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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

It’s been fifty years since two African American US Olympic medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, cast their eyes downward and raised clenched fists on the medals’ stand during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” (national anthem of the USA) at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Boos and racial epithets were hurled from the stands, both were kicked off the US team, ordered to leave the Olympic Village, and, upon returning to the USA, they received hate mail, death threats and experienced harassment.  However, their gesture became iconic and their stance against racial injustice is celebrated the world over, including Oaxaca.

Taller de Gráfica Experimental de Oaxaca, Calle La Noria at Melchor Ocampo, Oaxaca de Juárez

“I don’t have any misgivings about it being frozen in time. It’s a beacon for a lot of people around the world. So many people find inspiration in that portrait. That’s what I was born for.” –John Carlos (The man who raised a black power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games)

What most of the world didn’t see or hear about — because it was conspicuously absent from the covers of the country’s major newspapers — was that two weeks before, in what came to be known as the Tlatelolco Massacre, somewhere between 300 and 2,000 peacefully protesting students in Mexico City were murdered by Mexican military and police forces.

The echos from 1968 continue today…  Colin Kaepernick continues to be castigated and denied employment as an NFL football player for taking a knee during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, whose bus was ambushed in Iguala, Guerrero four years ago, continue to be missing.

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While the caption says, “Welcome to Oaxaca,” those clenched fists raised in protest illustrate how the overwhelming majority of women in the United States feel today.

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New mural at the corner of Allende and Tinoco y Palacios by Gran OM, Chauiztle Stencil, and Kloer Kloerk.

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Four years and two days ago, 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were disappeared in a violent attack on their bus in Iguala.  They still haven’t been found, their families still grieve, and anger surrounding the lack of truth, transparency, and justice continues.

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“For mothers who mourn empty graves for children who never returned”

In June of this year, a federal court ordered the creation of a truth and justice commission to undertake a new investigation but the current government has appealed the order.  However, two days ago, on the anniversary of their disappearance, Mexico’s new president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), met with relatives and representatives of the missing students and vowed to discover the truth and implement the court order.  Expectations are high, but skepticism remains.

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I have returned to my hometown for my 50th high school reunion.  (How could I possibly be that old?!)  Whenever I come up to the USA, I make a point of bringing a little Oaxaca love with me.  So, this trip I brought my three newest textile treasures to wear.

First, a modern asymmetric take on a traditional huipil — designed, dyed, and woven on a backstrap loom by Moisés Martínez Velasco from San Pedro Cajonos in the Villa Alta region of the Sierra Norte.  Villagers cultivate and harvest the silk worms and spin the silk used in making this beautiful piece.

I also packed a recently purchased traditional blusa from the Mixtec village of San Pablo Tijaltepec.  The blouses from this village are made from cotton manta and hand-embroidered with images of birds, animals, plants, and elements of nature in geometric patterns.  The blouses take up to one and a half months to make.  I wore it to the reunion picnic on Sunday and it received several compliments.

And, last but not least, I brought this elegant silk huipil with cotton chain-stitch hand embroidery designed by celebrated poet, Natalia Toledo.  Honoring the traditional huipiles of her birthplace in Juchitán de Zaragoza in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, yet bringing her own design esthetic to her label Teka, this woman of many talents works with seamstresses and embroiderers from the Isthmus and Central Valleys of Oaxaca to create one-of-a-kind pieces.  I wore this to Saturday night’s reunion at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge beside the San Francisco Bay — and it was perfect!

Besides the designs, colors (lately, I seem to be binging on burgundy), and handmade aspect of the work, I especially appreciate that I was able to meet and purchase each piece directly from its creator.

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The gods…

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and superheroes like El Chapulín Colorado have had their day.

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Today, the walls of Oaxaca remind us that it is journalists who are on the front lines — uncovering truth, advocating for justice, and often paying with their lives.

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“Cuando un pais tiene ganas de gritar hay personas que no pueden callar.”  (When a country wants to scream there are people who cannot remain silent.)  — the late Mexican journalist, Javier Valdez.

Journalists in the USA, are you listening?

