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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pretty fair day

Yes, it was a pretty fair day in that there were two wonderful fairs or ferias to visit.  What a good reason to hit the road and sample some of Oaxaca's finest taste treats.  First, it was off to Tlacolula and a fiesta that featured pan y chocolate.  There were large crowds, great music and folkloric dancers, too.  But, today, it was all about bread and chocolate.
Uh oh..... I'll never make it.... must try to not eat....everything
 Everything looks so good. 
 "Chris, I think you need a few of these."
 "And some of mine, too."  How could I resits?
My mission in Tlacolula accomplished, it was then off to the second fiesta, the feria de maiz in Teotitlan del Valle.
Lots of exhibits and lectures on maiz.  There is 10,000 years of corn history here.  Their ancestors helped develop domestic corn,
 Looks good.
Tastes better.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Minimum wage - Perspective

The minimum wage has risen here 4.2 percent to $66.45 MP.  That's $4.55 US.  And that is not the hourly wage, that's the daily minimum wage - Under five US bucks a day - and a bottle of Coke costs the same here as everywhere else.  I remember reading that the vast majority of oaxaqueños earn less than $30 a day and that's for an 8-10 hour day.  And I can honestly attest that people here have an amazing work ethic.  They work hard for that money, really hard.  And people wonder why other people immigrate.


I went into the city to see the zocalo and if the teachers were vacating the area as they said they would, so La Noche de los Rabanos could proceed.  In case you do not know it, the 23rd of December is one of the best days of the year, for the zocalo is filled with wonderful art, much of which is carved from very large radishes... yes, radishes.  It's amazing.  But first, all of this will have to go.
Well, maybe someone has a plan and maybe it will happen, but nobody seems to be saying anything, at least nothing in the local papers.  Here is what it looked like yesterday.  This is the main drag for viewing and they normally put up tables, walkways and barriers to control the huge crowds.
The teachers still have tents up.  Clear the zocalo?  Yeah, right.  After all, it has only be six or seven months.... or over 36 years if you want to look at it that way, because that's when these protests started.
Mini restaurants are still there.
Maybe it will happen.  Things do happen fast here when they actually set their minds to it.  I sure hope so.... or maybe they will move it.  And maybe they will actually tell people what is happening.  A guy can dream, can't he?  Dreaming of sugarplums?  No way, radishes all the way. ¡Ojala!

Update:  It has been relocated to the Macedonio Alcalá, the pedestrian walkway. Actually, this should work better because uh... it's a pedestrian walkway.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Yes, I know it's karma, but this is about the car.  Sometimes, I really love this place.  After driving into the city to see La Soledad celebrations, at around 1:30 PM, I drove out to the market in Etla to pick up fresh cheese and produce.  However, when I got out of the car there was that distinctive aroma of antifreeze and steam coming from under the hood.  Something had given up the ghost, but fortunately a mechanic I had used before was nearby.  I drove in, he diagnosed the problem, said the car needed to cool down before he could work on it, but, "No problema," it would be done at five. 

I was out of there in less than five minutes.  I jumped into an Etla collectivo, took it to Viguera, then jumped out and walked back to the house.  At 4:55, the mechanic, Ivan, called to say the car was ready. I walked back to the highway, got in a collectivo and eventually ended up back at the shop where the car was sitting, ready to go.  Ivan had replaced the toma de agua, a part I have not a clue about, and a hose, all done for about $60 US. 

The weird thing is that the car has been running hot for years ever since I took it to the dealer in the city for a complete tuneup and checkup.  Numerous people have tried to solve the problem to no avail, so I had just learned to watch the temperature gauge like a hawk and live it the problem.  Now, however, it appears that that problem is gone and the temp needle sits dead center just like it did before I took it to the dealer.  I am happy and apparently, so it the car.

