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A foodie blog post is overdue and so I present to you, Oaxaca Eats Food Tours, the brainchild of Kay and Dean Michaels.  Loving and appreciating Oaxaca and wanting to share it, they saw a niche and proceeded to fill it beginning in August 2018.  The goals that guide their enterprise are:

  • Share the gastronomic richness of Oaxaca with people from all over the world
  • Hire local tour coordinators and support businesses passionate about their culture and cuisine
  • Give back to the community through charitable donations

And so, a few weeks ago, I joined several others at the designated gathering spot (in our case, in front of the now departed OAXACA sign across from Santo Domingo) where Dean and Kay greeted us, introduced the tour guides and presented us with our “Tour Activity Sheet” that included an itinerary listing the restaurants we would be visiting and the dishes they would be offering — very handy for this blogger, when reconstructing the day.

Our first stop (if you don’t count a brief visit to a nearby cart for a few whet-your-whistle sips of tejate in keepsake small traditionally painted red jícara cups) was the rooftop terrace of Mezquite Gastronomía, a restaurant that has become one of my favorites of late.

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Botana Oaxaqueña – guacamole, chapulines, quesillo, queso fresco, pico del gallo, chicken taquito, cecina, tesajo, chorizo, quesadilla, memela

Upon our arrival, a tall glass of fresh squeezed orange agua fresca, a platter filled with traditional Oaxacan appetizers, and a refreshing mezcal cocktail was set before each of us.  Our waiter described each item and its preparation, while our tour coordinators translated and, during the meal, added a little history and a few anecdotes of their own, and answered any and all questions.  They were a font of knowledge.

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Perro Oaxaqueño – mezcal cocktail featuring grapefruit

Next on the tour’s itinerary was Los Danzantes, another restaurant I have been to many times.  However, one of the fun parts of Oaxaca Eats, is tasting menu items you have never before ordered — because there are already too many dishes that sound delicious.  In this case for me, tuna with a sesame tostadito and quesillo and queso wrapped in a hierba santa leaf.

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Quesillo and queso in a hierba santa leaf

Besides a vaso veladora of one of the restaurant’s tasty mezcals, we were also served a Zegacola, a locally made artisanal alternative cola beverage.  While I’m not a fan of soft drinks, this wasn’t nearly as cloying, actually had some flavor, and didn’t leave the impression it could remove the rust from a junkyard car.

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Tall glass of Zegacola next to a vaso veladora of mezcal

Our third stop was at a restaurant I have never before been to, though I pass by it frequently — the Centro Histórico branch of Tierra del Sol.  It was here that the preparation became a participatory event.  We were presented with tray containing a score of ingredients and instructed to choose those that were to be made into our salsa.  I suspect there were no bad choices or combinations!

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Table side grinding chiles in a molcajete for our salsa

In addition to the delicious, though a bit picante, salsa we had created, we were served a tetela filled with beans, chile, and an avocado leaf, along with three different moles, oh my!  And there was an agua fresca of guanábana, a mezcal cocktail with pineapple and celery, AND two copitas (yes, two!) of mezcal — an espadín and a tobalá — from the palenque of maestra (yes, a woman!) Berta Vázquez in San Baltazar Chichicapam.

Mole Mixteco with chicken, Huachimole with pork, and Mole de Laurel with beef

Are you full?  Sorry, there was more!  A several block walk took us up to Don Juanito Taquería and Pozolería.  By this time, we, too, were looking at each other in wide-eyed wonder and asking, could we possibly eat any more?  But we could and we did.  Besides, who could resist Doña Epifania’s charm and tales of the restaurant’s long history (since 1966).

Epifania Albino Robles, wife of owner Felix Leoza, explaining Don Juanito’s history and the preparation of each plate

Did I mention, it was a very hot day?  I can’t begin to describe how refreshing the agua fresca of pineapple and hierba buena was!  As if we hadn’t already eaten enough, in addition to tostaditos with guacamole and red and green salsas, we were served a beef tostada, beef taco al vapor, and their renown pozole.

Pozole (beef and pork) de la Casa

Believe it or not, it still wasn’t time to part company.  Our final destination was Cafébre, where a self-described coffee geek regaled us with her coffee knowledge and enthusiasm, all the while brewing coffee to exacting specifications — cup one using a Melitta filter pour-over technique and cup two using an AeroPress plunger-like device.  I think we were all seriously surprised at how the taste of the same coffee beans could vary so much depending on the brewing technique.

