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, June 30, 2011

Name that Mexican state

It is gray and overcast and has been for a couple of days as Tropical Storm Arlene, makes its way across Mexico.  It could bring as much as six inches of rain to parts of Veracruz and Tamaulipas where they have been experiencing the worst drought in 50 years!
As I looked at the track of the storm and how it related to Oaxaca, it reminded me of this map which I use to learn the States of Mexico.  I quiz myself regularly.  How many can you name?
Click to go to the home site and give yourself a little quiz or just start learning them.  It makes one realize just how big Mexico is and how much there is to learn about it.  Haz la quiz.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Termites in El Tule... or close.

The director of Forest Development, Felix Piñeriro Márquez, confirmed the presence of termites in the son of El Tule, the 2000 year old ahuehuete cypress tree in Santa Maria El Tule, and announced urgent actions to eradicate them before they reach to the giant 509 ton parent tree.

I am not sure how far the son is from the parent, maybe 100 meters if I am thinking of the right tree.  It may be the one to the right in the shot above.  These trees are closely monitored.  El Tule is a natural wonder, a magnificent tree, and one of Oaxaca's key tourist sites.  El Tule is not far from the city on the way to Mitla or Tlacolula.

One would think that over 2000 years, that it has survived lots of insects and natural attacks, but this one sounds serious.  I am pretty confident they will stay on top of this and not let anything happen.

Roof saga continues

The new governor, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, is not a fan of the new roof over the Auditorio Guelaguetza either.  "If you asked me if I like roof over the Guelaguetza Auditorim, I would say no; but I am not going to act in authoritarian way to let it stay or to remove it; we are going to make a consultation with the citizens and it is they who will decide, because these spaces are the patrimony of oaxaqueños."

Cué inherited this problem from his predecessor, Ulises Ruiz, whose administration was rife with problems.  The process from the get-go was questionable with a plan approved and work undertaken before anyone really knew about it.  Then the design and materials had major problems.  Worked was stopped for months as URO left and Cué took over.

So it will be wait and see.  The gueleguetza will take place and then decisions will be made. The project cost $8.5 million USD.

Stories from El Imparcial and Noticiasnet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Toledo not a roof fan

Francisco Toledo, the painter, who is arguably Oaxaca's greatest patron, having sponsored many restoration and beautification projects, thinks the new roof over the Guelaguezta Stadium is "ugly."  The artist has joined others in condemning the project saying that the money could have been spent on more pressing needs.
Toledo, the founder of the Institute of Graphical Arts of Oaxaca (IAGO), is sorry that so much money  has been spent on this project; “There are so many needs in the state, that this is a barbarism.... There is a need to erase this clown outfit, that is can be seen from any part of the city, because aesthetically it is very, very ugly....  This monstrosity can be seen from every angle, it presence dominates the city."

full story from El Imparcial.

Day of the Tree - Dia del Arbol

Today, June 28, is the official Day of the Tree.  In Rome in 1969, the World Forest Congress decided to celebrate the 28 of June as the global Day of the Tree.  As that same congress, the month of July was designated as “Celebration of the Forest” month.  The purpose of these celebrations is to remember the importance that plants and forests have for all the inhabitants of this planet.

The tree in the picture is an 2500 year old elephant tree in Zapotitlan, Puebla.  It is thought that if one hugs these trees, that they will absorb negative energy and fill one with renewed and positive energy.  Here's an earlier post about Zapotitlan.

Also, too, a wonderful story from today Noticias about the ancient trees to the north in Santiago Comaltepec.  We are definitely going!

Monday, June 27, 2011


I found this wonderful bit of street art or graffiti on one of the hidden back streets in Teotitlan del Valle.  It is a rendering of a famous shot of Cantinflas, one of Mexico's greatest stars.  Note the traditional pvc pipe drain from the roof in the upper left.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

She's everywhere

This house on Reforma always has the Virgen gracing the street.  This one looks freshly painted/stenciled.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Roof update

Well, it looks like the new roof will be done for the upcoming Guelaguetza.  It really is a stunning structure, isn't it?  I wonder how people will react to sitting in the shade.  Used to be a very long, hot day under the sun.  Great hat sales.  I am sure the dancers will appreciate it.

From below.

Those tiny dots on top of the left dome are five workers.

And tickets are now on sale everywhere.  I think it is all gonna work out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't even think about it.

This parking space is all mine.  Etla this morning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amores perros

Another dog and cat story.
Last night it rained cats and dogs, an amazing rain.  When one goes without rain for so long, these storms are almost religious.  This was the outskirts of Beatrice, the tropical storm that made it way up the coast.

The plants and trees are all going, "Ahhhhhh..."
The dog is a street dog in Etla for whom I regularly buy lunch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer soltice!

Breakfast in Etla with good friends, Henry and Rosa, then weeding in the garden after last night's soaking rain, then a nice siesta.... it does not get any better.

