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It’s been fifty years since two African American US Olympic medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, cast their eyes downward and raised clenched fists on the medals’ stand during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” (national anthem of the USA) at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  Boos and racial epithets were hurled from the stands, both were kicked off the US team, ordered to leave the Olympic Village, and, upon returning to the USA, they received hate mail, death threats and experienced harassment.  However, their gesture became iconic and their stance against racial injustice is celebrated the world over, including Oaxaca.

Taller de Gráfica Experimental de Oaxaca, Calle La Noria at Melchor Ocampo, Oaxaca de Juárez

“I don’t have any misgivings about it being frozen in time. It’s a beacon for a lot of people around the world. So many people find inspiration in that portrait. That’s what I was born for.” –John Carlos (The man who raised a black power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games)

What most of the world didn’t see or hear about — because it was conspicuously absent from the covers of the country’s major newspapers — was that two weeks before, in what came to be known as the Tlatelolco Massacre, somewhere between 300 and 2,000 peacefully protesting students in Mexico City were murdered by Mexican military and police forces.

The echos from 1968 continue today…  Colin Kaepernick continues to be castigated and denied employment as an NFL football player for taking a knee during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, whose bus was ambushed in Iguala, Guerrero four years ago, continue to be missing.

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The late rainy season continues, but my garden brings sunshine to a cloudy day.

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8:00 AM

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5:40 PM

The Stephanotis floribunda reaches for the sky and brings the light.

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Monday afternoon, in the middle of a fiesta at the home of Danza de la Pluma danzante Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez, a torrential downpour came to Teotitlán del Valle.

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As I’ve mentioned, rain has been scarce this rainy season — a serious situation for a community that relies on subsistence farming.

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So, despite the fact that the dirt road in front of the house became a muddy rushing river and festivities had to be put on hold for awhile as rain blew in through openings in the tented patio, this deluge was good news and people were smiling.

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Everyone, including Juan Pablo, waited patiently for the life-giving rain to let up.

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It eventually did and he was able to dance.

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On a wet patio, surrounded by 100+ proud family members, fellow danzantes, and guests, he performed his solo dance.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I felt so incredibly honored to have been invited.  It was a truly memorable experience that we will treasure always.  Muchisimas gracias to Juan and his family and all the members of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-18 for being so warm and welcoming to us over the past couple of years.  We are going to miss you!

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Yesterday morning…

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Cleistocactus

There are days when light and shadows paint the garden and I sigh at Mother Nature’s artistry.

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At the risk of alienating readers who were drooling with envy over yesterday’s Chiles en nogada post, I bring you today’s lunch.  This time I was dining with friends, which makes already delicious food taste even better.

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Tres cocinera (3 cooks): Celia Florian, Carina Santiago, Kalisa Wells

Comida at Las Quince Letras where mis amigas Carina Santiago of restaurant and gallery Tierra Antigua in Teotitlán del Valle, Kalisa Wells (cocinera and new neighbor), and I were joined by the restaurant’s delightful owner/chef and ambassador extraordinaire of Oaxaca gastronomy, Celia Florian.  (An aside:  Celia and I were on the same flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca on Saturday night and I apologize to the other passengers for briefly blocking the aisle as we greeted each other with hugs.)

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Appetizer of Garnachas Istmeña

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Aguacate relleno

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Chile de agua vinagreta

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Dessert of warm pastel de elote

What a delicious and delightful way to spend my second day back home in Oaxaca.

 

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I returned to Oaxaca very late last night and just in the nick of time.  As I previously noted, chiles en nogada is prepared during the month of September — El Mes de la Patria celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would still be available.  Thus, today (the LAST day of September) on my way back from Mercado Benito Juárez (a necessary restocking the empty larder shopping trip), when I saw the prominent “chiles en nogada” sign in front of Restaurante Catedral and heard the hostess explain to a small group of tourists that today was the last day they would be serving it, I had to seize the opportunity.

Chile en nogada with Mexican flag

Just color me happily sated by the green, white, and red of the poblano chile stuffed with a special fruit and meat picadillo, blanketed with a smooth slightly sweet walnut sauce, and garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.  So, mis amig@s (you know who you are) you are off the hook!

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Four years and two days ago, 43 student teachers from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were disappeared in a violent attack on their bus in Iguala.  They still haven’t been found, their families still grieve, and anger surrounding the lack of truth, transparency, and justice continues.

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“For mothers who mourn empty graves for children who never returned”

In June of this year, a federal court ordered the creation of a truth and justice commission to undertake a new investigation but the current government has appealed the order.  However, two days ago, on the anniversary of their disappearance, Mexico’s new president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), met with relatives and representatives of the missing students and vowed to discover the truth and implement the court order.  Expectations are high, but skepticism remains.

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I have returned to my hometown for my 50th high school reunion.  (How could I possibly be that old?!)  Whenever I come up to the USA, I make a point of bringing a little Oaxaca love with me.  So, this trip I brought my three newest textile treasures to wear.

First, a modern asymmetric take on a traditional huipil — designed, dyed, and woven on a backstrap loom by Moisés Martínez Velasco from San Pedro Cajonos in the Villa Alta region of the Sierra Norte.  Villagers cultivate and harvest the silk worms and spin the silk used in making this beautiful piece.

I also packed a recently purchased traditional blusa from the Mixtec village of San Pablo Tijaltepec.  The blouses from this village are made from cotton manta and hand-embroidered with images of birds, animals, plants, and elements of nature in geometric patterns.  The blouses take up to one and a half months to make.  I wore it to the reunion picnic on Sunday and it received several compliments.

