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In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  — Anne Frank

Last night, I watched the pleading (and currently homeless!) mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, BEG the U.S. government for more help following Hurricane Maria, which has devastated this U.S. territory.  Power may not be restored to the island for months, hospitals are without medicines, and people are dying.  This morning I awoke to news that the U.S. president, up bright and early in the luxurious comfort of his New Jersey golf club, had taken to Twitter to personally attack San Juan’s mayor.  Why?  For doing her job!!!  I was both livid at the Twit-in-Chief and incredibly sad for Puerto Rico.  Where is the understanding?  Where is the empathy??  Where is the humanity???

And then I read my Mexico City based friend, Cristina Potters’ latest Mexico Cooks! blog post.  Cristina, thank you SO much for reaching out to and translating the words of “Al” — this is what humanity looks like.  With Cristina’s permission, here is her post:

Mexico City Earthquake :: We Interrupt Our Regular Programing…

At 11:00AM on September 19, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the nation as a whole took a few moments to sound its earthquake alarms as a test run for city residents to practice precautions, and as a memorial to the many, many thousands of people who lost their lives in Mexico City that day so long ago.  The earthquake alarm is arguably the most shocking sound in this city where I live.  There are 8000 alarm speakers set up, one in every neighborhood; one of them is just on the corner, only one door from my apartment building.  The horrible and unmistakeable sound–alerta sísmica alerta sísmica alerta sísmica, accompanied by unspeakable sirens–comes directly into my home office window.  As 11:00AM approached, I steeled myself and warned the cats; the alarm went off as scheduled, stopped within a minute or so, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.



Two hours and fourteen minutes later, all hell broke loose.  A massive earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, shallow and with a nearby epicenter, crashed into Mexico City with no warning.  Due to its proximity, there was no time to sound the alarm until the quake had already started.  As is usually the case, the neighborhood where I live and the neighborhood nearest me were hardest hit.  There are geological reasons for that, but no need to elaborate on those now.  Parts of the whole city sustained serious damage; at last count, about 50 buildings collapsed, thousands more are in danger of collapsing, more than 400 people lost their lives, and thousands more are seriously injured.



On September 24, a young Mexico City woman whom I do not know used social media to express her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she volunteered with an earthquake relief effort day.  I contacted her and asked her permission to translate her writing into English and publish it here.  She calls herself “Al” and she asked that I not publish a photograph of her.  She says she’s not a writer, although in my opinion she most definitely is.
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“Yesterday I spent six hours helping at Ground Zero on Calle Escocia, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City. I had stayed overnight at my parents’ home, and got up at 6:30AM. My mother made breakfast for me while I was getting ready, and then I lined up to go to the place where volunteers were to gather.



Those in charge explained to us that we women were to pass empty buckets to the Mexican army, who were going to fill them with rubble and then pass them to two lines of men who were behind us, pressed up against the walls. The army was to move any metal, glass, furniture, and other more dangerous objects. They knew how inexperienced most of us volunteers were and they didn’t want us to run any risks.



In order for us to go in, they gave us equipment—helmet, gloves, vest, and face masks. They used permanent markers to write our name, a contact number, and blood type on our arms. They vaccinated us against tetanus.

And then we went into Ground Zero in silence, our cellular phones turned off. Right after a 45 minute delay due to the scare of the second earthquake [Saturday 23 September, a 6.2 aftershock from the earthquake on September 7, 2017], the army immediately put us to work. We had to wait while Civil Defense made sure that it was safe to go into the building.



My eyes could not believe what they were seeing: I had never seen a collapsed building, never thought how a structure so strong and solid could become a mountain of rubble and memories. The “line of life”, as we called it, began its work, and we put thinking aside in order to be able do our job.



While we were actively working, other volunteers continuously offered us donated water, electrolytes, candies, tamales, and hard-boiled eggs. We volunteers preferred not to eat; we just took candies and left the food for the army and the engineers. Doctors came through continuously, asking if we were feeling all right, putting drops in our eyes, and helping people out of the building if they looked over-tired.



Passing buckets, even the big paint-bucket size ones we had, seems simple, but after an hour I felt blisters on my hands and cramps in my shoulders. I knew I was not the only one tired when buckets began to drop from the hands of other volunteers. Some shouted, “Be careful! Those could break!” The men tried to make us feel better, saying we were doing great work.



