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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two killed in front of Santo Domingo - UPDATE

Thanks to La Corista for the definition of "porros," which in this case means hired thug.  The word on the street about the killings and referenced in several articles is that these two were paid by the government during the 2006 anarchy and that their services continued until they were no longer needed.  They were "terminated with extreme prejudice" to use a line from "Apocalypse Now." 
The porros are/were very real.  They were/are involved in many unsavory activities that, no doubt, continue today.  The papers call the killings a" cleaning operation."  Maybe these guys knew too much and with the government changing next month, it was time for them to go.  Or it could have been revenge.  Sounds like they might have had a long list of people that wanted a piece of them.

Here is the latest from AP:
Two alleged leaders of a university student gang were shot to death Friday by gunmen on a motorcycle in the tourist zone of Mexico's colonial city of Oaxaca.

The killings occurred in front of the former convent of Santo Domingo, a popular tourist attraction in downtown Oaxaca.

The men's bodies lay on a sidewalk in front of the colonial-era building for some time after the attack. The gunmen fled and have not been identified.

Unidentified assailants wounded another prominent member of the gang Friday, but did not kill him.

The gang was accused of attacking anti-government protesters in 2006.

Oaxaca has largely been spared drug violence plaguing much of Mexico, but suffered anti-government political unrest in 2006.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

La madre de todas

 The mother of us all.
 La Catrina comes in many guises
 Always recognizable. Nice marigolds, too.
 Hungry?  Pilar Cabrera and her friend have a great meal today.
 Come on in.
She's everywhere.  So where are you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two killed in front of Santo Domingo

Just after one o'clock on Friday afternoon, two men where shot and killed directly in front of Santo Domingo on Alcala.  They were shot by two men on a motorcycle who after the killings, escaped.  This is the third in a series of assassinations in the last week.  Here is a link about today's shootings, another, and one to a story by Nancy Davies about the others.  She has written about and covered Oaxaca extensively.  It is a must read.

Officially a mexicano

Hmmm... I guy I know... yes, that's it... a guy I know... well, his neighbor moved out and her phone line became available - there are no phone lines available in San Sebastian - the phone co. wanted $1500 MP, but one of the locals I know said he would hook it up for $300. Duh. Well, the local did not show, so this guy I know, well he climbed the pole and just switched the lines himself... and it worked!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


After shooting around here for a few years, there are certain shots that are important yet fleeting.  These are a few of them.  Flowers, one or two days before harvest.

Fields of marigolds and celosia, the two most important flowers used in El Dia celebrations.  There are not nearly the number of fields of flowers this year.  I knew about this one from a couple of years ago and it is even better this year, a great yield.  Must have been the good rains and the quality of this plot of land.  It could represent a great deal of income if I am judging the market correctly. 

UN Aims to Reduce Gender Violence in Mexico Indian Communities

from the LAHT (full story)
"Five U.N. agencies presented a joint program to curb gender violence in several indigenous communities in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the coordinator of the initiative, Veronica Zebadua, told Efe.

“It’s the first time for Mexico to have an interagency U.N. program specifically dedicated to preventing violence against women in indigenous towns,” she said.

The program, which will run for three years, was presented Tuesday at a press conference and will receive $1 million in financing from the U.N. Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women.

The aim of the program is to effectively implement the legal framework concerning violence against Indians working with adult women, but also with males and children, as well as teenagers of both sexes."


I know that a baby blowing a bubble with its nose can get a million hits on youtube, but I just reached the 200k mark for all my videos combined.  Party on, Garth.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

El Dia preparations...

It all starts tomorrow.  I walked the city yesterday and went to the panteon to see it before all the action.  No one there except a few workers.  That will all change in just a few days.  I wanted "before" shots.

Meanwhile, the zempasuchitls, marigolds, are peaking.  The field just up the road from me.
And mine.
I will post some of the 12 varieties tomorrow I'm growing.  I have people stopping by to pick flowers for their ofrendas or altars.

Benito's watching

I stopped to check on progress on the roof for the guelaguetza stadium and yes, there continues to be good progress.  I'll post shots shortly, but here is Benito Juarez high on El Cerro overlooking the city.  I confess to photoshopping a couple of transmission towers out.  OK, unethical, but they ruined the shot.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Swirling out of control?

