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Like doors everywhere, the doors of Barrio de Jalatlaco are doorways leading to comings and goings, the known and unknown, and the life stories we create from outside and in.

“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” -― William Blake

“Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. — Daisaku Ikeda

“Every doorway, every intersection has a story.” — Katherine Dunn

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While visiting el norte, one of my “musts” is taking advantage of the ethnically diverse dining options on the west and east coasts. To date, twice I’ve eaten Japanese at my younger son’s favorite restaurant, had Chinese twice, and dined on Indian twice. However, I’ve now been away from Oaxaca for a month and I’m dreaming Oaxaca dining dreams. Until my return next week, photos from three recent meals I’ve eaten in Oaxaca will have to suffice.

Garnachas – Maguey y Maíz
Ensalada pulquera – Maguey y Maíz
Mole de Caderas – Las Quince Letras
Chocolate tamal – Las Quince Letras
Roasted beets with fermented lentils – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante
Grilled octopus – Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante

Then there is the street food… tacos, empanadas, tlayudas, oh my!

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The walls of Oaxaca always have a lot to say. Now you can learn the abecedario a señas (sign language alphabet) from a wall on 5 de mayo in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

In mid April, this new mural was unveiled. Organized by Maestro Rolando Sigüenza, deaf artists Jonatan Martínez, Juan Antonio García, Moisés Antonio Orozco, María Soledad Aguilar, Blanca Flor Pineda, Miguel Eduardo Mancera, Jesús Ariel Castellanos, Mitzi Scheherazada, Rebeca Casas, Susana Hernánez, Marcial Pérez, Emmanuel Ignacio, Cristhian Yépez, and Ángel Iván Torres painted a mural of the alphabet in sign language and braille.

Benito Juárez signing.

The text below Benito Juárez explains, “On November 28, 1867, Benito Juárez founded the first school for deaf people in Mexico, which at that time was called the National School for the Deaf, despite the fact that the School was closed, the deaf continue to fight for our rights.”

Danza de la Pluma danzante signing.

The owner of the property, la señora Rosario Martínez, said she provided the space so these artists could show their work and to beautify the neighborhood.

China Oaxaqueña with canasta spelling AMOR (LOVE).

Does anyone know what Benito Juárez and the danzante are signing?

My plan is to learn a new letter each time I walk by.

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An albeit belated return to Semana Santa (Holy Week). Viernes Santo (Good Friday) in Barrio de Jalatlaco began early in the morning with a Santo Viacrusis along the cobblestone streets — a recreation of the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion. Its purpose is to allow the faithful to contemplate the Passion of Christ. The images of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, accompanied by a band and neighbors, stopped at each of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, that had been created throughout the neighborhood, where prayers were recited.

Image of Jesus being carried by Penitents.
Image of Mary Magdalene.
1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus takes up his Cross.
3. Jesus falls for the first time.
4. Jesus meets his Mother.

At the fourth station, set up across from the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, Mary and John the Baptist (referred to here as, Juan, el primo de Jesús/John, the cousin of Jesus) joined the procession for the farewell encounter between Jesus and his mother.

Mary, Mother of Jesus.
John, the Baptist.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls for the second time
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls for the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross.
12. Jesus dies on the Cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Following the procession, neighbors gathered in front of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco for food and beverages that were available for sale at stalls set up on Aldama and Hidalgo. I came home with yummy enchiladas.

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Breaking news up here in el norte, relayed to me via email from friends in San Francisco and in a phone conversation with my BFF in Alaska: The most recent episode of House Hunters International took place in Oaxaca AND one of the houses featured was in my neighborhood, Barrio de Jalatlaco. My SF friends described the very distinctive building facade and I knew exactly where it was — and had taken several photographs of it.

According to the episode’s description, “A young couple decides to leave their home in Memphis and move sight unseen to Oaxaca, Mexico. They’re both fitness junkies who want a taste of the mountains and nature, and he wants a place on the outskirts, but she prefers to be near the city center.”

Sight unseen? In any case (spoiler alert), my friends informed me the young fitness junkies turned it down as it was too small and dark.

I haven’t seen the episode, but I have seen the show and it never ceases to amaze and dismay me that most of the time, the buyers and renters come to developing countries with highly developed expectations AND wanting it all for a fraction of the cost in their home countries.

The rent was $1100 (US) per month — low in most US cities but extremely high for most Oaxaqueños. Such is rental inflation wrought by, among other things, digital nomads willing to pay whatever their bank balances will bear, never mind the impact on the local economy, and the proliferation of apartments being turned into Airbnb rentals.

