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Sometimes, the sunset over the Basílica de la Soledad takes my breath away. 

What can I say?  I love the view from Casita Colibrí!

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Several pan de muerto festivals sprung up in the valley of Oaxaca during Día de los Muertos — including a Festival del Pan de Muerto in Villa Díaz Ordaz, a Feria del Pan de Muerto Adornado in Villa de Zaachila, and a Feria del Pan y Chocolate in the city of Oaxaca.  While the intention of these fairs is to attract tourists, both foreign and domestic, the primary market remains ofrendas (offerings) to the difuntos (departed) — who must be fed during their brief return to visit with their loved ones.

And, like apron styles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead) varies from village to village, be it sold at a feria, mercado, or neighborhood panadería.

Panadería Yalalag in Oaxaca city.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Mercado, 20 de noviembre, Oaxaca city.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila.

Though my difuntos have departed and my altar has been disassembled, I couldn’t consign my beautiful (but stale) pan de muerto offerings to the garbage can.

Pan de muerto from Yalalag, Mitla, and Zaachila.

So, here they remain in a basket on my counter — until they disintegrate or the hormigas (ants) enjoy a feast.

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Today, at 3:00 PM in Teotitlán del Valle, as leaves in the mountains and fields rustled, the arrival of the difuntos (departed) was announced with the sound of cohetes (rockets) and church bells.  Incense burners were lit and placed in front of ofrendas in each home’s altar room — the smoke and scent of copal helping to guide the spirits home for their yearly twenty-four hour visit.

Tonight they will feast on tamales amarillos — special tamales that are traditionally served three times a year in Teotitlán — in July for the Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, in October for the Fiesta de la Virgen del Rosario, and today, November first, in honor of the returning difuntos.

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As we have done for many years, blogger buddy Chris and I came to the home of Zacarías Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez with our offering of pan de muertos and a bottle of mezcal to place on their altar — paying our respects to their difuntos.  In turn, we were offered mezcal and cervesas (beer), followed by the aforementioned tamales amarillos.

The tamales were days in the making.  Several of the family’s organic free range chickens were sacrificed; corn from their milpa was nixtamalized to make a silky smooth masa; and the ingredients for mole amarillo were toasted, chopped, blended, and boiled.  The final preparation began at 3:30 this morning — 250 tamales were assembled, filled, and wrapped in fresh green leaves from their milpa and placed in the steaming pots.  The results were to die for!

For me, more than painted faces and parades, this is what makes experiencing Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca so special.

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Not all the Día de los Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila were finished, some were still works in progress…

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with ladders and paints standing by…

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waiting for their artists to pick up the brush…

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or spray can, as the case may be.

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I first saw many of the murals in the summer of 2017 and was happy to see they are still intact, albeit some are a little faded.  Celebrated by the community, the new murals join the old and become a part of the landscape of the village.

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A regalito (little gift) to my calaca and calavera loving grandson from today’s visit to Villa de Zaachila for their first Feria del Pan de Muerto, Mole, Chocolate y Espuma.

From murals along the outer side of the panteón (cemetery) in Villa de Zaachila.  Click to enlarge images.

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This morning, on the way to my Oaxaca Lending Library cataloging shift (once a librarian, always a librarian), I made a detour through Jalatlaco, where the murals always give one pause.

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I was on my way to Clinica Hospital Florencia to check on my 92 year old neighbor who had a pacemaker installed yesterday afternoon (once a nurse, always a nurse).

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Like Oaxaca, she is strong…

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She is proud…

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And, she is back home after only 24 hours and feeling GREAT!!!

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Monday afternoon, in the middle of a fiesta at the home of Danza de la Pluma danzante Juan Pablo González Gutiérrez, a torrential downpour came to Teotitlán del Valle.

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As I’ve mentioned, rain has been scarce this rainy season — a serious situation for a community that relies on subsistence farming.

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So, despite the fact that the dirt road in front of the house became a muddy rushing river and festivities had to be put on hold for awhile as rain blew in through openings in the tented patio, this deluge was good news and people were smiling.

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Everyone, including Juan Pablo, waited patiently for the life-giving rain to let up.

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It eventually did and he was able to dance.

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On a wet patio, surrounded by 100+ proud family members, fellow danzantes, and guests, he performed his solo dance.

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Blogger buddy Chris and I felt so incredibly honored to have been invited.  It was a truly memorable experience that we will treasure always.  Muchisimas gracias to Juan and his family and all the members of the Danza de la Pluma Promesa 2016-18 for being so warm and welcoming to us over the past couple of years.  We are going to miss you!

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I returned to Oaxaca very late last night and just in the nick of time.  As I previously noted, chiles en nogada is prepared during the month of September — El Mes de la Patria celebrating Mexico’s independence from Spain — and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would still be available.  Thus, today (the LAST day of September) on my way back from Mercado Benito Juárez (a necessary restocking the empty larder shopping trip), when I saw the prominent “chiles en nogada” sign in front of Restaurante Catedral and heard the hostess explain to a small group of tourists that today was the last day they would be serving it, I had to seize the opportunity.

Chile en nogada with Mexican flag

Just color me happily sated by the green, white, and red of the poblano chile stuffed with a special fruit and meat picadillo, blanketed with a smooth slightly sweet walnut sauce, and garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.  So, mis amig@s (you know who you are) you are off the hook!

