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Thursday is market day in Villa de Zaachila. Thus, once we turned off the carretera, we crawled our way into town joining scores of other cars, trucks, tuk tuks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and the occasional goat. The scenes were pure country village. Once parked, we meandered our way along the street stalls, stopping to examine their wares and chat with vendors.

However, our stomachs were grumbling and our trajectory was set — Zaachila’s mouthwatering barbacoa de chivo (goat) beckoned!

Once sated, we went in search of Zaachila’s beautifully decorated pan de muerto (Day of the Dead bread). It was still a little early in the season but, zigzagging up and down the bread aisles, we eventually found a couple of vendors and bought a few to be placed on our ofrendas.

Being members of the “clean plate club” and needing to walk off our very filling lunch, we walked toward the Templo de Santa Maria de la Natividad to begin the Muertos mural walk to the Panteón. However, before even reaching the church, we were stopped in our tracks by this massive and incredibly moving mural dedicated to the victims of Covid-19.

New Day of the Dead murals had been painted along calle Coquiza since I was last in Zaachila two years ago and I will post pictures later. In the meantime, next stop — a mezcal palenque in Zimatlán de Álvarez.

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Oaxaca-loving mezcal afficionado friends are in town and invited me to spend a day with them exploring pueblos and palenques. They hired a double vaccinated/mask wearing driver for the day, so I jumped at the opportunity escape from the city and hang out with them. First on the itinerary was the Mercado de Artesanías in Santa María Atzompa to peruse and purchase some of their green glazed pottery.

Next up was supposed to be Villa de Zaachila, but since they had never been to the Ex-Convento de Santiago in Cuilapan de Guerrero and even though it is currently closed due to Covid-19 precautions, we pulled into the mostly empty parking lot and gazed through the wrought iron fence at the unfinished basilica and monastery that was begun in 1535 and, due to skyrocketing costs, construction stopped in 1570.

We proceeded to walk almost all the way around the outer walls of this massive structure — enjoying views of the sides and back and the flora that surrounds it — something I previously had never done.

While we were definitely not in Oklahoma, the Rogers and Hammerstein song, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” came to mind.

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,
An’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky.

Alas, we got trapped on the far side of the ex-convento with no exit and had to retrace our steps back to the car where we turned onto the road and headed southeast to Villa de Zaachila. Stay tuned!

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Feliz Día Nacional del Maíz (Happy National Day of Corn).

Mi orgullo es mi raiz, el maíz (My pride is my root, the corn).

But what would corn be without the hands that have cared for it for hundreds of years.CONABIO (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity)

Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without corn there is no country)!

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Under the shade of the 361 year old Coquito de la Iglesia de Jalatlaco tree, onlookers (and bloggers like yours truly), dignitaries, media, and the artists of the Tlacolulokos collective gathered for the inauguration of the previously mentioned new mural in Jalatlaco.

“Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

The mural, “Nuestro sol se ha ido” (Our sun has gone) is a collaboration between Rolande Souliere of the “Anishinaabe” people in Canada and the Zapotec Tlacolulokos urban art collective from Oaxaca’s central valley.

Indigenous Encounter Canada/Mexico, “Our sun has gone” by Tlacolulokos and Rolande Souliere.

The mural’s inauguration was live streamed on Facebook on the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca page.

Media and dignitaries gathered in the atrium of the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco.

Unfortunately, Rolande Souliere could not travel to Oaxaca. However she described some of the symbolism of the mural: “We decided to portray the mythological beings of the Canadian thunderbird and the Zapotec deity of the Cosijo throne, these fantastic beings are responsible for the thunder and rain that the world experiences and that come together thanks to the clouds…. symbolic imageries such as Zapotec patterns, the route of thunder and the four directions of the first nations represented by the colors red, black, yellow and white… important signifiers in both communities since they represent the continuation of indigenous culture in contemporary society.”

Inaugural ribbon cutting (Canadian Ambassador wearing white shirt in center and artist Dario Canul on the far right) for the “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.

Dario Canul, representative of the Tlacolulokos colective further explained, “The mural, ‘Our sun has gone,’ is a representation of celebration, life, rain, thunder, and tears that all indigenous peoples have shed over time.”

Drone filming the inauguration of the “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.

The inauguration launched the 2-1/2 week long Encuentros indígenas: Canadá-Oaxaca 2021 (Indigenous encounters: Canada-Oaxaca 2021) — a series of activities in Oaxaca city and surrounding villages — that runs from September 20 to October 8, 2021.

