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Yesterday, the village of Teotitlán del Valle and its Comité del Museo Comunitario (Community Museum Committee) welcomed the public to the inauguration of the first phase of the restoration of the archaeological zone beneath the Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.  Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area had been a Zapotec ceremonial plaza.

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Before:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site, December 2013

A little background:  In 1553, Oaxaca’s Archbishop Albuquerque ordered the demolition of all Zapotec structures, including those in Teotitlán del Valle.  And, as was the practice of the day, in 1581 the Dominican friars began building their church atop the original Zapotec ceremonial complex.

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During:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration, February 2019

They scavenged building materials from the Zapotec site (some can be seen in the exterior walls of the church) and tried to erase all evidence of the rich and complex belief system that was already in place.

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During:  Sidewalk supervisor dog keeps an eye on the restoration work at the Teotitlán del Valle archeological site, February 2019.

As regular readers of my blog know, I visit Teotitlán often and am always amazed at the construction projects that pop up — new buildings, additions to homes, and street repairs.  However, this past February, when touring out-of-town friends around Teotitlán, I was surprised to see work being done in the archeological zone.

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During:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration, February 2019. Note the numbered pieces.

After three years of effort to obtain the necessary permits from the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), the work on the restoration of the “basement” began in January 2019.  The end goal is to reclaim, rehabilitate, and restore the Prehispanic Zapotec ceremonial complex.  Teotitlán’s site is concurrent with nearby Mitla, thus the presence of grecas, the fretwork that characterizes the site 15 miles to the southeast.

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After:  Teotitlán del Valle archeological site restoration inauguration day, April 22, 2019.

I’m looking forward to what the next phase will reveal!  By the way, as is the custom in Teotitlán, this major civic event included not only speeches by gathered dignitaries, but also a procession, a performance of dances from the Danza de la Pluma, food, and a concert.

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The sounds of this morning’s Santo Viacrusis (Stations of the Cross) moving closer, brought me into the mostly deserted streets before 9:00 AM.

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A block away, I found Jesús, La Virgen María, a priest, acolytes, the faithful, and a loudspeaker on the back of a pickup truck.

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Led by the children, images of María and Jesús from churches throughout the city had taken to the streets.

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Stopping along the way to pray and sing, the solemn throng made their way to the Cathedral for a farewell encounter between Mary and Jesus.

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It will be a long day for all concerned.  Following the encuentro, they will process back to their churches for a bit of a rest before this evening’s grand Procession of Silence.

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It takes 30+ men, doing some heavy lifting, to carry San Salvador, his burro, and Palm Sunday bounty the kilometer between San Antonino Castillo Velasco’s cemetery and village church.

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The strength of their devotion.

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Yesterday was another special Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.  This is a Zapotec village famous for the cultivation of flowers and exquisitely embroidered blouses and dresses, inspired by said flowers.  Returning year-after-year, I never cease to be uplifted by the warmth of the people and the bounty they bring to the image of San Salvador sitting atop his little burro outside the panteón.  The best of their fruits, vegetables, herbs, livestock, clothing, flowers, and much more are gratefully received by a committee, priced, and later-in-the-day, sold to raise money for a designated project.

A little after noon, San Salvador (his burro now filled to the brim), offerings, and the faithful were blessed by the priest.  Fireworks exploded, rhythmic sounds of the traditional teponaxtles (drums) and chirimía (small oboe) sounded, and led by a trail of bougainvillea bracts and the smoke of copal, the litter of San Salvador atop the burro and carried by 30+ men, set off on a journey to the atrium of the church.  They were followed by villagers and visitors carrying the remainder of the goods collected — a ritual reenactment of the Biblical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

The procession successfully navigated overhead wires above and heeded warnings of “topes” (speed bumps) below.  A kilometer down this perilous route, San Salvador and the faithful, young and old, approached the atrium of the church, San Salvador was set on the stage where an outdoor mass was to be said, and on the opposite side, the hand-and-head-carried offerings were to be sold.  I cannot begin to express how warm and welcoming the people of San Antonino Castillo Velasco were.  Wearing a blusa from San Antonino, that I purchased several years ago, I was smiled upon and, as I was taking photos, officials and other villagers ushered me to the front.  Again, I ask, how many magical moments can one person have?

