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Archive for the ‘Travel & Tourism’ Category

For the first time since February 25, 2020, I ventured out of Oaxaca city. The pull of my fully vaccinated family in el norte and with no word regarding when the second Pfizer vaccine would be given in Oaxaca, I booked a flight up to California for April 15 (five weeks after my first jab) and a 10:00 AM vaccination appointment at CVS for the next day. Needless to say, I was very grateful to not have to stand in line for hours. However, I am already missing my weekly Friday morning hike up to Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal.

Click HERE for close-ups of the art in the last photo. Nothing like a little culture to add to the shopping and dining experience!

By the way, the city began offering the second dose of the vaccine the day I left.

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The headline in NVI Noticias announced, despite an increase in COVID-19, the federal government declared that, as of tomorrow, Oaxaca will move from semáforo amarillo (yellow traffic light)…

Art by Berza and ARCH on the Calle Constitución side of El Tendajón.

… to semáforo verde (green traffic light).

Mural signed by Hiko in Barrio de Xochimilco.

Inquiring minds are wondering if the downgrading of COVID-19 risk has anything to do with the upcoming elections on June 6.

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Alas, another silent Viernes Santo in Oaxaca due to the pandemic. No early morning processions from churches throughout the city converging in front of the Cathedral to reenact the encuentro where Jesús meets María going towards Calvary. No worshipers praying and reciting appropriate devotions as they moved from one sidewalk Estación de la Cruz (Station of the Cross) to another. And, no rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of rachets punctuating the hush of the crowds gathered along the route for the early evening Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence).

Only silent sacred vignettes accompanied yesterday morning’s Good Friday walk through Barrio de Jalatlaco…

Unlike last year when church doors remained closed and services were broadcast remotely, the Archbishop announced that this year the churches will be open for liturgical acts on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, albeit with a “limited presence of the faithful.”

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It’s the time of year when late afternoon winds come up, landing patterns change to often bring planes very low over the city, and the occasional top heavy plant topples over.

Tuesday morning I came out on the terrace to find my Euphorbia Trigona down. Prone, though it was, neither it nor its beautiful old maceta (flowerpot) suffered any damage. Both are now safely cradled in a wrought iron plant stand.

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In varying states of repair and disrepair and in a rainbow of colors, old but indomitable VW Beetles (known as Vochos in Mexico) are still seen tooling and sputtering their way around Oaxaca — an ideal car for navigating the narrow streets and limited parking in the city.

As the old Timex watch commercial used to say, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

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Today, March 19, we celebrate Día de las Artesanas y los Artesanos. Apparently anticipating this day, in less than one month I have purchased three beautiful hand woven blouse length huipiles — and they each have a story.

On a walk up Macedonio Alcalá, en route to somewhere else, my neighbor Kalisa and I stopped to say hi to her favorite textile street vendor, Vicente, at his stall just beyond Santo Domingo. My eye was immediately drawn to the subtle color combination and style of the huipil above. As it turns out, it, unlike most of the textiles he had in stock, was dyed with natural dyes (including the rare caracol) and woven by his mother who lives in the Santiago Juxtlahuaca, in the Mixtec region.

The indigo and coyuche brocade huipil above is from the Mixtec village of Pinotepa de Don Luis and was the first in my trio of purchases. It was woven by a woman named Sebastiána and I bought it in response to an appeal by Stephanie Schneiderman to help support the weavers of that area during these pandemic days. It spoke to me the minute I saw it among the selection of huipiles for sale. Stephanie helped facilitate shipping it from Pinotepa de Don Luis to Oaxaca city and within a couple of weeks, it was hanging in my closet.

The third of my huipil purchases was another impulse buy. For several months, on Friday mornings, Kalisa and I have been making the trek up to the Pochote Xochimilco Mercado Orgánico y Artesanal in Colonia Reforma to stock up on fabulous fresh produce from the Sierra Norte, the occasional duck and chicken, cheeses, and fun shaped clay garden pots. However, the vendor of the plants and pots also sells a selection of huipiles from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca and I fell in love with this Chinanteco one.

