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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What the world needs

More wheelbarrows - mas carretillas???????

Influenza porcina - update

A live map tracking the outbreak. Mexico is basically shutting down. Schools, public events, restaurants, all temporarily closed/

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sojourner Truth

A statue of Sojourner Truth was unveiled yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. She is the first African American woman to be honored with a statue in Statuary Hall.
In her own words:

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne five children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or Negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it. The men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Influenza porcina - update

From the Chron/Com and Cecilia Sanchez of the LA Times

"The first fatality from the disease that the government has confirmed occurred April 13. A 39-year-old woman, Maria Adela Gutierrez, died in the southern city of Oaxaca, capital of the state bordering Veracruz."


Influenza porcina

Lots of questions on the swine flu. Travel is restricted. Not a good thing for the economy. Maybe 40 cases in Oaxaca. City out of face masks. Schools closed until May 6. One serious case in Juchitan. I have read that there were 150 deaths, but don't know the locations yet. More later.

La grippa is always bad in southern Mexico, due to the poverty and poor nutrition, but the clinicas in each village are impressive. I thought the health care system, in general, was better there then here in the US.

Of course, the media treats it like Brittany Spears, fanning the flames, speculating that we are all going to die and doing what they do so well... pontificating and laying blame. Morans! Do you jobs.

(Uh.. Chris... maybe you should stop reading all those newspapers and watching TeeVee... just a thought.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

The power of music

I have long wondered why music can affect us so. I remember going to an opera recital once, and a tenor hit this note and I just completely fell apart. I have no idea what he was singing.... or saying. It was in Italian, but it could have been anything. It was just something so powerful, intangible.

I am not embarrassed to say that I had exactly the same reaction to Susan Boyle's singing as this person. Why?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu

A potential pandemic and the US has no Sec. of the Department of Health & Human Services?? G(OP) I wonder why? Because the idiots in Washington refuse to confirm her. And the Texas secessionists now need the feds to supply vaccines. Life is a cruel comedy.

Musica to make you weep & smile

Diana Krall, Lila Downs and Nina Simone

Not again

I am sure it was an oversight, but I did not receive a Pulitzer prize this year. Nor a MacArthur, the Nobel or that big box of money that I am sure the mailman keeps snagging.

Here, from the Daily Beast are the photos that did win.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It has been really hot in Oaxaca and everyone is waiting for rain.
My good friend Henry Wangeman of Amate Books writes this:

"There was a wall of clouds yesterday that blew a tremendous wind through the Jacaranda trees. They sounded like an ocean storm swirling and thrashing with a most beautiful applause. I love that sound: the trees applauding for rain. If you clap the rain will come. Just imagine the friction millions of leaves rubbing together create. Perhaps they charge the lightning bolts so the thunder can release the rain. Gusts of wind made the roof tiles creak and the walls stretch. The clouds were ominous with their massive grey monotone color like a blanket posed to cover us in darkness. I thought hale, perhaps half a foot. And roofs being blown off and flying through the air like Frisbees. It made me feel alive with excitement, expectation, and respect. I didn't get what I expected. We received enough rain to wet the ground and only a few dead branches littered the ground. But it is a beginning. Things are dry. We are all hopeful that we will soon get a few advanced storms announcing the rain is on the way."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Agua de San Agustin Etla

The villagers from my home away from home, San Agustin Etla, continue to keep the water valves closed that feed the western part of the city. If you wish, look at this map to see the locations and distances involved. The people are right to protest how their land and surrounding environment are used or abused, as it is in this case. It is, however, pissing a lot of people off. As always, there are numerous solutions, but only one or two that seem just and right. What are the odds that people will end up doing what is best for the land and themselves?

Solamente mirando - Just watching

I am just biding my time and planning my next move, waiting for Spring to be sprung. Its close.
In the meantime, in between time, I am just watching the world go by, drinking it in. Its a hell of a cocktail. Salud!

My main web source for Oaxacan news disappeared overnight and became something else, a sign of the times, I suppose. There appear to be some seismic cultural shifts taking place. Iowa approves gay marriage and there is only muted response? Texas talks about seceding? Times are a'changin'. I guess that's the way it always is.

And laying low and taking it all in leads to me many conclusions. First, as one who screwed up fairly regularly, I say, "Whew, there but by the Grace of God go I." I don't care if you are the Israeli cop/soldier who just killed a person by shooting them close range with a tear gas canister or the now, but soon to be impeached, federal judge who approved torture or the British woman who has taken the world by storm just by singing, we all reap what we sow. Been there....still sowing and reaping.