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A local’s guide to Mexico City: 10 tips describes a mural project by Aida Mulato and Jóvenes Artesanos to help rehabilitate her Roma neighborhood following the September 2017 earthquakes.  According to the article, “The colourful murals celebrate indigenous communities and women, who continue to suffer most from the earthquakes.  The project supports the larger goals of Jóvenes Artesanos and gives various support to about 150 artisans with whom Mulato works.  With 15 murals painted already, the goal is to create a circuit of 68, representing the country’s indigenous populations.”

What an enlightened and wonderful contrast to the game of cat and mouse, street mural artists have been facing here in Oaxaca for the past few years, where many (including me) have been asking, are Color and culture, unwelcome?  However, while they may be more ephemeral than we would wish, artists are still at work on the sides of our own crumbling buildings, and murals still can be found on the walls of Oaxaca.

Enjoy them while you can, they may be gone tomorrow.

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You know you are nearing a village when you see the bell tower(s) and dome of the Catholic church.  Checking out the church is always high on the agenda.  Many were originally constructed in the sixteenth century, though damage, restoration, and decoration have occurred over intervening centuries.  And, don’t forget the details…

So, while attending the Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola in mid-July, we peeked through the locked gates, to see the Templo San Marcos.

Then off to San Miguel del Valle on a Fundación En Vía microfinance tour in early August and another church through another locked gate.

The piéce de résistance… We headed to the first food feria in Santa Ana Zegache in mid August.  Alas, we arrived hours too early for the food, but we consoled ourselves with visiting their Baroque 17th century church (no locked gate) that was fabulously restored in the 1990s by the Rodolfo Morales Foundation.

All beautiful and unique.  So, the lesson for today is, whenever you find yourself in a village in Oaxaca, be sure to check out the church.

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Open doors always draw the eye; you never know what you will see.  Peering through doorway of the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos, never disappoints.  Across the courtyard, seasonal book sculptures can often be seen.  Currently, celebrating July’s Guelaguetza, a Tehuana’s bookish hand holds her jicapextle aloft.

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Last October, with Día de Muertos coming up, a calavera was a book work in progress, with William Shakespeare playing a bit part.

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Guelaguetza 2017 brought a danzante from the Danza de la Pluma — his neck braced by the blue and rather appropriate book, “El Tesoro de Monte Albán.”

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There have also been Christmas trees and crosses, so stay tuned.  And, if you are in town, stop by the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos at Labastida 117 (across from the plazuela) — even if there isn’t a book sculpture, there are usually artisans set up in the entrance, and there is always the library to check out, says this librarian.

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I meant to post this during the World Cup.  But, for a couple of reasons, you can file this under “the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men.”

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On the wall outside the Salon de la Fama cantina (corner of M. Bravo and Porfirio Diaz), artist Efedefroy captured the mashup dreams of Mexican football (soccer) fans.  The beloved singer/actor Jorge Negrete, wearing the jersey of El Tri and hoisting the 2018 World Cup.  Alas, despite the “María” tattoo (La Virgen? No, probably 3rd wife María Félix), it was not to be.

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On the hummingbird express, they came, they saw, and they spent money.

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From the streets of Oaxaca… Hummingbird on the side of a tour van.

The hordes of Guelaguetza visitors and their tour vans and buses have departed, leaving streets a little easier to navigate and hotels breathing a big sigh of relief at their 99% occupancy rate.  Hopefully, restaurants, shopkeepers, and artisans are also smiling.  I’m still recovering!

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.  However, it’s not just the market (one of the oldest and biggest in Oaxaca) that keeps me returning, it’s also the prevalence of fabulous murals decorating walls and sides of buildings.  Unfortunately, here in Oaxaca city, there has been a growing intolerance by the powers-that-be to these cultural and often political expressions. However, in Tlacolula, they seem to be encouraged and celebrated — and the Tlacolulokos collective has elevated mural painting to a high art form.

We discovered their latest mural a few weeks ago as we were navigating out way through Tlacolula on our way back from the Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.  As with their previous work, using iconic imagery they continue to explore and honor the strength of the beautiful and brave Zapotec women of Tlacolula — this time, in what seems to be a “blue period.”

