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Does anyone remember the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” baseball routine? If not, check out the link — it’s still pretty funny and, at least to me, speaks to the confusion regarding news of Oaxaca beginning to lift the “quédate en casa” orders.

Mexico is using a stoplight system (Semáforo) to illustrate the COVID-19 risk of spread, with rojo (red) being the highest level of contagion, thus only essential services allowed to operate and people instructed to stay home. Oaxaca is still at red and for the past three months, in addition to closed museums and canceled church services, shuttered restaurants, hotels, businesses, and street stalls have been the norm.

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However, given much of the state’s population relies on the informal economy and there is essentially no social safety net, economic hardship pushed the governor to announce on Sunday a reopening of businesses (albeit with restrictions on capacity, mask wearing, etc.) beginning July 5. Then on Monday morning, merchant leaders announced they would be reopening on July 1.

No matter if it’s July 1 or 5, I’m continuing as if nothing has changed. You will not find me dining in restaurants, shopping for a new falda (skirt), or browsing in art galleries. And, according to an article in today’s NVI Noticias, some of the hoteliers are not one hundred percent on board, either. The (translated) headline read, “We could go bankrupt, but we are not going to expose lives while the light is red.” With this accelerated reopening, it’s no doubt going to get worse before it gets better. So, to all the people who are anxious to visit Oaxaca, I continue to say, “For your safety and the safety of Oaxaca, please stay away until the light turns green.”

Update: In an extraordinary session yesterday (July 1, 2020), the city council of Oaxaca de Juárez unanimously voted to to extend the restrictions and preventive measures against COVID-19 while the light continues to be red.

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This morning’s headline in NVI Noticias: Oaxaca revive pesadilla de los sismos en lo más álgido de la epidemia por COVID-19 (Oaxaca relives the nightmare of earthquakes in the height of the epidemic by COVID-19). I wasn’t in Oaxaca for the 8.1 earthquake September 7, 2017, so I don’t know what it felt like. However, I still have vivid memories of experiencing the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. As scary as that one was, yesterday’s 7.5 temblor was definitely more violent and lasted longer.

The good news is I, my neighbors, and all my friends in Oaxaca are okay and the city sustained mostly minor damage. However, there is much devastation to roads, homes, and other structures closer to the epicenter near Huatulco. And, saddest of all, the death toll is now up to seven. For a more complete report, with dozens of photos, click on the article, Suman siete muertos por el terremoto.

Two months ago work stopped on the roof and bell tower of Templo de San José — due to virus restrictions on construction sites. This morning, workers returned to check out earthquake damage.

This, and the state of Oaxaca’s coronavirus statistics, like most of Mexico, continue to rise precipitously. And, unfortunately, many of the hospitals near the quake’s epicenter sustained damage. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Side by side statistics: June 19 and June 23. Grey=cases notified; green=negatives; orange=suspected; red=confirmed; turquoise=recovered; black=deaths

Oh, and did I mention, we have had massive rain storms the last two nights? We are all wondering what is next, locusts?

Yikes, look what I found on my screen door this morning! At least in Oaxaca, we know what to do with chapulines (grasshoppers) — toast them on a comal with lime and salt. They are a great source of protein. Yummm…

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Dear friends and lovers of Oaxaca,

While the areas where you live may be loosening up on Covid-19 precautions, Oaxaca is not. Cases and deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate and, as a result, a few days ago the governor instituted a ten-day shelter-in-place order. Masks are mandatory in public, we are not to leave our homes except for groceries, medications, or medical treatment, limits have been put on bus service, and the hours and days of the mercados have been significantly reduced.

Photo from Facebook page of the Mexican Dreamweavers

While tourism provides the economic life-blood of Oaxaca and restaurants, hotels, and artisans would welcome your business, the people and medical infrastructure cannot afford the Covid-19 virus that might come along with you and your dinero. Oaxaca is one of the poorest and most indigenous states in Mexico and, as a result of poverty and inadequate health care, it has high rates diabetes and heart disease — both high risk factors for coronavirus mortality.

While right now you can only dream about coming to Oaxaca, there are ways you can help. You can join those of us living here by financially helping out your Oaxacan friends, by donating to your preferred hotels and restaurants, and by placing an order with your favorite weaver, carver, or other artisan. Buying mezcal futures from traditional mezcaleros is even an option — and the bottles will be waiting for you when next you return.