It is only one example of how blind/manipulated we can be, but I do wonder why the US media has finally discovered torture. I remember writing The Globe and the NYT everyday for a few weeks in 07, asking why there was no reporting on it when the rest of the world knew. It is just like everything, one must dig to get information from many sources and above all, remember that our currently shaken culture is in big time flux. Newspapers fading, banksters becoming gangsters, Obama shaking hands with Chavez, talking with Latin America, opening up to Cuba, gun sales going through the roof... I am sure everything will work our just fine.

Which bring me to this....

En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.
Flies can't get in a closed mouth.

I am glad that I am learning to keep my mouth shut and discovering that if I do so, miracle of miracles, I don't piss too many people off. Yes, I realize that as COTU (Center of the Universe) my mere existence pisses people off, but really that is only due to their own misconceptions that they, themselves, are COTU. Fools!

Speaking of reaping and sowing, it brings to mind this paragraph from Song Chol

"If you'd like to know whether you were good or evil in a former life, then look at yourself now to see whether you are fortunate or unfortunate. And if you'd like to know whether you will be happy or miserable in your next life, take a close look a what you are doing now."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Boston Teabaggin'

I took the train into the city to see what Fox hath wrought - The Boston Teabag Party under the Massachusetts Statehouse.

"Love that dirty water. Oh Boston, you're my home."
The cardboard figures were not part of they rally, merely innocent bystanders from Mi Casa, a house building organization.

It was beautiful weather and there were 500-700 people, although many were like me, gawkers and passersby. I was there for a couple hours, from noon until 2pm. Bad sound system. Hard to hear. They needed roadies.

This guy standing under the Statehouse is in "full blackface" body suit with an Obama mask.
A pretty strange group. Everyone was taking pictures of everyone.
I did watch a CNN team get hassled to the point that they stopped shooting. I was asked to sign numerous petitions and when I declined, "Oh you're one of those."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The written word - Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza

My calla lilies bloom and burst with happiness...

Monday, March 10, 2008
- President Calderón introduced Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza at the Commemoration of International Women’s Day in Moreleos.

'I am delighted to be here with you today in this municipality, in Emiliano Zapata, which I love and which is so significant for me, and to celebrate International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on 8 March worldwide.

A women I admire for her tenacity, bravery, courage and poise and for coping with a terribly chauvinistic, unjust, misogynous environment and context is Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza, who ran for mayor of Santa María Quiegolani, who I am going to ask to address us. If you could, Eufrosina."

"My name is Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza. I am an indigenous woman who was born in the small municipality of Santa María Quiegolani. Very few people, perhaps only those of us who were born here, know that this village exists and how to get to this beautiful beacon set in the heart of the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca.

I am a woman and a professional which is Quiegolani is more of a crime than a privilege and almost a sin. A little while ago, when I put my case to the electoral authorities and the Congress of the state of Oaxaca, no-one believed my story, neither the male nor the female authorities.

Nowadays I support a different cause; I am asking for the right of indigenous women to exercise the active and passive vote in communities throughout Mexico. That is my dream, for no-one to steal our right to progress and participate in the development of our villages and communities.

My calla lilies bloom and burst with happiness as they did on 5 March when the President of the National Human Rights Commission acknowledged the right of indigenous women in Oaxaca to vote and be voted for, with no restrictions or exceptions; that was one of the happiest days of my life.

Today, women’s dignity and gender equity in indigenous communities sleep as soundly as a child in his mother's shawl.

As I have mentioned before, in my government, we do not want a country where women walk or are behind men, whether greater or small, but a Mexico where women walk side by side with men in equal circumstances and with equal opportunities.

For example, last year, precisely in March, we started the first Daycare center and now we have nearly 1,500 Daycare Centers that take care of over 115,000 children, which in turn benefit 105,000 working mothers, particularly single mothers.

I am also pleased that today we have signed the Regulations for the General Law of Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence, which complements my administration's legal framework for promoting and defending women's rights with the full weight of the law.

Achieving these objectives cannot be the sole responsibility of Federal Government Everyone: the three orders of government, civil society, families and the media have something to contribute to close the gap that unfairly separates men from women."

The full speech in Spanish

"Mi nombre es Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza. Soy una mujer indígena nacida en el pequeño municipio de Santa María Quiegolani. Muy poca gente, si acaso sólo quienes nacimos ahí, conocemos que existe ese pueblo y cómo se llega a este hermoso faro enclavado en el corazón de la Sierra Sur de Oaxaca."

