Archive for the ‘Contradictions’ Category

… and I’m not talking weather!  Today, I headed down to Soriana for a major restocking of the empty larder.  As I was perusing the wine section, a new sign caught my eye.

Sign - "Estimada clientela: Anticipe sus compras de vinos, licores y cervezas ya que el fin de semana habra ley seca por disposicion oficial por motivo de las elecciones federales.

(Translation: Anticipate your purchases of wines, spirits and beer for the weekend. There will be an official prohibition on selling because of federal elections.)

In the event you were unaware, there is a big election in Mexico this weekend; on Sunday, July 1, Mexican voters elect their next president.  In anticipation, the above sign went up and Noticias reported that Oaxaca’s governor, Gabino Cue, announced on Monday that alcohol sales are forbidden from midnight June 30 through midnight  July 1 — the entire 24 hours of election day.  This, he said, was in compliance with the provisions of the Federal Code of Electoral Institutions and Procedures, “thus ensuring the safe and harmonious development of the Federal Election Day on Sunday 1 July.”

I’m confused!  According to an article in NOTIMEX and other sources, the 1915 federal law prohibiting the sale of alcohol 24 hours before the elections and throughout election day (Paragraph 2 of Article 239 of the Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales (Cofipe) was repealed prior to the 2006 presidential election.  It was a nod to the states with a heavy-duty tourism industry.  No cervezas and no margaritas for 24 hours equals unhappy campers at Mexico’s popular resorts!  Regulation was left up to the individual states.

So I ask, is Oaxaca’s ban a state statute?  Or, has the federal law changed again?  Or, has word of the 2006 change not reached this far south?  Hmmm…

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Yesterday, I opted for the smaller and more intimate Guelaguetza in the Villa de Etla, about 12 miles northwest of Oaxaca city.  As far as I could tell, seven of the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca were present; only the Sierra Sur was missing.  FYI:  In the photos below, I purposefully left out the Plume dancers, who represented the Valles Centrales, as you will find plenty of photos of the Danza de la Pluma in my postings from the Fiesta de Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle.  By the way, Chris at Oaxaca-The Year After posted a terrific Guelaguetza Guide to assist in identifying the regions of Oaxaca.  It’s in Spanish, but even a non-Spanish speaker can learn quite a bit.

On a more serious note… I was reminded today by a Oaxaqueña friend, Guelaguetza in the city of Oaxaca is controversial.  Tickets (available through TicketMaster, I might add) for reserved seating to the official performances on Cerro Fortín at the (newly renovated and hotly disputed) Guelaguetza Auditorium are beyond the reach of most Oaxaqueños, some events are sponsored by Coca Cola, hundreds of thousands of pesos of tax payer monies have been spent on the sound and light show (spectacular, as it is), nightly fireworks, bringing in celebrities, and slick, though often inaccurate, publicity.  All is geared (well, not the inaccuracies) toward tourists; a boon to the restaurants and hotels around the zócalo.  But…

Unfortunately, what is lost is that the Guelaguetza is supposed to be a celebration that brings together the extremely diverse indigenous communities, from the various regions of the state to share their crafts, food, dance.  It wasn’t supposed to be crass commercialism that caters to tourists and well-heeled locals, at the expense of peoples who originated the tradition.  And, my friend asked, along with admiring their costumes and colorful dances, wouldn’t a portion of the pesos be better spent attending to the real and extremely pressing needs of the poverty stricken indigenous communities, especially with regard to infrastructure and education?

However, yesterday in Etla, I caught, perhaps, a glimpse of the original meaning of Guelaguetza.  Admission was free and open to one and all.  Free tamales and beverages (alcoholic and non) were offered to the standing-room only crowd, along with the sombreros, baskets, fans, whisk brooms, tlayudas, and fruit that each of the delegations of dancers tossed to the audience at the end of their performances.  After it was over, fellow blogger Chris and I looked around and realized, we were probably the only gringo and gringa in attendance.  What an honor and privilege!

