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Posts Tagged ‘popular travel destinations’

Now that the Zócalo has been cleared of street vendors

A not so wretched refuse bin stands out.

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The artistry and message of my favorite mural painting collective, the Tlacolulokos, continues to be revealed on the walls of Tlacolula de Matamoros. Today, on a brief visit, blogger buddy Chris and I stumbled on three of their masterpieces. The first one I’d previously seen and blogged about in 2017 under the title, Who tells your story. However, the second mural was new to both of us.

A blouse divided.

A broken heart — not your usual randa de aguja (needlework technique) blouse detail.

Their message, not mine.

The third mural was a couple of houses down and presents a more historic and celebratory entrance.

Spanish swords and Mitla grecas provide driveway decoration.

A headless woman woman in traditional Tlacolula costume walks toward the entrance.

Thoughts of an upcoming festival castillo, agains the backdrop of the valley’s mountains, dance in her missing head.

Her carrizo shopping basket is filled with purchases for the festival.

From the first Tlacolulokos mural I saw in 2014 to their Tokiolula mural through today, their art continues to speak to me, teach me, and inspire me to really see the people and culture around me.

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Art imitating life?

Wall in Oaxaca on Plazuela del Carmen Alto. (Art by Tupac Emiliano)

Or, life imitating art?

On Avenida Benito Juárez, Teotitlán del Valle

You decide!

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The long-awaited 3er Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca (3rd Gathering of Traditional Oaxacan Cooks) opened yesterday in the Centro Cultural y de Convenciones de Oaxaca (CCCO) — the new convention center.

While not nearly as convenient for yours truly as the previous two, which were held only a block away in the Plaza de la Danza, the Cocineras event had rapidly outgrown the old space and this site was more than adequate.

The gathering showcases 60 cooks, representing the 8 regions of the state, preparing more than 200 typical Oaxacan dishes — including desserts and beverages. Prices for each dish are reasonable and there is plenty of seating.

In addition to dining and drooling, there are cooking and craft workshops, educational conferences, and area where one can purchase kitchen and table related products, along with various packaged foodstuffs.

By the way, even the Zapotec God of Rain, Cocijo, blessed the opening with a much-needed downpour, but the rain didn’t dampen any spirits!

The Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales runs through Sunday, September 22, food stalls are open from 1:00 to 8:00 PM daily, and entrance is free.

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Overnight, as the calendar page turned from August to September, green, white, and red appeared around the city. The colors of the Mexican flag festooned buildings — both public and private and flags began flying from rooftops.

Papel picado hanging above Plazuela Labastida.

Vendor carts, selling all things patriotic, noisy, and green, white, and red, began appearing on busy street corners and green, white, and red lights were strung above major streets and in the zócalo. September is El Mes de Patria — an entire month of celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Kiosk in the zócalo.

September 16 is Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) marking Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) announcing the start of a ten-year long war for independence. However, all over Mexico, re-enactments “El Grito” (the Cry of Dolores) are staged at 11:00 PM on September 15 —  by mayors from municipal city halls, governors from state building balconies, and by the President of Mexico from the the National Palace. September 16 is marked with military parades.

Camera scaffolding in front of Oaxaca’s Government Palace.

As an article in yesterday’s El Imparcial proudly proclaimed, Oaxaqueños like Antonio de León, Carlos María Bustamante, José María Murguía y Galardi, and Manuel Sabino Crespo “contributed their sacrifice and courage to the creation of a free, sovereign and guaranteed homeland.” (my translation) By the way, for those who live in or have visited Oaxaca: Do those names ring a bell?

Señorita América on her way to sing the Himno Nacional (Mexican National Anthem) in the zócolo after the governor gives the Grito.

Last night’s Grito was the first given by Mexico’s new President, Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka, AMLO). The media pointed out that he gave 20 “Vivas” from the balcony of the Palacio Nacional, while his predecessor only gave 11. Among the added “Long live’s” were, “¡Vivan las comunidades indígenas!” and “¡Viva la grandeza cultural de México!”