I was more than a bit puzzled by the above and very prominent words featured on the mural and had to do a little research — after all, that’s what librarians do!  It turns out, “Tokiolula” refers to the 1960s and 1970s when the Tlacolula market was known for selling cheap and often counterfeit goods — mostly from Asia.  That ended in the 1980s, but, unfortunately, has been creeping back.

As for Guish-Bac… “in Zapotec dialect of Tlacolula, Guish Bac is said to mean ‘in the middle of the sky’ or ‘in the middle of the path'” (Revista Cultural Bení Guish Bac Gulal – my translation) and, according to the footnotes in this dissertation, it refers to “people from Tlacolula.”

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During la Guelaguetza, the Desfiles de Delegaciones brought masked men (appearances to the contrary, most are men) to the streets of Oaxaca.  From San Andrés Zautla delegation, the Danza de los Jardineros…

 

along with the village viejos (old men).

 

The guys and “gal” from the Danza de los Diablos of Santiago Llano Grande.

 

From the delegation of the Diosa Centéotl, Santa María Zacatepec.

 

The masked Danza de los Diablos dancers of San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca.

 

Danza de la Pluma subalternos from Teotitlán del Valle and Villa de Zaachila.

 

Carnaval dancers from Putla Villa de Guerrero.

 

Never a dull moment in Oaxaca!  Click on photos for enlarged images.

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In the hour leading up to the Guelaguetza Desfile de delagaciones, last minute prep work…

marmota assembly

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Mask

Makeup application

Props at the ready…

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Monos

Mezcal containers

boy and turkey

Human parade participants sit and wait…

Cart and gals

Danza de la Pluma danzante

Musicians

Women and masked man

And, spectators hang out on the sidewalks…

Women on cell phones

What did we all do before cell phones?

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The day before the aforementioned Diosa Centéotl announcement, the major activity on my dance card was the Festival de los Moles “all you can eat” buffet in the beautiful setting of the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden).  To the accompanying sounds of Oaxaca’s state marimba band, blue, yellow, white, and red corn tortillas were placed on a comal; beer, aguas, and mezcal were offered and poured by an attentive wait staff; and appetizers plated with quesillo, molotes, tacos filled with guacamole and chapulines, and more were placed before each of the hundreds of attendees.

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After what seemed like an eternity, the signal that all had been waiting for — the tin foil lids were removed from the cazuelas to reveal 19 different kinds of mole from 19 different restaurants.  The stampede began!  There is no way possible to taste them all, but I had scoped out a few in advance — Estofado from El Regio, Mole de Platano from El Tendajon, Mole de Castilla from my friends at Tierra Antigua, and Celia Florian’s Manchamanteles from Las Quince Letras.  Blogger buddy Chris was sitting next to me and so we also tasted off each other’s plates, made more trips to the cazuelas, and I lost track of all that I had eaten.  But of course I found room for the traditional leche quemada and tuna (cactus fruit) nieve (sorbet) for dessert.  By the way, an added bonus to the event is sharing the experience with the friends old, new, and temporary at the tables-for-twelve.

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I bade Chris farewell and attempted to hurry home to change my clothes (yes, I’d spilled on my dress) before heading off to an exhibition opening.  But, silly me, after nine years of living here, I should know better — there is no rushing in Oaxaca! Turning onto Macedonio Alcalá, I heard music and ahead of me could see the tops of monos and marmotas.

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I was stopped dead in my tracks by one of the most colorful religious processions you will ever see.  Honoring their patron saint, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Tehuanas and their guys and band, danced their way down the street.  Slowly navigating the jam-packed sidewalk, while being pelted with candy thrown to bystanders, I eventually was able to duck up a side street and make my way home.  But, what fun along the way!

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Clothes changed, I managed to arrive (almost on time) at the inauguration of “Flores y Cantos” at the Museo Rufino Tamayo — an exhibition that asks us to consider “Nezahualcoytl’s age-old challenge to create something beautiful and meaningful with our lives.”  This multimedia exhibition, conceived of by Carolyn Kallenborn, envelopes the senses — ethereal sights; soothing music and comforting sounds of birdsong, rain, waves, and wind; and a celebration of the beauty and creativity of humans, then and now.  Carolyn asks us to contemplate the legacy our ancestors passed on to us and how we want to be remembered when we are gone.

