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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Adding some welcome color to these grey rainy season days, on the first of September my neighbors raised their ginormous flag marking the beginning of the Mes de la Patria — a month-long celebration of Mexico’s War of Independence from Spain.

The war lasted eleven years — from September 16, 1810, with Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores), to September 27, 1821, when the Army of Three Guarantees triumphantly marched into Mexico City.

Merchandise in green, white, and red (colors of the Mexican flag) fill store shelves, vendors ply the streets selling flags and tchotchkes, and patriotic displays decorate public and private buildings.

As for me, I’m jonesing for the season’s traditional dish of chiles en nogada. It’s been four years since I savored its complex combination of flavors and textures at Restaurante Catedral (photo above).

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Over the past several years, one can’t help but notice that Oaxaca has become much more pet friendly.

In place of the formerly ubiquitous roof dogs menacingly peering down and barking at pedestrians, images of silent dogs and cats look out from walls along the sidewalks.

Veterinary offices have sprung up all over the city, dog walkers have become a “thing,” many businesses are placing water bowls outside their entrances, and restaurants are welcoming pets — cat photos that follow are from the mural outside La Selva de los Gatos Cat Cafe vegetarian restaurant.

Thanks to the efforts of various sterilization clinics in the valley, one doesn’t encounter nearly as many street dogs and feral cats.

If you are so inclined, Huellas de Ayuda Oaxaca and Teo Tails are a couple of clinics that could use financial and volunteer assistance.

Just look at these faces. What’s not to love?

Of course there is the occasional big cat.

And, not to be overlooked, armadillos are known to appear.

No matter the species of animal, on August 31, in celebration of the feast day of San Ramón Nonato, they can accompany their humans to be blessed at Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Merced at 4:00 PM. If years past are any indication, it should be a colorful and lively event.

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Sometimes, you just have to stop and marvel at the artistry of organ cactus planted against a wall.

Calle Pajaritos, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez
Casa Ocho Regiones, Av Benito Juárez, Oaxaca de Juárez
Calle 5 de mayo, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

The sculptural effects of organ cactus always seem to create a WOW factor.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the dancers of the Danza de la Pluma (Feather dance), make a solemn commitment to their faith and to their community to dance for three years at each of the four major annual religious festivals in their village. 2022 brings a new group and the festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo the first of their public performances for the residents of their village and visitors. They dance four times during this festival — two half days and two full (7 hours) days.

July 5, 2022…

La Malinche (Silvia Melissa González Pérez), Moctezuma (Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz), and Doña Marina (Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.)
Teotitlán de Valle, Danza de la Pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Danzantes dancing like puppets on a papel picado string.
Subalterno helping Rey 4, Luis Ángel Bazán Ruiz, with his penacho (headdress).
Subalterno taking a selfie with a “borrowed” phone.

July 6, 2022…

Capitán 2, Hugo Félix Santiago Jiménez.
Dancers of the Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024.
Moctezuma, Emmanuel Ruiz Ruiz.
Doña Marina, Youshita Yamilet Vasquez Jim.
La Malinche, Silvia Melissa González Pérez.
Danza de la pluma promesa 2022-2024, Teotitlán del Valle.

On the superficial level, the Danza relates the story of the Conquest — the Spanish, Moctezuma, his allies, and Malinche/Doña Maria. But, as is the genius of art, it reaches into our hearts and souls and explores and communicates the truths we know and feel.

In 2022, they will dance again for Natividad de la Virgen María in September, Rosario de la Virgen María in October, and the Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12.

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After a two-year hiatus, La Guelaguetza is back. Papel (actually, plastic) picado, in the colors of the rainbow, is draped over the streets, Tiliches (iconic participants at Carnaval in Putla de Guerrero and this year’s chosen image to represent Guelaguetza) are hanging around on sidewalks, walls, and rooftops, and the streets are filled with tourists, both foreign and domestic.

Decorations hanging above Calle de Miguel Hidalgo in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Tiliche hanging around Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Principal Guelaguetza 2022 events.

This morning, the dancing will begin at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro del Fortín. The list of delegations by date, time, and the dance they will be performing follows.

July 25, 2022, 9:00 AM delegations and dances.
July 25, 2022, 5:00 PM list of delegations and dances.
August 1, 2022, 9:00 AM list of delegations and dances.
August 1, 2022, 5:00 PM list of delegations and dances.

Please note, next Monday evening’s performance will include the previously mentioned Teotitlán del Valle, Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024. If you are not in Oaxaca or, like me, don’t have tickets, you can watch courtesy of CORTV via television, their website, and Facebook live.