While I have no place to wear it right now, I bought this beautiful rebozo (shawl) from the Mexican Dreamweavers. Patrice Perillie, the Dreamweavers’ Director, knew I’d been admiring and wanting one for years, so she recently contacted me to (gently) suggest that ordering one now would have a greater and much-needed financial impact on the cooperative’s members. It is made from brown coyuchi cotton, yarns dyed with indigo, purple tixinda, and red cochinilla, and woven by Amada Sanchez Cruz on a backstrap loom. Isn’t it stunning?

 

From the Mexican Dreamweavers “About” page on Facebook”

In the community of Pinotepa de Don Luis, situated on the Costa Chica of Oaxaca, artisans of Mixtec origin, masters in the art of weaving on back-strap looms, weave beautiful cloth that they use in different types of dress. There is the posahuanco which is a type of skirt of pre-hispanic origin; the huipil, a tunic dress used for special occasions; and the reboso, a shawl used by the women both for warmth and to carry things, including their babies!

The women weavers of this community have formed a cooperative called “Tixinda” which has over 60 women, both young and old, who are passing down the 3,000+ year old tradition of spinning and weaving from one generation to the next. In addition to producing their traditional dress, Tixinda also produces table linens, bed linens, throw pillows and bags, using both traditional and contemporary designs.

To view the Mexican Dreamweavers inventory and to buy, click their Facebook Shop
For more information, please contact Patrice Perillie, Director:
Telephone USA – (212) 629-7899
Telephone Mexico – (954) 102-1792
Email – mexicandreamweavers@hotmail.com

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The “quédate en casa” signs and announcements are ubiquitous in Oaxaca — and apparently dogs are heeding those orders to “stay at home.” Like their humans, some are using the time for rest and relaxation.

Others are working from home.

And still others are chafing at the bit and can’t wait for the restrictions to be lifted so they can go out and play!

Though Mexico hasn’t yet flattened the Covid-19 curve, the government announced yesterday that beginning May 18, “Municipalities of hope” — those towns without any coronavirus cases and that don’t border any towns with confirmed cases, will be permitted to reopen their economy, public spaces, and schools.

For an English language simulcast of Mexico’s Covid-19 Daily Briefing, where detailed information is relayed and announcements like the one above are made, click HERE. If you miss the live 7:00 PM (CDT) broadcasts, the briefings are archived and available from the same site. By the way, note the respectful demeanor exhibited by government officials — quite a contrast to “you know who.”

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It’s official, face masks (cubrebocas/tapabocas) are mandatory. At today’s press conference, the governor of Oaxaca announced the steps the state government is taking now that Mexico has entered Phase 3 of its Covid-19 emergency plan. I must say that I was impressed by the visuals as I watched — reporters, the governor’s team of experts, and even the governor at one point were modeling good mask behavior.

And, street artists have been plastering the walls of the city with mask-wearing messages.

A medical masked Batman says, “stay in the house” — by the artist, Yescka.

Former Governor of Oaxaca and beloved former President of Mexico, Benito Juárez rocking a mask.

Not sure this couple is practicing proper mask protocol, not to mention, sana distancia (physical distancing) — by artist Elise Rubin.

Unfortunately, this last image represents what I have observed in my wanderings through the empty streets of the city. On today’s outing to my neighborhood produce truck and then to various tiendas (corner stores) in search of mineral water, eggs, and butter, at least 30% of the people I encountered were not wearing masks. For the most part, it’s not because they are not available. They are selling for ten pesos each (40¢ US) and there are numerous projects making and distributing free cloth masks, including those spearheaded by my amiga Norma Schafer over at Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. I brought a couple of extra masks with me and offered one to the gal at the produce truck, but she declined, saying she already had one. I responded that it was really important that she wear it, but she just shrugged. It’s frustrating!

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More scenes from Sunday’s silent streets in Oaxaca…

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8:40 AM: Northwest corner of the Zócalo

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8:41 AM: On the Zócalo looking southeast

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8:54 AM: Looking south on Cinco de mayo

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9:47 AM: Corner of Reforma and Constitución

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10:06 AM: Looking south down Porfirio Díaz

However, Mercado Sánchez Pascuas was hopping — almost a like a pre-pandemic Sunday. Stalls were open, not much physical distancing was going on, and most vendors and customers were mask-less. Note to self: In these times of COVID-19, next time I’m out of tamales, go to the mercado on a quieter day.

