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, April 30, 2012

Home is where the heart is....

Even surrounded with jagged glass...
You just gotta have heart.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sign of the times

Maybe it is the same everywhere and it is only that my eyes are more in attuned here... no, that's not true, because I always have a camera in my back pocket, I look at things differently.... but the signs here seem more interesting.
A clear sign that the times are a'changin'.

You know what pozole is, don't you?  And a tata is a nanny, I think.

Fresh paint.  Any one for a frosty Indio?

The tradition continues..

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moctezuma's Headdress

It must be in Mexico because it is such an important Mexican artifact, right?  Wrong!  It has been in Vienna, Austria since 1575.  A quick search reveals that its return or even just a loan of it to Mexico has been under negotiations for a very long time.  There is so much wrong with this story, I will let you figure it out.

from the LAHT (emphasis added)
The Austrian government has approved a bilateral pact with Mexico governing the loan of cultural artifacts, an agreement that could pave the way for a headdress believed to have been worn by Aztec ruler Montezuma II to be temporarily brought to the Latin American country.

The treaty, negotiated over nearly two years and approved earlier this week by Austria’s Cabinet, is aimed at resolving a decades-long dispute over the spectacular feather-work crown, a spokesman for Austria’s Culture and Education Ministry told Efe Thursday.

The goal is to “create international legal certainties regarding temporary loans of cultural property,” the spokesman said.

The treaty, negotiated between each country’s ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, does not address the matter of ownership over any cultural objects that may be loaned out, he said.

Both countries’ legislatures must ratify the treaty before it enters into effect, which in Austria’s case could occur “in a matter of months,” the spokesman said....

Under no circumstances will the Austrian government permit the headdress to be permanently transferred to Mexico, he said, adding that to his knowledge the Mexican government still has not approved the bilateral accord.

The priceless artifact, made of 400 bronze-green quetzal feathers mounted in gold and studded with precious stones, is an important Mexican national symbol traditionally believed to have been worn by Montezuma II, the Aztec emperor at the time of the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in 1519.

The headdress became part of the collection that Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria – nephew of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor – held at Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck, Austria at the end of the 16th century.

It was only in the 19th century that the piece was determined to be of Aztec origin.

Some Austrian experts say the feather-work crown did not belong to Montezuma II but instead was an ornamental element used by priests, although they acknowledge the headdress’ significance in Mexican culture.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good press

Every bit helps.
from the Tucson Sentinel 
This colonial Mexican city recently received a special guest. Malia Obama, the U.S. president's 13-year-old daughter, walked through the city's elegant, ornate churches on a school field trip with 12 classmates and two dozen security guards.
Their itinerary, at the end of last month, included visits to the massive Monte Alban archeological site and the "world's biggest tree" El Tule.
The visit caused a stir. In Oaxaca, everybody seemed aware of Malia's trip — particularly the region's tourism boosters. The head of the hoteliers association attributed a recent spike in occupancy specifically to Malia. One Oaxaca promoter even joked the city should start its own "Malia was here" campaign.
The field trip gave Oaxaca what Mexico's tourism industry craves so much right now: positive press.
The bulk of Mexico's vital tourism economy comes from U.S. travelers. The country's drug war has damaged its reputation with its most frequent visitors. As a result, Mexico is trying to change perception by any means necessary.
"We believe that we have to rebrand to the Americans," said Niza Lopez, head of Oaxaca's international promotion. "Yes, there are unsafe areas in Mexico, but also there are areas like the state of Oaxaca where really there's almost no violence or crime."
It is all true.  Come and see for yourself


One of my favorite lines from "Kill Bill Vol 2" is "Wakey, wakey, eggs and bacy."  OK, no bacon, but look at those eggs!  A classic.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Birthday Blues

You would think that because the city is in the midst of a birthday bash, it would be free of protests in the zocalo.  Things look pretty quiet on this side.
But you would be wrong.  This is the other side.
There appear to be a couple of groups protesting. 
This is the entrance to the Governor's Palace.
I still think that Oaxaca is ahead of the curve with all these protests.  Someday it may be happening around you, but I suppose things will have to get worse first until you reach the "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore" moment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy 480th Birthday, Oaxaca

One of the things I love about this place is its history.  I always like to mention that domesticated corn was found in a cave in Mitla dating back 10,000 years.  10,000 years!  That is some history and having a history gives one perspective.
1930 - population approx 30,000
 Today - population approx 230,000
 So today, or really all this week, the city is celebrating its formal beginnings some 480 years ago.

