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, September 28, 2009

Finalmente - Video - Danza de las Plumas

Last July, I spent a few days in Teotitlan de Valle during the annual fiesta celebrating La Preciosa Sangre de Nuestra Señor Jesucristo, the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. The week is filled with much activity and much of it is centered around la Danza de las Plumas and La Calenda. I wrote about La Danza here and here and La Calenda here and there is a video here.
I was there for two different days of dancing. So here at long last is the video of La Danza de las Plumas.

Global Attitudes - Mexico

An interesting poll from Pew:
  • The economic downturn has not led to a decrease in support for trade. In fact, the share of the public who believes growing trade and business ties between nations are good for Mexico has increased, rising from 69% in 2008 to 79% in 2009.
  • Mexicans are less enthusiastic about the free market than many others around the world. Just 52% say people are generally better off in a free market system, even though this means some may be rich while others are poor; about four-in-ten (41%) disagree with this point of view. Only four of the 25 publics in the survey express less enthusiasm for the free market.
  • Almost universally, political corruption is considered a problem. Fully 94% of those surveyed say corrupt political leaders are a big problem, and 68% say they are a very big problem.
  • Despite seeing a host of problems afflicting the country, the vast majority of Mexicans (87%) say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their own lives.
  • The economic downturn is having an impact on the lives of Mexicans - 54% describe their personal economic situation as good, down six percentage points from last year.
  • Most Mexicans think their country has a poor image abroad - 61% say Mexico is poorly regarded by people around the world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shots of the day

I am on a quick trip to El Norte. New England in the autumn, always a treat. But life is better in Oaxaca. I miss the markets, the people, the feel of the sun and the smell of the rain.

But as they always say, "How can I miss you, if you won't go away."

No sights like this in Beantown. These were from the day before Independence Day. Not really the typical oaxaqueña look, but patriotic nonetheless.

Monday, September 14, 2009


September 16th is Independence Day and people are getting ready. Oh, you thought it was Cinco de Mayo? Wrong! Read this... it's a great story.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

el saber del sabor

All this week Oaxaca has been blessed with "el saber del sabor," a gastronomic festival featuring many of the best chefs and cooks from Mexico. 'To know the taste" might be a decent translation or maybe "the knowledge of flavor."

At any rate, it has been a remarkable week, starting last Friday in the spectacular setting of the botanical garden at Santo Domingo with a dinner for 700 prepared by twenty of Oaxaca's finest cooks from the city and the surrounding villages.These cooks did not disappoint with many wonderful taste treats like molés, tamales, ceviche, mezcals, soups, and desserts. There was great music, complete with a mariachi band, to go with the fine food and drink. People really had a mighty good time. The Oaxaca social scene at its finest

Much of the week was in celebration of author and Mexican food expert, Diana Kennedy and her latest book, which is entitled "Oaxaca al Gusto." Diana has written a whole slew of cookbooks and compiled hundreds of recipes from all over Mexico. Just watching her bask in well deserved glory and interact with all the chefs was a real honor. There was an official presentation on Wednesday at Santo Domingo to recognize her many contributions to the Mexican cooking literature.

Sunday, I was lucky enough to attend a dinner at Casa Oaxaca featuring chefs Mikel Alonso Garcia and Roberto Solis doing his Matrix cooking thing.Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo , the fine chef and manager of Casa Oaxaca helped organize the week and hosted the meal, which was haute cuisine, small servings of a wide range for dishes from the opening course of tomato aspic with chicharon through seafood dishes, meat and ending with a sublime mango dish. The menu:Tuesday is was a special degustacion at the other Casa Oaxaca location with a kitchen full of cooks. Mighty tasty food and and an honor to be invited.
Gracias, Alejandro.

From there the week progressed with films, lectures and above all, spectacular food prepared by some of the best chefs in Mexico.

