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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Festival fireworks in Oaxaca are usually 3-part affairs, consisting of toritos (little bulls) and/or canastas (baskets) wired with fireworks and worn on top of the head by daring-do guys (toritos) and gals (canastas).  This is followed by a castillo (castle) and then the more familiar rockets-exploding-in-the-sky fireworks most of us have craned our necks and oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over since childhood.  Sometimes the order of the latter two is reversed.

The subject of today’s blog post is the castillo that was constructed and executed this past Saturday by “los maestros pirotécnicos los C. Rigoberto y Dagoberto Morales” for the festival in honor of the  Santisima Virgen del Rosario (Sainted Virgin of the Rosary) in Teotitlán del Valle.  They and their crew went about the business of constructing and wiring this “Erector Set” type castillo out of wood and carrizo in the church courtyard.

I couldn’t resist playing with the saturation on this photo.  In my mind’s eye, this is the way it looked.IMG_9957satAnd, de-saturating this one against the backdrop of El Picacho, the sacred mountain that watches over the village.IMG_9994b&wThe result of the work by these maestros and their crew?  A spectacular castillo, accompanied by the band, Herencia Musical.  It was quite a show!!!

And, if you want to see some inside action from a torito, check out the video Chris made, Torito Danza – Dancing with Fireworks.  He actually attached a POV (Point of View) camera to the torito!!!

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The celebration of Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indigenas continues in Oaxaca this weekend, with music, dance, food, and an artisan expo-venta (sale) in Jardín El Pañuelito.  As I walked through the exposition, one woman’s embroidery drew me back for a second look.  I was especially drawn to a huipil that had been hanging next to the one below.  It’s not in this photo, because one of the “Diablos” from the Santiago Juxtlahuaca dance troupe (who were performing later) had already volunteered to climb up on a chair to take it down for her to show to me.

However, before I could get my money out, a delegation of dignitaries came by for a photo shoot.

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This popular and exceptionally talented woman is Carmen Vásquez Pérez, from San Mateo Yetla, Valle Nacional, located 172 kilometers northeast of Oaxaca city in the Papaloapan Region.  According to the article, Mujeres preservan bordado en Yetla, the village is surrounded by waterfalls and lush vegetation and is rich in Chinanteca customs.

P1130484Doña Carmen learned to embroider as a child and has been instrumental in an effort to preserve and promote the local traditional designs and techniques.  As you can see below, her workmanship is exquisite.

P1130489 After returning home and doing a little research, I’m even more pleased with my purchase.  And, by the way, I did not “bargain” — my new treasure is worth every peso of its 600 peso price tag, and then some!

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As the announcer used to say, “And now for something completely different…”

Apparently, when the Minions went in search of their next evil boss, they must have stopped off in Oaxaca.  My first sighting was on the bus back to the city from the Guelaguetza in Etla two weeks ago.

P1130164Then, there they were today, as taxis paraded through the streets of Oaxaca, celebrating Día del Taxista.

P1130381P1130383Hmmm…  Is there something about the movie that resonates with the transportation workers of Oaxaca?

P1130396copyScarlett Overkill (the Supervillainess):  DO you know who this is?
[points at a British Royal portrait]

Kevin (the Minion):  Uh… la cucaracha? 

Minions

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I wonder…  What is artist Nicko Foster saying along the walls of calle Constitución?

Behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.
–Marty Rubin

P1130219The human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.
Agatha Christie

P1100946I believe in my mask–The man I made up is me
I believe in my dance– And my destiny
Sam Shepard

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Another magical Domingo de Ramos spent in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  Experiencing Palm Sunday in this small Zapotec village never fails to nourish the soul.

A band played outside the panteón as villagers, from niños and niñas to abuelas and abuelos, arrived bringing their biggest and most beautiful fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, carved wooden toys and embroidered clothing, not to mention, goats, chickens, rabbits, and even a pig or two.  Three silver-haired abuelas inspected each donation; their faces expressing gratitude and appreciation for each offering, as they affixed a price tag.  Following the procession to the templo and a mass, all would be sold to raise money for the work of the church.

These were offerings to San Salvador, who sat proudly atop el Señor del Burrito, who was up to his ears in produce and bread.

At 11:00 AM, after prayers were offered in gratitude and for continued abundance in this fertile valley, led by the beat of two tambors and the high-pitched lilt of a chirimía, a procession to the church began.  Palm crosses were distributed to villagers and visitors, alike, and many carried (or led, in the case of the livestock) the offerings that had been collected.

Once secured, it took twenty men to hoist and carry the bounty-laden anda, with San Salvador and the burro, a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a burro to celebrate the Passover.  As the procession made its way to the church, the rhythmic sounds were occasionally overpowered by shouts warning the men of topes (speed bumps) and low hanging telephone wires that must be navigated, and then there were the stairs leading up to the church atrium.

I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Countless times, as I was taking photos, officials encouraged me to come closer and villagers ushered me to the front.  How many magical experiences can one person have?