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On September 16, Mexico celebrates Día de la Independencia — marking Father Hidalgo’s call to arms (Grito de Dolores) to begin the ten-year war for independence from Spain.  However, the entire month of September is El Mes de la Patria (the month of the homeland) and streets and vendor stalls are awash with the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.

Last week, walking down to Mercado Benito Juárez to pick up a few last-minute regalitos (little gifts) to bring up to family and friends in el norte, within two blocks I saw…

There is even a very yummy green, white, and red patriotic dish that appears in restaurants in September — Chiles en nogada.  I’m hoping it will still be on the menu when I return at the end of the month from the el norte trip.

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A local’s guide to Mexico City: 10 tips describes a mural project by Aida Mulato and Jóvenes Artesanos to help rehabilitate her Roma neighborhood following the September 2017 earthquakes.  According to the article, “The colourful murals celebrate indigenous communities and women, who continue to suffer most from the earthquakes.  The project supports the larger goals of Jóvenes Artesanos and gives various support to about 150 artisans with whom Mulato works.  With 15 murals painted already, the goal is to create a circuit of 68, representing the country’s indigenous populations.”

What an enlightened and wonderful contrast to the game of cat and mouse, street mural artists have been facing here in Oaxaca for the past few years, where many (including me) have been asking, are Color and culture, unwelcome?  However, while they may be more ephemeral than we would wish, artists are still at work on the sides of our own crumbling buildings, and murals still can be found on the walls of Oaxaca.

Enjoy them while you can, they may be gone tomorrow.

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Open doors always draw the eye; you never know what you will see.  Peering through doorway of the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos, never disappoints.  Across the courtyard, seasonal book sculptures can often be seen.  Currently, celebrating July’s Guelaguetza, a Tehuana’s bookish hand holds her jicapextle aloft.

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Last October, with Día de Muertos coming up, a calavera was a book work in progress, with William Shakespeare playing a bit part.

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Guelaguetza 2017 brought a danzante from the Danza de la Pluma — his neck braced by the blue and rather appropriate book, “El Tesoro de Monte Albán.”

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There have also been Christmas trees and crosses, so stay tuned.  And, if you are in town, stop by the Biblioteca de la Fundación Bustamante Vasconcelos at Labastida 117 (across from the plazuela) — even if there isn’t a book sculpture, there are usually artisans set up in the entrance, and there is always the library to check out, says this librarian.

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I meant to post this during the World Cup.  But, for a couple of reasons, you can file this under “the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men.”

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On the wall outside the Salon de la Fama cantina (corner of M. Bravo and Porfirio Diaz), artist Efedefroy captured the mashup dreams of Mexican football (soccer) fans.  The beloved singer/actor Jorge Negrete, wearing the jersey of El Tri and hoisting the 2018 World Cup.  Alas, despite the “María” tattoo (La Virgen? No, probably 3rd wife María Félix), it was not to be.

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It’s been a rainy season that “is not” more than “is.”  However, tonight around 6:00 PM, I heard the unmistakable sound of rain and looked out the window.

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This is incredibly good news for the mostly subsistence farmers in the valley of Oaxaca, as crops have been struggling and reservoirs are low.

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The lack of rain has even impacted weavers who rely on plants, rather than chemicals, to dye their yarn.

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We have also had a little hail along with continuing thunder and lightning.

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Two hours and counting… Giving thanks to Cocijo (Zapotec god of rain, thunder, and lightning) and hoping this isn’t a one hit wonder.

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.  However, it’s not just the market (one of the oldest and biggest in Oaxaca) that keeps me returning, it’s also the prevalence of fabulous murals decorating walls and sides of buildings.  Unfortunately, here in Oaxaca city, there has been a growing intolerance by the powers-that-be to these cultural and often political expressions. However, in Tlacolula, they seem to be encouraged and celebrated — and the Tlacolulokos collective has elevated mural painting to a high art form.

We discovered their latest mural a few weeks ago as we were navigating out way through Tlacolula on our way back from the Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola.  As with their previous work, using iconic imagery they continue to explore and honor the strength of the beautiful and brave Zapotec women of Tlacolula — this time, in what seems to be a “blue period.”

I was more than a bit puzzled by the above and very prominent words featured on the mural and had to do a little research — after all, that’s what librarians do!  It turns out, “Tokiolula” refers to the 1960s and 1970s when the Tlacolula market was known for selling cheap and often counterfeit goods — mostly from Asia.  That ended in the 1980s, but, unfortunately, has been creeping back.

As for Guish-Bac… “in Zapotec dialect of Tlacolula, Guish Bac is said to mean ‘in the middle of the sky’ or ‘in the middle of the path'” (Revista Cultural Bení Guish Bac Gulal – my translation) and, according to the footnotes in this dissertation, it refers to “people from Tlacolula.”

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During la Guelaguetza, the Desfiles de Delegaciones brought masked men (appearances to the contrary, most are men) to the streets of Oaxaca.  From San Andrés Zautla delegation, the Danza de los Jardineros…

 

along with the village viejos (old men).

 

The guys and “gal” from the Danza de los Diablos of Santiago Llano Grande.

 

From the delegation of the Diosa Centéotl, Santa María Zacatepec.

 

The masked Danza de los Diablos dancers of San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca.

 

Danza de la Pluma subalternos from Teotitlán del Valle and Villa de Zaachila.

 

Carnaval dancers from Putla Villa de Guerrero.

 

Never a dull moment in Oaxaca!  Click on photos for enlarged images.

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