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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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Looking back and appreciating life in Oaxaca, 2018.

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January – View through the terrace pistachio tree of full Wolf Moon.

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February – Guest helping to harvest Waje dinner at Rancho 314 urban farm in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán.

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March – Reyna Mendoza Ruiz demonstrating metate technique at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

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April – Pit for cooking agave piñas to make mezcal at the palenque of Faustino Garcia in San Baltazar Chichicapa(m).

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May – Tlacolulokos mural in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

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June – Summer afternoon on the Zócalo in Oaxaca city.

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July – Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.

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August – Fundación En Via microfinance tour to San Miguel del Valle.

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September – Protest by students from the Escuela Normal Bilingüe e Intercultural de Oaxaca.

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October – Celebrating el Señor del Rayo at the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

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November – At the home/workshop of filigree maestro, José Jorge García García.

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December – Pop-up sale in Oaxaca city by the Las Sanjuaneras weavers from San Juan Colorado.

Feliz año nuevo y muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers from near and far!  Thank you for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue.  Onward to 2019!!!

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‘Tis Christmas Eve and I’m in el norte.  A light snow is falling and all are excited.

Lighted reindeer in snow

Ornaments from Oaxaca hang alongside those passed down through four generations — and the newly collected continue the one-new-ornament-a-year tradition.

My grandson is keeping a close eye on Santa’s progress around the globe.  While awaiting the arrival of our late night visitor, it is time for Ernie Villarreal’s version of Pancho Claus by Chicano music legend, Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero.

Pancho Claus

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa

Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,


Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.


While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.

The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,


In hopes that St. Nicholas would feel obligado


To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,


A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.


Outside in the yard, there arouse such a grito,


That I jumped to my feet, like a frightened cabrito.

I went to the window and looked out afuera,


And who in the world, do you think que era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero


Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,


Were eight little burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came, and this little hombre


Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre.

¡Ay, Pancho! ¡Ay, Pepe! ¡Ay, Cuca! ¡Ay, Beto!

¡Ay, Chato!
¡¡Ay, Chopo! ¡Maruca and ¡Nieto!

Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho


He flew to the top of our very own techo.


With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,


He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,



With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.

He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,


For none of the children had been very malos.


Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,


He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.


And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,


Merry Christmas to all, And to All ¡Feliz Navidad!

Piñata against sky in Oaxaca

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It’s December 22 and in Oaxaca that means it’s Noche de Rábanos eve.  Despite the name, it’s not just about radishes.  Tomorrow morning, on tables lining the Zócalo, radishes will be carved and arranged, totomoxtle (corn husk) figures will be staged, and flor inmortal (dried flowers) scenes will be set.  Beginning in the early afternoon and lasting late into the night, residents and visitors will parade along elevated walkways to view the detailed and fantastical creations on display in this only-in-Oaxaca holiday event.

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These aren’t your grandparents radishes; they are a variety that is specially cultivated for their starring role — sometimes growing to 20 inches long and weighing in at 7 pounds. Alas, I’m in el norte spending the holidays with my family.  So, I will just have to look back through previous Noche de Rábanos blog posts to get into the radishy spirit.

FYI:  Blogger buddy Chris will be there to record this year’s action, so be sure to check out Oaxaca- The Year After in the next couple of days.

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Another building in mal estado…

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Another example of hope amidst decay.

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If you are in town… As background to the December 12, Fiesta a la Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle, blogger buddy Chris (of Oaxaca-The Year After fame) and I are again doing a presentation at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  It will be on Tuesday, December 4 at 5:00 PM.  And, new this year:  There will be very special guests!

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From the library’s description of the talk, “The Danza de la Pluma, with its giant feathered headdresses, is one of the most famous dances performed in Oaxaca and is particularly special in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlán del Valle.  The dance, dancers, and village all have rich stories.  Come join Chris Stowens and Shannon Sheppard, who have spent several years observing and learning about this amazing culture, for a presentation filled with stories, photos and video.”

Alas, it’s not free.  Besides memberships, presentations like this are what keeps the library afloat.  The cost is 90 pesos for OLL members and 130 pesos for non-members.  Reservations can be made using the library’s Online Store.  Hope to see you on Tuesday!

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Several pan de muerto festivals sprung up in the valley of Oaxaca during Día de los Muertos — including a Festival del Pan de Muerto in Villa Díaz Ordaz, a Feria del Pan de Muerto Adornado in Villa de Zaachila, and a Feria del Pan y Chocolate in the city of Oaxaca.  While the intention of these fairs is to attract tourists, both foreign and domestic, the primary market remains ofrendas (offerings) to the difuntos (departed) — who must be fed during their brief return to visit with their loved ones.

And, like apron styles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead) varies from village to village, be it sold at a feria, mercado, or neighborhood panadería.

