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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Living and being in Oaxaca during the Días de los Muertos is hard to put into words. There is so much to experience and to think about. It is the ofrendas that touch me the most — they are all so personal, even those on display to the public. And, one of the unexpected delights of tracking down the chairs of the Silla Calavera project, was to see the Day of the Dead ofrendas constructed by the hotels and restaurants also displaying the chairs.

Casa Antica, Av. José María Morelos.
Plaza Las Vírgenes, Calle Labastida. Only very occasionally do fires break out!
Utilitario Mexicano, Mariano Matamoros.
La Casa de las Artesanías, Mariano Matamoros.
Hotel Casa Garay, Calle Miguel Cabrera.
On the Zócalo, ofrenda for Tomás Martínez, a leader of the Frente Popular Revolucionario.
La Mano Mágica, Calle Macedonio Alcalá. Photo of Arnulfo Mendoza on the top right. I can’t believe it’s been 6-1/2 years since his passing.
Hotel Trébol, Ricardo Flores Magón.
Hotel Casa Vertiz, Calle Reforma.
Hotel Marqués Del Valle, bordering the Zócalo.
Jardín Sócrates neveria next to Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.

Sensory overload challenges the limits of heart and mind and, especially this year, my emotions ran the gamut from extreme exhilaration to quiet joy to being moved to tears.

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In my effort to “step away” from the US election news, I went in search of the fourteen chairs of the “Silla Calavera” project scattered throughout restaurants and hotels in the city — a creative and calorie-burning distraction!

Artist: Juana Vicente Ortega Fuentes, decorative painter; displayed at Pitiona restaurant. Title: Levantada de Cruz (Raised Cross).
Artist: Fabián Pacheco, metalwork artisan; displayed at Gozobi restaurant. Title: Tradición y costumbre (Tradition and practice).
Artist: Francisca Calvo, wooden alebrije artisan; displayed at Pitiona restaurant. Title: Platicando sobre las costumbres de mi pueblo (Talking about customs of my people).
Artist: Jesús Sosa Calvo, wooden alebrije artisan; displayed at Hotel Parador. Title: Como ves te ves (As you see you see).

The project arose as an idea to spread the traditions of Oaxaca through artistic creations using an object of daily life — a comforting and comfortable seat, where each artist, through their creativity and respect for the dead, exposes the face of a skull.

Artists: Taller de Barro Zamani, polychrome clay artisans; displayed at Terranova restaurant. Title: Muertos que viven (The dead who live).
Artists: Erika Nancy Carrillo Carreño, Montserrat Mandujano, Eliézer Vargas García, artesanas de la Costa oaxaqueña; displayed at Hotel Trébol. Title: Colores de vida y muerte (Colors of life and death).
Artist: Colectivo Zegache (Alejandro Mendoza, Eleuteria Pacheco Mendoza, Edith Santo Méndez, Nancy Martínez Gaspar); displayed at Hotel Casa Garay. Title: Dxi tu gúl (Zapotec, unable to translate).
Artist: Meletón Lazo, surrealist artist; displayed at Hotel Ferri. Title: Flor de piña (Pineapple flower dance).

Unfortunately, this next chair had been disassembled by the time I arrived, but here, in two parts, the back and the seat.

Artist: Gabriel Sosa, wooden alebrije artisan; seat back at Los Danzantes restaurant. Title: Fiesta de colores (Festival of colors).
Artist: Gabriel Sosa, wooden alebrije artisan; seat at Los Danzantes restaurant. Title: Fiesta de colores (Festival of colors).

The artisans, I think with great success, sought to capture and share their roots, customs, and traditions.

