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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catrina- Alejandra Robles

Last night we were lucky to attend a performance of "Catrina" a multi-media presentation featuring Alejandra Robles 'La Morena" at the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá.  
The production was quite ambitious and judging from the audience's rapt attention, was a remarkable success.  I always use the LCP (Low cough principle) as a model.  If people start coughing, you're in trouble and there was nary a peep from the packed house.
If you know Robert Wilson's plays... or better yet, think Cirque de Soleil with smoke machines and a little Frida Kahlo thrown in, all in a mysterious mix of music, imagery, dance and traditional themes.
Robles, central in the production, was resplendent and sang beautifully, 
even descending from the heavens,
but really it was an full ensemble production directed by Noel Suástegui and the actors, musicians and dancers were all excellent.  
Now what it was all about is a little murky, but a mother grieved her dead child, 
the devil played violin, 
witches floated down from the rafters, Robles sang, the whole effect was ethereal and beautiful.
 La Catrina lives..... always.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It all means something

There is so much more than immediately meets the eye in these shots from the Panteon General taken a few days ago.
Fresh flowers, water and soda, both bottles uncapped, fruit, a lollipop, skull and angel, both made from sugar and of course, bread.
There is a cigarette butt in between the bread, which may look like trash, but it is not. 
There is another butt in the mouth and it was clearly put there and lit for someone, who enjoyed a good smoke.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mi pan

Here's the bread I got yesterday.  As I said in the previous post, there were lots of vendors and the woman who sold me this one was a real businesswoman, a pro.  It was bagged up and in my hands before I knew I actually was buying it.  Not only is it beautiful, but the aroma..... ahhhhh.
It is sitting on a new wall ornament from Atzompa, where I will be in two days to shoot the candlelit cemetery.

Pan de Muertos

Who knew that the market in Tlacolula was the place to be the Sunday before El Dia de los Muertos?  Well, apparently everyone except me.  Here is a great story, in Spanish, from about the day.  I have never seen the place so packed and energetic.  We drove out just to do something and wow, what a lucky thing we did because it was simply one of the best market experiences I've had.  It was actually a bit overwhelming and after a few hours just taking in the sights we were drained.  That is really saying something.  Remember, I shop in these markets all the time.  This was something special.
After walking a few blocks through many temptations, we made it to the actual market and immediately saw that the entire left side was filled with bread, pan de muertos.  These will be placed on altars and graves.  It holds an important part in the celebrations.  You can see what a big space it is.  There were many more folks selling bread than the place could hold.
The place smelled pretty good as you can well imagine.  The bread came in many different forms.
I bet there were over a hundred different vendors all selling bread.
Tlacolula is always so interesting because people come from all over, the surrounding mountains and valleys and one can hear different languages and dialects.  And the variations in traditional clothing are beautiful.  More on that in a bit.
Which would you choose?
 I'll post the one I got shortly.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sea of Flowers

The fields of celosia and marigolds, or terciopelo rojo and cempasuchil as they are known here, are peaking this week as they get ready for harvest these flowers which will adorn the altars and graves throughout the region for El Dia de los Muertos.
I discovered these fields, which are not far from my house, a few years ago and I always love to see them at this time of year when they are awash with color.
I will have more closeups shortly, as I have grown lots of cempasuchil this year and almost got the timing right.  I love the smell of marigolds..... ahhhh.
I may have planted a couple of weeks late, but I have some different varieties.  I planted my celosia way too late.  I saved the seeds from a gorgeous plant from last year, one like this.
 They can get as big as trees... well, close anyway.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A sure thing

As I walked through Llano Park, which was filled with kids getting out of school, I spied this trio.
They caught my eye because of the red sneakers, so I just watched them. 
It was inevitable, a universal truth was playing out.  Boys and water.
 The sun was hot.  The water was cold or so they said.  I showed them the pics and they just laughed. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting ready for Muertos

I always like to visit the cemeteries or panteons a week or so before El Dia de los Muertos.  For one thing, they are extremely tranquil, not full of people and not full of flowers..... yet.  Really, it is just to watch the preparations and to get a little psyched.
These gentlemen were working on the exterior wall of the Panteon General in the city.
They were first brushing off the dust, then scraping where it needed it and then hitting it with a fresh coat of paint.
I am sure by next week it will all be done and ready to be adorned with flowers.  It is a long wall, maybe a couple of city blocks long, lots of work, but it looked to be going well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doors and gates

There was a time I was going to do a book on the doors and windows of Oaxaca, but I didn't.  End of story.  However, I do have hundreds of photos of them and am still drawn to the their beauty and variation.  It is like an automatic reflex now.  Cool door, gate or window - instant picture.
This one has such character.  Not only the faded black ribbon indicating a death, but also the shiny lock, the classic stonework, the old bricks, the drainage hole, the grass and the 1011 set into the stone or cement.  I am sure at one point the number were all wooden, but over time they fell out and only one 1 remains.
  And this sad little bricked up gate with a helping hand waiting to open it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Election results

No, not that election, a different one and the vote was 3205 to 0 (w/22 blank ballots).

