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.
A couple of years in San Sebastian Etla and now, just down the road in San Pablo Etla. Life is good.

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Torito Grande Dos!

Another big one from Teotitlan del Valle.  This guys are crazy!
This is a heavy Torito Grande from July, 2015.  You can see how heavy it is when they almost lose it at around sec. 55.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Torito Grande

This torito was huge and must have weighed a lot.  It came just before the castillo last October in Teotitlan del Valle.  It took a few men to get it up and ready, but this man danced and made it look easy.  He must have been pretty damn strong.

I guess I could have called the video "Gran Torino," but it appears to be already used.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What's going on here?

I miss my garden.  Chapulines in action?  I have no idea if this is grasshopper sex or a kid riding on its mother's back.
Kinda looks like a weird position for sex, but maybe they have their own Kama Sutra.... or maybe I should just get my mind out of the gutter and recognize it for what it is, a mother carrying her child.

Not your average morgue

This is not Boston where I am currently waiting out the Thanksgiving holidays.
No, this is the panteon in Tlacolula where I wish I was... not permanently, just to enjoy the beauty and warmth.  It was 23 degrees when I awoke this morning... In Boston, not Tlacolula, silly.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

More home cookin'

I am sure I am like most people.  I like all foods, as long as they are good.  And when I am in Oaxaca, I crave things like Maine lobster rolls or dim sum in Chinatown.  Now that I am in El Norte, I am satisfying some of those desires, but..... I miss my normal comidas, like these amazing empanadas from San Antonino that I had just before I left.  There are so many variations of empanadas, different from village to village, person to person.  These are some of my absolute favorites.
The secret is in the filling, which must have masa mixed in  along with broth, cilantro, pork and other things.
When cooked, the texture is more solid, kinda like polenta.  Crunchy on the outside and oh, so tasty.
In Etla, my side of the valley, the empanadas are much more liquid and I prefer these and get them whenever I get the chance.   This woman (sorry, I have forgotten her name) comes from a family of master embroiderers as you can see from her blouse.
She has a place just off the highway before Ocotlan, at the sign for San Antonino.  Take a right on the first street, at the Aurrera, and it is there... somewhere.  I intend to find it when I get back. But for now, dim sum, here I come.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Better to remain silent...

You know the quote from Abraham Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
 Street art

And maybe I should, but I believe I have already established that I am just a fool with an opinion, just like everybody else.... and I can't really remain silent.

Even in my fair state of Massachusetts, the governor has patriotically proclaimed that the doors are closed to Syrian immigrants fleeing a war, with which this nation clearly had some hand in riling up that part of the world.

I wish the governor and all the other fear-mongering xenophobes had remained silent, instead they have removed all doubt.  Fools... and heartless, cruel and blind fools at that.

Now, I'm not a Christian, but hey, I minored in Religion at university, and I have some clue as to what Jesus was all about.  And I don't mean the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, gun-totin' with abs of steel on a dinosaur Jesus.  No, the other one, the one who encouraged feeding the poor, loving and taking acre of each other.  It is called compassion.

And here, in the 21st century, we have people saying "Only Christians immigrants!" (but not from Syria)... on the positive, here in Mexico...lots of Christians (ja ja ja).  And internment camps?!  And how you gonna prove you're a Christian? (an obligatory... "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition")

So please, spare us any more of the obviously warped view of Christianity.  It's as bad as their warped view of Islam.  It does not compute.

So I guess what I am saying is that this is painful and embarrassing for me as a gringo.  There are many times in Oaxaca, when I feel so proud to be a sorta oaxaqueño.  I mean I have tears in my eyes whenever I see the Flor de Piña dance or hear "Dios Nunca Muere." (fxd- gracias)

And I am not saying I am not proud of the good Ole U S of A, just not right now.

