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Posts Tagged ‘popular travel destinations’

At the crossroads.

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Morning walk in Teotitlán del Valle.

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Walking to the market, it was the light and color and composition that caught my eye — a sidewalk still life.

I zeroed in on the skill of the artist(s) and the imagery.

In one, a man in the baseball cap looking back to his ancestors and the bounty of the land. In the other, what is that in the mouth of “he who shall not be named?” And, what of the quote?

“Homeland: your mutilated territory dresses in calico and glass beads.” What does it mean? What is it from? Who is R. L. Velarde?

I found the answers in the article, The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo. Ramón López Velarde by Gwen Kirkpatrick. The quote is from the poem, “Suave Patria” (Gentle Homeland) by Ramón López Velarde, a poet of the Mexican Revolution — a poem that “celebrates the grandeur of Mexico’s simple, rustic life, as well as its glorious indigenous past.”

The daily education of the streets — more than meets the eye!

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Face the facts…

she’s turned her back on you.

The walls of Oaxaca tell all.

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The marathon that was La Guelaguetza 2019 has been run and not a day too soon for most residents. It was an exhausting and at times grueling two weeks — so much to do and so little time — streets choked with traffic and sidewalks clogged with people. According to state government figures, at its height, hotel occupancy reached 97%, which I’m guessing doesn’t include the growing Airbnb presence.

Woman pouring tejate

My participation ended as it began with food and drink — at the 13th annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal. Fortunately (for me), it’s held at the Plaza de la Danza, only a block away from Casita Colibrí. On July 30 and 31, seventy five women of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras de Tejate de San Andrés Huayapam came to my neighborhood to prepare and pour this prehispanic drink for the thirsty and curious.

Tejate with rosita de cacao blossoms

Tejate is a labor-intensive frothy, refreshing, nutritious, and (supposedly) aphrodisiacal non-alcoholic beverage made from corn mixed with tree ash, cacao beans, mamey seeds, rosita de cacao (Quararibea funebris) flowers, and peanuts or pecans (depending on the season).

Preparation takes at least twelve hours, as the beans, seeds, flowers, and nuts must be toasted on a comal and corn must be nixtamalized.  Ingredients are taken to a molino to be milled, then kneaded together, left to cool, eventually being hand-ground on a metate to make a thick paste — which is then thinned with water and (literally) mixed by hand.

jícaras

Tejate is traditionally served in brightly painted gourds (jícaras) which fits right in with this year’s effort by the feria organizers to eliminate the use of plastic, in keeping with recent legislation in Oaxaca to prohibit the sale and use of most single use plastic and styrofoam containers. Known as the beverage of the gods, as it was once reserved solely for Zapotec royalty, today tejate is for everybody and is also being made into cookies, ice cream, and nicuatole (traditional Oaxacan corn-based molded dessert).

nicuatole de tejate

However, this food fest wasn’t just about tejate. The other headliner of this event was the versatile tamal. Numerous varieties in steaming pots sitting on anafres (portable cooktops) sat behind rows of banquet tables filled with giant serving baskets covered in colorfully embroidered tea towels. Proud cocineras (cooks) listed their offerings and provided free samples to taste-test.

embroidered tea towel

Where to begin? There was a mind-boggling selection of tamales — at least a dozen kinds to choose from. Many are readily available daily at local mercados (of course, each family puts their own unique spin on the basic recipes). However, here in the city, tichinda (fresh water mussel) tamales are rarely seen. I tasted and they were yummy.

list of tamales

My primary goal, when it came to tamales, was “para llevar” (to go) and I came prepared with my own containers. On day 1, I wanted to bring home tamales for the staff who works at my apartment complex and a couple of carpenters who were onsite building door and window screens for a friend’s apartment. I made several rounds of the numerous vendors, studying their offerings (along with their lovely tea towels) and then just dove in! Besides buying a tamal de camaron (shrimp) for myself, I bought a mole verde (chicken with green sauce) and a mole negro (black mole sauce with chicken) for each the crew back home, along with tejate cookies for their dessert!

On day 2, I was in search of tamal de chichilo, made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves — the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor. It’s one of my favorites and isn’t usually seen in the mercados, as it is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings and baptisms or when the crops have been harvested.

tamal de chichilo

Besides eating a tamal de chichilo as soon as I returned home and another for dinner last night, six more currently reside in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. Ahhh, preserving and celebrating the prehispanic riches of tejate and tamales — a couple of reasons why Oaxaca is a food lovers’ paradise.

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Saturday was a beautiful day for this year’s second Guelaguetza Desfile de Delegaciones. Nothing but sun and blue sky greeted the dancers as they arrived in buses, their large props arrived in trucks, and spectators arrived on foot — as Calzada Porfirio Díaz, north of Niños Heroes was blocked to traffic, except for the aforementioned mentioned official vehicles.

