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Guelaguetza very special

The Guelaguetza Muy Especial, danced by Los Ángeles de Luz, gets bigger every year.

Convite – China Oaxaqueñas, City of Oaxaca

Early yesterday evening, all seating was filled and it was standing room only at the Plaza de la Danza — and that is a very good thing because Los Ángeles de Luz is group of 18 children and young people with Down’s Syndrome.

Jarabe – Ejutla de Crespo, Valles Centrales region

It was formed in 2003 with the purpose of facilitating the integration of people with Down’s syndrome and offering them creative experiences that exercise their motor skills, intelligence, language, and sensitivity in an environment of respect, trust, and love. (Ángeles le dan luz a las fiestas del Lunes del Cerro, 07/25/2016)

Jarabe – Tamazulapam Espiritu Santo, Mixe region

Their talents also extend to theatrical productions, including performances of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Romeo and Juliet.”  In addition, they have mounted an interdisciplinary spectacular, “Ellos le bailan a México, a un México muy especial.”

Wedding jarabe – Huautla de Jiménez, Cañada region

At the Guelaguetza Muy Especial, these young people make the requisite costume changes and perform traditional dances from the eight regions of Oaxaca.

Jarabe – San Melchor Betaza, Sierra Norte region

This year’s show brought Oaxaca’s dignitaries, including Diosa Centeotl, Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez — she looked incredibly moved when they performed dances from her town of San Melchor Betaza.

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez – Diosa Centeotl 2017

As I have mentioned before, perhaps it is because I have a special needs nephew or that both my sister-in-law and daughter-in-law are special education teachers, that I am drawn to this event every year.

Jarabe – Pinotepa Nacional, Costa region

Tears always well up in my eyes as I share in the joy and pride exhibited by the dancers from Los Ángeles de Luz.

To watch last week’s Desfile de Delegaciones (Parade of Delegations), Donají…La Leyenda, and both the morning and evening Guelaguetza performances at the Auditorio Guelaguetza on Cerro del Fortín:  http://www.viveoaxaca.org/2017/07/EnVivo2017.html.

This week, the same link should be live streaming tonight’s Desfile, tomorrow night’s Donají, and both Guelaguetza performances on Monday.  If not, check the CORTV TV en Vivo link:  http://www.cortv.oaxaca.gob.mx/tv-en-vivo/.

July 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM – Desfile de Delegaciones

July 23, 2017 at 8:00 PM – Donají… La Leyenda

July 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM – Guelaguetza 2017 morning performance

July 24, 2017 at 5:00 PM – Guelaguetza 2017 evening performance

(Times given are USA Central Daylight Savings Time)

This week’s list of delegations:

July 24 morning

July 24 evening

¡Desfruta!  (Enjoy!)

Markets on parade

Another day, another parade.  Today, the Gran Calenda del Mercado de Abastos (parade of the markets) passed within a block and a half of Casita Colibrí.  I couldn’t miss it — the cacophony of multiple bands, cohetes (rockets), and honking horns announced its arrival in my ‘hood!  In the words of Octavio Paz, from The Labyrinth of Solitude

“The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings.”

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“The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico.”

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“Our poverty can be measured by the frequency and luxuriousness of our holidays.”

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“Do they forget themselves and show their true faces?  Nobody knows.  The important thing is to go out, open a way, get drunk on noise, people, colors.”

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“In the confusion that it generates, society is dissolved, is drowned, insofar as it is an organism ruled according to certain laws and principles.”

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“Everything is united: good and evil, day and night, the sacred and the profane.  Everything merges, loses shape and individuality and returns to the primordial mass.”

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“The fiesta is a cosmic experiment, an experiment in disorder, reuniting contradictory elements and principles in order to bring about a renascence of life.”

Band of white gold

The dancers get most of the press, but the musicians are some of the unsung heroes of all the Guelaguetza performances.  And, I have to say, yesterday the Banda Oro Blanco at the Guelaguetza at “Las Peñitas” in Reyes Etla played a leading role.  And the view wasn’t bad either!

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What can I say about this clarinet player?  At one point he played off a fake book on a smart phone and he was on fire!!!

On Friday, Diosa Centéotl was selected to reign over the Guelaguetza festivities.  The eight regions of the state of Oaxaca were all represented by the 33 contestants competing for the honor.  (My photos of each of the contestants are from the morning phase of the competition.)

First a little history…  According to the pamphlet that was distributed to the hundreds of locals, family and friends of contestants, and tourists attending the competition at Jardín el Pañuelito, the little “pocket” garden along the side of Santo Domingo de Guzmán:

“In the pre-Hispanic worldview, Goddess Centéotl possessed the divine power to germinate corn and all the plants of the milpa:  tomato, squash, chile, quelites, beans, and other vegetables that constituted the Mesoamerican diet….”