Meanwhile, we tried to concentrate so as not to delay the work as we watched pieces of other people’s lives go by: shoes, photographs, chairs, clothing, blankets, pictures from their walls. Objects that they surely obtained from their own efforts and dedication, and now they are nothing. A wheelbarrow, thrown aside by the masonry workers who were removing bigger pieces of the wreckage, grabbed my attention. In the wheelbarrow was a set of brand new drinking glasses, still in their wrapped box.



As the women at the head of the ‘line of life’ withdrew, those behind them advanced. I came closer to the head of the line, and suddenly I saw a car among the ruin of the building’s parking garage: a bright-red Nissan Sentra, undamaged. Nevertheless, the garage entrance is blocked, so the car will never get out unharmed.



Nobody is taking selfies, nobody is playing music, no one talks, no one makes jokes or acts lazy. Respect is tangible. The entire area is filled with mourning. Yesterday, workers here rescued a pug dog and a cat, which tells us that there is still the possibility of life among the rubble. If we do our work efficiently, it could make the difference between life and death….”  [Please read the full article HERE — I warn you, there may be tears, but you won’t be sorry!]

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In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes:  Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers.  And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.

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Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city).   Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced to live in the streets.  To add insult to injury, they must cope with torrential downpours and flooding from this very long and destructive rainy season.

Fundraising events are being held and centros de acopio (collection centers) have been set up to gather donations, with countless volunteers traversing damaged and dangerous mountain roads to deliver supplies.  The need is massive!

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Como Ayudar – A large international list of information and links regarding assistance and distribution of goods to help those affected by the most recent earthquakes in Mexico.

How To Help The Earthquake Victims In Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla & Oaxaca – List of organizations collecting monetary donations, compiled by Mexico City based food writer, Nicholas Gilman

In addition, a couple of friends have asked me to publicize small organizations they are working with:

Help to San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, Earthquake Victims – Norma Schaefer, of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, is getting the word out on the earthquake relief efforts of cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman.

SER Mixe – An indigenous organization serving the Mixe people in the Mixe region of Oaxaca; recommended by Margaret Macsems, general manager of Khadi Oaxaca.

*** Words in red type have become hardwired in my brain — new Spanish vocabulary I wish I didn’t have to learn under these circumstances.

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Here in Oaxaca we continue surfing the temblors and tormentas…

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Calle de Ignacio Allende at the corner of Tinoco y Palacios

Torrential downpours and flooding have returned.  Aftershocks from the September 7 earthquake continue.  But, aside from difficulty navigating the flooding and potholes, suffering from frayed nerves, and being worried sick about friends and family in the critically affected areas of central and southern Mexico, we are okay in the city and surrounding villages.

Re geography:  Oaxaca is the name of both a state and its capital city.  The epicenter of the September 7th earthquake in Oaxaca was in the southeast part of the state — as the crow flies, it is almost 150 miles and through the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range from Oaxaca city.   To see where Oaxaca’s earthquakes are happening, check out Earthquake Track.

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I’m a California girl.  I grew up in earthquake country —  the San Francisco Bay Area to be exact.  I was raised on my grandparents’ stories of the day the Earth Shook, The Sky Burned in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.  A favorite was of my 8-year old grandmother bringing jugs of water to refugees, whose homes had either collapsed from the violent shaking or burned in the fires that broke out.  They were camped out under tents and tarps in the Masonic Cemetery, where her stepfather was the manager — and the thought of the living, living with the dead was captivating to my 8-year old self.  Perhaps another reason why Oaxaca feels like home.

The first earthquake I remember was in first grade.  I gripped my desk, as it rocked back and forth and watched, wide-eyed, as the massive row of windows that lined one wall of my classroom moved in and out, distorting the trees and pink house across the street.  I’m not sure if we were directed to get under our desks, but I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Chase (one of the best teachers ever!), in her comforting, calm, and very competent way, conveying a sense of safety.  Our 1938 wood-frame house, on the side of Mt. Tamalpais was fine, save for several cracks in the lath and plaster walls.  Years later, I learned that it was built on bedrock — a good thing!

