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, February 26, 2012

Carnaval - Pinotepa Nacional - The video

While wishing I was there right this minute, I went back and looked at last year's video.  Actually, the lack of video was one of the reasons I wanted so badly to return this year.  Last year I shot more stills than video and when I got back I realized that I wanted/needed much more.  Still, I was able to put this together.  You can see what a special time it is.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pilfering Tubas

Recently, there have been a slew of stories about thieves stealing tubas and sousaphones, mostly from schools.  This is so sad.  As a former music teacher, one who had a very small budget with which to work, a instrument like a tuba, represents a huge investment, one not easily replaced.  It takes years of planning and scrimping and saving to build up an instrument collection.  Not every kid can afford an instrument and letting them choose between, say, a sax or a violin, by letting them hold each and try to play it, can only happen if the instruments are there to begin with.  And good instruments are expensive!  Tubas, string basses, timpani, bassoons, all are very pricey and absolutely essential.  Of course, you could always donate that instrument you never play anymore.... or start playing again.
Where would Oaxaca be without tubas?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnaval - Pinotepa Nacional

These shots are from the coast are from last year and I am kicking myself for not being there this year, but... I'm not.  Next year for sure.
Tejarones dancers from Santa Maria Huazolotitlan.

Headdress made from rooster feathers and a sonaja.

A little dancer from Pinotepa Don Luis.

A beautiful mask from Pinotepa Nacional.

From San Pedro Jicayan

The classic look of a white rebozo and pozahuanco.

Next year for sure!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Street art...cont.

 On my recent wanderings, I have seen some wonderful hidden jewels.
 Well, not entirely hidden, but like this one, hard to see and harder to shoot.  I had to stand in the middle of the street and dodge heavy oncoming traffic to get these shots.
Then there are the pieces that are fading with time.
They have a certain patina to them.  This part was to the right.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Purple again - Jacarandas

The weather has been a little weird this year with just a bit more rain than the last couple of years.  It is the dry season and they do mean dry.  And just when things are nice and dry and the countryside is all brown, there appear these wonderful bursts of purple that splash up everywhere - the jacaranda trees.

They seem to bloom over a two or three month period.  OK, I forget who this is.  I will have to go back.... that's OK, he is right next to La Güerita so maybe I'll get that empanada.

This statue of Jose Pedro Mendez across the street seems to be saying, "Hey, you've got yours.  Where are mine?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wind Generators - Aeolian Electrical plants

from (in Spanish)
This year, five Aeolian electrical plants will begin operation in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, to join the nine that already they are operating in the region.

La Güerita

On my walk down to see the Cinco Señores construction site - which is still in flux.  It might have tunnels.  It might have bridges.  Who knows, but the work continues - "empuje debemos," "dig we must."  No matter what, it was such a crazy intersection, maybe the plans to make it better will actually work.  I think Oaxaca, in general, does a good job on these projects.  People always squawk about change.  I will miss the 8-lane into 3 lanes race and the buses turning left from any lane they wanted, but there are plenty of exciting other places to experience these sort of things.

But I digress.... on my walk down Insurgentes, I passed La Güerita in the Merced market and thought I would pop in and get an empanada. 

They make some of the best and tastiest in the city along with fine memelitas.  Ay!  I could not even get near the place.  It was packed.

Look at this menu.

Remember, that $20 pesos equals $1.55 US.

Hmmmmm.... it all looks good.  Ah well, next time.  ¡Buen Provecho!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Night and Day

Oaxaca knows how to do public displays that can capture the eye and the imaginatin.  These palms are right next to Santo Domingo.

By day they look like this.

But at night they are transformed.  Yes, that is the moon up there.

The lights slowly fade from color

to color. 

They may be LED's. 

The shifts are similar to those produced by the wheels that people use to light their silver Christmas trees.

Ah... technology marches on.

The effect is wonderful.  Note the "2501 Emigrantes" sculptures on the right.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A tree grows in....