Good news for plants and animals

And now for something completely different.....

A couple of stories about things close to my heart, plants and animals.  Both from
First, this story about plans to plant 100,000,000 trees throughout the state of Oaxaca during the six year Gambino Cue tenure.  It is a collaboration between the state government, the Alfredo Harp Helú Foundation, Sweden and the UK.  This will address the serious deforestation that has occurred over the past many decades.  The hundred million is a goal for the 47 propagation stations which will produce 13 million trees this year and as many as 30 million in the coming years.
And secondly, a story about people's kindness toward the "animals of the streets," the many stray cats and dogs, and one woman in particular's love and caring for them. Hilda Toledo Salinas works towards improving and preserving the lives of these animals. "I only try to protect them, to give them the most important thing, a little love, and to give them a voice for preservation and defense.”  She helps with sterilization and adoption and advocates for a law giving them some sort of protection.  There are currently no animal protection laws here.

I have often written about the tough life that dogs lead here in Mexico and, I suspect, in many other parts of the world.  We need more saints like Doña Hilda.

Surf's Up!

from Surfer Today
The 2011 Zicatela Pro has been confirmed and will showcase the best planetary bodyboaders in the incredible wave conditions on offer in Mexico. Zicatela is the main beach of Puerto Escondido, a long stretch of slabbing, sand-bottom peaks that offer fast pits and punchy ramps, enough to keep any bodyboarder satisfied for weeks on end. 

This is one of the heaviest beach breaks in the world and breaks on just about any size of swell, producing left and right peaks up to about six foot and holding massive lefts further down the beach (up to 20 feet) when it gets serious.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More immigration news.....

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, this story fills in some numbers and they are high. 
Full story from

However, here are the numbers.
Oaxaca had the the second most people deported from El Norte in 2010, second only to Michiocan.
The headline says it all  "Seduce a 38 mil el sueño americano"  "The American dream seduces 38,000"
One percent of the Oaxacan population tried to get into the US.  One of every eleven people sent back is a oaxaqueño.  87 percent are men, 13 percent, women.
The last paragraph of the story indicates that the real number of oaxaqueños is 5.8 million, not the 3.8 million that the governmental census indicates, that there are 1.9 million people from Oaxaca living in the US.

As they say, "Keep moving.  Nothing to see here.  Just keep going."

The Guelaguetza is coming.

"Tickets? Tickets? We don't need no stinkin' tickets."

Yes, the annual dance festival, the Guelaguetza, is right around the corner, the last two Mondays in July... OK, one is in August... that's July 25 and August 1.

However, whoever is in control of the event has not gotten it together enough to make tickets available, so there are none for sale... anywhere. (Story from El Imparcial)
Maybe the bad publicity will light a fire under someone and it will get done this week.

And maybe the roof will be completed.  They are working hard at it, but the whole project has been fraught with difficulties, bad planning, wrong materials, political chicanery.  I will throw some photos up next week.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I guess laws have their consequences....

So they passed a harsh and rigid anti-immigration law.... how's that working out for y'all?

From Peach Pundit (read the whole story)
Neither the Governor’s office nor the Agriculture Commissioner chose to speculate on whether the newly signed immigration reform bill was responsible for the sudden labor shortages, with the Governor’s office noting that it was already illegal to hire those in this country illegally before HB 87 was signed, and that a federal guest worker program exists so that farmers can legally hire foreign workers.
There are curious observations to note about the shortages with respect to basic laws of economics. Notably, a state with a 9.9% unemployment rate has crops rotting in the late spring sun for lack of available workers to pick them. Part of the problem is the location of the unemployed, as Dalton currently has the state’s highest unemployment rate, and the commute from Dalton to Baxley or Tifton wouldn’t exactly be cost effective at blueberry picking rates.
Yet, with the unemployment rate relatively high state wide, the reduction in supply of immigrant labor may be anecdotally proving that at least some labor supplied by undocumented workers is being done because the local supply of labor will not do the work at the prevailing wage.
 Ain't goin' too well for Alabama, either.

Worth checking out

Nature's Best Photography Magazine's wildlife photograph winners for 2010. The annual Windland Smith Rice International Awards program is among the most highly-respected and visually compelling nature photography competitions in the world.

This one is from Bence Mate - Green-crowned Brilliant Hummingbird and Green Pit Viper, Santa Rita, Costa Rica.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Trees in the zocalo.....

It is not as if they are not doing anything, but obviously the trees need teams going up into them and treating the problems.  I have no idea what this worker is spraying.  If it is anything strong and effective he should be wearing a mask.  I remember taking care of plants in some of Boston's fancier restaurants and not being allowed to wear a mask so I would not freak patrons or workers out.  I was spraying some pretty funky stuff and always felt lousy afterwards.  That being said, there are times when one has to use chemicals to solve problems.  However, in my own gardens, I am pretty much chemical free.  The bugs can eat what they want.  Once the soil is rich and healthy, lots of problems solve themselves.  Yeah, tell that to the leaf-cutting ants.

