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Posts Tagged ‘San Martín Tilcajete’

Carved from the wood of the copal, an owl for my older son.

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Carved by Lauro Ramírez and painted by Griselda Morales, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A rabbit for my daughter-in-law.

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Carved by Mario Castellanos and painted by Reina Ramirez, San Antonio Arrazola, Oaxaca

A lion for my grandson.

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Carved by Zeny Fuentes Santiago and painted by Reyna Piña Ramírez, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

And, a horse for my granddaughter.

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Carved by Jesús Hernández Torres and painted by Roxana Fabian Ortega, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Beautifully hand carved and painted alebrije for my family.

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Congratulations to Coco — winner of the 2018 Academy Award for Original Song, “Remember Me” (“Recuérdame”), and winner for best Animated Feature Film.  Most of all, felicidades to all the bisabuelas (great-grandmothers) and abuelitas (grandmothers) who inspired the character of Coco with their strength, pride, and love.

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Carnaval 2018, San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca

And, bravo to Guillermo del Toro (Best Director) and The Shape of Water (Best Movie) — ¡Viva México!

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Día de Carnaval (aka, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival), a day to let the good times roll before the sacrifices of the Lenten season, has come and gone.  And, again, blogger buddy Chris and I headed out to the surreal celebration in San Martín Tilcajete.  Driving into the village, one soon hears, rather than sees, that this isn’t a normal day in this wood carving village 17 miles south of the city — the streets are alive with the sound of cow bells.  Roaming the dirt back roads and paved main street, los encabezados (guys covered in motor oil or paint) come running past — with cow bells tied around their waist — making mischief and startling the unaware.

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Masks, all the better to hide one’s identity when making fun of the powers that be, are an international carnaval tradition.  Thus, in this village, known for its fantastically painted wood carvings, wooden masks play a big role in the celebration — including several by our friend Jesus Sosa Calvo and his family at Matlacihua Arte.

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This is a town where creativity reigns supreme and the costumes seem to get more whimsical and weirder every year.

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Oh, and did I mention there is a wedding?  Well, actually a parody of a traditional village wedding.  There is much pomp and circumstance, hilarity, and music — not to mention, breakfast and lunch for wedding guests — as participants move from the house of the mayor, to the home of the bride, and to City Hall for the civil ceremony.  Dancing in the plaza follows and then, at some predetermined time, there is a procession through the streets before arriving at another house where the happy “couple” kneel before “priest” for the religious ceremony.

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And, you might want to take a second look at those beautiful wedding guests with the smoldering eyes and modeling the gorgeous gowns.  They are not what they seem — and that includes the bride.

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The Spanish brought the Carnaval tradition to Mexico because, like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.”  Evidently it caught on, “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken…”  And, San Martín Tilcajete certainly knows how!!!

By the way, many from the creative team of the movie Coco came to enjoy the festivities and renew acquaintances in this town that provided the inspiration for the alebrijes in the film.  “De Oaxaca tomamos los alebrijes, la celebración del Día de los Muertos, toda esa energía y colores están en los paisajes de la película. Quise ser lo más fiel en esta investi­gación y plasmarlo en la cin­ta…”  (“From Oaxaca we take the alebrijes, the celebration of the Day of the Dead, all the energy and colors are in the landscapes of the film…”) (NVI Noticias, 2/14/2018)

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The roof dogs of San Martín Tilcajete wish you luck in the Year of the Dog.  (And, the Virgen de Guadalupe is there to help, too.)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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Besides a mock wedding with men dressed as women, mentioned in my previous post, Carnaval (Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday) in San Martín Tilcajete also means young men covered in motor oil (yuck!) and paint running through the village with belts of cowbells ringing.

And, it means muchas máscaras de madera — in this village famous for its fantastical hand-painted alebrije woodcarvings and masks.

Some of my favorite masks and body paint were done by Jesus Sosa Calvo, his talented wife, Juana Vicente Ortega Fuente, and their gifted children.  (See the mask I gave to my son, carved by Apolinar, one of their sons.)  If you are in San Martín Tilcajete, be sure to see their work at Matlacihua Arte (right across from the zócalo on the main street).

The Spanish brought this pre-Lenten tradition to Mexico and, like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.”  Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

Masks, motor oil, face and body paint, you name it, disguised and anonymous was the order of the day!

