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, March 31, 2010

Little earthquakes

From today's El Imparcial

Van 179 sismos

Comentó que no ha dejado de temblar en el estado, ya que en lo que va del año se han registrado 179 sismos, lo que da en promedio de dos sismos por día, que de acuerdo a los especialistas esto es bueno, porque libera la energía lentamente para evitar un sismo de mayor magnitud.


It has not stopped shaking in the state. Thus far this year, there have been 179 earthquakes registered, an average of two earthquakes per day. That, according to the specialists, is good, because it slowly releases the energy and helps avoid an earthquake of greater magnitude.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Oaxacan Restoration - Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula

No, this isn't about the roads and streets, I will spare you that. However, it is truly impressive to watch the restoration work that seems to be a constant here. Incredible progress has been made and the results are beautiful. Most of the churches I pass by have a fresh look to them with stonework replaced and the interiors cleaned and restored. I will post shots of some of the city's churches, but wanted to start with these two from the mixteca alta, about an hour north of the city in Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula.For earlier posts and more of the story check here and here.I have been visiting this fascinating area for a few years. I remember sneaking into the church in Yanhuitlan a couple of years ago. It was closed to the public and was dark, dusty and full of birds. Now, look at it.The work is really remarkable. The church is huge with very high ceilings. The scaffolding looks to be at least 25 meters high as workers restore the painting over the main altar. Plaster is painstakingly re-gilded. The work is scheduled to be completed in July. Work going on inside and out.Yanhuitlan has such an interesting history. When the Spanish arrived in the early XVI century, there were 100,00 mixtecas living there. Now, the village has less than 800 inhabitants and the church is not really used. It does have this amazing stone retablo.So Yanhuitlan is basically unused, quiet and a bit sad.
Not so in Teposcolula, where the church is also under restoration. Started at roughly the same time as Yanhuitlan (16th cent.) this church is always alive and in use. There is restoration work both inside and out proceeding at a fast clip with lots of workers. The finished organ loft. Again, this is a very large structure. The columns are probably 10 to 15 meters tall. The stonework is remarkable, all cut and fashioned on site.The baptismal font in a side chamber.Recently cleaned and restored retablo.Plus, lot at Teposcolula's Municipal center. Does your city hall look so fine?Well worth the visit. Almost no one goes to either place. Put it on your list.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shot Of the Day (one of them)

I am just going over a week or two of photos after visiting many villages, markets, churches and archaeological sites as I was taking folks on day trips. Went to Tlacolula a couple of times and the market there is one of the best no matter if it Sunday, market day, or not.I left this shot large if you click on it, because it has so much information, from the woman's face, her outfit, the full range of colors, the wonderful mezcal sign, right down to the electrical meters incorporated into the painting.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm Back! He vuelto

Back from a week of acting as tour guide.
I will post some of the photos I shot this past week, some really nice stuff.
Perfect timing.

From Bad Astronomy, one of my favorite blogs.


Today, March 20, at 17:32 GMT (1:32 p.m. EST) — after three months of crawling northward — the center of the Sun will lie on the celestial equator, heralding the moment of the vernal equinox.

Or, more understandably, if somewhat less correctly, spring will arrive.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Regional Museum of Oaxaca

The museum located in the Santo Domingo complex is Oaxaca's largest and the recent renovations and additions have left the place in absolutely spectacular condition. In fact, not only the museum is at its peak, but also the church and the botanical gardens. To do it right, one really needs to take a few days to drink it all in. I have been to the museum many times and always find myself taking the same shots which demand to be taken. I also always see something new, like this statue of Santa Lucia. Look at what she is holding in her left hand.
The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away they found her so filled with the Holy Spirit that she was as stiff and heavy as a mountain; they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Even after implanting a dagger through her throat she prophesied against her persecutor. As a final torture, her eyes were gouged out. She was miraculously still able to see without her eyes. In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate.
The whole story can be found here.

Here is the iconic piece from Tomb 7 at Monte Alban. Copies of it can be found in many of the jewelry stores.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shot Of the Day

Apropos to International Women's Day, a shot (from the hip) from the market in Tlacolula.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Progess in the streets

No, not protests in the streets, but progress. I have written quite a bit about the construction in the city and the hardships it creates for getting around and for business, however, they are busting to get it done.

For some of the streets, after digging them up and replacing pipes and conduits, they use a pretty interesting technique. First they pour concrete, then get the bubbles out and smooth it. Then they dye and imprint a pattern on it using rubber molds that they push down into the wet cement. Then they use 2x4's to clean up the lines and voila, the finished product. It is one arduous process and these guys work hard. No OSHA here and the dust and heat are brutal, but in general, they always seem like they are having a decent time.

Of course, ain't nothing like the real thing.

International Women's Day!

Check out some of the remarkable work my friend, Sonya Melescu, is doing in the Congo. Women for Women is a great organization and one that deserves much support and admiration.