Tlacolulokos artists in front of the mural, “Nuestro sol se ha ido” mural.. Dario Canul (center).

In remarks by Graeme C. Clark, the Canadian Ambassador, at the inaugural event and reports from this article, the collaboration seems to be an expression of the mea culpa by the Canadian government with regard to their historic treatment of the first peoples of the territory that is now called Canada. Better late than never. The indigenous peoples of the USA are still waiting.

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Today, I decided to change up what has become my Friday shopping routine. Instead of walking north to the fruit and veggie vendor, I headed south to explore the Friday tianguis — relocated from Llano Park a couple of years ago and now residing near the Polideportivo.

And, what an excellent decision it was! Only blocks from home, I came across a massive mural in progress on Calle de la Noche Triste at the corner of Calle Ignacio Aldama.

With scaffolding and tools of the trade in place, men were at work.

The style looked familiar, so I stopped to ask, and discovered they were the Tlacolulokos – my favorite artist collective from Tlacolula de Matamoros!

I think the guy I spoke to was a bit taken aback to find that this gringa was quite familiar with their work — including the murals for the Downtown Central Library in Los Angeles, California. Stay tuned…

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Pink sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Pink sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

What about a weird sky at dusk?

View from the rooftop — looking northwest, not so weird.
View from the rooftop — looking east was ominous.
View from the rooftop — looking southeast was seriously eerie and beautiful.

Last night’s sky over Oaxaca was the talk of locals on Facebook. Rain came an hour later.

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Decorations in green, white, and red began going up the first of September.

Papel picado flying above calle Ignacio Aldama in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

No, it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Window of a school in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

The entire month of September is designated the Mes de la Patria — a month celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — a war which began on September 16 1810 and finally ended 200 years ago on September 27, 1821.

Mexican flag flying in the yard of one of my neighbors in Barrio de Jalatlaco.

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Yesterday’s view from my front door…

A late afternoon deluge. This is the rainy season in Oaxaca!

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If it’s Friday, in addition to flowers, it is the day a produce stand sets up just a few blocks away. Mi amiga Kalisa and I stumbled on it during one of our Friday morning walks and little did I know that eight months later I would move nearby and it would become my weekly fruit and veggie vendor.

Weekly produce stand on Privada Lic. Primo Verdad.

The stand has both imported and local fruits and veggies. Three weeks ago I couldn’t resist some of the freshest looking huitlacoche I’ve seen.

Huitlacoche sauteed with onions, garlic, dried chiles, and verdolaga (purslane) — the latter from my garden.

For the uninitiated, huitlacoche (aka, corn smut) is a fungus (Ustilago maydis) that can attack ears of corn during the rainy season. Here in Mexico it is a delicacy. I sauteed it with some other goodies (see above photo) and used it, along with quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese), to fill an omelette.

Quesillo and huitlacoche omelette garnished with sliced avocado.

One would never guess that, as a child, I was a picky eater!

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Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

It’s Friday and I wanted to introduce you to my aforementioned flower vendor. His name is Moises and he also sells sprigs of herbs.

Today I bought two bunches of agapanthus and one of romero (rosemary). And, the Sesame Street song, People in Your Neighborhood, keeps spinning around my brain and singing in my heart.

Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
.

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One of the delights of my new and improved Casita Colibrí home is that it is located in a real neighborhood — one with the feel of a small town. Most everything I need is available within a few blocks. Then there are the vendors! They traverse the cobblestone streets plying their wares — the gas trucks with their distinctive horns, moos, and jingles blasting from loud speakers, the guy shouting “tamalestamalestamales” so fast that it’s hard to understand at first, the paletas (Mexican popsicle-like frozen treat) vendor pushing his cart and calling “palEtas,” and the flower seller who, after I happened to be at the apartment complex entrance and bought agapanthus and a few lilies, doesn’t even yell “flores” when he arrives every Friday in front of the gate, he now just rings my buzzer.

This week, I bought two bunches of alstroemeria.

The previous week, it was two dozen long-stemmed yellow roses.

The quality is excellent — the roses lasted almost an entire week!

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Recycling in Oaxaca continues — slowly but surely. But, honestly, who can resist filling these hearts around Parque El Llano/Paseo Juarez?

