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Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 fallout’

Thursday is market day in Villa de Zaachila. Thus, once we turned off the carretera, we crawled our way into town joining scores of other cars, trucks, tuk tuks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and the occasional goat. The scenes were pure country village. Once parked, we meandered our way along the street stalls, stopping to examine their wares and chat with vendors.

However, our stomachs were grumbling and our trajectory was set — Zaachila’s mouthwatering barbacoa de chivo (goat) beckoned!

Once sated, we went in search of Zaachila’s beautifully decorated pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread). It was still a little early in the season but, zigzagging up and down the bread aisles, we eventually found a couple of vendors and bought a few to be placed on our ofrendas.

Being members of the “clean plate club” and needing to walk off our very filling lunch, we walked toward the Templo de Santa Maria de la Natividad to begin the Muertos mural walk to the Panteón. However, before even reaching the church, we were stopped in our tracks by this massive and incredibly moving mural dedicated to the victims of Covid-19.

New Day of the Dead murals had been painted along calle Coquiza since I was last in Zaachila two years ago and I will post pictures later. In the meantime, next stop — a mezcal palenque in Zimatlán de Álvarez.

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Unsurprisingly, on Monday Oaxaca went back to Covid-19 Semáforo Naranja (orange traffic light) — meaning there is a high risk of contagion of the virus. On Wednesday, it was reported there were 479 new COVID-19 patients, the highest figure of the year.

Unfortunately, having had to run a few errands over the past few days, I haven’t seen any changes in people’s behavior, business/government/museum closings, nor enforcement of the mask wearing mandate — only an announcement by the archbishop that churches would be limited to 25% capacity.

It is demoralizing and infuriating and all I can do is continue to wear a cubreboca (face mask) whenever I’m out and about, practice social distancing, and try to stay sane. As for the latter, I’m choosing to concentrate on and appreciate my favorite things.

People, real and imagined, waiting for the bus on Av. Benito Juárez.
Ensalada de pulpo (Octopus salad) at Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante.
A turquoise building, meters, and mural on Calle La Alianza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Water lily in the pond of Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum).

We are all tired. However, unless people take this extremely seriously, get vaccinated, and continue to mask up and practice social distancing, “normal” will not return and our fellow humans (including loved ones) will needlessly continue to suffer and die. As a current meme suggests, let us all practice humility, kindness, and community.

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The headline in NVI Noticias announced, despite an increase in COVID-19, the federal government declared that, as of tomorrow, Oaxaca will move from semáforo amarillo (yellow traffic light)…

Art by Berza and ARCH on the Calle Constitución side of El Tendajón.

… to semáforo verde (green traffic light).

Mural signed by Hiko in Barrio de Xochimilco.

Inquiring minds are wondering if the downgrading of COVID-19 risk has anything to do with the upcoming elections on June 6.

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Alas, another silent Viernes Santo in Oaxaca due to the pandemic. No early morning processions from churches throughout the city converging in front of the Cathedral to reenact the encuentro where Jesús meets María going towards Calvary. No worshipers praying and reciting appropriate devotions as they moved from one sidewalk Estación de la Cruz (Station of the Cross) to another. And, no rhythmic beat of a tambor, high-pitched tones of a chirimía, and the sputtering sounds of rachets punctuating the hush of the crowds gathered along the route for the early evening Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence).

Only silent sacred vignettes accompanied yesterday morning’s Good Friday walk through Barrio de Jalatlaco…

Unlike last year when church doors remained closed and services were broadcast remotely, the Archbishop announced that this year the churches will be open for liturgical acts on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, albeit with a “limited presence of the faithful.”

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Tuesday night, Kalisa and I ventured out on another vaccine reconnaissance mission and found the number of people planning to spend the night in line wasn’t nearly as long as the night before. Ruling out sleeping on the sidewalk, we agreed to give it a try early Wednesday morning.

Route to the vaccine.

We rendezvoused at 6:15 AM, set off to find the end of the line, discovered it was already a block and a half longer, reassured each other that we can do this, and joined the line. Armed with reading material, we set our stools down and prepared to wait for our first jab of the Pfizer vaccine. Eating wasn’t a problem, as vendors regularly came by with food and drink and Mercado IV Centenario was only a few steps away. As for the “call of nature,” public bathrooms are available at the Mercado and Jardín Socrates nearby and a few businesses along our route had signs reading, “Baños 5 pesos.”

7:33 AM – After 1 hour of waiting on Independencia.

