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Once upon a time, I went to Linda Hanna’s house in San Andrés Huayapam — the B&B Casa Linda.  In addition to running a B&B, she leads artisan tours, is a major collector of textiles, art, crafts, and you name it, AND holds occasional yard sales.  I always try to attend the latter and always buy a thing or two or three or four.  Thus, 2-1/2 years ago, this loveseat found it’s way onto the terrace of Casita Colibrí.  Linda wasn’t sure where or when she originally purchased it and it had long been relegated to a bed for a member of her animal menagerie, as the palm had completely disintegrated on one side, leaving only the jute webbing to prevent one’s bottom from landing on the ground.  However, it had “good bones” and I had fallen in love with it.  I figured that with a couple of decorative pillows to hide the hole, it would look great and be relatively functional.  They did and it was.

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Over the course of the past couple of years, the elements have caused more wear and tear to the palm and the wooden frame needed work.  Into the story comes Sebastián, of Talavera transformation, part 4 fame.  As if it wasn’t enough to be a carpenter, stonemason, electrician, plumber, and glazier, he and his wife Elizabeth had taken classes in weaving with plastic and started a business — primarily making baskets/purses.  A couple of months ago, he stopped by to show me their latest projects and I had an inspiration.  Could they refurbish my loveseat?  His eyes lit up, said yes, we talked colors and designs, and a few weeks later he hauled it away.  On Wednesday, it came back home.

I suspect you are asking, why plastic when the palm looked so beautiful?  Two reasons.  Firstly, it was a spur of the moment decision, but I knew Sebastián, trusted the work he does, and loved the creative possibilities he showed me.  Secondly, I’d bought the loveseat to live outside on the terrace (albeit, under the gazebo) and in the back of my mind, as the palm seat, back, and arms continued to deteriorate, I’d wondered if there might be something more long lasting that could be used.  Thus, plastic.  However, it’s not just any plastic, Sebastián and Elizabeth’s business uses recycled plastic.

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By the way, they also refinished the wood, using a marine varnish to help contribute to its longevity.   I think, in its new incarnation, my loveseat still looks right at home and what is old is new again!

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Wishing a very happy Father’s Day to fathers, stepfathers, and father-figures throughout the world.

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Parenting is the most valuable job you will ever have.  May you fulfill your role with great love, care, and respect.  And, may you never be separated from your children by the inhumane, unnecessary, and illegal action of a despotic government.

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Cocijo (Zapotec god of rain, thunder, and lightning) has finally awoken!

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Street dogs huddle in doorways.

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Street vendors batten down their hatches.

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Pedestrians watch for sidewalk waterfalls.

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Streets become deserted.

Walking home in Oaxaca in the rain.

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June in Oaxaca city, the mornings are grey.

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Bougainvillea

The sun eventually appears.

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Plumbago

Afternoon clouds gather and thunder rumbles in the distance.

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African tulip tree

Then darkness descends.

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Night blooming cereus

Alas, this June only a minimal amount of rain has fallen.  But the garden endures.

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Passing Erika Santiago‘s haunting mural along the wall outside Almacén Mexicano on Calle Valentín Gómez Farías, Sad-Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands began playing in my head.

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Sometimes art brings a song.  And, maybe we are all a little sad these days.

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X currently marks the spot in OaXaca — be it for HOT weather, blockades, or orb weaving spiders.  Regarding the latter, another, in a long line of Argiopes, has chosen to take up residence on my terrace.

Argiope spider in middle of web with stabilimentum

Fun fact:  The purpose of the white zigzag of silk, known as a stabilimentum, is disputed. It reflects UV light and may act as camouflage, attract insect prey, or prevent larger creatures from accidentally destroying the web.  Whatever the function, this gal’s (yes, it is a female) is one of the best I’ve seen!

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Protest art continues to paper the streets of Oaxaca.

It’s there in black and white against walls of texture and color — greeting the morning’s light and disappearing as shadows fall.