Brewing coffee using Melitta filter technique

The sweetness of the day was sealed with a creamy maracuyá flavored cheese cake which, as unbelievable as it sounds, we all finished.  By this time, Kay and Dean had rejoined us, we lingered, and then finally said our thank you’s and farewells and waddled back to our respective homes and hotels — sated and sleepy.  Four hours of delicious dining is exhausting!!!

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Yesterday, Mexico celebrated el Día del Artesano (Day of the Artisan).  Alas, I’m a day late in recognizing the men and women whose artistry in carrying on traditions and renewing and enriching them with their own creative spirit contributes to Oaxaca’s vibrant cultural life and economy.  However, the entire month of March has been designated “month of the artisan,” so here are several of the artesanas and artesanos who I have had the honor and joy of knowing and visiting over the past year.

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Emilia Gonzalez, wool spinning and dying in Teotitlán del Valle

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Juan Manuel García Esperanza, silver filigree, Ciudad de Oaxaca

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Carrizo basket maker from San Juan Guelavía

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Barro rojo (red clay) potters from San Marcos Tlapazola

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Mural painters in San Martín Tilcajete

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Weaver from Santo Tomás Jalieza

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Eligio Zárate, potter, Santa María Atzompa

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Jesús Sosa Calvo, wood carver and painter, San Martín Tilcaje

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Seamstress, embroiderer, crocheter, Sra. Gutiérrez from Teotitlán del Valle

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Don Luís, weaver, Ciudad de Oaxaca

A very special thank you to Don Luís, whose weaving studio shares a wall with my apartment and I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing most every day.  The rhythmic sounds of his loom are one of the songs on the soundtrack of my Oaxaca life.

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The devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe captured the imagination of fiber artist Linda Hanna when, as an early teen, she visited Mexico with her family and saw believers crawling on their knees up to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Blouse by Teresa Silvia Tzintzun, San Pedro Zipiajo, Michoacán (Purepecha).

Detail of blouse by Teresa Silvia Tzintzun, San Pedro Zipiajo, Michoacán (Purepecha).

The Virgin’s appeal continued to deepen when Linda moved to Oaxaca in 1997.  Thus the seeds/threads of the exhibition, “Rosas y Revelaciones: Homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe by Mexican Textile Artists” were sown/sewn.

Blouse by Marcolina Salvador Hidalgo, Chachahuantla, Puebla (Nahua).

Detail of blouse by Marcolina Salvador Hidalgo, Chachahuantla, Puebla (Nahua).

The legend of La Virgen de Guadalupe is known to every Mexican, every person of Mexican descent, and probably every foreigner who calls Mexico home.  The image of this dark-skinned Virgin who spoke Náhuatl is as imprinted on the national consciousness as she was on Juan Diego’s legendary tilma (cloak).

Dress by María Guadalupe Santiago Sánchez, San Antonino Castillo Velazco, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Detail of dress by María Guadalupe Santiago Sánchez, San Antonino Castillo Velazco, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Her image has continued to appear on cloth, albeit with human, not divine, intervention.  Both Father Miguel Hidalgo in the Mexican War of Independence and Emiliano Zapata, one hundred years later, during the Mexican Revolution, led their troops under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Man’s tunic by Pascuala Vásquez Hernández, Zinacatán, Chiapas (Tzotzil, Maya).

Shawl by Adolfo García Díaz & Delvina Salinas Cruz, Tenancingo, Estado de México.

The Rosas y Revelaciones textile exhibition presents work from 52 communities in ten states in Mexico (Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxacala, and Yucatán) — with the majority being from Oaxaca.

Apron by Valeria García Hernández, San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Detail of apron by Valeria García Hernández, San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

Linda explained that she gave the artists free rein to let their imagination and expertise be their guide. I suspect these words by Guadalupe Ángela, from her poem, “Virgen de la Creación” (Madonna of Creation) composed for the exhibition, echo their prayers for inspiration and guidance:

Madonna of Creation
pull the image from me, the beauty.
Make it cedar, make it textile, make it
a landscape.  May the needle and thread be touched
by you.

