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Wishing a very happy Father’s Day to fathers, stepfathers, and father-figures throughout the world.

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Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have.  May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.  And, may you never be separated from your children by the inhumane, unnecessary, and illegal action of a despotic government.

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He had words.  I don’t.

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

I will miss your intelligence, honesty, passion, and respect for cultures different from your own.  Thank you.  Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain.

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

 

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Passing Erika Santiago‘s haunting mural along the wall outside Almacén Mexicano on Calle Valentín Gómez Farías, Sad-Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands began playing in my head.

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Sometimes art brings a song.  And, maybe we are all a little sad these days.

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Protest art continues to paper the streets of Oaxaca.

It’s there in black and white against walls of texture and color — greeting the morning’s light and disappearing as shadows fall.

Today, the faces of rage, resistance, and anguish are not only looking down from walls, they are seen at eye level in Oaxaca’s zócalo and streets.  They’re back…  The annual occupation and blockades by Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers’ union) has begun.

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Last Sunday at the weekly market in Tlacolula de Matamoros…

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Chickens

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Rebozos

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Seeds

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Lunch

It’s not just about produce, bootleg DVDs, tools, and underwear.

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I love Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros — the people, colors, food, cacophony, and frequent surprises speak to the life of Oaxaca.  So, after returning Saturday night from two weeks in el norte, I jumped at the suggestion by blogger buddy Chris that we go to Tlacolula the next day.  It did not disappoint.

Carnival rides were being set up where we frequently park and, in the usually deserted patio of the modern chapel at the intersection, several men were hard at work fashioning decorations.  We peered from behind the wrought iron fence but were quickly invited in.  They explained they were preparing for a festival honoring the chapel, the Capilla de la Cruz, all the while continuing to weave flowers out of a spiky, sword-like plant.

Especially during the Easter season, I’ve seen these flowers fashioned from palms, but these definitely were not palm.

Once home, I couldn’t resist doing a little research (I’m a librarian, after all!) and discovered it was a species of Dasylirion (aka, Sotol, cucharilla, desert spoon).  I can’t imagine what those spikes lining the sides of the leaves must do to their hands!

It was such fun talking with these guys and watching their nimble, practiced fingers at work.  After two weeks away, what better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca?  And, the market was still to come.

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Carved from the wood of the copal, an owl for my older son.

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Carved by Lauro Ramírez and painted by Griselda Morales, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A rabbit for my daughter-in-law.

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Carved by Mario Castellanos and painted by Reina Ramirez, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A lion for my grandson.

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Carved by Zeny Fuentes Santiago and painted by Reyna Piña Ramírez, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

And, a horse for my granddaughter.

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Carved by Jesús Hernández Torres and painted by Roxana Fabian Ortega, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Beautifully hand carved and painted alebrije for my family.

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The lowly utilitarian apron has been elevated to an art form by the Zapotec women of the Tlacolula valley in Oaxaca.  Worn every day, mandiles (aprons) are an essential and practical part of their traditional dress.  Most women own several and take great pains to color coordinate them with the day’s attire.

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Fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe at the home of Fidel Cruz and Maria Luisa Mendoza, Teotitlán del Valle.

Plainer aprons are worn around the home.  However, they don one of their “Sunday best” aprons for special occasions.  These are heavily embroidered and often have necklines and hems that are scalloped and, as a fashion statement, are frequently worn to the weekly market.

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Vendor at the Sunday market in Tlacolula del Valle.

Mandiles are made of store-bought poly-cotton fabric, usually in a small plaid design. While “100% cotton” sounds more desirable to many of us, the blend is undeniably more practical.  After all, who wants to iron when there is work to do and the temperatures are summery all year ’round?

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Andrea weaving in Teotitlán del Valle.

Even though the embroidery is done by sewing machine, the more elaborate designs can take from three to four days days to make.  Aprons range in price from approximately 150 to 700 pesos.

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Leonor Lazo feeding a baby goat in Teotitlán del Valle.

Given that, in addition to being practical, these are also a fashion accessory,  it should come as no surprise that styles can vary from village to village.

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Young women from San Miguel del Valle attending a festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

I grew up with aprons.  My grandmother lived next door and could always be found wearing a “house-dress” and a pinafore style apron with front patch pockets.  Some were plain, but many she decorated with embroidery.  Thus the mandiles of Oaxaca spoke to me and I listened.

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Reyna Mendoza speaking to her El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class.

My first “Oaxaca” apron was a maroon plaid cobbler style with only a moderate amount of embroidery. After a year or two, it became so much a part of my home attire that I bought another in brown plaid.  These are my workhorses and I wear them every day while cooking, cleaning, and even gardening.  And, I proudly bring my own apron to cooking classes and make sure to pack one when I’ve been invited to a fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle — putting it on to help clear tables. I always get smiles from the women (and some of the men, too).

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Me, the metate, and maiz at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

However, after countless Sunday market day trips to Tlacolula de Matamoros, not to mention, spending a lot time over the past several years in Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fashion statements women, both young and old, were making, so I bought a slightly more elaborately embroidered pinafore style and then another and another.

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Three of my mandiles; the red is the newest.