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We couldn’t put it off any longer, non-perishables were needed! Thus, instead of another long leisurely Sunday stroll like last week, my neighbor and I walked (keeping two meters apart) down to Soriana, our local supermarket. We went early in the morning and the streets were mostly empty — making it a piece of cake crossing a particularly dicey intersection. Ready to do battle with the virus, we came armed with alcohol wipes and shopping, paying, and bagging strategies. However, Soriana also was on emergency preparedness alert. Once inside the door, hand-sanitizer was pumped into our hands and the handles of our carts were wiped down with disinfectant.

As we had hoped, there were very few other customers and most seemed very conscious of maintaining social distancing protocol, — the workers stocking the shelves, not so much. There were signs posted limiting the quantities one could purchase of certain items and there were taped lines on the floor in front of the check stands indicating how far apart to stand. Though, one guy didn’t get the message and cut in front of me. I snapped, “sana distancia” at him, he glanced back at the crazy gringa and went to a different line.

My route to Soriana, usually consists of cutting a diagonal across the Plaza de la Danza, walking down the ramp to Jardín Sócrates, and crossing the atrium of the Basilica de la Soledad before tackling the steep stairs down to Av. de la Independencia. Alas, this trip, it wasn’t to be — the atrium doors facing the Jardín were locked up tight, as were the ones at the top of the stairs on Independencia.

Signs were tacked to the massive doors indicating all masses had been suspended until further notice. It was all quiet on the church front and the realization hit me that I hadn’t heard a single church bell in days, if not a week — which sounds about right because, on March 21, the Archdiocese of Oaxaca announced the suspension of all Eucharistic celebrations, including Easter. In addition, the Archbishop has called on Catholics to stay home during Holy Week, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 between people and communities.

Health officials have been running public service announcements on the TV telling people to stay home and advising them, if they must go out, on methods to avoiding catching and spreading the virus. And, yesterday the Mexican government declared a state of health emergency and ordered a suspension of all non-essential businesses and activities until April 30th. For businesses, the restrictions are mandatory, however for people it is an “emphatic invitation.” President Andrés Manuel López Orbrador’s gradual approach to the pandemic has been highly criticized in some quarters, though the strategy has been praised by representatives of the World Health Organization. However, most agree that stricter measures will have to be implemented once the pandemic really hits.

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Today, I broke my self-imposed social-distancing exile and went for a walk around town. The traffic was unusually light and I wondered if all the tourists had flown the coop, going home while the going was good in the wake of COVID-19 and/or Oaxaqueños were beginning to heed the protective measures issued by the World Health Organization. However, the giant Mexican flag on the zócalo and closed banks, shops, and my dentist’s office tipped me off — today is the day Mexico celebrates her much beloved five-term and only indigenous (Zapotec) president, Benito Juárez. His actual birthday is March 21, but the third Monday of March has been designated as the national holiday. Three-day weekends are popular here, too!

Looking up today in Parque Labastida.

In these trying times, we would all do well to remember his famous words: Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz. (Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

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Are we having fun yet? As much as I hate it, I’ve been glued to TV news (BBC and CNN International) since last night’s nationalistic, confusing, and not even accurate pronouncements by the US president. As I began writing this post, I finally made myself turn it off and began listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s, Obrigado Brazil. Ahhh… much better.

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Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifloia)

A best friend (since age twelve) and I are having to cancel a long-planned trip to Barcelona and Paris in April. Besides being incredibly disappointed, I’m not looking forward to trying to get refunds on flights, etc.

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Clavellina (Bombax palmeri)

As for COVID-19 (aka, Coronavirus), Mexico’s low coronavirus cases draws skepticism — should travellers worry? In addition, there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward canceling large gatherings or educating the public to refrain from the ubiquitous handshaking and cheek kissing. Perhaps someone in the Secretary of Health’s office should read this data-driven article, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, and then take action. It’s one of the most informative I have read. However, this video from 2016 of three Oaxaca nurses teaching proper hand washing technique has been making the rounds and adding a little levity to these anxiety producing days.

