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Fathers of Oaxaca playing a leading role in introducing the next generation to the music, dance, and respect for the traditions of Oaxaca…

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Learning to carry a marmota in La Guelaguetza parade of delegations in Oaxaca city – July 2016

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Following La Guelaguetza parade of delegations in Oaxaca city – July 2016

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Watching masked dancers at the mock wedding during Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete – February 2017

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Giving angels a lift during the Lunes Santo procession in Teotitlán del Valle – April 2017

Happy Father’s Day to all the loving fathers (biological and adoptive), stepfathers, grandfathers, godfathers, and father figures everywhere, may you continue to do what you do.

¡Feliz Día del Padre!

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Walking along the sidewalks of Oaxaca…

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I get the feeling I’m being watched… by Oaxaca’s revolutionary street art.

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We live in perilous times…P1250005

The signs are everywhere…P1260098

This guy can’t be the only one riding to the rescue.P1250841

We all must do our part.

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Sorry folks, the bus doesn’t stop here.  Why?  You ask.  Doesn’t red mean “stop”?  Not here.  Not now.  There is DANGER; this edifice is in a bad state!

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And, make sure to produce, disseminate, and teach about the dangers of buildings in hazardous states of disrepair.  As Mother Nature has reminded us twice within the past week, this is earthquake country.

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Tomorrow, May 18, museums worldwide will be celebrating International Museum Day with special events around this year’s theme, “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums.”  According to the IMD website, The objective of International Museum Day is to raise awareness of the fact that, “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” 

While Oaxaca has many wonderful museums, textile lover that I am, I would like to honor the day by looking back at several exhibitions I had the pleasure of viewing at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca — and a current one, too!

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Tormentos y suenos” (Storms and dreams) by Carolyn Kallenborn – August 3, 2012

Exhibitions ranged from works by individual textile artists to themed shows displaying textiles from the museum’s permanent collection and those on loan.

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“Transcomunalidad. interventions and collaborations with stilt communities and craftsmen” exhibition by Laura Anderson Barbata – March 1, 2013

Item labels and detailed descriptive booklets have been extremely helpful and, in the case of collections by individual collectors, their field notes were fascinating.

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“Irmgard Weitlaner Johnson: a life dedicated to textiles” – Costal (bag) was acquired by Irmgard in 1949, is said to be one of the most well preserved examples from the Valle del Mezquital, Hidalgo and, given the design, is thought to have been a wedding gift. – Nov. 21, 2014

The museum not only collects, preserves, and exhibits, it also holds workshops, lectures, expo-ventas (exposition and sales), and has provided a platform for issues of importance to textile artists, especially from the indigenous communities of the state of Oaxaca.

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El Delirio del color Oaxaca en los años 1960″ – Huipil mazatecas from the Tuxtepec district – Apr. 19, 2015

Exhibition openings often have included receptions, with an occasional performance art presentation thrown in.

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“Hilo Rojo 3047” an autobiographical installation by Ornilla Ridone – May 21, 2016

Museums can be a place to help shape community identity and bring different community groups together, a catalyst for regeneration through the creation of new venues and civic spaces, and a resource for developing the skills and confidence of members of those communities.  — Museums Association

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“Tekstil” current exhibition by textile artist Trine Ellitsgaard – Piece titled “Serpiente y abanicos” (Serpent and fans) – May 6, 2017

In observance of this year’s International Museum Day, the Museo Textil de Oaxaca invites textile artists and designers, academics, students, and the general public to participate in a conversation exploring the questions, “What is plagiarism? What is a copy? What is collaborating? Is ‘to collaborate’ synonymous with ‘to employ’? What has been the role of the copy in the development of craft goods?”   May 18, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in the Claustro of the Centro Cultural San Pablo — next door to the Textile Museum.

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Thinking of all the sign painters I used to know back in the day, up in el norte.

At a time ruled by the industry and advanced technologies of all kinds, it’s easy to forget that once many things were done by hand. One of these things would be sign painting…. However, like many crafts and trades, hand-made sign painting was taken over by computers and printers, which promised cheaper and quicker solutions to its curious customers hungry for the wonders of the new era. As a result, these creatives lost their jobs, like many of their fellow draughtsmen and handymen.The Nostalgia of the Sign Painting

But, here in Oaxaca…

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We’ve got the ladder, the brush, and the artist.

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The hand-painted artistry continues and leads to…

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The creation of a beautiful and unique sign on Av. José María Morelos in Col. Centro.

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¡Vive los artesanos!