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Today found me (courtesy of blogger buddy Chris) savoring market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.  The Sunday market is one of the oldest continuous tianguis in Mesoamerica, a commercial center for the neighboring communities, and a beehive of energy and activity.

There is food…

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Chiles and more

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Chickens roasting on an open fire

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A bounty of fruit

Necessary cooking equipment, Oaxaca style…

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Gourds for measuring and serving, palm fans for fanning the cooking flames, and brushes for moving ingredients about the comal

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Metate for grinding corn, chocolate, dyes, etc.

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Molcajetes necessary for crushing and grinding herbs, spices, and making the best salsas and guacamole

And, most of all, people…

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Poultry shopper and hammock seller

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Tortilla vendors

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Garlic vendor

Market day in Tlacolula is chicken soup for my soul.

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Tonight, the clocks in most of Mexico spring ahead.

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However, the flowers are on their own time and the Flor de Mayo (aka, Plumeria, Frangipani) have already begun to bloom.

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There is magic on the walls of Oaxaca.

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You  never know what you will see when you take another route home.

 

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Even leftover decorations from a Día de la Samaritana agua station in front of an abandoned building are beautiful in their own way.

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Seen on García Vigil at the corner of Jesús Carranza.

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If you are in Oaxaca and it’s the fourth Friday of Lent, it must be Día de la Samaritana, an “only in Oaxaca” celebration.  This Day of the Good Samaritan was inspired by the Gospel of John story in the New Testament where a tired and thirsty Jesus, on his way to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Sychar for some water.

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Decorating a well outside the Cathedral

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Sign proclaiming the day, seen on the Alcalá

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.

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Scene at the well outside Templo de San José

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Live actors waiting to reenact the scene

Celebrating the Good Samaritan in Oaxaca began in the atriums of churches at the end of the 19th century and is a popular and much-loved tradition.  Thus I joined thousands of Oaxaqueños and visitors, clutching cups, and wandering from one decorated agua station to another sampling their offerings.

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Samaritana station serving nieve at the Municipal Palace

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One of scores of agua stations on the Alcalá

People of all ages, from small children to grandparents, lined up at bougainvillea and palm decorated booths in front of churches, restaurants, businesses, schools, and even the city’s municipal office building for the traditional Día de la Samaritana free aguas.

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Hand painted ollas in front of Templo de Sangre de Cristo

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Hand painted jicara gourds waiting to be filled with tejate

These “water stations” are often decorated in a violet shade of purple, the color of Lent, symbolizing penance and royalty.  And, the ollas (pots) holding the aguas seem to get more decorative every year.

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Agua stations along the Alcalá

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Watermelon and mint agua station on García Vigil

We are not talking plain water, these are divinely flavored aguas frescas made with fresh fruits, herbs, flowers, and more — jamaica (hibiscus), horchata, chilacayote (squash), tamarindo, sandia (watermelon), tejate, and nieve (sorbet).  Even taxi drivers played the role of Good Samaritans.

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Nieve station in doorway of lingerie store on Independencia

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Taxi drivers host agua station on the Alameda

In previous years, the aftermath hath wrought mountains of garbage — cans overflowing with plastic and styrofoam.  However, this year, in the name of the environment, an appeal was made for people to bring their own cups.  And, I think a majority complied!

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On the Alcalá above Santo Domingo

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An olla with Agua de chilacayote (type of squash)

And me?  After almost two hours, three aguas (watermelon with mint, cucumber with mint, and chilacayote), a nieve of leche quemada and tuna, and being surrounded by smiling people enjoying this celebration of generosity, I returned home with my heart full of love and gratitude for the traditions of Oaxaca.

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After a few nights of a drop or two, we had an real rainstorm last night.

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The sound of rain lulled me to sleep last night.

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This morning I awoke to clear a clear sky and a glistening garden.

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While no one believes this is the start of the rainy season, it is much welcome evidence that Cocijo hasn’t forsaken the valley of Oaxaca.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

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Yesterday, Mexico celebrated el Día del Artesano (Day of the Artisan).  Alas, I’m a day late in recognizing the men and women whose artistry in carrying on traditions and renewing and enriching them with their own creative spirit contributes to Oaxaca’s vibrant cultural life and economy.  However, the entire month of March has been designated “month of the artisan,” so here are several of the artesanas and artesanos who I have had the honor and joy of knowing and visiting over the past year.