Several more earthquakes ensued as I grew up and raised my family in the Bay Area — and I learned to be prepared.  We kept earthquake supplies in the basement — enough water and food to last three days, flashlights, battery-powered radio, etc.  My car was always stocked with bottles of water and protein bars, a sleeping bag and flashlight, sweatshirt and old gym shoes, and a first aid kit.  Luckily, we didn’t have to use any of them following the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.   However, our eyes were glued to the television.  Before the earthquake hit, we had been about to gather in the living room to watch the “Bay Bridge” World Series — the San Francisco Giants versus their across the San Francisco Bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.  Instead, we watched part of the Bay Bridge collapse and houses built on landfill in the Marina of San Francisco collapse.  We were fine, but nerves were shattered and for days after, every aftershock had me ready to bolt.

During my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007, I awoke to an earthquake — that dreaded, but familiar, feeling flooded my body but it was small and all was okay.  Thankfully, I was in the USA for the 8.2 earthquake that devastated parts of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas almost two weeks ago.  However, I have experienced several smaller ones since moving here, including the March 20, 2012, 7.4 earthquake.  Walking up Macedonio Alcalá, I didn’t feel that one, but heard windows rattle and people cry, “terremoto” as they streamed out into the street.  There have been many aftershocks from the Sept. 7th earthquake since I’ve been back, a couple at 5.6 on the Richter scale, but I haven’t felt them either.  Giving thanks to Roberta French and her degree in structural engineering from MIT for building such a sturdy, well designed apartment complex on bedrock!

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It was the same yesterday.  Blogger buddy Chris and I were walking up the Alcalá on our way to Las Quince Letras for the traditional Mes de la Patria (celebrating independence from Spain) dish, chiles en nogada.  We were talking — catching up after my six-week trip.  As we turned onto Abasolo, we noticed cars stopped at all intersections and people milling around on the streets.  A blockade was our first thought.  After all, this is Oaxaca!  We soon discovered, it was a 7.1 earthquake (epicenter near the Puebla/Morelos border) that brought traffic to a halt and people out of buildings.  This latest earthquake has taken lives (currently more than 200 people, in 6 states) and destroyed buildings, especially in Mexico City — but we didn’t feel a thing!  Apparently, the shaking was felt all over Oaxaca city, just not by us walking along the cantera (stone) roadbed of the Alcalá.  I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon and evening glued to the news out of Mexico City — and I continue watching and reading in horror as the destruction unfolds.

I’m fine, my friends in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Chiapas are fine, my apartment is fine.  So, why am I writing this?  A catharsis, perhaps….  But also to say to those who are new to or have no experience with the earth violently shaking:  You never get used to it — you never take it in stride, as you never know when that stride will be broken as the ground begins shifting beneath your feet.  And, you always anticipate — it’s one of the reasons, I keep my cell phone and keys with an emergency buzzer in my pocket and a bottle of water and a protein bar in my purse.  In addition, like hurricanes, people and their governments must pay close attention to, and strictly regulate, where and how buildings are constructed — greed and corruption should not trump lives — and a priority should be placed on early warning systems in earthquake countries around the world.

To satisfy my inner-librarian, I recommend to you a few articles to begin to understand the whys and hows:

 

 

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Late afternoon and middle of the night thunder, lightning, gusting winds, torrential downpours, and gentle showers — the rainy season has arrived and appears to be hanging around.  This is good news, as there has been an Historical Drought in Oaxaca.  What a difference a month makes…

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Goats scrounging for food in Teotitlán del Valle – May 3, 2017

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Streams have begun running in Teotitlán – June 6, 2017

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Cerro Picacho and surrounding mountains have already turned green – June 6, 2017

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Splashes of green now dot the rocky landscape at La Cuevita in Teotitlán – June 6, 2017

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A green Teotitlán del Valle with a dam that is filling is a beautiful sight

This is good news, as this is an agricultural village and state.

 

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Everyday, I see something new or different or odd or…  Yesterday, at the corner of Av. de La Independencía and Calle Xicoténcatl, a couple of unfamiliar signs caught my eye.P1180113

High up on the corner of a building, in the middle of the city, road signs pointing to the Istmo and Tuxtepec.  Just a word of warning, you are in for a long and winding drive, no matter which destination you choose.

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The Istmo de Tehuantepec region of the state is approximately 250 km southeast of the City of Oaxaca.  Though if you decide on Tuxtepec, it’s only 220 km northeast.  Either way, head east on Independencía.  ¡Buen viaje!

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As I’d discussed in a previous post, August 9 was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.  That day, on my way to the mercado, a youth band had me stopping at the city’s cultural celebration on the Alameda de León.