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Primavera rosa / Amapa rosa / Palo de rosa (Tabebuia rosea)

On the other hand, if one has to forego foreign travel, Oaxaca isn’t a bad place to be. And, looking up at the clear blue skies and the explosion of flowering trees that marks this time of year, I give thanks to Mother Nature for the beauty she brings to this world filled with war, poverty, and pestilence.

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Mosquito borne diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika continue to plague the planet.  Today’s good news is a Dengue vaccine proves 100% effective in human trials.  Let’s hope so!

In the meantime, understand the life cycle of mosquitoes and follow the instructions on a wall in Tlacolula de Matamoros…P1180034

Wash, cover, turn over, and eliminate!

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The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) ranks the state of Oaxaca first in Mexico, in terms of indigenous population. [SIPAZ, Población Indígena]   Out of 3,405,990 inhabitants of Oaxaca, 34.2% are indigenous.Grupos Etnicos Oaxaca La Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s July celebration of its indigenous cultures is in the rear view mirror.  The streets were filled with tourists and hotels and restaurants were happy.  However, the debate continues regarding the role of this annual event.

Santos Reyes Nopala, Chatino

Santos Reyes Nopala – Chatino

Does it benefit Oaxaca’s indigenous population or just the tourist industry?  Does it present reality or reinforce stereotypes?  However, all agree, poverty and inequality ARE problems that disproportionately affect the indigenous people of Oaxaca.  And, Oaxaca and Mexico are not alone…

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate

Santa María Zacatepec, Tacuate Mixteco

Tomorrow is August 9, designated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994.  This year’s theme is, Post 2015 Agenda: Ensuring indigenous peoples health and well-being.  As the UN Women website explains:

Indigenous women experience disproportionate difficulties in access to health care, as well as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Though indigenous women are counted upon to support the health and well-being of their families, they often face hurdles to access the resources to build the foundation of a better life, such as education and land.

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

San Pedro Amuzgos, Amuzgo

 According to a recent article in Noticias, a woman born in Oaxaca has a four times greater risk of dying from maternal causes than in the rest of Mexico, and 56% of these deaths are of indigenous women.
San Pablo Macuiltianguis, Zapoteco

San Pablo Macuiltianguis – Zapoteco

The Chief of the National Commission for Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) Oaxaca delegation, reported that Oaxaca has the highest indigenous poverty rate in Mexico, with 1,719,000 indigenous in Oaxaca living in conditions of substandard infrastructure, health, and education, which, he acknowledged, affects women more.

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla, Mixe

San Pedro y San Pablo Ayutla – Mixe

In Oaxaca city, on August 9, a cultural event will be held at the Alameda de León, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM with bands, poets, and artists supporting the campaign “What happened to my rights?”

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Mazateco and Chinanteco

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec – Mazateco and Chinanteco

Let’s hope there will be answers and action.
(Photos are from Guelaguetza 2015 desfiles (parades) and Diosa Centéotl contest.)

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Ahhh, it feels good to be back in the warm and wonderful Oaxaca.  There are the sounds…  I awake to church bells, followed by the loudspeaker cry of “Gas de Oaxaca” from the propane vendor.  Last night, as I was heading to bed, rockets exploded and, just now, the camote man’s steam whistle sounded, announcing tooth-achingly sweetened hot sweet potatoes and bananas.  Then there are the sights…

The walls continue to talk…  On Thursday, I saw this on Calle Morelos as I walked to the Alcalá and comida with friends.  It remembers Leonel Castro Abarca, one of the 43 still-missing students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

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On the way home from comida, I detoured to see what was to be seen on the zócalo.  Teacher tents remain pitched around the bandstand, but the walkways were free of ambulantes, and, as always, the Cathedral presided over the scene.

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Thursday, the familiar sounds of protest were irresistible.  I grabbed my camera and headed out the front gate to see a massive march by healthcare workers on their way to the Plaza de la Danza.  To be honest, tubas and cohetes would have had me out the door, too!  It was way too quiet in el norte.

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And, what can I say about last night’s sunset from the terrace?

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Naturally, a marmota and pair of monos were waiting on the plaza in front of Santo Domingo this afternoon, awaiting a bride and groom to emerge.  After all, it is Saturday — wedding day in Oaxaca!