Ruana by Erasto (Tito) Mendoza Ruiz, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca (Zapoteco).

When you go, be sure to take the time to watch the video interviews with some of the artisans — the seriousness, devotion, and honor they felt at being selected to participate in this incredibly special project is extremely moving.  The show is currently at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO) (closed on Mondays) in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca and runs through March 17, 2019 (extended until April 28, 2019) — after which it will be prepared to tour.  Its first stop will be at the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares in Coyocán, Mexico City — in time for Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12, 2019.

(ps)  Linda is hoping the exhibition will develop wings and fly throughout Mexico and eventually to the USA.  If you have contacts in the museum world who might be interested in hosting this exhibition, please be sure to contact Linda.

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When I’m in el norte, I usually turn down invitations to eat at Mexican restaurants.  However, over the years, I’ve learned to follow the advice of the late great Nat King Cole and “I’ll never say ‘never again’ again.”  Thus, last month, on a stormy Friday at the height of northbound commute traffic, my stepson, his wife, and I ventured up to Yountville, in the heart of Northern California’s wine country, to try out La Calenda, the newly opened Oaxaca inspired restaurant by Michelin star chef Thomas Keller.

I admit, I was extremely leery of this project when I first learned of it.  In fact, upon reading an article in the SF Chronicle, I wrote on Facebook,  “Hmmm… How about using his celebrity and empire to help finance one of the numerous talented Oaxacan chefs to open a Oaxacan restaurant in Yountville?”  Little did I know that Keller had made inquiries in Oaxaca and wound up hiring Kaelin Trilling as the executive chef.  Kaelin is the born-and-raised-in-Oaxaca son of cookbook author, cooking instructor, and Oaxaca resident, Susana Trilling.  A good start and so I jumped at the chance to give it a try.

Flavorful and picante salsas, fresh guacamole, and crispy warm totopos.

The menu features traditional Oaxacan cuisine, but also includes nods to other regions of Mexico.  I have to say, they had me at the tortillas!

Tacos al Pastor – a Lebanese-Mexican dish that has become traditional in Central Mexico.

Sourcing corn from Mexico and nixtamalizing it on-site, the blue corn tortillas, handmade and hot off the comal, brought me right back to Oaxaca.

Tacos de carnitas – pork, cilantro, onions, with a squeeze or two of lime.

Oh, and did I mention the black mole?  Silky smooth, with the rich complex flavors I have come to love and appreciate.  Though we didn’t order the braised beef cheek in mole chichilo, we asked for a taste, which was promptly provided.  I explained to my family that this Oaxacan mole is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  It is only served on special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, and when the crops have been harvested, etc.  It was delicious and, as they should be, the flavors were multilayered.  Next time…

Pollo (chicken) in mole negro.

Everything on the menu tempted us and we ordered way more food than I thought we could possibly eat — but it was so good, we did!  (Photos are only a sample of what the three of us tucked into.)  And, the mezcal cocktails we ordered certainly got the evening off to a delightful start!

Traditional flan with caramel sauce — creamy, smooth, and divine!

When we went to La Calenda, I was nearing the end of a month-long visit in el norte and the sight of barro rojo (red clay) bowls from Oaxaca and glassware from Xaquixe Glass (the same glasses that sit on my Casita Colibrí kitchen shelf), along with the smells and flavors, had tears welling up, as a wave of homesickness came over me.  But, then it passed and the joy of feeling “at home” even in Yountville, California set in.  And, more good news:  The prices, were extremely reasonable for the quality and location — in the ballpark of upscale restaurants in Oaxaca, as opposed to upscale in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Seeing stars at the entrance to La Calenda.

(ps)  Though I’ve had this blog post in the hopper for a few weeks (ever since my return to Oaxaca), it was the recent article by food writer, Cristina Potters, The Traditional Mexican Kitchen :: Is It Authentic, or What?, that prompted me to finish and post it.  La Calenda can definitely be described as having its roots in the traditional.

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On November 30, I went to the opening of the Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) — an innovative collaboration that paired thirteen visual artists from the USA and France with thirteen local artisan families.  It was a fabulous and jam-packed event infused with the energy of conversation and creativity.  Unfortunately, with so many people in attendance, seeing the art was challenging and I vowed to return.

