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View from the top

For years, I’ve gazed at the bell towers of Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo in Teotitlán del Valle and wanted to go up there.  I mused that the views must be spectacular.

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I struck it rich a couple of weeks ago when visiting gal pals and I were wandering around the church and were asked if (for a small donation) we wanted to go up to the top.  We didn’t have to be asked twice.

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It was well worth the climb up the narrow, winding, and steep stone staircase.

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There I was, up close and personal with features I’d never before noticed.

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Overcoming a moderate case of acrophobia, I even ventured out between the towers and the dome.

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Despite a dry season haze that hung over the valley, the views in every direction were spectacular.

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A bird’s-eye view!

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It was great fun trying to pick out the homes of friends.

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The icing on the cake:  The bell-ringer emerged, grabbed a couple of ropes, and the bells began to chime.

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It was really loud (bordering on deafening) and lasted a long time!!!  But, we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

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Julia and Luvia

It’s a travel day for me and I didn’t think I would have time to honor my sisters of the world on this International Women’s Day.  However, thanks to a flight delay that has left me with an even longer than planned layover in Houston, I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than presenting Julia and Luvia; two of the extraordinary women of Teotitlán del Valle.

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Julia Martinez Bautista on her 100th birthday party, February 1, 2017.

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Luvia Lazo Gutierrez, director of the new Centro Cultural Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle.

They embody the strength, ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity of women everywhere!

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Honoring a mentor

Oaxaca seems to invite and inspire creativity.  Thus, for twenty years distinguished photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, who “considered Oaxaca her second home,” brought students here and conducted workshops at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo.  Now, seven photographers, Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, James Carbone, Chae Kihn, Tim Porter, and Jody Watkins, are honoring their late mentor with an exhibition, Nuestra Oaxaca, at the Centro Fotográfico.

The exhibition opened on January 20, 2017, but it was the coming together by the seven and their very personal remarks during the artist reception and panel discussion on February 25 that revealed the impact Mary Ellen Mark had on their lives and work.  She was a dedicated and demanding teacher” who pushed them to know themselves in order to authentically see and capture the people and places on the other side of the lens.  They also offered glimpses into Mark’s playful side and wit, along with how meaningful her friendship was to each of them and their profound sense of loss at her passing in 2015.  I wasn’t the only one who blinked away tears.

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(L->R) Björn Árnason, Lori Barra, Ina Bernstein, Chae Kihn, James Carbone, Tim Porter, Jody Watkins, and translator, February 25, 2017.

In the words of Tim Porter, spoken at the opening of the exhibition on January 20, 2017:

We seven photographers are all different. Some of us are professionals who work for newspapers or do commercial work. Some of us are amateurs who simply love photography. Some of work in a documentary or journalistic style. Some of us make more interpretative images. We live in New York, in Los Angeles, in Iceland and in San Francisco. Some of us have been coming to Oaxaca for decades. Some of us for only a few years.

What we all share is Mary Ellen. She brought us together. Through her we became friends. Because of her we became better photographers. With her in mind, we come back – to pursue the work we started here, to become the photographers she believed we could be, to honor her passion and, perhaps, to find hope and inspiration in it.

If you are currently in Oaxaca or plan to be before the exhibition closes on April 7, 2017, I highly recommend paying it a visit; the images from each of the seven photographers will reveal Oaxaca in a new and thought-provoking light.  In addition, you can also see the work of their mentor, Mary Ellen Mark, that is part of the Colección Toledo/INBA.

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Jazz in the garden

Sunday afternoon at Casa Colonial in Oaxaca:  Sun filtering through the trees of a lush tropical garden, the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs grilling on a barbecue, a friendly bartender, and a great jazz combo.  What more could anyone want?

Thank you to the Casa’s owner Jane Robison and manager Amado Bolaños.  It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Thirsty?

Yesterday, as my BFF and I sat outside drinking our morning coffee…

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…we were joined on the terrace.  Nothing like that first sip of the day!

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Plumeria’s promise

A plumeria (aka, frangipani) blossoms on the terrace…

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During this, the middle of a very dry, dry season, a perfumed promise of primavera.

