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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Convite - Teotitlan del Valle - July, 2010

This is a video from July of the convite or formal procession of young women and girls in Teotitlan del Valle in the annual fiesta celebrating the Precious Blood of Christ. This year there were hundreds of marchers and it was beautiful. It also helped to have shot this even several times. Now I know where to be at a certain time. I shoot and then pack up and run through the back streets to get to the next vantage point. One can follow the entire event from preparation to completion. Quite a workout, but what a blast!
And this is one nice video if I leave the humidity, I mean humility, by the wayside. It may be best to click on it to see it wide screen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guelaguetza Desfile

At long last, the video of the beginning of this year's fantastic bicentennial guelaguetza, the parade that kicks off the whole two week dance fiesta. I have been waiting to post this. I am in El Norte, so upload speeds are easily a hundred times faster. It may be best to click on it to see it wide screen.
The parade was fantastic, obviously.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can you believe it?
Breaking news:

Televista, the second largest media company in Latin America, a multimedia conglomerate with outlets throughout the western hemisphere, donated $13,000,000 MP to the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), the opposition party of Presidente Felipe Calderon. The PRI, currently in control of many states in Mexico, was in power, nationally, for most of the 20th century and opposes much of the current administration's policies and governance. Financial backing of Calderon's opposition has deeply divided the nation and many are questioning whether his administration can achieve anything for the remainder of his term.

A spokesperson for Calderon's party, the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional) said, "Es como una mala telenovela. Usted no puede hacer esta clase de cosa."
Translation, "It is like a bad soap opera. You can't make this stuff up."


Wrong country, wrong network, wrong party.... just wrong.

UPDATE: I am not talking about Mexico, just demonstrating how things sound very different when they are ascribed to a different country or party. So, USA, Fox to the GOP? Still wrong.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

You've got to be taught

Man, I read the news today, oh boy....
Really, I think El Norte has gone crazy.
Rather than rant, listen to the great guitarist/vocalist/teacher John Pizzarello's version.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be taught!


In a city with so much street art, graffiti and general sights to see, I started noticing signs and how they matched the quality and creativity that is at the core of this culture.And a little context.And a little context.This oil change sign almost has a deco feel to it.Best prices in town.Eating utensils as elements.Better days behind.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mezcal Trippin'

What's that at the end of the arco iris, the rainbow? Ah yes, better than gold for some, an olla of mezcal.
It was a trip into the heart of the mezcal producing region today. Actually, mezcal is made all over Oaxaca, but this is prime mezcal territory. We made a large circle, or should I say we attempted to make a large circle, starting by heading south towards Ocotlan and then cutting east through Santa Catarina Minas, Chichacapam, and north through Matatlan to Mitla and then due west back home. My traveling companions will remain anonymous. Trust me, they were both experts and I was designated driver.

In Santa Catarina, at the first place we stopped, we sampled some $150 a bottle - this is at the source!!! - from plants that take 25 years to mature and make about six liters a plant. Some mighty rare stuff to say the least, the best of the best. I listened as they talked to the seller about plants and process. It turns out that Oaxaca has the most varieties and diversity of plants in all of Mexico. Acting in good faith, we bought a $35 bottle and we moved onto the house of Yolanda, the widow of an old friend, Ishmael who died a couple of years ago. Here they are a few years ago. She looks the same and seems very happy. We sampled her mezcal. Sublime! Better than the high priced spread. The experts said it was some of the best they had tasted in twenty years. We bought 15 liters at $5 a liter. Then off to the Chichacapam, a village about 20 miles into the mountains, to see, Faustino, the mescalero I had photographed last year. We went to the wrong house first. but it was his brother's place and he had plenty of mezcal from the same palenque or distillery which was right next door, a small rustic operation. His mezcal was pretty good and quite strong. As I was driving, I barely had a taste at each of these places, but by this point, the others were... let's say, very happy. We bought 5 liters there and went next door to his brother's. Fuastino was not there, but we got five more liters, just because we had gone there to see him. It wasn't his fault that his brother had snared us first. If I said fried, would that suffice? With one expert passed out, snoring in the back seat it was time to head home. I thought I knew where I was going, having been there before, but as I was taking a turn to head back to Mitla, the other expert said no, it's the other way...... so an hour and a half later, on s-curves in the rain in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere,he said we were going the wrong direction. Ah well, we made it back safely with our precious cargo and we did get to see this amazing full rainbow. I could not get the whole thing in my lens. There was this cliff behind me.The fields and mountains of Chichacapam. The maguey was glowing
A sign of good mezcal is the longevity and number of "pearls" or bubbles as you pour it into a container. In this case, the pearls were gold.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Today's harvest.

Really there is more to harvest even though I got a late start, but I like these colors. That's a dahlia and some nice chilies.

Your papers, please.

I guess it is somewhat normal for those of us living outside our countries to pay close attention as to what is going back at home. Remember that Oaxaca has many areas which can only be classified as Third World. It is possible that were are more analytical or observant because we are on the outside watching or we could just be crazy expats..... of maybe that's just how it is in my house.

