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Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Slowly the cars began to move.  Slowly they climbed the steep hill.  As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:  “I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I-think-I-can!  I think I can – I think I can – I think I can I think I can–”  (The Little Engine That Could)

In this case, the little engines that could are Volkswagen Beetles, known in Mexico as vochos.  These indomitable VW Bugs are ubiquitous on the streets of Oaxaca — in a rainbow of colors and in every stage of repair and disrepair imaginable.

Fuschia vocho parked on street

They can even be spotted traveling along the walls…

“Vocho art” isn’t limited to murals on street corners.  Check out this Huichol beadwork “Vochol” I saw on exhibit at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City last October.  It is the work of Francisco Bautista, Kena Bautista, Roberto Bautista, Diego Díaz González, Emilio González Carrillo, Víctor González Carrillo, Alvaro Ortiz, and Herminio Ramírez.

And, that isn’t all…  Mexican artist, Héctor Garnelo Navarro has covered a 1994 VW Beetle  with “19,800 semi-precious stones (e.g., obsidian, jade) that form images of pyramids, animals, ancient deities (Quetzalcóatl [Feathered Serpent, Creator God] and the Mictlantecuhtli [God of the Underworld]).”  It is known as the Vocho Teotihuacano (Teotihuacán Beetle) and according to this article, he is finishing a Vocho Maya and is considering a Vocho Alebrije — the latter inspired by the wood carvers and painters of Oaxaca.  So, keep your eyes open!

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Ahhh… a return visit to Centro de las Artes de San Agustín in early December still resonates.  The CASA, a former spinning and weaving factory, was re-imagined by artist Francisco Toledo and architect Claudina Morales Lopez.  Now it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing spaces I’ve ever experienced.  But, why have I never before noticied this?

Inside and outside, seen in black and white or color, wherever one looks, the attention to detail and design strikes, delights, and often surprises.

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As with all of life, there are changes going on in Teotitlán del Valle.  A large new Cultural Center is nearing completion.  It’s courtesy of the federal government and, according to the sign at the construction site, not a peso is coming from the state or village.  From what I’ve been told, it will house the museum, a library, and a performance space.

And, with their final Danza de la Pluma performance on Día de Guadalupe (Dec. 12), the three-year commitment of the last Danzantes de Promesa group was at close.  The new group has already begun the demanding work of learning the steps of the 40+ dances that make up the Danza de la Pluma.

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Under the watchful eye of El Picacho, Moctezuma, Malinche, Doña Marina, Teotitles, Capitánes, Reyes, and Vasallos practice from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Saturday through Monday to be ready for their debut the first Wednesday in July 2016 during the festival of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  A major and meaningful commitment, it is.

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace
I’m going through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Changes by David Bowie (descansa en paz)

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She’s gone…

P1090814_copyAs feared, by order of the government, the beautiful and moving mural by Lapiztola, on the side of Museo Belber Jimenez, has been erased.

P1140922copyOnly her ghost remains.

P1140920 copyI miss her, too.  Color and culture, indeed, seem to be unwelcome.

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Yesterday, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle for the convite in honor of La Santísima Virgen María de la Natividad (the Sainted Virgin Mary of the Nativity).  Alas, from our point of view, the gods were not cooperating and it threatened to rain on the parade.  The sky surrounding the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Jesucristo was getting grayer and darker by the minute and professional and amateur photographers alike were challenged to some up with good shots.

Bell towerThe lovely and accomplished photographer, Luvia Lazo was going to march in the procession this time, but couldn’t resist pulling out her cell phone for a shot or two.  By the way, I recently learned that the earrings she is wearing are traditional and unique to Oaxaca and the design is known as, gusano (worm)!Luvia LazoSome of the Danzantes also whipped out their phones for some photos.  Their 3-year commitment ends in December and I suspect most want to savor these last performances.

P1130823And, then there was the daughter of friends and budding photographer, 12-year old Beatriz Ruiz.  Here she is setting up a shot.

P1130788Doesn’t she look professional?  She’s been traveling from Teoti into the city to take classes at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo for almost two years.  A photograph she took of her two kittens is currently part of a student exhibition at the museum and is included in the slideshow of photos on their website.  Blogger buddy Chris, who has known her since she was very young, has a very sweet blog post about Beatriz and her interest in photography.