We froze for the first 3 hours in the morning. The temperature was in the low 50s (Fahrenheit) and we both were wearing sandals, short sleeve cotton blouses, and only had cotton rebozos (shawls) to keep us warm. The vaccinations were scheduled to start at 8 AM but our line didn’t start moving until 11:30 AM. It turns out, they gave the people in line on Morelos a number when they stopped vaccinations at 5 PM the day before, so they got first priority, along with anyone in a wheelchair.

2:07 PM – Entering the Plaza de la Danza.

One of the enjoyable aspects of our ordeal was getting to know our neighbors in the queue. Like most, they were sons, daughters, and grandchildren holding places in line for elderly relatives. This is the ethos of Oaxaca! Once the sun rose above the buildings and began beating down on young and old, we all sweltered in 80+ degree (F) heat. Despite bringing sun hats, Kalisa and I succumbed to purchasing umbrellas from one of the vendors going up and down the line. Another enterprising vendor was selling plastic stools, but since we had brought our own, he ignored us.

2:32 PM – Post vaccination arrival in observation area.

Once the line actually started moving, it only took 2 hours to get to the Plaza de la Danza, where our paperwork was processed, we got the vaccine, waited in an observation area for 15 minutes, and then left for home. 7-1/2 hours, door to door.

2:44 PM – Post vaccination debriefing.

We were lucky, as they ran out of vaccine by 3:30 PM and Thursday’s vaccinations at the Plaza de la Danza were canceled. More is supposed to arrive, but no one knows when. As for our second dose, we were told they will announce via media when it will be offered AND promised to be better organized. Keep your fingers crossed!

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The headline in this morning’s newspaper read, “Without strategy to avoid crowds, vaccination against COVID-19 begins in Oaxaca.” Here in the greater Oaxaca de Juárez metropolitan area, there are 11 vaccination sites, distributing 23,090 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to people over 60 years old who have registered on a federal government vaccine eligibility site. Because I am a Residente Permanente (official permanent resident), I also was able to register last month. The vaccinations are scheduled to be given today, tomorrow, and Thursday, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and my plan had been to walk over to the Plaza de la Danza, my designated site, at 7:30 this morning.

Given it’s only a block away, early last night my neighbor and I walked over to scope the set up out. Boy, were we in for a shock — masses of people already lined Avenida Morelos, the street leading to the Plaza de la Danza.

The young man above looking at his cell phone, sitting on a stool in front of the School of Fine Arts, was number one in line. He arrived at 8:00 AM yesterday — 24 hours early.

Looking at the photos, I’m sure you are thinking, those people in line are awfully young looking to be over 60 — and you would be correct.

The overwhelming majority of people who were camping out on the sidewalks of the city were holding places for their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and maybe even neighbors who were too old to spend the night on the streets.

The two guys in the foreground below were the last in the line on Galeana near Trujano at about 8:00 PM last night, though a couple more people were approaching as I was taking the photo.

The line snaked along at least six blocks. And, no, I did not join last night’s vigil. I will be patient, check the progress of the line a couple of times a day, and wait comfortably at home. According to a representative from Oaxaca’s Secretaría de Bienestar (Ministry of Welfare), there are enough doses for those registered and, should there be a need, they will get more. ¡Ojala!

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This article, Tourists are welcome in Oaxaca, Mexico. Their increasingly bad behavior is not, is one of the reasons these images from my garden express how I’m feeling these days.

Then there is the fact that I haven’t set foot out of the city for exactly one year. Color me prickly and awaiting the vaccine.

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Today, besides being Groundhog Day, it is the Christian holy day, Día de la Candelaria (aka, Candlemas, Presentation of Jesus at/in the Temple, and Feast of the Purification of the Virgin). In Mexico, tradition calls for families to bring their Niño Dios (baby Jesus), decked out in new clothes, to the church to be blessed. Alas, in the time of Covid-19, the Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca (health department) has called upon Oaxaqueños not to gather this year and, while the doors of the Cathedral will be open, the faithful are asked to stay home if their Niño Dios was blessed in previous years.

Tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante: Tamal Adobo, Tamal Chile Ajo, Tamal Mole Negro, Chancleta Guajolote, and Tamal de Fiesta (not in order)

Custom also calls for the person who bit into the baby Jesus figurine hidden in the Rosca de Reyes (3 Kings Cake) during Día de los Reyes Magos to host a tamalada on Candelaria. As I write, tamales are steaming all over the state. The virus will not stop the cocineras of Oaxaca from rising before the crack of dawn to make and serve tamales. As I previously mentioned, I munched down on a figurine. And I wasn’t the only one — my neighbor and friend Kalisa also had the “pleasure.” I must confess, we took the easy way out and pre-ordered our tamales from Levadura de Olla Restaurante. I can’t wait to eat them!