Artist: Marcos Lucero, painter; displayed at Hotel Santa Rosa. Title: Bii tugul/Viento de muertos (Wind of the dead).
Artist: Juan Lazo, landscape painter; displayed at El Asador Vasco restaurant. Title: La muerte es mas vida (Death is life).
Artists: Paulino Ramirez and Eduardo Ramirez, painting and wooden alebrijes; displayed at Restaurant Casa Palmeras. Title: La última luz (The last light).
Artist: Alfonso Canseco Peligro, graphic artist; displayed at La Mala restaurant. Title: Siéntate, vamos a tomar (Sit down and let’s drink).
Artists: Luis Lazo and family, textile artists; displayed at Hotel Casa Vertiz. Title: Ciclo de vida (Cycle of life).

Yesterday, the chairs were removed from the restaurants and hotels. Tonight, with an inaugural celebration, they went on display at ARIPO until November 15, 2020. For purchase after that date, contact Matlacihua Arte or individual artists.

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For my skeleton loving grandson, the 2020 skeletons, catrinas, and catrines hanging around Oaxaca.

Seen on the sidewalks, businesses, and balconies of Oaxaca on November 1 and 2 — during these days we welcome and celebrate with our departed.

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Even the recycling bins in Oaxaca are getting into the spirit of Day of the Dead.

Calle Independencia side of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
In front of the Iglesia de Guadalupe
Zócalo side of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

And cempasúchil (marigolds) to beckon the difuntos (departed), plastic bottles, and tin cans.

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While flags are flying, bunting is up, and carts are selling the usual green, white, and red patriotic paraphernalia, it’s not your usual Mexican Independence celebrations.

It is the night before Independence Day, but there are no crowds gathered in the zócalo to hear the governor re-create the Grito de Dolores from the balcony of the Government Palace. Tomorrow there will be no patriotic parade through the streets of the city of Oaxaca. Mexican Independence celebrations during the time of Covid-19.

However, there is a song from Lila Downs…

(ps) The flags above are flying at half staff because the photos were taken on September 13, 2020, the day Mexico commemorates the legend of the 1847 Niños Héroes — boy cadets martyred during the Mexican-American war.

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Since early this morning, rocket explosions, up close and in the distance, have been breaking the Sunday silence. That’s odd, I thought. While in normal times, the jarring sound of cohetes is a frequent player in the soundtrack of life in Oaxaca, these days, like clanging church bells, their booms and bangs have been absent from the orchestra. So, why today? I wondered. It wasn’t until I downloaded this photo from this morning’s walk, that it dawned on me.

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Looking south from Panorámica del Fortín, Oaxaca de Juárez

May 3rd in Mexico is Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross) and Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer). Tradition calls for construction workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on building sites — but construction in Oaxaca, in this time of Covid-19, has been at a standstill for several weeks. I guess the building trades’ workers aren’t going to let a lethal virus interfere with their “macho rivalry” tradition. From an article in Mexconnect:

The first dramatic volley of thousands of joyful cohetes (sky rockets) begins at midnight as each crew attempts to be the first to announce the celebration of the Day of the Holy Cross. This macho rivalry between workers continues sporadically all night and for the entire 24 hours of May 3 with each crew hoping to set off more sky rockets than their competitors to remind one and all that this is a special day.

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Today in Mexico is Día del Niño (Day of the Child). However, this year, in the time of Covid-19, there will be no school parties, no large community gatherings, and, with no income for many, there will be fewer (if any) toys and treats given by parents. We all look forward to the days when we hear the sound of squeals and cheers coming from playgrounds, see children gathered with their friends laughing and talking, and again being a part of the traditional dances, parades, and celebrations. On this day as I was compiling this photo essay, I couldn’t get this song out of my head…

Children Will Listen
(sung by Bernadette Peters)
lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim

How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

How can you say to a child who’s in flight
“Don’t slip away and I won’t hold so tight”
What can you say that no matter how slight Won’t be misunderstood
What do you leave to your child when you’re dead?
Only whatever you put in its head
Things that your mother and father had said
Which were left to them too

Careful what you say
Children will listen
Careful you do it too
Children will see
And learn, oh guide them that step away
Children will glisten
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free

Careful before you say
“Listen to me”
Children will listen
Children will listen
Children will listen

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The sights and sounds of Good Friday in Oaxaca have gone missing. Weeks ago, the archbishop canceled all public Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations. Jesús, María, San Pedro, Penitents, religious banners, and devotees are not processing through the streets to the rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of a rachet. While not religious, I miss it and this year last year’s photos will have to suffice.