Plastic covered canastasGiven the state of the corn crop, due to lack of rain during this rainy season, there have probably been many offerings and much praying to the gods Cocijo (lightning and rain) and Pitao Cozobi (maiz).  They won the day and the rains did come.  And we, being fair-weather fans, departed.  However, according to one of the Teotitlán del Valle Facebook sites, the show did go on!  We are returning today for the Danza de la Pluma and tonight’s fuegos artificiales (fireworks) and castillo.  Needless to say, we are keeping our fingers crossed!

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I walk past the Museo Belber Jimenez at least every other day and its brilliant blue walls always make me smile.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you can’t miss it!  In mid April, not long after undergoing a major renovation, a city bus lost control and crashed into the museum.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but the window, grating, and wall on the Tinoco y Palacio side of the museum were damaged.

By the time I left in mid May for the trip north, all had been repaired.  And then a few days before returning to Oaxaca, blog reader BJ wrote to tell me there was a “beautiful new mural” on the west wall of the museum.  She was right — it’s stunning and deeply moving.

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P1090808Muchisimas gracias to Museo Belber Jimenez for inviting Lapiztola to enhance the exterior of the museum and our lives with the beautiful mural and its message from Beti Cariño.

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The previously mentioned Tlacolulokos collective has brought their artistry and social commentary to a wall on the upper floor of the Casa de la Ciudad.  The mural, “Con el fuego en las manos” shows two young women, almost mirror images of each other or, perhaps, two sides of the same woman.

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The young women/woman wear the traditional clothing of San Bartolome Quialana, a village near Tlacolula de Matamoros, home of the Tlacolulokos collective.  Like communities throughout Oaxaca, much of the male population has migrated to the United States, in search of work leaving the women to carry on alone.

As the introduction to the exhibit on the Casa de la Ciudad website explains, With a critical view towards the current cultural context, Tlacolulokos group, headed by Darío Canul and Cosijoesa Cernas, seeks to question the idealized images of the Oaxacan culture, tourism product discourse, and insights from the reality currently experienced by the people of Oaxaca.

There are elements in her clothing belonging to the Latina culture of the southern United States, as the cholo bandana that she wears on her head, or the tattoos on her arms that add a critical and provocative tinge to this cultural mix, a product of migration.  [ Google translation, with a little help from yours truly]

One of the trademarks of  the Tlacolulokos group is the power their images acquire and the emotion they elicit by limiting the palette to black, white, and grays.  For more background and a better understanding of the mural, a video (en español) of the artists discussing their work can be found here.

“Con el fuego en las manos”  is scheduled to run until December 2015 at the Casa de la Ciudad (Porfirio Diaz No. 115, at the corner of Morelos in Oaxaca’s Historic District).  Hours are 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Sunday.

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Oaxaca is one of the most child friendly places you will ever visit.  Kids are welcome most everywhere — it’s part of the culture — and there is much for them to see and do, including El Quinto Sol, an archaeological museum for children.P1020037

I’ve been meaning to write about this colorful, yet hidden, gem since a friend and I discovered it in 2008 on an early Sunday morning ramble.  It was closed for remodeling, but we managed to peek in and vowed to return.

Of course, we didn’t write down the address or name, all I remembered was that it was somewhere south of the zócalo.  It took several expeditions once I moved to Oaxaca, before I found El Quinto Sol again.

According to the museum’s brochure, this delightful and educational museum was the brainchild of Oaxaqueño, Manuel Ramirez Salvador and first opened March 19, 2000 in order to teach, preserve, and appreciate the “great heritage bequeathed by our Mesoamerican ancestors.”

Not only a museum, there is also a fabulous “old school” toy store, El Cri-Cri, named for the “grillito cantor” (the singing cricket), a character created by the beloved Francisco Gabilondo Soler.  There are no plastic, battery-powered games and toys in sight and I guarantee those “of a certain age” will be reminiscing and exclaiming, “Ooh, I used to have one of these!” and “Ahh, I always wanted one of those!”