Check out this fish soup cooked by addng heated rocks. Muy rico!So it has been a heady week just being around all these great cooks and authors. Patrica Quintana and Susannah Trilling were among the luminaries.This has been an important event for several reasons. First, Oaxaca is famous for its unique cuisine and this week it certainly showed why. Secondly, to celebrate Diana Kennedy and all the remarkable cooks and chefs. And lastly, to invite the world to come to Oaxaca and see the diversity of foods here, everything from the traditional molés to haute cuisine. This place has it all, something for everyone.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ron Cooper and his mezcal

Last week I accompanied a food writer, Pat Reed, as her photographer to interview Ron Cooper, an artist from Taos, who established a mezcal bottling company here in Oaxaca back in the 90's. Ron's company, Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals has a great reputation and he has earned respect both in the States and here in Mexico. We started at his office in the city and then met him out at his bodega in Teotitlan del Valle. From there we followed him to one of his palenques, places they make mescal in Chichicapa. All Ron's contacts make their own mezcals and he guards their locations and special techniques carefully. We were sworn to secrecy as to where the one we visited was.If you can recognize it from this, go crazy.Here's Ron with mezcalero, Faustino.Faustino was not making mezcal while we were there, but he will be later this week and we will go back to finish the shoot. Still, it was interesting to see the place.
The altar in front of the distilling unit. The process is fairly straight ahead. The maguey or agave is planted and then one simply waits for seven years for them to mature. The plants do not need much care, just an annual cleaning. Then the leaves are cut off, the piña, or center section is baked for two or three days in a covered pit which imparts mezcal's distinctive smokey flavor. Then the piñas are then crushed with a stone wheel drawn by a mule or horse in this case. This produces a sweet extract, called aguamiel, which is put into vats to ferment for five to fourteen days. The resulting liquid is about six percent alcohol, which is, in turn, distilled and ends up between 40 and 56 percent alcohol. Don't try this at home, unless you live in Oaxaca. There is much more to producing good mezcal. However, because I am sworn to secrecy and I value my well being, I can't divulge any of the ticks of the trade. Needless, to say, it was mighty fine drinking. More when I finish the shoot.

What it looks like from here

I am in the land of strikes, protests and road blockades. This place has problems that need to be addressed just like everyplace else. We will see how it works out if it works out.

I don't speak from much experience, however, if I get injured or ill here, there are decent options starting with the village clinics. Seeing a doctor is fairly easy and is not expensive. Many even make house calls.

At the same time, as a Massachusetts resident, I am required to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. I pay the penalty. After paying exorbitant prices for several years and getting nothing for it, it seemed to make the most sense. I got tired up hearing, "Sorry, you are not covered for this."

I always figure I am representative of several million people, professionals without health care. I know it is a crap shoot to not have insurance, but it is better than paying for half of it, you know, crap.

So when I read that they are considering health care "reform" that requires people to buy it even though they can't afford it and that the mandated payments must continue to go to the health insurers, who are so obviously ripping us off... well, it sounds like Bizzaro World. I must be missing something.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Shots of the day - Ocotlan de Morelos

If it is Friday, it must be market day in Ocotlan de Morelos. Some shots of just a few of the items for sale. Do you know how to pick out a good plow? This caballero obviously did.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Wednesday is market day in nearby Etla and the village is packed with vendors and buyers. In places like Tlacalula or Ocatlan, the church plazas are always crowded on market days and yet, yesterday, at the height of activity only a few meters away, the one in Etla was almost completely empty and wonderfully tranquil. There was one inhabitant, who agreed to pose for this shot

Elefantes en el cuarto

Elephants in the room... meaning the obvious things that people just do not want to talk about. This isn't a political blog so I try not to go there. However, watching the problems here in Oaxaca, problems that have a very long history, and the problems in El Norte, one has to wonder why folks don't deal with those pesky elephants.

If you want to see a great blog, go to BAGnewsNotes, a website that always has a fascinating and provocative analysis of the photos and images into today's media.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More protests

As always, there is more to this story that just this blurb. The teacher union feuds have a long history. The root of the problems lie with politics, poverty and power.

from the AP story:

OAXACA, Mexico - Teachers enraged by the shooting death of a colleague seized government offices and blocked roads Tuesday in southern Oaxaca state, the site of months of violent demonstrations by teachers three years ago.

Leftist groups that battled with authorities in this picturesque Mexican colonial city for five months in 2006 are working with the educators in this latest strike, using hijacked trucks and buses to block intersections.

Protesters with loudspeakers vowed to paralyze the city.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Street Scenes

Just some quick shots from both city and country.
These two of children in the zocalo. The first was just running around looking at cute as possible.This is not such a happy shot. This girl played well and had a voice like a fog horn - loud and clear. But her face never showed a spark of happiness. Her life as a street musician, like so many others, is a tough one.

An nieve vendor in the city and one way out in Chichicapam.A wedding parade just outside Santo Domingo.A different sort of procession in Chichicapam.