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Mexico has a long and important place in the history of communication through murals — from stories related by pre-Hispanic civilizations…

Maya fresco circa 790 C.E. - Bonampak, Chiapas

Maya fresco circa 790 C.E. – Bonampak, Chiapas.

through the world-renowned and influential Mexican muralists of the twentieth century:  Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, and others.

History of Mexico by Diego Rivera, 1931 - National Palace, Mexico City.

History of Mexico by Diego Rivera, 1931 – National Palace, Mexico City.

And, as many of you know, murals on the walls of Oaxaca are part of the urban landscape, authorized or not, like them or not, they celebrate…

One of the murals in the pedestrian tunnel to the Guelaguetza auditorium.

One of several murals in the pedestrian tunnel to the Guelaguetza auditorium in Oaxaca city.

educate…

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca.

reveal past and present — and hopes and fears for the future.

Calle Tinoco y Palacios, between Vasconcelos and Niños Héroes.

Calle Tinoco y Palacios, between Vasconcelos and Niños Héroes, Oaxaca city.

Those found on the streets we expect to be ephemeral, but commissioned work, both inside and outside of buildings, we hope would have a longer and more permanent lifespan.  Of course, the Rockefeller family’s destruction of Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural showed differently.  And, more recently, my friend and artist, Mike Alewitz experienced the obliteration of his mural on the side of the Pathfinder Building, also in New York.  Both were instances of political differences and, while distressing, perhaps not too surprising.

However, today Mike is leading a battle in defense of his students’ murals.  According to NBC Connecticut:

Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) has built up one of the largest mural collections in the country since the program started in 2001. But Professor Mike Alewitz, who oversees CCSU’s mural painting program, said that collection is at risk.

The school has painted over six of the murals without notice and plans to do the same with another 12, Alewitz said Richard Bachoo, director of operations, confirmed. He said he hopes an appeal to the university and community support will protect the remaining murals.

“It made them feel part of the larger world, that they weren’t looking at blank walls inside an institution, but they were looking at the hopes and dreams of young people,” Alewitz said. “We found out that 18 murals were scheduled to be destroyed.”

<snip>

He says in the 14 years the mural program has existed, the policy has never been implemented in this way. Alewitz said in a statement that this is “the largest destruction of public art in recent history.” While administrators have removed murals in the past, they normally consult with the art department first, he said.

“The real policy has been that people love the murals, so when they’ve been painted, they’ve stayed up,” Alewitz said.

Oaxaca would lose much of her character and lessons would be lost, if we were to wake one morning and find all her murals disappeared.  The story is the same at CCSU.  For the full article, click HERETo send messages of protest and to see some of the amazing student murals that enliven the walls and stimulate thinking at CCSU but are slated for destruction, click HERE.  And, Why Bureaucrats Fear Art, is a letter to students and fellow artists, by Mike Alewitz.

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P1030572

No, not a newly discovered mutant killer variety — only one of the sculptures currently hanging out along the Alcalá.  It is part of a public art exhibit, “El migrante,” by Oaxaqueño artisit, Fernando Andriacci.

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San Antonino Castillo Velasco continues to enchant.  What’s not to like about a village known for growing flowers, decorating graves with designs created with flor inmortal (immortal flowers) during Día de los Muertos, and floral designs executed in exquisite embroidery?!!

Then there is Palm Sunday and the tradition of gathering at the panteón, loading El Señor del Burrito with locally grown bounty, blessing by the priest, an incense led procession carrying it to the church, and then selling it to raise money for a local orphanage.

It never ceases to amaze!  The produce loaded onto the Little Burro, along with the overflow, was fantastic — enormous cabbages, the whitest of white cauliflower, perfect roses, cacao beans, squash, fruits, and on and on…

Then there are the people… young and old, they are always gracious and welcoming. And this year, under temperatures threatening 90ºF, women were circulating throughout the gathering crowd, offering thirst quenching aguas to stave off dehydration.

Oh yes, there were also kids and animals — and sometimes together!  As I think I’ve mentioned before, children in these indigenous communities seem to always be included and when old enough (5 and up, I’m guessing), given responsibilities — joy and exuberance, along with patience and commitment, abound.

I loved watching the little boys wrangling the goats as the procession proceeded from the panteón to the church.

 

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A mono in camo, seriously???

P1010140

I guess it really is a jungle out there.  But, it isn’t easy to stay hidden when your buddy is laughing at you.

Just another day crossing the Plaza de la Danza on my way to the market.  As I keep saying, you just never know what you will uncover walking the streets of Oaxaca.

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Today is Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) and it’s a big deal here.  Oaxaca began her celebrations days ago.  The 6th Festival of Children’s Story Telling opened on Saturday, yesterday an exibition of traditional toys (Colección Hanni Sager Juguete tradicional) had its inauguration at the Museo del Palacio, and Friday, the Guelaguetza Infantil calenda filled the streets from Santo Domingo to the Basilica de la Soledad.

