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, April 28, 2008

Lluvia - Rain

It rained!!!!! Yesterday evening and last night. Real rain. And for several hours. I think we got about two inches and it was widespread.

Today the wind is howling and it looks like we might get more rain after a beautiful morning in which all the trees looked fresh after having the dust washed off. It has been so dry for so long that it takes a while for the plants to really believe it. It is not like the hills turn green overnight. But they do look happier and fresher. You can feel what's coming.

Click on the picture to see how beautiful the rain looked.

UPDATE: It did rain again. Another heavy soaking rain. There was serious damage from flooding in certain areas and two people were killed.

Walking towards Ocotlán

Because I am working on the directory for San Martin Tilcajete, I am fortunate to be near Ocotlán de Morelos and can visit on a whim. It was the home town of the famous artist, Rodolfo Morales and he was the patron of a great many cultural and municipal projects.

Ocotlán is a fairly large pueblo with a great market on Fridays when I normally visit. On non-market days it is tranquil and dynamic at the same time. I was lucky to get these shots of the church with no one in them. On most days this is a favorite destination for both locals and tourists because of the beauty of the church and the surrounding park.
As one approaches
The colors begin to pop
And then the details emerge
The entrance offers
An incredible carved screen which leads one into the church.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Painting at Teotitlan del Vaille

The church in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Vaille is getting a new paint job. The setting is a spectacular one where I have seen the Danza de las Plumas (Dance of the Feathers or Conquistadores). The plaza was empty save for the painters.Detail of the part left unpainted to the upper right of the entrance.
The steeple is glazed with brilliant ceramic tiles.
This is where they dance.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rufino Tamayo Museum

The museums in Oaxaca are excellent from the Botanical Gardens to museum in the Convent adjoining Santo Domingo to the many special smaller spaces. A new Oaxacan Textile museum just opened last week. One of the small jewels is the Rufino Tamayo Museo on Morales a few blocks west of the zocalo.
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) was a surrealist painter who collected pre-columbian art very early in his long career. The museum houses the pieces he collected and many of them are exceptional.
Tamayo collected from all the early cultures, so there are pieces from the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mixtec, Aztec and many more.
It is a small, cool, dark space
with really only three rooms although some are divided into smaller spaces. Unlike many other museums you can get close to the art here, put your nose up to an ancient Aztec
or Olmec piece.

Now and then

Here's a pretty dramatic example of the difference between the dry and wet seasons. Once again, I managed to go to Monte Alban on a day when there was almost no one there. It remains one of the best reasons to come to Oaxaca.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Sorry not to be posting, but I have been taking folks around to see the sights. After so many years of coming here and now living here, I am getting to know my way around. I am just passing on what others have told and shown me. So if you are in th neighborhood and need a guide... Needless to say, I have plenty to process and post and will do so in the coming days.

Here is a sweet picture from people watching in the zocalo. Sitting at one of the many tables surrounding the square, drinking coffee, sodas or eating a meal is one of the joys of the place.

This looks like four generations enjoying the scene.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Change - Cambio

There are lots of “Casas de Abuelita’s” in Mexico. Actually, there are more “Casas de Abuelas,” adding the “ita” is a typical oaxaqueño thing. They like to add it to everything, café, cafecito, and so on, but I think “little old grandmothers” are a universal.

At any rate, I like this one because of the original texture of the paint,

A fresh coat of paint…Its an argument for patina.

Friday, April 11, 2008

El Camaleon

Here's a tune I hear all the time, I mean, all the time. Many times it is being played live and it floats across the valley. It is infectious. A cheesey video, but a good song.

And then there is this version

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Speaking of bigheads

For us, as we walked in a light drizzle through the Parque La Venta in Villahermosa, it was our first rain and humidity in months. So it was already surreal and then there were the nine-foot helmeted heads with curious facial features.

That was then, this is now.

In Mexico South, I keep reading about these ancient cultures and realize how lucky I am to be in one of the birthplaces of world cultures. Everywhere I turn there is some archaeological or significant anthropological aspect.

The more I learn, the more I learn how much more I have to learn.

Now, I am trying to learn a bit more about the Olmecs, after driving through the heart of Olmec country on the recent trip. Actually, Olmec is not the name of the people, it is a catchall for the culture that existed between 1200BC and 400BC, in part, on the isthmus of Tehuantepec and in Veracruz, Tabasco, Oaxaca and Campeche.

