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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guelaguetza 2012 - Floating on air

 The 80th Guelaguetza ended with a flourish last night as there was dancing in the streets and on the stages in various parts of the city and surrounding area.  We went to the guelaguetza in nearby Etla in the morning and even though we had plans to drive to see the one in San Antonino in the late afternoon, I bagged that idea and stayed in and watched the city's version on TV.  Wow!  What an event!

I guess it is like many things, the more one learns about something, the more there is to learn and the more one wants to learn.  Hey, learning is supposed to be fun, isn't it?

And so it is for me and the guelaguetza.  There are so many levels and different aspects of the thing.  There is the history, the various indigenous cultures and languages, the trajes or costumes, the dances and dancers, their joy and exuberance and then the joy and exuberance of the people watching, chanting, cheering.  And on top of all that good stuff, is a remarkable pride and I mean pride in the best sense of the word.  It is hard to put into words, but pride, joy and tradition are a good start.
Each region has its traditions.  And each region has a separate and unique personality.  Some are elegant.  Some are fierce and slightly crazy.  Some are subdued.  Some are sexy. Some are not sexy at all.  But all have a profound sense of pride.  It is "Here we are at our very best, showing you and the world what a magnificent culture of which we are all a part."

And people ate it up... big time.  Me, too.
Oaxaca definitely did this one right.  It has been deemed a great success by all those who were here and there were people here from all over Mexico and plenty of international visitors, as well.

It all bodes well, as Oaxaca is hosting a meeting of all the Mexican states tourist ministers this week.
They could not help but be impressed and yes, proud.  Sometimes, it just feels good to be a part of something so special, so enriching, so uplifting, so human.  Hmmm... I think/hope I am becoming more of a oaxaqueño everyday.

Much more as the dust settles and we all float back down to earth.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guelaguetza 2012 - It continues

The second desfile or parade of delegations from the various regions went off without a hitch yesterday afternoon.  In fact, it was even better than the previous week, which, if I recall, was absolutely fantastic.  So that tells you all you need to know.  It was so much fun.  Where were you?
Once again I got there nice and early, two hours before the start.  The place was empty, but within a few minutes people started arriving and soon enough there was music and dance and photographic opportunities galore. 
This time I was concentrating on learning how to better identify the groups.  The outfits or trajes are all so distinctive, I should have learned this years ago, but... it ain't easy.  I mean, it ain't like each group is carrying a big sign saying where they are from....  oh, they do... oops.
Slowly, I began to associate groups with regions better.  I plan on working on it.  It was very nice to be able to get group portraits.  The dancers from Santiago Jocoltepec.
 The dancers from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec
 The dancers from Santo Tomás Ocotepec.
Much more to come, but it will take a few days to go through photos and video and tomorrow there are two local guelaguetzas about 50 k. apart that I plan on seeing, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Feria Land - Mezcal

There are simultaneous ferias de mezcal occurring now, one in Llano Park in the city
And one in Matatlan, the world capital of mezcal as the sign proudly proclaims. 
Mezcal is a hot product these days as it gains notoriety and becomes more readily available.  This year's event in Llano came together at the last minute due to the fact that someone forgot to get a permit.  However, the mezcaleros quickly set up their stalls and when I visited on the delayed opening day, it was fairly crowded.  I am sure it got packed, but when I was there it seemed rather tranquil.
There is a feria de artesanos right next door.
One could wander and sample mezcals and mezcal cremes.  Salud!
Here is the Pierde Almas setup. 
We had just visited the palenque in Chichicapam
 Ain't nothin' like the real thing.
 The size and number of pearls are indicators of quality and strength.  Large bubbles means it is strong.
 Drink wisely, my friends.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Feria Land

There are quite a few ferias or fairs happening at the moment, each featuring a different aspect of all the things that make Oaxaca so unique.  There are ferias for mezcal, alebrijes (carvings), barro negro (black pottery), tapetes (rugs), hongos (mushrooms), queso (cheese), tamales and tejate.  And they are spread over a wide area from the city to Matalan to Huayapam to San Martin Tilcajete to Etla.  I plan a hitting a few more of them in the coming days.

First, close to home, the feria de queso and quesillo, in nearby Reyes Etla, where we just were for the guelaguetza on Monday.  They are serious about their cheeses here.  They even have a statue and a plaque that says that they are the world capital for quesillo.
There were about fifteen stalls set up and one could wander from stall to stall and sample the various tastes.
There were cheeses with herbs, with chapulines, with chiles and just the real unadulterated thing.
I hope you know there is no cheese like quesillo, the string cheese, which melts like nothing else.  Mmmmm.... so good.  Many of these people sell directly from their homes.  I plan on searching a few of them out.
OK, that covers the queso and hongos ferias.  Mezcal, tamale and tejate in a bit.

Election aftermath continues

Tell me how you feel....
Oh my...
And then there is this
from LAHT
In a press conference Wednesday in this capital, the runner-up in the balloting, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said he and his supporters are providing ample evidence to the TEPJF electoral court to secure “the invalidation of the presidential election as clearly in violation of the constitution.”

