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Drones have arrived in Oaxaca; their hummy-buzzy sound is unmistakable.  My first “close encounter” of the drone kind down here was 2+ years ago at the Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos (baseball stadium) when a drone made an appearance at the Lluvia de Estrellas charity home run derby and softball game.

However, two weeks ago as I walked onto the Alameda, that telltale sound caught my ear and a low flying drone caught my eye.  Apparently, it was being used by the Pasión por Oaxaca to draw attention to their (political) organization’s booth.  “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

Then early yesterday morning, there was that sound again.  Looking out the window I could see a drone in the distance.  Of course, I grabbed my camera and went out to investigate.  I guess the operator/pilot saw me, because soon the drone was flying toward my terrace, then stopped to pose for several seconds, before flying off.

Sheesh, Señor DeMille, I was still in my pajamas and definitely NOT ready for my close-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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Remember yesterday’s Thought for the day clowns?  Yikes, I just discovered I’d photographed them two weeks ago outside Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos (baseball stadium) on my way home from the Lluvia de Estrellas charity home run derby and softball game.  Seeing the boy’s San Francisco Giants’ baseball cap, I had to stop them and take a photo.

Mother & son clowns

By the way, I was also wearing my SF Giant’s cap and they got a big kick out of that.  Gotta love this place!

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Visits to mercados in the city and Tlacolula have been made.  Along with mandarinas and manzanas, cempasuchil and cresta de gallo have been purchased.

Women selling marigolds and cockscomb

Pan de muerto has been selected…

Pan de muertos

A calaverita has been chosen…

Sugar skulls

Mezcal and water have been poured, dishes of chocolate and salt prepared, candles brought out, and photos of departed family and friends and a few of their favorite things have been collected.  Yesterday, it was time to prepare my ofrenda.

My muertos altar

As dusk descended, friends gathered; the candles and copal were lit…

Close up of my muertos altar

And we offered our silent — and sometimes not so silent — prayers to the baseball spirits to bring victory to the San Francisco Giants in game 7 of the World Series.

San Francisco Giants' cap and photo of my grandparents

The spirits listened!!!  Thinking of you, grandpa….

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Tonight, from the valley where corn was first cultivated, I’ll be watching my San Francisco Giants play game one of Major League Baseball’s, 2014 World Series.

I was amazed to discover that one of San Francisco’s ace relief pitchers, Yusmeiro Petit, the Giants’ do-everything man, played for the Oaxaca Guerreros in 2011!!!   The Guerreros, a Triple-A team in the Mexican League play at Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos, within walking distance (albeit, a long walk) from my apartment.  I attended several of the Guerreros’ games in 2011 and, who knows, maybe I saw him.

When I was in Mexico, I always said to myself, “This is going to be my goal, to go back to the United States and be successful,” said Petit, through a translator. “I always knew that this could happen. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew this could happen.”  (from article, Giants’ do-everything man Petit ready for any task)

 (AP Photo/Don Boomer, File)

(AP Photo/Don Boomer, File)

And, from another article:

Petit thinks his experience with the Oaxaca Warriors was crucial in his career surge.   In Mexico he learned to mix his pitches and mastered the curve.  “I was in a slump, which happens to anyone,” he said. “But in Mexico I learned that I had to work harder to keep going and to reach what I was looking for, which was to come back (to the majors) and stay here.”

¡Felicidades Yusmeiro Petit y vamos Gigantes!

 

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In the 5+ years that I have been living here, Oaxaca has become much more bike friendly.  It’s a good thing too, because traffic, even without the bloqueos (blockades), has gotten much worse.  I mentioned last Sunday we had to detour due to a bike race and passed these spandex warriors, out for a Sunday ride.

2 guys in spandex on country road

In the city, the narrow streets, often with double-parked vehicles, weren’t designed for a growing middle class and their desire for cars.  However, poco a poco (little by little), accommodations are being made to achieve a modicum of safety and peaceful co-existence between cars and bikes.  Bike racks began appearing in early summer.

Bike racks

And, much to my amazement, a couple of weeks ago, I saw actual bike lanes.  Wonders will never cease!!!

