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Archive for the ‘Parks & Plazas’ Category

Tuesday night, Kalisa and I ventured out on another vaccine reconnaissance mission and found the number of people planning to spend the night in line wasn’t nearly as long as the night before. Ruling out sleeping on the sidewalk, we agreed to give it a try early Wednesday morning.

Route to the vaccine.

We rendezvoused at 6:15 AM, set off to find the end of the line, discovered it was already a block and a half longer, reassured each other that we can do this, and joined the line. Armed with reading material, we set our stools down and prepared to wait for our first jab of the Pfizer vaccine. Eating wasn’t a problem, as vendors regularly came by with food and drink and Mercado IV Centenario was only a few steps away. As for the “call of nature,” public bathrooms are available at the Mercado and Jardín Socrates nearby and a few businesses along our route had signs reading, “Baños 5 pesos.”

7:33 AM – After 1 hour of waiting on Independencia.

We froze for the first 3 hours in the morning. The temperature was in the low 50s (Fahrenheit) and we both were wearing sandals, short sleeve cotton blouses, and only had cotton rebozos (shawls) to keep us warm. The vaccinations were scheduled to start at 8 AM but our line didn’t start moving until 11:30 AM. It turns out, they gave the people in line on Morelos a number when they stopped vaccinations at 5 PM the day before, so they got first priority, along with anyone in a wheelchair.

2:07 PM – Entering the Plaza de la Danza.

One of the enjoyable aspects of our ordeal was getting to know our neighbors in the queue. Like most, they were sons, daughters, and grandchildren holding places in line for elderly relatives. This is the ethos of Oaxaca! Once the sun rose above the buildings and began beating down on young and old, we all sweltered in 80+ degree (F) heat. Despite bringing sun hats, Kalisa and I succumbed to purchasing umbrellas from one of the vendors going up and down the line. Another enterprising vendor was selling plastic stools, but since we had brought our own, he ignored us.

2:32 PM – Post vaccination arrival in observation area.

Once the line actually started moving, it only took 2 hours to get to the Plaza de la Danza, where our paperwork was processed, we got the vaccine, waited in an observation area for 15 minutes, and then left for home. 7-1/2 hours, door to door.

2:44 PM – Post vaccination debriefing.

We were lucky, as they ran out of vaccine by 3:30 PM and Thursday’s vaccinations at the Plaza de la Danza were canceled. More is supposed to arrive, but no one knows when. As for our second dose, we were told they will announce via media when it will be offered AND promised to be better organized. Keep your fingers crossed!

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The headline in this morning’s newspaper read, “Without strategy to avoid crowds, vaccination against COVID-19 begins in Oaxaca.” Here in the greater Oaxaca de Juárez metropolitan area, there are 11 vaccination sites, distributing 23,090 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people over 60 years old who have registered on a federal government vaccine eligibility site. Because I am a Residente Permanente (official permanent resident), I also was able to register last month. The vaccinations are scheduled to be given today, tomorrow, and Thursday, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and my plan had been to walk over to the Plaza de la Danza, my designated site, at 7:30 this morning.

Given it’s only a block away, early last night my neighbor and I walked over to scope the set up out. Boy, were we in for a shock — masses of people already lined Avenida Morelos, the street leading to the Plaza de la Danza.

The young man above looking at his cell phone, sitting on a stool in front of the School of Fine Arts, was number one in line. He arrived at 8:00 AM yesterday — 24 hours early.

Looking at the photos, I’m sure you are thinking, those people in line are awfully young looking to be over 60 — and you would be correct.

The overwhelming majority of people who were camping out on the sidewalks of the city were holding places for their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and maybe even neighbors who were too old to spend the night on the streets.

The two guys in the foreground below were the last in the line on Galeana near Trujano at about 8:00 PM last night, though a couple more people were approaching as I was taking the photo.

