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.

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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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can you hear me now???

One thing I have noticed about amplified music in Mexico... and it would be hard to not notice... is that they like it beyond loud.  If Spinal Tap goes to Eleven, these guys go to Thirteen.  And there are always people, mostly abuelas, sitting directly in front of the massive speakers.  OK, maybe it is not mostly abulas, but they are there along with lots of others, right in front of the speakers.  Gut thumping, teeth grinding, bone rattling, you know, nice and loud.
This band, Estrellas de Santa Cecilia, was set up to the side of the cathedral and was trying hard to exceed that "13" level.  Quite loud.

Of course, they had to be loud because directly across the zocalo, they were testing the sound setup for El Grito and they were pumping an equally loud CD, I forget what, but it did have a good beat. To say that John Cage would have been pleased, would be an understatement, as the two musics mixed together in a pretty amazing version of "Cacophony."

Of course, I was drawn to the tuba player, as his bass line was moving the ground beneath my feet.
Then I spotted this trumpeter, very Dizzy Gillespie like.
From the front.
And to be fair, straight ahead, guapo.
That reminds me.  I am going to do a post on the haircuts of Oaxaca. I think there is a Pulitzer in there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Independence Day!

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, today is.
And the place is decked out in the national colors.  I almost think they go crazier here than folks do in the States for the Fourth of July.  I know, I know, hard to believe, but truth be known, Mexicans know how to party extremely hearty, better than in the US.
El Grito was delivered by the governor last night at 11 PM from this balcony.... oh, sorry it is being blocked by large protest banners.  Hmmm... another shot..... No lower, please.
Ah yes, here's the balcony.
Notice the guy making sure the bell is ready.  Notice the mic.  I am sure it will be nice and loud. 
And video
Once again I missed the call.  However, this morning I am being serenaded by a couple of bands off in the mountains and cohetes, nice loud fireworks.
I'll head into the city to check out the parade.  I hear that the State Police are on strike so with all the other protests, maybe it will be more exciting than normal.

Monday, September 15, 2014

After the rains

Well, really, it's just a brief interlude if the weather reports prove accurate.
Looks glorious, doesn't it?  That's the view from my back yard.... if I'm up on the roof.

My shirt say what???

That's the look on this guapo's face as I explained what his shirt said.
It did have back that sorta explained it.... still, I dunno.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Hey Chris, why no posts? I've been busy building an ark.  Yes, the rainy season has returned with a vengeance.  I don't know how much we have received and every drop is a blessing but ¡Ya basta - enough already!  My cistern is filled and every water collection container I have is full as well.  The ground is so saturated I don't dare step on it.  The plants, however, are in heaven.  They are putting on a growth spurt and I am taking advantage of the weather and transplanting like crazy.
So here is dinner, a huge broccoli crown, that got sauteed with Oaxacan garlic, small and strong, some olive oil, then the best Korean sesame oil and some very fine Chinese soy sauce, both of which I brought down from Boston.  Plenty of leftovers for salads mañana with some of this dill.
If you can believe it, these broccoli plants will keep producing florets for the next year or so.  I had plants a couple of years ago that lasted two years and were still going strong, but were sooo ugly, they had to go. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

More plumas moments

There is such a sense of community in all that surrounds the danza de pluma in Teotitlan del Valle.  There are many formal presentations, offerings and blessings that occur while the dancers are dancing.  It is after all, a very long dance or series of dances.  Huge baskets of fruit, tlayudas, cases of beer and lots of other things are brought in by one group and offered to another group, probably different sections of the village. Maybe it is the section that has official domain over this particular dance, but really, I don't know and I will have to find out.

But it is the lovely interactions between people that is always present and so refreshing that is so noticeable.  Ahh.... Life is full of such moments. One of the subalternos sharing the moment with his son.
There are two subalternos and each is responsible for the care of either, the dancers or Monteczuma, Malinche and Marina.
"Someday, my son, all of this will be yours."
They bring them water, repair sandals or whatever is needed and are constantly moving, interacting with the crowd, making jokes, but in reality they are very important, as they are subtly exercising control over the entire scene.  Meanwhile,  just drink in the sights.
Armando Vincente Mendoza, one of the Four Kings.
The great thing is that this is just normal village life in all its glory, just people living their lives.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Danza de la Pluma moments

Observance of the danza de la pluma is always a special time in Teotitlan del Valle.  I say observance because it really is a rite or ritual.  They dance it because it has been danced for so many years,  They dance it because it tells the story of Cortez and the conquistadores, with minor local adjustments.  And they dance it because it re-enforces their commitment to how the village sustains itself,  how they live their lives, shared work, shared wealth and above all, respect. 

