The here and now... and what and why

Complacency is a trap. At least that’s what I was thinking when I up and left the comfort of a Yankee prep school gig, where I taught music, amongst other things, for 28 years. There was also that life long career as a composer, musician and artist.

First, it was a year in St. Thomas, USVI, working as a reporter and shooting photography and then, a year in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Time passed.
More time passed and a year back in the Athens of America followed by a hasty return to Oaxaca where it is all happening.
This time in San Sebastian Etla just down the road from San Agustin.

Click on an image to see it larger.
For additional photography please visit my flickr page.
You can find my music on Jango (World & latin - Worldbeat) and at iTunes and most online stores.
¡Soy consciente de todas las tradiciones del Internet!
If you are coming to Oaxaca, please contact me for tours or advice.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo
The view from Corazon del Pueblo

The hereafter re me

My Photo
Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico
Musician, photographer, videographer, reporter, ex-officio teacher, now attempting to be a world traveler

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gracias, maestros.... not

The zocalo in Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful spot in the city.... sometimes.  This ancient park has been the central meeting spot for hundreds of years.  Here's what it looks like today, filled with tents as los maestros, the teachers, have once again established a planton, a sit-in (sleep-in,) closing the space off to everyone else.  And they brought with them the vendors that are a part of the union's movement.  It's ugly and not at all representative of what Oaxaca has to offer.
Of course, for the most important cultural and economic weeks of the year, weeks in which Oaxaca is the destination for tens of thousands of tourists, the teachers do their normal thing.  Ruin things as much as possible for as many people as possible.  Listen, I am a former teacher, but I have a very hard time supporting the antics and tactics of Sección 22 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE).  They march, they blockade, they act like nothing else matters.  All they seem to do is piss people off while at the same time doing an even greater disservice to the children and their families for whom they are supposed to be serving.  They have shut down roads, shopping malls, governement offices, all during the busiest month of the years.  Can we talk about chaos and inconvenience?  Nuf' said.

I am not sure what this newspaper is about, but I like the Freddie Kruger image, because sadly, sometimes, it's a nightmare.... but not on Elm Street.
Meanwhile, the government protects the protesters while ignoring the pleas of the majority of the population who have said repeatedly, "Ya basta!"  "Enough already!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reyes Etla's Guelaguetza

 
The guelaguetza in nearby Reyes Etla is one of my favorites.  It is always such a happy and intimate affair.  Sure, the main guelaguetza in the city is the big time, but more and more, villages are presenting their own versions of this wonderful pageant of traditional Oaxaca.  I go to Reyes pretty regularly because the setting is so beautiful.  There is a circular dance floor and the views are spectacular.  And the church is famous for being in "Nacho Libre,"  which was a point of distinction raised by a very able and entertaining emcee. 
I arrived right on time, meaning I was a minute late and got caught behind the procession of dignitaries and the diosa de maiz, the corn goddess and her princesses.  I did a quick bypass and caught their arrival.
La diosa.
As I said, these are intimate affairs with no more than 500 to 750 people in the audience.  Everyone has a decent view of the dancers and a really good chance of catching the regional favors the dancers toss into the audience after each dance. 
The dancers are from a grupo folklorico, a troupe that dances most of the dances with a couple of other groups that dance specific dances, like the danza de las plumas.   I am pretty sure these danzantes came from Zaachila.
 They all work mighty hard and just keep on dancin'. 
Costume changes are done very quickly and smoothly.  Trajes de Tehuantepec.
It doesn't get any better than this.  Valle centrals in action.
Lots of great audience participation and interaction.
Trajes, traditional outfits, from la Cañada region.
The look of concentration just before going on stage.
Always ready for a photo
And in action...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The eyes of Reyes Etla

The eyes have it in this shot from the guelaguetza in nearby Reyes Etla.  They are those of one of the dancers.  Many more shots to come.  It was a fantastic event which followed a full weekend of fantastic events.  It will take a day or two to get caught up.  Until then another feast for the eyes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Feria de los Moles 2014

 
Imagine an all-you-eat meal with about twenty varieties of delicious moles, one of the the dishes for which Oaxaca is famous.  It needs to be said that there are as many variations on the recipes as there are cooks.   This is the third or fourth time I have been lucky enough to attend this event, which is held in the Botanical Garden, a spectacular setting in itself although, nobody was thinking about plants yesterday.  It was all about the food and there was food galore. 
 