It has been a bloody weekend with two political leaders assassinated. Only a day after the murder of Catarino Torres, leader of the Committee of Citizen Defense (Codeci), Heriberto Pazos Ortiz, leader and founder of the Unifi Movement of Lucha Triqui (MULT) and of Partido Unidad Popular (PUP) was killed Saturday.

I don't know enough to even begin to comment.  It is a complex situation with many interweavings.
There have been blockades and marches all week even before these killings.  There is a strange quiet in the city for the week leading into El Dia de los Muertos.

Here is a link to a story about Torres and his life's work.
And one about Pazos.

Some background from Amnesty International.

The Independent Movement for Triqui Unity and Struggle (MULTI). supported by 700 Triqui people, established the autonomous Indigenous municipality of San Juan Copala on 1 January 2007.

In September 2010, armed members of two other Triqui Indigenous people's organizations, known as UBISORT and MULT, took over the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala and occupied the town. All residents identified as belonging to MULTI fled the town and relocated to neighbouring areas such as Yosoyuxi.

San Juan Copala was under siege from November 2009 until September 2010, with armed groups surrounding the community and firing into the streets on a daily basis to intimidate local residents, many of whom had supported the MULTI. During the siege food, water and medical supplies were cut off.

On 27 April 2010, armed men belonging to UBISORT ambushed a humanitarian convoy near San Juan Copala and killed two human rights defenders. On 7 September, armed men attacked and wounded two indigenous women from San Juan Copala. No one has been brought to justice for these crimes.

For many years, armed groups, some believed to have links with local and state authorities, have harassed and killed Triqui Indigenous people because of their perceived affiliation with local Indigenous organizations. The state and federal authorities have taken insufficient action to dismantle the armed groups.
 None of it bodes well.  We have a new governor coming in in December, inheriting many problems, not of his own making.  Oaxaca has suffered many travails this past decade.  It is a long litany, from anarchy and economic collapse to swine flu, yet people have no choice but to go on. 

The indigenous communities have many years of history, hence pride and perspective.  In many cases they are resigned to a life of disenfranchisement, but are very politically aware and active.  They are resilient and resistant to outside authorities who gave given them the shaft for so many years.  And there is poverty and corruption. 

Hard to say what will happen, but this past week may be a harbinger of things to come.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

That Lonesome Road

I always have music on here and those of you who know me, know that I have wired speakers in every room.  So with one of the ipods on shuffle I never know what will be coming up out of the 4000 songs on it.

And something happened over the last few weeks.  I started hearing music differently, more clearly.  It is strange that even after so many years of honing my hearing and love of music that it could kick onto a higher plateau.

So when Jame Taylor came on singing "That Lonesome Road" and filled the house on an clear crisp Oaxacan morning, a perfect moment.
Yes, James' version is gorgeous, but I have to include this one from The Dixie Chicks, who are heroes of mine and favorites, too.  There is a moment in the middle when Natalie sings solo that is so powerful when you realize what they will go through.

Walk down that lonesome road all by yourself
Don't turn your head back over your shoulder
And only stop to rest yourself when the silver moon
Is shining high above the trees

If I had stopped to listen once or twice
If I had closed my mouth and opened my eyes
If I had cooled my head and warmed my heart
I'd not be on this road tonight

Carry on
Incidentally, I have two new tunes up on Jango, "Dervish" and "Between the Lines."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Street Art... wow

El Dia is such a big deal here and people put incredible work into preparations and celebrations. 
This painting is on Alcala in Jalatlaco.
I spoke with one of the patrons who said each year he and his neighbors commission a new painting.
I remember last year's,

but this year is even better, filled with remarkable detail.

The whole thing is probably 4x12 meters (15x38 feet)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

El Dia

Here is the official program and schedule for upcoming events.
UPDATE: You can get programs at the tourism kiosk right in front of Santo Domingo and I think there may be one in front of the cathedral in the zocalo.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What do you do?

