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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Besides a mock wedding with men dressed as women, mentioned in my previous post, Carnaval (Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday) in San Martín Tilcajete also means young men covered in motor oil (yuck!) and paint running through the village with belts of cowbells ringing.

And, it means muchas mascaras de madera — in this village famous for its fantastical hand-painted alebrije woodcarvings and masks.

Some of my favorite masks and body paint were done by Jesus Sosa Calvo, his talented wife, Juana Vicente Ortega Fuente, and their gifted children.  (See the mask I gave to my son, carved by Apolinar, one of their sons.)  If you are in San Martín Tilcajete, be sure to see their work at Matlacihua Arte (right across from the zócalo on the main street).

The Spanish brought this pre-Lenten tradition to Mexico and, like many 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, motor oil, face and body paint, you name it, disguised and anonymous was the order of the day!

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Among other highlights, Carnaval/Carnival in San Martín Tilcajete features a mock wedding, quinceañera, and beautiful fabulously dressed and accessorized “women.”

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The day before Lent in San Martín Tilcajete 2017.  As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

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Slowly the cars began to move.  Slowly they climbed the steep hill.  As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:  “I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I think I can – I think I can – I think I can I think I can–”  (The Little Engine That Could)

In this case, the little engines that could are Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as vochos.  These indomitable VW Bugs are ubiquitous on the streets of Oaxaca — in a rainbow of colors and in every stage of repair and disrepair imaginable.

Fuschia vocho parked on street

They can even be spotted traveling along the walls…

“Vocho art” isn’t limited to murals on street corners.  Check out this Huichol beadwork “Vochol” I saw on exhibit at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City last October.  It is the work of Francisco Bautista, Kena Bautista, Roberto Bautista, Diego Díaz González, Emilio González Carrillo, Víctor González Carrillo, Alvaro Ortiz, and Herminio Ramírez.

And, that isn’t all…  Mexican artist, Héctor Garnelo Navarro has covered a 1994 VW Beetle  with “19,800 semi-precious stones (e.g., obsidian, jade) that form images of pyramids, animals, ancient deities (Quetzalcóatl [Feathered Serpent, Creator God] and the Mictlantecuhtli [God of the Underworld]).”  It is known as the Vocho Teotihuacano (Teotihuacán Beetle) and according to this article, he is finishing a Vocho Maya and is considering a Vocho Alebrije — the latter inspired by the wood carvers and painters of Oaxaca.  So, keep your eyes open!

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It’s a travel day for me and I didn’t think I would have time to honor my sisters of the world on this International Women’s Day.  However, thanks to a flight delay that has left me with an even longer than planned layover in Houston, I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than presenting Julia and Luvia; two of the extraordinary women of Teotitlán del Valle.

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Julia Martinez Bautista on her 100th birthday party, February 1, 2017.

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Luvia Lazo Gutierrez, director of the new Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle.

They embody the strength, ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity of women everywhere!

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Oaxaca seems to invite and inspire creativity.  Thus, for twenty years distinguished photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, who “considered Oaxaca her second home,” brought students here and conducted workshops at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo.  Now, seven photographers, Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, James Carbone, Chae Kihn, Tim Porter, and Jody Watkins, are honoring their late mentor with an exhibition, Nuestra Oaxaca, at the Centro Fotográfico.

The exhibition opened on January 20, 2017, but it was the coming together by the seven and their very personal remarks during the artist reception and panel discussion on February 25 that revealed the impact Mary Ellen Mark had on their lives and work.  She was a dedicated and demanding teacher” who pushed them to know themselves in order to authentically see and capture the people and places on the other side of the lens.  They also offered glimpses into Mark’s playful side and wit, along with how meaningful her friendship was to each of them and their profound sense of loss at her passing in 2015.  I wasn’t the only one who blinked away tears.

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(L->R) Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, Chae Kihn, James Carbone, Tim Porter, Jody Watkins, and translator, February 25, 2017.

In the words of Tim Porter, spoken at the opening of the exhibition on January 20, 2017:

We seven photographers are all different. Some of us are professionals who work for newspapers or do commercial work. Some of us are amateurs who simply love photography. Some of work in a documentary or journalistic style. Some of us make more interpretative images. We live in New York, in Los Angeles, in Iceland and in San Francisco. Some of us have been coming to Oaxaca for decades. Some of us for only a few years.