“For that reason, prayers, dances, music and flowers were offered in each planting cycle…”

“[Later] the relationship between peoples, nature and the gods was manifested through a liturgical calendar carried out with much scrupulousness by both priests and the common people, for the survival of all was at stake, since a failed crop condemned them to famine, disease and moral suffering.”

“By contrast, an abundant harvest filled the people with happiness and they understood that the Goddess of Fertility – Centéotl – had listened to their requests.”  — my translation from the Spanish

The competition to be Diosa Centéotl is not a Miss Universe/Miss America style beauty pageant.  Dressed in the typical costumes of their villages or neighborhoods, these young women had to communicate their knowledge of their communities. They were required to give two 4-minute oral presentations in front of five judges:  Jorge Bueno Sánchez (city chronicler), Celia Florián (chef/owner of Las Quince Letras), María Concepción Villalobos (coauthor of Centéotl en los Lunes del Cerro), María Concepción Guzmán Concha (textile expert), and Claudio Sánchez Islas (writer and journalist).

In the morning session of the competition, each was required to speak about their traditional cuisine, crafts, festivals, customs, myths and legends, or tourist attractions. During the afternoon stage, each had to discuss the history, composition, elaboration, and utility of their costumes.  In addition, as Oaxaca has sixteen distinct ethnolinguistic groups, contestants from the various indigenous communities spoke several lines in their materna lengua (mother tongue).

It is in the dignity, pride, and poise expressed by each of the contestants where we see the essence of their beauty expressed.  And the winner is…

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, San Melchor Betaza

Rebeca Itahí Ortiz Santibañez, from San Melchor Betaza in the Sierra Norte region of the state.  At being selected she exclaimed, “Doxhkenho dazhan” —  Muchas gracias in Zapoteco.

(ps)  If anyone has or can find a list of all the contestants, I would really love to add their names and communities to each photo.  I think they all deserve to be recognized.

Rain on the parade

This evening, the rain began falling as the delegations for the first Saturday Guelaguetza desfile began gathering.  Are we having fun, yet?

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However, just like last year, the show must go on and the dancing must be done.

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Some even looked like they were having fun.  Of course, they were well covered!

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I wasn’t, so this wimpy gringa headed back to her casa and a glass of wine (insert smiley face).  By the way, to add insult to injury, tonight’s press is reporting that the route was changed — and it wasn’t just me who was clueless.  Ahhh… Oaxaca!!!

While there have been pre-Guelaguetza calendas for the past couple of weeks, for me, the festivities really begin tomorrow — with the Festival de los Moles.  Last year, at least 20+ moles were presented at the “all you can eat” buffet in the Jardín Etnobotánico.  Ticket in hand, I’m ready!

P1200532 (1)In addition, tomorrow Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) will be selected to preside over La Guelaguetza.  Beginning at 10:00 AM, contestants from the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca will showcase and explain the costumes and traditions of their communities, both in Spanish and their materna lengua (mother tongue).

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The schedule of activities during these next two weeks is always jam-packed, entertaining, and exhausting.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the official schedule below.

Calendario Guelaguetza2017

That’s not all, folks!  There are additional Guelaguetza dance performances, expo-ventas, and fairs in the surrounding villages.  And, best of all, residents and visitors will not be navigating along sidewalks piled with garbage.  A temporary Guelaguetza truce to the almost two-week dispute that has prevented garbage from being delivered to dump, was agreed to last night.

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This afternoon, this guy’s garbage cart was SO full, he was having a hard time pulling it over the cobblestones.  He is my hero of the day!

Week in Oaxaca – Day 2

On day 2 of introducing B to the sights, sounds, and flavors of Oaxaca, I turned to the professionals at Discover Oaxaca for assistance.  I had met the owners Suzanne Barbezat (author of Frida At Home) and her Oaxaqueño husband, Benito  Hernández, several years ago through friends and knew they were licensed guides.  And, as coincidence would have it, they were good friends of B’s god-daughter and her Oaxaquaño husband in California.  The choice was easy and the rave reviews on TripAdvisor were icing on the cake.

Thus, Wednesday began with Benito picking us up in a comfortable, spacious, and air-conditioned van.  Our day’s first destination was Mitla, the second most important archeological site in Oaxaca and home to amazingly intricate grecas (fretwork).  However, as we headed east on Mexican highway 190, Benito was a fountain of knowledge — much of which was new to me.  This was going to be good!

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Grecas (fretwork)on the outside of the Palace at the archaeological site at Mitla.

For almost an hour and a half, Benito led us through the site — always explaining, answering our questions, and letting us marvel at what was before us.  We could have stayed for at least another hour, but we headed back west on 190, to Yagul, an archeological site I had previously never visited.  Several friends told me they experienced a deeply spiritual sense and that it was a must see.  We barely skimmed the surface (definitely a place to return to), but the sun was hot, archeological overload was setting in, and hunger beckoned.

