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Posts Tagged ‘California’

 

Despite 2000 miles between here and there, similarities abound between the two places I call home.

Art on walls.  (Left) A massive new mural in Mill Valley, above the side wall of the Sequoia Theater, by Zio Ziegler.  (Right)  One of the many murals by Sanez (Fabián Calderón Sánchez) in Oaxaca.  By the way, I’ve previously posted murals by both artists:  click Sanez and/or Zio Ziegler.

Agave.  (Left) Of course in Mill Valley (California), it’s solely ornamental for those meticulously landscaped gardens.   (R) Whereas in Oaxaca, it’s vital crop — land without agave means life without mezcal!

Fluttering swags of flags.  (Left) Cloth Tibetan prayer flags flying outside the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley welcome patrons to the Mountainfilm festival.  (Right) Ubiquitous papel picado found inside and out in Oaxaca, in paper or plastic, for events special or just because.

Sacred mountains.  (Left) Mt. Tamalpais, the Sleeping Lady and mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and adult peace, joy, and renewal.  (Right) Cerro Picacho (in Zapoteco, Quie Guia Betz), brother/sister mountain — the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle, where, among other times, villagers make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

And, last but not least, colorfully costumed couples.  (Left) Soon after arriving at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, I ran into this twosome.  Turns out, in the “it’s a small world” universe, they are actually friends of a couple I know in San Miguel de Allende.  (Right) During July’s Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, the delegation from Putla de Guerrero representing their celebration of Carnaval, is garish and gaudy and wild and wacky — in other words, fantastic!

Creativity is a challenge. It requires us to be fully human — autonomous yet engaged, independent yet interdependent. Creativity bridges the conflict between our individualistic and our sociality. It celebrates the commonality of our species while simultaneously setting us apart as unique individuals.  —Greg Graffin

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It’s been a great visit to Mill Valley, California, the town where I grew up and lived most of my life.   But, I’m ready to return to Oaxaca.  However, besides differences in latitude and attitude, there is much they have in common.

There are sculptures in public places (click on each to enlarge image)…

There are murals…

There are depictions of aquatic animals…

AND, there are signs reminding drivers to wait and take turns.  Remember my What’s easy??? post from last week?  Look what just went up in Mill Valley.  Discourteous drivers know no boundaries!

Rather than dwelling on the differences — which I did when I first began living this dual-country life — I now choose to appreciate the similarities.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that both places are situated in beautiful settings, fresh fruits and vegetables abound, have relatively mild climates, and an appreciation for the arts.

And so… I bid a fond “adiós” to Mill Valley and “hola” to Oaxaca.

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According to the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS), there are approximately 165,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers and their children living  in California — with a significant percentage coming from the state of Oaxaca.  Writer and photographer David Bacon has been photographing and interviewing indigenous Mexican migrants working in California’s agricultural fields for many years.  The following Truthout article is from his photo-documentary project, Living Under the Trees, sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Young, at Work in the Fields

by David Bacon

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

Most young farm-workers in California are migrants from Mexico, especially the south of the country, where many people share an indigenous culture and language. Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It’s hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it’s a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself. With the money I earn I’m going to help my mother and save the rest. I’ll be attending college in the fall at Arizona Western College—my first year. I want to have a good job, a career. I’m not thinking of working in the fields. Not at all. I look at how hard my grandfather has worked. I don’t want to do field work for the rest of my life because it’s so hard and the pay is so low.

Lopez describes the reality for farmworkers in California in a way that gives tangible meaning to the facts and numbers describing farmworker life. There are about 120,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California. Counting the 45,000 children living with them, that is a total of 165,000 people. They are the most recent migrants from Mexico. They speak twenty-three languages, come from thirteen different Mexican states, and have rich cultures of language, music, dance, and food that bind their communities together.

<snip>  Click HERE to read full article.

This project is therefore a reality check. The idea is to give indigenous migrant communities a vehicle they can use to find support for dealing with the social problems they face, such as housing, low wages, and discrimination. This documentary work is not neutral. Its purpose is to help provide a means for people to organize and win support in a world that, at best, treats them as invisible, and at worst demonizes them. I used to be a union organizer, and this work is very similar. Social documentation not only has to have an engagement with reality, but should try to change it.