For the dancers, it is a physical ordeal and yesterday, they were still going strong even though they had dance for close to ten hours the previous day.  It is a lot of dancing and with the penachos, the headdresses, catching the wind and forcing them to keep their heads erect, well, they sure have earned my respect.  I can't imagine it.
And the day and the dance itself are filled with special and powerful moments.  Here is Moctezuma, Jose Isaac Vazques de los Angeles, with Malinche, Juana Lisabeth Contreras Vicente.
And here is the moment when Monctezuma takes off his penacho and hands to Doña Marina, Malinche's alter ego, Ailani Ruiz Ruiz.  Great symbolism there.
Yesterday, was the first time, I really caught the significance of this moment. It gripped me.
It is food for thought on the history of Mexico.  For many people here, Cortez was no hero and Doña Marina/Malinche represent a complex part of the Mexican psyche, malinchismo.

from Wikipedia
The word malinchismo is used by some modern-day Mexicans to refer pejoratively to those countrymen who prefer a different way of life from that of their local culture, or a life with other outside influences. Some historians believe that La Malinche saved her people from the Aztecs, who held a hegemony throughout the territory and demanded tribute from its inhabitants. Some Mexicans also credit her with having brought Christianity to the "New World" from Europe, and for having influenced Cortes to be more humane than he would otherwise have been. It is argued, however, that without her help, Cortes would not have been successful in conquering the Aztecs as quickly, giving the Aztec people enough time to adapt to new technology and methods of warfare. From that viewpoint, she is seen as one who betrayed the indigenous people by siding with the Spaniards. Recently a number of feminist Latinas have decried such a categorization as scapegoating, blaming her for forces beyond her contro

Octavio Paz addresses the issue of La Malinche's role as the mother of Mexican culture in The Labyrinth of Solitude. He uses her relation to Cortés symbolically to represent Mexican culture as originating from rape and violation. He uses the analogy that she essentially helped Cortés take over and destroy the Aztec state by submitting herself to him. His claim summarizes a major theme in the book, claiming that Mexican culture is a labyrinth.

Monday, September 8, 2014

More convite faces

The last two days in Teotitlan del Valle have been filled with the Danza de las Plumas, always a glorious event.  However, the weather was severely overcast, with rain all around, which did manage to stay away.  Still, the light was no where as nice as it was for the convite.  It was, however, quite good for video, but that will have to wait.  So back to Saturday and the procession of unmarried women and girls.  Look at this light.... and check out the boy checking out.
 So many beautiful faces.
 Classic cute.
I always love how beautiful their hair and earrings are.  Again, a classic look.
Even Christ appears to be impressed with these braids.
And this shot tells so much.  Look at the stretch of her arms.  The canasta is taller than she is.  So fully extended, the girl carried it for several kilometers.  Absolutely amazing.  What stamina... and she was not alone, hundreds of others joined her.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Another convite in Teotitlan del Valle

Convites. processions of unmarried women and girls, are important parts of each fiesta on Teotitlan del Valle and yesterday's was particularly sweet, with lots of happy kids and lots of participants in the procession.  Also, even though it was spritzing when we arrived, almost instantly, the sun popped out and the light became beautiful.  Getting there early and watching the multitudes assemble is always a blast and the first thing I noticed was this unusual Virgin that was to be carried by one of the girls.
 And what a beautiful girl she was and is.
 Here she is carrying the Virgin to her starting place.
Right at the very front of the procession.
I'm not looking for a novia, but she could steal my heart... if I were a ten-year old boy.  I took lots of shots of the whole event, but I thought to start, I would post these of her as she led the whole group of women through the streets.
The things they carry are heavy and they walk several kilometers.  It takes real strength and stamina, but she made it look easy.
More in a bit, but first, it is back to Teo for the Danza de las Plumas.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shirt shots cont.....

I love taking photos of people's shirts  I bet I have hundreds of them by now in a series called, "Do you know what you shirt says?"
 My last clean shirt and proud of it.
Hipster in the know.... Vinyl Rules.
I feel like I only get one out of ten good ones.  People walk by and if I can't get it together to ask, "Hey, can I take you picture for your shirt?"  they are gone and I am kicking myself for missing the opportunity.  It is actually a fun exercise and everyone always agrees... always.  It's crazy.  But not as crazy as some of the shirts.  These from the last couple of days.
A guapo from Tlacolula.  Santa Muerte looks serious.  I like the red eyes and the stud in his ear.
I should have shot this one from the side.  The young lady is very pregnant and the eyes and smile were perfectly placed.
I don't think I could pull this one off as well as she does.  Very cute, but I need those glowing red eyes.
And what does this one even mean. Sure, Mondays ruined his life. Good thing he has two extra hearts (r) ????