Something to think about from, The End of Tourism Podcast interview with Daniel Pinchbeck:

And many of the people that I know have become, you know, quote unquote “digital nomads.” So if they’re doing like lifestyle coaching or marketing or tech or whatever, they can basically do that from anywhere in the planet. And obviously because they’re wealthy and come with money to restaurants and buy goods, there’s desirability for them to make a second home someplace or whatever.

… I think that often we see in the world over the last decades kind of like homogenization, cultural homogenization.

… And so the tourism which ends up taking Western first world values and spreading them everywhere acts as kind of a larger imperialist, colonialist kind of project that can lead to the deterioration of the integrity of local cultures and very few countries and cultures have had the capacity to kind of build the defense structure, recognizing the danger of this.

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Is it just my imagination or is there a face hidden in this entry?

Now I can’t get The Beatles, I’ve Just Seen a Face out of my head. Oh, and now Traffic with Steve Winwood singing Smiling Phases. Yes, I know I’m dating myself, but we had some pretty unforgettable music back in the day!

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How wonderful it was to return to San Antonino Castillo Velasco on Domingo de Ramos and once again see and experience San Salvador atop his burro being piled high with the best and most beautiful bounty.

Covid precautions had caused the 2020 and 2021 Palm Sunday celebrations to be canceled. But, at long last, this year villagers, young and old, on bikes and on foot, in carts and in trucks, once again were allowed to return to the street outside the panteón (cemetery) bearing fruit, vegetables, herbs, breads, flowers…

… and farm animals! Their offerings were received and priced by a committee — to be sold later in the day to benefit a local project. By the way, the price tag for the colt read $4000 pesos.

Once the burro was “filled to the brim,” with only his face peeking out, the priest arrived to bless the offerings and faithful with holy water. Dare I confess, it was hot under the noonday sun and the sprinkling of cold water felt good! The palm fronds, having been blessed, were distributed to all. Fireworks began exploding and the rhythmic sounds of the teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) began playing — announcing the start of the procession. Led by smoke from burning copal and a trail of bougainvillea bracts, the litter carrying San Salvador atop his burro set off on the kilometer long journey to the atrium of the church. They were accompanied by villagers and visitors clutching palm fronds and carrying the remainder of the goods collected.

This is a reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. A few spectators chose to watch from balconies, but mostly the route teemed with a growing mass of followers as 30+ hardy men bore the litter along the “hazardous” street — ducking wires above and navigating topes (speed bumps) below.

Once inside the church atrium, San Salvador and his burro were carefully maneuvered onto a stage where the priest joined them to say mass. At this point, blogger buddy Chris and I swam against the crowd and made our way to the food stalls set up just outside the atrium — San Antonino’s mouthwatering empanadas de amarillo beckoned.

(ps) Chris made a video of the procession which you can view HERE.

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After two years of quiet contemplation, the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco were once again alive on the sixth Friday of Lent in celebration of La Virgén de Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows).

Here in my new neighborhood even more purple and white papel picado was strung from building to building.

At the far end of Calle Hidalgo, an altar to La Virgén was lovingly assembled.

In the late afternoon, stalls were set up along Calle Hidalgo and lines of neighbors and visitors formed to sample the freely offered aguas (flavored waters), nieves (ices), and traditional arroz con leche y garbanzos (rice pudding with chickpeas).

Mass was celebrated in Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco and music filled the street.

A generous, albeit temporary, antidote to the sorrows of our current world. I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed in this amazing neighborhood!

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After a two-year absence, she’s back! The Good Samaritan returned to the sidewalks, streets, and church atriums of Oaxaca. The fourth Friday of Lent is Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration. It was with great joy, I ventured onto the streets of Barrio de Jalatlaco clutching my cup, from which to drink the aguas being offered.

My neighborhood!
Jacob’s Well in front of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco
Reenactment of the Good Samaritan offering water to Jesus

The Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament of the Bible where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water. 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.

Not just women are Good Samaritans
Agua stations in the middle of Calle Hidalgo
Horchata on offer at a language school

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century. It is a popular and much-loved tradition that has expanded beyond Oaxaca’s church Samaritans to businesses, government offices, schools, and even private homes.

Marimba players providing the musical accompaniment
Violet and white (colors of Lent) papel picado fluttering above Calle Hidalgo
Tejate being poured

This year the first block of Calle Hidalgo was closed to traffic so agua stations could be set up in the middle of the street and naturally, as with most celebrations, there was music — this time a marimba provided the soundtrack.

Lines going to stations on the right and left at the corner of Calles Hidalgo and Aldama
Outside Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco, most, though not all, listened to the priest (upper right corner)
A refreshing cup of tejate on a hot day

As in pre-Covid years, people of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths to sample agua de jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and other creative and refreshing concoctions.