Update:  The sign painter (rotulista), Arturo, can be reached at:  951-201-3527

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Nothing like stopping in Mercado Benito Juárez at Casilda Aguas Regionales midway through a morning filled with errands.  The posted list of fruit drinks is mind boggling:  Horchata, horchata con tuna, guanabana, melón, limón, sandía, jamaica, limón on chía, tamarindo, piña guayaba, kiwi, coco, crema de coco, durazno, ciruela, lichie, mandarina, mango, and maracuya.P1260091

Translated:  Rice-based drink, rice-based drink with prickly pear cactus fruit, soursop, cantaloupe, lime, watermelon, hibiscus, lime with chia, tamarind, pineapple, guava, kiwi, coconut, coconut cream, peach, plum, lychee, mandarin orange, mango, and passion fruit.

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What to choose?  While I love horchata con tuna, I chose the unlisted limón con hoja santa (2nd from left in top photo) reeled off by the waitress.  It was a lime with “sacred leaf” kind of day.  Ahhh… the pause that refreshes!

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“What’s your name,” Coraline asked the cat. “Look, I’m Coraline. Okay?”
“Cats don’t have names,” it said.
“No?” said Coraline.
“No,” said the cat. “Now you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”Neil Gaiman, Coraline

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The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.Paula Poundstone
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“Curiosity killed the cat,” Fesgao remarked, his dark eyes unreadable.
Aly rolled her eyes. Why did everyone say that to her? “People always forget the rest of the saying,” she complained. “‘And satisfaction brought it back.”Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Choice

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Yesterday, I did it again!  After a year’s hiatus, on Día de la Santa Cruz I returned for the ritual pilgrimage to the top of El Picacho, the sacred mountain that watches over Teotitlán del Valle.  To avoid hiking in the worst of May’s high temperatures, our ascent began at 5:30 in the morning.  Yes, it was dark, with not even moonlight to guide our way.  Thank goodness for the flashlight app on my smart phone.  However, by 6:30 AM dawn was breaking and our artificial lights were extinguished.  Our hardy band arrived at the summit about 7:30 AM to the ritual round of handshaking that accompanies greetings and farewells in the village.

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The three crosses mark the summit

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Pilgrims perched on the rocky outcroppings that make up the peak.

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The views were spectacular no matter which way one chose to look.

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An altar greeted pilgrims at the peak.

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At 8:30 AM, an hour-long mass was celebrated and, perhaps a first, some of it was in Zapoteco.

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As the mass began, the cicadas (cigarras or chicharras, en español) began their song — one even perched on the fabric swag festooning the crosses.

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Mass over, Procopio Contreras, the young priest (first from Teotitlán) took off his vestments and posed for photos.

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Mountain top delivery of tamales de mole amarillo followed the mass.

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Along with a cup of agua de jamaica, we took our tamales into the shade, where bromeliads clung to tree branches.

After a lazy comida filled with conversation between new friends and with our strength renewed, we (3 Teotitecos, 1 Belgian, and me) descended the mountain.

While the day may be designated Día de la Santa Cruz and a mass said on top of Picacho, this day has pre-Hispanic roots in ceremonies related to the sowing season.  In the early days of May (by our calendar), prayers and rituals were dedicated to Cosijo, the Zapotec god of lightening, thunder, and rain — later to Tláloc, the Aztec god of rain — thus fertility and water for the growing of crops.  Hmmm…  On May 2, lightening flashed and thunder roared, but Mother Nature only delivered a few drops in the village.  However, on May 3, once the daylong festivities atop the mountain concluded, three hours of a good hard rain fell in Teotitlán del Valle.  The gods must have heard the prayers.

h/t  Zeferino Mendoza

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Dear Readers, if your answer is “yes” to the above question, I would like to ask you to participate in a survey by my friend, Zeferino Mendoza.

Zeferino is a Zapotec weaver from Teotitlán, where he participates in the village’s system of cargo (community service), speaks and teaches Zapotec, and studies Cultural Management and Sustainable Development at the Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca.  He is currently working on a thesis about cultural tourism and believes:

that the culture of Teotitlán deserves to serve as a sustainable development of the village…. This time I need to survey the range, the advantages and disadvantages of the village to hold and promote cultural tourism.”  My thesis is a diagnosis of its cultural potential to highlight the attractions, services and activities…. I eventually, will do some research among the Zapotec people, its artisans, cooks, and guides so we can have a broader idea about the practice of tourism.

This survey is for an academic study in order to better promote tourism in the village of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.  Please send your numbered answers directly to:  gestionculturalteotitlan@gmail.com  And, if you have friends who have visited Teotitlán, please consider forwarding the survey to them.

