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Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

For years, I’ve gazed at the bell towers of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle and wanted to go up there.  I mused that the views must be spectacular.

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I struck it rich a couple of weeks ago when visiting gal pals and I were wandering around the church and were asked if (for a small donation) we wanted to go up to the top.  We didn’t have to be asked twice.

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It was well worth the climb up the narrow, winding, and steep stone staircase.

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There I was, up close and personal with features I’d never before noticed.

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Overcoming a moderate case of acrophobia, I even ventured out between the towers and the dome.

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Despite a dry season haze that hung over the valley, the views in every direction were spectacular.

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A bird’s-eye view!

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It was great fun trying to pick out the homes of friends.

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The icing on the cake:  The bell-ringer emerged, grabbed a couple of ropes, and the bells began to chime.

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It was really loud (bordering on deafening) and lasted a long time!!!  But, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

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After being “under the weather” and cooped up in my apartment with doors and windows shut for the past four days — both due to clouds of demolition dust coming from next door — I gathered what little energy I could, and ventured out to pay my Telmex (phone company) bill.  My  brain must not have been functioning on all cylinders, as I took the steep way back home.

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What was I thinking???  After only a few blocks, I had to stop in front of this door to catch my breath.  It looks like I feel!

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Returning home from a reconnaissance mission at Llano Park’s Friday tianguis:  Hot and humid, helicopter circling overhead, another maestros march along Juárez, I cut over to Garcia Vigil — needing to pay my Telmex bill, anyway.  I flashed on (yes, I’m a child of the sixties) this week’s WordPress photo challenge and began noticing Numbers

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And, just one more for mi amiga, Lanita…

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Can’t you just hear Moby Grape singing, 8:05 ?  Ahhh, those harmonies…  I told you I’m a child of the sixties!

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Everyday, I see something new or different or odd or…  Yesterday, at the corner of Av. de La Independencía and Calle Xicoténcatl, a couple of unfamiliar signs caught my eye.P1180113

High up on the corner of a building, in the middle of the city, road signs pointing to the Istmo and Tuxtepec.  Just a word of warning, you are in for a long and winding drive, no matter which destination you choose.

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The Istmo de Tehuantepec region of the state is approximately 250 km southeast of the City of Oaxaca.  Though if you decide on Tuxtepec, it’s only 220 km northeast.  Either way, head east on Independencía.  ¡Buen viaje!

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Old school…

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New school…

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Art school…

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For those dying to know what the heck a tinaco is and how the water system in Mexico works:

At my apartment complex, municipal water is regularly (or, not so regularly — as the case may be) delivered though a pipe under the street into a cistern (storage tank) located under our driveway); a bomba (pump) is run daily for an hour (más o menos) to bring water from the cistern up into tinacos sitting on the various rooftops of the complex.  In case you are worried, float valves keep them from overflowing (most of the time).  When we turn on the tap, courtesy of gravity, water flows (or dribbles) from the tinaco into and through our faucets.  ¡Ojala!

By the way, drinking water is a completely different story…

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Ahhh… a return visit to Centro de las Artes de San Agustín in early December still resonates.  The CASA, a former spinning and weaving factory, was re-imagined by artist Francisco Toledo and architect Claudina Morales Lopez.  Now it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing spaces I’ve ever experienced.  But, why have I never before noticied this?

Inside and outside, seen in black and white or color, wherever one looks, the attention to detail and design strikes, delights, and often surprises.

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Yesterday, 20 de noviembre, was el Día de la Revolución (Revolution Day), but you wouldn’t know it in Oaxaca.  For the second year in a row, the parade was canceled — last year it was due to protest threats by Sección 22 of the teachers union and this year because the governor declared that it was a work and school day, so there should be no desfile to distract students and their maestros.

Besides, in 2005, Article 74 of Mexican labor law established the third Monday of November as the “official” holiday — thus following the USA’s “time-honored tradition” of creating 3-day holiday weekends and setting the stage for 3-day shopping frenzies.  Mexico is following the latter also — we got caught up in the crowds of “Buen Fin” shoppers in Guadalajara last Sunday.  However, Monday, I was en route from the Guadalajara to Oaxaca aboard the new non-stop flight by TAR airlines.  Upon my return in the afternoon, I didn’t see or hear of anything special happening in Oaxaca city and there weren’t even any fireworks from the zócalo or Plaza de la Danza that night.