Viva Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza!

A bit more on this remarkably well-spoken and courageous person. Just watch these clips and you can see and hear her strength and intelligence. Plus, she is right!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Agua as a political weapon

Earlier I wrote about how dry it is in Oaxaca and how there are fires burning in several areas. Well, as far as I can tell, the people of San Agustin, my home away from home, have shut off the water line to the city because environmental concerns. The issue is a large tract of forest land and its use. They charge that indiscriminate cutting is destroying the environment. My reading comprehension of the story was weak, but they are pissed off at somebody. As I said, San Agustin is a rare village to have all the water they do. The land values are higher there because of it. It is green there when other places are bare, brown, dry and barren.

I guess this is another thing I like about Oaxaca. The people rise up and act. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they pay terribly.

I am not sure about the tactics. I am not there and I know less than nothing about the situation, but I do know how valuable water is there. At least they are not having tea-bag parties. So comical on so many levels. I think they need to check their Urban Dictionary.

Mil palabras

Thursday, April 9, 2009

See what I mean?

Three important clips to consider. Actually, the second is a trailer from "Bamboozled" by Spike Lee, a film that will change how you see things. That's why they never show it. It kinda like "Wicked, " which if you read it, will forever change how you view good ole Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.

Coming or going?

Maybe it is always this way, but the world continues to appear to be going crazy. Maybe I should say, the people of the world appear to be going crazy and so the world responds accordingly, by, for instance, dropping ice shelves into the ocean. Maybe I should just stop paying attention. Gun sales are up, finances are down, tensions high, expectations low, the public dialogue more polarized than ever. I guess that is the way of the world.

For me the question remains, "Coming or going?" I am counting the days until I head back to Oaxaca. Will I come to a decision soon or just go crazy waiting? Actually, I have a cunning plan. Enjoy Spring and then get out of Dodge.
In the past, this would have meant something different, but now I see this and it makes me hungry for the food instead of recalling fame and fortune.

I am ready to head to the markets of Ocatlan or to buy my daily flowers from these ladies at the Pochote mercado.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Donde es la primavera?

Actually, while cold and rain are entrenched here, in Oaxaca it is hot and dry, dry, dry. I remember the many months of no rain. Living in St. Thomas where all the water we had came from the sky and our potable water was all desalinated and then in San Agustin gave me a whole new perspective on water. San Agustin is one of the few places to have abundant water for the entire year. It flows down from the mountains and the village doles it out. As I say, water is very scarce elsewhere and a cause for much concern. Right now there are lots of brush fires burning. I remember watching some burn very near the house last year. Also, recall driving though a large one when I was working on the San Martin Tilcajete directorio. Scary. Pray for rain or do that rain dance.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Keep pushing that ball

On one joyful, completely aimless walk through the back streets of Merida, I spied these men working on what would, no doubt, end up a beautiful inner courtyard. The city has amazing over-the-top architecture in terms of ornamentation, an elegant combination of Spanish baroque filigree and Mexican color scheme. These shots are through a opening. While I watched them, I had to laugh, remembering some of the pieces of stone I had tried to move in the past. Once, I found a nice granite ornament in the slag from a demolition and even though it was relatively small, I could not even budge it, let alone get it home. I actually tied it to my bumper at one point. Not one single mm.
So watching these guys try to move this marble was great. Of course, I thought of my life long companion, Sysiphus, but the fact that they were laughing and smiling, made me realize that even impossible tasks can be fun.
In the few minutes I watched them, they had the same luck I did with that granite. Not one single mm.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


From IPS

Two years ago, Eufrosina Cruz was kept from running for mayor of her home village by the "traditions and customs" of her indigenous community in southern Mexico, just because she is a woman.

But she refused to back down, and challenged the tradition – a decision that brought her death threats, but also dreams and achievements that she had never imagined.

On Tuesday, the 29-year-old Zapoteca Indian woman presented in the Mexican capital a new civil society association aimed at highlighting the deep-rooted nature of native traditions and customs in many communities, especially in the impoverished southern state of Oaxaca, where a large proportion of the population is indigenous.

"If in November 2010, women can finally vote in my village and one of them is elected mayor, I will be more than happy; it will be the best achievement of this association, through which I promise to become even more crazy, which is what people in my village say I am," Cruz said in an interview with IPS.