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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Election season - Mexican style

Unlike the US and its never-ending years of electioneering, Mexico's system seems far more sane.  First, presidents here serve one term of six years and that is it.  Also, the campaign is limited to three months, which for the 2012 election, begins today and ends July 1.  Three months!  How does that sound?

Of course, this is Mexico so there are all sorts of twists and turns and underhanded dealings as Tim Johnson from McClatchy points out in this story.
The frequency in Mexico of wiretapping politicians' telephones and leaking what's said would make even a British tabloid editor envious. The compressed, three-month presidential campaign leading to July 1 doesn't kick off till Friday, yet already a wiretap scandal is unfolding.
Political commentator Raymundo Riva Palacio calls the drumbeat of leaked wiretaps a "perverse factor in Mexican politics."
In the latest case, the ruling party's candidate, allegedly speaking to an aide on the phone, mocks two top functionaries in her party, among them President Felipe Calderon's highly influential security chief, for her suspicion that they listen in on calls.
In this instance, as in nearly every case of apparent illegal eavesdropping, politicians have greeted the leak with condemnations and demands for a criminal probe. But no successful prosecutions for illegal wiretapping have occurred in recent years.
Riva Palacio, who writes a column for 24 Horas, a tabloid newspaper, said political culture in Mexico "isn't to condemn the deed but rather publicize what was said."
"All people who today complain of (wiretaps) have used these illegally taped conversations themselves to deal blows to their adversaries," he said.
He said many larger state governments had the capacity to wiretap telephones, as did the federal government, making it difficult to trace the source of the bugging and putting potential recordings in the hands of politicians of all stripes.
The leaking of an apparent telephone conversation of National Action Party candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota came more than two months after microphones were found scattered in the lower house of Congress in what lawmaker Armando Rios Piter said were "quite a lot of offices."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Señor Churro - Street signs

Churros and a cup of oaxacan chocolate.   Mmmmmmm...... you have no idea.  It does not get much better than that.
Seconds on the lips, forever on the hips.  So a little Tahitian dance to work it off.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yours for a special price...

It is wild to see all the stuff for sale in Etla this week.  Mind you, this is a religious festival, but you would hardly know it with all the crazy rides and games set up in the streets surrounding the church and market.  And sure, you can find a large assortment of religious items.  More later this week.
I always love the ceramics and baskets.
How about these sweets? 
Hungry yet?
I don't have any idea what half of them are, but the tamarind and coconuts goodies are mighty tasty.
They did not have this shirt in my size.  I guess you are supposed to buy it for your child to insure that they will need therapy at some point in their lives.
I thought this guy was selling large bull and horse statues,
but it was a setup for photos.
What a beautiful face.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back to Etla

I returned to Etla this morning for a great breakfast at the Comedor Colon and then headed up to the church to see more of the celebration.

I was fascinated by the statue of San Pedro over the Holy Water faucet and wanted a closer look.
Another portrait overhead.
More taste treats fresh from the oven.
 Also the two side chapels were once again open.
I have been in the church many times but never saw them before.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gracias to Malia and the Obamas

I know the US press has pulled a lot of the stories about Malia and her classmates' visit to Oaxaca, but not so the Mexican press.  For many reasons, many people are thankful and pleased that they came, saw, experienced and no doubt, developed a love and respect for the place as have so many of us.
Here is a photo and story from Noticiasmex.
 Let's hope others come and do the same.  You really should.  What are you waiting for?

Etla - Quinto Viernes de Cuaresma

The fifth Friday of Lent is a big deal in nearby Etla.  People come from all over Oaxaca to fill the often tranquil and empty church.  As the title of the story from El Imparcial translates "United in Faith."

I am not Catholic and I do not know much about the significance of each Friday in Lent, but as I understand it, this is the day to commit to helping those around you in need and in crisis.

Etla is such a special place any time with its wonderful market and my favorite restaurant, Comedor Colon.  The abuelas from whom I buy my food each week are some of my special friends who take such good care of me.  But this was a very different Etla today because it was packed with folks from all over.  I saw outfits and heard languages that I never see or hear there.  It was fantastic.
People lined up to get into the church and to present flowers to El Señor de las Peñas, Christ who suffered.  I watched as people kissed the small statue and touched it with their flowers of herbs and then rubbed them over their bodies to clean and heal them.
A lady selling rosemary, romero, and herbs in the plaza in front of the church.
They also lined up to get some Holy Water either to take with them or to wash their hands and faces, the backs of their necks.  Huh, you will notice the ax in San Pedro's head.
Outside the church the market was really poppin', looking festive.
Look at this wonderful looking special bread fresh out of the oven.
There was also a rare midday castillo..... more on that in a bit.
In the meantime, be kind to each other and help a brother/sister out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Crazy Love

I got a great smile from this bus driver when I asked him "Cindy and Nancy?"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More earthquake details

In talking to various people, I was struck by how different the experience was for each of them.  Maybe it depended on the kind of soil one was on, from bedrock to clay to loam.  I am in a valley and the house shook enough for me to head outside, but that was it.  Neighbors had glassware fall off the shelves.  In the city buildings were damaged, but I will know more today when I head in.