The line snaked along at least six blocks. And, no, I did not join last night’s vigil. I will be patient, check the progress of the line a couple of times a day, and wait comfortably at home. According to a representative from Oaxaca’s Secretaría de Bienestar (Ministry of Welfare), there are enough doses for those registered and, should there be a need, they will get more. ¡Ojala!

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Real and imagined, fauna are alive and well in the city.

Hummingbirds, squirrels, and butterflies live, play, and love among the trees, dogs, humans, and on a utility box in Jardín Conzatti.

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The weather was picture perfect for the last Sunday of summer morning walk.

Looking across Jardín Conzatti.

Corner of Reforma and Jacobo Dalevuelta.

Mexican flag still flying above Teatro Macedonio Alcalá in honor of el mes de la patria.

And now, we welcome autumn.

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This morning, Oaxaca began mourning the loss of two of the Zócalo’s iconic and beloved Indian laurels. In less than 48 hours, two of these massive trees, planted between 1875 and 1885, had fallen. Unfortunately, in their untimely demise, they join several other Indian laurels shading the Zócalo and Alameda that have crashed to the ground in the past ten years.

Yellow caution tape at the entrance to the Alameda

The concern is there will be more — thus, today these public spaces have been closed to the public with yellow caution tape and police barring the entrances.

Standing water at the base of an Indian laurel tree on the Alameda.

Ostensibly, the high winds and torrential rain Oaxaca is currently experiencing caused the trees to topple. However, our stormy weather these days is only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Tending to the hole left by the Indian laurel that fell on Sept. 15, 2020 at the southwest corner of the Zócalo.

Several years ago, as we walked through the Zócalo and Alameda, I remember listening intently as the late artist and tree historian/savior Francisco Verástegui passionately described the indignities these trees had suffered, including disruption to their root systems when, in 2005, a governor attempted to remodel the Zócalo.

Status update at the northwest corner of the Zócalo.

Thankfully, a protest movement stopped that plan, but damage had already been done. What followed, among other things, was improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot — all of which contributed to the trees tumbling down.

Indian laurel that fell the evening of Sept. 17, 2020 on the southeast corner of the Zócalo.

And, it’s not only the trees in the Alameda and Zócalo. The director of the civil association Oaxaca Fértil estimates that 90% of the trees in the municipality of Oaxaca have been neglected, are diseased, and run the risk of collapsing. Let us hope that more of the historic trees that contribute to the beauty of Oaxaca can be saved and cared for in the way they deserve.

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Sunday morning’s walk found empty streets…

Looking south on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Looking north on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Closed parks…

Jardín Conzatti.

“Parque Cerrado” – Parque Juarez El Llano.

And, beauty.

Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo seen from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Flamboyant trees from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Yesterday, there were 25 new Covid-19 cases in the state of Oaxaca, including the first two in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

 

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Yesterday, with a fair degree of trepidation, I ventured out onto the streets of Oaxaca. Even during these times of coronavirus, a gal has to eat, thus a trip to Mercado Benito Juárez could no longer be put off. Unfortunately, I got a late start and didn’t leave until almost 10:30 AM but, happily, my first observation was that traffic was much lighter.

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Walking east on Av. Morelos

However, much to my dismay the zócalo was lined with food and vendor stalls and continues to be occupied with a plantón in front of the Government Palace. This, after a caravan of municipal police trucks mounted with loudspeakers plied the streets on Monday advising people not to gather in groups, to maintain “sana distancia” (healthy distancing), and to try to stay home.

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Protest encampment in the zócalo

I walked through, trying to avoid coming within a meter of anyone and making a beeline toward the market. An aside: Afternoon temperatures continue to hover around 90º F and, yes, the sky is that blue!

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Facing south on Calle Flores Magón

I turned right on Las Casas and discovered cleaners power washing the sidewalk in front of Mercado Benito Juárez.

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Trying not to get wet, I ducked inside the unusually quiet market.