Did I mention, mezcal flowed freely, as dancers fortified themselves and the gathered onlookers? It’s all part of the prep and, by the time the parade began at 6:00 PM sharp, everyone was feeling good and more than ready!

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Sunday, I headed up into the clouds for the 19th Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair) in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas. Friends had hired a van and driver to take us on the steep winding climb into the Sierra Norte. An hour and a half after we left the city, we arrived at our destination, 10,433 feet above sea level. Cuajimoloyas has an ethereal feel and seems like a world apart from the valley below.
       
Baskets of fresh mushrooms with shiny orange caps and mushrooms resembling coral, trumpets, cauliflower, and flower petals beckoned. And the aroma of grilled mushrooms, mushroom tamales, mushroom empanadas, and chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms stimulated the appetite.
There were dried mushrooms in bulk and in little cellophane baggies for purchase.
Mushrooms aren’t the only produce the region is known for — delicious apples and new potatoes are grown in these chilly mountains.
And, there there were local crafts for sale and a couple of kinds of mezcal to taste (and buy).
I came home with apples, potatoes, a bottle of the lovely A Medios Chiles mezcal made from the wild Jabalí agave, and 30 grams of dried mushrooms. While the mushrooms weren’t of the “magic” variety, the experience certainly was!
“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

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I returned to Teotitlán del Valle late Friday afternoon to view the convite of of unmarried women of the village and Grupo de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 danzantes (dancers) process through town — an invitation to further festivities honoring La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Though that wasn’t the only activity on my agenda; I would be spending the weekend with my amiga K, who was house-sitting for another amiga N. It would be a weekend in the countryside for this city gal!

I arrived late afternoon on Friday…

Canastas (baskets) lined up in front awaiting the procession under the gaze of the sacred mountain, El Picacho.

Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de Pluma 2019-21 arriving in front of the church, waiting to process.

Guys who launch the cohetes (all bang, no bling rockets) announcing the procession.

The convite begins — unmarried women of Teotitlán del Valle carrying the aforementioned canastas (baskets).

After the convite, an early evening encounter with a burro as mi amiga K and I walked to Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua .

Saturday…

Early morning view of the campo in Teotitlán del Valle.

Breakfast gathering of cocineras (cooks) and friends in the cocina de humo at Restaurante y Galería Tierra Antigua.

Encounter with a bull while walking back to the house.

Returning to the church to watch the late afternoon performance of the Danza de la Pluma.

Following the Danza de la Pluma, late night watching the toritos, castillo, and fireworks in front of the church.

Sunday…

During mass, shopping baskets parked in the church atrium.

Off to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros. The upside down St. Peter encountered in the Señor de Tlacolula chapel.

Taekwondo competition in front of the municipal buildings in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Returning to Teotitlán del Valle, still life in front of the sacred mountain, El Picacho, seen while walking back to the church in the afternoon.

Final Danza de la Pluma performance in the church atrium at the 2019 Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

It was a lively, delicious, and exhausting weekend. Did I mention, I walked an average of 4.5 miles per day?  Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Muchisimas gracias to all who made it an unforgettable weekend!

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Yesterday, Teotitlán del Valle’s new Grupo de Promesa de la Danza de la Pluma 2019-2021 did battle, not only with Cortes, but also with the wind — which grabbed their penachos/coronas/headdresses like sails, challenging their balance, intricate footwork, and Busby Berkeley-like choreography.

Moctezuma holding on to his penacho/corona/headdress

Danzantes holding on to their penachos/coronas/headdress

Danzante appealing to the gods to stop the wind?

Throughout the day, wind continued to challenge the danzantes

Grasping their penachos/coronas/headdresses, Moctezuma, his warriors, and allied kings kept to their feet

The danzantes of Teotitlán del Valle didn’t miss a step at this most important festival day honoring the patron saint of their village, La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Alas, the wind didn’t bring much needed rain to this agricultural community.

Stay tuned, the festivities continue for another three days.

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Oaxaca is filling with tourists as “Julio, Mes de la Guelaguetza” (July, month of the Guelaguetza) is upon us — a time when Oaxaca recognizes and celebrates the sixteen indigenous groups whose languages, traditions, and rich cultures long predate the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors (both military and religious) and permeate the character of the state.

San Francisco Sola delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Every year more parades, food and artisan fairs, concerts, and regional Guelaguetzas are added.  Drawing both foreigners and nationals, it has become THE major tourist attraction for Oaxaca. [Click on images to enlarge]

While the streets are filled with a party atmosphere and those who can afford the high-priced tickets are treated to a true spectacle — fabulous views, colorful costumes, music and dance — people question how the indigenous communities (over 50% of the state’s population and some of its poorest) actually benefit.

San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec delegation – Guelaguetza July 21, 2018 desfile

The dancers are not professional dancers, are not paid to perform, and most must travel from villages hours and hours away.