And, last but not least, I brought this elegant silk huipil with cotton chain-stitch hand embroidery designed by celebrated poet, Natalia Toledo.  Honoring the traditional huipiles of her birthplace in Juchitán de Zaragoza in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, yet bringing her own design esthetic to her label Teka, this woman of many talents works with seamstresses and embroiderers from the Isthmus and Central Valleys of Oaxaca to create one-of-a-kind pieces.  I wore this to Saturday night’s reunion at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge beside the San Francisco Bay — and it was perfect!

Besides the designs, colors (lately, I seem to be binging on burgundy), and handmade aspect of the work, I especially appreciate that I was able to meet and purchase each piece directly from its creator.

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The gods…

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and superheroes like El Chapulín Colorado have had their day.

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Today, the walls of Oaxaca remind us that it is journalists who are on the front lines — uncovering truth, advocating for justice, and often paying with their lives.

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“Cuando un pais tiene ganas de gritar hay personas que no pueden callar.”  (When a country wants to scream there are people who cannot remain silent.)  — the late Mexican journalist, Javier Valdez.

Journalists in the USA, are you listening?

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On September 16, Mexico celebrates Día de la Independencia — marking Father Hidalgo’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) to begin the ten-year war for independence from Spain.  However, the entire month of September is El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) and streets and vendor stalls are awash with the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.

Last week, walking down to Mercado Benito Juárez to pick up a few last-minute regalitos (little gifts) to bring up to family and friends in el norte, within two blocks I saw…

There is even a very yummy green, white, and red patriotic dish that appears in restaurants in September — Chiles en nogada.  I’m hoping it will still be on the menu when I return at the end of the month from the el norte trip.

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The very dry rainy season continues and is the major topic of conversation among anyone who has any connection to la tierra (the land).  However, during today’s Fiesta a la Natividad de la Virgen María in Teotitlán del Valle, the Zapotec god Cosijo answered the prayers for rain.

The sky darkened over Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

Moctezuma (Sergio Gutiérrez Bautista) danced the story of the Conquest.

Doña Marina (Elizabeth Hernández Gutiérrez) danced her part.

The rain began to seriously fall and the plastic penacho (headdress) covers came out in force, but the danzantes continued to dance.

Comida (lunch break) came just in time, the sun came out, and Malinche (Quetzali del Rayo Santiago Ruiz) graciously posed for photos.

And, Javier Gutiérrez Hernandez (dance master, choreographer, former danzante, and father of Moctezuma) posed with his son’s penacho.

A little means a lot, though probably not enough to salvage this season’s milpa (field of corn, beans, and squash).  But, when your culture dates back at least 2,500 years, you take a long view of history.

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A local’s guide to Mexico City: 10 tips describes a mural project by Aida Mulato and Jóvenes Artesanos to help rehabilitate her Roma neighborhood following the September 2017 earthquakes.  According to the article, “The colourful murals celebrate indigenous communities and women, who continue to suffer most from the earthquakes.  The project supports the larger goals of Jóvenes Artesanos and gives various support to about 150 artisans with whom Mulato works.  With 15 murals painted already, the goal is to create a circuit of 68, representing the country’s indigenous populations.”

What an enlightened and wonderful contrast to the game of cat and mouse, street mural artists have been facing here in Oaxaca for the past few years, where many (including me) have been asking, are Color and culture, unwelcome?  However, while they may be more ephemeral than we would wish, artists are still at work on the sides of our own crumbling buildings, and murals still can be found on the walls of Oaxaca.

Enjoy them while you can, they may be gone tomorrow.

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You know you are nearing a village when you see the bell tower(s) and dome of the Catholic church.  Checking out the church is always high on the agenda.  Many were originally constructed in the sixteenth century, though damage, restoration, and decoration have occurred over intervening centuries.  And, don’t forget the details…

So, while attending the Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola in mid-July, we peeked through the locked gates, to see the Templo San Marcos.

Then off to San Miguel del Valle on a Fundación En Vía microfinance tour in early August and another church through another locked gate.

The piéce de résistance… We headed to the first food feria in Santa Ana Zegache in mid August.  Alas, we arrived hours too early for the food, but we consoled ourselves with visiting their Baroque 17th century church (no locked gate) that was fabulously restored in the 1990s by the Rodolfo Morales Foundation.

All beautiful and unique.  So, the lesson for today is, whenever you find yourself in a village in Oaxaca, be sure to check out the church.

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Open doors always draw the eye; you never know what you will see.  Peering through doorway of the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos, never disappoints.  Across the courtyard, seasonal book sculptures can often be seen.  Currently, celebrating July’s Guelaguetza, a Tehuana’s bookish hand holds her jicapextle aloft.

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Last October, with Día de Muertos coming up, a calavera was a book work in progress, with William Shakespeare playing a bit part.

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Guelaguetza 2017 brought a danzante from the Danza de la Pluma — his neck braced by the blue and rather appropriate book, “El Tesoro de Monte Albán.”

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There have also been Christmas trees and crosses, so stay tuned.  And, if you are in town, stop by the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos at Labastida 117 (across from the plazuela) — even if there isn’t a book sculpture, there are usually artisans set up in the entrance, and there is always the library to check out, says this librarian.

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Alas, the massive tormenta (thunderstorm) that hit the city two weeks ago was a one hit wonder, despite predictions of rain almost every day.  This evening, yet again, clouds gathered but only a drop or two fell.

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Looking south…

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Looking southwest…

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Looking southeast…

Guess it’s time for a mezcal offering to Cosijo.  Hope you will join me!

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