As a former teacher I am always astounded at the power of the Teachers' Unions here in Mexico.  I must add that I taught in a prestigious New England prep school, non-union, poorly paid, weekends, with the normal old boys' heirarchy.  It was such a tough unpleasant job I only did it for close to thirty years.

Teachers here are a very powerful political and social force.... very powerful.  As with all powers, there is a tendency towards corruption.  I will leave it at that.  If you follow the news, you know that they regularly have marches, protests, sit-ins, work stoppages, etc.  Consequently, the kids get a raw deal and parents get angry.  Hey, it has only been going on for decades.  Let's keep on keepin' on.

from the LAHT
Elba Esther Gordillo was re-elected on Saturday as president of Mexico’s SNTE teachers union for a six-year term ending in 2018.

The powerful union boss received 3,205 votes from the participating delegates in the SNTE’s 6th Extraordinary National Congress, while no votes were cast against her and 22 ballots were left blank.

The lone candidate to head Latin America’s largest union, Gordillo was elected after a more than three-hour meeting of delegates representing 1.7 million Mexican teachers.
Any election with results like that must be A-OK,  Nothing to see here, more along....
Gordillo has inspired admiration and hatred throughout her more than 20-year stint as head of the SNTE, traditionally a pillar of the PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 to the 2000 and will return to power in December after Enrique Peña Nieto’s victory in the July presidential election.
 Of course, the above story doesn't get into the details which are pretty amazing in themselves.  Apparently, the venue was changed at the last minute.... from Noticiasmex (read the whole story)
Designed for all kinds of excesses, its extravagance reaches babysitting service, business centre, Convention Centre, Chapel, multiple international restaurants specialized in seafood, oriental, Italian food, fine cuts, food Spanish or Mexican; bars, discos, shopping center, jewelry, theatres, fields of practice for golf and minigolf, tennis courts of tennis, basketball, football, spa, five "megapiscinas", court Lake and monumental pre-Hispanic sculptures that embroider the luxury.

Guests could eat and drink free of charge, covered the pleasures under the concept "all inclusive" which is paid hosting fees.
 And a free computer, too. 

What a system.

Friday, October 19, 2012

In the pink

A nice quick trip over to Zaachila to check on the panteon and the preparations for Muertos in a couple of weeks.  The cemetery is beautifully shaded by large trees, but the main reason we headed there was to check on the graves, where in addition to placing fresh flowers, many of the graves have plants growing on them, little mini gardens.  More on that later.
The colors on people's house, on the municipal building, just about everywhere seemed particularly electric today.  Here's the entrance to the panteon.
Or how about this house.  "Hey, man, take a right and my place is the pink one on the right.  You can't miss it."
Now, that is color.  Amiright?
And this wonderful gate was directly across the street from Big Pink.
 What a palette they use here, completely free, but it often works so well.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

High on Aztompa

Following in the footsteps of Presidente Calderon, yesterday we visited the newly opened archaeological site in Atzompa.  Really, it is a the very top of the mountain overlooking the village of Atzompa.  Check out spixl's panoramic shot.
This is a restoration in progress so do not expect to see the same level of rebuilding and detail as in Monte Alban, which sits nearby to the south and must have been a normal daily commute for folks living in Atzompa hundreds of years ago.  
One of the first things you see is an impressive ball court.  The setting is amazing.  Imagine playing the ancient ballgame there!
As luck would have it, we were the only visitors at the time.  The only other people there were workers who gave us helpful information about the site and the surrounding area.  And that is the best thing about the site - the 360 degree vistas of the dramatic country that surrounds the site.  Let me say that again, the views are spectacular, new angles to see all of Oaxaca, the city, the mountains and the valleys.  Wow!

And it is incredibly cool to walk the paths and imagine what an amazing city this must have been.

There are signs in both English and Spanish throughout the site.  Here's one of the timeline.
Renderings of what it might have looked like. (I was actually taking a pic of the bug)
If you go, stop at the house of Angelica Vazquez, the ceramic artist I just photographed.  Hers is the second to the last house on the right before entering the site.  Boy, is her life going to be different when people really start visiting the site.  As we were leaving, these guys were headed down the mountain at a pretty good clip.  To see why, follow the link and look at the last shot on Casi Colibri.