The word “olmec” means “rubber gatherers” as there were/are many rubber trees in the area. They used that rubber to make balls and they invented the “ballgame” that became such an important part of so many cultures. This is a cool site about the game.

Incidentally, I have played a version of the ballgame in Arrozola. Imagine a superball just a bit smaller than a bowling ball. The players wore gloves made of bull’s skull to protect the hands. Man, that ball could sail.

The Olmecs are considered to be the mother of all Mesoamerican cultures. They are believed to be the first western culture to develop writing. They employed the use of zero and invented the long calendar that was used by so many pre-Columbian cultures.

Amazing to think that they existed 3500 years ago.
Here is one of the famous large stone helmeted heads (9ft), which are notable not only for their size, but also for the fact that the stone had to be transported very long distances from its source. Experts believe they were brought on boats, which. when one considers the size and weight of these stones, was an amazing achievement.
The Olmecs believed that the jaguar was supernatural, an ancestor, a god. It is at the very core of their beliefs. There is some speculation that the upturned and pouting lips on the large head sculptures are representative of the jaguar. Olmec society was highly evolved with an integrated balance of art, religion and politics and the jaguar was central in all aspects and can be found throughout Olmec art, architecture and writings.
Check the links or as my Aunt Doris would say, “Better you should go.”
Typical Olmec house and see.. they are friendly. Come on down.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vale la pena? Worth the pain?

A few days off from posting to be introspective and to work on music, read and work in the garden.

It is remarkably dry here, I mean seriously dry, but San Agustin has water from the mountains and the gardens are holding on. I can only imagine what that first rain will feel like and this is only my first dry season. For those who live here, this is normal.

The fragrance of gardenias fills the courtyard, as there are six plants each with up to twenty blossoms from day to day.

On the music front, I have finished about 68 minutes of music. The latest was a southern lullaby sort of thing. Now I am left with one more piece to go.

It is called “Vale la pena” or “Worth the pain” which was one of the phrases I learned from Memo on the road trip. It became one of the catchphrases.

For instance, after climbing 133 large steps at Ek Balam and turning and seeing the view, “Vale la pena?” “Claro, si!”
The trip certainly triggered new interests for me and I have been reading more history and anthropology material about this part of Mexico and the areas we drove through.

I am currently reading a book that Henry found for me at the house, Mexico South: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec by Miguel Covarrubias, which is incredibly rich with information about southern Oaxaca and the isthmus that connects the continents.

I wish I had read it before the drive, but now, I am ready to go back. I remember being struck by how dramatically and quickly the landscape would change, from jungle to arid mountains, from tropical plains to lush rain forests. The colors of the soil ran from reds to chalky blues to yellows to deep rich brown blacks.

So I keep reading about the cultures that populated this area for hundreds, thousands of years and are still here in one way or another. These were/are rich cultures that were, at some time in history, on top of their world.

But as they say, “Pride goeth before a fall.”

It turns out the Aztecs alienated all their neighbors so profoundly, that they happily turned on them when Cortes arrived with his 500 men and a boatload of diseases.

Those 500(!) men certainly changed their world.

Meanwhile, I try to stay on top of what is happening in the rest of the world from Tibet to Wal-Mart, from Zimbabwe to Basra and baby, it don’t look that good from my gardenia-filled perspective.

Sadly, the U.S. looks somewhat Aztec-like or Mayan, Roman, Byzantine, you pick it, over-extended in so many ways, militarily, economically, morally, it looks like a Terry Gilliam movie. Don’t believe me? Start with “Brazil.”

No matter how we slice it, the only superpower in the world has repeated what other cultures did in the past. I wonder how it will work out?

Actually, it is of some concern, as I am trying to figure out future plans.

I hear the real Brazil’s economy is taking off.

One bit of info of which to make note, while the whole Basra mess was occurring, there appeared to be a news blackout in the US. Other outlets were all over it, but there was almost nothing for two or three days in the US. What’s with that?

Ah yes, bowling scores and blowjobs (Monica’s back.)

Here are two sites worth checking out. Juan Cole and Gorilla’s Guides, which is written by Iraqis in Iraq.

Now, the title of this post is “Vale la pena,” but it is too long already, maybe too painful, so I will end it. However, I do enjoy contemplating the question on many levels

So, on a personal level, on a national level, on a global level, was it?

Vale la pena?

Incidentally, the photos are of the vultures in Merida, which were most visible in the wealthiest of neighborhoods. I guess they know something.