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The streets are empty, as Viernes Santo has gone silent.

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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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If you live in Oaxaca, the characters of Carnaval are coming to a village near you. And to get you in the mood and entice you to one of the wild and whacky celebrations, the citizens of the city were treated to a parade sampling the various traditions — no two villages are the same.

Villa de Zaachila, “Grupo Natividad”

Putla Villa de Guerrero

Ánimas Trujano

Macuilxóchitl de Artigas Carranza

Santa Catarina Minas

Santa María Coyotepec

San Juan Bautista La Raya

Cuilápam de Guerrero

And, last but not least, San Martín Tilcajete…

That’s where I will be tomorrow!

 

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Today Mexico is celebrating el Día de los Reyes Magos. Traditionally, it is the Three Kings — Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar — who bring gifts to children on Epiphany (aka, Twelfth Night — yes, that Twelfth Night).

Tres Reyes in totomoxtle (corn husks) – Noche de Rabanos 2012

According to Oaxaca Día a Día, over 5,000 toys have been donated by individuals, companies, public servants, the media, and the governmental DIF Oaxaca. 1.2 kilometers of dolls, balls, games, stuffed animals, and other toys line the Plaza de la Danza to be distributed today to disadvantaged school children.

By the way, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, events celebrating el Día de los Reyes Magos are also happening.

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Looking in the rear view mirror at images from 2019. They bring fond memories of life in Oaxaca — ferias, festivals, food, and friends, not to mention exhibitions, random street scenes, and the unexpected at Casita Colibrí. They were also a reminder of many days and nights spent in Teotitlán del Valle this year.

January – San Juan Guelavía town hall.

February – Wall on Niños Heroes, remembering the Ayotzinapa 43.

March – Cactus flower on the Casita Colibrí terrace.

April – View from a gas station along Carretera Federal 175.

May – Construction assistance from the balcony of Casita Colibrí.

June – The tamales brigade at a 50th birthday fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle.

July – Newly made candles in Teotitlán del Valle.

August – Necklace from Monte Albán Tomb 7 exhibition at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.

September – Convite during the Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle.

October – Danza de la Pluma at Fiesta de La Virgen del Rosario in Teotitlán del Valle.

November – Día de Muertos tamales in Teotitlán del Valle.

December – Nacimiento (nativity scene) in the Plaza de la Danza.

Many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue blogging from my rooftop terrace in Oaxaca. Wishing you all the very best in 2020!!!

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It’s a quiet Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) in my childhood home here in el norte. There are no sparklers to wave, no nacimiento (nativity scene) stands in the town square, and no posadas have knocked on the front door. Instead, my younger son and I bought a Douglas Fir and decorated it with four generations of Christmas ornaments hauled down from the attic. Stockings hang from the mantle, gifts are piling up, and in our dreams we channel our inner child and await Santa’s arrival.

In Oaxaca, a Christmas tree and holiday lights went up in the zócalo, along with plantings of nochebuenas (poinsettias), at the beginning of December. A nacimiento was constructed in the Plaza de la Danza, and if one looks up a piñata or two might be spotted floating high above.

As has been my blog’s annual Christmas Eve tradition: “Pancho Claus” by the man known as the “father of Chicano music,” Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero. This year’s version is the original from 1956. The song is a delightful parody of the Clement C. Moore classic, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” — and it has inspired real life Tex-Mex Santas.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Mama she was busy preparing the masa
To make the tamales for the tamalada
And all the ingredients for the enchiladas

Papa in the front room with all the muchachas
Was dancing the mambo and doing the cha cha
My brothers and sisters were out in the hall
Listening to Elvis singing rock ‘n roll