“We’re talking about billions of pesos” of illicit origin directed to the PRI’s campaign to buy at least five million votes, Lopez Obrador, the candidate of a coalition led by his Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, said.

“The whole truth can be ascertained. If we’re providing this evidence (of illegal activity), imagine what officials with the Finance Secretariat and (the CNBV banking regulator) would be able to find out, if they don’t know already,” Lopez Obrador said.

“In the federal government, they already know what this was about,” Lopez Obrador said, adding that he doesn’t know why President Felipe Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, or PAN, administration does not “reveal what they know about the use of illicit funds for the benefit for Peña Nieto.”

But “hiding information isn’t going to work because we’re very persistent and aren’t going to give up,” he said in comments aimed at federal government officials and TEPJF justices.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

There's a new sheriff in town..

I mean a new statue in town.  And he is right on the main drag, in the center median of Niños Heroes.
This danzante de plumas seems to be carved out of a single piece or wood.  His feet come out of the base of the trunk of a tree.
The artist, Ricardo Lopez Pinacho, even left his cell number.
I am not sure how long he will last there.  I mean it is wood and in the middle of a pretty mean street in terms of traffic.  From one angle he looks like one of the many guys who wait at intersections to clean windshields or to sell stuff.

El Dia de Taxistas - not

The city is absolutely packed with tourists with hotels reporting up to 90 percent occupancy.  There are more cars and tour buses than normal, as most of the tourist are mexicanos.  So what better time to shut the city down with multiple roadblocks and blockades.  Well, that's what the taxi drivers did yesterday.  And if you think that pissed off over 90 percent of the people you would be correct.  It is such a stupid and unconscionable act and does such damage to the economy and Oaxaca's reputation.....  I will leave it at that.

Some stories (in Spanish) of the chaos created by these taxi drivers.
Integrantes de la Unión de Taxistas del Estado de Oaxaca (UTEO) colapsaron ayer las vialidades de la ciudad, al bloquear desde temprana hora, cerca de 17 puntos como medida de presión al Gobierno del Estado.
La manifestación en los principales cruceros y accesos de la capital, obligaron a la gerencia de la Terminal de Primera Clase a suspender las salidas de autobuses, debido a que no había rutas para abandonar la “Verde Antequera”.

from Noticiasmex
La irritación de los oaxaqueños por el bloqueo de taxistas que lleva más de 7 horas se ha extendido, además de las calles, a las redes sociales. Tanto en Facebook como en Twitter los usuarios han ofrecido opciones, emitido críticas los gobiernos estatal y municipal, discutido con funcionarios de piel sensible como el secretario de Seguridad Pública que respondió enojado a críticas, fustigado a taxistas e informado sobre la evolución del bloqueo, estos son algunos que han caído a la red:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guelaguetza 2012 in Los Reyes Etla

The guelaguetzas in the outlying villages surrounding the city are much more intimate and well, fun, because one can see everything up close and personal.  So we were off to nearby Los Reyes Etla for a morning fiesta.  I have written about the church in Los Reyes many times.  It is in such a beautiful setting with the church overlooking a wide and lush valley.
Oh, an supposedly it was the church in Nacho Libre, the Jack Black film.  No Jack today.  I think we were the only gringos there.
All the guelaguetzas follow pretty much the same format with dancers from the various regions marching in, performing and then throwing gifts typical of their area, out to the crowd as a finish.
The souvenirs include handcrafts and fruit.
Yes, they throw pineapples and mangos out in to the crowd so one has to be aware and on one's toes with arms outstretched.
Los Reyes has a wonderful round dance floor set amongst the stone outcropping.  If one takes a 360 view, you can see mountains surrounding the entire scene.  It has a cosmic feel.  Unfortunately, prudence says to cover the whole thing with a huge tent canopy making it tough to get good shots.  Plus, the hardest thing about shooting dancers in action is they just keep moving, darn it.  What's with that?
Gotta dance.
We arrived with the ladies from Pinotepa and followed the band in.
 Banda Oro Blanco from Los Reyes Etla
 Three princesas.
 Try dancing with a heavy canasta on your head.... in heels, no less. Ay!
One of the nicest things about the smaller guelaguetzas is that some of the dancers are quite young.  This girl looks about ten or twelve at the most.
No, she is not dancing with a piña for a partner.  This is her guy.
Chris, you silly boy.  You can't get it all in one post.  You haven't even mentioned the feria de queso which was right next to the dancing.   Stop... at least for now.  You are cracking me up. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shots of the day

There is so much happening these days the choice between blogging and living is an easy one.  Gotta live.  So much more when the dust settles after guelaguetzas, ferias de mole, mezcal, hongos, queso, etc.  However, these shots from yesterday. 
This wonderful face from Cuajimaloyas.  She was generous and friendly as she looks.
Our favorite waitress, Esperanza, from the BBQ in Tlacolula.
This classic look from a presentation in Tlacolua.
And the back.
 And from the feria hongos, mushrooms, in Cuajimaloyas.  So tasty.  Came back with kilo of them and some potatoes right out of the ground.  The area grows a fair amount and they taste like... real potatoes.
 How could you resist?