Here in Jalatlaco, we are not asked to separate our trash, but I think I will begin taking my plastic agua mineral (mineral water) bottles down to this heart next to the Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco.

This is a program, begun in 2019, by the city’s Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, a governmental agency charged with strengthening and developing the welfare of the Mexican families.

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Unsurprisingly, on Monday Oaxaca went back to Covid-19 Semáforo Naranja (orange traffic light) — meaning there is a high risk of contagion of the virus. On Wednesday, it was reported there were 479 new COVID-19 patients, the highest figure of the year.

Unfortunately, having had to run a few errands over the past few days, I haven’t seen any changes in people’s behavior, business/government/museum closings, nor enforcement of the mask wearing mandate — only an announcement by the archbishop that churches would be limited to 25% capacity.

It is demoralizing and infuriating and all I can do is continue to wear a cubreboca (face mask) whenever I’m out and about, practice social distancing, and try to stay sane. As for the latter, I’m choosing to concentrate on and appreciate my favorite things.

People, real and imagined, waiting for the bus on Av. Benito Juárez.
Ensalada de pulpo (Octopus salad) at Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante.
A turquoise building, meters, and mural on Calle La Alianza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Water lily in the pond of Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum).

We are all tired. However, unless people take this extremely seriously, get vaccinated, and continue to mask up and practice social distancing, “normal” will not return and our fellow humans (including loved ones) will needlessly continue to suffer and die. As a current meme suggests, let us all practice humility, kindness, and community.

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Another year of Covid-19 means another year without an up close and personal Guelaguetza on the last two Mondays of July. Like last year performances and events are going virtual. However, unlike last year, when video of the dancing was taken from the years 2017 to 2019, this year the delegations will be performing live from their villages.

La Guelaguetza 2021 schedule of cultural events:

July 19, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 19, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – Morning delegations and dances:

July 26, 2021 – – Evening delegations and dances:

Transmissions can be viewed at CORTV– on local television, their YouTube channel, and on their Facebook page.

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In Teotitlán del Valle, the fiesta honoring Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo is the most important one of the year. It lasts eight days, includes two convites (processions), several special masses, and (in non Covid years) two fireworks’ displays. However, the highlight for visitors and villagers is the four performances of the Danza de la Pluma by the Grupo de Danza de Pluma Promesa.

El Picacho, the sacred mountain, watches over the village and the dancers.
The choreography includes athletic leaps, twists and turns, and complex footwork.
Maneuvering the penachos/coronas/headdresses as the dancers navigate the step takes strength and timing.

The Danza de la Pluma is a ritual re-enactment of the Spanish conquest.  The full version is told in 41 bailes (dances) and lasts from early afternoon into the night.  It is danced by folkloric groups throughout the valley of Oaxaca. However, in Teotitlán, it is a three year religious commitment. 

Rattles, paddles, and breastplates of old coins are part of the dancers’ costume.
In Teotitlán del Valle, Moctezuma’s penacho features the symbol of Mexico: Eagle and serpent on a cactus.
Moctezuma, accompanied by a Danzante, with Doña Marina and La Malinche

Moctezuma, Danzantes, Subalternos, Malinche, and Doña Marina are selected years in advance and make a promise to their god and, thus, their church and community to learn and perform the dance at each of the four annual major religious festivals in the village and any other special occasion they are called upon to dance.

La Malinche.
The dance divides the historic person of Doña Marina and La Malinche into two characters.
Doña Marina.

A 20+ piece orchestra accompanies the dancers, playing a musical score mostly comprised of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, quadrilles, and schottisches. The first time I saw the Danza de la Pluma, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the contrast between the costumes and the music. A little research (after all, I’m a librarian) provided the explanation. At the end of the 19th century, when all things European were being celebrated in Mexico, an orchestra playing European music replaced the original indigenous teponaztli (drum) and chirimía (flute).

Subalterno providing a little comic relief.
Wearing their trademark cross between a boar and bear wooden black masks, Subalternos posing for the camera.
Subalterno taking a break from his Aide-de-Camp duties of offering water to the dancers, dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, clearing debris from dance floor, and entertain spectators.

On two of the days the dancers dance for four hours and the other two, they dance for seven hours. The sun can be brutal and the wind can wreak havoc with the penachos. I don’t know how they do it — their stamina is astounding! I only managed to attend a few hours each at three of the performances. However, I will be back in September for the Natividad de la Virgen María fiesta.

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