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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Uh, thanks for the clarification

We're not terrorists, (silly), we're anarchists.
Which country are we talkin' about?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brand loyalty

I pretty much always buy from the same people here.  Through trial and error, I have discovered what, for me, are the best products and people.  I still explore and try whatever looks good, but I always come back to my favorites.  In this case, it is Doña Melisa and her tamales, which are always so nice and fat and filled with the best ingredients
And Doña Juana and her table full of delicious goodies.  She always has chile rellenos made from several kinds of chiles.  I always go for the pasillas.  Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Birthday blockades

As many of you know and realize, I am the Center of the Universe and all life revolves and involves me, me and me.  So you can imagine my surprise when apparently there was an uprising to prevent me from getting to my birthday meal and celebration in the city.  I have no idea what I did to piss off the taxi drivers, but they effectively blocked every road in and out of the city yesterday and prevented me from getting to my destination and no doubt a good meal and more importantly, cake.
(Photos are from Imparcial and Noticiasmx)
Not really, the blockades were because the taxi drivers were upset about being hassled by the cops and city authorities.  Collectivos, taxis, are one of the main modes of transportation from the outlying villages and they come in and discharge passengers in designated places, mostly around the Abastos market.  Needless to say, there are a lot of cabs and limited spaces, so conflicts arise.

The blockades force everyone to walk.
And everyone in a car tried to get in on back roads, which immediately became clogged and impassable.... and then it started to pour.  When I saw all the non-protesting taxis give up turn around, I joined them and headed home.

Oh.... and the teachers have voted not to return to classes.  Also to oppose a scheduled census of students, teachers, administrators and facilities.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No end in sight

As was expected, the teachers have not returned to start the academic year.  Week Six.  There is a schism between the leaders and those they lead.  People are tired and divided.  A megamarch is planned for tomorrow in the DF.  Who knows, there may be one here as well?  There are so many threads to this whole mess, it all seems very diffuse and unfocused, like no one is really talking to anyone outside their spheres of influence.  There are plans for a national strike at at time TBA.

Meanwhile, I recently read that no one was visiting the archaeological site in Atzompa, so we decided to take a quick trip up there after visiting the ceramics market in the village far below.  They were right, we were practically alone in the place, which is spectacular.  And the views!!!!!
There were lots of workers and in talking to them, they said they would be working for the next five years on the restoration.  What they have done so far is really nice.  This is the ball park and is the largest in the whole Monte Alban region.
You feel like you are on top of the world.

Monday, September 23, 2013

End of era... The VW van

I love the story from Noticiasmx.
Fin de la emblemática camioneta Volkswagen
Transportó a hippies durante la década de los sesenta, llevó a surfistas en busca de olas asesinas en los interminables veranos estadounidenses y sirve como vehículo de supervivencia en el mundo en vías de desarrollo. Ahora, el largo y extraño viaje de la furgoneta Volkswagen está a punto de terminar.
Brasil es el último país del mundo que sigue produciendo este emblemático vehículo, o furgoneta como la conocen sus fanáticos, pero Volkswagen dice que dejará de fabricarla a partir del 31 de diciembre de 2014. Las normas de seguridad brasileñas exigen que cualquier vehículo que se manufacture en el país, a partir de entonces, deberá incluir bolsas de aire y sistemas de frenos antibloqueo. La automotriz dice que no puede cambiar su sistema de producción para cumplir con la nueva ley.
The story says that due to new laws, Brazil will no longer make the HippyMobile after 2014.  It would be too expensive to update the factories so as to install airbags and anti-lock braking systems.... and an engine that let you go up hills, they did not say.

Of course, we will see them here, along with beetles from the early days, for years to come.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New life for an old tree

Oaxaca has its fair share of large beautiful trees, and as with all things, they die.  The hole they leave in the fabric is always profound.  This is what is left of a majestic one on Constitucion, just a block down from the entrance to the Botanical Garden.  I remember enjoying its shade on a hot day.  I remember stumbling over its roots, numerous times, as they broke the through the sidewalk, numerous times.  I remember the abuela with a her little cart that sold lunch each day.  The place was always packed.
Well, it is taking a new form as sculptor, Damian Lescas, who has been commissioned to carve the remaining stump.  The maestro said it should be done in another month or two.
It will be fun to watch the progress and process.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

East is east......

Just a couple of days after this....
 and this
It looks like this.
and this
Incidentally, FUL-APPO is the acronym for Integrantes del Frente Único de Lucha por la reconstitución de la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca.  They are a powerful faction

Hopeful sign?.... not so much

A difference of opinions has arisen.

