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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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Fiesta still lifes

Blogger buddy Chris and I were filled with wonder and gratitude to be invited to the home of Fidel Cruz and María Luisa Mendoza, primero (first) mayordomías (sponsors/stewards), for a 3-day fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe.  There were orchestrated rituals of seating, music, and dance; a bounty of some of the best cocina Zapoteca food one could ever hope to eat; hundreds of people from small children to great grandparents; and the most amazing warm, welcoming, and communal spirit.

El atole de espuma

El atole de espuma

Higaditos waiting to be served

Higadito waiting to be served

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Poultry hanging around, awaiting their turn

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Canastas (baskets) used to bring food, dishes, and serving pieces

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Chile spiced oranges and cucumber to cleanse the palate

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women's hands

Never ending piles of dishes waiting to be washed by a myriad of women’s hands

It was an amazing couple of days!  And these still lifes only begin to tell the story.  I promise more, but in the meantime, check out Oaxaca-The Year After.

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The Women’s March Oaxaca was an overwhelming success!  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, pussy hats were present, and estimates put the crowd at almost 2,000 people from the USA, Canada, Mexico, and a few other countries.  We even made the front page of Noticias, one of Oaxaca’s major daily newspapers.

I was helping to hold the lead banner, so my photos only begin to tell the story of this amazing event.  To tell you the truth, I got teary eyed at the feeling of solidarity from those who marched, those on the sidewalks, and those watching from windows and doorways.

Why did I march?  I marched because I want a future for my grandchildren that is not based on hate, fear, and environmental catastrophe.

I marched because, in the 7+ years I have lived in Oaxaca, I have been treated with kindness, generosity, and respect and I want the same for Mexicans and all other immigrants (with and without papers) living in the USA.

I marched because I believed those words on the Statue of Liberty my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, had us memorize:

The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

See the Women’s March Oaxaca website for more photos, videos, and press reports.

T-shirts in the making

T-shirts hot off the  Espacio Zapata presses for Women’s March Oaxaca in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.

I’ll be wearing mine on Saturday.  See you January 21, 2017 at 11 AM in front of Templo Santo Domingo!

Man behind the brooms

Remember Have brooms will travel?  One day a motorcycle, another day a cart.

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And today, the man behind the brooms.

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Escobas de otate are the best for street sweeping!

Keeper of the flame

It’s been a musical twenty-four hours.  Last night, under the stars in the courtyard of the Casa de la Ciudad, friends and I attended a lovely recital by four classical guitarists.  And, late this afternoon, I walked down to Casa Colonial for a performance by Paul Cohen and his jazz combo.  It was a fundraiser for the Libros Para Pueblos library in San Martín Tilcajete sponsored by the Casa’s owner, Jane Robison, in the name of her late husband, Thorny.

There was blue sky, sun, and standing room only as good vibes and jazz filled the garden venue.  A couple of tunes into the first set, Paul brought up his wife, multiple Grammy award winner and Oaxaca’s favorite daughter, Lila Downs to sing a few songs, including the closing song, “Keeper of the Flame” (first recorded by Nina Simone).  Lila, speaking to an audience overwhelmingly from the USA, noted it was a timely titled selection, given the current political climate.  And everyone knew exactly who and what she was referring to.

Paul Cohen and Lila Downs

Keeper Of the Flame
(Nina Simone version)

I’m the keeper of the flame
My torch of love lights his name
Ask no pity, beg my shame
I’m the keeper of the flame

Played with fire and I was burn
Gave a heart but I was spurn
All these time I have yearned
Just to have my love return

Years have passed by
The spark still remains
True love can’t die
It smoulders in flame
When the fire is burning off
And the angels call my name
Dying love will leave no doubt
I’m the keeper of the flame

Years have passed by
The spark still remains
True love can’t die
It smoulders in flame
When the fire is burning out
And the angels call my love
Dying love will leave no doubt
I’m the keeper of the flame

It’s a song not just about lost love.  As Lila alluded, we are all keepers of the flame.

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Oaxaca in Washington D.C.

This is the banner from Oaxaca that will be carried at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.  If you go, look for it!

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If you are in Oaxaca, join U.S. citizens and friends on January 21 at 11:00 AM, in front of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, for a Women’s March Oaxaca — in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.  Your bodies and banners would be most welcome!  Just remember, slogans should be directed toward the U.S. government, as foreigners are forbidden by law from involvement in Mexican politics.