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Main aisle just inside Mercado Benito Juárez

I quickly made my rounds: Almita’s for pecans, my favorite poultry stall for chicken thighs, and my fruit and vegetable stand for avocados and carrots. Though the market was less crowded than usual, the aisles are narrow making it nearly impossible to maintain “sana distancia” and so I cut my trip short.

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Looking west on Calle Valerio Trujano

Avoiding the zócalo, I headed for home. I think I’m going to skip Mercado Benito Juárez (except for Mario, my coffee bean guy) for the duration and limit my shopping to the smaller Mercado Sánchez Pascuas up the hill and perhaps begin patronizing the people who sell produce from their truck on Monday and Thursday mornings just a block away. We are living in the days of making adjustments…

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They came, they saw, they styled, and they carried flowers!  This past Friday, it was the turn of Prepatoria No. 6 to continue the “only in Oaxaca tradition” of Viernes del Llano — aka, Paseo Juárez el Llano or Paseo de los Viernes de Cuaresma.

For the first five Friday mornings of Lent, young women in their second, fourth, and sixth semesters at the prepatorias (grades 10-12 in the USA) of the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), circle the statue of Benito Juárez in Llano Park, collecting bouquets of flowers, in this 45-year old tradition that traces its origin back to the nineteenth century — some say, even further.

There seemed to be a record number of young women this week — at least 30 — being cheered on by their families and home room supporters and ably assisted by their male flower-carriers.

Yes, there are winners in various categories (I think, largest number of flowers collected, most photogenic, best social media, and one or two others) and an overall “Madrina del Viernes” (Godmother of Friday) is chosen.  However, all seem to leave in great spirits — and blogger buddy Chris has even spotted a few down at the local salón de billar shooting a little pool later in the morning.

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If you’ve been to Oaxaca, you have probably gazed up at the palms along Constitución next to Santo Domingo — an area known as Jardín del Pañuelito.  In early 2012, color changing mood lighting was added to illuminate the trees.

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However, last Thursday, on my way to the Oaxaca Lending Library, I noticed something was amiss; fronds had been removed from the tops of two of the palm trees.

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Saturday, the image was more ominous; one of the denuded palms was missing and crowds were focused on another.

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Most everyone had their cell phone cameras out, aimed aloft.  And then…

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Timberrrr!!!  Down it went, amidst oohs and aahs.  Then the soundtrack turned to the buzz of chainsaws, as workmen began cutting the trunk into manageable pieces.

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Sad…  I know about the where and how, but I’m not sure about the who, what, and why.

 

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Friday morning I returned to Llano Park for this year’s fifth and final Viernes del Llano, an only in Oaxaca Lenten tradition sponsored by the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca.  A few weeks ago, when I arrived at 8:30 AM, the crowds were already four deep and, initially, I couldn’t get anywhere close to the action.  Not wanting a repeat, this week I got there at 8:00 AM to discover not many people and preparations just beginning.  Looking for something to find, I came across Litzy, one of the 18 contestants having her makeup applied.

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Like most of the young women, Litzy wasn’t alone.  A team of industrious and enthusiastic supporters were there before, during, and after to help, wave banners and balloons, and cheer as she passed by.

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Like the other contestants, she was presented with bouquets upon bouquets of flowers — way too many for one person to carry.  Thus, a team of her admirers was required to follow along to assist.IMG_0755

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The time came for the winners to be announced:  Five young women were recognized for their efforts and dedication, two for their truncheon(?) and organization of their groups, another for her eloquence, and another was named Miss Photogenic.  But, what about Litzy?  The suspense continued to build as the announcer spoke and paused and spoke and paused and then the name, Litzy Guadalupe González Montes was announced as the Madrina del Quinto Viernes del Llano!P1170423

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Felicidades to a lovely and very gracious young woman.  It was a pleasure to briefly tag along on her journey.

(ps)  Chris has more photos from this week at Viernes del Llano – Beauty abounds.