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After a delightful but whirlwind (6 days is too short) visit, my stepson and his wife have come and gone; this year’s Guelaguetza festivities are over; life at Casita Colibrí is gradually resuming a more leisurely rhythm; and our current historic rain has gone on hiatus.  A quiet solo Sunday morning walk beckoned, as did the APPO banners, strung along the arches of the Palacio de Gobierno, that I wanted to photograph.

Oaxaca se levanta

The banners are a work of art, but ephemeral — here today, gone tomorrow — and I never seem to have my camera with me when I come across them.

"Respeto a la autonomia de San Juan Copala"

And, more importantly, they are a graphic reminder that behind the vitality, beauty, and quaint cosmetics of “new” cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site facade, class warfare lurks in the shadows.

Oaxaca’s contradictions are mine.  I turn the corner and walk over to puesto 80 at Mercado Juárez to see if they’ve gotten in the chocolate covered coffee beans.  No, maybe tomorrow…  I stop by the temporary pocket market in front of the Jesuit church on the corner and satisfy my sweet tooth by buying a bag of melt-in-your-mouth Merengue Sabor Cafe, instead.

The Zócalo has awakened during my 45 minutes of shopping; young and old strolling arm-in-arm, vendors selling their wares, shoes being shined, outside tables occupied with diners chatting or simple watching the scene before them.

People strolling; vendors selling

And, there is music — always, there is music — today an orchestra has set up under the laurels for the final day of the Festival Nacional de Danzón.  The dance, with its origins in Cuba, is stately and prescribed, with inexplicable pauses where dancers turn to face the orchestra, women move to the right side of their partners, fan themselves, and then several measures later dancing resumes.

Dancers in traditional Oaxacan dress

I’m captivated by the dancers who are at once, serious and joyful, and by their varied attire — once a costumer, always a costumer!

Dancers - woman in slacks

Most dancers are in the latter third of their life, though there are a few earnest young people.

Young dancers

It’s a prosperous crowd — a dance of the elite — but mesmerizing to watch.


After an hour of observing this very “civilized” scene under an intense sun, I headed to Independencia, the shady side of the street, and home, only to stop, reel around, and follow the sounds of a calenda coming into the Alameda; band, dancers, fireworks — celebrating Día del Comerciante!


I leave feeling conflicted about my three hours on a sunny Sunday.  The lines from the song inspired by the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike come to mind…

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

Lunch eaten, clouds gather, sky darkens, and Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge.

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En route to the U.S. for a 6-week visit with family and friends… sitting in the Houston airport and reflecting on traveling to and from Mexico.  As I’ve mentioned before, Oaxaca is a place of contradictions and this morning was a case in point:  The highly efficient airport shuttle service picked me up promptly at 6:45 am and we arrived at Oaxaca’s little airport 15 minutes later.  To take the shuttle, two days ago I’d walked down to their office just off the Zócalo, showed my flight departure time, paid my money, (48 pesos, approx. $3.75 U.S.), and they informed me what time the driver would pick me up.  It worked like… clockwork!

However, once at the airport, Continental had only 2 clerks working the check-in counter and the line moved excruciatingly slowly.  Apparently, there isn’t a supervisor to call in the event of a problem, and so the clerks patiently explain, check, explain, recheck, and explain again… as long as it takes, while the line gets longer and longer and time gets shorter and shorter.  And then there was my online boarding pass… all was fine with the Continental clerk but the gal at the security gate was thrown for a loop by the look of it and by my explanation that it really was valid and that I printed it at home on my computer.  Come to think of it, that sounds pretty bogus to me, too!   Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico and owning a personal computer is definitely not a given, let alone the wizardry of internet access.  She sought and received verification from two other security workers that my boarding pass was indeed valid.  But, it didn’t end there, when it came time to board, the Continental ticket taker was also perplexed and got on his walkie talkie to ask, where does one tear a pass without perforations?

I had to stand in line anyway, so I think next time I’ll skip printing my boarding pass!

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