I would rather remain silent AND be compassionate and be thought a fool... but that's just me.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Home cookin'

As I mentioned, I am in El Norte and I have a serious cold.  I'm taking my medicine of choice.... chicken soup, of course.  However......
I wish I had some of these delicious special tamales from last Muertos cooked by, in my humble opinion, the best cook in the entire galaxy., Emilia Ruiz form Teotitlan del Valle.
The masa is so light it floats in your mouth and the amarillo, just perfect. 
It is very easy to eat many, many of these.... 10 to 12 of them easy, without even thinking.
But for now, it is what every grandmother around the world recommends for a scold and the flu...  a little chicken soup.

This country makes me sick

No really, I have the first cold I have had in years and it is a good one.

OTH.... El Norte... sigh.... the politicians, the ones who hate everything and who have no self-awareness and compassion... well, they not only make me ill, but also very sad... and embarrassed to be a citizen of this fair nation.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Public Servive Announcement

Uh.... when was the last time you checked to see when your passport or driver's license expired?  I speak from recent less than ideal experiences.  Your welcome.

This explains everything

Well, maybe not everything, but at least least why I was seeing everyone walking around with boxes containing new TV's.  I was in several villages and so many people were carrying identical packages, it looked funny, but I missed out on what was happening. 

From the LAHT (emphasis added)
Following the impending delivery of sets in the states of Durango, Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Sinaloa, Sonora and Veracruz, 75 percent of Mexicans will have access to digital television, Deputy Communications Secretary Monica Aspe said.

Aspe said that 7 million of the 9.7 million digital TV sets to be given to low-income households have been distributed ahead of the Dec. 31 end of analog broadcasts.

Mexico’s transition from analog to digital TV has been faster than that of any other country, she said.

“It has not been easy, but the Communications and Transportation Secretariat ... is making the effort to complete the delivery of digital TV sets before Dec. 31,” the official said.

Aspe said the provision of new TVs to poor households gives Mexico’s analog-to-digital transition a social justice aspect not present in any other country.
OMG!  It's a socialist plot, TV's for the masses.  In El Norte, they always talk about Obama giving out free stuff, but hey, Mexico is doing so much better.... and to poor people, no less.  What will they think of next? 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Love that dirty water...

OK, not the same song, but the same place....
Once again, massive culture shock for this campesino.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Muertos - The Children of San Antonino

El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is always a rich and meaningful time.  For me, an outsider, I have learned to appreciate the way people think and feel about death.  They have changed me, all for the better.
These are days of celebration, of remembrances, a time to honor those who have preceded us and whose return is welcomed. 
In El Norte, death is many things, as it is here, but so different,  There it is distant, sanitary, dark and sad.  We have wars in which we don't even see caskets.  Can you imagine children playing in cemeteries where you live? ... without people freaking out about it.
Well, in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, one of my favorite villages, they play, laugh, sing and dance all while being surrounded by the graves of their relatives. 
The panteon, cemetery is an ocean of flowers. 
People spend the morning decorating the graves and while they sit and work, they eat and drink, listen to a little music and the kids are allowed to be themselves. 
What a healthy way of approaching death, as a constant and companion.
There is a lot of love and happiness, not exactly how the uninitiated might think about El Dia.
Lots of love cast death in a different light.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Google this!

When I go out,  I have to pull my car out and then jump out to close the gate.  I block the road for a few seconds.  This morning, I blocked this vehicle for just a moment.  Do you recognize it?
I did immediately, as I have seen it in the city before, but....... I am seriously out in the boonies 
The driver stopped and happily let me take a few shots.  Cool!  This guy was going everywhere, up and down, even dead ends. 
I think when they do the street view of my street, I will be there taking a picture of the this car..... well, one can hope anyway.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Muerteada in San Agustin Etla 2015 - The video