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The best gallery is the street

Yes, we know… ephemeral it may be; effective it is.

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As do the artists of Gabinete Grafico, who bring their woodcut art to the streets.

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And yesterday, Gabinete Grafico’s artists inaugurated a brick and mortar gallery at Calle de M. Bravo 216 in Oaxaca city.

It takes a village

From the outdoor kitchens of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza of Casa Cruz and Bulmaro Perez Mendoza, a three-day feast came forth to celebrate the mayordomía (stewardship) of La Virgen de Guadalupe in Teotitlán del Valle.

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The roles are set in the stones of the metates…

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But, it’s the hands of generations of women…

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who continue to shape traditions and nourish bodies and souls.

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With apron strings tied, the women of Teotitlán del Valle, from celebrated cocinera Abigail Mendoza…

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to her sister, María Luisa Mendoza…

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to the abuelas…

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and their hijas, nueras, nietas, and sobrinas.

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It takes a village of women to make feast.

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Amarillo in winter

Yellow is the color of winter in Oaxaca, be it flora, fauna, or nature-inspired human intervention…

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Primavera amarilla (Tabebuia chrysantha) on Calle Porfirio Díaz.

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Corner of Calle Porfirio Díaz and Calle de M. Bravo.

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Great Kiskadee sitting in the tree next door surveying the scene.

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Emiliano Zapata looks out from above the entrance to Espacio Zapata and Atila del Sur restaurant.

A. M. A. R. I. L. L. O.
by Edward Kofi Louis

Aim high in life and, always seek for peace!
Making it possible to share with others;
As the sun always rises from the east! !
Resting down west to respect the muse of nature.
In the light of Life,
Lights in the sight of the truth! !

Living with positive morals,
Onward with the joy of life.

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Y’all feeling safer?

The headline in the New York Times reads, She Showed Up Yearly to Meet Immigration Agents. Now They’ve Deported Her.

For eight years, Guadalupe García de Rayos had checked in at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office here, a requirement since she was caught using a fake Social Security number during a raid in 2008 at a water park where she worked.

Every year since then, she has walked in and out of the meetings after a brief review of her case and some questions.

But not this year.

Despite a night of protests and a legal appeal, this 35-year old mother of two, who has lived, worked, and played by the arbitrary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rules — and who hasn’t lived in Mexico since she was 14 — was separated from her husband and children and dropped off in Nogales, Mexico early this morning.

I’m so sad and angry at the mean-spirited and grand-standing senselessness of it all.  Right now, all I can do is cry and post this heartbreaking music video, Ice El Hielo by La Santa Cecilia.

Y’all feeling safer up there in el norte?

Worse for wear

After being “under the weather” and cooped up in my apartment with doors and windows shut for the past four days — both due to clouds of demolition dust coming from next door — I gathered what little energy I could, and ventured out to pay my Telmex (phone company) bill.  My  brain must not have been functioning on all cylinders, as I took the steep way back home.

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What was I thinking???  After only a few blocks, I had to stop in front of this door to catch my breath.  It looks like I feel!

Signs of the times

The walls of Oaxaca are speaking…

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No comment necessary.

Baskets ‘R Us

If it’s the end of January into the beginning of February, it must be time for the Feria del Carrizo in San Juan Guelavía.  About twenty minutes east of the city, this village was known for their beautiful and functional baskets hand-woven from carrizo (Arundo donax, Spanish cane, Giant cane, Wild Cane, and Colorado River weed), a tall perennial cane that grows along river banks. p1240717

These baskets have traditionally been used as carriers and storage bins since before the Spanish set foot on the soil that became Mexico.  However, their popularity and demand took a nosedive, along with the economy of San Juan Guelavía, upon the arrival of plastic baskets.  The answer, in 2012, was to promote these artisans, their wares, and their creativity with a fair.  Several days preceding Sunday’s inauguration of the 6th annual fair and sale, there were misas (masses), parades, and fireworks.

As with all festivals and fairs in Oaxaca, there are folkloric dance performances.

