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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Head in the clouds

It has been a strange week of weather with lots of clouds, cool temperatures and very heavy rains, depending on location.  Here, there have been some nice steady rains into the late evening and my cistern is full, this house having a decent rain collection system that works well.  This is one of the views out the back of the house and this patchwork of fields reaching into the mountains is one of my favorites.
 
I forget how rugged the country is up in and beyond those peaks.  With all the blockades and construction, I thought I would try a road I've always wanted to, the Libramiento Norte, the old free road that goes through the mountains and ends up coming into the city from the north.  I drive by it everyday, but it is in such bad shape, dirt and potholes, I only go to the stores at its beginning.  Here's what it looks like on the map.  Those mountains would be in the top left and the city, the bottom right.
 
Anyway, Viguera had a blockade, so I thought I would see, once and for all, if it was the long scenic back way into the city.  The dirt and rough conditions continued and after driving just a couple of km. I came across this sign, a real first for me.
Needless to say, I turned around and headed back to the house.  My mama didn't raise no total fools....

Monday, September 26, 2016

Seeing red....

This is Fidel Cruz of Casa Cruz in Teotitlan del Valle as he works his magic.
He and his wife, Maria Louisa, are true masters and those are words not lightly uttered.  They are constantly experimenting with colors and new ways of producing them.  And, like many others in Teotitlan, their work is simply amazing.  You will just have to go visit them.   I was there as Fidel, working to produce the vivid red of cochineal, turned this....
 and this...
Into this.....
After sitting in this.
And this is just one of many colors, all natural, which everyone says theirs are, but theirs really are.

All of which go into their work.
And... here's one of theirs which now blesses mi casa.
 The rug, not the boy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I'l be zinnia....

OK, a terrible play on words, but if there is one thing I can grow it is zinnias.  This is one plant that has been having flowers clipped off it for weeks.
The zinnias are on their way out at the end of what has been a nice rainy season.  Many of them are almost two meters tall.  Unfortunately, they look pretty bad below the flowering tops.  Plus, they are prone to powdery mildew, so they are being harvested and onto the compost pile.  meanwhile, the colors are vibrant.
The zinnias will reseed like crazy next year, along with the cleome, cosmos and marigolds, all of which draw lots of birds and butterflies.
This appeared to being some sort of mating dance.  It is so nice to have so many visitors.  They will be back next year, too... ojala.

Friday, September 23, 2016

La Lucha

It's a struggle... sometimes... always.... different for each of us and in different ways.
My own personal struggles are mundane, but hey, you've got to go with the problems you've got, right?  Beautiful weather, rains in the afternoon, the equinox, what could be wrong?  Well, for one, I am sorta boxed in in terms of roads.  There is major construction, a water line or something, on the back way through San Pablo Etla, making for long delays and....  the normalistas, teachers in training, have taken over the blockades at Hacienda Blanca, so that pretty much makes my normal trip to the market in Etla a lot tougher.  Oh well....

Then heading into the city, the normal potholes and major construction of the metro bus lane and... a tunnel being dug on El Fortin, the major access to the city, the Pan American Highway!!  So it is one lane onto dirt both ways, coming and going.  Backups much?

What is crazy about this, is that it just started with very little notice and that's how it's been for a few years.  First, the guelaguetza roof, a whole other story.  Then, a convention center proposal that got nixed.  I think it was a ruse to get a parking garage built.  Again, not much notice and major objections to the plan from neighbors.  Then, a hastily constructed walkover for the guelaguetza,  Of course, now the garage needs access ramps and voila, they rip up everything and start a huge project and dig up everything and obviously, a tunnel.  I can't imagine how long it will take.
I read the papers everyday and I never saw any mention of any of this.  Maybe I was remiss, but given the nature of political activism here, I would have suspected that folks would have raised an uproar.  Sadly, it just seems like business as usual.  Of course, the alternative way into the city is under construction, too.