By all means, pay El Quinto Sol a visit — even if unaccompanied by a child.

Address:  Xicotencatl No. 706 (at the corner of La Noria)
Telephone:  951.514.3579
Hours:  Monday through Friday,  9:00 AM – 2:00 PM and 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Saturday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.  Closed on Sunday

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Last Monday, as I previously wrote, my bus ride home was rudely interrupted by a bloqueo (blockade).  Initially, this is how I felt…

Skeleton in robes painted on wall

Without any other options, I found myself walking along Calzada Madero.

Spider painted on railroad car

and found murals painted on old railroad cars…

Cat face painted on railroad car

in the yard of the old railroad station, now the Museo del Ferrocarril Mexicano del Sur.

3 creature faces big teeth painted on railroad car

By the time another bus finally came by, I felt much more like this…

Tranquil female face painted on side of building

Sighhh…  good ol’ Oaxaca, you just never know what you will stumble upon.

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Four days of non-stop sights, sounds, and adventures in Mexico City with my BFF is coming to a close.  So much to do and see, there’s been no time for blogging.  However, all my bags are packed and I have a few minutes…

Today, L and I ventured out to the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco, at the southern end of Mexico City.  The museum houses her extraordinary collection of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work (25 of her pieces and 145 of his), 6000 pre-Hispanic figurines and sculptures, exquisite Chinese ivory, porcelain, cloisonné and lacquer, along with other works of art and artesania.  The gardens of this former 16th century hacienda are beautifully landscaped and provide a tranquil escape from the big city.  And, they are home to a muster of peacocks.  I have no idea how many, but they seemed to be everywhere.

And that’s not all.  A pack of Xoloitzcuintles (Mexican hairless dogs) also reside on the grounds, seeming to “pose” for visitors; they especially like the Xolo sculpture in their part of the garden.  As anyone who has seen the dogs depicted in pre-Columbian figurines can see, their origins date long before the Spanish ever knew of the Americas. 

Museo Dolores Olmedo isn’t easy to get to — it took several metro lines, a train, and a bus to get us there and back — but it was well worth it!!!

Now back to Oaxaca for desfiles (parades), ferias, artesania, and Guelaguetzas.

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On Saturday, we drove to San Bartolo Coyotepec for the opening of the exhibition, Colorum, an exhibit of art by the children of Oaxaca, mounted as part of tomorrow’s el Día del Niño (Children’s Day) celebrations.  We went primarily to support my friend Juan, as his son Allan was one of the young artists participating in the show.  However, we stayed because it was a wonderfully inspiring and uplifting experience and I applaud the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) for encouraging and showcasing the imagination and creativity of the children of Oaxaca.

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What is given to children, the children will give to society.

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Children are the most important resource in the world and the best hope for the future.

The free imagination transforms the world and makes things fly.

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The Colorum exhibition lasts until May 20, 2014.  It is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Tuesday through Sunday.

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More from the Hecho en Oaxaca exhibit…

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The courtyard at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO)…

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Art is the tree of life.  — William Blake


					

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Another wall, courtesy of the Hecho en Oaxaca urban art project of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).  It reminds me of the John Mayer song,

Waiting on the World To Change

Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

Wall art of boy sitting

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It’s hard to beat the system
When we’re standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want

That’s why we’re waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It’s not that we don’t care,
We just know that the fight ain’t fair
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

