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Barrio de Jalatlaco played host to an invasion of tunas a few weeks ago. No, not the smelly fish or succulent cactus fruit. These were of the 13th century strolling university musician variety. The tradition of Tuna bands originated in Spain and Portugal, spread to Latin American, and remain alive and well in Oaxaca. Thus, the Tunas from the Universidad Regional del Sureste (URSE), one of four groups participating in the Barrio’s first Callejoneada, gathered on my block.

They serenaded the neighborhood.

We followed these pied pipers.

How could we not, with exuberant ballads like this?

Tuna de la URSE came, we saw, and two days ago they conquered La Tuna de Montes de Madrid (Spain) and La Tuna de Derecho de San Martín de Porres (Peru) — winning the Gran Final Internacional de Tunas Universitarias competition. ¡Felicidades!

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Returning home from the trip to el norte, I discovered an animal crossing in the works near my local Pitico.

Thanks to the artist, Waffloide, it’s a jungle out there!

Now I can’t get The Lion Sleeps Tonight out of my head.

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Meet The Beatles in a Beetle! You just never know what you will see on the streets of Oaxaca.

Now I can’t get, “Drive My Car” out of my head!

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It’s the night before Christmas and the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco are aglow with Christmas lights.

My little Christmas tree is decorated with earrings, necklaces, and tiny alebrije. Beneath the tree stands my miniature nacimiento (nativity scene) woven of palm fronds in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca.

In keeping with my blog’s Noche Buena tradition, a new interpretation of Pancho Claus — with the generous permission of the authors.

La Noche Before Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring, My goodness! ¿Qué pasa?
The children were all tucked away in their camas,
The girls in their sleepers, the boys in piyamas.

The stockings were hung, with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado,
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
Muchísimo candy, and other regalos.

When out in the yard there arose tanto grito,
That I jumped to my feet like a scaredy-gatito.
I ran to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?

Saint Nick on his sleigh in a big red sombrero,
Came dashing toward me like a loco bombero.
And pulling his sleigh, instead of venados,
Were eight little burros venir-ing volados!

I watched as they came and this kindhearted hombre,
Was whistling and shouting and calling por nombre:
“¡Ay Pancho, ay Cisco, ay Chuy, ay Flaco!”
“¡Ay Bella, Estrella, Chiquita y Paco!”

Then he jumped off his sleigh with his hands on his pecho,
After landing on top of our very own techo.
And struggling to squeeze down our old chimenea,
He bounced off the hearth like a bowl of jalea.

Now huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his vestido de gala,
He filled all the stockings with buenos regalos,
For none of the niños had been muy malos.

Then chuckling aloud feeling muy contento,
He turned in a flash and was gone like el viento.
And I heard him exclaim, y es la verdad,
“Merry Christmas to all, y ¡Feliz Navidad!”

***Inspired by the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore, 1822, and by the original song and lyrics “Pancho Claus” by Lalo Guerrero, 1956 (with permission from the estate of Lalo Guerrero). Conceived of and written as “The Noche Before Christmas”, (date/author/copyright uncertain, c. 1956-2001?). This revision by Bill Stryker and Norma Verdugo Stryker, 2019 (Copyright Registration Number TXu002156234).

Wishing one and all peace, joy, and health. !Felices fiestas!

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I’m in el norte visiting family, getting my Pfizer booster, and seeing friends. Today, it’s chilly and grey, so I’m letting the crystals I hung in the new Casita Colibrí’s entry window cast their magic.

In morning, as the sun pours in, they paint rainbows all over my home.

And, I’m singing along to the John Sebastian tune, I’ll Paint Rainbows All Over Your Blues. (Click the YouTube link, it will make you smile.)

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Yesterday morning a new day dawned and my first night blooming cereus flower of the season greeted me.

Today marks 21 days since my first Pfizer vaccine, yet the date, time, and place of my second vaccination is still unknown. However, during these challenging times, I’m channeling Nina Simone singing, Feeling Good.

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea you know how I feel
River running free you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree you know how I feel

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done
That’s what I mean

And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me

Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

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Poinsettia, also known as Nochebuena

While there may be no life-size nacimiento (Nativity scene) or towering Christmas tree standing in Oaxaca’s zócalo this year, mine in miniature have been retrieved from the storage closet and sit atop the sideboard of my great room.

In this challenging holiday season, may this newly remastered version of “Pancho Claus” by Chicano musical legend Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero and sung by Irma Garza bring you a chuckle or two on this Christmas Eve — known in Mexico as Nochebuena.

Pancho Claus

‘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 and played “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”

Even my Olive tree is decorated with ubiquitous tin ornaments

From my home to yours, I wish you good health and Felices Fiestas!

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Hey little Cobra, is that really you in front of Santo Domingo?

Not the usual set of wheels seen on the streets of Oaxaca and neither are these (click images to enlarge).

The Bash Road Tour has roared into town with 50 high performance cars and unlike the above referenced song, this is not a car race.

According to organizers, it’s about coming together and enjoying the beauty of the cars and Mexico for the five days of the tour. They departed from Aguascalientes on September 20, day two they stopped in San Miguel de Allende, day three took them to Puebla, today they are in Oaxaca city, and tomorrow the tour concludes on Oaxaca’s coast in Bahías de Huatulco.

And check out the leader of the pack (above). It’s a Mexican made Mastretta, spectacularly painted by Oaxaca’s own Jacobo and María Ángeles of San Martín Tilcajete, and sponsored by Grupo Amantes whose mezcal making is centered in Tlacolula de Matamoros — an amazing sight brightening this grey day. Now if I can just get “Hey Little Cobra” to stop playing in my head!

h/t: A & C

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From the walls of Oaxaca… mural by artist Efdot.