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Ballcourt at Yagul — the biggest in the valley of Oaxaca.

Next stop, Restaurante Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle — the renown restaurant of Zapotec cooks, Abigail Mendoza and her sisters.  Using time honored methods and recipes refined over generations, the Mendoza sisters have elevated and brought worldwide recognition and respect for their traditional cuisine.  It was a delicious and tranquil interlude.

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Metates used at Restaurante Tlamanalli to grind ingredients for mole and more.

Tearing ourselves away, Benito, B, and I climbed back into the van and drove to the center of the village to see Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, another of the countless churches throughout Mexico built on top of a sacred indigenous site.

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Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, sits atop Zapotec ruins at the base of Picacho, the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle.

My intent, during our visit to this village, known for its weaving with wool, had been to visit several of the weavers I know — including Fidel Cruz Lazo, Antonio Ruiz Gonzalez, his brother Sergio Ruiz Gonzalez, and the family of Samuel Bautista Lazo.  However, we were running short of time, and B had been following my adventures with the family of Juana and Porfirio Gutierrez Contreras and had poured over the family’s website, so stopping at their home and workshop was a priority for him.  Porfirio was back in the USA, but Juana and her husband Antoño gave their always excellent explanation and demonstration of their work with natural dyes.  And, yes, B couldn’t resist purchasing a wonderful rug (though not the one pictured below)!

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Woven wool tapete (rug) by Porfirio Gutiérrez Contreras.

On the way back to Oaxaca city, our last stop for the day was at Santa María del Tule to see the world famous Árbol del Tule.  This Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum; Ahuehuete in Nahuatl) has the largest trunk of any tree in the world, is thought to be between 1,200 and 3,000 years old, and is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of birds.  It is quite a sight to hear, let alone see.

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Looking up at the Árbol de Tule in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca.

We left Oaxaca city at 9:15 AM and didn’t return until almost 6:00 PM.  It was a full, informative, and terrific day.  Next up, day 3 —  another delightful day out of the city with Benito.

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Many thanks to Surviving Mexico for considering “View from Casita Colibrí” a blog about Mexico worth reading! The feeling is mutual, as I continue to enjoy reading about their “adventures and disasters” living in Mexico. 😉

Surviving Mexico

Shannon writes at Casita Colibrí, another long-time favorite of mine.

IMG_5418_2What brought you to Mexico?

Even though I grew up in California, my first trip to Mexico was in 2007, when I came to Oaxaca to visit a friend. I immediately fell in love with Oaxaca, returned a couple more times, and considered eventually retiring there. The privately funded library where I’d been the director for almost 13 years lost its funding and closed in spring 2009.Full-time jobs for librarian/archivists in the San Francisco Bay Area were almost non-existent. Faced with the choice of working multiple part-time and substitute jobs to barely keep my head above water, versus renting my house and moving to Oaxaca to live a downsized and simplified life, in a culturally rich, full of life city, I opted for the latter.

What was the inspiration behind the name of your blog?

Casita Colibrí is…

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The Guelaguetza 2017 delegations were announced late this morning.  While there will be four presentations of the Danza de la Pluma, this year Teotitlán del Valle will not be one of them and I’m disappointed —  this group of danzantes de promesa are SO good, they were such a hit last year, and I don’t know how much more “traditional” you can get.  In addition, social media tweets and comments in Oaxaca are flying fast and furious regarding the absence of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional and Juchitán de Zaragoza.  However, the good news is that there are some new groups this year, including Santiago Niltepec, Santo Domingo Chihuitán, Santa Catarina Ticua, and Santa María Huatulco — and their supporters are thrilled.

July 17 morning

July 17 evening

July 24 morning

July 24 evening

Reserved seat tickets have been sold out for weeks.  However, if you don’t mind standing in line for hours, tickets for the “free” sections in the upper level of the Guelaguetza Auditorium are available before each of the four performances.  In addition, it will, no doubt, be shown on local TV and live-streamed on the internet.  I will post the link, when it becomes available.

Recently, as previously mentioned, a friend came to visit for a week.  It was B’s first time in Oaxaca and we packed a lot of sightseeing and delicious dining into just six days.  B is an architect and, among other things, is an archeology buff, so those interests helped shape our itinerary (as in, not a shopping expedition).  Naturally, the six days sailed by, but the sailing was so smooth and flowed so well that it occurred to me a blog post chronicling our adventures might be helpful to future visitors and hosts.