I think Mexicans are born knowing how to fix cars (and everything else except the country) and I love watching and learning from them.  Who woulda thought that getting one's car repaired could be such a pleasant experience, but it always is here... uh... knock on wood.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

El Dia de La Soledad

This is a special day for Oaxaca as it is the city's patron saint's day. And no better place to visit to see how people celebrated the Virgin of the Soledad than at the huge church that bears her name.
Inside there was a long line of people waiting to get near her statue and to receive blessings under her resplendent form.
And you have to admit, that's resplendent.
She was also available in the plaza in from the church.
People came and went, each paying penance.
Behind the Virgin in the plaza, people reached up and rubbed their hands or the flowers they carried on her robe, which was draped like a canopy just so they could receive her blessing that way.  They then rubbed their heads or the heads of those with them with the newly blessed flowers.
A powerful and meaning experience for many.
The outer streets were filled food and flowers stalls... along with everything else under the sun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Big wheel keeps on spinnin'

Lots of stories from around the globe, but the issue that just will not go away here and throughout all of Mexico may well be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. 
The disappearance and murder of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa remains on the front burner, here in Oaxaca, nationally and internationally.  One sees sign of it everywhere.
 A school on Reforma.
 The iconic statue in Llano park.
 The zocalo.
Let's hope all these protests make a difference.... and I am not just talkin' about these local protests.  As they like to say, "Think globally, act locally."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Plumas characters

Once again, back in Teotitlan del Valle for the danza de la pluma. I am struck by all the different threads and spheres of activity that are a part of the whole.  One of the most important aspects is the role of the subalternos or caras negras, who are Jorge Jimenez Mendoza and Pedro Hernandez Lazo for this group of dancers.  I managed to catch one of them with a penacho, headdress, which is not his normal head wear.
They have various duties, most importantly to see to the needs of the dancers.  One takes care of Monctezuma, Malinche and Doña Marina and the other, the rest of the dancers.  That is Monctezuma's penacho.  You can tell by the colors and design.
Their duties include tending injuries, providing water, doing repairs and acting as a bridge between audience and the dancers.
They are often very funny as they engage with people.  And they can really dance!
More importantly, they represent the two sides of the dialogue, the indigenous and the Spanish and they perform the last dance of the whole performance.  It is a little mini battle.  Guess who wins?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Now that's chicken

I hardly ever buy meat here, mostly because the cheese and produce are so good.  And, all the wonderful tamales and rellenos lovingly prepared by the aubuelas in the markets, often filled with chicken or pork, are too good to not get.  So really there is not much need to do serious cooking, but every now and then....  This is the lady from whom I buy my chicken and she has the reputation of having the finest in all of the Etla.  You can see how fresh it is.  I, of course, made the mistake of asking for two breasts, thinking like a gringo, where we think of those nice packaged half a breast as a whole breast.  So when she began expertly chopping of the bird, I realize I was really going to get two full breasts and each one was big enough to feed a family of four.  Look at the size of one (or two?) of them.
So it was back to make broth with one of them and to stir fry the other.  I am all set for a few days. And the flavor.... so good and rich... wow.  The chicken is so tasty here, I never buy it in the States, where it is pallid and nowhere near as flavorful.

Images of Guadelupe

Yesterday, the day on which the Virgin of Guadelupe was celebrated, was filled with various happy events, lots of music and of course, cohetes, firecrackers.  After our presentation on Wednesday, we just had to go to Teotitlan del Valle to see the danzantes.  Most of them wore beautiful hand made capes, each with an image of the Virgin.
 Beautiful work.
 Lots of time goes into each piece.
More shots of the dance coming...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This is where we are

And where exactly is this? In front of Santo Domingo.
And where are you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

If you are in town...

There's this...

Buenos Dias!

Hi there.... see how nice the garden looks.  If you have been following the progress, this is pretty amazing.
This time I returned to house problems.  First, a leak in the water system, where water was mysteriously disappearing.  That one has been solved, sorta... the leak is slower... I think.  Thanks to two of the three Juans, Don Juan and his son, Don Juanito, age seven.  It was fun to watch the boy work so professionally helping is father.  Hmmm... how much would he make as a plumber's helper in Boston?.... $90 US an hour! 

Secondly, la luz, the electricity in this area simply sucks.  I have no idea why, maybe a faulty transformer.  Yesterday, it was out for a while, a rarity, but now that it is back, it fluctuates, pulses like crazy, which none of the electronics and appliances appreciates.  However, that the way it is and we deal.  I have large voltage regulators in most of the rooms.  Actually, yesterday, there was power, but only enough to dimly light the smallest of bulbs and I think that does damage, too, so I unplug what I can.

At any rate, I have had lots of exercise climbing up to the roof to check the water and noticed this fine shot this morning.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Closer to.... ahhhh

Not quite there yet, as reentry is always different and this time I returned to a leaking water system and not your normal leak, a hidden leak behind or beneath concrete.  Ah well, I called the two Don Juans and they assured me, they could fix it.  They return with jackhammers mañana.