To the streets of the USA… music and lament by singer-songwriter Alex Call.

The message is the same.

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I fell in love with Oaxaca the first time I saw her when visiting a friend in 2007.  The city was teeming with energy and color and I felt embraced by its welcoming warmth. The day after my arrival, the sounds of Trío Santo Domingo drew us down to the zócalo on a balmy August evening. I was captivated by the melodies, guitars, and harmonies of the boleros they played. I bought their CD  and discovered many of my favorites were written by beloved Mexican composer and Oaxaqueño, Álvaro Carrillo AlarcónSabor a Mí, El Andariego, Luz de Luna, Un Poco Más, Amor Mío, and so many more. His music captured my heart and continues to nourish my soul.

Bust of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón in Oaxaca’s Jardín Carbajal includes lyrics from “Sabor a Mí”

Thus, two months ago, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a concert honoring the musical legacy and celebrating the 100th birthday of Álvaro Carrillo Alarcón. The performers paying tribute to him were among Mexico’s most loved and were accompanied by a full orchestra and the guitars and harmonies of Trío Los Panchos. They did not disappoint!

In addition to the above singers, Jean Venegas and Álvaro Carrillo’s sons, Mario Carrillo and Álvaro Carrillo Jr., also performed. Young and old, the audience sang along the entire night and more than a few tears were shed — for lost loves, fond memories, and pride in their native son. Álvaro Carrillo died tragically in a car accident at the age of 47 but new generations continue to rediscover and cover his songs and, thanks to the internet, we can hear from the man, himself.

Oaxaca, you had me at Sabor a Mí.

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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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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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A mural celebrating the life and music of composer and violinist Macedonio Alcalá has joined a bust of fellow Oaxaqueño composer Álvaro Carillo in the Jardín Carbajal (Macedonio Alcalá at Cosijopi).  The mural by Uriel Barragán (Bouler) was unveiled August 22, 2019 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death Macedonio Alcalá. The composer is best known for his piece, “Dios nunca muere” (God Never Dies) — a song that has become Oaxaca’s unofficial anthem and provided the artist with the theme of the mural.

Mural of composer Macedonio Alcalá

According to one legend: While Macedonio Alcalá was convalescing from a serious illness, he was visited by a group of indigenous people from Tlacolula de Matamoros, who asked him to compose a waltz for their festival of the Virgen de la Asunción. Subsequently, the flutist José Maqueo went to see him, and noticing the poverty stricken situation of Macedonio Alcalá, without him noticing Maqueo left twelve pesos under the pillow. The next day the composer found the money and told his wife: “Look, God never dies, always comforts the afflicted,” and he immediately began writing “Dios nunca muere.”

Whether it’s true or not, it’s a lovely story to accompany a lovely waltz.

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Oaxaca is filling with tourists as “Julio, Mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) is upon us — a time when Oaxaca recognizes and celebrates the sixteen indigenous groups whose languages, traditions, and rich cultures long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (both military and religious) and permeate the character of the state.

San Francisco Sola delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Every year more parades, food and artisan fairs, concerts, and regional Guelaguetzas are added.  Drawing both foreigners and nationals, it has become THE major tourist attraction for Oaxaca. [Click on images to enlarge]

While the streets are filled with a party atmosphere and those who can afford the high-priced tickets are treated to a true spectacle — fabulous views, colorful costumes, music and dance — people question how the indigenous communities (over 50% of the state’s population and some of its poorest) actually benefit.

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec delegation – Guelaguetza July 21, 2018 desfile

The dancers are not professional dancers, are not paid to perform, and most must travel from villages hours and hours away.

Guelaguetza1AM

July 22, 2018 morning

Guelaguetza1PM

July 22, 2018 evening

They do it for the love of their villages, pride in their heritage, and to share a little of their traditions with the world outside their communities — and I can’t help but be swept along in the joy and moved by their dedication.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Genoveva Medina delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

To support their communities, I strongly recommend you do your shopping at the craft fairs in the city and visit the indigenous villages — buy directly from the artisans or shops that can show provenance.

Guelaguetza2AM

July 29, 2019 morning

Guelaguetza2PM

July 29, 2019 evening

The above four Guelaguetza performances, along with Donají, La Leyenda (tragic legend of the love between a Zapotec princess and a Mixtec prince — it doesn’t end well, but her face graces the official shield of the city of Oaxaca de Juárez) are usually shown live on CORTV — both on their television station and their YouTube channel.

Putla Villa de Guerrero delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Friends are arriving and my calendar is rapidly filling. Perhaps I’ll run into you at a regional Guelaguetza, at one of the desfiles in the city, the Festival de los Moles, the Feria de Hongos Silvestres in Cuajimoloyas, the Expo Feria Artesanal, the Feria del Tejate y Tamal, or at any one of the scores of other events happening here in July!

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Even if you’re dreaming of sitting on a beach with a book and glass of wine in hand, there are reminders that one hundred years ago, on April 10, 1919, Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata was assassinated.

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In southern Mexico, in the words of Lila Downs, Zapata Se Queda (Zapata Stays) and remains a beloved martyr who continues to inspire.

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And, to remind all to never forget, and continue the struggle.  The cry of “not one more” echos from the streets.

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Mural on the wall of Taller-Galeria Siqueiros on Calle Porfirio Díaz.

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