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You may remember the beautiful hat tree I commissioned from the San Martín Tilcajete workshop of Jésus Sosa Calvo. In these mask-wearing times of Covid-19, it has taken on a new function.

No longer serving as a place to hang my hat or market baskets, it now holds my collection of cubrebocas (face masks).

In case you are wondering why there are seven of them hanging on the tree, each KN95 mask is labeled with a day of the week, so I can rotate them.

New function following fabulous form!

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Hindsight is the ability to understand, after something has happened, why or how it was done and how it might have been done better.

2020 was a year that most of us would like to forget but that will probably remain vividly etched in our memory banks for the rest of our lives. It was a year our worlds became smaller and forced us to see what was before us. It was a year that we will continue to examine and try to understand. It was a year that has important lessons to teach about who we are individually and collectively.

January 2020 – Visiting very dear friends and getting my Pacific Ocean fix at Avila Beach, California.
February 2020 – New resident in Casita Colibrí’s garden, an Argiope spider.
March 2020 – One of the last calendas of the year, graduation of public accountants.
April 2020 – Morning visitors at Casita Colibrí.
May 2020 – Sunday morning walk past the Xochimilco Aqueduct Arches.
June 2020 – Morning view from Casita Colibrí of Templo de San Felipe Neri.
July 2020 – Balcony garden of greens at Casita Colibrí.
August 2020 – Rainy season morning view of Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad from Casita Colibrí.
September 2020 – Monday morning walk on calle Garcia Vigil, “Together in (healthy) distance.”
October 2020 – Susana Trilling discusses the foods of Day of the Dead at Casa Colonial.
November 2020 – Sunset view from Casita Colibrí of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.
December 2020 – Sunday morning encounter with the new sculpture on the Alcalá, “Agaves Contemporáneos Oaxaqueños” presented by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

With a renewed appreciation for the small things that bring joy and give life meaning, on this New Year’s Eve, I wish you all health, peace, and joy in 2021.

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Mountain biking in the city.
Benito (Juárez) knows best.
Riding with the queen (Frida Kahlo).
Masked, they’ll be dancing in the street (with the “Rubios” of Santiago Juxtlahuaca).

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Today Oaxaca regressed to “If you are able, stay in your house” Covid-19 semáforo naranja, seemingly for the umpteenth time, not that it seems to make any difference. A morning walk to Mercado Benito Juárez revealed restaurants continuing to offer indoor dining; a zócalo teeming with people, street vendors, and the tents of a plantón (protest encampment); and a mercado bustling with people. These days I feel like I’m living in Alice in Wonderland’s world…

“Off with their heads!”

Papier-mâché mono de calenda artisan workshop in Oaxaca city — March 7, 2020.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Mural on a wall in San Martín Tilcajete — February 25, 2020.

“Little Alice fell
d
o
w
n
the hOle,
bumped her head
and bruised her soul”

A little Christmas humor in Oaxaca city — December 13, 2020.

“What a strange world we live in… Said Alice to the Queen of hearts”

All quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Louis Carroll.

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It is a mostly quiet feast day for Oaxaca’s patron saint, La Virgen de la Soledad (the Virgin of Solitude). If you have ever been to Oaxaca you probably visited her at the Basilica built in her honor and seen images of this Reina y Patrona de Oaxaca (Queen and Patroness of Oaxaca) for sale, carried in religious processions, and tucked into niches.

Virgen de la Soledad clay sculpture by Irma García Blanco* in Barrio de Xochimilco

In non Covid-19 times, she is celebrated with anything but solitude. A cacophony of chiming bells, brass bands, crackles, pops, bangs, and whistles from fireworks, toritos, and a castillo fill the air (and severely limit sleep) in the days and nights leading up to December 18. And the aroma of Oaxaca street food from stalls set up to feed the pilgrims who often spend the night of December 17, permeates the neighborhood.

Image of the mule who refused to move located in the garden behind the Basilica de la Soledad

Since her unceremonious arrival 400 years ago on a mule who laid his burden down and refused to get back up, “In critical moments, such as earthquakes, epidemics, droughts, conflicts, social upheaval and others, she has been with us, to give us her company. Not only on her feast day, but almost every day they come to give thanks to Our Lady for continued life and good health.” — Nicolás Ramírez García, Rector de la Basílica Menor. (My translation)

Virgen de la Soledad sculpture in a niche near Jardín Conzatti

This year she has not processed through the city but instead remains behind the closed doors of her home in the Basilica de la Soledad. In order to keep her people safe from the virus, today her bejeweled figure does not preside over open air mass in the church atrium, the faithful are not able to line up to pray before her, light candles, and touch her mantle with bouquets of flowers and traditional herbs. Worshippers have been urged to maintain the faith from their homes and pray in front of their own images of La Virgen.