Click HERE to read full article.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Oaxaca is one of the most indigenous and (no surprise) one of the poorest states in Mexico.  And, the Triqui of the Mixteca region of Oaxaca are some of the state’s poorest residents.  They have recently come to the attention of sports lovers, as a result of the heartwarming story of their youth basketball team, dubbed the Barefoot champions of the mountains.

However, while their success story makes us feel good, it is rare.  Political violence and poverty continue to chase the Triqui out of their beautiful and ancient mountain communities in search of a better future for their families.   And, discrimination continues to follow them into el norte.  To add to the strikes against them wherever they go, Spanish is not their native language — the state of Oaxaca is home to 16 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, with Triqui being one.  And so, the story of Bernadina Hernandez and her grassroots efforts in Hollister, California should be known, appreciated, and celebrated.

A little background information…

Muchisimas gracias a Jody for turning me on to Bernadina’s story.

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On another glorious day in Mill Valley…

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There’s a high flyin’ [blimp], flying way up in the sky,

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I wonder if she looks down as she goes on by?

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Apparently, her name is Despicable Me 2.  It’s all about the advertising and, grrr, I’ve fallen into their trap.

Only four more days, and I’ll be leaving on a jet plane, on my way back to Oaxaca!

(Apologies to Billy Edd Wheeler for borrowing a few lines from “High Flyin’ Bird” and to Richie Havens and his sublime version of it.)

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Oaxaca’s annual Guelaguetza festival honoring the traditions of costume, dance, and sharing of the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca is less than a month away.  There will be competitions leading up to the choosing of Goddess Centeotl to preside over the festival and parades by the delegations through the city on the two Saturdays that precede the July 22 and 29 programs at the Guelaguetza Auditorium on Cerro Fortín.

There will official and alternative celebrations in the city and surrounding villages.  According to yesterday’s press conference, more than 70 events are scheduled and Lila Downs will be the official Guelaguetza 2013 ambassador.  Hmmm… I wonder what that means?  Surprise Lila Downs performances?  It’s Oaxaca, so you just never know!

To get everyone in the spirit, here’s a few photos from another of Oaxaca’s wonderful urban art covered walls.  It celebrates the heritage of Oaxaca and can be found at José López Alavez 1406, in the Xochimilco neighborhood of the city.

By the way, this past Sunday, San Francisco’s North Bay residents got an early and small flavor of Guelaguetza.  Oaxacan dances, dishes and costumes in Santa Rosa entertained over 1,000 spectators and, no doubt, the hearts of the Oaxaqueños participating and in the audience swelled with pride.  If I’d only known about it in advance, I would have gladly extricated myself from the complexities and minutiae of getting my grandparents’ house ready to sell and driven up there for a taste of Oaxaca.  They were even serving tlayudas!

Oh well, this time next month I will be happily back in Oaxaca and, no doubt, be exhausted, exhilarated, and pouring through hundreds of photos from the first week of Guelaguetza activities.

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In Oaxaca, a molino is an indispensable business in every village.  Dried corn, cacao beans, chiles, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds are brought to the molino to be ground so they can be turned into the staples found on Oaxaca’s tables — tamales, tortillas, tlayudas, tejate, mole, Oaxacan chocolate, and much mouth-watering more!  Below is a miller of corn in Tamazulápam del Espíritu Santo, in the Mixe region of Oaxaca.

Sign painted on side of building "Molino de Nixtamal"

In Mill Valley, Molino is a colorful place-name, a street and a park, that recalls California’s Spanish and Mexican past.

Wooden sign: "Welcome to Molino Park"

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. ”  —Bill Vaughan

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One of the things I always notice when in El Norte this time of year is the longer length of the day — and today it’s at its longest.  Light came through the curtains to wake me at 5:45 AM and the sun won’t dip behind Mt. Tamalpais and into the Pacific until 8:30 PM.  The further north one goes, the longer this day lasts.  Of course, the reverse is true in the winter.  No wonder the Summer Solstice is such a big deal in the northern latitudes!

