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, May 31, 2010

Faces of the Abastos

I continue to wander through the huge market. It is so teeming with life, so gritty and tough. I can only imagine the lives and stories these people must have.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

El Jicaral - El Señor de la lluvia

Roughly translated from a story on Noticasnet,mx
In El Jicaral, an agency in the village of Coicoyán de las Flores, from times immemorial they have venerated the " Senores de la Lluvia," or "the Gods of the Rain" to help provide good weather, food and to cure diseases that neither doctors nor the other Gods have been able to cure. This indigenous town is six hours from Huajuapan of Leon and is a place where people live closely with nature. As in many mixtecos towns, there has been immigration to the United States, and, as in other villages, new religions have been introduced, which have imperiled customs and traditions. However, the thousand residents of this village have not allowed their traditions to fade.

One such tradition is El señor de la lluvia in which, for generation after generation, the inhabitants believe that if they are to have a good rainy season, that there are no droughts, they must perform a ritual to El señor de la lluvia through the stones that represent him in this earthly world. According to the belief, he has the power to provide a good climate for people, but also to punish them if they waste food or act in defiance of the deity. With the arrival of the God of the Catholic religion, El señor de la lluvia was divided into a thousand pieces and sent into the sea, and returned the form of stone. From then on if somebody needed rain they would have to ask these stones.

At ten in the morning, the inhabitants of the Jicaral meet in the temple of the El señor de la lluvia, where the women begin making of food while" Don Marcelino," who has devoted his life to the god, begins preparation for the ritual, in which all will volunteer to participate. In front of the stones that represent the god, he draws half a circle, an arc, that represents the process of the life; " You are born, increase and die; the other half of the circle, that is not seen, is in the other dimension that you coexist with other people who you knew in your time and are with the gods."

The don prepares thirty three offerings for the deities. People arrive early with flowers and candles for the ritual, which represent petitions that they have, for health, good harvests and other needs, but not material things. In an ancient language, Don Marcelino begins to call to the other deities, the gods of health, the god of the maize and they accompany him during the ritual, in which they all request water, food and a bountiful season.

Even though many cannot understand the ancient words, Ofelia Pineda relates, "It begins with a call to the Heart of the Sea, then to the second mountain, then to Tenochtitlán, from the heart of old Mexico, the lake, where the eagle with the serpent, to the Pacific Ocean. People eat and drink the brandy, the food, everything so that we are joined." The ritual continues until six in the morning.

Last year, El señor de la lluvia was moved from a piece of communal land that was filled with stones and more than 20 varieties of trees. Even though people protested, a school was built there. For Ofelia and the inhabitants, the deity knew that this was going to happen and that is why the mango trees lost their flowers and why there were so few mangos and those that were obtained were rotten and filled of worms.

As in Jicaral, the majority of indigenous communities continue these types of religious rituals, with many variants and in diverse forms. They continue to follow their traditions, generation after generation, because the young are used to participating and although some emigrate to the United States and other parts of the Republic, they cling to their roots.

Ofelia adds, " The mixture of cultures is good, but you must maintain your roots. There has always been globalization, but if nothing else, it is necessary to see who we are, from where we come and towards where we go; They say progress is necessary to civilize the 'natives,' but in what sense? If I destroy what is good and I bring about global warming, if I do damage yet say that I am civilized, then who are really the uncivilized ones and who are savages."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tis the season - Oaxacan Protests

It is protest time. Well, in reality it is always protest and blockade season, just a part of life here. At least people are involved. The teachers and APPO are planning two weeks of activity in the zocalo and throughout the state. This campesino, with his machete, was getting ready with his APPO banner. Quite a graphic on his backpack. A student protest at the university abutting the zocalo. Noe Matus is interim director and they want him to leave for ineptitude and irresponsibility. Then there is this wall painting advocating voting for the Green Party. It translates "The death penalty for killers and kidnappers." Underneath the large message it says, roughly, "We are gonna get you soon." Off to left, it says "Viva APPO" and it looks like "Viva Gabino," but he is from a different party.However, all the marches, blockades, boycotts and protests add to an already severely stressed economy as stores, plazas, malls, streets are shut down.
"How ya gonna make a livin'? .... You call this livin'?"

Arizona SB1070

Graffiti from the zocalo yesterday. You tell me what it means.

Senate President Therese Murray set up a late-night meeting with three other senators, where — over strawberry cream pie, cranberry-lime seltzer, and M&Ms — the group, mindful of a new poll showing overwhelming public support for barring illegal immigrants from state services — drafted a stricter crackdown than even the most conservative advocates believed possible.
It is like the US lives in a different reality. If they deport all these people who are working hard to make the system work, the system will collapse. That is the just the way it is. People are choosing to be blind and dumb. Of course, what do I know? I am a people.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fifth Element Diva

Just watching one of my favorite fun flicks, Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element". It made me recall this amazing performance of the the Diva's aria, a real classic. In the original, the voice is manipulated by a synth, but this singer does it all live. We love it! People are sooo talented.
Incidentally, if you have never seen Besson's "Leon" aka "The Professional" with an amazing performance by 11 year-old Natalie Portman... where ya been?

The original?

A roof for the Guelaguetza

It seems like it is the same everywhere. Projects get started without input from residents, historians, experts and the loyal opposition. So it seems to be with the construction of a roof over the Guelaguetza stadium which overlooks the city. The Guelaguetza is the huge dance festival that takes place the last two Mondays in July. It is a very big deal, both culturally and economically. People sit and watch the regional dance for hours, many times under a strong sun.
The construction of the new roof has drawn criticism from different sources. Some say it violates traditions. Others say the design is not in keeping with the aesthetics of the venue. Most say it is SOP (standard operating procedure) for this government. Francisco Toledo, shaking his head, says it is a done deal, but worries that it will have an impact on many traditional businesses such as the hat makers from Juchitan in the Istmo. It is a huge covering, a synthetic membrane that will be able to stand the weather and will be supported by a metal structure. Here is the full story.