Today, the faces of rage, resistance, and anguish are not only looking down from walls, they are seen at eye level in Oaxaca’s zócalo and streets.  They’re back…  The annual occupation and blockades by Sección 22 of the CNTE (teachers’ union) has begun.

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Last Sunday at the weekly market in Tlacolula de Matamoros…

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Chickens

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Rebozos

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Seeds

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Lunch

It’s not just about produce, bootleg DVDs, tools, and underwear.

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I love Sunday market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros — the people, colors, food, cacophony, and frequent surprises speak to the life of Oaxaca.  So, after returning Saturday night from two weeks in el norte, I jumped at the suggestion by blogger buddy Chris that we go to Tlacolula the next day.  It did not disappoint.

Carnival rides were being set up where we frequently park and, in the usually deserted patio of the modern chapel at the intersection, several men were hard at work fashioning decorations.  We peered from behind the wrought iron fence but were quickly invited in.  They explained they were preparing for a festival honoring the chapel, the Capilla de la Cruz, all the while continuing to weave flowers out of a spiky, sword-like plant.

Especially during the Easter season, I’ve seen these flowers fashioned from palms, but these definitely were not palm.

Once home, I couldn’t resist doing a little research (I’m a librarian, after all!) and discovered it was a species of Dasylirion (aka, Sotol, cucharilla, desert spoon).  I can’t imagine what those spikes lining the sides of the leaves must do to their hands!

It was such fun talking with these guys and watching their nimble, practiced fingers at work.  After two weeks away, what better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca?  And, the market was still to come.

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Carved from the wood of the copal, an owl for my older son.

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Carved by Lauro Ramírez and painted by Griselda Morales, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A rabbit for my daughter-in-law.

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Carved by Mario Castellanos and painted by Reina Ramirez, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A lion for my grandson.

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Carved by Zeny Fuentes Santiago and painted by Reyna Piña Ramírez, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

And, a horse for my granddaughter.

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Carved by Jesús Hernández Torres and painted by Roxana Fabian Ortega, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Beautifully hand carved and painted alebrije for my family.

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The lowly utilitarian apron has been elevated to an art form by the Zapotec women of the Tlacolula valley in Oaxaca.  Worn every day, mandiles (aprons) are an essential and practical part of their traditional dress.  Most women own several and take great pains to color coordinate them with the day’s attire.

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Fiesta honoring the Virgen de Guadalupe at the home of Fidel Cruz and Maria Luisa Mendoza, Teotitlán del Valle.

Plainer aprons are worn around the home.  However, they don one of their “Sunday best” aprons for special occasions.  These are heavily embroidered and often have necklines and hems that are scalloped and, as a fashion statement, are frequently worn to the weekly market.

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Vendor at the Sunday market in Tlacolula del Valle.

Mandiles are made of store-bought poly-cotton fabric, usually in a small plaid design. While “100% cotton” sounds more desirable to many of us, the blend is undeniably more practical.  After all, who wants to iron when there is work to do and the temperatures are summery all year ’round?

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Andrea weaving in Teotitlán del Valle.

Even though the embroidery is done by sewing machine, the more elaborate designs can take from three to four days days to make.  Aprons range in price from approximately 150 to 700 pesos.

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Leonor Lazo feeding a baby goat in Teotitlán del Valle.

Given that, in addition to being practical, these are also a fashion accessory,  it should come as no surprise that styles can vary from village to village.

San Miguel del Valle girls

Young women from San Miguel del Valle attending a festival in Teotitlán del Valle.

I grew up with aprons.  My grandmother lived next door and could always be found wearing a “house-dress” and a pinafore style apron with front patch pockets.  Some were plain, but many she decorated with embroidery.  Thus the mandiles of Oaxaca spoke to me and I listened.

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Reyna Mendoza speaking to her El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class.