As much as I miss Oaxaca, this really has been a spectacular spring in the Bay Area — perfect for strolling along the San Francisco Embarcadero with a Oaxaca buddy.

The City By the Bay at her best!

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A recent article from California’s Merced Sun-Star addresses an issue many in Oaxaca’s ex-pat community have been discussing.

Exchange student learns sustainable gardening

By RAMONA GIWARGIS – rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com

MERCED — In the small town of Mitla Oaxaca in Mexico, a little girl drew inspiration from her grandmother’s colorful garden more than 10 years ago.

Though the family wasn’t very wealthy, the dinner table was always filled with fresh and nutritious foods.

“When I was young, my grandma always had a garden,” said Xochitl Juarez, now 26. “She was really poor, but she always had fresh fruits and vegetables.”

(photo by BEA AHBECK - bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com) Xochitl Juarez of Mexico planted a 10,000-square-foot garden in the shape of a circle because 'everything in life is a cycle,' she said.

(photo by BEA AHBECK – bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com)  Xochitl Juarez of Mexico planted a 10,000-square-foot garden in the shape of a circle because ‘everything in life is a cycle,’ she said.

After falling in love with agriculture at a young age, Juarez sought to help her community learn new farming techniques to become more sustainable.

“A lot of people that come here are from small towns and they have to grow their own food,” she said. “If they have the opportunity to be sustainable, we’ll have a better life with more healthy foods and better nutrition.”

Juarez left her hometown of about 10,000 people and traveled to the United States for the first time as part of the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture program.

[Click HERE for full article]

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I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area for a lengthy stay — a necessary trip to el norte to sell my grandparents house.  I’ve only been here for three weeks but I’m missing Oaxaca, already!  However, driving up Solano Ave. on my way to Berkeley, a storefront caught my eye.  Skeletons, tapetes, a riot of color…

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Where am I???

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Casa Oaxaca is a gift shop featuring arts and crafts from Southern Mexico.  Artesanía from Chiapas, Guerrero, Puebla, and (of course) Oaxaca cram every nook and cranny of the store.

Casa Oaxaca’s delightful owner, Guillermo (“Memo”) Robles, was born and raised in the city of Oaxaca and he returns frequently on buying trips.  All items are carefully (and lovingly, I think) bought directly from crafts people and artisan collectives.

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I stood talking with Memo for almost 30 minutes and, surrounded by the artesanía I have come to know and love, it was almost like being back in my adopted city.  Ahhh…  If you go, don’t forget to look up!

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I’ve also discovered Mi Pueblo Food Center in San Rafael, one of a small, privately owned, chain of supermarkets in Northern California.  I came home with Tajin seasoning, a bag of still warm tortillas, a whole roast chicken, quesillo, along with fruit, fresh herbs, vegetables, and a case of Modelo Especial (the latter especially for my son, in whose home I’m staying) — all for a better price than the unnamed, but well-known, big chains.  On my next visit, I’ve got to try their tamales.

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It may not be Oaxaca, but there is some major league urban art celebrating Major League Baseball’s 2012 World Series champion, San Francisco Giants.  The mural, by the Ex-Vandals, currently can be seen at Columbus at Union Street in San Francisco’s, North Beach neighborhood.

But, did the city’s Planning Commission have to deface the mural with its Notice of Public Hearing?  Couldn’t they have posted their notice in a more discrete location?  Honestly, have they no respect?!!

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Sunny, warm, and dry, Oaxaca’s sidewalks, mercados, restaurants, and zócalo are filled with “snowbirds” (the human variety) escaping the bone-chilling and wet wintry weather of el norte.  Alas, almost immediately after the previously mentioned “big move” next week, I’m heading in the opposite direction — to the bleak gray north for several weeks to visit family and friends in California (it’s not all bikini beaches and blue sky) and then east to celebrate my first grandchild’s first birthday — the best and maybe only reason to visit upstate New York in the dead of winter!  And, if previous return trips to el norte are a predictor, I’ll be missing the warmth and color of Oaxaca almost from the minute I step off the plane.