"Aguas"! means "Look out! It also means water and this week, water is being used as a political weapon. San Agustin, the village just up the road, has major springs which supply around 20 percent of the water to the city of Oaxaca, about 15k to the south. For the last few days, San Agustin has cut off the flow due to a dispute over the deforestation of land by the state government. Officials maintain that insects have infested the wood and these are preventive measures. San Agustin is not buying that line. This has been a long running dispute, but the city really needs water. It has been a particularly hot few weeks and the region is anxiously waiting for the annual rains to arrive. Other water suppliers to the city are supporting San Agustin. Which will come first, rain or resolution?
May is the hottest month here. How hot? In the city it has been in the mid 30's (90-100) but to the south in the Istmo it has been in the 40's! That is 110F! That is unusual enough to cause news.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Domes and Cupolas - Ocotlan y Zegache

After shooting some photos a few weeks ago and then getting some nice comments about them, i decided to return with a better camera and a more purposeful approach. It was worth it. These from Ocotlan, I headed through San Bartotlo Coyotepec, stopped and shot there, and then proceeded to Ocotlan and Zegache. Ocotlan just never stops, everywhere you look, there is decoration.As it turned out, I was completely alone in all the churches I visited. I mean, alone. Actually, there were birds flying around adding to the surreal peace. It was sublime. The altar at Ocotlan.One after another, the domes are all spectacular. The top of the magnificent screen in the doorway and the painting above it.In order to get the shots I wanted, I had to kneel and get dead center under the domes. I am sure it looked like I was praying. Because I was alone, I was free to go almost anywhere I wanted and I took full advantage. Flash is never permitted and it was a good opportunity to pactice low light shots. Zegache is dark inside... dark. Next time I go I am going to take a powerful flashlight or my video light and ask if they will let me get a well lit shot. However, for as dark as it was, one can seen how exquisite the work is.The architect from Salon de la Fama had told me about a spectacular interior dome, "The best," he said, in San Jose del Progresso about 15k past Ocotlan. I headed south and found the village, but the chapel was closed until 5PM and it was only 1:30, so I decided to come back another day soon. This dome shooting is fun and there are sure a lot of churches. It could take years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Macedonio Alcala Theater - Teatro Macedonio Alcalá

As I mentioned before, we left the Salon de la Fama and headed over to the Macedonio Alcala Theater for a quick tour. While it was not the tour we expected, it was too short and perfunctory, it was fun to see the space empty. I do have shots of the exterior, but check the link, 'cause I don't feel like searching for them. The stage looks mighty inviting.The restoration really is spectacular. I recently saw a Hungarian Gypsy violinist and his troupe of musicians and dancers. It was a strange juxtaposition. The audience of oaxaqueños was polite, but reserved. I think they all knew that they were better dancers, which they definitely are. They did have nice box seats from which to watch the action.The center domed ceiling complete with nymphs.The ceiling is topped by portraits of famous composers and writers. That looks like Beethoven and Victor Hugo. Of course, that's a politician in the center.
Moliere?As Bill said, "The play's the thing...."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hall of Fame - Salon de la Fama

I am sure it was afternoon. I mean, what would people think if they found out I was in one of our favorite cantinas before the lunch whistle blew. Salon de la Fama is just a wonderful, small place and its owner, El Chato, the consummate host and bartender. The major street construction in front of the place was forgotten as we talked politics, art and life in general, while eating some nice botanas and enjoying our mezcal and cervezas. The ambiance is always warm, friendly and quickly everyone is engaged in conversation.
Here is what you can get. Some nice hot roasted potatoes? Ceviche? The botanas keep coming as long as you are drinking.
I love the photos that adorn the walls. This is El Chato, maybe 20 or 30 years ago. Click here to see him even earlier and now. What a place. You gotta go. You never know who you just might be hangin' with.

One of the other patrons was the architect who had supervised the restorations of many of Oaxaca's most famous sites. He is the guy who was in charge of the church painting in Zegache!!! My favorite obsession. He was responsible for restoring the Macedonia Alcala Teatro just a couple of blocks east of the zocalo. He offered us a tour. And that is one of the next posts.

A dog's life

As I have written before, dogs lead a tough life in Oaxaca. It can be hard on a dog person, but very educational. Sometimes, I wished the US would treat people as well as it treats its dogs. This one sat for this shot and I soon as I finished she was off, probably to make a call.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Get your motor hummin'
Head out on the highwayBorn to be Wild
It belongs to the shoeshine guy in Etla, who yelled at me for taking a picture of his bike and demanded money. I said "Whaddya crazy?" and went to the market. On the way back, I stopped and talked to him, apologized and gave him a couple of pesos. I mean what the hell, right? He asked for more.

Breakfast in Etla

Mmmmm... does it get any better than this? A fresh platter of chile rellenos. The aroma was just like the taste... perfect. These are from our favorite restaurant, Comedor Colon in nearby Etla. I have to go back and get pictures of the the women who run this place. I got some yesterday, but instead of standing by the wonderful food they create, I got them with a huge pile of dirty dishes. They deserve better, because they are the best.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Graf _ Griefitti

The graffiti and street posters is always food for thought.Wonderful detail.OMG - Look out!!Should I get that tat?Or this oneBetty Boop oaxaqueña style