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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Yesterday, while searching for a local Guelaguetza, a dance and shared meal, we covered many a mile in vain. We were near Tlacochahuaya, just to the southeast of Santa Maria del Tule, the home of the famous tree. It was a wild and bumpy ride on very rough paths as we followed people's directions towards a nebulous goal. We ended up climbing this hill on top of which folks were setting up for an evening fiesta, but not the one for which we were looking. They had been hard at work and it was the heat of the day. Time for a siesta and not a bad setting for one. This shot is taken directly behind this sleeping gentleman. He woke up, smiled, said hello, then closed his eyes and enjoyed the peace.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Santo Tomas - Ixtlan de Juarez

It is funny, I lived in St. Thomas, USVI, but I really had no idea who he was or what his story was. After visiting this church in mountain village of Ixtlan de Juarez I have a better idea. He was the original "Doubting Thomas" as he did not believe that Jesus had returned. John 20:25 says, "So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he [Thomas] said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'"Eight days later, Jesus appears before His disciples again: "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' (John 20:26-29).

This is a 3D depiction with a statue placed over a painting.
These churches are hard to shoot in as they tend to be quite dark and there is always someone there to make sure you don't use a flash. I don't really believe a flash would do any harm, but one must play by the rules. Plus, it is good practice. I need to work on it.Dramatic when explored from different angles and looking at the wound that Tomas stuck his hand in.As always, the apse and altar were covered with art and gold gilt.Looking out the door to the surrounding mountains. Such a dramatic and, at the same time, tranquil setting. I found myself sitting in a pew with my eyes closed, basking in the serenity.

Shots of the day - Quinceanera

I always love shooting weddings, first communions or, in this case, quinceaneras that I see on the street. People are always so happy and dressed immaculately. Clearly, this 15 year-old's day was going to be perfect. And with her proud and happy mother.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What a place to play

As many people know Henry Wangeman has forgotten more about Mexico than most people ever learn. He has a photographic memory when it comes to history and names. He can rattle off the names of villages faster than google maps. Guelatao de Juarez, Ixtlan de Juarez, San Miguel Amatlan, Santa Catarina Lachatao, Capulalpam de Mendez, roll off his tongue like butter and he has stories about each. These are all villages up in the mountain to the northeast of Oaxaca city and we are talkin' fairly remote, up long winding roads, often dirt, sometimes closed, forcing retracing and exploring new ways to get places. You know, adventures. I love going with him and I always feel like I am living my dream, pushing the envelope. If my mama could see me now...

So we were off to see the birthplace of Benito Juarez, Guelatao and to the churches in Ixtlan and Capulalpam. Lots of photos to post of these mountain top idylls, but I was stuck by this basketball court just outside the 16th century church in Capulalpam. I shoot hoops everyday when in the states and I sure wish I had a ball with me to shoot here. Now there's an idea. travel around the world shooting on remote courts... probably been done.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Guelaguetza has arrived

The last two Mondays in July are always filled with dance and people are here in droves. It is a joyous time, when people from the seven regions of the state show up to strut their stuff. There are day long shows in el Cerro del Fortin, the amphitheater overlooking the city. It is a long day for both dancers and audience. There are shows in the evening as well. The streets are filled and let's hope they give Oaxaca a shot of much needed dinero. Restaurantes, cantinas and various stores should benefit.

The Guelaguetza in its current form has been taking place since 1932 and it is always spectacular as the traditional outfits and dances are breath-taking. It starts with as desfile or parade with each region dancing by accompanied by a band. You should be able to identify each region by their look.It is important to note that Oaxaca has the Guelaguetza for themselves, to show their pride and traditions. It is not for tourists, although many show up. There are similar smaller celebrations in many villages at the same time with absolutely no tourists, just for themselves.While this desfile was going on I wandered up to see APPO and the teacher's alternative "Guelaguetza" which was in a courtyard across form Santo Domingo. It was relatively small, maybe 1000 people, with dancers and a band. Everyone in good spirits.It was a bit unnerving, as everyone was carrying thick sticks or dowels about four feet long. Just the sound of them hitting the ground made me nervous. I hasten to add, I have no idea what they were for and maybe my reaction was just based on my ignorance.

Thanks to Henry Wangeman and his wife, Rosa Blum for sharing their photos with me for this posting. In an effort to prevent protesters from disrupting the desfile, the government put out a false schedule and it worked. It fooled not only the protesters, but lots of other folks as well. And the desfile moved by very quickly. By the time I saw it was happening, I ran back just in time to see the end. So all the shots from above are Henry and Rosa's. Muchas gracias!

