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More scenes from Sunday’s silent streets in Oaxaca…

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8:40 AM: Northwest corner of the Zócalo

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8:41 AM: On the Zócalo looking southeast

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8:54 AM: Looking south on Cinco de mayo

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9:47 AM: Corner of Reforma and Constitución

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10:06 AM: Looking south down Porfirio Díaz

However, Mercado Sánchez Pascuas was hopping — almost a like a pre-pandemic Sunday. Stalls were open, not much physical distancing was going on, and most vendors and customers were mask-less. Note to self: In these times of COVID-19, next time I’m out of tamales, go to the mercado on a quieter day.

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It’s Domingo de Ramos and in pre-COVID-19 times, from my terrace I would hear an outdoor morning mass being said in the atrium of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. And then, for the past eight years, blogger buddy Chris and I would drive to San Antonino Castillo Velasco for one of the most magical days of the year. However, all was silent this Palm Sunday. So, donning my mask, I went for early Sunday morning walk with my neighbor K. Lonely and poignant scenes met us everywhere our wanderings took us.

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Lonely palm fronds in window of Hospital Ángel Vasconcelos on Av. José María Morelos

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Doors of Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción were shuttered.

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The doors of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán were open, but nary a soul was in sight.

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A mass was being said at Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, but the doors were shut tight.

However, no sight we saw this morning was as moving as this one posted to the San Antonino Castillo Velasco Facebook page.

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San Salvador bereft of his usual bounty stands alone in the atrium of the church in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

To see San Salvador in his usual Domingo de Ramos splendor and the village procession that takes him, laden with donated fruits, vegetables, herbs, and bread, from the panteón to the church, click HERE.

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My mask is hanging by the front door, ready to be called into service when I have to run those unavoidable errands.

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If nothing else, I’m hoping it will scare folks into realizing that I’m serious about physical distancing!

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We couldn’t put it off any longer, non-perishables were needed! Thus, instead of another long leisurely Sunday stroll like last week, my neighbor and I walked (keeping two meters apart) down to Soriana, our local supermarket. We went early in the morning and the streets were mostly empty — making it a piece of cake crossing a particularly dicey intersection. Ready to do battle with the virus, we came armed with alcohol wipes and shopping, paying, and bagging strategies. However, Soriana also was on emergency preparedness alert. Once inside the door, hand-sanitizer was pumped into our hands and the handles of our carts were wiped down with disinfectant.

As we had hoped, there were very few other customers and most seemed very conscious of maintaining social distancing protocol, — the workers stocking the shelves, not so much. There were signs posted limiting the quantities one could purchase of certain items and there were taped lines on the floor in front of the check stands indicating how far apart to stand. Though, one guy didn’t get the message and cut in front of me. I snapped, “sana distancia” at him, he glanced back at the crazy gringa and went to a different line.

My route to Soriana, usually consists of cutting a diagonal across the Plaza de la Danza, walking down the ramp to Jardín Sócrates, and crossing the atrium of the Basilica de la Soledad before tackling the steep stairs down to Av. de la Independencia. Alas, this trip, it wasn’t to be — the atrium doors facing the Jardín were locked up tight, as were the ones at the top of the stairs on Independencia.

Signs were tacked to the massive doors indicating all masses had been suspended until further notice. It was all quiet on the church front and the realization hit me that I hadn’t heard a single church bell in days, if not a week — which sounds about right because, on March 21, the Archdiocese of Oaxaca announced the suspension of all Eucharistic celebrations, including Easter. In addition, the Archbishop has called on Catholics to stay home during Holy Week, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 between people and communities.

Health officials have been running public service announcements on the TV telling people to stay home and advising them, if they must go out, on methods to avoiding catching and spreading the virus. And, yesterday the Mexican government declared a state of health emergency and ordered a suspension of all non-essential businesses and activities until April 30th. For businesses, the restrictions are mandatory, however for people it is an “emphatic invitation.” President Andrés Manuel López Orbrador’s gradual approach to the pandemic has been highly criticized in some quarters, though the strategy has been praised by representatives of the World Health Organization. However, most agree that stricter measures will have to be implemented once the pandemic really hits.

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Remember the Not for sale! building at the corner of Matamoros and Crespo? It’s been one of the buildings in a “mal estado” (bad state) since long before my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007. A portion of the Crespo facing wall finally collapsed at the end of an extremely wet 2012 rainy season. And, following the September 2017 earthquakes, what remained of the wall gave way, necessitating a barricade along the sidewalk.