Hard to believe, but last night, the first woman to win Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Haven't seen the movie and didn't see the Oscars.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Street Art

Always something new.

Trout in the mountains

It has been a busy week, laying bricks in the back garden, helping unload boxes of books for Amate and lots of running around. I did want to make mention of something we did last weekend, a bike ride in the mountains from Cuajimoloyas north to, once again, eat the wonderful food of Senora Lucia at her restaurant with adjoining trout pond. It seems we have been going there for years, but this was first for me on a bike. I wrote about the wonderful hongos she cooked for us last July.

We rented bikes and headed off through the bright sun and crisp air. Cuajimoloyas is way up there. It has the feel of a Swiss alpine village, except for all the agave and zapotecs. The road follows a ridge and is mostly downhill. Notice I said "mostly" and also what every biker knows, what goes down is all uphill on the way back.

The restaurant was maybe 10k and it was an easy ride through the mountains, surrounded by pines with the wind whistling though my hair. We were hungry before we left and the ride just added to it. It was time to eat.

Senora Lucia worked her magic with some freshly caught trout, which she stuffed with onions, chiles, tomato, herbs and quesillo, wrapped in tinfoil and cooked on her her hge wood-fired comal. Here she is making a special salsa made with nuts and chiles. She was helped by the ever-smiling Rosaleria. The food was so good and we were so hungry I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. It looked as good as it tasted.

After the meal it was time to head back. It has been a while since I had been on a bike and my butt was sore and the bikes were not in the best of shape, but I made it. I have to admit to walking up some of the longer uphill stretches. High altitude really does a number on your lungs if you are not used to it. Oaxaca is plenty high, but this was higher and baby, it hurt. You can see it in my face as I crossed the finish line. Now that I have recovered, it took a day, I am ready for the whole thing again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Leading the way

In David Lida's book, "First Stop in the New World" he maintains that Mexico City, one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in the world, will lead other cities into the future by how it deals with issues and problems. As it goes, the rest of the world will follow.

So this is interesting, no?

Today, this sprawling megalopolis will catapult to the front lines of gay rights in Latin America, when a city law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption goes into effect.....

Mexico allows the federal district of Mexico City to pass its own laws, and the metropolis of more than 20 million people has become a major battleground in the culture wars playing out across the Americas.

In recent years, the city’s Legislative Assembly has recognized civil unions and no-fault divorce, legalized abortion in the first trimester, and given terminally ill patients the right to refuse treatment.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More like a oaxaqueño everyday...

So I had in my mind that I would take my car in to make an appointment to have it checked. If I had a phone I could have called, but not a big deal to drive over to car dealers auto mile near Plaza del Valle. It is about 20k, but by now I know how to avoid the traffic snags and construction. As I got close, about 1k, the other side of the street was closed by a massive march.

Drivers did what they normally do, jumped the median and started driving whatever way they could. So we were facing cars coming head on, but quite smoothly, everyone adjusted.

I got to the dealer and they said, "Fine, let's do it now. It'll be ready at 6." I was used to dealers saying bring it in in a couple of weeks. I jumped at the chance to get it over with.

So I found myself with seven hours to kill. No biggie. And that, my friends, is a big change in attitude. Waiting seven hours seemed short.

I figured I would go to a movie and walked between the two cineplexes to see what was playing and when. I thought maybe a couple of flicks, but then saw that "Avatar" was playing at 2PM and there is an easy 3 hours.

I walked the malls and killed a couple hours, bang, bang. Made my way to the theater to discover I was the only one there. Imagine that - alone in a big beautiful room with great sound and picture, watching "Avatar" in 3D. Very cool. The usher laughed with me as I turned in my glasses. His work was done. No clean up. I hadn't even gotten popcorn.

Back to the dealer, killed another hour or so and the car was done, clean and tweaked. Not too expensive, either compared to the States, but dealers are always higher.

At least it was done and I was ready to head home.... however, the march had turned out to be marches and most major roads were blocked. So I, along with everyone else in rush hour traffic went into "getting around the blockades" mode. Obviously, it is total chaos and can be frustrating, but it is just a part of normal life here, so really it is no big deal. I know my way through the city now and got through the mess pretty easily.

You have to remember that centro has narrow streets and lots of buses and taxis. Knowing who to follow and when is key. Never argue with a bus. They have total right of way simply because they are crazy.

So between the waiting and the driving madness, I think I am getting used to this place and doin' OK.

Just think about this. People actually protest here. Imagine if thousands of people shut down the roads surrounding a major US city. Maybe the politicians would wake up.... then again, no chance of that happening.

I mean, the largest march here was in support of the PRI candidate for governor. Nothing like pissing off thousands of voters by blocking traffic for ten hours. There's an effective political strategy. Kinda like banksters whining about their million dollar bonuses or senators cutting off unemployment and Medicare payments. Brilliant. Where do I vote? How many times can I do it?