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Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

The sounds of this morning’s Santo Viacrusis (Stations of the Cross) moving closer, brought me into the mostly deserted streets before 9:00 AM.

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A block away, I found Jesús, La Virgen María, a priest, acolytes, the faithful, and a loudspeaker on the back of a pickup truck.

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Led by the children, images of María and Jesús from churches throughout the city had taken to the streets.

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Stopping along the way to pray and sing, the solemn throng made their way to the Cathedral for a farewell encounter between Mary and Jesus.

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It will be a long day for all concerned.  Following the encuentro, they will process back to their churches for a bit of a rest before this evening’s grand Procession of Silence.

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It takes 30+ men, doing some heavy lifting, to carry San Salvador, his burro, and Palm Sunday bounty the kilometer between San Antonino Castillo Velasco’s cemetery and village church.

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The strength of their devotion.

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Yesterday was another special Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is a Zapotec village famous for the cultivation of flowers and exquisitely embroidered blouses and dresses, inspired by said flowers.  Returning year-after-year, I never cease to be uplifted by the warmth of the people and the bounty they bring to the image of San Salvador sitting atop his little burro outside the panteón.  The best of their fruits, vegetables, herbs, livestock, clothing, flowers, and much more are gratefully received by a committee, priced, and later-in-the-day, sold to raise money for a designated project.

A little after noon, San Salvador (his burro now filled to the brim), offerings, and the faithful were blessed by the priest.  Fireworks exploded, rhythmic sounds of the traditional teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) sounded, and led by a trail of bougainvillea bracts and the smoke of copal, the litter of San Salvador atop the burro and carried by 30+ men, set off on a journey to the atrium of the church.  They were followed by villagers and visitors carrying the remainder of the goods collected — a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

The procession successfully navigated overhead wires above and heeded warnings of “topes” (speed bumps) below.  A kilometer down this perilous route, San Salvador and the faithful, young and old, approached the atrium of the church, San Salvador was set on the stage where an outdoor mass was to be said, and on the opposite side, the hand-and-head-carried offerings were to be sold.  I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Wearing a blusa from San Antonino, that I purchased several years ago, I was smiled upon and, as I was taking photos, officials and other villagers ushered me to the front.  Again, I ask, how many magical moments can one person have?

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Today, the sixth Friday of Lent, Oaxaca honors la Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).  Altars dedicated to her can be found in churches, businesses, and homes.  While the altars vary in their presentation, there are several key features (besides an image of the Virgin and candles) that will be found.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Templo del Carmen Alto

Wreaths of cucharilla (aka, Dasylirion, Sotol, desert spoon) — grown in Villa de Etla and the Mixtec region of Oaxaca — represent the crown of thorns of Jesus.

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Salvia Hispanica (aka, chia) sprouting from terracotta clay animals decorate altars — seeds which had been blessed on February 2, Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).  According to an article in MexConnect, “Growing greens remind the viewer of the resurrection and renewal of life.”  Yes, these are the original Chia Pets!

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Ceramic deer covered in chia sprouts on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

Bowls of water (often tinted) representing the “sweet tears of Mary” are set among violet colored drapes and flowers — violet being the color associated with Lent.

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Altar to la Virgen de Dolores at Huizache, a cooperative store selling Oaxacan crafts and clothing

Lilies, representing purity and chamomile, representing humility and the beauty of body and soul, can be found on altars.

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Lilies and chamomile on the altar at Templo del Carmen Alto

According to this article (in Spanish), altars to Our Lady of Sorrows started appearing in Oaxaca in the sixteenth century and her veneration on the sixth Friday of Lent grew from there.

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La Virgen de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) at Templo del Carmen Alto

Tonight at Templo del Carmen Alto, there will be a reading of the “Vía Dolorosa” (Way of Sorrows), a concert of sacred music by the Coro de la Ciudad (City Chorus), and a tasting of regional Lenten food.  Such is the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Oaxaca!

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We have just had a hint at the rainy season to come.  Monday night brought an hours-long torrential downpour with major flooding, trees and telephone lines down, and power outages.  The electricity at Casita Colibrí stayed on and all plants in the garden remained upright and intact.  However, my street turned into a raging river and water was cascading off the terrace like a waterfall.

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Rooftop rain pipes/spouts in Tlacolula de Matamoros

This herd of elephants might have come in handy!  Looking up at this scene, I couldn’t help remembering one of my children’s favorite books, “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” — and couldn’t help laughing.

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Today found me (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris) savoring market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.  The Sunday market is one of the oldest continuous tianguis in Mesoamerica, a commercial center for the neighboring communities, and a beehive of energy and activity.