Running into weaver Antonio Lazo Hernández, brother-in-law of Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras, when I was in Teotitlán del Valle for the first day of the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities, gave me the nudge I needed to make time to actually see the show before leaving for my el norte trip.  At the opening, I hadn’t even realized that Porfirio and his family (Antonio, Juana Gutiérrez Contreras, and Javier Lazo Gutiérrez) had been paired with Peter Liashkov to create a piece for the exhibition.

“The ability to leap freely about our imagery without any constraints” — Peter Liashkov

Their collaboration explored the story of the Danza de la Pluma — linking images of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 danzantes to symbols used in the dance.  They even incorporated the well-worn sandals of the dancers.

 

I couldn’t help thinking of the poem, Judge Softly, urging us all to,

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

“From the dialogue between our two cultures, we were able to make the references to diversification and syncretism visible, where there is always a cultural responsibility joined with a tragic story… something tragic for some and good for others… it produces new dialogues” — Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras

Bajo la bóveda azul cobalto/Under the Cobalt Blue Sky runs through the end of February.  There are twelve other amazing collaborations that demonstrate “what can happen when we accept our differences and our similarities; it is an example of coexistence under the same blanket of stars.”  If you are in town, it is a show not to be missed.

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Monday afternoon, in the middle of a fiesta at the home of Danza de la Pluma danzante Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez, a torrential downpour came to Teotitlán del Valle.

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As I’ve mentioned, rain has been scarce this rainy season — a serious situation for a community that relies on subsistence farming.

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So, despite the fact that the dirt road in front of the house became a muddy rushing river and festivities had to be put on hold for awhile as rain blew in through openings in the tented patio, this deluge was good news and people were smiling.

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Everyone, including Juan Pablo, waited patiently for the life-giving rain to let up.

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It eventually did and he was able to dance.

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On a wet patio, surrounded by 100+ proud family members, fellow danzantes, and guests, he performed his solo dance.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I felt so incredibly honored to have been invited.  It was a truly memorable experience that we will treasure always.  Muchisimas gracias to Juan and his family and all the members of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-18 for being so warm and welcoming to us over the past couple of years.  We are going to miss you!

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At the risk of alienating readers who were drooling with envy over yesterday’s Chiles en nogada post, I bring you today’s lunch.  This time I was dining with friends, which makes already delicious food taste even better.

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Tres cocinera (3 cooks): Celia Florian, Carina Santiago, Kalisa Wells

Comida at Las Quince Letras where mis amigas Carina Santiago of restaurant and gallery Tierra Antigua in Teotitlán del Valle, Kalisa Wells (cocinera and new neighbor), and I were joined by the restaurant’s delightful owner/chef and ambassador extraordinaire of Oaxaca gastronomy, Celia Florian.  (An aside:  Celia and I were on the same flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca on Saturday night and I apologize to the other passengers for briefly blocking the aisle as we greeted each other with hugs.)

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Appetizer of Garnachas Istmeña

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Aguacate relleno

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Chile de agua vinagreta

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Dessert of warm pastel de elote

What a delicious and delightful way to spend my second day back home in Oaxaca.

 

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I have returned to my hometown for my 50th high school reunion.  (How could I possibly be that old?!)  Whenever I come up to the USA, I make a point of bringing a little Oaxaca love with me.  So, this trip I brought my three newest textile treasures to wear.

First, a modern asymmetric take on a traditional huipil — designed, dyed, and woven on a backstrap loom by Moisés Martínez Velasco from San Pedro Cajonos in the Villa Alta region of the Sierra Norte.  Villagers cultivate and harvest the silk worms and spin the silk used in making this beautiful piece.

I also packed a recently purchased traditional blusa from the Mixtec village of San Pablo Tijaltepec.  The blouses from this village are made from cotton manta and hand-embroidered with images of birds, animals, plants, and elements of nature in geometric patterns.  The blouses take up to one and a half months to make.  I wore it to the reunion picnic on Sunday and it received several compliments.