That is 1532.  Think about that a while.

from Noticiasmex
Hoy la ciudad de Oaxaca amanece como una joven de 480 veranos, por sus calles ha visto transitar hechos históricos y personajes que dejaron huella como Morelos, Porfirio Díaz, Benito Juárez, en suma: la historia de México.

Today the city of Oaxaca dawns like a young person of 480 summers, through its streets, it has seen a historic journey, facts and personages left their tracks like Morelos, Porfirio Diaz, Benito Juárez, to sum up: the history of Mexico.
 Please read the whole story.  It is in Spanish, but this is the internet and are lots of easy ways to translate.

Here's roughly the same angle shot as the old one, only this morning.
Man, I want to be here for the 500th!  Ojala!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Made in the shade - Hecho en la sombra

The sun is intense at this time of year, but really most any time of the year, a oaxaqueño will find the shade even if they have to provide it themselves with an umbrella or a newspaper. 

One side of the street is always cooler and it does not matter if it is just a meter of shade,

folks will walk or stand in it.

It is an everyday thing and after a while one does it automatically.

A great look.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Daytime Castillo in Etla

Castillos are normally lit at night, after all, they are fireworks.  However, this one was right in the middle of the day, so they had to come up with a different visual approach and they succeeded.  In particular, the bicyclist is just amazing.  What a brilliant idea and realization.  I have never seen anything like it, but in truth, I have not ever seen another castillo during daylight hours.

Not too cool?

Saturday, April 21, 2012


 I have written about the proliferation of the Wal-Mart empire before.  The tendrils are everywhere.  There is even a new Aurrera in nearby Etla.   So these latest revelations are no surprise.  Welcome to the 21st Century, which is just like the 20th and the one before that and the one before that, in that, money talks.

from the NYT
In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.
The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Out of the mouths of babes.....

Here's a video that is going viral from Nuestro Mexico del Futuro.  It is pretty powerful as the kids depict various social problems under which the country suffers.  It ends with a plea to the current presidential candidates to actually do something about these problems, not to just grab power for power's sake.

As I say, it is a powerful message.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Your table is waiting

Not too festive and colorful.  I like the mirror in the doorway.
As always, the Hosteria de Alcalá is decorated beautifully.
Stop in at Amate Books on the way in and out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another day, another adventure

For months, the car I have been driving, a Jetta, has been running hot.  Not all the time, mostly going up hill, but every now and then, on a long straight-away, when it really was not working very hard.   I watched the needle all the time and because it always cooled down quickly, within seconds, I just kept going with it.

Finally, I decided enough was enough, it was cramping my style as a kamikaze oaxaqeño driver, so I went in search of a good mechanic, preferably one close to the house as opposed to one in the city or, heaven forbid, the dealer.  I asked around and eventually took a chance and went to the guys directly across the street from me, about a two minute walk at most.   Hey, it was the easiest.  What's the worst that could happen?

Understand that mechanics here are generally in pretty funky spots with lots of no doubt excellent junk surrounding them.  No gleaming work areas or hydraulic lifts.  No spotless uniforms.  No clean restrooms.

I had been practicing how to explain what the problem was.  "El coche es corriendo caliente."  I learned all the necessary terms for thermostat and water pump.  The best laid plans and all that... the mechanic was deaf.

Ah well, with magic marker and white board in hand, we started communicating and when I showed up a few hours later, the car was done, the problem solved.  It was a bad termóstato.  So I feel great.  The car is fixed.  I found a good mechanic and I met an unexpected challenge, a small one, but still, it all went as well as I could have hoped.

Vrooom!!! All for $20 US!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Which side are you on?

When I saw this poster, I heard Florence Reece's song, "Which side are you on?" in my head.
 The poster says. "Hey you, what have you done to defend the rights we gave our lives for?"

