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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Remember the Not for sale! building at the corner of Matamoros and Crespo? It’s been one of the buildings in a “mal estado” (bad state) since long before my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007. A portion of the Crespo facing wall finally collapsed at the end of an extremely wet 2012 rainy season. And, following the September 2017 earthquakes, what remained of the wall gave way, necessitating a barricade along the sidewalk.

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As last Sunday’s stroll in the time of… showed, the barricade was in the process of getting its own facelift. It’s finished and it looks terrific.

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However, as the owner, with the help of the artist, continues to make clear, the answer is NO. The building is not for sale!

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By the way, while trying to locate the oldest photo I have of this wall, I discovered that I had missed the tenth anniversary of View From Casita Colibrí. It was March 25, 2010, with the post, Awake at 4:30 AM, that I began this blog. Its last line reads, “Whatever the reasons… here’s hoping I become a little braver in revealing myself, don’t let my perfectionist streak get in the way of posting and I stick with it!” I’ve definitely stuck with it, have overcome my fear of the writing and photos not being perfect (though I try to maintain my librarian commitment to accuracy), and have hopefully allowed a bit of “who I am” to be expressed in these ten years of blog posts. Here’s to another ten!

 

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Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time to wander through the neighborhoods of Oaxaca. Traffic is light, sidewalks are mostly empty, and the city seems nestled under a blanket of tranquility. Thus, in these days of an abundance of alone-at-home time, a long peaceful walk with my neighbor (maintaining sana distancia/social distancing, of course) was just what the doctor ordered.

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Out the door and up the hill, we went.

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“Hola, buenos días” greetings were exchanged with the few people we encountered — many walking their dogs.

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Though we weren’t planning to eat, we stumbled on a lovely garden restaurant – Ancestral Cocina Tradicional — and couldn’t resist sitting down in their sun-dappled courtyard for a quesillo and huitlacoche quesadilla, washed down with a healthy jugo verde. Everything about the restaurant was done with care and attention — including being mindful of COVID-19 concerns.

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Emerging from the restaurant, we continued our ramble, admiring architecture, street art, and the beauty of dry season flowers.

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This Dama de Noche (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) stopped us in our tracks!

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After three hours, we returned to our homes feeling refreshed, appreciative of Oaxaca’s many gifts, and feeling like we can get through this — despite the puppet masters.

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Yesterday (March 19), Mexico celebrated the Day of the Artisan. Well, celebrated isn’t really the right word. COVID-19 (aka, coronavirus) was the elephant in the country.

I had long-planned to attend the always well curated 3-day Día del Artesano craft sale at Andares del Arte Popular. It’s an opportunity to meet and buy directly from the craftspeople who weave the rugs, embroider the cloth, shape the clay, carve and paint the wood, and the work of other amazingly talented artisans.

However, the sale was very responsibly canceled. Tourists and winter visitors are scrambling to return home as soon as possible, restaurants are either closing or offering only take-out service, and as I write, the city has begun instituting measures to restrict people from gathering in public spaces and calling on public transit to limit or suspend service, among other actions.

Oaxaca’s tourist-driven economy is going to take a tremendous hit. Right now, the best way to honor the artisans is to treasure the beauty they have brought to our lives. And, when the day eventually comes that we can again move about freely, we should seek them out, thank them for joy their talent brings us, and (hopefully) empty our pocketbooks a little more than usual.

Almost life-size ceramic sculptures are by the Aguilar family in Ocotlán de Morelos and were on display at Andares this month.

 

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Today, March 8, women around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day with marches, forums, exhibitions, and more. The mass media is filled with stories about extraordinary women and companies catering to women are using references to International Women’s Day in their advertising, though, I might add, very few mention its revolutionary past.

However, it isn’t today’s demonstrations, expositions, and other special events that has women in Mexico talking. It is the call for women to disappear for a day to protest the staggering amount of violence perpetrated against them. Government statistics report that 3,825 women met violent deaths last year, 7% more than in 2018. That works out to about 10 women slain each day in Mexico, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for females. Thousands more have gone missing without a trace in recent years.

Using the hashtags #ParoNacionaldeMujeres (National Women’s Strike), #UnDíaSinNosotras (A Day Without Us), and #UnDíaSinMujeres (A Day Without Women), organizers have reached out to the women of Mexico that on Monday, March 9, nothing moves: Don’t go out, don’t shop, don’t go to school, and don’t consume — become invisible, simulating the thousands of women who have been murdered or disappeared.

As three female legislators wrote in an article expressing their support for the strike, Women are responsible for about half of the compensated economic activity in the country, and relied upon disproportionately for unpaid work in the home, which is roughly equivalent to 15% of Mexico’s GDP. In exchange, our rights are impaired or ignored. Women have become the protagonists of thousands upon thousands of stories of violence and impunity at the hands of men who, in public and in private, feel they have a right to decide over our lives and our bodies…. That and many, many reasons more are why Mexico’s women will march in protest on March 8, and stop everything – stop working, stop asking, stop accepting – on March 9.

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Día de Carnaval (aka, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival) in Oaxaca is muy especial — especially in the village of San Martín Tilcajete. The Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico and, like may other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

Masks waiting to be worn at the workshop of Victor Fabián Ortega (click on image to enlarge)…

Not only were there masks at the workshop, there were bodies to be painted and it was a family affair — brothers, sisters, cousins, children, wives, and Victor himself who painted, was painted, and donned a mask.

Other family members (including women, new in the past couple of years) came painted and masked to gather to begin roaming through the village with other families, inviting one and all to the festivities!

And, it’s not just the adults. As with all celebrations and rituals in Oaxaca, children are encouraged to appreciate and participate — hopefully, ensuring these traditions continue.

The devils of San Martín Tilcajete laughed at everything: baptisms, weddings, solemn acts. Surrounded by devils with masks, old shoes, clothing of sacks, paintings that come from the earth and ancestral plants, they roam the streets chattering and everywhere they walk the streets laughing and appear either as devils or animal spirits.

That is why in SMT in carnival, it becomes a poetic dimension of shapes, colors and sounds; a fun and educational community that teaches us how imperfect we are, and to ask the good not to be so solemn and boring. Chamucos: Carnaval de San Martín Tilcajete Oaxaca, by Adolfo Pérez Butrón. (My translation.)

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If you live in Oaxaca, the characters of Carnaval are coming to a village near you. And to get you in the mood and entice you to one of the wild and whacky celebrations, the citizens of the city were treated to a parade sampling the various traditions — no two villages are the same.

Villa de Zaachila, “Grupo Natividad”

Putla Villa de Guerrero

Ánimas Trujano

Macuilxóchitl de Artigas Carranza

Santa Catarina Minas

Santa María Coyotepec

San Juan Bautista La Raya

Cuilápam de Guerrero

And, last but not least, San Martín Tilcajete…

That’s where I will be tomorrow!

 

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There is a new mural in town. After five years, The gods are watching mural (my name for it) has been replaced by the watchful eyes of a goat and a sheep.

Together they stand outside La Madriguera taller on Tinoco y Palacios (between Morelos and Matamoros).

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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.”

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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.

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The Jalatlaco neighborhood always yields artistic surprises…

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Happiness is wandering the streets of Oaxaca.

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Not seeing sights like this up here in el norte…

Ahhh… finding one’s niche in Oaxaca!

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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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