¡Feliz Día de las Artesanas y los Artesanos!

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Looking up never ceases to make me smile, especially when papel picado (cut paper) garlands flutter in the breeze — images with holiday themes, celebrating rites of passage, and advertising local products.

They are even imprinted on walls.

We are in the midst of Cuaresma (Lent), though pandemic restrictions have canceled most public celebrations, we have the Liturgical colors of violet and white papel picado to remind us.

Even the neverías of Jardín Sócrates have gotten into the act.

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March 8 is International Women’s Day. In the words of a recent article by Nancy Rosenstock, a woman I knew back in the day, “In these challenging times, all women — from those of us who were involved in second-wave feminism to those just entering the struggle — need to come together as equal fighters and chart a course forward.”

We may have come a long way, but the struggle for equal rights, respect, freedom from violence, and control of our own bodies continues and the women of the walls of Oaxaca are not silent.

Many of the images also carry a written messages. Below, Nuestros sueños no caben en sus urnas / Our dreams do not fit in their ballot boxes carries an indictment against the capitalist political parties.

The next one lets the symbols of the ancestors speak.

From a women’s graphic campaign that seeks to express “what our bodies go through every day and what we are seeking when we scream: Vivas Nos Queremos / We Want Ourselves Alive.

And, a promise that women will not be silenced and will march forward Sin miedo / Without fear.

Then there is the mural, La Patria / The Homeland, which adorns the wall of a school in Barrio de Jalatlaco. La Patria, originally a painting by Jorge González Camarena of an indigenous woman surrounded by patriotic imagery, graced the covers of textbooks from the 1960s into the 1970s.

To honor and celebrate International Women’s Day, on March 8, La Mano Magica Gallery/Galería inaugurates an exhibit of women artists, Exposición de Arte Colectiva Mujeres Artistas, curated by Mary Jane Gagnier, at their gallery in Oaxaca and online on their Facebook page.

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It is the time of year when the temperatures begin to reach 90º F and the Primavera amarillas, Jacarandas, Clavellinas, and Palo de rosas trees bloom.

It’s almost spring and Oaxaca has entered her sky blue period.

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This article, Tourists are welcome in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their increasingly bad behavior is not, is one of the reasons these images from my garden express how I’m feeling these days.

Then there is the fact that I haven’t set foot out of the city for exactly one year. Color me prickly and awaiting the vaccine.

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Returning from an errand in the Jalatlaco neighborhood, I was stopped in my tracks by this massive mural on Calzada de la República. It is titled, “No Discriminación e Inclusión” (No Discrimination and Inclusion), and was unveiled in October 2020 as part of the Movimiento Vecinal — a program created by the Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca (State Public Security System of Oaxaca) to involve youth, through cultural, athletic, community, and educational activities, in the recovery, appropriation and rescue of public spaces. Importantly, a collaboration has also been established with the civil association Conquistando Corazones to eradicate violence towards the community of sexual diversity.

(Unfortunately, trees and other foliage prevented a clear photo of the entire mural and so I offer you the full mural in six parts — moving from left to right facing the mural.)

According to José Manuel Vera, Executive Secretary of Sistema Estatal de Seguridad Pública de Oaxaca, “We work to achieve equality and dignity for people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and we continue to create spaces for youth that represent freedom of action and thought. In a just and egalitarian society, everyone has the right to their individuality, to be who they are, to do so in peace, without fear of rejection, hatred or violence, but rather enriched by diversity” (my translation).

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If all was right with the world, on this Día de Carnaval (aka, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday), the day before Christians celebrate the beginning of Lent, I would be in San Martín Tilcajete — where the streets would be alive with the sound of bells, as los encabezados (guys covered in motor oil or paint and wearing cowbells tied around their waist) roam the streets startling the unaware, making mischief, and welcoming all to the festivities.