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July 22, 2018 morning

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July 22, 2018 evening

They do it for the love of their villages, pride in their heritage, and to share a little of their traditions with the world outside their communities — and I can’t help but be swept along in the joy and moved by their dedication.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas Genoveva Medina delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

To support their communities, I strongly recommend you do your shopping at the craft fairs in the city and visit the indigenous villages — buy directly from the artisans or shops that can show provenance.

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July 29, 2019 morning

Guelaguetza2PM

July 29, 2019 evening

The above four Guelaguetza performances, along with Donají, La Leyenda (tragic legend of the love between a Zapotec princess and a Mixtec prince — it doesn’t end well, but her face graces the official shield of the city of Oaxaca de Juárez) are usually shown live on CORTV — both on their television station and their YouTube channel.

Putla Villa de Guerrero delegation – Guelaguetza July 28, 2018 desfile

Friends are arriving and my calendar is rapidly filling. Perhaps I’ll run into you at a regional Guelaguetza, at one of the desfiles in the city, the Festival de los Moles, the Feria de Hongos Silvestres in Cuajimoloyas, the Expo Feria Artesanal, the Feria del Tejate y Tamal, or at any one of the scores of other events happening here in July!

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On my way to the supermarket this morning, look what I came upon in the Plaza de la Danza.  The candidates vying to become Diosa Centéotl, the fertility goddess of corn who presides over July’s Guelaguetza festival, were rehearsing the blocking for this evening’s first stage of the competition.

Down the stairs of the Plaza de la Danza they processed to the solemn sound of the Himno a la Diosa Centéotl.

According to the Secretaría de las Culturas y Artes de Oaxaca (Seculta), this year there are 43 women, all over 18 years old, hoping to be the one selected.

Onto the stage to their assigned seats, where, cued by the director, they each, in turn, practiced walking up to the microphone.

Representing the regions of the state, twelve are from the Central Valleys, eleven from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, six from the Sierra Sur, five from the Mixteca, four from the Papaloapan, four from the Coast, and one from the Cañada.

Accompanied by their shadows, they climbed the stairway to the stars to start all over again.

Tonight’s competition begins at 6:00 PM, when each participant will talk about the myths and legends, gastronomy, traditions, and tourist attractions in their village.  The second stage of the competition begins tomorrow (June 30, 2019) at 11:00 AM.

(ps)  This is not only a venue change, the date of the competition was moved up almost three weeks — perhaps to have Diosa Centéotl preside over more of the Guelaguetza’s ancillary events.

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Ahhh… While in el norte, along with Sunday scenes in Tlacolula, I missed sights like this.

Seen on Matamoros between Crespo and Tinoco y Palacios in Oaxaca.  Signed by @Mortales333

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I’ve been in el norte for a month and loving spending time with family and friends, but now dreaming Oaxaca dreams.

From the mural, painted in 1980 by Arturo García Bustos, depicting the history of Oaxaca in Oaxaca’s Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace).

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As previously mentioned, I am currently in el norte.  Visiting my family and friends has taken me from Oaxaca to New York, across the country to California, followed by Colorado, and then back to California.  I have been on multiple airplanes, traversed through multiple airports, and been complimented multiple times on my earrings.  We are not talking gold or silver filigree, we are talking about earrings made from jícara — the fruit of the Crescentia cujete (aka, Calabash tree).  [Click on images to enlarge.]

 

Earrings are not the only things made from the dried fruit of these humble trees that grow in less-than-ideal environments.  The Tacuate women of Santa María Zacatepec (Oaxaca) use them as hats.

The gourds are cut in half, washed, and with seeds removed, set out in the sun.  Once dry, throughout southern Mexico, they frequently are lacquered, decoratively painted, and used as cups for tejate and other traditional beverages.

 

As youi can see, in Villa de Zaachila, in the valley of Oaxaca, this use is even celebrated in a Día de Muertos mural.

Larger jícaras, known as jicalpextles, are a specialty of Chiapa de Corzo (Chiapas).  However, they have assumed a special role in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca), where they are filled with handmade sugar flowers and carried during weddings, religious celebrations, and other important fiestas.

 

And, recently there was an exhibition of carved jícaras by Salomón Huerta and José Cruz Sánchez from Pinotepa de Don Luis (Oaxaca) at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO).  At last, the talent of the artisans who create these pieces is being given the recognition it deserves and their creations are being appreciated as works of art.

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IMG_2285So, hurray for the not-so-humble jícara and the ingenuity and creativity of the indigenous peoples of the world whose traditions teach them to honor and not waste the gifts of planet earth.

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I’m visiting family and friends in el norte and trying not to get caught up in the constant barrage of ignorant, disgraceful, and infuriating news coming out of Washington D.C.  However, sometimes it can’t be ignored.

This is all I have to say…

(If you don’t know and can’t figure out what “pendejo” translates to in English, click HERE.)

Another mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor outside Santiago Matatlán.

 

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Within a few blocks from home…

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Miscellaneous messaging brought to you by the streets of Oaxaca.

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