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Archive for the ‘Travel & Tourism’ Category

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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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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While flags are flying, bunting is up, and carts are selling the usual green, white, and red patriotic paraphernalia, it’s not your usual Mexican Independence celebrations.

It is the night before Independence Day, but there are no crowds gathered in the zócalo to hear the governor re-create the Grito de Dolores from the balcony of the Government Palace. Tomorrow there will be no patriotic parade through the streets of the city of Oaxaca. Mexican Independence celebrations during the time of Covid-19.

However, there is a song from Lila Downs…

(ps) The flags above are flying at half staff because the photos were taken on September 13, 2020, the day Mexico commemorates the legend of the 1847 Niños Héroes — boy cadets martyred during the Mexican-American war.

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Semáforo amarillo (yellow traffic light), we hardly knew ya. According to this article, due to the resistance and indiscipline of the citizens to maintain prevention measures, as of Monday, September 14, Oaxaca is back in the Covid-19 semáforo naranja (orange traffic light) — meaning a high risk of contagion. Alas, this does not come as a surprise.

As previously mentioned, the semáforo designation is based on ten criteria by the federal government. However, it’s my understanding the implementation is left up to states and municipalities, which means concrete answers as to what this entails is fuzzy — to say the least! Color me orange with big eyes and clenched teeth.

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Over these seemingly countless Covid-19 months, instead of frequently running into friends on the streets, these are the familiar faces that make me smile and help keep me feeling rooted to place.

They may not talk, but they do speak to me.

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This morning, the steps leading into the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO) were a reminder that it was one year ago today that Oaxaca and the world lost artist, philanthropist, and fighter for social justice and the environment, Francisco Toledo.

The Maestro can still be seen along the streets of Oaxaca — his creative spirit lives on.

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Entering La Cosecha Oaxaca farmer’s market, look to the left and you will see…

… murals by Ulises Martinez celebrating the gift of maíz.

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Beginning tomorrow, Oaxaca’s Covid-19 status moves down to Semáforo Amarillo (yellow traffic light) — meaning that in the state of Oaxaca one is now at medium risk for contracting the virus. The methodology used by the federal government to go from one color traffic light to another has expanded and is now based on criteria having to do with case numbers, reproduction rates, percentage of positivity, hospitalizations, hospital occupancy rates, and mortality percentage per 100,000 people. However, judging from comments on the Facebook page of the Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Health Services), it’s a controversial move (my translation):

  • With so much infected and now we are going to yellow traffic light?
  • They are not real figures, many towns do not appear [on the case list] even though there are new cases.
  • Covid is still active, the only thing that changed is that they gave you permission to go out and look for it.
  • It makes a whole economic political show without caring about the health of the Oaxaqueños.

According to the government’s corona virus website, yellow means all work activities are allowed and public spaces can be open — albeit all activities must continue to be carried out with basic preventive measures (masks, hand hygiene, social distancing) and consideration for people at higher risk. However, it won’t mean the reopening of schools; that has to wait for the green light.

In the meantime, I am thrilled with my new Covid-19 themed clay sculpture by Concepción Aguilar, a member of the iconic Aguilar family of potters from Ocotlán de Morelos. It was a “thank you gift” from the Support for the Folk Artists of Oaxaca, Mexico fundraising effort. The artisans are an integral part of the specialness of Oaxaca. Make a contribution, if you can!

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The flowers within and mountains beyond.

“I am large; I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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Conventional wisdom in Oaxaca: “For everything bad, drink mezcal; for everything good, you also should.”

Lest we forget, the walls of Oaxaca are always there to remind us.

My copitas (little cups) by maestro Vicente Hernandez are always ready for a gotita (a little drop) or two on good days, bad days, and especially days when friends stop by.

Day trips to my favorite mezcal making villages and their mezcaleros, like Berta Vásquez (above) in San Baltazar Chichicapam, were frequent enough to keep the liquor cabinet stocked with a variety of artisanal mezcal made from one or more kinds of maguey (AKA, agave) — arroqueño, barril, cuixe, espadín, jabalí, tepeztate, tobalá, and tobasiche, to name a few!

Alas, since Covid-19 hit the scene, many of the villages are closed to outsiders and, even if they were open, I wouldn’t go — for their health and safety and mine.

However, mezcal aficionado and tour guide Alvin Starkman came to the rescue. Through him, I was able to buy five bottles of mezcal from several different villages and he delivered!

In the event you are trying to read the labels, left to right: Tobalá, Manuel Méndez, San Dionisio Ocotopec; Mezcal destilado con mota (yes, it’s a thing), Rodolfo López Sosa, San Juan del Río; Arroqueño, Fortunato Hernandez, San Baltazar, Chichicapam; Tepeztate, Manuel Méndez, San Dionisio Ocotepec; Espadín, Celso Martinez, Santiago Matatlán.

¡Para todo mal, mezcal; y para todo bien, tambíen!

(ps) This just in! Mezcal Tour Supports Advancement of Indigenous Women — an article about the wonderful ongoing work the above mentioned Alvin Starkman, his wife Arlene, and Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca are doing.

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A mural in progress. Jorge kept working…

… while Javier paused to chat and pose.

Also seen August 4, 2020 in Barrio de Jalatlaco, this time on Alianza.

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Oaxaca sings in the rainy season. Afternoon clouds gather, the sky darkens, wind picks up, thunder rumbles, heaven sinks closer to earth, and, if Cocijo is answering prayers, the sound of rain falling — El canto del agua; The song of water.

I knew the minute I saw this mural that it was the work of Fabián Calderón Sánchez (Sanez). Over the years, I’ve been captivated by and posted images of his thought provoking, creative, and powerful uses of indigenous imagery. The facade of El Armadillo Negro restaurant on Calle del 5 de mayo 307, Barrio de Jalatlaco, seen on August 4, 2020.

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A moment of Zen…

Brought to you by a wall in Oaxaca.

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Back in April, I received a message from my hometown library with the request, Help us tell the story of what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mill Valley. A light bulb turned on, my brain went into librarian/archivist mode, and I thought, we should do that here in Oaxaca. What better way to bring the Oaxaca Lending Library community, both here in Oaxaca and those currently scattered around the world, together and provide a venue to share thoughts and feelings, document daily life, and unleash creativity. And, when this nightmare is over, the OLL will have joined an international effort by public and academic libraries, archives, historical societies, and museums to preserve slices of life from this historic time for future community members and researchers to ponder.

Thus, we formed a small committee, met remotely, and issued our own call for submissions. Members and friends, be they here or there, have been asked to submit photographs, stories in prose or verse, and videos. The response has been beyond my wildest dreams and I invite you to view the most recent edition of Archiving the Pandemic in Oaxaca: How will this time be remembered? The contributions are revealing in a variety of happy, sad, challenging, generous, and talented ways.

July 30, 2020 – Calle de Adolfo Gurrión at 5 de mayo, Oaxaca de Juárez.

The project is ongoing; alas, the pandemic’s end is not in sight. However, my heart is lifted in seeing, reading, and sharing experiences with my Oaxaca Lending Library community and knowing we are part of an international effort to help shape the telling of a community story.

(ps) The QR codes on the image above link to the following articles exposing issues medical personnel are facing battling the virus in Oaxaca:

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