My first “Oaxaca” apron was a maroon plaid cobbler style with only a moderate amount of embroidery. After a year or two, it became so much a part of my home attire that I bought another in brown plaid.  These are my workhorses and I wear them every day while cooking, cleaning, and even gardening.  And, I proudly bring my own apron to cooking classes and make sure to pack one when I’ve been invited to a fiesta in Teotitlán del Valle — putting it on to help clear tables. I always get smiles from the women (and some of the men, too).

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Me, the metate, and maiz at El Sabor Zapoteco cooking class in Teotitlán del Valle.

However, after countless Sunday market day trips to Tlacolula de Matamoros, not to mention, spending a lot time over the past several years in Teotitlán del Valle, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the fashion statements women, both young and old, were making, so I bought a slightly more elaborately embroidered pinafore style and then another and another.

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Three of my mandiles; the red is the newest.

I even dared to wear one recently in New York at my granddaughter’s first birthday party.  With children ranging in age from six weeks to six years, I thought it was a very practical fashion statement on my part.  And, guess who got one for her birthday?

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Birthday present to my granddaughter — a toddler-size mandil.

A good place to check who is wearing what style of mandil is at Tlacolula’s Sunday market.  And, should you want to buy one for yourself and/or give one as a gift, there are at least eight apron stalls at the back of the market on Sundays.

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Apron stall at the back of the Tlacolula de Matamoros market.

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I couldn’t resist posting more from the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca 2018 to tempt you to put next year’s gathering of traditional Oaxacan cooks on your calendar.

Amazing traditional cooks from the state of Oaxaca served up taste tempting fare in the Plaza de la Danza for four full, and I mean FULL days, April 25-28.

And, should one be inspired to immediately head to one’s own kitchen, the Mercado Oaxaca set up in the courtyard of the Facultad de Bellas Artes (across from the Plaza de la Danza) offered mouth-watering fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, dried chiles, honeys, vinegars, and so much more.  I came away with a luscious cantaloupe.

In addition, to assist one in the preparation and serving of one’s own delicious meals, Arte de la Mesa presented vendors, next door in the courtyard of the Palacio Municipal, selling “made in Oaxaca” glassware, utensils, pottery, placemats, tablecloths, and dish towels, aprons, metates and molcajetes, among other kitchenware.

Do you see the piggy-face molcajete?  I bought it and have spent hours and hours, not to mention muscle power, seasoning it.  If you don’t believe me, use your favorite search engine to check out the various methods — there are no shortcuts!

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Even if it looks like the world is crumbling around you…

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On Reforma, at the corner of Constitucion in Oaxaca — courtesy of The Positive Affect project.

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Act two of this year’s night blooming cereus extravaganza began the night of April 22…

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Continued the night of April 26…

Night blooming cereus flower

And, it looks like there will be more in a week or two!

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Today is Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).  Lest anyone forget, there have been booms and bangs throughout the day to remind one and all!  And, most years, the day finds me huffing and puffing my way up to the top of Picacho, the sacred mountain that looms above Teotitlán del Valle — joining the Zapotec villagers in a Prehispanic ritual asking for rain.

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It is also the Día del Abañil (Day of the mason/stonemason/bricklayer) and it is tradition for workers to erect crosses festooned with flowers at the highest point on construction sites.  According to Mexconnect, in 1960, Pope John XXIII removed Día de la Santa Cruz from the liturgical calendar, but Mexico being Mexico and construction workers being construction workers, they ignored the Pope.  Eventually, understanding the relationship of forces, he gave Mexico a special dispensation to celebrate this day.

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For me, today the city brought a much welcomed surprise.  As anyone who has traversed the first block of Garcia Vigil (between Independencia and Morelos) during the past nine months can attest, it has been a challenge not to slip, trip, or fall thanks to the warped “temporary” plywood laid down over what used to be a solid, if not smooth, sidewalk.  However, on this day celebrating abañiles, they were hard at work on a new “real” sidewalk!

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No cross on the worksite, but definitely a Día de la Santa Cruz/Día del Albañil miracle!

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