And we’re still waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

~~~

But, then again, maybe he’s waiting to join the struggle to make the change…

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They say, “politics makes strange bedfellow.”  Rivers do too, as US, Mexico reach pact on Colorado River water sale.  Hopefully, Mexico isn’t getting the short end of the stick, like Southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District is accusing its SoCal neighbor, the Metropolitan Water District, of handing it.

Having grown up and spending most of my life in Northern California and suffering through a couple of major droughts that included water rationing, while water flowed south to fill LA’s swimming pools and water its lawns, the only answer to stave off the upcoming worldwide “water wars,” is the recognition that water is a precious resource that must be conserved and not wasted.

Hmmm… I wonder how these neighbors on the 500 block of Avenida Morelos get along?

Front of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista

Outside of vegetariano Flor de Loto restaurant

Sign on building, Mezcalería In Situ Torrentera

The mezcalería is the newest addition to the ‘hood and for some reason it tickled me that the vegetarian restaurant is the only thing standing between it and the Baptist church.

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I’ve been intending to post these photos for six months, but there has been so much going on in Oaxaca, I haven’t gotten around to it — until now.  This morning’s Guardian article, Trotsky’s murder remembered by grandson, 72 years on, caught my eye and I thought, if not today, when?  So, here goes…

When I was in Mexico City in January, I made somewhat of a pilgrimage out to the borough of Coyoacán.  Besides a lovely stroll through the Viveros de Coyoacán, being dazzled by the light and color of the Museo Frida Kahlo, and enjoying a delicious comida on the Plaza Hidalgo, I spent an incredibly moving three hours at the Museo Casa de Trotsky, the home, and now museum, of Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia Sedova.  However, before getting to the photos, a very brief bit of context is necessary.

Hounded all over the world by Joseph Stalin and his agents, in 1937 Trotsky and Natalia Sedova were offered asylum by Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas.  Trotsky’s orphaned grandson, Esteban Volkov (Seva), joined them not long after.  Seva narrowly escaped being murdered in his bed during the first attempt on Trotsky’s life in the Coyoacán house by Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros.  It was during this attack that Trotsky guard, Robert Sheldon Harte was killed.

The house at Avenida Viena 19 was further fortified, but Stalinist agent, Ramón Mercader, under an assumed name was able to infiltrate Trotsky’s inner circle and, on August 20, 1940, under the ruse of asking Trotsky to look at something he had written, attacked him with an ice axe.  Trotsky died in hospital a little more than 24 hours later.  His ashes and those of Natalia’s reside in the peaceful garden of the Coyoacán house in a monument, designed by Irish-Mexican painter and architect Juan O’Gorman, that proudly flies a red flag and features the overlapping hammer of the worker and the sickle of the peasant.  The house and furnishings remain much as they were 72 years ago, bullet holes from the first attack and all.

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The humanity expressed in the words below were felt as I wandered through the house and museum and I must admit, tears welled up as I stood before O’Gorman’s monument.

Trotsky’s Testament, dated 27 February 1940

My high (and still rising) blood pressure is deceiving those near me about my actual condition. I am active and able to work but the outcome is evidently near. These lines will be made public after my death.

I have no need to refute here once again the stupid and vile slanders of Stalin and his agents: there is not a single spot on my revolutionary honour. I have never entered, either directly or indirectly, into any behind-the-scenes agreements or even negotiations with the enemies of the working class. Thousands of Stalin’s opponents have fallen victims of similar false accusations. The new revolutionary generations will rehabilitate their political honour and deal with the Kremlin executioners according to their desserts.

I thank warmly the friends who remained loyal to me through the most difficult hours of my life. I do not name anyone in particular because I cannot name them all.

However, I consider myself justified in making an exception in the case of my companion, Natalia Ivanovna Sedova. In addition to the happiness of being a fighter for the cause of socialism, fate gave me the happiness of being her husband. During the almost forty years of our life together she remained an inexhaustible source of love, magnanimity, and tenderness. She underwent great sufferings, especially in the last period of our lives. But I find some comfort in the fact that she also knew days of happiness.

For forty-three years of my conscious life I have remained a revolutionist: for forty-two of them I have fought under the banner of Marxism. If I had to begin all over again I would of course try to avoid this or that mistake, but the main course of my life would remain unchanged. I shall die a proletarian revolutionary, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist, and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is not less ardent, indeed it is firmer today, than it was in the days of my youth.

Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.

For archives and bibliographies of Trotsky, the following two sites are about as comprehensive as one will find online:

Even if you are not interested in the politics, and especially if you are considering a visit to the museum, I highly recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s historical novel, The Lacuna, part of which takes place in Trotsky’s Mexican household and gives a flavor of life there.

By the way, the museum site (appropriately) houses the Instituto del Derecho de Asilo y las Libertades Públicas (Institute for the Right of Asylum and Public Liberties).  I wonder, are they are they working overtime these days?

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