What we all share is Mary Ellen. She brought us together. Through her we became friends. Because of her we became better photographers. With her in mind, we come back – to pursue the work we started here, to become the photographers she believed we could be, to honor her passion and, perhaps, to find hope and inspiration in it.

If you are currently in Oaxaca or plan to be before the exhibition closes on April 7, 2017, I highly recommend paying it a visit; the images from each of the seven photographers will reveal Oaxaca in a new and thought-provoking light.  In addition, you can also see the work of their mentor, Mary Ellen Mark, that is part of the Colección Toledo/INBA.

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Yes, we know… ephemeral it may be; effective it is.

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As do the artists of Gabinete Grafico, who bring their woodcut art to the streets.

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And yesterday, Gabinete Grafico’s artists inaugurated a brick and mortar gallery at Calle de M. Bravo 216 in Oaxaca city.

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Yellow is the color of winter in Oaxaca, be it flora, fauna, or nature-inspired human intervention…

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Primavera amarilla (Tabebuia chrysantha) on Calle Porfirio Díaz.

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Corner of Calle Porfirio Díaz and Calle de M. Bravo.

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Great Kiskadee sitting in the tree next door surveying the scene.

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Emiliano Zapata looks out from above the entrance to Espacio Zapata and Atila del Sur restaurant.

A. M. A. R. I. L. L. O.
by Edward Kofi Louis

Aim high in life and, always seek for peace!
Making it possible to share with others;
As the sun always rises from the east! !
Resting down west to respect the muse of nature.
In the light of Life,
Lights in the sight of the truth! !

Living with positive morals,
Onward with the joy of life.

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The walls of Oaxaca are speaking…

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No comment necessary.

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If it’s the end of January into the beginning of February, it must be time for the Feria del Carrizo in San Juan Guelavía.  About twenty minutes east of the city, this village was known for their beautiful and functional baskets hand-woven from carrizo (Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed), a tall perennial cane that grows along river banks. p1240717

These baskets have traditionally been used as carriers and storage bins since before the Spanish set foot on the soil that became Mexico.  However, their popularity and demand took a nosedive, along with the economy of San Juan Guelavía, upon the arrival of plastic baskets.  The answer, in 2012, was to promote these artisans, their wares, and their creativity with a fair.  Several days preceding Sunday’s inauguration of the 6th annual fair and sale, there were misas (masses), parades, and fireworks.

As with all festivals and fairs in Oaxaca, there are folkloric dance performances.

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And, artfully positioned decorations adorning walls and gates and hanging from the ceiling.p1240705

There is barbacoa and tortillas hot off the comal.p1240697

And, impossibly adorable children carrying on traditions.p1240738

The fair was in full swing when we arrived in late morning (note to self, get there earlier next year) with carrizo woven baskets, birdcages, bottles, and baby cradles piled high.p1240718So many choices…  Is it too early to begin Christmas shopping?p1240715I kept my eye out for Teresa, who made beautiful lampshades for me two years ago.  However, it wasn’t easy as there were so many people coming and going and crowded around all of the vendor tables.p1240706
It took a while but, on the second pass around, I finally found her and her delightful family.  There was much handshaking, cheek kissing, and catching up.p1240714And, more than a little laughter about her fowl friend, who was keeping watch under the table.p1240712

Another wonderful, warm, and welcoming day in one of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca.  The fair continues this week with a 4-day jaripeo (rodeo) and closes on February 5, so you still have time!  Never fear, if you miss it, these carrizo treasures can often be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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Even in Oaxaca, Chinese New Year is being celebrated.

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A Taekwondo school brought the Year of the Fire Rooster to the zócalo late this afternoon, replete with a Taiko Drum and Dragon and Lion dance.

According to Huffington Post Canada, people born under this sign “are considered trustworthy and responsible, with a strong sense of timekeeping.”  However, “they can be ‘overly blunt'” and, beware, they are not very compatible with people born in the Year of the Rat.  ¡Feliz Año del Gallo!

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T-shirts hot off the  Espacio Zapata presses for Women’s March Oaxaca in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.

I’ll be wearing mine on Saturday.  See you January 21, 2017 at 11 AM in front of Templo Santo Domingo!

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This is the banner from Oaxaca that will be carried at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.  If you go, look for it!