B arrived on a Monday night, so Day 1 began the next morning, when we rendezvoused on my terrace so he could begin to get his bearings as I pointed out landmarks.  Our first stop was to gaze at the gold and gilt interior and up at the impressive family tree that decorates much of the ceiling of Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

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Santo Domingo de Guzmán and its former monastery.

After being thoroughly wowed, we went next door to the former monastery, now the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca.  Arranged in historical epochs, the 20+ rooms are an historical treasure trove that include treasures excavated from Tomb 7 at Monte Albán.  Also on the extensive grounds is the glorious Jardín Etnobotánico, an impressive ethnobotanic garden of plants native to the state of Oaxaca.  While we had no time to take a tour of the garden (the only way to visit), the views from the museum are spectacular.

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Looking down on the Jardín Etnobotánico from the Museo de las Cultures de Oaxaca

Leaving the museum, we strolled down Oaxaca’s walking street, Macedonio Alcalá (aka, Andador Turistico), across the zocaló, past the Palacio de Gobierno, to the Mercado Benito Juárez.  Besides the fact that I was almost out of coffee beans and needed stop by El Grano de Oro to replenish my supply, in my humble opinion, the mercado is a “must see” for any visitor.  Feeling a bit parched and ready for a break, we pulled up stools at Casilda Aguas Regionales and had to choose from their dazzling selection of fresh aguas. Refreshed, we resumed exploring the aisles of fruits and vegetables, fish and meats, clothing and jewelry, fresh flowers and souvenirs, mezcal and quesillo, and more.

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Aguas lined up on the counter of Casilda Aguas Regionales

Hungry, tired, and on sensory overload, we walked back up the Alcalá to the tranquility, innovative architectural design, and savory flavors of Los Danzantes — the complementary mezcalito was an added bonus!  Our late afternoon comida was a leisurely affair, as we reviewed the day and made plans for the next.  B worried that we might be lingering too long, but I assured him, unlike the USA, restaurants in Mexico don’t rush diners.

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Retractable ceiling and modern take on adobe walls at Oaxaca’s Los Danzantes restaurant

It was a lovely and delicious way to end the day.  Stay tuned for Day 2, as we headed out of the city….

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Reproduction cereusly

Late yesterday afternoon, it looked like a night blooming cereus blossom would burst open for it’s one night only orgy with the pollinators of darkness.  I’m guessing the hours-long torrential tormenta that thundered over Oaxaca put a damper on the action.  This morning found only an ever-so-slightly opened blossom.  So here, in black and white, I bring to you, up close and personal, cereus reproductive organs in waiting.

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If you slept through the birds and the bees unit of high school biology (or it was too long ago to remember) and now you can’t tell a pistil from a stamen or the stigma from the anther, check out this cool little graphic  (also in black and white) from the American Museum of Natural History.

One of the great things about having friends come to visit, is going places and doing things not on the usual agenda.  Thus, last week, while accompanying my friend B on a private tour of sights outside Oaxaca city, the guide asked if we knew about the Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila and would we like to see them.  Absolutely, we said!

In late October, prior to Día de Muertos, young artists are invited to paint Day of the Dead related murals on the walls of Calle Coquiza, the street that connects the church, Santa María Natividad, to the municipal cemetery.  Customs, beliefs, and legends provide the inspiration, as well as day-to-day activities.

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Flor de Piña dancers welcome residents and visitors to step through the doorway to the land beyond.

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Where electric meters serve as faces.

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And, telephone poles add a third dimension to the design.

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Painted pitchers and candles nestle in vegetation escaping from under a portón.

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And, a dancer frolics in sand waiting to be mixed into concrete for construction next door.

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Skeletons use an electric meter to get a leg up in climbing the conduit.

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Trees provide shade, as Pan de Muertos is baked in an outdoor oven.

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Leaves flutter above, as Bu’pu del Valle (chocolate atole) is frothed with a molinillo before being served in traditional hand-painted jicaras.

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Flowers tumble over the wall to adorn a catrina portrait’s hat.

The murals along the walls of Calle Coquiza remain throughout the year — until replaced by the next Día de Muertos artists’ offerings.  In addition, during Day of the Dead, this Calzada de los Muertos (Road of the Dead) is paved with sand paintings.  It is definitely going on my Muertos “must see” itinerary.

Framing the shot

A razor wire (aka, concertina wire) frame for an African Tulip tree blossom.

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The rainy season not only brings lush greens, it brings the brilliant red-orange of the Árbol de tulipán to Oaxaca.

Summer Solstice dawns

This morning, sun and blue sky welcomed the Solsticio de verano in Oaxaca — a beautiful way to begin the longest day of the year.

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View from the terrace:  Templo de San José, founded by the Jesuits in 1559, on the left; Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude), constructed between 1682 and 1690, on the right; and the green mountain in the far distance between the two is Monte Albán.

Happy Summer Solstice to all!

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