Happy tax day in El Norte.  Rest assured that I only paid .5% on my imaginary millions.  I imagined I would have liked to pay more, but as long as the game is rigged....  As Mel Brooks said, "It's good to be the king." Party on, Garth..... Squirrel!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Monte Alban is green!

The rains have come very early this year.  It seems that every evening one can hear thunder and see lightning somewhere over the wide valleys.  It may not rain every day, but the rains have come often enough so that the countryside has awakened and is greening up nicely.  Normally, Monte Alban is brown, brown, brown in March, but look at these shots. 

It is already green and gorgeous...

and, as always, cosmic.

And yes, I know the weather is screwed up everywhere with horrible storms and drought and cold, but here we have lucked out for the time being.  Heck, it is supposed to be almost 90 in Boston on Tuesday.  In mid April?  Good luck to the Boston Marathoners!   That is hotter than it will be here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Good Friday, one week later

Or as it is known Friday the 13th.  It is all a matter of perspective, I guess. 
I am left with images from last week's celebration.
Some of the faces.  One of the standard bearers.

Dressed for the occasion.

The archbishop of Oaxaca and the priest from Templo Sangre de Cristo.



The details.  The Seven Sorrows pierced the heart.

The embroidery on Jesus' robe.

So how is your week going?   It is all a matter of perspective, I guess.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Death is death

Hatred and poverty cause people do things like these....

from the LA Times
 Two illegal immigrants were shot to death by camouflaged gunmen northwest of Tucson in an incident evoking a pair of 2007 attacks, Arizona authorities said Wednesday.
 from LAHT
Nine undocumented Mexican migrants were killed and six others injured when the van they were traveling in crashed after the driver sped away from an immigration checkpoint in South Texas, authorities said Wednesday...
 According to Mexican authorities, the nine dead immigrants were all men and the majority of the vehicle’s occupants had come from the southern state of Oaxaca. 

I know one's politics adjust one's perspective on all things these days, but death is death.  Eleven more people are dead because we have lost sight of our humanity, our compassion.  Words fail....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter in Mitla - Pascua en Mitla

While on our drive yesterday, we were lucky (blessed?) to see Easter mass celebrated in Mitla.  It was held outside in the plaza in front of the church under a huge canopy.  
The smell of copal filled the air.
Jesus delivered the blessing.
I am not catholic, but I did enjoy the ritual, the aura of Easter mass and loved seeing all the kids in front.  
They were all dressed in white and they each received the priest's blessing and had the cross made on their chests with holy water.
Note the agave flowers on either side.
Mitla is surrounded by maguey fields.  It is in the heart of Mezcal land.  
Angels in the house.
 Some with wings.
One last blessing and we were on out way..... to visit Faust(ino).

Please note that Jesus is using a new, well really not so new, they've been around for years, energy saver light bulb.  Everyone uses them here. So all the folks in the US Congress, who because it is Easter, I will not call bone-headed idiots, please follow His example.  If is good enough for Christ, it is probably good enough for Christians.  C'mon peeps. git wid da program.

Monday, April 9, 2012

¡Viva Faustino!

 One of my favorite drives goes through the heart of mezcal land.  I take it whenever I get a chance.
Years ago I did a photo shoot of Ron Cooper and tagged along as he visited one of his suppliers, Faustino, in Chichicapa.  I have returned several times to watch Faustino and his son work their magic of turning agave, maguey, into mezcal.  He makes a potent brew, anywhere between 98 and 110 proof, but for different villages, like Teotitlan del Valle, he makes one that is a mere 76 proof.  He does have a few clients who like it in the 150 range.  At any rate, it was great to see him yesterday and even though I do not drink, I still managed to buy ten liters of his "Gota de Chichicapa," gota meaning "a drop."
Faustino even has his own special bottle now.  How cool is that?
Faustino and family.
 Seeing as though mezcal goes for anywhere from $30 to $120 a liter in the States, I took advantage of buying from the source at $4.50 a liter.  I know my friends who are connoisseurs of mezcal and regularly stop by are going to enjoy every gota.