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If you are in Oaxaca, join U.S. citizens and friends on January 21 at 11:00 AM, in front of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, for a Women’s March Oaxaca — in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.  Your bodies and banners would be most welcome!  Just remember, slogans should be directed toward the U.S. government, as foreigners are forbidden by law from involvement in Mexican politics.

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Of the rábanos from Noche de Rábanos, this radish sculpture of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor of Tenochtitlan, was my favorite.

Cuauhtémoc portrayed in radishes

“Cuauhtémoc: El Último Gran Emperador Azteca” by José Yehú Santos Aguilar took second place in the Free Radish category.

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It was a year I’m sure many would like to forget; it was disastrous for the planet AND her inhabitants.  For me, on this last day of the year, I choose to reflect on the beauty, joy, love, and new adventures that I was fortunate to experience.

I welcomed 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area at my childhood home, now my younger son’s domicile.  Thus on New Year’s Day, I made æbleskiver (Danish pancakes) using my great grandmother’s recipe and her, well over 100 year old, cast iron pan.

Æbleskiver on New Year's Day 2016; a family tradition

Æbleskiver on New Year’s Day 2016; a family tradition.

Back in Oaxaca, February brought a community Día de Amor y Amistad fiesta in my apartment complex.  Have I mentioned?  I have wonderful neighbors!

Valentine's Day party

Valentine’s Day party decorations in the patio.

March was unseasonably hot, but the blue skies and flamboyant trees beginning to bloom made it bearable.

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave.

April took me to Cuba, a lifelong dream finally realized.  It was more fascinating, confounding, and fabulous than I had ever expected.

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View from the Hotel Habana Riviera.

By May, the flamboyant trees had leafed out and were in full bloom — and we needed it, as the hot-hot-hot temperatures continued.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

A calavera on the streets of Oaxaca in June?  Absolutely!  She knows no season.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

And, then there was July!  So much to see and do, this month warrants three images.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival.  So beautiful!

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival. So beautiful!

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float, waiting.

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float waiting for the Intrepidas to board.

The rainy season was in full force in August and I loved standing on my terrace watching the storms approach, though sometimes they didn’t make it all the way to Casita Colibrí.  Microclimates!

Storm approaching the city from the south.

Storm approaching the city from the south.

September brought the second major feast day in Teotitlán del Valle:  Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María.

Bringing the canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

Bringing canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

I was in California from late September to early October, and when I returned there was a new exhibition in the courtyard of the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de México Rufino Tamayo.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by Alejandro Santiago.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by the late Alejandro Santiago.

For the past couple of years, one of my destinations on November 1 has been the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros; its beauty and tranquility always take my breath away.

Under the shade of the daughters of the tule tree, the chapel in the panteón.

Light and shadows cast by the daughters of the Tule tree, play off the colors of the chapel in the panteón.

Later in November, I spent a delightful Thanksgiving with family and friends on the east coast of the USA, but returned to spend Christmas in Oaxaca for the first time in three years.  It was just as joyous and colorful as I remembered!

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

These three are the future; let’s vow to do all we can to give them a better world than the 2016 one that is departing.

Many thanks to you all; I am constantly amazed and gratified that you choose to stop by.  Wishing all the best for you, your loved ones, and your communities in 2017.  ¡Feliz año nuevo a tod@s!

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As I previously explained, Noche de Rabanos isn’t just about radishes.  One of the other categories of entries is Totomoxtle Decorado.  And the winner was Moisés Ruíz Sosa, with his dyed cornhusk depiction of Día de Muertos on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca.

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Descendants of slaves, the Afromexicano population of Oaxaca is located in 16 municipalities, with 11 of these municipalities located in the Costa Chica, Oaxaca’s far western coastal region, bordering the state of Guerrero.

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During Day of the Dead, the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed in these communities.

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Dancers wear devil masks, and are led by a colonial ranch foreman with a whip, who “struts around, while his buxom ‘white’ wife – played by a black man – flirts outrageously with the ‘devils’ and even the audience.”  [The black people ‘erased from history’]

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To see the Noche de Rabanos 2013 entry by Moisés Ruíz Sosa, click HERE.

By the way, the “Elaborando Artesanía, Plasmando Sueños: ‘Teotitlán del Valle, Tierra de Dioses’” by Raymundo Sánchez Monserrat Maricela, which I wrote about in Noche de Rabanos, pt. 1, took first prize in the Flor Inmortal Adulto category!

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