This young girl, without accompaniment, brought tears to the eyes as she sang, “Canción Mixteca” by Oaxacan composer José López Alavez.  He wrote the melody in 1912 and the lyrics in 1915, expressing his homesickness for Oaxaca after moving to Mexico City.  It has since become an anthem for not only Oaxaqueños, but all Mexicano expats yearning for their homeland.

Yaa Savi (Mixtec language)
NDA XIKA NAKAI
NOO ÑO’O NOO NI KAKUI,
NDIKANO KUNDAVI INI
XI’IN MIA NTOONI.

TA XANDEI’MI TA ITOI
TA NDAVI NDEI NDAA NOO TACHI,
NDI KUNI KUAKUI
NDIKUNI KUI’VI XAA NDOI’ INI.

(Bis)
NOO ÑO’O ÑAA ÑU’U
XAKA INI KANDEI’YOO
TA VITI NA XIKA
YEE YOI NI ÑO’O, NI ÑAA MANI.

TA XANDEI’ MI TA ITOI
TA NDAVI NDEI NDAA NOO TACHI
NDIKUNI KUAKUI
NDIKUNI KUI’VI XAA NDO’INI

Canción Mixteca (en español)
Que lejos estoy del suelo
Donde he nacido.
Inmensa nostalgia
Invade mi pensamiento.
Y al verme tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento.
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Oh! tierra del sol
Suspiro por verte.
Ahora que lejos
Yo vivo sin luz.
Sin amor.
Y al verme
Tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Canción Mixteca (English translation)
How far I am from the land where I was born!
Immense nostalgia invades my heart;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

Oh Land of Sun! I yearn to see you!
Now that I’m so far from you, I live without light and love;
And seeing myself so lonely and sad like a leaf in the wind,
I want to cry, I want to die from this feeling.

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View from my son’s deck, Monday afternoon in upstate New York…

Snow and bare trees

View from my deck, Wednesday afternoon in Oaxaca…

San Felipe Neri, zócalo trees, mountains

What a difference 48 hours and 2000+ miles makes.  Ahhh, it feels good to be warm again!

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Late Friday morning, I boarded an ADO GL bus bound for Mexico City to rendezvous with L (a BFF since age 12), who was arriving from Colorado.  For anyone laboring under the myth of the “chicken bus,” I will dispel the stereotype right now.

ADO’s GL and Platino buses are like flying first class (minus the attendant) — the height of luxury and a considerable contrast for anyone who has had the misfortune of taking a cross-country bus ride in the USA.  They are comfortable and well maintained; have men’s and women’s WCs and hot water for the tea bag or instant coffee packet passengers are given when they board.  (We also received a bottle of water or soft drink of our choice and ear buds for the movies that are shown on drop down screens.)  The drivers are professional and miraculously manage to make the drive over one of the formidable mountain ranges that surrounds Oaxaca, a smooth one.

Of course, this is Mexico and at the two-hour mark, break-time for the driver meant pulling over on a mountain road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where vendors awaited.

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The views along the Carretera Internacional 135D and 150D were spectacular, as the bus wound its way through Oaxaca’s rugged Mixteca region and down into rolling countryside of the state of Puebla.

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From the air and from the road, the sight of Pico de Orizaba always takes my breath away.  At 18,491 feet (5,636 meters) above sea level, Citlaltépetl (its Nahuatl name) is the third highest peak in North America, trailing only Denali in Alaska (20,237 feet) and Mount Logan in the Yukon (19,551 feet).

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The highway flattened out and rich farmland emerged.

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Eventually, signs of the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere came into view.

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A little less than six and a half hours after I left Oaxaca, the bus deposited me and my fellow passengers off at Mexico City’s TAPO bus terminal.  I purchased my ticket for a “secure” taxi, an attendant hailed the next cab, my luggage was loaded into the trunk, and off I went to the hotel and my waiting BFF.

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Domingo’s escape from the city out into the countryside of Oaxaca brought back one of my fondest childhood memories:  Sunday drives with my grandparents into the golden hills of northern California.  Two-lane winding roads with only the occasional car or pickup truck; farms, fields, and roadside stands outside my rolled down window always brought a sense of adventure mixed with freedom and serenity.  And, it still does…

Oaxaca city to Teotitlán del Valle, where we yielded to a herd of cattle.

Close-up white bull

Santiago Matalán past fields of agave to San Baltazar Chichicapam.