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Among other highlights, Carnaval/Carnival in San Martín Tilcajete features a mock wedding, quinceañera, and beautiful fabulously dressed and accessorized “women.”

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The day before Lent in San Martín Tilcajete 2017.  As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

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A jester comes to San Martín Tilcajete…

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The Maladjusted Jester
by Danny Kaye

Your majesty, I have a confession
My secret I must now betray
I was not a born fool
It took work to get this way

When I was a lad I was gloomy and sad
And I was from the day I was born
When other lads giggled and gurgled and wiggled
I proudly was loudly forlorn
My friends and my family looked at me clammily
Thought there was something amiss
When others found various antics hilarious
All I could manage was this? ho ho
Or this? ho waahhh

My father he shouted he needs to be clouted
His teeth on a wreath I’ll hand him
My mother she cried as she rushed to my side
You’re a brute and you don’t understand him
So they send for a witch with a terrible twitch
To ask how my future impressed her
She took one look at me and cried hehehehehe, he?
What else could he be but a jester?
A jester a jester, a funny idea a jester
No butcher no baker no candlestick maker
And me with the look of a fine undertaker
Impressed her as a jester?

Now where could I learn any comical turn
That was not in a book on the shelf
No teacher to take me and mold me and make me
A merryman fool or an elf
But I’m proud to recall that in no time at all
With no other recourses but my own resources
With firm application and determination
I made a fool of myself!

I bought a little gun and I learned to shoot
I bought a little a horn and I learned to toot
Now I can shoot and toot ain’t that cute?  Plbbt!

I started to travel to try to unravel
My mind and to find a new chance

When I got to Spain it was suddenly plain
That the field that appealed was the dance
The Spanish were clannish but I wouldn’t vanish
I learned every step they had planned
The first step of all isn’t hard to recall
Cause the first step of all is to stand
And stand
And stand, and stand, and stand, and stand, and
They sometimes stand this way for days

Then they get very mad at the floor and start to stomp on it

[Smash! Ow!]

After all of my practice the terrible fact is
I made a fool of myself

I sadly decided that dancing as I did
To sing was a thing that was sure
I found me a teacher a crotchety creature
Who used to sing coloratura
She twisted my chin pushed my diaphragm in
With a poker she vocalized me
When she said it was best that I threw out my chest
You may gather that rather surprised me

I was on solid ground till I suddenly found
That in Venice I was to appear
The gala locale was a choppy canal
And me, a high sea gondolier
I nervously perched as the gondola lurched
Before the King’s palazzo
As I started my song my voice it was strong
But my stomach I fear was not so

Oh solo mio, oh
Oh solo ooh  Help!

When I fell overboard how his majesty roared
And before a siesta he made me his jester
And I found out soon that to be a buffoon
Was a serious thing as a rule
For a jester’s chief employment
Is to kill himself for your enjoyment
And a jester unemployed is nobody’s fool

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Fat Tuesday (aka, Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras), the day before the 6+ weeks of Lent begins, means Carnaval in scattered parts of Mexico.  I was supposed to be spending it on the Costa Chica — where Spanish Catholicism meets Mixtec meets Amuzgo meets Chatino meets Chontal meets Zapotec meets Afro-Mexicano — a region with some pretty unique ways of celebrating Carnaval.  Alas, illness (not me) has postponed that trip until next year.

In the meantime, the show must go on!  Thus, we returned to San Martín Tilcajete, one of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca, known for fantastical wood carving and surreal decorative painting, that result in alebrije and masks.

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And, it’s the masks that take center stage during Carnaval.

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The day before Lent in San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca.

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Stay tuned… More masks and mayhem to come!

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A friend (who shall remain anonymous) was persuaded to model the mask I gave one of my sons for Christmas.

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It is the work of Apolinar Sosa, the son of distinguished carver Jesus Sosa Calvo and Juana Vicente Ortega Fuentes of San Martín Tilcajete.

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This mask won a prize and had actually been worn during the unique Carnaval celebration in the village.

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Don’t you love the tongue of dried chiles?

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It’s been one year since the passing of maestro Arnulfo Mendoza Ruíz.