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As last Sunday’s stroll in the time of… showed, the barricade was in the process of getting its own facelift. It’s finished and it looks terrific.

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However, as the owner, with the help of the artist, continues to make clear, the answer is NO. The building is not for sale!

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By the way, while trying to locate the oldest photo I have of this wall, I discovered that I had missed the tenth anniversary of View From Casita Colibrí. It was March 25, 2010, with the post, Awake at 4:30 AM, that I began this blog. Its last line reads, “Whatever the reasons… here’s hoping I become a little braver in revealing myself, don’t let my perfectionist streak get in the way of posting and I stick with it!” I’ve definitely stuck with it, have overcome my fear of the writing and photos not being perfect (though I try to maintain my librarian commitment to accuracy), and have hopefully allowed a bit of “who I am” to be expressed in these ten years of blog posts. Here’s to another ten!

 

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Yesterday, with a fair degree of trepidation, I ventured out onto the streets of Oaxaca. Even during these times of coronavirus, a gal has to eat, thus a trip to Mercado Benito Juárez could no longer be put off. Unfortunately, I got a late start and didn’t leave until almost 10:30 AM but, happily, my first observation was that traffic was much lighter.

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Walking east on Av. Morelos

However, much to my dismay the zócalo was lined with food and vendor stalls and continues to be occupied with a plantón in front of the Government Palace. This, after a caravan of municipal police trucks mounted with loudspeakers plied the streets on Monday advising people not to gather in groups, to maintain “sana distancia” (healthy distancing), and to try to stay home.

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Protest encampment in the zócalo

I walked through, trying to avoid coming within a meter of anyone and making a beeline toward the market. An aside: Afternoon temperatures continue to hover around 90º F and, yes, the sky is that blue!

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Facing south on Calle Flores Magón

I turned right on Las Casas and discovered cleaners power washing the sidewalk in front of Mercado Benito Juárez.

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Trying not to get wet, I ducked inside the unusually quiet market.

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Main aisle just inside Mercado Benito Juárez

I quickly made my rounds: Almita’s for pecans, my favorite poultry stall for chicken thighs, and my fruit and vegetable stand for avocados and carrots. Though the market was less crowded than usual, the aisles are narrow making it nearly impossible to maintain “sana distancia” and so I cut my trip short.

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Looking west on Calle Valerio Trujano

Avoiding the zócalo, I headed for home. I think I’m going to skip Mercado Benito Juárez (except for Mario, my coffee bean guy) for the duration and limit my shopping to the smaller Mercado Sánchez Pascuas up the hill and perhaps begin patronizing the people who sell produce from their truck on Monday and Thursday mornings just a block away. We are living in the days of making adjustments…

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Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time to wander through the neighborhoods of Oaxaca. Traffic is light, sidewalks are mostly empty, and the city seems nestled under a blanket of tranquility. Thus, in these days of an abundance of alone-at-home time, a long peaceful walk with my neighbor (maintaining sana distancia/social distancing, of course) was just what the doctor ordered.

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Out the door and up the hill, we went.

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“Hola, buenos días” greetings were exchanged with the few people we encountered — many walking their dogs.

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Though we weren’t planning to eat, we stumbled on a lovely garden restaurant – Ancestral Cocina Tradicional — and couldn’t resist sitting down in their sun-dappled courtyard for a quesillo and huitlacoche quesadilla, washed down with a healthy jugo verde. Everything about the restaurant was done with care and attention — including being mindful of COVID-19 concerns.

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Emerging from the restaurant, we continued our ramble, admiring architecture, street art, and the beauty of dry season flowers.

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This Dama de Noche (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) stopped us in our tracks!

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After three hours, we returned to our homes feeling refreshed, appreciative of Oaxaca’s many gifts, and feeling like we can get through this — despite the puppet masters.

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Yesterday (March 19), Mexico celebrated the Day of the Artisan. Well, celebrated isn’t really the right word. COVID-19 (aka, coronavirus) was the elephant in the country.

I had long-planned to attend the always well curated 3-day Día del Artesano craft sale at Andares del Arte Popular. It’s an opportunity to meet and buy directly from the craftspeople who weave the rugs, embroider the cloth, shape the clay, carve and paint the wood, and the work of other amazingly talented artisans.