Here are further details from LAHT
Government officials said the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that rocked a large swath of southern Mexico left 11 people injured – two in Mexico City and nine in Oaxaca state – and seriously damaged hundreds of homes along the country’s southern coast, although no deaths have been reported.

Authorities remain on alert to attend to possible damage stemming from the quake, which sparked panic in Mexico’s southern and central states when it struck shortly after noon on Tuesday, Government Secretary Alejandro Poire said at a press conference.

The quake’s epicenter was located 29 kilometers (18 miles) northwest of the town of Ometepec, Guerrero, a region without large cities near the coasts of the southern states of Guerrero and Oaxaca.

“Today we experienced a magnitude-7.8 earthquake, the strongest since the one in 1985, and what it showed was the entire system’s capacity to act in the face of this type of phenomenon,” Poire said....

A total of 19 aftershocks ranging from magnitude-4.6 to magnitude-5.3 were felt Tuesday afternoon, according to Poire, who said authorities will be on alert for more on Wednesday.....
All public services are operating normally and strategic installations did not suffer significant damage, while authorities will continue evaluating all buildings – such as hospitals and schools – that reportedly suffered damage, the secretary said.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños - Benito Juárez

206 years ago today, up in the mountains, in the village of San Pablo Guelatao, one Mexico's most important political figures was born.  Benito Juárez, a Zapotec, a oaxaqueño, went from extremely tough and humble beginning to become president of Mexico.  In fact, he was elected president five times.  He is often described as Mexico's Abraham Lincoln, but maybe Lincoln should be described as the US's Juarez.  In the long run, Juarez may have done more than Lincoln and in the minds of the indigenous, he is one of their greatest advocates and heroes.
Here is a restoration of his early home in San Pablo Guelatao.
 He sits looking out over his village and his country beyond.
 "Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz" - "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace."

Words to live by.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Earthquake caused by bloviator?

About an hour ago, we experienced a pretty good earthquake.  No damage, but a good shaking.

from ABC News
A strong, long 7.6 earthquake with an epicenter in Guerrero state shook central southern Mexico on Tuesday, swaying buildings in Mexico City and sending frightened workers and residents into the streets.
The U.S. Geological Survey set the intensity at 7.6 and said the epicenter was 11 miles underground. Mexico's National Seismological Survey said the temblor had an epicenter southwest of Ometepec and was felt strongly in Oaxaca.
At just about the same time, GOP presidential hopeful Rih Santorum was condemning President Obama for allowing his daughter, Malia, to come here. 

His ignorance is almost equal to the stupidity of the title of this post.  I will spare you what I really think other than to say what I always say, "Oaxaca is safe," and I am very happy that this school group came here.  They are among many, many tourists enjoying this wonderful place.  And it gets even better with Semana Santa approaching.  Join them.

Incidentally, I passed Malia and her classmates on the street yesterday.  No big deal.  She is tall.  That is all.

Mango crop damaged

Remember how in the previous post I said it was mango season -  I just had one of the best I have had in years - well, it may be a short-lived mango savoring season.

from Fresh Plaza
Strong winds caused severe losses to some 18,000 hectares of mango for export from the  municipalities of Chahuites, Santo Domingo Zanatepec, San Pedro Tapanatepec, Ixthuatán and Reforma de Pineda, Isthmus region of Tehuantepec, said a concerned producer representative, Julius Caesar Urbieta Salinas, reported the Jornada en Linea.

At a press conference in front of the Government Palace, the peasant leader said that winds, which ranged from 95 to 120 miles per hour, passed through the fields on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th, and consequently brought down the fruit of the Tommy and Ataulfo varieties​​.
 "Before we harvested two thousand boxes per hectare, now with this mess we will not reach 200," he said. He explained that the mango that was cut down by the wind can not be marketed in the U.S., Canada, Japan and other countries because they did not reach the required maturity.

"It's a shame to see it, thousands of mangoes, some green, and others that were to be harvested in two weeks, laying on the ground," he said.
 These are the same strong winds that brought down the guelaguetza auditorium roof.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The art of the melon

At one of the tables last Friday, el Día de la Samaritana, young chefs were demonstrating some of their many talents in combining art and food.
Pretty remarkable work, isn't it?
Incidentally, it is melon and mango time. 
I have had some absolutely sublime ones in the last few days.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Obama in Oaxaca!