There is food…

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Chiles and more

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Chickens roasting on an open fire

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A bounty of fruit

Necessary cooking equipment, Oaxaca style…

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Gourds for measuring and serving, palm fans for fanning the cooking flames, and brushes for moving ingredients about the comal

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Metate for grinding corn, chocolate, dyes, etc.

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Molcajetes necessary for crushing and grinding herbs, spices, and making the best salsas and guacamole

And, most of all, people…

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Poultry shopper and hammock seller

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Tortilla vendors

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Garlic vendor

Market day in Tlacolula is chicken soup for my soul.

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Tonight, the clocks in most of Mexico spring ahead.

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However, the flowers are on their own time and the Flor de Mayo (aka, Plumeria, Frangipani) have already begun to bloom.

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There is magic on the walls of Oaxaca.

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You  never know what you will see when you take another route home.

 

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Even leftover decorations from a Día de la Samaritana agua station in front of an abandoned building are beautiful in their own way.

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Seen on García Vigil at the corner of Jesús Carranza.

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If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.  This Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water.

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Decorating a well outside the Cathedral

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Sign proclaiming the day, seen on the Alcalá

His request was highly unusual because, according to the Old Testament, “Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile.”  The woman complied with his request and the rest is history.

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Scene at the well outside Templo de San José

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Live actors waiting to reenact the scene

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century and is a popular and much-loved tradition.  Thus I joined thousands of Oaxaqueños and visitors, clutching cups, and wandering from one decorated agua station to another sampling their offerings.

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Samaritana station serving nieve at the Municipal Palace

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One of scores of agua stations on the Alcalá

People of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths in front of churches, restaurants, businesses, schools, and even the city’s municipal office building for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.

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Hand painted ollas in front of Templo de Sangre de Cristo

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Hand painted jicara gourds waiting to be filled with tejate

These “water stations” are often decorated in a violet shade of purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.  And, the ollas (pots) holding the aguas seem to get more decorative every year.

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Agua stations along the Alcalá

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Watermelon and mint agua station on García Vigil

We are not talking plain water, these are divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits, herbs, flowers, and more — jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and nieve (sorbet).  Even taxi drivers played the role of Good Samaritans.

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Nieve station in doorway of lingerie store on Independencia

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Taxi drivers host agua station on the Alameda

In previous years, the aftermath hath wrought mountains of garbage — cans overflowing with plastic and styrofoam.  However, this year, in the name of the environment, an appeal was made for people to bring their own cups.  And, I think a majority complied!

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On the Alcalá above Santo Domingo

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An olla with Agua de chilacayote (type of squash)

And me?  After almost two hours, three aguas (watermelon with mint, cucumber with mint, and chilacayote), a nieve of leche quemada and tuna, and being surrounded by smiling people enjoying this celebration of generosity, I returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions of Oaxaca.

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A foodie blog post is overdue and so I present to you, Oaxaca Eats Food Tours, the brainchild of Kay and Dean Michaels.  Loving and appreciating Oaxaca and wanting to share it, they saw a niche and proceeded to fill it beginning in August 2018.  The goals that guide their enterprise are:

  • Share the gastronomic richness of Oaxaca with people from all over the world
  • Hire local tour coordinators and support businesses passionate about their culture and cuisine
  • Give back to the community through charitable donations

And so, a few weeks ago, I joined several others at the designated gathering spot (in our case, in front of the now departed OAXACA sign across from Santo Domingo) where Dean and Kay greeted us, introduced the tour guides and presented us with our “Tour Activity Sheet” that included an itinerary listing the restaurants we would be visiting and the dishes they would be offering — very handy for this blogger, when reconstructing the day.

Our first stop (if you don’t count a brief visit to a nearby cart for a few whet-your-whistle sips of tejate in keepsake small traditionally painted red jícara cups) was the rooftop terrace of Mezquite Gastronomía, a restaurant that has become one of my favorites of late.

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Botana Oaxaqueña – guacamole, chapulines, quesillo, queso fresco, pico del gallo, chicken taquito, cecina, tesajo, chorizo, quesadilla, memela

Upon our arrival, a tall glass of fresh squeezed orange agua fresca, a platter filled with traditional Oaxacan appetizers, and a refreshing mezcal cocktail was set before each of us.  Our waiter described each item and its preparation, while our tour coordinators translated and, during the meal, added a little history and a few anecdotes of their own, and answered any and all questions.  They were a font of knowledge.

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Perro Oaxaqueño – mezcal cocktail featuring grapefruit

Next on the tour’s itinerary was Los Danzantes, another restaurant I have been to many times.  However, one of the fun parts of Oaxaca Eats, is tasting menu items you have never before ordered — because there are already too many dishes that sound delicious.  In this case for me, tuna with a sesame tostadito and quesillo and queso wrapped in a hierba santa leaf.

