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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Altar preparations

Remember those fields of flowers? Well, all those flowers have been picked and are now in the many markets.
People buy them buy the armloads.
And there are truckloads from which to choose.
 These are in the market in Etla.
(h/t MVS)
The selection is wonderful.
 Then people rush home to start assembling their altars.
(h/t MVS)
Some of which are already finished.
Much more to come.....

Sand paintings

Sand paintings or tapetes de arena are always a part of Muertos.  For the last couple of years, they have been located in the Plaza de la Danza, which makes viewing difficult.  Really, the things are so big one would need a helicopter to see them best or admittance to the cathedral's steeple, which ain't gonna happen. Unfortunately, my chopper is in the shop
 The scope and scale are impressive.
 Take note of the dark and foreboding clouds beyond the cathedral.
 More photographers than workers while we were there.
 Many hours of work in assembling and coloring.
 It's an art.
 The results are pretty amazing.
 La Catrina comes in many guises.
 Three out of the five huge paintings were finished.

Thirty minutes later, rain came down in torrents.  We were lucky to see them when we did.  Maybe they are repairing the damage today.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Comparsa Faces

There are many comparsas this week as people get into the spirit of Muertos.  A comparsa is simply a procession of masked street dancers who, accompanied by numerous bands, stops all traffic as they dance up and down the streets.  It is a total blast.
We saw them preparing earlier and then tagged along as we all dodged raindrops and ended up going crazy in front of Santo Domingo.
It is just the beginning......

Do you have it in my size?


This is a sweet shot from Tlacolula of a woman using her newly purchased comal as a sun shield.  Comals are made of clay and are a fixture in most kitchens here.
Yesterday, in Atzompa, a village known for its ceramics, I saw a woman carrying about a dozen of them with six balanced on her head and three under each arm.  Neck muscles and balance off the charts.

Flowers for my dinner

Look at these beautiful flowers of a different sort.  These are fresh flor de calabasa, squash blossoms, and they are going to be stuffed with cheese and fried or put in quesadillas, tamales, empanadas, soups and all sorts of taste treats.  If you have ever grown squash you can recognize just what an amazing harvest this is and there are probably many more flowers replacing these as the sun comes up today.  You hardly ever see these in US markets, but they are a constant here.  The pile of cilantro next to them looks pretty good, too.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfect mole

We just go from one delectable feast to the next.  Today, it was mole negro in our favorite restaurant in all of Oaxaca, Comedor Colon, in nearby Etla.  It tasted even better than it looks and it looks fantastic.

Flowers for the altars - Muertos

Today was my annual visit to these fields which are not far my house.  It is always such a joy to see these huge splashes of color.
Unfortunately, the splashes were not as huge as in previous years as there was a huge housing development that had been built where flowers used to bloom. 
My guess is that next year I will be looking for other fields to visit.  Meanwhile back at the hacienda, we have marigolds or cempasuchil, which come in a wide variety of yellows reds and oranges.
And cockscomb, Terciopelo Rojo (Celosia cristata) the red flower which symbolizes the blood of Christ.
I don't know what the little purple flowers are.... anyone, anyone.... Pilar?
No matter what they are, it is always wonderful to be outstanding in the field;-)
     Much more to come all this week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Perfect tacos

From our favorite outside eatery at the entrance to the Sunday Tlacolula market.
The best!!!!!

It's an art

I've been watching these gentlemen install these beautiful tile pieces for the last several days on the facade of a coffee shop.
I'm not sure about my saints, but I believe that might be San Miguel.  Anyone, anyone... Bueller?
 They must have cut into the wall so the tiles could be flush.  I missed that part.
 There are four different panels.
They have been fastidious and their work shows it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The right Brand

This may not be about Oaxaca and Mexico, but it is sure about Oaxaca and Mexico.  Amazing and and so right.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fox on Pot and Spying

Former president, Vincinte Fox, has been advocating for legalization for quite a while now as a partial solution to Mexico's ongoing drug problems

This article from the LAHT puts the heat and the hurt on another former president, Felipe Calderon.