The rains have returned

After so many months of dry weather, one looks at rain much differently.  Each drop a blessing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trees in the zocalo

This is not good news.  It appears that at least ten of the trees in the zocalo may be in danger of falling according to this story in Noticias this morning.  Francisco Verasti, ecological activist, says, “it is no longer it is an aesthetic question, it is a question of security."  There is an infestation of bromeliads in the trees, which easily spread to many of the the city's trees and are parasitic.  In addition to the bromiliads, one sees tillansia or air plants growing happily on phone and electrical cables everywhere.  Also, the constant changing of the bedding plants throughout the zocalo, which occurs every few months, often brings in new pests and blights.  The tree under which the weekly concerts take place is infested with balls of the white fungi, armilaria.  The tree dates from 1871. Versati, who has implemented diverse projects towards the conservation of historic trees, said that an $11 million peso plan that would alleviate the problems it in three years has been submitted, but there has been no response thus far from the government.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Then there is this

In juxtaposition to the earlier post about people's march and their resistance to the police and security policies, the government does this.

from LAHT (full story)
Some 310,000 police from Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District will stage next week the first-ever nationally coordinated operation against street crime, the National Conference of Governors said on Saturday......
Mexico has 427,354 police agents among its federal, state and municipal forces, of whom 45.87 percent are state troopers.

The governors’ initiative comes at a time when many representatives of civil society have stepped up their criticism of Mexico’s political class at all levels for the meager results it has obtained in fighting crime.

One of the strongest outcries against officialdom was the Caravan of Peace, an initiative led by poet Javier Sicilia who proclaimed on Friday in Ciudad Juarez – Mexico’s murder capital – a “national citizens’ pact” against the drug war, which has taken some 40,000 lives since the end of 2006.
I wonder what that day will be like.

The Big Story

From the LAHT (read the whole story)
Civil groups have signed in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez a Citizens’ Pact for Peace with Justice and Dignity demanding the end of the “militarist strategy” that the government employs to fight organized crime, particularly drug cartels.

“We demand the immediate end of the war strategy, the demilitarization of the police, the army’s return to the barracks and the withdrawal of military jurisdiction,” said one of the 70 points of the accord that also requests sound political judgment of President Felipe Calderon and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia.

The Calderon government, which took office in December 2006 and ends in 2012, launched the strategy of sending thousands of soldiers and federal agents to points of conflict.

To date there have been some 50,000 soldiers and 36,000 police engaged in that work, while retired military personnel have taken on the responsibilities of police chiefs in some municipalities.

The Citizens’ Pact was prepared over several days during the Caravan for Peace, led by poet Javier Sicilia, which left last Saturday, June 4, from downtown Cuernavaca en route to Ciudad Juarez, the murder capital of Mexico.

The long document, which was read Friday night at the close of the caravan, was prepared by several organizations working in nine separate discussion groups.

To replace the militarist strategy, the organizations propose “citizens’ safety seen from the perspective of human rights.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

It'll last you a lifetime, doña....

Matates y manos for sale in the market in Tlacolula. 
On each, it says, "R. de mis padrinos," "received from my padrinos"

They are heavy.  If I had to guess, I would say they weighed, maybe twenty kilos, over sixty pounds.  I will have to find out.  However, using one is extremely hard work and women have to develop strength and stamina and they sure have!  As I've mentioned before, I've asked the men in nearby Teotitlan del Valle if they could do it and they all said, "No, it is a tough job and they have our respect for doing it so well."

Hmmmm.... which one?  Qual?

OK, we'll take this one. Wrap it up.

Check out these recent posts in which matates are prominent.  One on tortillas, one on chocolate

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agave in flower

Here is something you don't see everyday.  A field of agave, many in flower at the same time.  Normally, the blooming time are a bit staggered, I think.  However, this is one the road to Tlacolula, at the first big Beneval field on the right and they probably know how to time these these to create this aesthetic effect. 

Probably a little bit of Luther Burbank in someone there... meaning, someone there knows their agave.  People who are good with plants will know what I mean, others will just shake their heads and wonder.

