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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

When last we left Casita Colibrí’s garden, it had weathered Moving days and the plants were Surviving and thriving wherever they had landed at their new home.

Much to the movers’ relief, some (though, not a lot!) of the plants were to remain on the ground floor. With those, it was within my artistic ability to create an entryway and to arrange the palms and other shade-loving plants in my new apartment’s atrium.

However, the landscaping on the rooftop, where the majority of the plants landed, was left to the imagination — as I had neither the strength nor the skill. Consequently, two and a half weeks ago, under a blazing hot and unrelenting sun, my friend and excellent landscaper Jose Ruiz Garcia and his nephew came over to move, position, and re-position trees and succulents and shrubs — oh my!

Most mornings it’s now where I begin my day. With coffee in hand, I cautiously wend my way up the narrow spiral staircase to commune with my plants, listen to the birds sing and chatter, and enjoy this beautiful and tranquil garden that Jose has created. It’s also a perfect setting to sip a glass of wine as the sun sets.

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Another year of Covid-19 means another year without an up close and personal Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Like last year performances and events are going virtual. However, unlike last year, when video of the dancing was taken from the years 2017 to 2019, this year the delegations will be performing live from their villages.

La Guelaguetza 2021 schedule of cultural events:

July 19, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 19, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

Transmissions can be viewed at CORTV– on local television, their YouTube channel, and on their Facebook page.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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A much needed pause in nesting at the new Casita Colibrí was in order. Teotitán del Valle’s patronal festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo beckoned. The pandemic had closed the village for many months and precluded attending any of the 2020 fiestas. However, with mask on, I returned to spend three days. First on the schedule was Monday evening’s convite (procession) inviting the community to the fiesta.

Lining up in front of Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo for the convite.
Canastas ground level before being lifted onto the heads of the young unmarried women chosen to participate.
Cohetero (aka, rocket man) mugging before lighting the fuse.
Anticipating the big bang!
Tambor player who has walked many miles.
Young percussion player with many miles yet to walk.
As the shadows lengthened, the convite wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Doña Marina, Moctezuma, and La Malinche bringing up the rear.
Villagers gather at their favorite location to watch the passage of the convite.
Convite taking over the main street in Teotitlán del Valle.
Danzantes under the watchful gaze of El Picacho.
Subalterno keeping on keeping up.
The return trip to the iglesia.
After almost an hour, the convite re-entered the atrium of the iglesia.
Watching and contemplating — the end.

The last festival in Teotitlán that I attended, before Covid-19 turned the world sideways, was the Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in October 2019. The warm welcome I received at the convite on Monday was incredibly touching and I admit to tearing up a little as it began.

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Coming or going…

rain or shine…

Barrio de Jalatlaco — my new neighborhood!

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Several days ago, I finally returned to Teotitlán del Valle.

This was my first visit since the 30th anniversary celebration of Tlamanalli on February 14, 2020.

The pandemic hit soon thereafter and my adventures outside the city ceased.

Needless to say, I got a little emotional as I reconnected with sights, sounds, and, most of all, friends.

There wasn’t nearly enough time to check in with everyone as we (visitors from California and I) had been invited for comida at Tierra Antigua.

We spent hours and hours dining on delicious food prepared by Carina Santiago and her staff and catching up with her family and Kalisa, who is now based in Teotitlán.

However, now that I and many of my older friends in Teotitlán are fully vaccinated, I will be back soon!

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It feels so good to be back in this walkable city where simple errands offer the opportunity for exercising one’s body and mind.

“Free Palestine! Colombia lives!”

Connections are made and internationalism lives.

Reading the walls of Oaxaca is like reading the news.

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In Oaxaca, murals, stencils, and other forms of street art are ubiquitous — and often with cultural and political themes.

The same is true for San Francisco and her neighboring cities of Oakland and San Jose — primarily thanks to significant populations of color and the cultural expressions they bring.