Bike lane:  "BICI" spelled out with line drawing of a bike

However, I’m not exactly sure what someone is trying to say, here.  (Update:  thanks to some helpful blog readers, I have sadly been informed, “a white bike is put where someone has been killed on a bike.  They are called “ghost bikes”.

Bike near top of street light

Bike on, mis amigas y amigos… even in the rain… Mother Nature will thank you!

Bike riders on wet cobblestone street

If you are in Oaxaca and like to ride, you might want to check out “Oaxaca es más bella en bicicleta” (Oaxaca is More Beautiful on a Bicycle) on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 PM to 10:30 PM.  They meet in front of Santo Domingo church.  There is also a Sunday ride from the city to Santa María del Tule.

Update:  Larry G. reminded me that OaxacaMTB.org is a great resource for those interested in mountain biking in Oaxaca.

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A gray, rainy day in Oaxaca has me returning to the beach in my dreams…

Pacific Ocean waves crashing onto the beach San Agustinillo, Oaxaca.

San Agustinillo, Oaxaca.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.  ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

San Agustinillo, Oaxaca

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  — Mark Twain

Coconut tree, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Mazunte, Oaxaca

Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.  — Langston Hughes

Lifeguard tower, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined.  —Thoreau

Estrella Fúgaz restaurant, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Estrella Fúgaz restaurant, Mazunte, Oaxaca

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.  ― Edgar Allan Poe, Eleonora

Sunset in Mazunte, Oaxaca

Mazunte, Oaxaca

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself.  Go forward and make your dreams come true.  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Don’t be afraid to try the greatest sport around
Everybody tries it once
Those who don’t just have to put it down
You paddle out turn around and raise
And baby that’s all there is to the coastline craze
You gotta catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world

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Not just a fad cause it’s been going on so long
All the surfers going strong
They said it wouldn’t last too long
They’ll eat their words with a fork and spoon
And watch ’em they’ll hit the road and all be surfin’ soon
And when they catch a wave they’ll be sittin’ on top of the world

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So take a lesson from a top-notch surfer boy
Every Saturday boy
But don’t treat it like a toy
Just get away from the shady turf
And baby go catch some rays on the sunny surf
And when you catch a wave you’ll be sittin on top of the world

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Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world
Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world
Catch a wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world

— Beach Boys, Catch a Wave

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What a game; three goals in 10 minutes in the second half!!!   Another thrilling win by El Tri advances Mexico to the next stage in World Cup 2014.  They struggled and needed a little help from their “friends” in el norte to even play in Brazil.  However, against all odds, this team exhibits a gutsy and tenacious heart and soul that can’t help but have people rooting for them — much like the country of Mexico, itself.

Mural under fútbol stadium in Oaxaca - Dec. 2012

Mural under fútbol stadium in Oaxaca – Dec. 2012

Francisco Goldman wrote an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times.  His article, “Fooling Mexican Fans,” relates the current politics of Mexico, the “bread and circuses” diversion of the World Cup, and the notion that El Tri might exemplify all that is inspiring and hopeful in the Mexican national character.

Goldman’s op-ed begins…

The day before the Mexican soccer team’s thrilling underdog tie with the World Cup favorite, Brazil, last week, the lead editorial of the news site SinEmbargo was titled, “Ready for your Clamato and Gatorade?” — common hangover remedies. “In about three weeks, when you wake from your World Cup dreams,” the editors wrote, “remember that when the soccer fest began, the country was on the verge of monumental decisions. If upon waking, you realize that the country’s energy reserves have been cheaply sold off or whatever else, don’t bother protesting because this is a chronicle foretold.”

To debate and pass laws that could open Pemex, the nationalized oil company, to foreign investment, the Mexican Congress scheduled legislative sessions from June 10 to 23, dates precisely coinciding with you know what. Final passage might be pushed back, but it originally looked like it was supposed to happen on Monday, when Mexico plays Croatia to decide which country advances to the elimination rounds.

As I wrote previously, Mexicans have been Expressing the outrage since last year, when Mexico’s newly elected president Enrique Peña Nieto (initials EPN), from the PRI party, first made the Pemex energy “reform” proposal.

Graffiti seen on a wall south of Oaxaca's zócalo, May 23, 2014.

Graffiti seen on a wall south of Oaxaca’s zócalo, May 23, 2014. 