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Emilia Gonzalez, wool spinning and dying in Teotitlán del Valle

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Juan Manuel García Esperanza, silver filigree, Ciudad de Oaxaca

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Carrizo basket maker from San Juan Guelavía

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Barro rojo (red clay) potters from San Marcos Tlapazola

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Mural painters in San Martín Tilcajete

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Weaver from Santo Tomás Jalieza

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Eligio Zárate, potter, Santa María Atzompa

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Jesús Sosa Calvo, wood carver and painter, San Martín Tilcaje

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Seamstress, embroiderer, crocheter, Sra. Gutiérrez from Teotitlán del Valle

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Don Luís, weaver, Ciudad de Oaxaca

A very special thank you to Don Luís, whose weaving studio shares a wall with my apartment and I have the pleasure of seeing and hearing most every day.  The rhythmic sounds of his loom are one of the songs on the soundtrack of my Oaxaca life.

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Today is International Women’s Day and I’m choosing to celebrate the day by honoring the women borrowers of Fundación En Vía, Oaxaca’s successful microfinance organization.  The feminization of poverty continues to be a global issue — “women and girls fare worse than men and boys on a range of factors that may predispose them to poverty, including having their own source of income, ownership and control of assets and decision-making within their households.” — UN Women and the World Bank unveil new data analysis on women and poverty.

Tereza López López and her daughter – Comedor de Tere (diner), San Miguel del Valle.

A few statistics are in order to appreciate the incredible need this program is attempting to meet in Oaxaca.  According to a 2010 report by Coneval on poverty in Mexico, 67.4% of the people of Oaxaca live in moderate or extreme poverty and En Vía reports that 93% of their borrowers do not have a high school diploma.

María Zacarias Hernandez Hernandez – Mandiles (aprons) and bolsas (bags), San Miguel del Valle.

En Vía “works to promote women’s empowerment, the well-being of their families, and the strengthening of their communities by providing participatory programs that encourage the growth of income-generating businesses and personal development.”

Petronila Lopez Garcia – Tapetes (rugs), San Miguel del Valle.

They “do this through the unique combination of educational programs, interest-free micro-loans and responsible tourism.”  A series of eight basic business classes are given before the first loan of 1500 pesos is given.  Borrowers have ten to fifteen weeks to repay the loans.  Currently, En Vía has a 99.8% repayment rate.

Sara Ruiz Lorenzo – Velas (candles), Teotitlán del Valle.

In addition to required attendance at monthly business classes, free optional enrichment courses are offered, including classes in computers, English language, and women’s health.  And, after repaying their loans, borrowers can apply for additional loans to continue growing their businesses.

Ludivina Vasquez Gutierrez – Tapetes (rugs) and bolsas (bags), Teotitlán del Valle.

Where do you and I come in?  En Vía offers a variety of Responsible Tourism experiences — including their twice weekly tours to visit borrowers (often in their homes).  It is incredibly uplifting to hear the women describe their businesses and involvement in the program and especially to see the pride they have in what they have learned and accomplished.  FYI:  76% of En Vía’s revenue comes from their Responsible Tourism fees.  Believe me, it’s well worth it and I guarantee you will come away enriched by the experience.

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From gnarled tree limbs throughout the city…

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purple blossoms have emerged.

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Set against clear blue skies, it’s jacaranda time…

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a not-so-subtle sign that spring is on its way.

Posted to Thursday Tree Love

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Visiting friends equals playing tour guide and exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Oaxaca.  Thus, last Thursday off we went to the new-to-me, little known, and hard to find north-of-the-city archeological site of Suchilquitongo.

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While the site is small and the excavated tomb is closed, for the views alone, it was well worth the trip.

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Let us all raise a glass to the hummingbirds and bats of Oaxaca.

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Without the work they do pollinating the flowers on the quiotes (stalks) that shoot up from the agave,

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there would be no maguey piñas to harvest and cook…

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and no mezcal to drink!

*Mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor (makers of Ilegal mezcal) 2+ miles north of Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.  Check out their other mural at the palenque HERE.

 

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