Muerteada in San Agustin Etla - 2015

This morning I made my annual pilgrimage, along with many others, to San Agustin Etla for the tail end of its all-night muerteada.
 It is all about dancing with mirrored capes.
 And outrageous masks.
 Look at the detail!  All hand-sewn, I imagine.
 And outfits covered with bells.  Keeping the tradition alive, these five all from the same family
Some amazing costumes.
As a wrote a few days ago, muerteadas have really caught on in the Etlas and it would be wild if they were all as totally insane as this one.  Here, there are two groups of dancers and their entourages, each from a different barrio, and starting the evening before they go from house to house and dance, drink, eat, party to some of the most infectious music.  There may some mezcal and beer consumed.
Twelve hours later, the sun comes up and they finish visiting homes.  Then at the base of the hill, the two groups, led by their bands, converge for a final mosh pit, although the groups are separated by many men from the village acting as security.  The bands go head to head, a real battle with twelve tubas going at each other, six on six.  The dancers are behind each band and going totally insane.  Yes, for sure, a good time.
And this muerteada is getting popular.  I think it has to do with what the dancers wear, bells and mirrors.  And the outfits weigh a lot... the pants or a cape, maybe 20 kilos.... Try dancing for fourteen hours in those.... The guys go into trances....I did mention there was beer and mezcal, didn't I?  It can take it's toll.  I mean, this guy looks like death warmed over.
I shot mostly video this year and will post some when I get it edited.  Still, this is one of the most fun and craziest times of the year.  Just fantastic.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Here we go.... Muertos

The city is absolutely hoppin', filled with people ready to celebrate.  Of course, with all those people comes some hella traffic.  I was in the longest wait to make it out of the city last night.... evah.  So I stayed on the north side of the city and visited the Etlas and Atzompa.  It seemed as if everyone was selling or buying flowers.  There are signs of the times were everywhere.  These nice tapetes de arena, sand paintings, were right in the middle of the street in Etla.
You can see the cobblestones beneath them... right in the middle of the street, but everyone respected the work and just admired them.
A block away, these gates welcoming the spirits.
 What a treat.
And all the murals for the various comparsas are down and looking virant.
I wish I could go to them all.
 And the signs were everywhere, if you looked closely.
And now it all really gets into gear... and I am outta here.... off to Atzompa for the beginning of the festivities.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pan de muerte in Mitla

As far as I can figure, Mitla is the place to go for pan de muerte.
They do it like no one else and it is a high art, as you can see from this post about last year's exhibition/competition.  These are just the normal ones for folks to buy for Muertos.  Still, so beautiful.
We were a week early just checking out the scene and figuring out when best to return, but the market was filled with ladies decorating the pan.  A baggie with a corner snipped off was the tool of choice and the results....
 We will be going back this weekend to see the new exhibition.  Be there or be square.

A rare day....

A rainy afternoon in late October.
Every drop of rain is a blessing.... until it comes down in buckets.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

People get ready...

These last few days before Muertos are some of my favorites as people rush around getting ready for one of the best best and most important times of the year here in Oaxaca.  And the flowers used in altars and to decorate graves are in full bloom.  And here they are... cempasúchil, marigolds and Terciopelo Rojo, cockscomb or celosia
Folks know how to do it right. 
This field is just down the road from me and I always love walking through the rows of flowers a couple of days before they are harvested.
These growers always get the timing right as the flowers are peaking right at the right moment.
Now, off to Mitla to look for pan de muertos... back in a flash.

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's beginning to look like... cont.

Muertos.... and in driving around, I am noticing more muerteada murals this year.  There are tens of villages, all Etlas, and they all seem like they are having one.  We always hit the one in San Agustin Etla, but they really are all around me.
What is a muerteada?  People dress up in all sorts of outfits and then, starting at sundown on Nov.1, they go from house to house and dance like total maniacs, often with six tubas pumping out the bass!  I mean, you gotta dance.
The bands play the most infectious music imaginable and it goes on until 10 AM the next morning when, in San Agustin, it ends in sort of a most pit, but more on that later.  For now it is the art of the murals.
This one, just down the road from me, appears to be in process.  It must be for San Pablo Etla.
 The fiddler plays.... later on, the Piper's paid.