No, not Brooklyn.  I have been exploring the city by taking different routes in each time - once by circumventing one of the normal blockades that regularly occur.  I've ended up in some interesting places.  I know the city pretty well, but there are lots of neighborhoods where I've never been before.
I saw this wonderful ficus benjamina planted in one of the medians just south of the Abastos Market.  It looks like it has been there for years.  I love the latticed trunk.  I wonder how old it is and how long it took to do.  I have seen much smaller ones in nurseries, but this baby is a prime specimen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Confirmation - Oaxaca is safe!

The US has issued another and more specific travel advisory for Mexico and, as I have been saying for years, Oaxaca is safe.  No warnings or alerts for this place.
The rest of the document is an interesting read.   Yes, there are problems, but what would detailed advisories look like for other countries where there are also problems?  Greece?  Japan?  What would it look like for the US?  They all could be made to look pretty scary. 

I hasten to add, there are certain places in Mexico and rest of the world I would not venture.  I always weigh the options and possibilities versus the potential for problems.  However, in Oaxaca, as the US says, "No warning is in effect."  Party on, Garth.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Please sir, I'd like some more.... food shots

Everyone does it a little differently here.  The food stands with their comals and charcoal fires produce a wonderful variety of taste treats. 
Empanadas, memelitas, tlayudas, tacos.....  The key is all the wonderful fresh ingredients, cheese, squash flowers, cilantro....
Sometimes I just want to eat my way across the city.

I remember this wonderful amarillo y pollo empanada.  The masa was wonderfully light and tasty.

The universal, cooking while talking on the phone.


Wind power

While the US debates contraception (really?  I mean, really?)  Mexico is going full bore on wind power.

And Oaxaca's Isthmus of Tehuantepec is one of the world's windiest places with huge wind turbine projects going.

from LAHT (full story)
Mexico’s wind power sector is playing an expanding role in the global development of that renewable energy source, having just achieved the milestone of 1,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity... that figure is significant because it represents 2 percent of the country’s total power generating capacity.

Rodriguez noted that as recently as the close of 2011 Mexico’s total wind power generating capacity stood at just 519 MW but that it has climbed rapidly due to the installation of new turbines in recent months and now is sufficient to provide electricity to a city of some 2 million inhabitants.

“And we can say with complete certainty that by 2014 at least 2,500 MW will be installed at projects already under construction or in very advanced stages,”
According the engineer, investors in wind energy incur low expenses after their initial investment and can be certain how much a project will cost 20 years in advance.

“This long-term certainty is a big advantage” and, combined with the country’s favorable wind conditions, “makes wind energy competitive versus practically any other conventional (energy) source,” the expert said.

The other big advantage “of course is that it’s a source that doesn’t emit contaminants; from the perspective of the country’s goal of mitigating greenhouse gases to combat climate change, it’s an ideal source,” Rodriguez said.
 All of this has taken place in just three years!  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cinco Señores

There has been a lot in the news about the construction project at one of the key intersections of the city known as Cinco Señores.  I live to the north of the city and it is the easiest way to get most anywhere south of the city.
I drive through it regularly to get to Plaza del Valle, the airport or any of the places on the way to Ocotlan.  Needless to say, I am not alone.  It is one of the busiest and most important intersections in the city.
This is one of the first big projects taken on by the Cué administration so it is getting lots of scrutiny.  The roof on the Guelagueza auditorium was begun during the previous one.  I'm not saying that Gabino Cué has not done plenty for the city and state already, just that this is a big and challenging one.... and a very public one. 

Also, too, I lived through Boston's Big Dig, all 25 years of it, all $18 billion worth and yes, it was a pain, but imagine that amount of money being spent on infrastructure in your city instead of on bombs, invading other countries and well, you get the point.  The Big Dig is a remarkable success in my opinion.  Anyone remember how long it took to get to the airport or the mass of overpasses and weird roads?

So as construction began here, chaos followed.  Traffic, which can be pretty ugly, got even uglier.  All of a sudden people started to notice.  Maybe the projected was publicly discussed, but clearly lots of people did not get that memo.

The local heavyweight artists got involved and said, "Hold on.  Isn't there a better way?"  Remember these are the guys, Toledo and others, who formed Pro-Oax, to protect and improve the nature of the city.  They have been involved in many restoration and civic projects.  They are heavy hitters!  They want to put a hold on the project and have offered to sell some of their works to raise money.  More importantly they want to talk to the Governor about the project.