Agave fields with mountain in distance

We continued on the mostly deserted road  towards Octotlán de Morelos.

Tile roof lean-to on rocky outcrop

Onto Hwy. 175 and a lunch stop at the roadside restaurant, between Santo Tomás Jalieza and San Martín Tilcajete, from almost two weeks earlier.

Sign for Los Huamuches with tables in background

And this time we noted the name:  Los Huamuches.  Another delicious comida… a perfect way to end our meandering and head for home.

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Flying into the city of Oaxaca at night, Talea de Castro is one of the countless tiny pockets of light twinkling from the darkness below.  These earthbound clusters of stars mark small pueblos nestled in the treacherous mountains of the Sierra Norte.

The remote terrain of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte and Sierra Sur has helped to preserve the traditions of these indigenous communities — but at a high price.  It has also hindered access to technology that could benefit residents of these communities and has made it easy for the “powers that be” to ignore the needs of these villages.  Taking matters into their own hands, I love what the people of Talea de Castro have done.

Forgotten by telecoms, Mexico town runs cell service

AFP – Left out by telecom firms like the one owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, a remote Mexican mountain village now runs its own mobile phone network to communicate with the outside world.

Tucked away in a lush forest in the southern state of Oaxaca, the indigenous village of Villa Talea de Castro, population 2,500, was not seen as a profitable market for companies such as Slim’s America Movil.

Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, taken on August 17, 2013 (AFP Photo/Carlos Salinas)

Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, taken on August 17, 2013
(AFP Photo/Carlos Salinas)

So the village, under an initiative launched by indigenous groups, civil organizations and universities, put up a perch-like antenna on a rooftop, installed radio and computer equipment, and created its own micro provider called Red Celular de Talea (RCT) this year.

Now, restaurant manager Ramiro Perez can call his children and receive food orders on his cellphone at a cheap price in this village dotted by small homes painted in pink and yellow.

The local service costs 15 pesos ($1.2) per month — 13 times cheaper than a big firm’s basic plan in Mexico City — while calls to the United States, where many of the indigenous Zapoteco resident have migrated, charge a few pennies per minute.

“I have two children who live outside the village and I communicate with them at least two or three times per week,” Perez, 60, told AFP.

Before, Perez had to use telephone booths where he paid up to 10 pesos ($0.75) per minute.

A local resident uses his mobile phone in Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, on August 17, 2013. For considering it to be slightly profitable, the big companies of mobile telephony refused for years to give its services in Talea, but the population -- mostly of indigenous origin -- adopted a novel system and created its own company, the Red Celular de Talea (RCT) (Talea Mobile Network).

A local resident uses his mobile phone in Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, on August 17, 2013. For considering it to be slightly profitable, the big companies of mobile telephony refused for years to give its services in Talea, but the population — mostly of indigenous origin — adopted a novel system and created its own company, the Red Celular de Talea (RCT) (Talea Mobile Network).

The coffee-producing village installed the network with the help of Rhizomatica, a non-profit with US, European and Mexican experts who aim to increase access to mobile telecommunications in communities that lack affordable service.

In a statement, Rhizomatica, a civil group named Redes and a town official said they hoped that a telecom reform pushed through Congress by President Enrique Pena Nieto to open the market will “break the obstacles” that prevent the development of such community-based projects.

“Many indigenous communities have shown interest in participating in this project and we hope that many more can join this scheme,” the statement said.

The equipment used in Talea, which was provided by California-based Range Networks, includes a 900mhz radio network and computer software that routes calls, registers numbers and handles billing. Calls to the United States are channeled via a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provider.

The village received a two-year-permit from the Federal Communications Commission to have the right to test the equipment.

A local resident operates the equipment enabling mobile communications in Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, on August 17, 2013.

A local resident operates the equipment enabling mobile communications in Talea de Castro, Oaxaca State, Mexico, on August 17, 2013.

When a cellphone user arrives in the village, a text message automatically appears saying: “Welcome to the Talea Cellular Network (RTC) — to register, go to the radio with this message.”

There is one catch: phone calls must be limited to a maximum of five minutes to avoid a saturation of lines.

Israel Hernandez, a village resident and one of the volunteers who helped set up the system, said the network uses the radio-electric spectrum that “telephone (service) providers refuse to use because it is financially unviable.”