And, last but not least, I brought this elegant silk huipil with cotton chain-stitch hand embroidery designed by celebrated poet, Natalia Toledo.  Honoring the traditional huipiles of her birthplace in Juchitán de Zaragoza in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, yet bringing her own design esthetic to her label Teka, this woman of many talents works with seamstresses and embroiderers from the Isthmus and Central Valleys of Oaxaca to create one-of-a-kind pieces.  I wore this to Saturday night’s reunion at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge beside the San Francisco Bay — and it was perfect!

Besides the designs, colors (lately, I seem to be binging on burgundy), and handmade aspect of the work, I especially appreciate that I was able to meet and purchase each piece directly from its creator.

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Saturday saw the inauguration of the long awaited Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle (CCCTV).  We, along with the citizens of this Zapotec community, have been wondering and watching the progress of the building, located between the municipal building and tapete (rug) vendor stalls, for 3+ years.

To begin the celebration, a desfile departed from the plaza in front of the new center, wound its way through the streets of Teotitlán, and returned to its starting point almost an hour later.  Parading through town, there were kids and abuelas…

 

Community leaders and villagers…

And neighboring municipality, Tlacolula de Matamoros, participating with one of their gigantic marmotas and dancers.

There were two bands supplying a marching rhythm and soundtrack — the first to lead the procession and, at the tail, Los Reformistas, accompanying the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-2018.

The danzantes danced their way onto the plaza and performed.

Then villagers and visitors settled down for words of welcome by community leaders and the new cultural center director Abigail Mendoza (yes, the world famous cocinera), food and drink prepared by the women of Teotitlán, and a moving song by Lila Downs, a madrina of the inauguration.

By the way, several times during the event, Teotitecos proudly informed me that besides the CCCTV’s newly elected director, all the members of the cultural center’s governing committee are women.

Centro Cultural Comunitario director Abigail Mendoza (far left) and her committee.

There were musical performances and then a ribbon cutting to formally open the CCCTV — a building that was awarded the 2017 Cemex first place in the category of Collective Space, Gold Medal in the 3rd edition of the Architecture Biennial of Mexico City 2017, and the Silver Medal in the 15th edition of the National and International Biennial of Mexican Architecture 2018 (Centro Cultural de Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca).

At long last, the Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle was open to the public — and they poured in to view the spaces, exhibits, and Pablo Picasso community library.

However, that was far from the end of the celebration!  A mini Guelaguetza began with the (above mentioned) delegation from Tlacolula, followed by the folkloric group, Grupo Dancistico Ritmo de Mi Raza, showcasing dances from the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca, and finished with an encore performance by Teotitlán’s Danza de la Pluma Promesa.

The celebration ended 10+ hours after it began, with the abuelas (seen above), village leaders, and the Cultural Center Committee dancing the jarabe in front of the municipal building, accompanied by the exploding sights and sounds of toritos dancing in the plaza, a few steps below.

In addition to permanent exhibits and library, the CCCTV also includes gardens, a store, meeting spaces, and will host temporary exhibitions, along with ongoing cultural and educational activities for children, youth, and adults.

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I meant to post this during the World Cup.  But, for a couple of reasons, you can file this under “the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men.”

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On the wall outside the Salon de la Fama cantina (corner of M. Bravo and Porfirio Diaz), artist Efedefroy captured the mashup dreams of Mexican football (soccer) fans.  The beloved singer/actor Jorge Negrete, wearing the jersey of El Tri and hoisting the 2018 World Cup.  Alas, despite the “María” tattoo (La Virgen? No, probably 3rd wife María Félix), it was not to be.

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The day before the aforementioned Diosa Centéotl announcement, the major activity on my dance card was the Festival de los Moles “all you can eat” buffet in the beautiful setting of the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden).  To the accompanying sounds of Oaxaca’s state marimba band, blue, yellow, white, and red corn tortillas were placed on a comal; beer, aguas, and mezcal were offered and poured by an attentive wait staff; and appetizers plated with quesillo, molotes, tacos filled with guacamole and chapulines, and more were placed before each of the hundreds of attendees.