No, not Barak, Malia.  Still, any Obama coming here is good news because, no doubt, she will return and tell her Mom, Dad and sister what am absolutely fantastic place this is. 
 from El Imparcial
Malia Ann Obama, hija del presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, arribó desde el pasado viernes a la ciudad de Oaxaca para realizar un viaje privado.
Trascendió que la hija del mandatario estadunidense llegó a la Verde Antequera con un grupo de 12 jóvenes de origen estadounidense que descendieron de un avión comercial procedente de Houston, Texas.
Ayer fue capta en la terraza de un conocido hotel ubicado en la calle de García Vigil, donde ella, junto con sus acompañantes, se asomaron en el momento que pasaba una calenda.
De forma extraoficial se dijo que Malia Ann Obama visitó ayer Mitla para conocer la cultura oaxaqueña.
 And if the Obamas think this is a good and safe place for their kids to visit, guess what?  It is!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day)

Yesterday was el Día de la Samaritana (Good Samaritan Day) and the city was packed with people, all partaking in the many offerings made by others throughout the city. 
One could walk down a quiet street and be offered a cool drink or a wonderful, throat-freezing ice.
Traditionally, the offerings include horchata made from rice, various aguas and chilacayota which is made from a wonderful sweet squash.
The whole concept behind the Good Samaritan is very much a daily presence here.  People help each other.  There is a shared effort for shared reward.  This is a part of life in indigenous villages and in the city as well, but more on that later.

For now, enjoy this absolutely stunning jar of horchata
and how about some chilacayota?
How can you resist?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ultima Llanada

It's hot.  I mean, it is really hot.  It has been a long day.  You are tired and you are running to catch the bus, but alas, you don't make it and it drives off leaving you in a cloud of exhaust and with this wonderful sight,
Okay, I thought I knew what this meant - the last thread - the final straw - but I see than llanada is not in my dictionary.  I know that llano means "plain,"  but I need help with this one.  Anyone?  Anyone? Bueller?  I am hanging by a thread.....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Whitney Lives

I live out in the country.  Almost every day I hear music floating across the fields and valleys.  I hear lots of traditional music.  I hear bands playing eventos, weddings, birthdays and quinceañeras.  I hear musicians practicing - there is a killer tuba player that lives somewhere near.  I hear the stuff coming out of loudspeakers planted on top of cars, mostly VW bugs.  I hear the military bands every now and then.

But this morning, while it was still cool and calm, off in the distance, nice and clear, I heard someone playing "Whitney Houston's "I will always love you."  It was a wonderfully beautiful moment... and so sad.  That is one of the beauties of music/art/words, they live on after we are gone. 

Am I Blue?

A study in blue.
And yes, it was that blue.  A little context.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Construct of Art

I guess I am like a little kid, I love watching construction projects.  So as the months go by, I will keep checking on the work at the Cinco Señores intersection.
 Shadows and light... and a way up.
 Glowing insulators.

Windy? Have a cerveza.

The wind that bought down part of the Guelaguetza Auditorium's covering was quite strong, but not that unusual.  As mentioned before, the coast of southern Oaxaca is one of the windiest places in the world and that wind is going to be turned into beer and Coke, amongst other things.

from Environmental Leader
Heineken beer and Coca-Cola are among the products that look set to be produced using power from Latin America’s largest wind energy project.

Danish turbine producer Vestas received a 396 MW order for the Mareña Renovables project, which is to be located in the south-eastern region of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.
 from Silicon Republic
When built, the wind farm is expected to be the largest wind-energy project in Latin America, according to Mareña Renovables.
The wind farm itself will be located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the southeastern region of the State of Oaxaca. Delivery of the turbines is set to start in the second quarter of 2012, Vestas has confirmed in a statement.
As part of the turnkey contract, Vestas will provide the entire range of services to build the wind farm, including civil and electrical works, supply, installation and commissioning of the wind turbines.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guelaguetza Auditorium roof update....

Remember all the posts about the roof over the Guelaguezta Auditorium?  First, it was started by URO's administration without any or very little public input.  Then, just to stick it to the new administration, they stopped work and abandoned the site.  Then, the materials were found to be substandard and had to be removed.  The job was rebid.  Then completed.  Then important people thought it was an eyesore because it could be seen from everywhere and they felt it was not in keeping with the culture of the city.   Then it became a viable venue for events. 

And then.... a really big wind came and blew a couple of sections of the covering off.  I am talkin' a serious wind, but not that unusual for here. 

This shot is from across the valley near Huayapam.

This one is up close and personal.  The coverings landed just off to the side.  Now what?  Time for a rebuild, I guess.  The new company has guaranteed the work and so they will be back at it.  The guelaguetza is still months away, but other events have been cancelled or moved.  The government says the guelaguetza will happen "with or without the roof."