Looks mighty good, doesn't it?  It tasted even better.
It was impossible to taste everything, so one has to pick and choose, often going on what other people said.  "Oh, you have to try that mole negro, ' or "The estafado is exceptional."  I have learned to take it easy and only eat my weight in food ;-)
We were greeted by lovely oaxaquenas and shown to our table and then promptly moved to another table and eventually we sat where we wanted, perfectly situated away from loudspeakers and the lines for the food.  A little rain and wind presented no problems.  It was on to a plethora of taste treats.
"Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby."
I had the best time with this woman backstage. 
The dish on the right she was preparing and sampling had a bread topping and I asked if I could have a taste.  She said, "Sure," and handed me a big spoonful.  Then she said I had to try her mole negro on the left.  She handed me another spoon and it was to die for, exceptional.  I said, "Why, this is horrible," with a big smile on my face and had another big taste.  We all had a good laugh and when I finally got to her station in the line, she remembered me and offered me a big helping of "horrible".... it was so good, I went back for seconds or thirds, I can't remember.

I may never eat again.... oops, today is the feria de queso y quesillo in nearby Reyes Etla, so to hell with that plan and tomorrow is the feria de hongos (mushrooms) so I will never eat again starting on Monday.... oops, that's the guelaguetza in Etla... oh well, I guess I will just have to continue to eat my way through the festivities.  It's a tough job, but ......

Diosa Centéotl 2014 - And the winner is.....

Jacqueline Rosario Reyes Sarabia from Santo Domingo Tehuantepec.  She is this year's corn goddess and will lead the desfiles, parades, and many of the events connected with the 2014 guelaguetza.  
The competition in which she prevailed was held before a huge crowd packed into the Almeda, the area in front of the cathedral.  These events are really popular and I could not get within a fifty meters of the stage so these shots are not ideal.  However, there will be plenty of chances to get better ones over the next week.  
The contestants represent different regions of the state and they each step forth and give a short presentation about the unique qualities and traditions of their areas.  And they are all dressed in the finest trajes, regional outfits, always spectacularly beautiful.


I've noticed that there is one thing that most Oaxacans seem to relish doing and that is declaiming, speaking formally and passionately.  These young women were no exceptions.  I am not sure if they even needed a mic, they were that powerful.
As always, not everyone can win, but everyone could surely represent and they did themselves and their regions proud.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hidden treasures

Oaxaca is a very walkable city.  Given the inclination and enough time, it is easy to walk to almost part of the city.  This is also one of the best ways to see things one might not ever see and, of course, to get slightly lost.  Such was the case when I was searching for the office from which to get tickets for the Feria de los Moles.  As I followed the various conflicting directions that people gave me, even though I was on familiar ground, I found myself going down side streets and alleyways and I stumbled first upon this fine piece of street art.
Immediately to the right was this one
And all of a sudden, voila, it was a slide show of beautiful graffiti portraits of artists.
 I confess, I only recognize van Gogh and Diego.  Anyone know who the others are? 
That's what I love about the contemporary art scene here.  It is everywhere and always so creative.
Oaxacan street art, always some of the best.
This was just a little alley and yet it was so full of life, bright and wonderful art.  I am sure the neighbors appreciated it.  I sure did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I like the reggae... uh, and you, too.

 
As I wandered the streets in search of the office where I could buy tickets for the upcoming Feria de los Moles  I took some street shots.  I took the extreme scenic route of a few miles, unintentionally.  I was a block away from my destination and asked someone where the place was and they promptly pointed my in a different direction.  The I asked some cops, a street sweeper, and several others and an hour and a half I was back where I started and found the place.  Success!!!  As they say in Spanish, "No digas nunca de este agua no beberé."
 
Still, it was a fun walk and I found some hidden graffiti gems that I will post mañana.  For now, it's balloon time.

Then is love...

And then there is the love that one needs to express by telling it to the world via a huge billboard on the Pan-American Highway in San Francisco Tutla on the way to Tlacolula.
As far as I can discern the fine print at the bottom says: "The best kind of love is that awakens the soul and the heart and brings peace to the mind. That is what you have given me, and which I hope to give you always."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Penachos de Teotitlan del Valle

 
Penachos are the feathered headdresses that the dancers wear for the danza de las plumas.  Once again, I have to say that those in Teotitlan del Valle are more more ornate and beautiful than any others I have seen, but obviously I have not come close to seeing them all. 
 
Still, these are particularly gorgeous and require much time and money to make.  It is a great honor to be a dancer and it is a real commitment, in terms of time and money, from the family.  Here is Jose Isaac Vazques de los Angeles, Moctezuma's penacho.
And a closeup of the detail in the headband.  That's man himself.
This one is not only beautiful on the outside.
But it is the only one with this kind of amazing detail on the inside.