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After what seemed like an eternity, the signal that all had been waiting for — the tin foil lids were removed from the cazuelas to reveal 19 different kinds of mole from 19 different restaurants.  The stampede began!  There is no way possible to taste them all, but I had scoped out a few in advance — Estofado from El Regio, Mole de Platano from El Tendajon, Mole de Castilla from my friends at Tierra Antigua, and Celia Florian’s Manchamanteles from Las Quince Letras.  Blogger buddy Chris was sitting next to me and so we also tasted off each other’s plates, made more trips to the cazuelas, and I lost track of all that I had eaten.  But of course I found room for the traditional leche quemada and tuna (cactus fruit) nieve (sorbet) for dessert.  By the way, an added bonus to the event is sharing the experience with the friends old, new, and temporary at the tables-for-twelve.

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I bade Chris farewell and attempted to hurry home to change my clothes (yes, I’d spilled on my dress) before heading off to an exhibition opening.  But, silly me, after nine years of living here, I should know better — there is no rushing in Oaxaca! Turning onto Macedonio Alcalá, I heard music and ahead of me could see the tops of monos and marmotas.

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I was stopped dead in my tracks by one of the most colorful religious processions you will ever see.  Honoring their patron saint, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Tehuanas and their guys and band, danced their way down the street.  Slowly navigating the jam-packed sidewalk, while being pelted with candy thrown to bystanders, I eventually was able to duck up a side street and make my way home.  But, what fun along the way!

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Clothes changed, I managed to arrive (almost on time) at the inauguration of “Flores y Cantos” at the Museo Rufino Tamayo — an exhibition that asks us to consider “Nezahualcoytl’s age-old challenge to create something beautiful and meaningful with our lives.”  This multimedia exhibition, conceived of by Carolyn Kallenborn, envelopes the senses — ethereal sights; soothing music and comforting sounds of birdsong, rain, waves, and wind; and a celebration of the beauty and creativity of humans, then and now.  Carolyn asks us to contemplate the legacy our ancestors passed on to us and how we want to be remembered when we are gone.

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As one of two primary pieces in the exhibit, accomplished embroiderer Miriam Campos, from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, was commissioned by Carolyn to embroider a tree onto silk organza (above).  With moving images of nature passing through its sheen and translucency, it was of this earth, yet not of this earth.  For the other, Carolyn again collaborated with master weaver, Erasto (Tito) Mendoza on the truly spectacular tapete of corn that reaches from its roots of gold up into a swirling sky.  The video images running across it, gave it a sense of movement.  I returned again five days later.

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On Wednesday, prior to my second visit with “Flores y Cantos,” at the enthusiastic urging of Henry Wangeman (Amate Books), I made a bee-line to the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO) for the recently opened, “Endemismo” exhibition — a significant and stunning show that explores the biodiversity endemic to this area.  Located along the border of Oaxaca and Puebla, on July 2 the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve was recognized as a Cultural and Natural (Mixed) Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO.

Filling both floors of the museum, and the brainchild of Nancy Mayagoitia, the show incorporates the work of twenty painters and photographers — each providing a new perspective on this old land in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve.  I love the painting above by Cecilio Sánchez and entitled Paisaje de Cuicatlán (Cuicatlán landscape).  It seems as if the eyes of this ancient land are watching to see what we do with this unique and precious place.  (Click to enlarge the image and see the eyes.)  And below, I couldn’t resist posting an image of Raúl Herrera’s, “El baño del colibrí Huitzilopochtli atl” from the exhibition — as every morning I watch the hummingbirds bathe in my fountain.  Another exhibition to return to.

Given that I began this post with food, it only seems appropriate to end it with The Semana de los Antojos — a week of morsels of deliciousness to satisfy one’s (food) cravings — which opened July 24 under a colorfully decorated tent in the Plaza de la Danza.  The aromas wafting onto my terrace beckoned and I followed.

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50 booths offering regional “comfort” food — garnachas from the Istmo (my current craving), tacos, tamales, tortas, tlayudas, empanadas, barbacoa, carnes asadas, you name it!  And to wash it all down, tejate, tepache, pulque, chocolate, and aguas frescas.  Oh, and did I mention desserts?  Nieves, cookies and other sweets, and (hot off the presses) buñuelos.

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No rest for the weary — but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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As I write, Diosa Centéotl 2018 is presiding over this year’s first Lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill).  This is corn planting season and the figure of the goddess Centéotl represents the deity to whom rituals were offered to guarantee a good harvest.  She was elected from among 27 young indigenous women, representing the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca.