So watching the growing xenophobia in the US is alarming. Immigrants, Muslims, foreigners, anchor babies, terrorist babies, scientists, the list keeps growing. Not exactly an Age of Enlightenment. In talking with friends here, both Mexican and expats, there are lots of opinions and plenty of suggestions as to what to do, my favorite being, "Go sit on a cactus."

One opined that when he moved here many years ago, it was the hope that Mexico would follow the US into the First World, that the economy would grow and social programs would help advance the country. Unfortunately, it did not quite work out that way. In fact, just the opposite, the US is lurching towards Third world status. Seems it can't afford education, employment, infrastructure repair, renewable energy, a long list of things the country cannot do. Oh, but it can fight needless and seemingly endless wars, all off the budget. And the rich just keep getting richer.

Meanwhile fear and hatred grow. Let's get rid of the 14th amendment, deport everyone or put them in internment camps - yes, that was a suggestion from one of the new batch of politicians. New troops on the border, Arizona's law, fear and intimidation in action, your tax dollars at work. How we gonna enforce all those new laws, find all these illegals and terrorists among us? One is going to need one's papers at all times.

And this brings me to my point. The last couple of days, I have had to go through military checkpoints. One was only a km from my house, on the road into San Sebastian, a tiny road that often has oxen and burros on it. This was a serious checkpoint with lots of troops with very big guns. They asked for license and car registration and then searched the car thoroughly. It is a scary experience and no matter what, I am cowed into submission, trying to smile and act normal, while undergoing something I think is Orwellian. And yet we put up with it. This is everyday life here. Searches, soldiers, big guns, are an almost constant presence. Mexico is a militarized country and the army is the home for many young and uneducated people.

So something to ponder, as the US becomes more like Mexico. How will you do when this becomes normal in El Norte? Are you ready to go through military checkpoints searched by often masked soldiers? How will you do when asked for your papers and are basically scared shitless?

Thursday, August 12, 2010


That's the name of the store. Xbox game rentals on the left. Skateboard and"I heart to skate" hanging in the doorway. Bike, kids and all that Oaxacan color, who could ask for more?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Street Art cont....

This a really a remarkably beautiful and creative piece. The words in the upper right, "or that stupid shit design."
One of a slightly different character. The struggle continues.....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shh... I'm trying to read

Some people can read through anything. Others need a little peace and quiet. Workers outside the south side of Santo Domingo.Remember all those picture of workers chipping away at paving stones. Here is the finished street/walkway to the south of Santo Domingo. Beautiful work, isn't it?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wanna bet?

OK, a little off the wall, but what can I say?

There are certain things I miss from El Norte, like fast internet and good pizza, but I know that it is a trade off. There are those who may never have had a real tortilla or tasted what chicken really tastes like, not that cardboard stuff you get in the stores or restaurants. As I say, it's a trade off.

I can get crunchy peanut butter here. Yes, it is hard to find, but someone turned me on to a source, expensive, but someplace that always has it. Now for something to spread it on. Polly want a cracker?


Let me digress... there is a movie, I know, I know, there is always a movie with me, but there is a movie, Four Rooms, with Tim Roth playing Ted, the bellhop in a hotel on the decline. As always, he is great. There are lots of stars in the film (Hayek, Banderas, Willis, Madonna) and lots of directors (Rodriguez, Tarantino), one for each vignette. It is a fun flick.

At any rate, the last room in the movie is inhabited by people involved in a bet. The bet is a reenactment from an Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "The man from the south". The bet is that a guy can light his trusty lighter ten times in a row. If he does it, he wins a car. If he doesn't, his finger gets chopped off.

And that's the premise for this bet. Mine involves breaking bread, I mean, crackers.

I would bet that no one can break a Mexican saltine into neat squares, along those nice perforations they divide the cracker into. Given ten large saltines, I would bet that not one could be broken apart the way they are supposed to. Believe me, I have tried and tried. The things will just not break into nice, neat little normal crackers. Those perforations are just for show. They never break on those lines. Nothing but jagged pieces upon which to spread the PB. And you thought you had problems?

So I will put up the car and you can bring the saltines of your choice, but they must be bought locally. But not to worry, no finger chopping is involved. A truckload of crackers will suffice.

UPDATE: Hmmm... I think the bet is off only because the next batch of crackers... of course, broke right where they were supposed to, but I swear, this a first. Need more testing and more PB.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More Etla guelaguetza

The Guelaguetza is more than just a dance festival. It is a cultural concept that I am not sure I as a non-oaxaqueño can fully understand.
In Teotitlan del Valle, it is a whole shared wealth/debt/work way of life. I love how these dancers feet are at the same angle, the same move.Many of the dances have lots of humor in them, aspects of village life, field work, drinking, bull fights, battle of the sexes stuff, all presented with such joy and good nature.One thing I do know is that one of the aspects of the guelaguetza is sharing. After sharing their regional dances with the the audience in Etla, the dancers distributed gift from their regions. They would throw hats or brushes, various items to the crowd. The dancers from Tuxtepec, the Flor de piña dancers, merely handed their pineapples to fans.
One thing I am always amazed at is people's stamina. They dance for hours. They march for miles. They party for hours. They carry things effortlessly on their heads. These piñas are big! Try dancing with one of those on your shoulder.
Coming and going. What colors and outfits.Lots of these faces are details of larger shots. The wonders of digital.