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I wonder what my ears will hear and my eyes will see, mañana…

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Reader alert:  If you are squeamish, you might want to skip this post.

Yesterday, minding my own business, I was attacked by a killer cactus!  Well, the cactus isn’t really a killer (at least, I don’t think it is) and I wasn’t really minding my own business — I was weeding in the vicinity of said cactus, which I think is an Austrocylindropuntia subulata ssp. exaltata.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time this particular cactus and I had had a run in.

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Four years ago, concentrating on weeding around another plant, I momentarily forgot about the danger lurking in the neighboring pot and got stabbed in the upper arm.  After more than momentary disbelief, I gathered my wits and called on my friend, neighbor, and fellow gardener G for help.  He managed to pull the spine out with only a moderate amount of pain, cleansed the puncture site with alcohol (the rubbing kind), gave me alcohol (the drinking kind), and I was good to go.

After that encounter, I showed the Austrocylindropuntia the respect it so rightly deserves.  I also admit to having had thoughts of abandoning it on my old apartment’s terrace when I moved last year.  However, I was convinced by my moving crew that it should join the rest of my garden on the new big terraza.  Though why they wanted to risk its espinas peligrosas, I don’t know.  However, I do know, I would have much preferred bringing my beautiful Agave Americana to my new home, but they said it was too big and had to stay put.

That brings me to yesterday’s unfortunate incident.  I remember thinking, as I reached in to pull a couple of weeds in the Austrocylindropuntia’s pot, “Go get the long garden tweezers.”  But I didn’t, and got stabbed on the back of my right hand (between the knuckles of my index and middle finger) for the trouble.  How stupid could I be???  Stunned, I again turned to neighbors — this time, David and Marilyn from Alaska.  It was decided I needed professional help, so off to Hospital Molina we walked, me with a four-inch cactus spine sticking out of the top of my hand.

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The doctor took me into an exam room immediately.  He asked the important questions:   “Name?  Age?  Address?  Allergies?  Where is the offending cactus located?  Do you use pesticides in your garden?”    I asked the question that was foremost on my mind, “Aren’t you going to use lidocaine?”   “No,” he calmly replied.  He then directed me to relax and look toward the window.  He had such reassuring manner,  I actually did as I was told.  He gently felt around the protruding spine and then it was out — and, miracle of miracles, I didn’t feel a thing!  He, too, cleansed the wound with alcohol, wrote prescriptions for an antibiotic and a mild pain reliever, told me to apply hot compresses twice a day, and collected 300 pesos ($23.00 US) for the visit.  I collected my ever-so-kind neighbors and we went on our way.  The phrase, “Do you have insurance?” was never uttered and I was not required to fill out ANY forms!

It’s thirty hours later and I am alive and well.  Antibiotic is being taken every six hours, my hand is only slightly swollen, and there is only a little pain.  I’m good to go.  And I’m thinking, it’s time for the Austrocylindropuntia subulata ssp. exaltata to go.  No use tempting fate a third time!

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In the city and in the villages, the signs are everywhere…

Sign for Neuroticos Anónimos

The recent article, Native neuroses: Sharing their emotional struggles in Spanish by Marisa Gerber, gives a little background on the popularity of Neuróticos Anónimos, south of the Río Bravo del Norte (aka, Rio Grande).

After two days spent cleaning the new apartment and schlepping the small stuff (boxes, plants, furniture, etc.) down two flights of stairs, across the driveway and up one flight (with a lot of help from my friends), today the moving crew is coming to do the heavy lifting.  For some reason the above topic resonates!

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Mazunte was the first beach on Oaxaca’s coast I visited.  The beach is stunningly beautiful and uncrowded and accommodations lean toward the small and environmentally conscious.

View of Mazunte beach from hill above.

In addition to the appeal of the warm clear waters of its beach and digging your feet in the sand as you dine on fresh fish tacos, Mazunte is home to the Natural Cosmetics Cooperative, established by Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop.  The cooperative’s products (soaps, lotions, oils, mosquito repellent, etc.) are available in the city of Oaxaca at the weekly Friday/Saturday Organic Market in the plaza of Santo Tomás in the Xochimilco neighborhood.

Mazunte also houses the National Mexican Turtle Center, whose successful work is the subject of Tim Johnson’s recent blog post, Turtle Hatchlings Head for the Sea.

 

 

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