Just as an aside, I survived the Big Dig in Boston, a twenty year ordeal that ended up working out quite well.  So maybe this will be fine.  And really, driving here is what it is, crazy.  However, one always gets there in the end, no matter how hard the struggle.... but they sure are making things tougher.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's a bird, it's a plane..... it's a bird

As the heavy weather moved in yesterday afternoon, I saw one of the tops of the very tall trees off in the distance bending way over.  It turned out to be a large bird who seemed to be taking in the scene as the storms moved in over the vast valley to the west.  I ran into the house and grabbed a camera and voila....
Looks like some sort of eagle, but I don't know.... Anyone? Anyone? ... Bueller?
Update:  a comment from Julie  Schubert clues me in.  It's a caracara!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Still - Life

These essentials can be found in almost every home out in the campo.  These from the courtyard of the church in Teotitlan del Valle.
Brooms, a mop and a wheelbarrow, the only thing missing is a machete.  With them, one can tackle almost anything.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Another feria

Maybe it is like this in other places and there are fairs every week, but Oaxaca sure shines in this area.  Maybe it is because there are so many unique aspects and things to celebrate.  From corn to mezcal to tamales to dance to food, it just keeps going.  And so at the top of the Alacala, the pedestrian walkway, the first annual Feria de Emprendedores en Movimiento, Entrepreneurs in Motion.
And it was happening.  This is looking north just above Santo Domingo.
And looking south from the other end.  Lots of different things for sale, food, plants, crafts, clothing and more.
I was overwhelmed and made it through without getting anything, but I plan on going back.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"I just want a little ceremony, nothing too fancy"

I went into the city to check things out.... things were normal, the zocalo still free of vendors and full of people having a good time..... and ran across this wedding coming out of Santo Dominogo. 
Just a typical little boda....
with dancers, a band and a parade.  No, this was the real thing, as only in Oaxaca.
First rule of wedding photography:  The bride must look good.
 Photo op.
 A kiss... and then it was off to parade through the streets.
This was an hour later..... "Whew, I gotta get outta these shoes and into my Chucks."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sign of the times

"Welcome to Oaxaca, the city of the resistance."  Pretty much and more...
Like the pipas, the water trucks, the street vendor, the traffic, the signage, all with the guelaguetza as a backdrop.  This is all right next to the monument at Viguera.  It is not always like this, but no matter what, this place is still wonderful, vibrant. 
Oh, I'm ready for El Grito at 11 tonight and Independence Day mañana.  It will sound like a battle zone with all the cohetes, fire crackers and rockets.  It is really amazing to hear them from my perch, as I am up overlooking a huge area.  They sound from everywhere.... it is crazy.... and glorious.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Plumas in Teotitlan del Valle

Beautiful light for the danzantes as they performed la danza de la pluma in Teotitlan del Valle last week.  This is only a glimpse of the whole which can run from three to eight hours in length.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The rumors were right...

I had heard that the ambulantes or vendors who had been in the zocalo for weeks/months/years, who knows, were going to be moved out in preparation for El Grito, the national holiday, this week.  Well, the police moved in late at night and voila...  This is a pretty regular move, a nice Oaxacan kabuki play.  They will return.......
Some vendors moved to side streets.  I saw them setting up, but it was nice to see the wide open spaces again.  Here was the northwest corner of the zocalo today.  Yes, there are still tents.
Here's what it looked like last week,
 It takes.....
There were even some folks sitting in the restaurants lining the zocalo.
 Barriers are up with very low key police presence.
 I also checked out the new roof over the Benito Juarez mercado.  I guess it is brighter.

Exciting, isn't it?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recovery complete!

And finally, here's Daniel Ruiz Ruiz, a.k.a. Edgar, right where he should be...... dancing in front of the church in his hometown, Teotitlan del Valle.  Vale la pena!
The light was absolutely glorious, as were the dancers. 
More in a bit, but hey, it was so great to see Daniel dancing with this very special group of dancers.  Yay!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Worth the Wait - Vasallo Edgar Daniel Ruiz Ruiz

Finally...
This is Daniel Ruiz Ruiz in all his glory as a Vasallo in the group of danzantes from Teotitlan del Valle.  You will recall that just before the group's first performance and the big time in the guelaguetza, he had an emergency appendicitis and could not dance after months of practicing. 
 