So, in lieu of a revolution-related blog post, I’m returning to the above mentioned visit to the state of Jalisco for a few super-saturated scenes from my seven hours in Guadalajara.

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View from a courtyard at the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas

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Cathedral of Guadalajara

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View from the old bus terminal in Guadalajara

It’s great to be back under Oaxaca’s spell!  However, though not enchanted with Guadalajara (hence the desire to add pixie dust to the photos), it has some spectacular Orozco murals at the Palacio de Gobierno and the Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

 

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She’s gone…

P1090814_copyAs feared, by order of the government, the beautiful and moving mural by Lapiztola, on the side of Museo Belber Jimenez, has been erased.

P1140922copyOnly her ghost remains.

P1140920 copyI miss her, too.  Color and culture, indeed, seem to be unwelcome.

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As many of you already know, one of my favorite things about living and being in Oaxaca is, you just never know what you will stumble across.  Rounding a corner, one might come upon a calenda (parade) with band, marmotas, monos, and dancers; a street artist or payaso (clown) entertaining a gathering of nin@s to abuel@s; street art; or a newly opened store.

So (no surprise), a few months ago, walking up Tinoco y Palacios enroute to the Sanchez Pascuas mercado (in need of a few staples like quesillo, aguacates, and tamales), a stunning new mural caught my eye.P1120515Positioned to entice potential customers into Color y Cultura, a newly opened artisan community shop, the mural is the work of Chiquitraca Colectivo from Juchitán.  It worked, I was hooked, and later returned to browse and eventually buy a pair of earrings carved from a gourd.  However, during a return trip to the mercado, I was rather shocked to see unsightly papers defacing the mural.

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Usually, street murals are “hands off” zones for vandalism.  However, closer inspection revealed official notices declaring, “Suspendida” (suspended) and going on to say that the mural violates regulations on the conservation of the historic district.

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And, if this weren’t egregious enough, remember the stunning We sow dreams and harvest hope mural on the side of Museo Belber Jimenez?

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It too now has appalling “Suspendida” notices plastered on it.  WTF is going on???  A little research revealed that a law was recently passed to “criminalize” wall art.  Yes, yes, yes… I understand that the “powers that be” and even ordinary residents are sick of graffiti on historic buildings.  BUT to lump the anarchist “A” spray-painted on the side of the Cathedral with magnificent murals painted on ugly decaying walls and beautiful works of art privately commissioned by businesses and museums to decorate their buildings, is the height of absurdity, never mind assigning a “criminal” aspect to it.  Believe me, Oaxaca has a laundry list of more important issues that it needs to address.

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If in their “infinite wisdom” they are attempting to “clean up” the city to better appeal to tourist dollars, euros, yen, etc., then I think they are barking up the wrong tree — we extranjeros (foreigners) love the street art!  To that end, below is a copy of a letter I sent to the president of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) last year, when officially authorized murals painted by art students as part of their course work were ordered removed by the university administration.

Dear President Miller:

I am writing to you from the city of Oaxaca de Juárez in southern Mexico, nestled in the valley where corn was first cultivated.  I have the privilege of living in culture that has a deep respect for, and appreciation of, communication through all forms of art.

Oaxaca is filled with museums and public art.  In addition, her walls are covered with murals, both officially sanctioned and unauthorized.  An example of the latter:  My current neighbor, previously lived next to a concrete bench built into a wall along her street.  It’s primary function seemed to serve as a gathering place for garbage and graffiti.  Being an artist, she painted a living room scene around the bench, replete with, a lamp, bouquets of flowers, pillows on the sofa/bench, and a framed painting with the image of a smiling creature holding a sign that quotes Oaxaca’s favorite son and former Mexican president, Benito Juárez:  “El respecto al derecho ajeno es la paz.”  (Respect for the rights of others is peace.)  It is a quote that every Mexican school child learns and in the eighteen years since the bench and mural were first painted, it has become a beloved icon of the street and very little graffiti and garbage have reappeared.

Oaxaca would lose much of her character and lessons would be lost, if we were to wake one morning and find all her murals disappeared.  The story is the same at CCSU and it would be shameful if the beautiful and thought-provoking student murals at CCSU were to be needlessly destroyed.