Goldman goes on to discuss this and other “reforms,” the role of the PRI, and the current overall political climate in Mexico.  However, as dismal as it all sounds, he ends on a hopeful note…

There has been much talk lately about the way the style of soccer teams manifests national characters. I don’t know if that’s true. But when I look at the Mexican team which, after barely even qualifying for the World Cup, has been playing so well, I see a team without stars — a gritty, hard-working, pretty humble, resourceful, creative, disciplined, joyous, friendly-seeming group of players who seem to be learning to play the game as it is meant to be played.

These are values that we see enacted and re-enacted all over Mexico, and in Mexican communities elsewhere, every day. Someday Mexico will get another chance to vote the PRI away and to restart the long process of building the country from the ground up. It could do worse than take some inspiration from its national team.

Absolutely, those are the values I, too, see exhibited in Mexican communities both in Mexico and the US.  There is hope for the future — and not just on the pitch!   I encourage you to read Goldman’s op-ed in full.  In the meantime, Mexico vs. Netherlands on Sunday at Estadio Castelao Forteleza.  ¡¡¡ VAMOS EL TRI !!!

h/t K Hackbarth for the article

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This afternoon, the headline of Noticias announced, “Oaxaca paralyzed by Mexico-Brazil match.”  It goes on to report that zócalo restaurants offered drink promotions and there were cries, sighs, applause, and prayers as people were glued to the TV monitors and their mobile devices. 

I, too, have caught World Cup fever.  I’m relatively new to fútbol/soccer (my sons played American football), but began learning during Mexico’s march to the Gold during the summer Olympics two years ago.

Still in California, today I was one of the Millions of U.S. Soccer Fans … Cheering for Mexico.  Friday, I watched Mexico’s 1-0 (should have been, 3-0) defeat of Cameroon by myself, albeit from the comfort of my younger son’s living room (he was at work).  However, for today’s match against Brazil, I headed to Sweetwater Music Hall and their ginormous screen.

Screenshot of Chicharito and Brazilian player

It was a full house and cries, sighs, applause, and prayers were evident there, too.  I’d say the crowd was 60-40 for Mexico, though some of the Brazilian contingent was particularly vocal.  Our (El Tri’s fans) hopes rose when Chicharito FINALLY came into the game, but in the end, the score remained nil-nil.  No scoring?  No, but it was a great game and Mexico’s goalkeeper Memo Ochoa played the game of his life.

Screenshot of Guillermo Ochoa

Immediately following the game, Memes Hail Guillermo ‘Memo’ Ochoa’s Remarkable Saves for Mexico vs. Brazil.  I was going to try to add to it, by putting his face on an airborne Moctezuma during Danza de la Pluma, but I don’t have Photoshop on this computer.  Anybody?  Chris???

¡¡¡ #VamosMexico !!!

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Yesterday, we returned to Teotitlán del Valle to join in their annual Día de la Santa Cruz hike up El Picacho, the sacred mountain that watches over this incredibly special pueblo.  This year, instead taking the route up the mountain directly from downtown like we did last year (and it kicked our a$$), we drove to the presa (dam) and headed up a surprisingly well-marked trail from there.  A symphony of cicadas (cigarras or chicharras, en español), serenaded us as we climbed, young people passed us, and Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, off in the distance, got smaller.  However, after more than an hour, we sighted our first pack burro (they bring up the food and drink) and knew we had almost reached our destination.

We were welcomed at the top by the family hosting the gathering and given cups of agua de jamaica — just what the doctor ordered!  There were even more people than last year, music blared from large speakers the aforementioned burros must have carried up the mountain, a new cross had replaced the one that had been hit by lightning last year, and, of course, the views were breathtaking.

But, with spectacular views in all directions, why was most everyone looking down toward the road from the village to the presa?

A foot race!  From what we could understand, there were 3 classes of runners; one that ran all the way from mercado in the center of Teotitlán and other two “only” ran up from the presa.  Whichever route they took, as one of the runner’s t-shirt says, they were all “chingon!”

And so was this gal, who was on her way up as we were coming down.

Woman carrying basket on head

Muchisimas gracias, yet again, to the people of Teotitlán del Valle for another unforgettable experience.