So it was wonderful to see him and the group last Friday in Santiago Matatlán a.k.a. "World Capital Of Mezcal."  His father, Mario, was there and it was so nice to share the moment with him. 
After a quick trip to the church, it was showtime.

They are such a good group of dancers.  It was a pity that the canopy gave it such a psychedelic background.... and the poles did not help. but it kept the intense sun off, so a blessing.  Plus, I like psychedelic.
However, they are dancing the danza de la pluma this week in Teotitlan under open skies and we will be there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

¿Quién es más macho?

Maybe macho is not quite the right word...hmmmm... how about,,,desconcierto?...embarrassing? Trump or Peña Nieto?  Wow.... just painful to watch... so I stopped.

¡No lo queremos!

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Wednesday morning said:

"We don't like him. We don't want him. We reject his message. I don't understand why President Pena has offered this opportunity. I think it's nothing more than a political stunt," Fox said on CNN's "New Day." "Trump is using Mexico, is using President Pena to boost his sinking poll numbers. I think that President Pena is taking an enormous political risk by hosting Trump. If he's perceived as going soft on Trump, it will hurt him greatly."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Worth the wait

I first saw this beautiful rug at Casa Cruz in Teotitlan del Valle, the home of Fidel and Maria Luisa, over ten years ago.  It immediately called my name, but I played deaf.  Well, actually, I heard it loud and clear, but.... never took that final step.  Fidel is one of the real masters of colors, one who has done years of research, experimentation and he has made incredible progress and developed new colors and techniques.  He and Maria Luisa know things... I mean they are very, very advanced.
I have visited their home many times over those ten years and every time, the rug called my name.  I learned all about the special dyeing techniques and the secrets to some of those colors.  I could tell you, but then, you know, I would have to silence you.  I was there a week or two ago and again, it called.  This time I answered and yesterday, it jumped into my car and away we went.  It's hard to believe that no one bought it in all those years.  It must have known that I would finally come through and answer its call.  Density.... I mean, destiny... well, maybe both.

Friday, August 26, 2016

My daily fruit fix

I am so lucky to have this fruit stand just down the road from me.  I stop there almost every day.  They always seem to have the best of seasonal produce.  Right now, it is mango, papaya, coco, watermelon and cucumber season.  I always get mine neat and unadorned, but I could get it like everyone else, with lime juice and chili.  I am so spoiled by daily access to all this fresh fruit, always so good..... and so inexpensive.  Everything is ten pesos.  That's 53 cents US.  Right now, the mangoes are just about as good as they can get.  Manna from Heaven.  There really is nothing like fresh fruit.
Not only do they take care of me with fresh fruit, but they also give me all the fruit waste I want for the worms I'm cultivating.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Into the belly of the beast

I live near one of the hot spots in terms of protests and blockades.  The stretch from Viguera out to Hacienda Blanca is popular mainly because it is just about the only access from the north to the city and the teachers have intensified their presence on protest lines.
Oh, and school was supposed to start yesterday.  So needless to say it's a mess.  I took the back roads down to check out the action and it was laid back, but highly effective. 
There was zero traffic heading north...nada.

They were letting a single lane in from the north, but I think if was blocked further down because I saw cars jumping the median to drive on the other side of the road.  The freshest chicken......hmmm.
Fresh eggs a'sittin'... and notice the zika, chikungunya and dengue billboard hovering over the scene.  Good times!
 I'm not sure how people got through it.  It looks like the teachers' parked cars blocked the way out.
This was the scene at the Viguera end.
Normally, I would head to Etla for market day, but no way today.  Luckily, I could get everything I needed within a few kilometers.  I was most glad to avoid the mess today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring? ... probably more chaos.  As for the opposing sides in this never-ending, damaging and demoralizing drama.... a pox on both their houses.  Oh, and irony is not dead.
Whatever it will be, I do not think it will be....