 

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Viernes del Llano, where young hip Oaxaqueños and flowers, music, and tradition meet.

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The five Friday mornings following Ash Wednesday, Llano Park is the place to be.  For early risers, only — by 9:30 AM, it’s all over but the clean-up.

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Basketball is big right now in the San Francisco Bay Area; as I write the Golden State Warriors are 35 and 2 and a new, albeit controversial, 18,000 seat arena is in the works.  But, I’ll bet it won’t have views like these…

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Unlike in wider mestizo Mexico, where soccer reigns supreme, in the Sierra basketball is king. The sport was introduced in the 1930s by president Lazaro Cardenas as a way to bring Oaxaca’s disparate and historically rebellious indigenous groups into the national fold.

Cardenas’ dream of a unified national identity didn’t take root in the Sierra, which has historically been isolated and impoverished, but basketball soon became tied to the region’s most significan traditions, and to indigenous identity itself.  — Jorge Santiago

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One of several canchas de baloncesto (basketball courts) in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

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Tuesday morning, from the plaza in front of the Basilica de la Soledad, the sound of speeches, music, and explosions announced Día del Barrendero — a day celebrating the founding of the Sindicato Independiente 3 de Marzo.  These are the street sweepers, garbage collectors, and laborers of Oaxaca.

Earlier in the morning, a procession brought union members, their families, and friends from Cinco Señores to the Basílica, where a special mass was celebrated to honor the patron saint of Oaxaca, la Virgen de la Soledad.  Raul, a lifelong street sweeper whose work day begins at 3 AM, is quoted as explaining, “We have to thank our mother, the Virgin of Soledad, for the blessings every day gives us.”

March 3rd — brought to you by the gals and guys who keep the city clean.

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Fridays during Lent must mean the “only in Oaxaca,” Paseos Florales del Llano or Viernes del Llano, the Friday pageant through Llano Park by young female preparatoria (high school) students and their spear, oops, I mean flower, carriers.

Some will teeter on spiky heels (tacones, en español); others will opt for the less sexy, safer, maybe even edgy, and definitely more comfortable “flats” look.

According to this article, there was a tradition in Oaxaca to pay homage to women — to honor them for the important role they play in the support of the family.  The ritual died out, but was resurrected in the seventies by the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO) to recover religious and family values.  And so, for five Friday mornings during Lent, action in Oaxaca centers in Llano Park.  Along with the young women, there will be fans…

and bands…

Monos and clowns.

But the stars of the show are the young women; this Friday from Preparatoria 6.  They ranged from the natural to the glamorous.

There are winners — I think based on the number of flowers they collect from their friends, families, and fans.  However, in what seems to be a popularity contest, there is joy and sisterhood expressed by all; that is where their beauty shines through.

If you are in Oaxaca, or will be in Oaxaca in the next few weeks, check it out for yourself.

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Please note, the early start!  I arrived around 8:15 AM and, unlike previous years, couldn’t get close to the paseo.  Chris at Oaxaca-The Year After rolled in at 9 AM and it was all over but the posing, departures, and detritus.

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February 2, besides being Groundhog Day in the USA, is Candelaria in Mexico.  And so, late Monday morning, I went in search of Niño Díos.  None was to be found in the vicinity of the Cathedral.  Only the traditional red huipiles of the female Triqui members of MULT caught my eye.

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I continued my quest, heading up to Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.  However, as I walked through Llano park, no one was carrying a Niño Díos, dressed in this year’s finery, to the church to be blessed.  Only a giant red horse sculpture by Oaxaqueño artist, Fernando Andriacci (and its red feedbag?) was there to see.

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I turned west and headed for home, hoping I might possibly spot a Niño Díos as I passed Templo del Carmen Alto.   But no, only a red-shirted water delivery man caught my eye.

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Funny, if we allow ourselves to see things as they are and not as how we expect them to be, we can return home with something completely different and delightful from what we had set out to find.

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