The businesses and neighbors are not all that happy either.
With all the news, I thought I would walk down and check out the scene.  Yes, the traffic was bad.
 Ugly, but there were police directing it.  I spoke to one of them and he said it was only bad from early morning until late at night.  But not to worry, it is only for the next eight months to a year.  And no desviacion does not mean devastation, only detour.
Here's what the final thing might look like.
And soon they will be cutting down the huge palm trees that are in the berm of the intersection.

Monday, February 6, 2012

One more thread - Oumou Sangare

Life is funny sometimes... you know, funny wonderful.  I was eating dinner with a friend at La Biznaga just before the art opening the other night, when I heard this music.  It reminded me of something I had recorded years ago, same key, same sort of beat.  Mine was called "From Whole Cloth," because I made it by taking little pieces of indigenous music and then, using the computer, made it sound like... well, close to what you are about to hear.... only this is much cooler.  I asked one of the servers if she could find out who was singing.  Y gracias, she did.  Turns out it was Oumou Sangare from Mali, singing "Moussoloue."  So Oumou Sangare became a part of la noche oaxaqeña.

I like how all these threads weave together.  From the music to the wonderful artwork, the artesanos, the food and friends..... 

"A woman gets the presidential nod"

 The primary is over and Mexico has one of its candidates, Josefina Vazquez Mota.  As I observe the primaries and elections in both countries, I would say, Mexico may handle them better.  First, being president is a one time six year term.  The primaries and pre-election hype is not so long and drawn out.  There a other differences.  I do not know if there is any sort of a Citizen's United unlimited funds deal here.

As a meaningless example, just to show how different things are here, for last night's Superbowl, there were almost no commercials.  They just filled the time with music and an occasional ad.  No hype.

At any rate, Mexico has another presidential candidate, a woman.  And her opponent has had problems thus far in the 24/7 social media world of gaffes.  It should be interesting.  Note she does have the prerequisite flag pin.

from Mexico Unmasked: Tim Johnson - McClatchy
Josefina Vazquez Mota won a primary contest Sunday to become the presidential candidate of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) for July 1 elections -- and a chance to become Mexico's first woman president.
Both of the men who battled Vazquez Mota for the nomination conceded to her, and she immediately called on the party to set its sights on Enrique Pena Nieto, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which ruled Mexico for 71 years before losing power in 2000. Pena Nieto has a sizable lead in most polls, a huge bank roll and the support of the dominant Televisa network.

Read more here:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

You asked for it

Someone mentioned that they wanted a food shot. 

How about this one of the little stall that gets set up everyday right above Carmen Alto on Garcia Vigil.  It is always packed and you can see why.  Look at all the good stuff piled on that empanada.

And check out the weird graffiti behind it.

What's it all mean?  Freemasons? Illuminati? Anarchists?

2501 Imigrantes come to the city... cont

It seems as if a few more figures get added each time I see them.  I love how the blend between the real people and the ceramic people makes one really look to see which is which.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

You missed it!

However, you still have a month to see the amazing exhibit of folk art from the collection of Rosa Blum Perez.  The opening was last night at the Biblioteca Henestrosa (115 Porfirio Díaz) and the place was crowded as people came to see these amazing pieces created by a wide selection of the area's artesanos.

A classic from Miguel Santiago from Arrozola

The exhibition is entitled "Manos que crean y Ojos que leen - Los Libros a Través del Arte Popular" "Hands that create and Eyes that read - Books through Popular Art."  All the pieces have books and reading as the theme.  The artists came up with some of their best work in years and I'm sure that was because it was for Rosa, who has been so instrumental in the folk art world for so many years.  I think it took her six years to commission and assemble the collection.

From Jesus Sosa Calvo from San Martin Tilcajete.

Also from San Martin, one of her famous pigs, by Maria Jimenez.

Not only were there many lovers of art at the museum, but many of the artesanos and their families were there to bask in the glory of their works and to get some much needed public love and appreciation.  It made for a joyous evening.

Ceramics from Demetrio Aguilar from Ocotlan

An amazing piece.  I will update with the artist when I find out who it is.

A bookstore/library.  Artist to come when I know.

The same piece closed

Go check it out.  It is a must see if you are in town.