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My friend G called this succulent, the Chrysler Building.  Anyone who has seen the original, or photos of it, in New York City can understand why.P1130505This Kalanchoe luciae  is one of the great, great, great… grandchildren of the original plantlet G had given me six years ago when I first moved to Oaxaca.

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La Guelaguetza is coming.  However, the drama/comedy/telenovela/fairly tale (you take your pick) that is the Guelaguetza Auditorium velaria (canopy) has again grabbed Oaxaca’s headlines.  “Why?” you might ask.  Good question!  Perhaps a little history is in order…

Once upon a time and for a very long time, the auditorium, perched on Cerro del Fortín high above the beautiful city of Oaxaca, was velaria-less — no canopy to protect spectators and performers from sun and rain.  However, in 2009 the Big Bad Wolf, who was then the governor and in need of some good PR, decided to spend 104 million pesos to build a roof over the auditorium.  The people did not like the governor, they did not like the expense, and they most certainly did not like the design — the word, el pañal (the diaper) frequently tripped off the tongue of many when describing it.  Alas, the workmanship left much to be desired and the 2010 Guelaguetza had to be relocated to the university soccer stadium.  The people were not happy!

By July 2011, a Prince Charming had replaced the Big Bad Wolf as governor, a new velaria was in place (though it still looked like a diaper), and La Guelaguetza returned to the hill overlooking the city.  Cue mild applause.

Guelaguetza AuditoriumAlas, the lackluster clapping came to an abrupt halt one evening in March 2012, when a moderate wind ripped the right wing (I kid you not) off.  A sign?

Guelaguetza Auditorium with missing wing. A poll at the time ran 2:1 against replacing the velaria.  Of course, no one listens to the people, though a week later, for the safety of all, the left wing of the cover was also removed.

Guelaguetza auditorium without the wings; Mexican flag on the left.Guelaguetzas 2012, 2013, and 2014 came and went and not much more came to pass.  Yours truly even experienced the abbreviated velaria at last year’s performance, though I kept glancing up at the structure to make sure it was still intact.

IMG_4933 The end of our story?  No, of course not!  In January, Sinfra (Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Land Management) declared the saga must go on.  Thus, in March of this year, it was trumpeted throughout the land that work on a brand new velaria was to commence.  There would be no cost to the people, as the original company, the Big Bad Wolf’s friends at Lonas Lorenzo, would be footing the bill, and work would be completed in time for this year’s Guelaguetza.  Though the people did not cheer, down came the old…

P1090865Completed in time for this year’s Guelaguetza, did I write?  Well, into every tale a little drama must fall — today’s Noticias heralded the news that, alas and alack, due to a labor dispute, the work will not be finished in time for next month’s Guelaguetza performances.  The people are not surprised.  The world turns and the saga continues…

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I walk past the Museo Belber Jimenez at least every other day and its brilliant blue walls always make me smile.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you can’t miss it!  In mid April, not long after undergoing a major renovation, a city bus lost control and crashed into the museum.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but the window, grating, and wall on the Tinoco y Palacio side of the museum were damaged.

By the time I left in mid May for the trip north, all had been repaired.  And then a few days before returning to Oaxaca, blog reader BJ wrote to tell me there was a “beautiful new mural” on the west wall of the museum.  She was right — it’s stunning and deeply moving.

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P1090808Muchisimas gracias to Museo Belber Jimenez for inviting Lapiztola to enhance the exterior of the museum and our lives with the beautiful mural and its message from Beti Cariño.

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Coiled razor wire on roof

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In the words of Flannery O’Connor, “Everything that rises must converge.”

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In front of the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the lonas rise and the ropes converge.

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As a treat for residents and visitors during the Muertos festivities, last night and tonight, the City of Oaxaca is presenting, “Manjares de Todos Santos” — a video mapping light and sound show at Santo Domingo de Guzmán and the Basílica de la Soledad.  Last night was a mob scene at Santo Domingo, so we opted for Soledad, where we had a ringside seat.

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¡Espectacular!

Chris, of Oaxaca-The Year After fame, shot video and I will post a link when he gets it uploaded to YouTube.  Update:  And the link is: http://oaxacanyear.blogspot.mx/2014/11/mapping-la-soledad.html

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