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What can I say?

I am so…

With…

From yesterday’s walk, the walls seemed to read my mind.

Hand washing stations

If you are out, about, and going to the mercados in Oaxaca in the last couple of months, you may have seen a clever contraption like the one below set up outside the Independencia entrance to Mercado IV Centenario. Where did they come from? Who made them? And, why? After a little research, I discovered this is a project of La Cosa Buena, “a social enterprise and nonprofit empowering Zapotec and Mixtec communities in Oaxaca to preserve their storied artistic traditions through social initiatives and equitable cultural exchange.”

Manos Buenas COVID-19 is a project that is supplying hand washing stations throughout the state of Oaxaca. Why? Because 30% of Mexico’s population lives without potable water — and that makes the frequent hand washing necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus extremely problematic. Not to mention, according to the project’s website…

“Indigenous communities are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty and are more likely to suffer negative outcomes from infectious diseases. Many Indigenous communities in Oaxaca are already impacted by malnutrition, pre-existing conditions, and lack access to quality healthcare.

We work with several Indigenous artisan communities in rural parts of Oaxaca. We are actively helping our community during this crisis by building and distributing Hand Washing Stations. 

Requiring only wood, rope, soap, and a container of water, they are inexpensive and easy to build. The icing on the cake is the involvement of local artists to bring an artistic aesthetic to these utilitarian and necessary structures. The one below is at La Cosecha and is decorated by one of my favorite arts collective, Tlacolulokos.

And there is more! In addition to the building and distribution of the hand washing stations, the Manos Buenas project is developing graphic and multilingual public health campaigns to insure information and resources re Covid-19 are available in the many languages of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities.

My meditation for the day

The flowers within and mountains beyond.

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

Missing mezcal

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.

Flowers and serpents

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.

Song of water

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.

Ommm…

A moment of Zen…

Brought to you by a wall in Oaxaca.

Archiving the Pandemic

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:

Missing July 2019

July 2020, living in the time of Covid-19, is almost in the rear view mirror. Oh, how I have been missing July 2019!

July 9, 2019 – Teotitlán de Valle, Patronal festival in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 10, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 dancing in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 12, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Convite inviting everyone to the fiesta celebrating La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 13, 2019 – Teotitlán del Valle, Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 dancing in honor of La Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

July 14, 2019 – Tlacolula de Matamoros Sunday market, Kalisa Wells at the stall of doll maker, Armando Sosa.

July 16, 2019 – Santa Catarina Minas at the mezcal palenque of Félix Ángeles Arellanes, Mezcal El Minerito.

July 18, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Carina Santiago at a cocinera tradicional (traditional cook) demonstration.

July 19, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Mole Festival at the Jardín Etnobotánico (Ethnobotanic Garden).

July 20, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, Guelaguetza parade of delegations.

July 21, 2019 – San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair).

July 22, 2019 – Las Peñitas Reyes Etla, Guelaguetza.

July 25, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, procession announcing the Guelaguetza Muy Especial by the Down’s Syndrome folkloric dance troupe.

July 26, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, procession by the Asoc. de Juchitecos radicados en Oaxaca.

July 27, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, young participants in the second Guelaguetza parade of delegations.

July 31, 2019 – Oaxaca de Juárez, making tejate at the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal in the Plaza de la Danza.

A reminder that we need to appreciate and be present to the present; it will never come this way again.

Greeting the dawn

This morning as dawn broke, a pitahaya bloomed in Oaxaca. Tipped off by my neighbor, I ran upstairs with my camera — before coffee, no less!

The eight inches across flower was definitely worth it because, alas, by late morning this beauty will have wilted. It will dry, eventually drop off, and fruit will begin to form on the section hiding behind the flower and from which it emerged.

In a few months, there will be a red luscious dragon fruit, like this one on a neighboring stalk. I miss the pitahayas that used to climb the chain link fence surrounding my terrace.

By the way, if you are confused about the difference between pitahaya and pitaya (as I used to be), this page from the Mexican government gives the most complete explanation I’ve seen. It’s worth running through a translator if you don’t read Spanish.

My entry in Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge.