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As one of two primary pieces in the exhibit, accomplished embroiderer Miriam Campos, from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, was commissioned by Carolyn to embroider a tree onto silk organza (above).  With moving images of nature passing through its sheen and translucency, it was of this earth, yet not of this earth.  For the other, Carolyn again collaborated with master weaver, Erasto (Tito) Mendoza on the truly spectacular tapete of corn that reaches from its roots of gold up into a swirling sky.  The video images running across it, gave it a sense of movement.  I returned again five days later.

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On Wednesday, prior to my second visit with “Flores y Cantos,” at the enthusiastic urging of Henry Wangeman (Amate Books), I made a bee-line to the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO) for the recently opened, “Endemismo” exhibition — a significant and stunning show that explores the biodiversity endemic to this area.  Located along the border of Oaxaca and Puebla, on July 2 the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve was recognized as a Cultural and Natural (Mixed) Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO.

Filling both floors of the museum, and the brainchild of Nancy Mayagoitia, the show incorporates the work of twenty painters and photographers — each providing a new perspective on this old land in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve.  I love the painting above by Cecilio Sánchez and entitled Paisaje de Cuicatlán (Cuicatlán landscape).  It seems as if the eyes of this ancient land are watching to see what we do with this unique and precious place.  (Click to enlarge the image and see the eyes.)  And below, I couldn’t resist posting an image of Raúl Herrera’s, “El baño del colibrí Huitzilopochtli atl” from the exhibition — as every morning I watch the hummingbirds bathe in my fountain.  Another exhibition to return to.

Given that I began this post with food, it only seems appropriate to end it with The Semana de los Antojos — a week of morsels of deliciousness to satisfy one’s (food) cravings — which opened July 24 under a colorfully decorated tent in the Plaza de la Danza.  The aromas wafting onto my terrace beckoned and I followed.

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50 booths offering regional “comfort” food — garnachas from the Istmo (my current craving), tacos, tamales, tortas, tlayudas, empanadas, barbacoa, carnes asadas, you name it!  And to wash it all down, tejate, tepache, pulque, chocolate, and aguas frescas.  Oh, and did I mention desserts?  Nieves, cookies and other sweets, and (hot off the presses) buñuelos.

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No rest for the weary — but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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As I write, Diosa Centéotl 2018 is presiding over this year’s first Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).  This is corn planting season and the figure of the goddess Centéotl represents the deity to whom rituals were offered to guarantee a good harvest.  She was elected from among 27 young indigenous women, representing the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.

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The first stage of the competition was held Friday morning at the Jardín del Pañuelito, with contestants speaking about their regions and communities.  During stage two, later in the afternoon, the participants talked about their distinctive clothing.  (For a few photos, check out Of Goddesses and Food.)  The judges, including Las Quince Letras cocinera and ambassador of traditional Oaxaca cooking, Celia Florian (2nd from right), then deliberated.

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Saturday morning the venue moved to the elegant early 20th century Macedonio Alcalá theater where at least 500 people listened as the “Court” of the Diosa Centéotl was announced:  Hillary Naxhiely López (San Blas Atempa), Adriana Ramón Guzmán (de Asunción Ixtaltepec), Yoali Josabet López Quiroz (Santo Domingo Tehuantepec), Socorro Hernández Santiago (Putla Villa de Guerrero), and María del Carmen Vásquez Díaz (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

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A beautiful scepter, carved and painted by Jacobo and María Ángeles from San Martín Tilcajete, waited in the wings to be presented to the new Diosa Centéotl.

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And, the winner was… Francisca Pérez Bautista from Santa María Zacatepec.  A member of the Tacuate ethnic group in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, she was wearing the traditional cream-colored huipil with red ribbons and embroidery.  On her head, she wore the customary bowl-shaped jícara head covering made from the fruit of the calabaza tree.

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There was a twenty-minute break in the action — the governor, Alejandro Murat, was delayed in traffic.  In the interim there was much affection and camaraderie displayed among the contestants.  Eventually, he arrived and presented the scepter to Francisca.

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There was no rest for the new Diosa Centéotl.  Her official duties began immediately — a luncheon with the Guelaguetza delegations, followed by leading the desfile of delegations through the city’s streets.

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