From Milenio (in Spanish)
The national coordinator of education workers (CNTE) rejected that there was a pact which set the end of the sit-in in Mexico City and back to school next Monday.

In addition, the leadership of section 22 denied that the beginning of the school year 2013-2014 in Oaxaca has raised in the minutes of agreements signed by Governor Gabino Cué and Undersecretary of the Interior, Luis Enrique Miranda.

Allegedly, on Thursday night was the agreement that put an end to a month of unemployment in schools and the lifting of the sit-in that keep teachers from may in the area Center of the Federal District.

However, yesterday Rubén Núñez, leader of section 22, said that it was a lie that they have accepted to leave the nation's capital: "At no time put on the negotiating table discuss the matter of the day fight, much less return of the companions to the educational work in Oaxaca".

Francisco Villalobos, Secretary of the Organization, during the plenary Assembly said: "Conditioned the signing of the document to immediately return to classes is a vile lie, we say it categorically".

Friday, September 20, 2013

A hopeful sign

I went in search of protests and marches today and found only graffiti. That is one of the "disappeared" teacher, I think.
There appears to be progress on the teacher strike, but it is too early to tell how it will all play out.  Plus people are upset about lots of things.  
In the DF,  the Ministry of the Interior came to an agreement with the teachers of CNTE and the government of Oaxaca to end the current conflict.  That agreement says: that teachers would resume classes this coming Monday, withheld salaries would be paid, and that 15 million pesos would go for a program of teacher training within the Programa para la Transformación de la Educación de Oaxaca (PTEO).
See, irony is not dead.  You can still buy your things for the patriotic fiestas.

PTEO offered an alternative plan to the federal reform program and it has been accepted.  PTEO's plan is to improve education with assessments for teachers and teachers according to the characteristics of each region of the State.  The plan was endorsed by both the Feds and trade union leader, Rubén Núñez Ginez, who said the agreement was an historical achievement for the magisterial movement.
There are still a lot of hurdles to cross.  For instance, what happens in the schools that switched to Section 59 teachers?  So we hope for the best.

Of course, there is still the whole oil issue, which is linked to the whole corporatacracy thing, but I am sure there will soon be rational and just solutions to those problems as well.... yeah, right.
Meanwhile, the storms have really done a number on the country.  I think it is the first time in 60 years that two storms hit at the same time.  No major problems here, but the roads are falling apart as always.

This is a really good and complete story from Aljazeera 
Political recriminations are underway in Mexico as the death toll, devastation and economic cost from two simultaneous storms escalated on Thursday.
At least 80 people have died in 10 states since Sunday amid widespread flooding and landslides caused by Hurricane Ingrid on the Gulf coast and Tropical Storm Manuel on the Pacific coast. It is the first time Mexico has been battered by two tropical storms within 24 hours since 1958.
Further misery and destruction seemed inevitable after tropical storm Manuel was upgraded to a category grade 1 hurricane as it approached Sinaloa with 120kph (75mph) winds. The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned of "life threatening flash floods and mud slides" in the northwestern states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Baja California, with up to 38 centimetres (15 inches) of rain and gusts of 128kph (80mph) forecast for the next 24 hours.
 Meanwhile in El Norte, I see that the House has voted to stop feeding hungry people and to take away healthcare for millions.  American exceptionalism?  As Elphaba says, "What a world.  What a world."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In between storms

Translation??  "Today we were left with a lot of truth."  How close is that?

The two recent storms did a lot of damage.  Roads are closed, villages cut off, lots of flooding and sadly, over 70 deaths.  However, the city and those of us away from the coasts came away relatively unscathed.  It has been cloudy for almost three weeks and there have been decent rains, but considering how hard other areas were hit... whew!

Still there is an undercurrent, a tension,  You see evidence of it everywhere, like in yesterday's parade.
"The repression of Sept. 13, not forgiven or forgotten." Which repression are we talkin' about?
And the storms took the wind out of the current political protest, but that is strictly temporary.  In Mexico City, the leaders of CNTE, the teachers, drew the wrath of some of their members because they did not return to the zocalo today which apparently was part of the deal to clear it for Independence Day festivities.  They yelled "You sold us out!" and "Time to change leaders."  However, big things are planned both in the DF and here in Oaxaca in the next few days so we will have to wait and see.  Actually, I would imagine there will be protests, blockades and marches in many states, especially on Sept 20.