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The annual convite at the beginning of July in Teotitlán del Valle has not only been an invitation to the village’s patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Cristo. For me, it has also served as an invitation to a month of non-stop celebrations and events — an excuse to set aside my daily routines and chores and, instead, revel in the color and culture on display in the streets of the city and the small towns dotting the valley of Oaxaca.

The church, Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, ready and waiting for the convite to begin.
Picacho, the sacred mountain envelops the community in its protective arms, as the canastas and unmarried young women and girls of the village take their place in line for the convite.
Boys clutching their mini marmotas patiently wait for the deafening sound of the cohetes (rockets) signaling the convite’s start.
Boys and their mini marmotas at the head of the convite — accompanied by a few dads, big brothers, uncles, and officials to keep them in line.
Two monos (new addition this year) and one of several gigantic marmotas follow close on the heels of the young boys.
Of course there is a band to set the tempo.
Arms raised, contingents of unmarried women and girls carry canastas decorated with religious imagery.
Most are dressed in the valley’s traditional enredos (wool wrap skirts) and colorfully embroidered white blusas from Oaxaca and Chiapas.
In this Zapotec villlage, the beauty of the faces and strength of their arms are a sight to behold — especially Beatriz (foreground), who is very dear to my heart.
A second band marks the approach of the danzantes.
Danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2022-2024 alternately march and dance their way along the cobblestone streets.
Picacho watches as the danzantes wend their way along the meandering streets of Teotitlán del Valle.
Villagers watch as danzantes Moctezuma, Malinche and Doña Marina, followed by another marmota, and town officials mark the last of the convite’s participants.

After almost an hour, the convite and its contingents returned to the church atrium. Their work, of extending an invitation to the festival, is finished — until next time!

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Yikes, I realized it’s been nine days since my last blog post. Time does, indeed, fly when you’re having fun. And, fun is what I’ve been having, especially during the last four days.

July 4, 2022 – Convite in Teotitlán del Valle for their patronal festival honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
July 5, 2022 – Morning hike in the hills of Teotitlán del Valle.
July 5, 2022 – Afternoon presentation of the Danza de la Pluma in honor of Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 6, 2022 – Full day of Danza de la Pluma honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo in Teotitlán del Valle.
July 7, 2022 – Calenda celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Galería La Mano Mágica in Oaxaca city.

More on the convite, Danza de la Pluma, hike, and calenda to follow. But, first, a return to Teotitlán del Valle today for the final Danza de la Pluma presentation for this festival.

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These are the scenes that soothe my soul…

Metates, molcajete, and comal.
Barro rojo and cactus.
Chiles and bean pot.
Black beans.
Cactus and agave.

A long weekend spent with my comadres and compadre at Tierra Antigua.

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend K and I spent the day in the land of red clay, San Marcos Tlapazola, at the home of potter, Valentina Cruz. I have accumulated quite a collection (though not nearly as much as K) of barro rojo and several of my favorite pieces are by Valentina.

Getting there was quite the adventure. Leaving from Teotitlán del Valle (where I was spending a long weekend), the journey entailed taking a 3-wheeled moto (aka, tuk-tuk) to the highway, catching a bus to Tlacolula de Matamoros, multiple times asking for directions re where to find transportation to take us to Tlapazola, a bit of wandering around, ten blocks of walking, followed by waiting and wondering if we were in the right place. After 1/2 hour, a combi (a glorified pickup truck with wooden benches in the truck bed) arrived and took us up towards the mountains. Needless to say, the bouncing caused by the dirt roads and potholes were felt! Unfortunately, because the back of the truck was covered, we couldn’t even enjoy the views — that had to wait until we finally arrived at Valentina’s home/workshop/store.

The red clay soil isn’t just good for making pottery. Agave, cactus, corn, and squash also seem to thrive under the tender loving care of Valentina and her husband, Don Luis.

When we arrived, Valentina was busy at the tortilla press and comal — making tlayudas (large crispy tortillas) to accompany the chicken soup prepared by her daughter. After we all finished eating comida, we watched as Valentina took out a smooth river rock and began to burnish several pieces. This extra step puts a lovely sheen on her pottery and is one of the things that makes her work stand out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying the two horn-playing rabbits (top photo) at the tienda in her home. They join the face with the lid (also in top photo), among my many utilitarian pieces expertly crafted by Valentina. She and her beautiful barro rojo pottery can also be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula. After this lovely, but long day, we opted for her to call us a taxi to drive back to Teotitlán.

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Happy Father’s Day to all the loving fathers (biological and adoptive), stepfathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, and father figures everywhere.

Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have. May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.

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Returning home from the trip to el norte, I discovered an animal crossing in the works near my local Pitico.