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Many of you may not know that Oaxaca has a Minor League baseball team, the Guerreros de Oaxaca, a Triple-A team in the Mexican League.  They play at Estadio de Béisbol Lic. Eduardo Vasconcelos, right off the Pan American Highway, and most seats look out onto the sierras to the east.  Tickets are inexpensive (women, seniors, and children usually pay even less), a friend insists it’s a great place to learn local Spanish swear words, and it’s a mere 25 blocks from Casita Colibrí (definitely within walking distance).

However, until Tuesday night, I hadn’t been to a game in almost three years.

View of baseball field & mountains to east

The Guerreros were playing the Vaqueros Laguna from Torreón, Coahuila AND women got in free!  Besides the action by the players on the field, there were cheerleaders.  What can I say???  They certainly know how to toss their hair!

Cheerleaders tossing their hair

Despite the free ticket promotion for women (and men only paid 25 pesos), the stands were about an eighth full.  However, this guy and his drum walked up and down the main aisle, drumming up fan support.

Man with sombrero and drum

 

Unfortunately, in the bottom on the second inning, the rain that had been threatening, finally came.  The game was halted, the players headed into their respective dugouts, and the ground crew pulled out the tarp.

Silver tarp pulled over infield

It was already 8:15 PM, and we succumbed to being “fair weather fans” and left.  The game eventually resumed and the Guerreros lost, 2-5, BUT they won the next night, 12-5, and are currently in third place in the Mexican League Sur.

I will return… THIS season!

 

 

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Some rare good news from Florida…

Team photo

Two young Triqui basketball teams qualified to participate in the International Tournament YBOA (Youth Basketball of America) in Orlando, Florida this month.  They are from the Academia de Baloncesto Indígena México (ABIM), an athletic project founded by professor Sergio Zúñiga, with the mission of “rescuing the youth of the Triqui communities of Oaxaca from the extreme poverty and violence that they live in… to better the lives of these kids through sports and education.”  Read their story, including why they play barefoot, HERE.

The tournament has ended and, though they did not win the tournament championship, they won hearts and (one can only hope) minds.  To me, these young ambassadors were winners in the important ways that matter.  ¡Felicitaciones!

For video of the team playing and information about the documentary that is being made about these kids, take a look at the blog, Mexico’s Barefoot Champions.

October 2013 update:  They came and saw and conquered: Triqui sweep in World Basketball

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Basketball is big in Oaxaca and  was big news to me!

In Teotitlán del Valle, located in the valley Oaxaca, there is a tradition of climbing El Picacho on Día de la Santa Cruz (May 3).  I’d also heard celebrations also included an annual basketball tournament.  Sure enough, the sound of a play-by-play announcer, ref’s whistle, and buzzer occasionally floated up to our perch on the top of the mountain.  When we descended El Picacho via a different route, we came to a basketball court a few blocks from the village center, and an intense game in progress, with other teams waiting in the wings — in this case, the road!

Basketball game with mountain in background

Eight days later, we drove up into the Mixe in Oaxaca’s Sierre Norte for the Fiesta de Mayo in Santa María Tlahuitoltepec.  Once there, we were directed to a basketball court (did we hear correctly?) at the center of town — the mercado off to one side; church on another side; municipal buildings off to another.  We had expected folkloric dancers or ceremonial presentations, but were surprised to find a basketball tournament in progress.  It eventually ended and the expected dancing began.

Partially covered basket ball court.

According to Hoop Dreams in Oaxaca:

Any proper town in Latin America has a church facing a plaza — except the towns of the Sierra Norte region of Mexico, where Jorge Santiago is from.

“In my part of the Sierra, the basketball courts are like the zócalo in the colonial city,” Mr. Santiago said, using a Mexican word for “plaza.” “It’s really the most important part of the town. A respectable town has a church, and a basketball court in front of the church.”

Read full article HERE.

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It may not be Oaxaca, but there is some major league urban art celebrating Major League Baseball’s 2012 World Series champion, San Francisco Giants.  The mural, by the Ex-Vandals, currently can be seen at Columbus at Union Street in San Francisco’s, North Beach neighborhood.

But, did the city’s Planning Commission have to deface the mural with its Notice of Public Hearing?  Couldn’t they have posted their notice in a more discrete location?  Honestly, have they no respect?!!

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