Back in the red

After only two weeks of semáforo naranja (orange traffic light), as of yesterday, the federal government ordered the State of Oaxaca back to semáforo rojo (red traffic light) in the ongoing battle with Covid–19.

To tell the truth, the move to orange had many of us scratching our heads. Closely following the data released by the state health department, we wondered if Oaxaca really was experiencing a downward trend in the four metrics used to move from one traffic light to another: numbers of new cases, hospital occupancy trends, current hospital occupancy, and percentage of positive cases.

As for cubrebocas — a misnomer, if there ever was one for reasons to follow: Sunday’s stroll about town revealed 15% of people not wearing masks; 50% wearing them correctly; 35% wearing the “cubreboca” ONLY over their mouth, just like the name implies. In Cuba they are called “nasobuco,” indicating they need to cover both nose and mouth — a much better name, methinks!

By the way, according to Richard Grabman over at The Mex Files, “85% of Mexicans are wearing masks in public, compared to 67% of people in the US.”

The Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca (Secretariat of the Cultures and Arts of Oaxaca) and the Comité de Autenticidad (Authenticity Committee) have have selected this year’s Guelaguetza delegations from video taken from the years 2017 to 2019. The performances will be broadcast by CORTV, both on television and on their Facebook page.

July 20, 2020 – Morning delegations and dances:

7-20 AM

July 20, 2020 – Evening delegations and dances:

7-20 PM

July 27, 2020 – Morning delegations and dances:

7-27 AM

July 27, 2020 – Evening delegations and dances:

7-27 PM

This year’s poster image is the work of Montserrat Alhelí Steck Ortiz and was chosen out of 67 entries. Titled, Trenzando Magía (Braiding Magic), according to this article the artist explained that she wanted to begin with the image of woman as symbol of mother earth and giver of all wealth — exemplified by the peasant working the land and tending Oaxaca’s iconic maguey. The image then illustrates the be-ribboned braids reaching out to capture the joy found in the colors, textures and dances of the eight regions of Oaxaca.

Guelaguetza gone virtual

It’s July, corn planting time and “Mes de la Guelaguetza” (month of the Guelaguetza) — a time when Oaxaca recognizes and celebrates the sixteen indigenous groups whose languages, traditions, and maize cultures long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and permeate the character of the state. However, all is quiet in the streets. Due to the dreaded virus, there will be no live and in-person Guelaguetza 2020.

All is not lost; the “máxima fiesta” and its ancillary activities have gone virtual — broadcasting on TV and online.

Donají

Fiestas Julio 20-24

Click on each image to read the dates and details for the book presentations, art exhibitions, lectures, and music and dance performances — including how to watch.

Villa de Zaachila is even holding a virtual Guelaguetza 2020, accessed from the Facebook page, “Guelaguetza Virtual Zaachila 2020”

It may not be up close and personal, but if you are missing the sights and sounds of la Guelaguetza, it’s better than nothing! And, if the above isn’t enough, you might want to scroll through my Guelaguetza blog posts from previous years.

Up until last week, under semáforo rojo (red stoplight), dining at Oaxaca’s much celebrated restaurants had been prohibited and food-to-go became a new and popular option. The Facebook group, Taste Of Oaxaca! soon was filled with restaurant takeout and/or delivery menu options. It was really quite wonderful to see how creative restaurants and chefs became in trying to maintain their businesses, keep staff employed, and meet the needs of their clientele. However, I was blessed with an alternative — mi amiga y vecina (my friend and neighbor), Kalisa, whose passion is cooking and sharing her flavorful fare.

While living in the age of Covid-19, at least I’ve been eating well — and this is just a small sample! By the way, rumor has it that tonight I will be going up and over the rooftop with my bowl in hand for pozole rojo. Yummm…

A sampling of sites seen from the streets that have saved my sanity while living in the age of Covid-19.

Barrio de Xochimilco

 

Marcos Pérez/Lic. José Vasconcelos neighborhood

 

Calle Independencia entrance to Mercado IV Centenario

 

Calle Santo Tomás at the corner of José Lopez Alavez

 

Calle Marcos Pérez

 

Casa de Barro, Av. Reforma

These streets are made for walkin’ and that’s just what I do!

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