This picture haunts me.  The girl on the right is not one of the students.  She is a Chiapeneca, one of the many young girls from the state of Chiapas, who sell candy and cigarettes on the streets.  Their outfits are always distinctive.  They and their brothers, who work with them, can be very young.  I always have a soft spot in my heart for them and seeing this one walking with all those happy school kids, well, it took me back, remembering all the haves and the have-nots I worked with as a teacher.  It always made me want to do more. I read that 70 percent of oaxaquenõs live in poverty.  One is constantly confronted with it.  People work hard to eke out an existence, sometimes washing windshields, or juggling, or selling things in the midst of traffic.  And in general, people support them.  I always have change in the car or in my pocket just to be ready.  I have watched people walk by every beggar or street musician on the street and I have watched people stop and give each and every one of them a coin.  
 One must respond as one's heart dictates.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


No, not Brando's "Stella, Stella," from Streetcar and no, not the stela from Monte Alban, but a leftover stela from one of my favorite graffiti streets. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I mentioned that 80 percent of the roads were damaged by the rains.  This is the kind of damage that is fairly widespread.  No quick fix for this bridge just down the road from me.  It is on the main road to San Agustin, so an important route.  These shots are from the San Sebastian side looking north towards San Agustin.  My house is just a way around the curve.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

El Campo

The rains are a distant memory as we are in a stretch of absolutely incredible weather. The damage from the rains, however, will be with us for quite some times.  80 percent of the roads were damaged.  I must go the back ways to get out to the highway.  The bridges over many roads are out.  In order to get to the dump yesterday, I had to visualize the lay of the land and then ponder how to get from point A to B.  It is an acquired skill, but I am getting real good at it after driving around for so long.
I am working on music these days which is all-consuming.  I find that I must take breaks to exercise so I walk the roads.  Not bad, eh?
I am not the only one growing marigolds, cempasuchil.  I am going to watch to see how they harvest and sell them.

A great corn crop.  Reminds me of my youth in Upstate NY dairy country.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


For years, the Triquis have been a very visible presence in Oaxaca.  Always easy to see due to their brilliant red outfits, hand woven on back strap looms.

The political, social and economic problems they face seem insurmountable, but still they persevere.   The ongoing conflict in San Juan Copala is tragic and complex with many factions involved.
 These signs cover the entrance to the Palacio on the south side of the zocalo. 
There are vendors and even a couple of impromptu restaurants.
Recently, the newspapers have had stories questioning whether the daily blockades, marches and protests help or hinder.  Certainly, they have a huge effect on the economy, but the right to protest is a powerful tradition here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gardens - Before and after

I have always gardened.  I remember my mother turning me on to it when I was about 15 and I have never stopped.  My idea of therapeutic heaven is weeding.... I know, go figure.
After getting a few tons of abono, cow manure, delivered and digging it into some new beds, it was time to plant and see what transpired.  So here are the before shots.

And here are the afters.

The back garden is a butterfly magnet.  They are always fluttering, filling the courtyard.  It must be the zinnias, scented geraniums, lavender, but they seem to like the herbs as well.
And the hummingbirds did not want to be left out so one flew into the frame just as I was shooting.

The crazy thing is that was absolutely nothing in these spaces just a little over a year ago.  Really, the back garden was just an empty dusty space.  I have put in seven beds as of yet and planted lots of things that will mature long after I am outta here.  Someday the plumerias will be spectacular.
Marigolds, or zempasuchil, are one of the key elements in celebrating El Dia de los Muertos, which is right around the corner.  I have so many plants that will peaking then.  What to do with all the blossoms?

Guelaguetza Roof cont.....

Work on the new roof for the stadium is progressing nicely.  It has an elegant look to it IMO.  Still a few more major pieces to go.  I think it will be done by the next guelaguetza, but who knows.
These workers are way up there.

The view from below in the city.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Morning walk.

Because the roads are often messed up and traffic can be brutal, I normally park in Jalatlaco and walk to wherever I need to go, even if it is the Abastos which is clear across town.  Oaxaca is such a walkable city and it never fails to educate and entertain.  There is always something to see.
The Museum of Contemporary Art has been under restoration for quite some time and they have changed the hangings hiding the scaffolding on Alcala numerous times.  This time is is shopping bags.
The cathedral on a perfect day.

The countdown clock for the Bicentennial celebration now passed with an added message. Free political prisoners.
A wonderful display of the heroes of the revolution in the plaza leading into the zocalo. 
These are "La Corregidora," Josefa Ortiz  de Dominguez and Ignacio Jose de Allende.

And always street art, graffiti and political messages.