The “snowbirds” and I have the luxury of coming and going.  Some people do not.  One of my favorite journalists interviews a young Oaxaqueña trying to support her young daughter by working the fields in Madera, California.  As the title suggests, it is a poignant story…

The Only Job I Can Do–A Young Mother’s Farm Work Story

Editor’s Note: Lorena Hernandez is a young farm worker and single mother from Oaxaca, Mexico. Today she lives in Madera, Calif., with her daughter and aunt. She told her story to David Bacon.

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Lorena Hernandez picking blueberries   [photo by David Bacon]

MADERA, Calif.–To go pick blueberries I have to get up at four in the morning. First I make my lunch to take with me, and then I get dressed for work. For lunch I eat whatever there is in the house, mostly bean tacos. Then the ritero, the person who gives me a ride to work, picks me up at 20 minutes to five.

I work as long as my body can take it, usually until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the ritero gives me a ride home, and I get there by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. By then I’m really tired.

Costs of Rides, Childcare on Little Pay

I pay $8 each way to get to work and back home. Right now they’re paying $6 for each bucket of blueberries you pick, so I have to fill almost three buckets just to cover my daily ride. The contractor I work for, Elias Hernandez, hooks us up with the riteros. He’s the contractor for 50 of us farm workers picking blueberries, and I met him when a friend of my aunt gave me his number.

<snip>

No Vision of My Future

I don’t have friends, just acquaintances from work. They don’t have responsibilities like I do, so they go out on the weekend. They share their stories with me because since I have a daughter, I don’t go out. I just stay at home.

I wash my daughter’s clothes on the weekends because during the week I’m so tired. There isn’t time to clean the house during the week either. That’s what we do on the weekends.

I don’t have a vision of my own future. I don’t really think about it. I know I want to work every day. I don’t think I’ll ever return to school because of my age. My job will be working in the fields. I’m at peace with my current situation. I would love to go back to school, but it’s too late for me. Perhaps one day.

Please read full story HERE.

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I’m back in Oaxaca… arrived last night after a brief trip to El Norte.  However,  over the last three years, culture shock (on both sides of the border) has subsided and I am struck and heartened that despite our differences, humans share so much more… especially the compulsion to make even the most common and utilitarian, beautiful.

Artist, Zio Ziegler added a little pizzazz to a car in Mill Valley… (Yes, I know, a Porche!)

Porche painted decoration

Car in Oaxaca… (Ahhh, a VW bug!)

VW bug painted with decoration

Wall in Mill Valley (also by Zio Ziegler)…

Painted horned creature riding a bike.

Wall in Oaxaca…

Savannah scene, with elephant in foreground, painted on wall.

Veggies in Mill Valley…

Vegetables in bins at outdoor market

Veggies in Oaxaca…

Vegetables mounded in mercado

From one of my favorite journalists, Linda Ellerbee:  “People are pretty much alikeIt’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.”

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Lost or discarded?

Roof of car decorated with found objects

Artist found and created in Sausalito, Ca.  You better believe it!

Old car decorated with found objects with word "believe" in front.

And please, don’t “liberate” any of the found objects, in other words… stop stealing!!!

Found objects with clenched fist and peace symbol.

La lucha continúa.  Paz y amor a todos.

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I grew up and lived most of my life twenty minutes from the Pacific Ocean.  I learned to drive on the road up over Mt. Tamalpais out to Stinson, Muir, and Bolinas beaches.  Needless to say, countless trips followed and continue!  So, yesterday I made my regular “Bay Area visit” pilgrimage to the beach.  Even on a foggy day, the sights, sounds, and smells of Stinson Beach are magical…

Alas, it’s 6 hours by car up and over the long and winding roads of the Sierra Madre del Sur to reach Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca’s closest Pacific Ocean beach.  The alternatives:  10+ hours by bus (by way of Salina Cruz) or a short but costly flight.  Still waiting for the long-promised highway that is supposed to cut auto travel time to two hours!!!

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