Posts Tagged ‘Isthmus of Tehuantepec’

Orgullo is the Spanish word for pride and you hear it a lot in Oaxaca.  But, rather than just the personal, it encompasses the dignity, honor, and respect felt for one’s community’s history and cultural heritage.  Remember, there are 16 indigenous groups in the state of Oaxaca – each with its own language, dress, culinary traditions, music and dance, celebrations, and crafts.  While the modern Guelaguetza is an invention to attract tourism, it doesn’t detract from the pride expressed by its participants in their unique contributions to what makes Oaxaca.  Thus, a few scenes from Friday…

Fresh handmade tortillas accompanied the mole at the Festival de los Moles luncheon. Chefs from all over the state, presented their moles — I lost count at twenty different kinds — which were served by culinary students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.


Diosa Centéotl (Corn Goddess) competition to reign over the Guelaguetza.  Young women representing the regions of Oaxaca showcased and explained the costumes and traditions of their communities, as well as, speak a few lines of their materna lengua (mother tongue).


Calenda (procession) on the Alcalá by people from the Gulf of Tehuantepec region.  They were heading toward Santo Domingo — and yes there were a few Muxes among the participants.


During Guelaguetza, orgullo wraps you in its presence.

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Saturday night, a spur of the moment invite from my indomitable 86-year-old neighbor had us hailing a taxi at 10:30 PM, en route to attend the 13th Gran Vela and coronation of the queen of Vinnii Gaxhee (Zapotec for “different people” — gente diferente, en español).  Vinnii Gaxhee was born, according to their website, in “July 2000, when a group of people in Oaxaca, whose sexual preferences were different, met and created a group whose members were not afraid to stand up to society and publicly accept their sexual preference or orientation.”  (my loose translation)

The venue, in an area of the city neither of us was familiar with, proved to be unknown to the taxi driver, as well.  After a few blocks, with much conversation back and forth re the location, and a call to his dispatcher, he asked (hopefully) if we would like to find another driver.  Yes, we said and crawled out, hailed another taxi, and successfully headed out to Colonia Primavera Santa Lucía del Camino.

The “suggested” per person entry donation was the purchase of a case of beer.  A case of beer, we asked?  Even though they were small bottles, there was no way the two of us could drink a case, let alone two cases!  Well, the issue was settled when we schlepped our cases over to our assigned (not sure how or why) seating area, where we were relieved of our boxes and where they joined stacks of others.  However, chilled cervesas and food were offered without charge for the duration of the evening — and into the early morning!   Besides, the floor show was worth the price of admission; a banda playing traditional music of the Istmo and hot Latin rhythms had people up and dancing, a runway-style procession of contestants (at least I think that is who they were), a Rockettes-like production number, and the crowning of the queen.  What more could anyone want for about $15 (US)?

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On a serious note…  A little background on the name of the organization, Vinnii Gaxhee.  Zapotec culture has historically acknowledged a “third” sex.  These are men who from childhood, “consider themselves women and live in a socially sanctioned netherworld between the two genders,” according to a 2008 New York Times article.  This has been traced back to pre-Columbian times, but was mostly wiped out by the Spanish colonists, except in the region around Juchitán de Zaragoza, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca.

As Vinnii Gaxhee, explains on its website, “it is as a tribute to all those in the region of the Isthmus, who fought for a place in society, regardless of sexual preference, making this region a place where homosexuality worldwide is accepted without any remark, first by the family after by society.” (my loose translation)

(ps)  I still don’t understand how anyone can walk in those high, high heels!

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… and it never gets old, at least not for me!  Thus yesterday, returning from picking up a newly repaired sandal at the zapatero (shoemaker), a parade along the Alcalá had me happily stopping.

Women in embroidered black velvet costumes and wearing white lace head pieces arm in arm with men in black pants, white shirts, red neck kerchief and carrying a sombrero

Judging by the traje (costume), what is popularly known north of the border as Frida Kahlo style clothing, the elaborate multicolored embroidery on black velvet and the signature starched white lace head pieces, immediately said the Isthmus region of Oaxaca, the area along the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

A banda led off the procession with, of course, the requisite tuba.

Man carrying a shiny brass tuba

A marlin out-of-water  followed the band.  Actually, a friend and I had a discussion about what kind of fish it was.  Marlin (blue and black), sailfish, and swordfish are found in the waters of the Gulf of Tehuantepec.  After looking at this website, I’m thinking this guy is a marlin, but who knows???

Man carrying a large grey marlin on his head

Once home and photos downloaded, the detective work began; trying to figure out what this was all about.   Putting together the information I could glean from the banners and a little research, I think this was a parade by people from San Blas Atempa celebrating a traditional fiesta titular.

Woman carrying banner, surrounded by women in bright pink skirs and black emboidered huipiles.

Naturally, there weren’t just beautifully dressed adults.  Adorable little boys…

Little boy wearing black pants, white shirt, red neck kerchief, and sombrero

and girls kept up the pace on this bright sunny 80+ degree day.

Little girl in full embroidered black velvet attiren and including white lace headpiece, looking at the camera.

I wasn’t the only one watching… Alejandro Santiago’s growing army of Migrantes stood transfixed.  (Well, actually they are literally affixed to the sidewalks and streets with some sort of gooey glue.)

Tejuana women carrying banner, as they pass Migrante sculptures lining the street.

Just another day and another parade in paradise!

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At various times in her past, La Ciudad de Oaxaca has been referred to as the “Emerald City” and “City of Jade,” because of the green cantera stone used to construct her buildings and pave her sidewalks.  On rainy days when sun seems to magically appear, I’m tempted to look behind closed doors for the Wizard of Oz.

Cantera sidewalk

Today a new kind of green is catching on.  No, not money, green technology — though money most certainly figures into the equation.

Several, mostly international, companies have established wind turbine farms in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec over the past several years.  And, anyone who has driven along the carretera (highway) down there, can understand why.  However, I would be remiss not to mention, as a NACLA article explains, La Ventosa is a controversial endeavor.

Wind turbines along the highway on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

Less controversial, was a two-day conference, billed as the first International Forum on Renewable Energies, held this week in the “City of Jade.”  Organized by the Technological University of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca (UTVC) and the Statistics and Information Center for Development (CIEDD) of the State Government, its main objective was to raise awareness, share knowledge, and promote further research, dissemination, and development.

While panels, discussions, lectures, and workshops were held in the Cultural Center of Santo Domingo, outside, at the intersection of Constitución and 5 de Mayo, exhibits by the university students were set up for conference attendees and passers-by to see.

Small model of a solar thermal house

According to the information posted, above is a prototype solar thermal house, that harnesses the sun’s energy and utilizes “healthy for the environment” building materials of natural fibers to provide durability and thermal-insulation.

And then there was this one… close to this rooftop gardener’s heart:

Composting rectangular box

The project explains vermiculture biotechnology was virtually unknown here until recently.   California red worms were used to convert waste from San Pablo Huixtepec and obtain a dark and rich loam.

Rich soil in composting box

I confess, I coveted it!  However, I really am quite pleased with the results I’m getting by freezing my green kitchen waste for several days and then mixing it with the, less than ideal, soil purchased from a local vivero (nursery).  In a week, the organic matter has completely broken down and I’m left with great potting soil.

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