1. Your age:    a) less than 30        b) between 30 a 60        c) 60 and over

2. Where are you from?______________________________________________

3. Gender:     a)  Male       b)  Female

4. How much are you willing to spend or did you spend?

a)  $ 500-1,000 Mexican pesos

b)  $ 1,000-5,000 Mexican pesos

c)  $ 5,000-10,000 Mexican pesos

d)  More than $ 10,000 Mexican pesos

5. When are you planning to visit or did you visit?__________________________

6. Would you recommend visiting Teotitlán del Valle to friends/family?

a)  Yes    b)  No   c)  Maybe

7. What brought you to visit Teotitlán?

a) a guide-book    b) a recommendation from a friend

c) Other: ___________________________________________________________

8. What draws you to visit Teotitlán del Valle?

a) Museum   b) Weaving    c) Hiking   c) Riding horses   d) Restaurants

e) Other: ___________________________________________________________

9. What other kinds of activities interest to you?

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10. What aspects of culture would you like to know more about?

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11. What aspect of culture or customer service did you enjoy the most?

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12. What kind of problems have you experienced during your stay that have not been resolved to your satisfaction?

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13. Have you enjoyed your visit?    a) Yes      b) No

c)  Other: ___________________________________________________________

14. Did you find everything as you expected about the village?     a) Yes     b)  No

c)  Other: ___________________________________________________________

15. Was it your first time in Teotitlán?   a) Yes    b) No

c) Other: ____________________________________________________________

16. What questions or suggestions do you have?

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If you have any questions about the survey, please email Zeferino:  gestionculturalteotitlan@gmail.com

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When I left off, it was early evening on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) in Teotitlán del Valle and the church doors were to be left open all night.  Sometime after dark, the statue of Jesus was removed from the church and incarcerated behind a petate (woven palm) mat.

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All during the night, the faithful waited their turn to visit the incarcerated Jesus.

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On Viernes Santo (Good Friday) morning, as the last of the villagers had paid their respects, the petate mat was removed.

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At the same time, in the esplanade in front of the rug market, a pulpit was constructed and decorated with tapetes — on loan from the nearby vendors.

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At 10:30 AM, a procession of Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John left the church, enroute to the esplanade.

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Then Jesus, bearing the cross, began his journey to the esplanade.

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Accompanied by throngs of faithful and the Roman Centurion, he wound his way through the streets along a different route from Mary.

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Jesus entered the plaza between the Municipal Building and the new Cultural Center.

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While Mary entered the plaza from the opposite direction — between the museum and the rug vendor stalls.

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Mary and Jesus stood facing one another.  They inched closer, as the priest continued his recitation, and at a designated moment, the statues were tilted so they could touch in farewell — this was the encuentro (encounter).

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Everyone joined together in a single procession back to the church.

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The Centurion returned to the church, as well, and couldn’t stop smiling.

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Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and St. John made their way back to the village church, Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo.

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Following several hours spent under the unrelenting brilliant sun, most villagers made their way across the street to the mercado for a refreshing nieve (water or milk based ice cream).  Maybe that was why the Centurion was smiling.

Townspeople returned home for a traditional meal of salted fish and white beans — sustenance for what was to come — an evening Mass of the Crucifixion, followed by a second parallel procession to the cemetery, where another encuentro took place, and culminated in another joint procession back to the church.  Alas, I was exhausted, and chose bed over the evening’s events.

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Now that the Cocineras event is over (yes, I went back for day two), I am returning, as promised, to Semana Santa spent in Teotitlán del Valle.  When I left off, I had spent Holy Thursday in the kitchen with Juana and we had just sat down to eat.  However the day did not end there.  Following our comida, we cleared the plates, while Antoño went out into the courtyard to vigorously scrub his feet.  He soon left and Juana disappeared.

After about twenty minutes, she and her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter emerged dressed in what appeared to be their “Sunday best.”  She quickly piled fruit (at least a foot high) onto a platter, covered her creation with cellophane and tied it with a bow — it was to be an offering.  A flower arrangement was also picked up from a table by the door and then our little procession of three set off to navigate the steep dirt street down to the atrium of the church, where an altar and hundreds of chairs had been placed.  I guess I was going to mass!

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Later on in the mass, it became clear why Antoño had scrubbed his feet so diligently — the ritual of washing the Disciples’ feet.  Antoño was portraying Andrés el Apóstol (those are the Apostles with the laurel wreaths, above) and the Apostle to his left washed his feet and he, in turn, washed the feet of the Apostle to his right.  After the mass, a procession around the church courtyard began.

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The Apostles preceded the priest, who was sheltered under a golden canopy.  Yes, that’s Antoño, below.

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This was the procession of the Holy Monstrance — the shiny sunburst-shaped item carried by the priest containing a consecrated Host (below).

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Everyone followed at a slow solemn pace.

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Once a full circumnavigation of the courtyard had been completed, the procession led into the church and up to the altar.