My Virgen de la Soledad clay sculpture by Irma García Blanco*

The Virgin of Solitude has been my neighbor for more than eleven years and I mourn the unnatural quiet, but look forward to next year — no doubt a celebration magnified in gratitude for surviving the pandemic.

*Irma García Blanco is one of the Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular de Oaxaca and is the daughter of Oaxaca’s grand matriarch of decorative pottery, Teodora Blanco Nuñez.

Update: While the doors were closed, based on photos in this article, apparently a limited number of worshippers were allowed into the Basilica for the mass celebrated by the archbishop.

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Save for yesterday’s 5:00 AM jarring explosion of cohetes (rockets — all bang, no bling) and clanging church bells coming from the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad heralding the start of the celebrations for the Virgen de Juquila, the last thirty-two hours have been mostly muted, with only the occasional chiming bells and bursting cohetes — very quiet by Oaxaca standards.

Virgen de Juquila mural in Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca — seen in 2013.
Procession honoring the Virgen de Juquila in front of the Cathedral in Oaxaca city — seen December 8, 2018.
Parish of Santo Tomás Xochimilco chapel to the Virgen de Juquila in Oaxaca city closed, by order dated March 17, 2020, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 — seen May 24, 2020.

Due to Covid-19 concerns, in consultation with Oaxaca’s health department, the archbishop of Oaxaca cancelled holy processions through the streets and called upon the faithful to forego pilgrimmages. This is especially sad for Santa Catarina Juquila, where Juquila’s shrine is located, as just last week it was announced the town had been designated a Mexican Pueblo Mágico. The archbishop also ordered churches closed, with masses to be celebrated and broadcast from behind locked doors during December’s festivities honoring the Virgen de Juquila (December 8), the Virgen de Guadalupe (December 12), and the Virgen de La Soledad (December 18).

Now if only other people and places would take this pandemic as seriously.

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What an unusual yet lovely (and delicious) Thanksgiving 2020 was.

Cranberry/pear relish bubbling on the stove.

After the fact, I realized this was only the second Thanksgiving I’ve shared with just one other person. Childhood dinners were filled with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even the Thanksgiving I spent in Denmark, the international school I attended prepared a turkey with all the fixin’s dinner — to the delight of the American students and curiosity of the other international students and Danes. Once married, we hosted or joined family and/or friends — and that has been my tradition ever since, even here in Oaxaca.

Sage dressing with whole wheat bread, celery, onions, and carrots.

Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, Kalisa, my (now famous) friend, neighbor, and cocinera extraordinaire and I decided we would persevere in an attempt to carry on with an albeit downsized celebration of just the two of us on my terrace. For the main course, we ruled out turkey, discarded chicken as not special, and settled on repeating the success of rabbit — concluding it would go well with my cranberry/pear relish and sage dressing. And, who knows? The indigenous peoples may have proffered rabbit to the starving and clueless foreigners.

Roast rabbit à la Kalisa.

So, we made our own pilgrimage up to Pochote Mercado Orgánico in Colonia Reforma to again purchase the criollo rabbit Kalisa would be preparing. A couple of days later, at Mercado IV Centenario, we happened upon camotes/sweet potatoes to be used for her “pumpkin” cheesecake. Unlike my first several Thanksgivings here, when bags of fresh cranberries could only be found at Mercado Hidalgo, I was able to purchase all the ingredients for my cranberry/pear relish at Mercado Benito Juárez. As for the dressing, I still had some Bell’s Seasoning brought from the USA a couple of years ago, and the rest was easily found. Looking at our menu, it occurred to me that perhaps we needed something green. That was easily solved with some baby lettuce from my garden (alas, no photo).

Pumpkin cheesecake with caramel topping.

And so it was, a Thanksgiving where two friends gave thanks for our very present blessings — friendship, health, abundance, and being welcomed into the beautiful and loving arms of Oaxaca.

Two friends giving thanks on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca.

By the way, the place settings were for photo-op purposes only. We retired with filled plates and glasses of wine to the south end of the terrace where we could sit and eat 8 feet apart.

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