Slim’s Telcel is part of his America Movil empire, which controls 70 percent of Mexico’s mobile phone market and has 262 million subscribers across Latin America but never made it to Talea.

Alejandro Lopez, a senior town hall official, said the village had approached big telecom firms but that they had required 10,000 potential users as well as the construction of a path where an antenna would be erected and a lengthy power line.

“Despite some technical problems, because we are in a test period, the project has been a success” with 600 villagers signing up since the service opened three months ago, Lopez said.

Buoyed by the system’s success, the village has decided to buy its own equipment that will allow RCT to run 35 lines simultaneously and plans to install in the coming weeks.

The next step, RCT volunteer Hernandez said, is to form cooperatives with other indigenous villages to request concessions from the Mexican government in order to resolve “this lack of free frequencies for cellphone communications in the country’s rural communities.”

New article from the BBC:  The Mexican village that got itself talking.

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No Danza de la Pluma, no convite, no patronal festival.  The Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle on an ordinary day…

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El Picacho up close and personal…

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And, the hills where my young Zapotec friend, Sam,  “grew up… looking after [his] crazy goats!”  He is currently finishing a PhD in Sustainable Manufacturing at the University of Liverpool.  I see a connection.

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Even unplugged, the hills were alive with the sound of music — a banda could be heard in the distance — a Teotitlán del Valle soundtrack.

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Walking home today…

Besides walls of street art (which will no doubt appear here when inspiration hits or I can’t think of anything else to post), I came across this view.

Looking down street, red domed church mid ground, mountains in distance

Looking over rooftops at red domed church in mid distance and mountains in background

Looking over rooftops at red domed church in mid distance and mountains in background

Red dome of church in foreground with mountains in background

View of Templo del Carmen Alto from Crespo, near the Escaleras del Fortín.

There is beauty out there…

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Several days ago, Susan McGlynn of the Insider’s Guide to Oaxaca posted this photo on the Insider’s Facebook page, with the question, “Oaxaca in the 1940s or maybe 50s?. DO YOU KNOW WHICH CORNER OF OAXACA THIS IS???”

Black and white street scene of large baskets and indigenous vendors and shoppers.

The architecture looked very familiar and then there were those trees in the distance…  I was pretty sure I knew which corner this was, so off the camera and I went.

Black and whte street scene filled with automobiles and people on sidewalk and a couple crossing the street

It’s looking north on Flores Magón at the intersection of Las Casas.  That’s the Government Palace in front of the trees of the zócalo at the end of the street.  Outside the shot and to the left of the cars in the foreground is Mercado Benito Juárez.  Perhaps all is a little clearer in color…

Street scene (in color) filled with automobiles and people on sidewalk and a couple crossing the street

That cinnamon colored building in the foreground is the Trebol Hotel and the single-story white building next to the Government Palace is La Lagunilla, which must have been in business when the original photograph was taken, as the sign says it was founded in 1921.

Cars in front of one story white building with blue awning and name, La Lagunilla, painted at the top of the building

This was fun!

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This morning, I was awakened from a sound sleep by the insistent siren and recorded voice alerting the neighborhood of an impending earthquake.  I bolted upright, moved to the side of the bed and slipped on my flip-flops — ready to head out the door if shaking commenced.  As I’ve mentioned before, I think Mexico’s Earthquake Warning System is terrific and something the US should emulate.

However, this time, no rocking and rolling occurred, but I was left wide awake and wondering if and where an earthquake had occurred.  So I pulled out my iPod Touch and opened my iEarthquake app and found that at 5:10 this morning, there was a magnitude 5.7 earthquake about 105 miles WSW from the city of Oaxaca in the mountains near the coast.  The epicenter was 6.2 miles northwest of Pinotepa Nacional, in the Costa region of the state of Oaxaca.

So, I decided to use this event for a geography lesson.  The state of Oaxaca has 8 regions (it used to be 7, but not too long ago the Sierra Region was split into two):

These regions are home to 14 distinct ethno linguistic groups and the regions vary dramatically in topography, vegetation, and climate.  One can catch a glimpse of the unique costumes, dances, and dancers of each region during the Guelaguetza celebration in Oaxaca in July.   The city of Oaxaca is located in the Valles Centrales (“Centro” on the map below).

Color coded map of the regions and districts of Oaxaca

Map from Wikipedia

For a painless way to learn more about the geography of Mexico, you might want to take a look at the Mexican States games.

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