As several bands played, the children from Oaxaca’s preschools wearing the traditional costumes from the 8 regions of the state of Oaxaca waited, posed, walked, danced, and threw candy to the appreciative crowds gathered on the sidewalks along the ten-block long route.  (Note, some of the little girls already practicing holding canastas (baskets) on their heads!)

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Parents and teachers, many also wearing traje from the Cañada, Costa, Istmo, Mixteca, Papaloapan, Sierra Norte, Sierra Sur, and the Valles Centrales regions, proudly walked alongside the children.  Vive Oaxaca concluded their article,

With such events from the early years of life are taught to love our Oaxacan culture, traditions, music and preserve the best legacy we have: our roots. Congratulations to the teachers and parent to correctly perform with great momentum this holiday culture.  [Google translation]

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Today, in my mind, I was working on a different blog post.  And then, walking home from my Spanish lesson, I came across these guys — and whips were cracking!

3 young men, one helping another with his boot.

Hmmm… they weren’t there an hour (plus) before.  As I’ve said before, you just never know what you may find when you round a corner.

Young man sitting on ledge holding a devil mask

Darn, before I had a chance to ask what was going on, the sky opened and everyone ran for cover — including me!

Man wearing a devil mask and holding a lavender colored bandana.

However, I’m thinking somewhere in the city, a Danza de los Diablos is happening!

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Friday was a delightful day… a late morning and early afternoon spent in leisurely conversation with one of my closest friends over desayuno at Cocina Economica Isabel, a stop at the Merced mercado to pick up some pan dulce, and a stroll through the Zócalo, before returning home.  I envisioned a late afternoon and evening of visiting with my neighbor before she is heads north for a USA visit, catching up on email, and watching a movie.  Perfection, I thought!  Who could ask for more?

“More” came via my email inbox; notice of the 10th Guelaguetza Infantil, with a calenda (parade) from Santo Domingo de Guzmán to the Zócalo beginning at 6 PM.  This definitely called for a change of plans!  And, sure enough, as I got closer to Santo Domingo, there they were; delegations of children representing the regions of Oaxaca.

Girl and boy in costume of the Istmo.

Istmo de Tehuantepec couple (a young Frida Kahlo, perhaps?) posing for photos.

Girl in Istmo costume covering her ears

There were several bands playing and it got a little too loud for this girl from the Istmo.

Girl in Tuxtepec costume holding basket of candy.

However this girl, representing the Papaloapan, didn’t seem to mind and was ready to toss candy to the crowd. She wasn’t alone — once the calenda started, candy began flying fast and furious and the pockets of the kids watching on the sidelines began bulging!

Girl wearing a costume from the Costa regionGirls from the Costa region received last-minute instructions.

Boys in white shirts and straw cowboy hats holding school banner reading "Cervantes"

Costa boys were charged with holding up their school banner.

Close up of girls in the costumes from Tuxtepec

The girls representing the Papaloapan clutched plastic pineapples, ready for the always popular Flor de Piña dance from Tuxtepec.

2 girls standing together; one in Istmo costume and one in Tuxtepec costume

A little cross cultural comparing of notes (actually, cell phone games) was happening between the Istmo and Papaloapan.

Girl in Mixteca costume dancing.

All the while, the dancers from the Mixteca danced their way down the Álcala.

Closeup of boy with Danza de la Pluma head dress.

And, the young Danza de la Pluma danzantes, representing the Valles Centrales, carefully balanced their penachos (headdresses).

Tonight at 5 pm, these 300 kids from 52 preschools, will perform traditional regional dances in the auditorium of the Universidad Regional del Sureste, Rosario campus in San Sebastián Tutla.

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Carved wood woman sitting -- back curved into chair.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  — Henry David Thoreau

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It’s been a week since the end of Semana Santa and I’m still sorting through photos and videos and reflecting on impressions and feelings.  However, I’m finding that, with too much thinking, the experience slips through the fingers and the magic vanishes.

Thus, I give you the night of Pascuas (Easter) at Carmen Alto…

And then, the hisses, bangs, and brilliant explosions of a castillo…

Flaming castillo

brought Semana Santa to a spectacular close.

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The back of the official 26th anniversary t-shirt for the Good Friday, Procesión del Silencio, doesn’t come close to telling the tale.

Back of T-shirt: Face of Jesus; text "1986 Procesion del silencio 2012"

Images of belief add texture to the ritual procession of mourners grieving the crucifixion and death of Jesus, as related in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

Close up of a bleeding Jesus head and torso on a cross

But it’s the eyes of believers…

purple hooded face with only eyes showing

that gives the narrative a silent voice.

Virgin Mary statue with halo from shoulders up.

And, grieving mothers everywhere understand.

Profile of a woman wearing black veil and glasses.

No matter where one lands on the belief continuum, it’s hard not to be moved.

(ps)  For lots more terrific photos, take a look at Chris’s posting, The Procession of Silence.

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