Thanks to the artist, Waffloide, it’s a jungle out there!

Now I can’t get The Lion Sleeps Tonight out of my head.

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Like doors everywhere, the doors of Barrio de Jalatlaco are doorways leading to comings and goings, the known and unknown, and the life stories we create from outside and in.

“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” -― William Blake

“Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. — Daisaku Ikeda

“Every doorway, every intersection has a story.” — Katherine Dunn

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The walls of Oaxaca always have a lot to say. Now you can learn the abecedario a señas (sign language alphabet) from a wall on 5 de mayo in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

In mid April, this new mural was unveiled. Organized by Maestro Rolando Sigüenza, deaf artists Jonatan Martínez, Juan Antonio García, Moisés Antonio Orozco, María Soledad Aguilar, Blanca Flor Pineda, Miguel Eduardo Mancera, Jesús Ariel Castellanos, Mitzi Scheherazada, Rebeca Casas, Susana Hernánez, Marcial Pérez, Emmanuel Ignacio, Cristhian Yépez, and Ángel Iván Torres painted a mural of the alphabet in sign language and braille.

Benito Juárez signing.

The text below Benito Juárez explains, “On November 28, 1867, Benito Juárez founded the first school for deaf people in Mexico, which at that time was called the National School for the Deaf, despite the fact that the School was closed, the deaf continue to fight for our rights.”

Danza de la Pluma danzante signing.

The owner of the property, la señora Rosario Martínez, said she provided the space so these artists could show their work and to beautify the neighborhood.

China Oaxaqueña with canasta spelling AMOR (LOVE).

Does anyone know what Benito Juárez and the danzante are signing?

My plan is to learn a new letter each time I walk by.

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An albeit belated return to Semana Santa (Holy Week). Viernes Santo (Good Friday) in Barrio de Jalatlaco began early in the morning with a Santo Viacrusis along the cobblestone streets — a recreation of the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion. Its purpose is to allow the faithful to contemplate the Passion of Christ. The images of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, accompanied by a band and neighbors, stopped at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, that had been created throughout the neighborhood, where prayers were recited.

Image of Jesus being carried by Penitents.
Image of Mary Magdalene.
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus takes up his Cross.
3. Jesus falls for the first time.
4. Jesus meets his Mother.

At the fourth station, set up across from the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, Mary and John the Baptist (referred to here as, Juan, el primo de Jesús/John, the cousin of Jesus) joined the procession for the farewell encounter between Jesus and his mother.

Mary, Mother of Jesus.
John, the Baptist.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls for the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
12. Jesus dies on the Cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Following the procession, neighbors gathered in front of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco for food and beverages that were available for sale at stalls set up on Aldama and Hidalgo. I came home with yummy enchiladas.

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Breaking news up here in el norte, relayed to me via email from friends in San Francisco and in a phone conversation with my BFF in Alaska: The most recent episode of House Hunters International took place in Oaxaca AND one of the houses featured was in my neighborhood, Barrio de Jalatlaco. My SF friends described the very distinctive building facade and I knew exactly where it was — and had taken several photographs of it.

According to the episode’s description, “A young couple decides to leave their home in Memphis and move sight unseen to Oaxaca, Mexico. They’re both fitness junkies who want a taste of the mountains and nature, and he wants a place on the outskirts, but she prefers to be near the city center.”

Sight unseen? In any case (spoiler alert), my friends informed me the young fitness junkies turned it down as it was too small and dark.

I haven’t seen the episode, but I have seen the show and it never ceases to amaze and dismay me that most of the time, the buyers and renters come to developing countries with highly developed expectations AND wanting it all for a fraction of the cost in their home countries.

The rent was $1100 (US) per month — low in most US cities but extremely high for most Oaxaqueños. Such is rental inflation wrought by, among other things, digital nomads willing to pay whatever their bank balances will bear, never mind the impact on the local economy, and the proliferation of apartments being turned into Airbnb rentals.

Something to think about from, The End of Tourism Podcast interview with Daniel Pinchbeck:

And many of the people that I know have become, you know, quote unquote “digital nomads.” So if they’re doing like lifestyle coaching or marketing or tech or whatever, they can basically do that from anywhere in the planet. And obviously because they’re wealthy and come with money to restaurants and buy goods, there’s desirability for them to make a second home someplace or whatever.

… I think that often we see in the world over the last decades kind of like homogenization, cultural homogenization.

… And so the tourism which ends up taking Western first world values and spreading them everywhere acts as kind of a larger imperialist, colonialist kind of project that can lead to the deterioration of the integrity of local cultures and very few countries and cultures have had the capacity to kind of build the defense structure, recognizing the danger of this.

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