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The first stage of the competition was held Friday morning at the Jardín del Pañuelito, with contestants speaking about their regions and communities.  During stage two, later in the afternoon, the participants talked about their distinctive clothing.  (For a few photos, check out Of Goddesses and Food.)  The judges, including Las Quince Letras cocinera and ambassador of traditional Oaxaca cooking, Celia Florian (2nd from right), then deliberated.

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Saturday morning the venue moved to the elegant early 20th century Macedonio Alcalá theater where at least 500 people listened as the “Court” of the Diosa Centéotl was announced:  Hillary Naxhiely López (San Blas Atempa), Adriana Ramón Guzmán (de Asunción Ixtaltepec), Yoali Josabet López Quiroz (Santo Domingo Tehuantepec), Socorro Hernández Santiago (Putla Villa de Guerrero), and María del Carmen Vásquez Díaz (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

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A beautiful scepter, carved and painted by Jacobo and María Ángeles from San Martín Tilcajete, waited in the wings to be presented to the new Diosa Centéotl.

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And, the winner was… Francisca Pérez Bautista from Santa María Zacatepec.  A member of the Tacuate ethnic group in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, she was wearing the traditional cream-colored huipil with red ribbons and embroidery.  On her head, she wore the customary bowl-shaped jícara head covering made from the fruit of the calabaza tree.

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There was a twenty-minute break in the action — the governor, Alejandro Murat, was delayed in traffic.  In the interim there was much affection and camaraderie displayed among the contestants.  Eventually, he arrived and presented the scepter to Francisca.

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There was no rest for the new Diosa Centéotl.  Her official duties began immediately — a luncheon with the Guelaguetza delegations, followed by leading the desfile of delegations through the city’s streets.

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Teotitlán del Valle’s Danza de La Pluma Promesa 2016-2018 guys (and two little gals) came, saw, and conquered Oaxaca city yesterday.

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Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz (Malinche) and Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez (Doña Marina)

After a rehearsal at the Guelaguetza Auditorium, followed by a lively (if various Facebook videos are to be believed) luncheon with the other delegations, they arrived, raring to go, at the Guelaguetza desfile (parade) gathering point in front of Jardín Conzatti.

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Marcos Vicente Gutiérrez (Capitán de puerta 1º)

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Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez (Vasallo 3º)

Along with the other Guelaguetza delegations, they posed for photos requested by the crush of media, tourists, and locals.

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Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista (Moctezuma) on right

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Florentino Martínez Ruiz (Subalterno 2º) and Juan Bautista Zárate (Subalterno 1º)

And this year, unlike their last appearance two years ago, it didn’t rain on their parade.  Following their banner and band, they danced their way through the streets of the city under a brilliant late afternoon sun.

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Tapete by the late Pedro Gutiérrez, father of danzante, Denes Luis Gutiérrez Martínez

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Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz (Vasallo 8º) in foreground

For more of the danzantes from Teotitlán del Valle at the desfile, check out the blog post from Chris.  Next up, tomorrow morning’s performance up on Cerro Fortín!  For those of you, like me, without tickets, check THIS SITE and/or CORTV for live (en vivo) links to each Guelaguetza performance.

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“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

All you have to do is click your heels together three times and say “There’s no place like Oaxaca.”

And you too can be a Tehuana in Oaxaca.

Seen on the wall outside Wearable Art Textile Studio, Gurrión 110 — across from the south side of Santo Domingo.

Update:  Artist is Froy Padilla Aragón (aka, Efedefroy).  Check out an article (en español) about him HERE.

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The Danza de la Pluma weapons of war consist of a small paddle (pala/macana) held in the left hand and a sonaja (rattle) held in the right (see images of danzantes in July 9 post).

The sonajas are decorated gourds attached to a deer leg or antler.  During the dance, they mark the compass points and their sound is used to scare the opponents.

Each wooden pala is uniquely carved and decorated and serves as a baton and a shield in this dance that recreates the battles between the Spanish conquistadors and Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings.

Even Malinche (Quetzalli del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) carries a sonaja and a pala during parts of the dance.  And, check out the reversible pala of Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez — red weaving surrounded by alebrije-like painting on one side and blue weaving and painting on the other.  You can click on images to enlarge them.  The creativity never ceases to amaze!

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