2014

2015

This predominately Zapotec village has seized on the holiday, brought to Mexico by Spanish Catholicism, to create elaborate masks to showcase its woodcarving skills. It is no coincidence that Carnival conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” It is also no surprise that it caught on, “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities” — and make fun of them.

2016

2017

The festivities revolve around a mock wedding — a parody of a traditional village wedding. It includes much pomp and circumstance, hilarity, music, food, and fireworks. Young and old move from the houses of the principal players to City Hall for the “civil ceremony,” dancing in the plaza, followed by another procession through the streets to another house where the happy “couple” kneel before a “priest” for the religious ceremony. You might want to take a second look at those beautiful wedding guests with the smoldering eyes and modeling the gorgeous gowns.  They are not what they seem — and neither is the bride.

2018

2019

2020

San Martín Tilcajete isn’t the only village in Oaxaca that celebrates Carnaval in its own wild and wacky way. Beginning in 2019, in an effort to promote tourism to other villages, residents and visitors in Oaxaca city have been treated to a boisterous parade down the Macedonio Alcalá on the Saturday preceding Fat Tuesday sampling the pre-Lenten traditions from various parts of the state. Though festivities were canceled due to Covid-19, the city’s tourism department put together a video of celebrations from past years by several villages.

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February 14th isn’t just a day for lovers. In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as the Día del Amor y la Amistad — Day of Love and Friendship.

By the artist known as ARCH

Decorations have gone up and I have no doubt kilos of chocolate, bouquets of flowers, and heart shaped balloons with confessions of amor will be purchased.

Unfortunately, with the virus continuing to rapidly spread and Oaxaca still under semáforo naranja/orange traffic light (though many think it should be rojo/red), I’m not sure restaurants will or should be filled to capacity with friends, sweethearts, and families.

By the artist known as Efedefroy

Given the trauma and uncertainty the world has experienced over the past year, I hope we have learned to cherish our friends and family and to let them know how much they mean to us every day. Let us celebrate days of love and friendship and not just limit it to one day a year.

And, if you would like to say I love you (te amo) in 7 of the 69 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico — including several spoken in the state of Oaxaca — click HERE.

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Today, besides being Groundhog Day, it is the Christian holy day, Día de la Candelaria (aka, Candlemas, Presentation of Jesus at/in the Temple, and Feast of the Purification of the Virgin). In Mexico, tradition calls for families to bring their Niño Dios (baby Jesus), decked out in new clothes, to the church to be blessed. Alas, in the time of Covid-19, the Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca (health department) has called upon Oaxaqueños not to gather this year and, while the doors of the Cathedral will be open, the faithful are asked to stay home if their Niño Dios was blessed in previous years.

Tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante: Tamal Adobo, Tamal Chile Ajo, Tamal Mole Negro, Chancleta Guajolote, and Tamal de Fiesta (not in order)

Custom also calls for the person who bit into the baby Jesus figurine hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (3 Kings Cake) during Día de los Reyes Magos to host a tamalada on Candelaria. As I write, tamales are steaming all over the state. The virus will not stop the cocineras of Oaxaca from rising before the crack of dawn to make and serve tamales. As I previously mentioned, I munched down on a figurine. And I wasn’t the only one — my neighbor and friend Kalisa also had the “pleasure.” I must confess, we took the easy way out and pre-ordered our tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante. I can’t wait to eat them!

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You may remember the beautiful hat tree I commissioned from the San Martín Tilcajete workshop of Jésus Sosa Calvo. In these mask-wearing times of Covid-19, it has taken on a new function.

No longer serving as a place to hang my hat or market baskets, it now holds my collection of cubrebocas (face masks).

In case you are wondering why there are seven of them hanging on the tree, each KN95 mask is labeled with a day of the week, so I can rotate them.

New function following fabulous form!

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