Attacking the Press

This is what's up on Google News.  This seems like a slow response to something that happened a week ago.  Maybe it is a weekly.  Noticeras is one of the sources for stories on this blog.

from Journalism in the Americas
A group of demonstrators threatened and beat three Mexican journalists from the newspaper Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca after invading the newspaper's offices in the city of Oaxaca, in Southeastern Mexico, and painting the newspaper's facade with anti-press slogans, reported the National Center of Social Communication (CENCOS).
The reporters, Ismael García, Luis Ignacio Velásquez and Citlalli López were attacked when they tried to record and take photos of the incident, June 2, according to Noticiasnet. López blamed the teachers union for the aggression, and said that one day later, three individuals in a car with tinted windows made threatening gestures at him when he was walking on the street with his family, according to Ciudadanía Express.
According to the report, the teachers were protesting articles in the newspaper about recent union mobilizations. Among the slogans painted on the wall were "You have forgotten dignity," and "Sold press."
The Journalists Association of Oaxaca (APO in Spanish) and the National Union of Press Editors organized a march on Tuesday, Jun 7, to protest the aggression against Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca and demand respect for freedom of expression and an end to attacks against journalists, reported Radio Fórmula and E-Oaxaca.
Freedom of expression organizations Article 19 and CENCOS noted that in 2006 and 2007, Oaxaca was the state with the most aggression against journalists perpetrated by persons supposedly linked to political groups or social movements, reported IFEX.
See here a video from Noticiasnet about the jounalists' march.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pain of Art

Looking back at the shots taken over these past few dynamic weeks, I came across these three.

This caricature artist was doing a huge business during the planton.  He was always working and had a large crowd around him.  I saw him numerous days and this time I noticed his tattoo on his shin. 

I was thinking, "That mighta hurt a little," when this father passed through the shot with his daughter.  Then I saw his tattoo on his adam's apple. 


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Back to normal

The planton is gone, but not forgotten.  The streets have been cleaned, the trash removed, the zocalo washed down, the tents gone, as are the traveling vendors, all history.  The story from El Imparcial.
Here is Alcala this morning.

This area by the cathedral was filled with tents just yesterday.

Today, nada.

People enjoying the serenity of the zocalo.

Watching nothing go by.

Just the normal vendors, who I am sure were quite happy to be alone again selling their wares.

Good to see recognizable faces.

Can never pass up a shot of a bride.

Back to normal..... ahhh.

Shots of the day...

Hey it's early.  Just headed in to see what is happenin'.

My favorite graffiti spot... always something new.

Friday, June 3, 2011

El planton - The sit-in... It's Over!

Just got an email from Henry Wangeman of Amate Books informing me that the planton is over, "Teachers have gone and the street is full with people enjoying a leisurely walk."

More tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

El planton - The sit-in... winding down again

Well it has broken..... the weather, not the planton.  The heat is gone and blue skies and cool breezes have returned.

The city remains a camp ground, a tent city.

This is right in front of the Camino Real Hotel... oh, the horror!

As for the planton.... the last two days have been curious with blockades of government buildings, roads, the airport and the shopping plazas.  The question is why?  Essentially, the teacher have had most or all of their demands met.  No, the former governor has not been hauled up on charges and no one knows what happened to one of the teachers who disappeared almost three months ago, but many of the issues have been addressed and apparently resolved.  So why the major disruptions both today and yesterday?  The city was in chaos yesterday and the economics of the whole event have been a disaster.  Many teachers have already left and the center of the city seems much quieter and less densely packed.  However, contrary to this story, it is not over.

from Nocticias
Irritación, enojo, inconformidad y frustración generaron ayer los bloqueos a diversas vialidades, llevados a cabo por integrantes de la sección 22 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), en su décimo día de protestas en la capital del estado.

Need a translation?  Succinctly, people are pissed and frustrated by the blockades.

From El Imparcial
Integrantes de la Sección 22 del SNTE bloquearon ayer por varias horas, unos 19 puntos entre cruceros, dependencias federales y estatales, así como importantes vialidades para obligar al gobernador Gabino Cué a instalar una nueva mesa de negociación. Pasado el mediodía, los trabajadores de la educación cerraron el tránsito vehicular en los cruceros de San Antonio de la Cal, Cinco Señores, Riberas y Tecnológico, Viguera, Volkswagen y del Aeropuerto.

También los seguidores de Azael Santiago Chepi bloquearon la vialidad en Santa Rosa a la altura del Mercado Zonal, Parque del Amor, Símbolos Patrios, Avenida Universidad, acceso al Cerro del Fortín y la Avenida del Sol

Need a translation?  They set up 19 blockades at many of the city's key points.

These protests are only supported by 20 percent of the teachers, but it seems like a vocal minority is getting its way.  Sound familiar?

This planton has not generated any support for the teachers, quite the contrary.  No outside groups have joined in.  It may have gotten a few of their demands met, but the anger by the general populace is palpable.  Succinctly... they pissed.

It is supposed to end tomorrow, Friday.  We shall see.

FYI.. I was driving someone to the airport, when I hit one of the blockades this morning.  I told him he was better off walking the rest of the way, it was only a couple of kilometers, and even though I was on a four lane highway with a median in the middle, I immediately turned my car around and headed back into ongoing traffic.  This is totally normal driving here and everyone just got out of my way without giving it a single thought.  How cool is that?