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Quesillo and queso in a hierba santa leaf

Besides a vaso veladora of one of the restaurant’s tasty mezcals, we were also served a Zegacola, a locally made artisanal alternative cola beverage.  While I’m not a fan of soft drinks, this wasn’t nearly as cloying, actually had some flavor, and didn’t leave the impression it could remove the rust from a junkyard car.

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Tall glass of Zegacola next to a vaso veladora of mezcal

Our third stop was at a restaurant I have never before been to, though I pass by it frequently — the Centro Histórico branch of Tierra del Sol.  It was here that the preparation became a participatory event.  We were presented with tray containing a score of ingredients and instructed to choose those that were to be made into our salsa.  I suspect there were no bad choices or combinations!

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Table side grinding chiles in a molcajete for our salsa

In addition to the delicious, though a bit picante, salsa we had created, we were served a tetela filled with beans, chile, and an avocado leaf, along with three different moles, oh my!  And there was an agua fresca of guanábana, a mezcal cocktail with pineapple and celery, AND two copitas (yes, two!) of mezcal — an espadín and a tobalá — from the palenque of maestra (yes, a woman!) Berta Vázquez in San Baltazar Chichicapam.

Mole Mixteco with chicken, Huachimole with pork, and Mole de Laurel with beef

Are you full?  Sorry, there was more!  A several block walk took us up to Don Juanito Taquería and Pozolería.  By this time, we, too, were looking at each other in wide-eyed wonder and asking, could we possibly eat any more?  But we could and we did.  Besides, who could resist Doña Epifania’s charm and tales of the restaurant’s long history (since 1966).

Epifania Albino Robles, wife of owner Felix Leoza, explaining Don Juanito’s history and the preparation of each plate

Did I mention, it was a very hot day?  I can’t begin to describe how refreshing the agua fresca of pineapple and hierba buena was!  As if we hadn’t already eaten enough, in addition to tostaditos with guacamole and red and green salsas, we were served a beef tostada, beef taco al vapor, and their renown pozole.

Pozole (beef and pork) de la Casa

Believe it or not, it still wasn’t time to part company.  Our final destination was Cafébre, where a self-described coffee geek regaled us with her coffee knowledge and enthusiasm, all the while brewing coffee to exacting specifications — cup one using a Melitta filter pour-over technique and cup two using an AeroPress plunger-like device.  I think we were all seriously surprised at how the taste of the same coffee beans could vary so much depending on the brewing technique.

Brewing coffee using Melitta filter technique

The sweetness of the day was sealed with a creamy maracuyá flavored cheese cake which, as unbelievable as it sounds, we all finished.  By this time, Kay and Dean had rejoined us, we lingered, and then finally said our thank you’s and farewells and waddled back to our respective homes and hotels — sated and sleepy.  Four hours of delicious dining is exhausting!!!

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After a few nights of a drop or two, we had an real rainstorm last night.

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The sound of rain lulled me to sleep last night.

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This morning I awoke to clear a clear sky and a glistening garden.

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While no one believes this is the start of the rainy season, it is much welcome evidence that Cocijo hasn’t forsaken the valley of Oaxaca.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

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Yesterday, Mexico celebrated el Día del Artesano (Day of the Artisan).  Alas, I’m a day late in recognizing the men and women whose artistry in carrying on traditions and renewing and enriching them with their own creative spirit contributes to Oaxaca’s vibrant cultural life and economy.  However, the entire month of March has been designated “month of the artisan,” so here are several of the artesanas and artesanos who I have had the honor and joy of knowing and visiting over the past year.

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Emilia Gonzalez, wool spinning and dying in Teotitlán del Valle

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Juan Manuel García Esperanza, silver filigree, Ciudad de Oaxaca

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Carrizo basket maker from San Juan Guelavía

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Barro rojo (red clay) potters from San Marcos Tlapazola

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Mural painters in San Martín Tilcajete

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Weaver from Santo Tomás Jalieza

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Eligio Zárate, potter, Santa María Atzompa

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Jesús Sosa Calvo, wood carver and painter, San Martín Tilcaje

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Seamstress, embroiderer, crocheter, Sra. Gutiérrez from Teotitlán del Valle

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Don Luís, weaver, Ciudad de Oaxaca

A very special thank you to Don Luís, whose weaving studio shares a wall with my apartment and I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing most every day.  The rhythmic sounds of his loom are one of the songs on the soundtrack of my Oaxaca life.

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Warm weather, clear skies, and shadows on the rooftop…

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Ahhh… evening terrace tranquility.

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Purple isn’t the only color signaling spring is on the way in Oaxaca.

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The city is also alive in the pink of Tabebuia rosea blossoms.

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To borrow from the old Perez Prado song

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It’s Tabebuia rosea and jacaranda time.

Posted to ThursdayTreeLove

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