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And, artfully positioned decorations adorning walls and gates and hanging from the ceiling.p1240705

There is barbacoa and tortillas hot off the comal.p1240697

And, impossibly adorable children carrying on traditions.p1240738

The fair was in full swing when we arrived in late morning (note to self, get there earlier next year) with carrizo woven baskets, birdcages, bottles, and baby cradles piled high.p1240718So many choices…  Is it too early to begin Christmas shopping?p1240715I kept my eye out for Teresa, who made beautiful lampshades for me two years ago.  However, it wasn’t easy as there were so many people coming and going and crowded around all of the vendor tables.p1240706
It took a while but, on the second pass around, I finally found her and her delightful family.  There was much handshaking, cheek kissing, and catching up.p1240714And, more than a little laughter about her fowl friend, who was keeping watch under the table.p1240712

Another wonderful, warm, and welcoming day in one of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca.  The fair continues this week with a 4-day jaripeo (rodeo) and closes on February 5, so you still have time!  Never fear, if you miss it, these carrizo treasures can often be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Year of the Rooster begins

Even in Oaxaca, Chinese New Year is being celebrated.

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A Taekwondo school brought the Year of the Fire Rooster to the zócalo late this afternoon, replete with a Taiko Drum and Dragon and Lion dance.

According to Huffington Post Canada, people born under this sign “are considered trustworthy and responsible, with a strong sense of timekeeping.”  However, “they can be ‘overly blunt'” and, beware, they are not very compatible with people born in the Year of the Rat.  ¡Feliz Año del Gallo!

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There’s no turning back

It has been six days since the voices of women, and those who love and respect them, rose as one throughout the world.  Email, Facebook postings, Instagram photos, YouTube videos, memes, and tweets have been circulating the globe, resistance is rising, and unity is being forged.

Here in Oaxaca, we have been overwhelmed by the messages of support for our Women’s March Oaxaca, tee shirt sales (175-200), inquiries of “what next?” and we have been blown away by the final police and media count, that puts the total between 2000 and 3000.  Amazing!!!  We have added press reports about our march to the website, along with photos and video of it.

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And, it has been seven days since the toxic, twittering human smokestack of polluted right-wing demagoguery was sworn in as the 45th president of the USA.  This single week has been marked by a flurry of executive actions — and lots of bombast and argument with the press and, among other things, the launching of a war against truth, facts, science and transparency, women’s rights, the environment, healthcare, Muslims, not to mention disrespecting Mexico and opening up the possibility of a trade war with the USA’s third-largest goods trading partner.

Mexicans are incensed and hoping their president Peña Nieto’s newly-found backbone continues to hold.  And, a grassroots effort among Mexicanos has been launched calling for boycotts of U.S. companies in fury at Donald Trump.   I think now is a good time for El Demagogo (The Demagogue) by Lila Downs (lyrics in English below).

The Demagogue

by Lila Downs

At the edge of the world
Where the factories are
There’s a burning of hatred
That’s crossing the lines

There’s a blue eyed devil man
Thinks he’s king of the world
He’s a bully, a salesman
Selling fear and hate

Who do you think you are?
He plays us with his hate
Turns man against man
But it’s really not a game

And I pray to the ancestors’ love
Do not be fooled by this man’s foolish talk
The serpent woke again
In different times and places
There’s a burning cross
Leading the mob
People in chains
He’s a Quak circus act creeping from the past
He’s the symbol of the monster we no longer want to be
(what we used to be…)
The earth trembles with these names
Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Pinochet

No respect for woman, no respect for race
No respect for anything that lives, the human race
But he cannot buy our soul

(CORO:)

NO A ESE MURO
Voy cortando el odio
Voy sembrando amor

NO A ESE MURO
De la explotación
Pero es mi casa

NO A ESE MURO
La luz de la mañana
El lugar de mis ancestros
Las flores del desierto

NO A ESE MURO
Gonna show that my love
Is much stronger than hate
I’m gonna call to the four winds
I’m gonna change my fate
I’m gonna rise up singing
I’m gonna stand for this place
It’s a long time, Mi Gente

There’s no turning back
There’s no turning back
There’s no turning back

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