However, the sale was very responsibly canceled. Tourists and winter visitors are scrambling to return home as soon as possible, restaurants are either closing or offering only take-out service, and as I write, the city has begun instituting measures to restrict people from gathering in public spaces and calling on public transit to limit or suspend service, among other actions.

Oaxaca’s tourist-driven economy is going to take a tremendous hit. Right now, the best way to honor the artisans is to treasure the beauty they have brought to our lives. And, when the day eventually comes that we can again move about freely, we should seek them out, thank them for joy their talent brings us, and (hopefully) empty our pocketbooks a little more than usual.

Almost life-size ceramic sculptures are by the Aguilar family in Ocotlán de Morelos and were on display at Andares this month.

 

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Today, I broke my self-imposed social-distancing exile and went for a walk around town. The traffic was unusually light and I wondered if all the tourists had flown the coop, going home while the going was good in the wake of COVID-19 and/or Oaxaqueños were beginning to heed the protective measures issued by the World Health Organization. However, the giant Mexican flag on the zócalo and closed banks, shops, and my dentist’s office tipped me off — today is the day Mexico celebrates her much beloved five-term and only indigenous (Zapotec) president, Benito Juárez. His actual birthday is March 21, but the third Monday of March has been designated as the national holiday. Three-day weekends are popular here, too!

Looking up today in Parque Labastida.

In these trying times, we would all do well to remember his famous words: Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz. (Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

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Are we having fun yet? As much as I hate it, I’ve been glued to TV news (BBC and CNN International) since last night’s nationalistic, confusing, and not even accurate pronouncements by the US president. As I began writing this post, I finally made myself turn it off and began listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s, Obrigado Brazil. Ahhh… much better.

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Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifloia)

A best friend (since age twelve) and I are having to cancel a long-planned trip to Barcelona and Paris in April. Besides being incredibly disappointed, I’m not looking forward to trying to get refunds on flights, etc.

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Clavellina (Bombax palmeri)

As for COVID-19 (aka, Coronavirus), Mexico’s low coronavirus cases draws skepticism — should travellers worry? In addition, there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward canceling large gatherings or educating the public to refrain from the ubiquitous handshaking and cheek kissing. Perhaps someone in the Secretary of Health’s office should read this data-driven article, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, and then take action. It’s one of the most informative I have read. However, this video from 2016 of three Oaxaca nurses teaching proper hand washing technique has been making the rounds and adding a little levity to these anxiety producing days.

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Primavera rosa / Amapa rosa / Palo de rosa (Tabebuia rosea)

On the other hand, if one has to forego foreign travel, Oaxaca isn’t a bad place to be. And, looking up at the clear blue skies and the explosion of flowering trees that marks this time of year, I give thanks to Mother Nature for the beauty she brings to this world filled with war, poverty, and pestilence.

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Today, March 8, women around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day with marches, forums, exhibitions, and more. The mass media is filled with stories about extraordinary women and companies catering to women are using references to International Women’s Day in their advertising, though, I might add, very few mention its revolutionary past.

However, it isn’t today’s demonstrations, expositions, and other special events that has women in Mexico talking. It is the call for women to disappear for a day to protest the staggering amount of violence perpetrated against them. Government statistics report that 3,825 women met violent deaths last year, 7% more than in 2018. That works out to about 10 women slain each day in Mexico, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for females. Thousands more have gone missing without a trace in recent years.

Using the hashtags #ParoNacionaldeMujeres (National Women’s Strike), #UnDíaSinNosotras (A Day Without Us), and #UnDíaSinMujeres (A Day Without Women), organizers have reached out to the women of Mexico that on Monday, March 9, nothing moves: Don’t go out, don’t shop, don’t go to school, and don’t consume — become invisible, simulating the thousands of women who have been murdered or disappeared.

As three female legislators wrote in an article expressing their support for the strike, Women are responsible for about half of the compensated economic activity in the country, and relied upon disproportionately for unpaid work in the home, which is roughly equivalent to 15% of Mexico’s GDP. In exchange, our rights are impaired or ignored. Women have become the protagonists of thousands upon thousands of stories of violence and impunity at the hands of men who, in public and in private, feel they have a right to decide over our lives and our bodies…. That and many, many reasons more are why Mexico’s women will march in protest on March 8, and stop everything – stop working, stop asking, stop accepting – on March 9.