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According to the book, Oaxaca Celebration: Family, Food, and Fiestas in Teotitlán, this is the only time the monstrance is set out and the church doors are left open atl night.  A vigil is kept all night by designated villagers and parishioners are encouraged to visit.

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This week the city of Oaxaca celebrates her 485 birthday.  Yes, we know she is older…  However, we are talking the colonial city, here.  And, despite her age, this birthday girl began the festivities by inviting the best cocineras from the eight regions of the state to cook for her citizens and visitors — from 1 PM until 9 PM — under the shade of a giant tent covering the Plaza de la Danza.  The Primer Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca was not free, but quite reasonable.

The food was riquísima (beyond delicious) and, while we were there, the guys from Santiago Juxtlahuaca in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, performed the Danza de los Rubios.

I returned home satisfied and sleepy, but the day wasn’t over.  There was a calenda (parade) scheduled for 5 PM and a procession of “Gigantes” at 7 PM — route for the latter was unclear.  I was hot, tired, and torn.  To go, or not to go?  That was the question.  Thunder began rumbling and I figured my answer was to stay in for the evening.  However, at 7:30 PM, when a the sounds of a procession came practically to my doorstep and not a drop of rain had fallen, I had to run out to join it.

The “Gigantes” were supposed to represent the giants of all time that Oaxaca has given to the world.  Most were a mystery to me, though I think I saw Benito Juárez and maybe Porfirio Díaz (both Oaxaqueños) and I’m guessing the bunny is a nod to the alebrije wood carving and decorating tradition.  In any case, it was great fun!

Just as the calenda reached the Plaza de la Danza, it began raining on this parade and everyone made a beeline for the cover of the Cocineras tent.  I’m sure they will eat well!  And the rain?  It was probably the best birthday gift Mother Nature could bestow on Oaxaca’s parched earth and dusty sidewalks.

This was just day one of the anniversary festivities.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Oaxaca’s actual birthday and the church bells will begin chiming at 6:45 AM.  So I’d better get to bed!  By the way, the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca opens again at 1 PM tomorrow and lasts until 8 PM or whenever the food runs out.  For a complete schedule of events, click HERE.

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Well, actually, they came, they saw, and they set the village straight.

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Stay tuned…

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After spending Holy Monday in Teotitlán del Valle, I returned on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday) to spend the day with Juana Gutiérrez Contreras in the home she shares with her husband, Antoño Lazo Hernandez, and their family.  She and her husband are members of a talented family of Zapotec weavers.  I’ve previously blogged about her brother Porfirio and am helping in a small way with a big project he is working on — and that is how I found myself spending several days during Semana Santa in Teotitlán.

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Juana Gutiérrez Contreras and Antoño Lazo Hernandez – July 2016

However, this day, I wasn’t there for the weaving — as wonderful as it is.  As with much of life in Teoti, there are culinary customs to be followed on Holy Thursday.  After insisting I sit down for desayuno (my second of the day — I’d eaten breakfast before leaving home), we set to work preparing the traditional Jueves Santo comida of white beans.

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Juana separating dried white beans.

I was tasked with grinding garlic and herbs used to season the beans.

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Crushing garlic and herbs using a stone pestle in a clay bowl.

Halved tomatoes (another of my jobs), whole onions and whole jalapeños were added to the beans.

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Yes, this watched pot did boil — or at least, simmer!

Our attention then turned to making chiles rellenos de queso, using Oaxaca’s own chile de agua.  For this, we moved to the outside kitchen set up under the shade of fruit trees.

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Chiles roasting roasting directly on top of wood coal.

Juana used her fingers to turn the the chiles.  However, after one attempt on my part, she pointed to the tongs.  Those coals were really hot!

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Modern wire whisk meets traditional clay cazuela.

While Juana whipped egg whites to a stiff peek, before adding the yolks, I peeled and slit the chiles.

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Epazote leaves and chiles await the quesillo.

I was also entrusted with stuffing the chiles — first a leaf of epazote, followed by a heaping helping of shredded quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese).  Then Juana commenced to frying the chiles rellenos in another cazuela — gently laying each on top of a bed of egg batter and spooning more batter on top.

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Cazuela and chiles rellenos amidst the flames.

She was masterful in her ability to withstand the heat of the fire while carefully turning the chiles.

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Chiles rellenos about to be transferred to a waiting platter.

In timing known only to Juana and Antoño, comida was ready just as Antoño walked in the door from attending a reenactment of La Última Cena at the church — a Last Supper that featured the flavors of Teotitlán.  During this Semana Santa, he portrayed Andrés el Apóstol (Apostle Andrew).  So, only a few hours after we had all last eaten, we were again sitting down at the table.  Alas, the food was SO delicious and I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures of our bowls of delicately flavored white beans and plates of chiles rellenos.  Sometimes you just have to be “in the moment.”

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