Of the rábanos from Noche de Rábanos, this radish sculpture of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor of Tenochtitlan, was my favorite.

Cuauhtémoc portrayed in radishes

“Cuauhtémoc: El Último Gran Emperador Azteca” by José Yehú Santos Aguilar took second place in the Free Radish category.

We three kings…

Today, Mexico is celebrating Día de Reyes (aka, Three Kings Day and Epiphany).  It is today, not Christmas, that children wake up to find gifts brought during the night, not by Santa but by the Magi.  Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar still had enough stamina to stroll the Alcalá late this morning handing out presents.  Alas, gold, frankincense, and myrrh seem to have gone out of fashion.

Later this afternoon, at the new Polideportivo Venustiano Carranza, the children’s choir “Agnus Dai,” will perform and “Los Payasos y Domo de la Ciencia” from the Oaxaca Science and Technology Council will hold activities.  After a siesta, los tres Reyes Magos will also make their way up to the sports complex to hold contests and continue their gift giving.

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By the way, at a meeting I attended today, guess who bit into the little plastic baby Jesús hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings cake)?  You guessed it!  Hmmm… That means I have to host a tamal and atole party on Candlemas, February 2nd, for everyone at the meeting.  That’s the tradition in Oaxaca!

Have brooms will travel

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That was the year that was…

It was a year I’m sure many would like to forget; it was disastrous for the planet AND her inhabitants.  For me, on this last day of the year, I choose to reflect on the beauty, joy, love, and new adventures that I was fortunate to experience.

I welcomed 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area at my childhood home, now my younger son’s domicile.  Thus on New Year’s Day, I made æbleskiver (Danish pancakes) using my great grandmother’s recipe and her, well over 100 year old, cast iron pan.

Æbleskiver on New Year's Day 2016; a family tradition

Æbleskiver on New Year’s Day 2016; a family tradition.

Back in Oaxaca, February brought a community Día de Amor y Amistad fiesta in my apartment complex.  Have I mentioned?  I have wonderful neighbors!

Valentine's Day party

Valentine’s Day party decorations in the patio.

March was unseasonably hot, but the blue skies and flamboyant trees beginning to bloom made it bearable.

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave

Flamboyant trees, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, and agave.

April took me to Cuba, a lifelong dream finally realized.  It was more fascinating, confounding, and fabulous than I had ever expected.

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View from the Hotel Habana Riviera.

By May, the flamboyant trees had leafed out and were in full bloom — and we needed it, as the hot-hot-hot temperatures continued.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

Flamboyant trees and Santo Domingo de Guzmán looking picture perfect.

A calavera on the streets of Oaxaca in June?  Absolutely!  She knows no season.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

Sad calavera standing on the sidewalk.

And, then there was July!  So much to see and do, this month warrants three images.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

Indigenous pipe and drums lead off the first, and stormy, Guelaguetza desfile.

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival.  So beautiful!

El Jardín Etnobotánico was again the site of the Mole Festival. So beautiful!

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float, waiting.

Vela Vinnii Gaxheé parade float waiting for the Intrepidas to board.

The rainy season was in full force in August and I loved standing on my terrace watching the storms approach, though sometimes they didn’t make it all the way to Casita Colibrí.  Microclimates!

Storm approaching the city from the south.

Storm approaching the city from the south.

September brought the second major feast day in Teotitlán del Valle:  Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María.

Bringing the canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

Bringing canastas to the church for the unmarried women and girls to carry in the convite.

I was in California from late September to early October, and when I returned there was a new exhibition in the courtyard of the Museo de Arte Prehispánico de México Rufino Tamayo.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by Alejandro Santiago.

Some of the 2501 migrant sculptures by the late Alejandro Santiago.

For the past couple of years, one of my destinations on November 1 has been the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros; its beauty and tranquility always take my breath away.

Under the shade of the daughters of the tule tree, the chapel in the panteón.

Light and shadows cast by the daughters of the Tule tree, play off the colors of the chapel in the panteón.

Later in November, I spent a delightful Thanksgiving with family and friends on the east coast of the USA, but returned to spend Christmas in Oaxaca for the first time in three years.  It was just as joyous and colorful as I remembered!

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

Nochebuena angels on a float in the zócalo.

These three are the future; let’s vow to do all we can to give them a better world than the 2016 one that is departing.

Many thanks to you all; I am constantly amazed and gratified that you choose to stop by.  Wishing all the best for you, your loved ones, and your communities in 2017.  ¡Feliz año nuevo a tod@s!

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