It is quite sad and counter productive that both El Norte and Mexico are in such convoluted and dysfunctional times.  Some of the reasons are obvious, like greed and corruption.  And some of the solutions are obvious as well, like getting rid of the greedy corrupt bastards, but that might continue to be elusive.  I mean it's only been going on since forever.
Fortunately, no revolution needed in the US, instead the right is calling for a coup.... where is the meteor when we need it?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Before the parade passes by... El Grito

Well, I did find that parade and well, let's just say there were no flowery floats or drum majors, just real majors.... and captains and generals.  It was a major league military display.  Along with police, firemen and other civic groups, all of whom marched just as stiffly as the soldiers, it was one long line of stern-faced people.  However, the crowds that lined the streets and filled the area in front of the Governor's Palace seemed happy and celebratory.  It was a sea of cell phones all taking pictures.
I started in the zocalo and worked my way east so I could get across the street.  I did manage to get some interesting shots of the governor, the VIP's and the action at the reviewing stand.
A closeup.
Pulling back a bit.
Getting out in front.
A closeup.
I have to admit to not being much of  parade aficionado, but this one struck me as kinda an old school Cold War era type of thing.  I guess I am just not into watching parades with heavy fire power unless it is the bomberos, the firemen.
This... not so much.
 This, not at all... but what can I say?  I just have warped parade sensibilities.
 This, however, totally works.  Hey, it's Fashion Week.
There were horses at the very end.
 As soon as they passed the streets were instantly packed with people.

Monday, September 16, 2013

El Grito arrives

Independence Day, 2013 - I have the windows open and there is a band playing infectious uptempo music somewhere close.  Cohetes, firecrackers, pepper the air.  They are so common I don't even react to them.  Of course, I am dancing to the music as I drink my morning coffee and check the plants I just put in beds yesterday.  The two big storms have somehow missed us (so far) and the sun is trying to peek through.  I know the rains have been very damaging in other areas. 
The newspapers contain no dire political news, but maybe I missed it.
Sales of patriotic items is way down.  Analysts say that it is because teachers and students are out of the loop and they always buy lots of this stuff. 
I think I will head out and try to find a parade.  The music is pushing me out the door.
!Viva Mexico!!Viva Mexico!!Viva Mexico!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Waiting for El Grito

El Grito is tomorrow.  In case you don't know what it is, it is a fascinating story.  This year it might be a little more charged.  Under the watchful eyes of the heroes of the revolution, Hidalgo, Morelos , Doña Josefa Ortiz and Allende, people await what tomorrow will bring.  
With so much at stake and so many different factions and forces at work, we will simply hope for the best.
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Galena and the Bravos!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It's getting messier