Long live the independence! Long live Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla! Long live Morelos! Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez! Long live Ignacio Allende! Long live Leona Vicar! Long live anonymous heroes! Long live the heroic people of Mexico! Long live the indigenous communities! Long live freedom! Long live justice! Long live democracy! Long live our sovereignty! Long live the universal fraternity! Long live peace! Long live the cultural greatness of Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!

And, there was more Oaxaca pride present in the nation’s capital as the Banda del Centro de Capacitación Musical y Desarrollo (CECAM), a youth band from the Mixe village of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, performed following the Grito.

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I can’t think of a better way to honor the memory of Maestro Toledo, than to acknowledge, encourage, and celebrate young artistic talent. “Disguise the new water pipes,” she (the dueña) said.

And, so, Ulises, the 18 year old handyman/mozo in our apartment complex complied — and we were all impressed.

From what we gathered, Ulises had no formal artistic training. Yet, next thing we knew, courtesy of Uli, a rat had invaded our compound!

Soon thereafter, Uli had added Mara and Notte (our resident gatitos/cats), a tree, and a colibri/hummingbird to the scene.

Uli continued to explore his talent.

And, we now have a fierce, but lovely, jaguar on the scene! If only, every young person had the opportunity to explore their inner talent.

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Food with friend in Oaxaca during the last two weeks…

First we eat, then we do everything else. –M.F.K. Fisher

Tostadas de mariscos – Marco Polo, August 15, 2019

People who love to eat are always the best people. –Julia Child

Chiles Rellenos – Tierra del Sol, August 17, 2019

Food is our common ground, a universal experience. –James Beard

Mole Negro – Teotitlán del Valle, August 18 2019

Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is. –Irish Proverb

Ensalada de Papa y Pulpo — Ristorante Italiano Epicuro, August 30, 2019

The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. –Mark Twain

And, while we are on the topic of dining well in Oaxaca, we are all looking forward to the long delayed, but eagerly anticipated, Tercer Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Oaxaca (3rd Gathering of Traditional Oaxacan Cooks) to take place September 19-22, 2019 at the Centro Cultural y De Convenciones Oaxaca (note venue change). According to reports, there will be 60 traditional women cooks, 15 people making traditional beverages, 6 pastry chefs, and 6 makers of iced desserts.

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In commemoration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas (INPI) is hosting a Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena de Oaxaca.

It is a four-day festival honoring and promoting the state of Oaxaca’s indigenous peoples and their communities with artesania, textiles and other products for sale, cultural performances and workshops, food booths, and even healing treatments — and it’s happening a block from Casita Colibrí in the Plaza de la Danza!

Yawi Naka – Triqui – La Laguna Guadalupe, Putla Villa de Guerrero

INPI has an excellent online atlas of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and it, along with the statistics I previously posted regarding poverty, discrimination, and the results thereof affecting Mexico’s indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples are abysmal.

Na Jacinta Charis – Zapoteco – Juchitán de Zaragoza

According to this article (in Spanish), the charge of the INPI is to advocate for indigenous and Afro-Mexican rights and to recognize that in order for these peoples and their communities to survive, institutional efforts must be taken to guarantee their full exercise of social, political, cultural, and economic rights.

Productores de Maguey y Mezcal Lucas 2010 SPR de Ri – Zapoteco – San Isidro Guishe, San Luis Amatlán

The INPI is also attempting to advance an understanding that the family/community economy of these communities has a different production logic than the commercial market economy and that their economic model must be respected.

Organización de Medicos Indigenas Tradicionales de laCañada – Cuicateco – San Juan Bautista Cuicatlán

This festival provides a space to promote the various community projects and to showcase the artistic and cultural expressions in the city.

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Chenteñas Hazme Si Puedes – Zapoteco – San Vicente Coatlán

I’ve aready been twice to the event — talking with various vendors, buying the blouse above (along with cheese, sal de chicatanas, and olive oil with fresh organic herbs), and sitting at one of the long tables enjoying a tamal, empanada, and a jícara of tejate

The Fiesta de la Diversidad Indígena runs through late afternoon tomorrow (Sept. 1, 2019). If you are in Oaxaca city, be sure to check it out (schedule below).

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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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