However, in my white-bread hometown of Mill Valley, it’s only in the past several years that murals have begun popping up and they have seldom addressed social and political issues — until now.

In response to the killing of George Floyd and a controversy in the town regarding the tone-deaf attitude toward the Black Lives Matter movement and its own issues of racial discrimination and profiling, artist Wesley Cabral painted these two murals which now adorn a prominent wall in downtown Mill Valley.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and mother figures out there!

“Mi Segunda Madre” woven by Mario González Pérez using wool dyed with natural dyes.

The above wall hanging (photographed in February 2021) was part of the art exhibition, “Sangre y Herencia” (Blood and Heritage) at Hotel CasAntica. By the way, Día de las Madres is celebrated in Mexico on May 10.

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For the first time since February 25, 2020, I ventured out of Oaxaca city. The pull of my fully vaccinated family in el norte and with no word regarding when the second Pfizer vaccine would be given in Oaxaca, I booked a flight up to California for April 15 (five weeks after my first jab) and a 10:00 AM vaccination appointment at CVS for the next day. Needless to say, I was very grateful to not have to stand in line for hours. However, I am already missing my weekly Friday morning hike up to Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.

Click HERE for close-ups of the art in the last photo. Nothing like a little culture to add to the shopping and dining experience!

By the way, the city began offering the second dose of the vaccine the day I left.

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Container gardening, Oaxaca style.

Recycled garden planter

I chuckle every time I pass by this planter on the sidewalk of Calle Heroico Colegio Militar in Colonia Reforma.

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The headline in NVI Noticias announced, despite an increase in COVID-19, the federal government declared that, as of tomorrow, Oaxaca will move from semáforo amarillo (yellow traffic light)…

Art by Berza and ARCH on the Calle Constitución side of El Tendajón.

… to semáforo verde (green traffic light).

Mural signed by Hiko in Barrio de Xochimilco.

Inquiring minds are wondering if the downgrading of COVID-19 risk has anything to do with the upcoming elections on June 6.

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Easter Sunday, Peter Cottontail, with a little help from his friends, hippity hopped his way to Casita Colibrí, bringing platters full of Easter joy.

Easter eggs dyed with hibiscus, chili, turmeric, and beets with designs imprinted by cilantro, parsley, epazote and bougainvillea.
Marinated and roasted pork shoulder with organic baby carrots, potatoes, and shallots from the Sierra Norte.
Peter Cottontail’s favorite salad of radishes, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, and lettuce.
Choux pastry filled with creamy coffee with caramelized peanut cream.

A muchisimas gracias to my many-times-mentioned friend, neighbor, and talented cocinera, Kalisa, who dyed the eggs and prepared all but the dessert. The latter yummy decadent delight was purchased from Masea Trigo y Maíz. To quote another rabbit, “That’s all folks!”

(ps) My alebrije rabbit is by Bertha Cruz from San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca.

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Alas, another silent Viernes Santo in Oaxaca due to the pandemic. No early morning processions from churches throughout the city converging in front of the Cathedral to reenact the encuentro where Jesús meets María going towards Calvary. No worshipers praying and reciting appropriate devotions as they moved from one sidewalk Estación de la Cruz (Station of the Cross) to another. And, no rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of rachets punctuating the hush of the crowds gathered along the route for the early evening Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence).

Only silent sacred vignettes accompanied yesterday morning’s Good Friday walk through Barrio de Jalatlaco…

Unlike last year when church doors remained closed and services were broadcast remotely, the Archbishop announced that this year the churches will be open for liturgical acts on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, albeit with a “limited presence of the faithful.”

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In varying states of repair and disrepair and in a rainbow of colors, old but indomitable VW Beetles (known as Vochos in Mexico) are still seen tooling and sputtering their way around Oaxaca — an ideal car for navigating the narrow streets and limited parking in the city.

As the old Timex watch commercial used to say, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

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