When all of a sudden there came such a racket
I jumped out of bed and I put on my jacket
I looked out the window and in front of the house
Was my old uncle Pedro as drunk as a louse
He ran in the casa he grabbed the guitarra
He let out a yell – “Ay, Ay, Ay” and sang Guadalajara,
“Guadalajara Guadalajara, Guadalajara Guadalajara”

I was starting to wonder as I lay there alone
How old Santa Claus was to visit my home
With all of this noise they would scare him away
When all of a sudden I hear someone say
Hey Pablo, Chuchito Hey! Arriba! Gordito, Jose
Get up there you bums or you don’t get no hay

And then to my wondering eyes did appear
Eight cute little donkeys instead of reindeer
They pulled a carreta that was full of toys
For all of us good little girls and boys

The fat little driver waved his big sombrero
And said Merry Christmas! Feliz Año Nuevo!
That means “Happy New Year”
And then I hear him sing

I am Santa’s cousin from south of the border
My name’s Pancho Claus and I bring you your order
I hear him exclaim as he drove past the porches
“Merry Christmas to all and to all Buenas Noches”

As a gift to us all, this year “Pancho Claus” the book, with illustrations by Bob Mackie, was published, along with “Pancho Claus Volume 2” featuring the lyrics of another Lalo Guerrero Christmas song, “Mario from the Barrio.” (El Paso Herald Post, Dec. 22, 2019) I’ve put them both on my list!

Many thanks for reading my blog. I wish you ¡Felices Fiestas! and peace and joy through the new year.

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Noche de Rábanos is coming and, while I’m shivering in California, I’m dreaming warm Rábanos, Totomoxtle, and Flor Inmortal dreams. This year promises to be bigger than ever — so big, the exhibition and competition have been extended to two days. December 22, 2019 will be reserved for Flor Inmortal, Totomoxtle, and, in the morning, the children’s category of rábanos.

Category: Flor Inmortal (Dried flowers)…

“Delegación de las Chinas Oaxaqueñas” by Juliana Galicia Péerez (2017)

Category: Totomoxtle Natural (Corn husks, natural color)..

“Esplendidas artesanías de Oaxaca” by Esmeralda Chavez Miguel (2017)

Category: Totomoxle Decorado (Corn husks, colored)…

“Chinas Oaxaqueñas de la Guelaguetza” by Pedro Leobardo Díaz Márquez (2017)

And, as is customary, the carved radish exhibition and competition will be held December 23. Get there in the morning to watch the artisans setting up and putting the final touches on their creations or in the late afternoon/evening to see the finished works and award winners.

Category: Rábano Libre (Radishes, non-traditional and contemporary themes)…

“Mirada de la noche” by Concepción del Carmen López Guzmán (2017)

Category: Rábano Tradicional (Radishes, Biblical and traditional Oaxaca themes)…

“Regada de la vela 12 de mayo” by Rosa del Alba Miguel Morales (2017)

Category: Rábano Tradicional…

“Raíz de mi pueblo” by Roberto Geovani Aguilar (2017)

To all in Oaxaca, enjoy this year’s, “Oaxaca, Land of Cultivated Dreams!”

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A belated feliz Día de Santa Cecilia! November 22 commemorates the day Roman born Saint Cecilia was martyred at the hands of Turcius Almachius (sometime between 222 and 235 AD) and has been celebrated as her feast day since the fourth century.

According to legend, “despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians.[3] When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia’s advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.[3]

Santa Cecilia also sang during the torment of her martyrdom by decapitation, in which she was struck three times in the neck with a sword, and remained alive for three days. Pope Urban I consecrated her house in the Trastevere as a basilica. Her devotion and singing earned her the title of patron saint of musicians. Bands are named after her and she is honored with concerts and music festivals on her feast day.

Sculptures depicting musicians of the Mixe mountain village, Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, in the courtyard of Andares del Arte Popular. Sculptures by Sculptor Na’pë Jääy — an artist from Tlahuitoltepec.

 

And, for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite bands named La Santa Cecilia.

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