The guys, gals, and aguas
The friendly Samaritan at Coffee Deep serving horchata
The end!

After an hour of wandering the streets of my neighborhood and sampling several aguas and even a cookie or two, I happily returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions and people of Oaxaca.

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Spring has sprung in the valley of Oaxaca and that means the hottest and driest months are upon us. Despite conventional wisdom, the temperatures actually cool down a little in the summer, when the afternoon/evening rains come. I confess, this time of year, when the thermometer hovers around 90º (Fahrenheit), by early afternoon my energy is sapped and motivation melts away. Hence, blog posts are few and far between. However, today is a little cooler and my blog’s namesake inspired me to let my fingers not just hover over keyboard, but actually type!

Colibríes in murals seen on walls around the city…

Artist: Marcos Lucero
Artist unknown

A few of the colibríes seen in the art and artesanía in my Casita Colibrí home…

Watercolor by Estefani Hernández
Hand-painted pillow by Pilar Miranda
Tin hummingbird purchased at MARO

Speaking of hovering, a little information from the book, Colibríes de México y Norteamérica/ Hummingbirds of México and North America to go along with the pretty pictures:

Hummingbirds are noted for their incredible ability to fly. They can hover suspended in the air and can fly in any direction, even sideways and backwards, allowing them to reach their food anywhere. Their powerful chest muscles are extremely developed (they can account for around 30% of their body mass) and this allows them to beat their wings very rapidly, from an incredible 80 wing beats per second, up to a staggering 200 wing beats per second when performing certain maneuvers during courtship. Their muscles also allow them to reach amazing speeds, ranging from 50 to 95 km/hr when diving in flight during courtship.

A .pdf of the book is free to download from the above link.

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Late yesterday afternoon… What was that smell? What was that sound? I climbed the spiral staircase up to the rooftop terrace and what did I see?

The little dark dots on the terrace floor confirmed my suspicion. The smell was rain, the sound was rain, those spots on the terrace floor were rain drops, and there was even a hint of a rainbow!

I stood watching and listening and savoring this infrequent, but much welcome, dry season development, when the clouds moved to reveal the rising moon.

The old Blood, Sweat & Tears tune began playing in my head, Sometimes in Winter. Thank you Steve Katz for your beautiful and evocative song.

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Last Saturday, Hagamos Composta picked up our filled bins and left these. Are our compost gals making a statement?

The librarian/archivist in me compels me to share a link to Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online. Proud of my profession.

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On International Women’s Day, a mural in Barrio de Jalatlaco…

Girls have the power

Mural by the Mad In crew celebrating the life of María Antonieta Chagoya Méndez, a lawyer who, among many other notable activities, shared her legal knowledge with civil associations and founded the Rotary Center for Autism Intervention, which served children with special needs.

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Three days ago, as I was walking up Calle 5 de mayo in Barrio de Jalatlaco to pay my cable TV bill, I came upon an artist at work.

This afternoon, I retraced my steps to see if the artist known as HAZHE IS had completed this newest mural in the neighborhood.

I don’t know if it’s finished, but I do know (IMHO) it is a welcome (and welcoming) addition to the view when departing the ADO bus station across the street. ¡Salud!

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After the 2021 hiatus due to the pandemic, Oaxaca city resumed its annual Carnavales Oaxaqueños calenda. This parade, held on the Saturday before the start of Lent, was begun in 2019 to promote the traditional Carnaval celebrations in various villages in Oaxaca’s Central Valleys and the Mixteca on Shrove Tuesday (aka, Carnival, Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday). This riot of music, costumes, masks, and even stilts assembled at the Cruz de Piedra, processed down the Macedonio Alcalá, and concluded at the Alameda de León — to cheering, chanting, and picture/video taking by residents and visitors.

Villages participating were San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Juan Bautista La Raya, Villa de Zaachila, San Bartolome Quialana, Santiago Juxtlahuaca, Magdalena Teitipac, San Mateo Macuilxóchitl, Santa Catarina Minas, Santiago Llano Grande, San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, Santa María Coyotepec, Chalcatongo de Hidalgo, and Putla Villa de Guerrero.

Of course the pandemic isn’t over and a couple of weeks ago Oaxaca went back up to semáforo amarillo (yellow), so the impact of crowds gathering (albeit outside) remains to be seen. At least up near the parade’s starting point, most onlookers were wearing cubrebocas (protective masks). Unfortunately, the exceptions seemed to be young tourists. I am pleased to note that the poster for San Martín Tilcajete’s very popular Carnaval celebration states, “Uso obligatorio de cubrebocas” (Use of a protective mask is obligatory). Let us hope that the unmasked will respect the locals and put on a cubreboca!

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