Panadería Yalalag in Oaxaca city.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Mercado, 20 de noviembre, Oaxaca city.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

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Villa de Zaachila.

Though my difuntos have departed and my altar has been disassembled, I couldn’t consign my beautiful (but stale) pan de muerto offerings to the garbage can.

Pan de muerto from Yalalag, Mitla, and Zaachila.

So, here they remain in a basket on my counter — until they disintegrate or the hormigas (ants) enjoy a feast.

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Under the dappled sunlight filtering through the 500 year old ahuehuete trees in the panteón of Tlacolula de Matamoros, lovingly placed fruit and nuts nourish the souls.  (Click on images to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, when the light and shadows dance on the graves, beautiful still lifes greet the departed, their living family, friends, and visitors.  It is a tranquil setting to contemplate the words of Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude, the other Mexico, and essays, Grove Press, 1985, p. 54)

The opposition between life and death was not so absolute to the ancient Mexicans as it is to us.  Life extended into death, and vice versa. Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.

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As my grandchildren finished their trick or treating up in el norte, I put the final touches on my Día de los Muertos ofrenda (offering) here in Oaxaca.

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A yellow (the color of death in pre-hispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests; papel picado (cut tissue paper), signifying the union between life and death, has been added, along with the traditional flowers of Day of the Dead — cempasúchil and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds), their scent to guide the spirits, and cockscomb to symbolize mourning.  Visitors brought the sunflower and, since my grandfather, father, and father-in-law were avid gardeners, it is for them!

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There is salt to make sure the souls stay pure and chocolate, peanuts, pecans, apples, mandarin oranges, and pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread) to nourish them.

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The sweet smell of copal incense and its smoke help guide my loved ones to the feast I have prepared.  And, there is water to quench their thirst, as they travel between worlds, not to mention mezcal and cervesa (beer).

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But, most important of all, there are the tangible remembrances of my departed — photos and some of their favorite things.

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Revolutionary catrina and catrin for my revolutionary comadre and compadre, Sylvia and Nat.

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Yarn and a crochet hook for my dear grandmother who many of the abuelas (grandmothers) in Oaxaca remind me of — always wearing an apron, never wearing pants, and incredibly adept with crochet and embroidery thread.  And, for my adored grandfather, a San Francisco Giants baseball cap.  My grandparents moved next door at the same time the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco and grandpa and I listened to many games together on his transistor radio, as I helped him in the garden.

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There are other cherished friends and relatives on my altar, but pride of place goes to my parents.  For my father, who was killed when I was only two and a half, there is beer (below the above photo) — alas Victoria not Burgermeister!  And for my mother, a fan to cool herself as she dances and a bottle of port to sip before she sleeps.

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It’s been a two-day labor of love as I wanted everything to be perfect for my difutos (departed) to find their way and feel welcome in my Oaxaca home.

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Not all the Día de los Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila were finished, some were still works in progress…

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with ladders and paints standing by…

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waiting for their artists to pick up the brush…

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or spray can, as the case may be.

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I first saw many of the murals in the summer of 2017 and was happy to see they are still intact, albeit some are a little faded.  Celebrated by the community, the new murals join the old and become a part of the landscape of the village.

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A regalito (little gift) to my calaca and calavera loving grandson from today’s visit to Villa de Zaachila for their first Feria del Pan de Muerto, Mole, Chocolate y Espuma.

From murals along the outer side of the panteón (cemetery) in Villa de Zaachila.  Click to enlarge images.

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This morning, on the way to my Oaxaca Lending Library cataloging shift (once a librarian, always a librarian), I made a detour through Jalatlaco, where the murals always give one pause.

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I was on my way to Clinica Hospital Florencia to check on my 92 year old neighbor who had a pacemaker installed yesterday afternoon (once a nurse, always a nurse).

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Like Oaxaca, she is strong…

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She is proud…

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And, she is back home after only 24 hours and feeling GREAT!!!

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Not all cotton bolls are white…

Roberta French, who built my apartment complex in Oaxaca many decades ago, established a textile weaving business and planted coyuche (koyuchi), a natural brown cotton.  She is no longer with us, but her plant survives and grows up onto my balcony.  This time of year, the yellow, pink, and rose flowers bloom, die, form pods, and brown cotton fluff results.

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And the results?  Here, at my apartment complex, the plant is solely decorative.  However, the traditional way of growing, spinning, and weaving brown cotton is still practiced in some communities in coastal Oaxaca, Mexico.  And, I have been lucky enough to have been gifted an old huipil woven of coyuche and acquired a new one at an expo-venta here in Oaxaca city.  If you would like more information on coyuche and its cultivation and weaving, I recommend checking out the Katyi Ya’a collective.

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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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