to watch the artisans setting up and putting the final touches on their creations or in the late afternoon/evening to see the finished works and award winners.

Category: Rábano Libre (Radishes, non-traditional and contemporary themes)…

“Mirada de la noche” by Concepción del Carmen López Guzmán (2017)

Category: Rábano Tradicional (Radishes, Biblical and traditional Oaxaca themes)…

“Regada de la vela 12 de mayo” by Rosa del Alba Miguel Morales (2017)

Category: Rábano Tradicional…

“Raíz de mi pueblo” by Roberto Geovani Aguilar (2017)

To all in Oaxaca, enjoy this year’s, “Oaxaca, Land of Cultivated Dreams!”

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