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth (alas, with reflections from other pieces)

To honor his life, an exhibit of works by his friends, colleagues, and family was inaugurated at La Mano Mágica on March 13, 2015.

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His older son, Gabriel Mendoza Gagnier, curated this amazing collection of paintings, weaving, and artesanía.

Assisted by Arnulfo’s companion, Yukiko, the opening featured, not only amazing art, but also mezcal, tamales, and surprise entertainment by Carnaval dancers from San Martín Tilcajete, wearing masks carved by some of the well-known carvers from the village, including Inocenio Vásquez and Jésus Sosa Calvo.

Jésus Sosa Calvo had carved the signature entry sign for La Mano Mágica and recently, unasked, came by to freshen up the paint that had faded over the years under the intense Oaxaca sun.

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While, in the words of Manuel Matus Manzo,  Arnulfo Mendoza may have gone on “to meet the Jaguar and the god Murcielago,” the dreams of his magical hands remain.

Finally, this beautiful poem by Alberto Blanco from the exhibit’s catalog…

Mitades a Arnulfo

I
La mitad de la tierra
no sueña con la luna.
La mitad de la luna
no sueña con el sol.

Si la luna es la trama,
y si el sol es la urdimbre,
esa tierra es la tela
donde acaso se vive.

II
La vida es la comedia
ya la muerte es el drama,
pero el textil de siempre
es la urdimbre y la trama.

La mitad de la vida,
la mitad de la muerte:
una tela tejida
con un hilo de suerte.

 

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Pick a color, any color, and you will find it in Oaxaca, be it people…

Places or things…

Today, I choose orange.  Tomorrow, who knows???

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Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete means devils…

Pirates and clowns…

Unknown creatures from the imaginative minds of their creators…

And these masterpieces from this village known for its wood carving…

Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete also means men dressed as women, a mock wedding, and young men covered in motor oil running through the village with belts of cowbells ringing.  Stay tuned…

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Tuesday, not only brought the previously mentioned Carnaval, San Martín Tilcajete style, it also provided comida, muy sabrosa.  No, not one of the 4 restaurants in Oaxaca recently listed in the 101 Best Restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean.  I’m talking about al fresco dining in a roadside restaurant.  Sitting under the branches of a large shade tree on plastic chairs, around a plastic table, with cars and trucks speeding by, it was surprisingly tranquil.

Woman cooking on comal

We had ringside seats as our lunch was prepared on a well seasoned comal.  I couldn’t help thinking as we sat at this unpretentious restaurant, in the middle of the fields that yielded the ingredients for our lunch, prepared according to culinary traditions passed down through generations of Zapotecos, this is quintessential “slow food.”

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That’s my tlayuda (sometimes spelled, clayuda) being lifted off the comal — and it was one of the best I’ve eaten!  Fyi, tlayudas are one of the 10 Essential Things To Eat And Drink In Oaxaca.

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For more on our yummy lunch, see Chris’s blog post, Fat Tuesday done right.  Alas, neither one of us took note of the name of the restaurant — all I know is it’s on the east side of Hwy 175, between San Martín Tilcajete and San Tomás Jalieza.

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Another day… another celebration… another adventure!  Yesterday was Día de Carnaval (aka, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival), a day to let the good times roll before the sacrifices of the Lenten season.

As you have probably surmised, the Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico.  Like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.”  Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”

And so, off we went for Día de Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete (28 km south of the city), a village known for its fancifully painted wood-carved alebrije and masks.  We are still doing May weather in March and, thus, it was hot and shade was in short supply.

In the morning, a bride and groom were chosen, villagers gathered for a boisterous and hilarious ceremony in the courtyard, they danced, and then all processed through the streets of San Martín Tilcajete to a designated location where the happy “couple” knelt before a jolly looking “priest.”  By the way, those beautiful “women” in gorgeous gowns aren’t what they seem!

Young and old, the “guests” were a colorful crowd.  Many of the diablos and diablillos covered their faces with colored pigments and their bodies with red or black oil — rumor has it, motor oil is sometimes used.  Yuck!

I’d been to San Martín Tilcajete many times — to go from one workshop to another in search of the perfect alebrije for a gift or to add to my collection — but never before for Carnaval.  It was great fun and the photo ops were endless.

As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

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