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Aguas, atole, aguardiente, cafe, chocolate, compuestos, destilados, pulque, tejate, tepache, and té, oh my! Those are only fraction of the 72 beverages (alcoholic and non) found in the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca and featured in the “hot off the press” book, Bebidas de Oaxaca. Authors, Salvador Cueva and Ricardo Bonilla spent a year traveling up and down and over and through the mountains, valleys, and coastal regions of this most diverse, both geographic and cultural, state.

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Ricardo Bonilla and Salvador Cueva.

They met the indigenous men and women whose families have handed down through countless generations the recipes for everyday and ceremonial beverages. Most of all they got to know, learn from, and appreciate the people and their traditions. A poem, composed and recited by Emma Méndez García from Huatla de Jiménez, expressed the pride and strength of the rich cultures of those who contributed their time, histories, and knowledge to the project.

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Emma Méndez García (Huautla de Jiménez) reciting the poem she wrote in honor of the occasion.

The relationship the authors developed with their subjects was obvious at Saturday afternoon’s book presentation at the gloriously dilapidated and magical Proyecto Murguia (site of the 2012 El Sueño de Elpis). They presented each of the cocineras and cocineros featured in the book with the book, a book bag, a mug, and much gratitude and appreciation.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Jovita López Cruz (Unión Nacional Zafra), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Catalina Chávez Lucas (Tlacolula de Matamoros), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Reyna Mendoza (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Celia Florian (La Ciénega, Zimatlán), and Salvador Cueva.

Following the formal presentations, 20 of the beverages were free to sample and purchase directly from their makers.

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Mezcal from Graciela Ángeles Carreño (Santa Catarina Minas).

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Pinole prepared by Elisa León Pérez (Santa Catarina Ixtepeji).

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Estella serving Chocolateatole con cacao blanco by Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle).

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Tepache con rojo by María Díaz Cortés and Juana Gallardo Jiménez (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

Bebidas de Oaxaca is available in Spanish and English and in hard and softbound editions. For information regarding purchasing the book, go to their website. Or, if you are in Oaxaca city, attend the book talk at La Jícara (Porfirio Díaz 1105) on Thursday evening, March 5, 2020 at 7:00 PM. A percentage of the sales of the book will go to the Bebidas de Oaxaca foundation to support the people and families who participated in the book.

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Día de Carnaval (aka, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival) in Oaxaca is muy especial — especially in the village of San Martín Tilcajete. The Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico and, like may other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

Masks waiting to be worn at the workshop of Victor Fabián Ortega (click on image to enlarge)…

Not only were there masks at the workshop, there were bodies to be painted and it was a family affair — brothers, sisters, cousins, children, wives, and Victor himself who painted, was painted, and donned a mask.

Other family members (including women, new in the past couple of years) came painted and masked to gather to begin roaming through the village with other families, inviting one and all to the festivities!

And, it’s not just the adults. As with all celebrations and rituals in Oaxaca, children are encouraged to appreciate and participate — hopefully, ensuring these traditions continue.

The devils of San Martín Tilcajete laughed at everything: baptisms, weddings, solemn acts. Surrounded by devils with masks, old shoes, clothing of sacks, paintings that come from the earth and ancestral plants, they roam the streets chattering and everywhere they walk the streets laughing and appear either as devils or animal spirits.

That is why in SMT in carnival, it becomes a poetic dimension of shapes, colors and sounds; a fun and educational community that teaches us how imperfect we are, and to ask the good not to be so solemn and boring. Chamucos: Carnaval de San Martín Tilcajete Oaxaca, by Adolfo Pérez Butrón. (My translation.)

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If you live in Oaxaca, the characters of Carnaval are coming to a village near you. And to get you in the mood and entice you to one of the wild and whacky celebrations, the citizens of the city were treated to a parade sampling the various traditions — no two villages are the same.

Villa de Zaachila, “Grupo Natividad”

Putla Villa de Guerrero

Ánimas Trujano

Macuilxóchitl de Artigas Carranza

Santa Catarina Minas

Santa María Coyotepec

San Juan Bautista La Raya

Cuilápam de Guerrero

And, last but not least, San Martín Tilcajete…

That’s where I will be tomorrow!

 

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There is a new mural in town. After five years, The gods are watching mural (my name for it) has been replaced by the watchful eyes of a goat and a sheep.

Together they stand outside La Madriguera taller on Tinoco y Palacios (between Morelos and Matamoros).

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