"El Grito," Mexico's Independence Day is Monday, Sept. 16, so one got the feeling that things would be picking up in the mess that is Mexico these days.  There are so many threads that go into this fabric, including Mexico's losing futbol team, it may not make the World Cup for the first time in decades, all adding to the pall.  It is ugly.
Photo from Noticiasmx
In Mexico City, the police moved in and cleared the zocalo to get ready for the patriotic celebrations which start tomorrow.
from Aljazeera
Riot police have swept thousands of striking teachers out of the heart of Mexico City, driving protesters through the streets with tear gas and water cannons in a swift end to the weeks-long protests against education reforms.
Authorities did not immediately report any injuries. Federal police chief Manuel Mondragon said on Friday that more than 20 demonstrators were arrested.
The teachers, who had occupied the Zocalo square for three weeks, had been ordered to vacate the area ahead of the nation's independence day celebrations this weekend.
The protesters used steel grates and plastic traffic dividers to block the streets leading into the Zocalo, home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor and National Palace, some of the city's best-known tourist attractions.
There was additional pressure to clear the Zocalo where the teachers had been camping out before the president's first traditional Independence Day celebration in the massive colonial-era square on Sunday and Monday.
The confrontation erupted after the teachers armed themselves with metal pipes and blocked off the Zocalo with steel grates and plastic traffic dividers, threatening to scuttle the Independence Day gathering.
The government responded that celebrations, including the president's shout of independence from a balcony of the National Palace overlooking the Zocalo, would take place in the square as scheduled on Sunday night.
It was a dramatic reassertion of state authority after weeks of near-constant disruption in the centre of one of the world's largest cities.
 From McClatchy
The teachers have been protesting education reforms that will require them to undergo annual evaluations and give up the ability to bequeath jobs to their offspring. The striking teachers have disrupted life in Mexico City repeatedly in the past two weeks, blocking the city’s main thoroughfare, the Paseo de la Reforma, forcing legislators to abandon the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and snarling commutes in a city with already lengthy traffic tie-ups. At one point a week ago, the tent city held as many as 10,000 striking teachers
Pena Nieto’s security spokesman, Eduardo Sanchez, announced earlier Friday that authorities had given the teachers until 4 p.m. to clear away the tent city.
When 4 p.m. rolled around, Sanchez told the Foro TV channel that “the teachers are pulling out, paying heed to our call for them to pull back.”
But hundreds remained, setting nylon tarps alight in bonfires in the square, and throwing rocks and homemade explosives at a phalanx of approaching riot police. A water cannon doused the protesters as they retreated to the periphery of the plaza, then to nearby streets.
Ruben Nunez, a leader of the teachers union branch from Oaxaca state, said infiltrators had mingled with striking teachers and were responsible for the vandalism.
Television images showed scattered fires in the downtown area, apparent evidence that some of the protesters had tossed firebombs.
Police did not give an immediate report on injuries, although television newscasts showed images of a handful of people bleeding from wounds.
In early evening, two leaders of the dissident Coordinator of National Educational Workers, Ruben Nunez and Francisco Bravo, arrived at the Interior Secretariat to hold talks about the ongoing strike.
A move to improve Mexico’s educational system and break the control of the national teachers union over schooling has been one of the most popular measures taken by Pena Nieto since he was sworn in Dec. 1.
In late February, his government arrested the powerful head of the union, Elba Esther Gordillo, on corruption charges. Congress passed sweeping proposals to yank control of hiring and firing from the union. Those laws went into effect Tuesday.
From Noticiasmx (in Spanish)
And then there are the oil protests
Tens of thousands of people have rallied against President Enrique Pena Nieto's economic reforms in Mexico's capital, with leftist leader calling for peaceful resistance.
Mexico City police said more than 40,000 people gathered in a park on Sunday’s demonstration to reject plans to overhaul the tax system and open the country's state-controlled oil industry to foreign investors.
"We can prevent the privatisation of the energy sector and the tax increases through peaceful citizen mobilization," said opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who never recognised his defeat to Pena Nieto in the 2012 presidential election after claiming fraud.
"These energy and tax reforms were prepared abroad for the benefit of foreign companies, a commitment that Pena Nieto made with foreign companies in the United States and Britain," he said.
He called the oil reform a "vile and shameful robbery".
Lopez Obrador made his plea as Pena Nieto prepared to present a revamp of the tax system to increase the government's revenue stream amid reports that he may propose a controversial sales tax for food and medicine.
Locally, the plot thickens as a couple of PRD politicians have been assassinated for unknown reasons.  Schools remained closed, but in some villages, there has been a shift towards hiring Section 59 teachers to replace the Section 22 ones.  There have been marches in support of all sides.

This clip comes to mind.

And remember, tourism is very important to the economy here.
From the LAHT
Revenues from international tourists totaled $8.3 billion in the January-July period, up 7.2 percent compared to the same period in 2012, the Mexican Tourism Secretariat said.

Tourism revenues “continue rising this year,” the secretariat said, citing a Bank of Mexico report.
I sure hope someone figures this all out and that there are solutions to come. 

Read more here:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Opening night at "El Saber del Sabor"

This is the fifth annual "El Saber del Sabor," Oaxaca's renown gastronomic festival and with each incarnation, it becomes more prestigious, popular and well, better. 
We were lucky to get tickets to the opening night and so we ate in the Plaza de Danza, under the eyes of La Soledad, the cathedral.
The tickets were $350 MP ($26.75 US) which was a bit higher than last year, but the food was fantastic and they had the logistics down this time.  It was too much... no really, too much.  Just look at the offerings from just one of the participants.
And there had to be at least thirty or forty other tables and stations!  Here is good friend, Pilar Cabrera, from La Olla restaurant.  She has become more and more famous and her cooking classes are some of the best.
Last year we missed the barbacoa from Tuxtepec, but this year.... we were first in line and boy, was it worth it. 
The line for this taste treat was sooo long... and it was sooo worth it.... indescribably good.
That would have been enough for the night, but we were just getting started. 

Still, we barely managed to scratch the surface of all the offerings.  Even if you just took one small bite of everything that was there, well, you would explode.   You could never do it.... but it was fun trying even though I may never eat again.... wait, I'm hungry after writing and posting these shots.  More in a bit.