I even dared to wear one recently in New York at my granddaughter’s first birthday party.  With children ranging in age from six weeks to six years, I thought it was a very practical fashion statement on my part.  And, guess who got one for her birthday?

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Birthday present to my granddaughter — a toddler-size mandil.

A good place to check who is wearing what style of mandil is at Tlacolula’s Sunday market.  And, should you want to buy one for yourself and/or give one as a gift, there are at least eight apron stalls at the back of the market on Sundays.

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Apron stall at the back of the Tlacolula de Matamoros market.

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I couldn’t resist posting more from the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018 to tempt you to put next year’s gathering of traditional Oaxacan cooks on your calendar.

Amazing traditional cooks from the state of Oaxaca served up taste tempting fare in the Plaza de la Danza for four full, and I mean FULL days, April 25-28.

And, should one be inspired to immediately head to one’s own kitchen, the Mercado Oaxaca set up in the courtyard of the Facultad de Bellas Artes (across from the Plaza de la Danza) offered mouth-watering fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, dried chiles, honeys, vinegars, and so much more.  I came away with a luscious cantaloupe.

In addition, to assist one in the preparation and serving of one’s own delicious meals, Arte de la Mesa presented vendors, next door in the courtyard of the Palacio Municipal, selling “made in Oaxaca” glassware, utensils, pottery, placemats, tablecloths, and dish towels, aprons, metates and molcajetes, among other kitchenware.

Do you see the piggy-face molcajete?  I bought it and have spent hours and hours, not to mention muscle power, seasoning it.  If you don’t believe me, use your favorite search engine to check out the various methods — there are no shortcuts!

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Even if it looks like the world is crumbling around you…

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On Reforma, at the corner of Constitucion in Oaxaca — courtesy of The Positive Affect project.

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Today is Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).  Lest anyone forget, there have been booms and bangs throughout the day to remind one and all!  And, most years, the day finds me huffing and puffing my way up to the top of Picacho, the sacred mountain that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — joining the Zapotec villagers in a Prehispanic ritual asking for rain.

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It is also the Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer) and it is tradition for workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on construction sites.  According to Mexconnect, in 1960, Pope John XXIII removed Día de la Santa Cruz from the liturgical calendar, but Mexico being Mexico and construction workers being construction workers, they ignored the Pope.  Eventually, understanding the relationship of forces, he gave Mexico a special dispensation to celebrate this day.

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For me, today the city brought a much welcomed surprise.  As anyone who has traversed the first block of Garcia Vigil (between Independencia and Morelos) during the past nine months can attest, it has been a challenge not to slip, trip, or fall thanks to the warped “temporary” plywood laid down over what used to be a solid, if not smooth, sidewalk.  However, on this day celebrating abañiles, they were hard at work on a new “real” sidewalk!

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No cross on the worksite, but definitely a Día de la Santa Cruz/Día del Albañil miracle!

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Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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The United Nations declared November 20 as Universal Children’s Day.  However, that is Día de la Revolución in Mexico, thus April 30 was designated Día del Niño — the day Mexico celebrates her children.  Schools organize parties with games and treats, communities organize special activities, and parents may give their hijas and hijos gifts.

However, one of the features of life in Oaxaca that I appreciate most is the way children are welcomed and are included in all of the celebrations that I have had the privilege of attending — and that’s quite a few!  Enjoy the following photos taken during the past year.  (Click on an image for a full description of the event.)

 

¡Feliz Día del Niño!  And parents everywhere, please remember to “teach your children well.”

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Though today is the fourth and final day of this year’s Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018, diners continue to line up around the stall of Rosario Cruz Cobos for her Cochino a la Cubana — piggies roasted over a wood fire — fiesta food from San José Chiltepec in the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca.

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Mouth-watering and succulent, it is well worth the wait!

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What can I say?  Lately, I have been having way too much fun to blog.  A Gran Convite on Tuesday evening kicked off the festivities celebrating Oaxaca’s 486 birthday and inviting one and all to the previously mentioned, 2nd Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opening the following day.  Beginning at the Cruz de la Piedra, the parade came to a sparkling climax in front of the Cathedral.

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Wednesday began with an early morning ringing of the Cathedral’s bells (and several other churches, I’m pretty sure) and the booms and bangs of cohetes announcing Oaxaca’s official birthday.  Then the event that I had been hungrily awaiting — the opening of the four-day gathering of Oaxaca’s traditional cooks at the Plaza de la Danza.  It was worth the wait!

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Mixtec ritual of Aromas y Sabores del Alma using basil and rosemary to open Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca.

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Machacado mixe, Caldo mixe from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec in the Sierra Norte.

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Chileajo amarillo from Huayuapan de León in the Mixteca.

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Ingredients on display by Carina Santiago of Tierra Antigua restaurant in Teotitlán del Valle, in Oaxaca’s Valles Centrales.

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Cochino a la cubana from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca being served by cocinera Rosario Cruz Cobos.

There is also an expo-venta of Oaxacan artesanía at the Palacio Municipal adjacent to the Plaza de la Danza.

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Some of the best red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola for sale.

I took yesterday off to do my volunteer gig at the Oaxaca Lending Library, but I’m returning to the Encuentro today, right after I post this.  My stomach is already rumbling!

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