Monday, July 20, 2009

2501 Migrantes

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to see an art exhibition I had read about years ago. And it was just up the road at the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CaSo). The building itself is a work of art, an old textile factory that was restored and transformed into an exhibition space by artist, Francisco Toledo, who is patron to many important cultural and civic projects here in Oaxaca.

2501 Migrantes, by Alejandro Santiago, is a massive installation that is incredibly thought provoking.Difficult to document the scale and scope of the work. Just imagine walking into a room and finding 2501 people in it.

Alejandro Santiago, one of Oaxaca’s leading artists who as received critical acclaim in Mexico, the United States, and Europe, was born in Teococuilco in 1964. His family moved to Oaxaca City in 1972, where he eventually made painting his career. Santiago, however, has never forgotten his hometown and he returns there on a regular basis.
When he last returned to Teococuilco, he was shocked to find that 2,500 souls – more than half the population – had left the community for other parts of Mexico or the United States. Such mass migrations had become common in the region due to acute poverty and chronic unemployment. In fact, villages throughout Mexico have been emptying out for sometime now, for the same reasons. Entire male populations of villages have left in search of work. Women, children, and the elderly were left behind and awaited the migrant’s funds.
In the midst of this desolation, a fortuitous event happened. In a dream, a vision of re-populating his community arose. When Alejandro awoke, a plan for re-population took hold. He would embark on the monumental task of inhabiting Teococuilco with 2,500 ceramic figures representing 2,500 of the absent villagers. One additional sculpture would be of Santiago, himself, at testament to his return. The project would be called “2,501 Migrants.”
An honor and a blessing to see this work.

One of the figures watching his hometown on the video.Every one an individual.Some of whom died, abandoned in the desert.Peoples views on immigration are all over the place, there are many different aspects to it. I am always sympathetic to the migrantes' stories. After all, my family came from somewhere else at some point, as did most of us.

Watch "El Norte" (again) and then we can talk. At the heart of the problem is poverty. If you were making $5 or $10 a day and could make that per hour, what would you do? Things cost the same here, sometimes more.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Viewed from Above

I was just hanging on the balcony in Amate's upstairs office with this famous senoritawaiting for the desfile or parade to begin. Love the different looks. People watching, a world-wide enjoyment.Marco?Clown?This look brings back memories of former students. Fangs! Vampires will rule the world some day - not like the bloodsuckers that do now.Some people always know when the camera is on them.Moving faster than the speed of light to get this shot....

Saturday, July 18, 2009


It's a big day in the city as the Guelaguezta, the big dance festival is about to begin. The place is hoppin' with lots of tourists from Mexico and a few from the States and Europe. There is a desfile or parade late this afternoon. There is also a heavy police presence in case there are any attempt to disrupt any events.
But first... a little graffiti. June 14, 2006 was the day that Gov. Ulises Ruis sent in riot police to break up protests. It was a critical day and it led to the economic disaster that has befallen this cultural treasure of a place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hongos with Sra Lucia

Even though Oaxaca is in one of the sub-tropical regions of the world, because of of its altitude, over 5000 feet, the weather is almost always mild and very pleasant. The city lies in a huge valley surrounded by rugged mountains. This morning I was lucky to accompany Henry, his wife, Rosa and a Czech family of artists/world travelers into the mountains above Teotitlan. Oaxaca city dwellers for some reason never go there, maybe it is too cold for them, but there are villages up there that are more than worth the visit.

The village of Benito Juarez is at almost 10,000 feet and we went well beyond it and its neighboring village Cuajimoloyas in search of mushrooms, the edible kind, not the magical ones.
This area is one of the mushroom meccas and has annual fiestas celebrating the fungus among us. The place is like an alpine village, filled with pine, agave, rolling meadows and spectacular vistas.Our goal was to find Senora Lucia, a renown cook, and we first stopped at her house in Caujimoloyas, but folks told us she was at her restaurant in deep in the woods, a place known for it trout or truchas.Talk about a place in the middle of nowhere or everywhere, this was it. After driving further into the mountains and asking several people along the way, we found her. It may be in the middle of nowhere, but there were other people eating there when we arrived.Doña Lucia was happy to see Henry and Rosa and she proceeded to cook up a storm of fresh hongos (mushrooms). She and her niece, Agustina, made a wonderful rich stew with hongos, tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh herbs. We also had fried mushrooms and these beauties. Looks like it could have come out of Gourmet magazine or Saveur.

Here's a video from a couple of years ago of Doña Lucia at her place in Cuajimoloyas cooking some sopa de hongos and making an incredible salsa with walnuts and chiles. Muy rico!