However, today, the sun is shining, it is warm and there are sheep outside doing a nice pruning job on the overhanging growth on the street-side fence.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the gardens fared.  It was dry, but all the mulch helped and lots of them adapt well to the dry season.  Everything looks nice, happy and healthy.  Lots of fresh dill, rosemary, thyme and cilantro.

Update:  The wind is howling and there is a fine band playing quite nearby.  Real music, you know, with tubas.

Update 2:  Oh, glorious food.... yes, real tortillas, tasajo, quesillo, avocados, tomatoes and OMG, fruit... I missed the quality and quality so much.  I have a bowl filled with watermelon, melon, pineapple, banana and oranges, all so fresh and tasty... heaven.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tope! Tope! Tope!

Ah yes, these are the words that occasionally get screamed as one approaches some unforeseen tope or speed bump, which are everywhere in Mexico.  They can be smooth or bone jarring, not to mention what they do to the car.  So I find it humorous that there are many more of them here now, especially in the wealthiest suburbs.
Of course, they are much less bone jarring, barely a blip, but they still work,  One has to slow down.  And many are flashing little LED's powered by solar panels.  However, I'm back to the real thing mañana.  Here's hoping all the protests, blockades and vandalism at the airport left my humble car intact.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pit stop in Chinatown

Before shopping in the huge Asian supermarket downtown for supplies to bring back, I had to stop in for some quick dim sum at the China Pearl.
 Spare ribs with black beans
 Sticky rice in lotus leaves.
 Now, I am ready for some quesadillas and mole.

Bi-polar weather

Black Friday was white.
This was yesterday.
I am so ready to return to cool nightly temperatures and warmer days.... the six months of no rain, not so much.  However, I do enjoy the changes here.  They ranged from the low 20's to near 70.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

La Zandunga - Teotitlan del Valle - 2014

Here are Alani Ruiz Ruiz and Juana Lizbeth Contreras Vincente, Malinche and Doña Marina, respectively, dancing La Zandunga.  This dance is just one small part of the whole Danza de la Pluma, which can have over forty parts.  These two young ladies were all of six years old when they started with the group and will dance through 2015.  You can see how they are changing over time and... they are just too beautiful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Danza de la Pluma - Teotitlan del Valle 2014

I have promised the dancers in Teotitlan del Valle a video and at long last, here it is.  It certainly helps to have new software and fast internet, but really the key was taking the time to list and categorize the many video clips I've shot since this group started in 2013.  They will dance for another year to finish out their three year commitment.  You will notice the changing outfits, as I think I have seen them maybe six or seven times at least.  I love seeing how much the little girls have changed since they started.

Sounds good on paper, but....

From the LAHT
Peña Nieto committed himself to doing everything necessary to free the country “from criminality, (and) combat corruption and impunity,” calling on Mexicans not to become pessimistic and not to resort to violence or vandalism to demand justice.

Peña Nieto also announced that on Monday he will present to Congress three constitutional reforms, one to create single police forces in the country’s 32 states, another to combat the infiltration of organized crime in the municipalities and the third to define the responsibilities and jurisdictions of all authorities in the fight against crime.

The first reform is aimed at “going from more than 1,800 weak municipal police forces, which easily can be corrupted by crime, to 32 solid state security bodies that will be more trustworthy, more professional and more efficient,” he said, adding that the focus will be in the four states in question.

The second reform will result in “dissolving” a city hall “when sufficient indications exist that the local authorities are involved with organized crime,” as happened with Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who is under arrest as the intellectual author of the attacks on the teaching students.

Regarding the third initiative, Peña Nieto explained that it will redefine the responsibilities of the authorities in the anti-crime fight, “taking into account the institutional strengths of the different levels of government,” federal, state and municipal.

“When everybody has responsibility, in reality nobody has it,” said the president, complaining that the “complex system of penal responsibilities” in Mexico “creates dispersed responsibilities, confusion in enforcing the law and, the most serious thing, impunity.”

The president also revealed the creation of three special economic zones including Guerrero, Michoacan, Chiapas and Oaxaca, the country’s poorest states, via a legal initiative to spur development, trade and infrastructure that will be sent to Congress in February 2015.

Spelling doesn't count... shirt shots

How about this typo from a gentleman from Tlacolula?  Not a biggie.  What's a "k" or "que" between friends?
However, with this young lady from Atzompa, the truth is less obvious. "Away smile?"
Ah, yes.... Always smile.  Good advice.