Legalization of drugs would end the gangland violence that has cost tens of thousands of lives in Mexico, former President Vicente Fox said, blaming successor Felipe Calderon for the carnage.

Calderon “does have something to hide: 80,000 deaths in his (2006-2012) administration,” Fox told the Spanish publication Que when asked about his successor’s call for Mexico to formally protest U.S. spying on Mexican officials.

As for whether legalization would end Mexico’s problem with drug violence, Fox said: “Certainly, it would be the grand solution.”

“The United Nations is already moving in that direction,” Fox said. “We are all saying that we must end prohibition and move to a phase of (drug) regulation.”

Fox and Calderon both belong to the conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

The former Coca-Cola executive who governed Mexico from 2000-2006 minimized recent revelations that the U.S. intelligence services spied on Mexican leaders.

“I have always known that they spied on me, though I have never denounced it. I know they spied on me when I was a candidate and when I was president,” Fox said.

In the grip of a “terrible complex of fear,” the U.S. government reacted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by “building a wall,” the Mexican said.

“They think everybody is going to attack them and they garner more and more hostility at the global level for that attitude,” Fox said.

That last sentence is a pretty scary, yet accurate assessment of how El Norte looks to many in the rest of the world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Proud Uncle.... Ellis Ludwig-Leone

Ellis is my nephew and his group, San Fermin, is hot, hot, hot, getting all sorts of airplay and media attention. Here's a story from Boing Boing and from NPR.

And a video:

Ellis comes from a very gifted and talented family of artists, musicians and actors.  As a piano teacher, I can also say he has beautiful hands for both the piano and his serious basketball skills.

It has been a fabulous couple of weeks watching former students and of course, Ellis meet with such fantastic success and notoriety.

Todd Bwalya Nkonde Seely, one of my favorite bad boys in the band just met this success.
So here it is. It's a low-res copy off the tv,  (no video to embed) but this is me playing for President Michael Sata and first Republican President, the amazing Kenneth Kaunda. And yes, they are putting money in my shirt pocket and the sound hole of my guitar.The song is an old Bemba song about independence and reclaiming Zambia from colonialists. What an amazing experience. One of the highlights of my life.
Check out this major win by former student, Zao Wang,  
WOW! WOW! WOW! NBC Universal Short Cuts Film Festival screened the top 8 films and gave out 5 awards tonight. Congratulations to winners Zao Wang Best Director and Best Chiller Thriller HONEYMOON SUITE, Kevin Lau & Nyssa Chow Best Writers, and Kevin Lau for Best Short for MADE IN CHINATOWN, Tim Chiou Winner Best Actor MADE IN CHINATOWN. Asian Americans taking home 4 of the top 5 prizes!

A large Triqui protest

Simultaneous to the religious celebration taking place in the cathedral, just outside in the zocalo, a huge protest was taking place.
Thousands of activists from the Movement of Unification and Lucha Triqui (MULT) and of the Popular Unity Party (PUP) marched yesterday through the main streets of the city, as a measure of pressure for the State Government to investigate the murder of its historical leader, Heriberto Pazos Ortiz, recorded on October 23, 2010.

The protest came in on  Rte 190, the Pan American Highway, "Cristóbal Colón", from San Pablo Etla, and was led by indigenous women in the Movement of Unification and Lucha Triqui (MULT), who carried a large blanket with the image of its leader.
The crowd was mostly male and there was a grimness to the whole scene that was palpable.  
They feel strongly that justice has not been done in the assassination and the government needs to address their concerns.  Of course, the government says it has... and so it goes.
President of the political Council of MULT, Uriel Diaz Caballero, spoke at length.  I am pretty sure that is who this is, but maybe not.  However, he did speak at length.
The Triqui women are the backbone of this movement.
They have been protesting in front of the Governor's Palace for years.
Toughness and resignation.
The struggle continues.

What a day!

Yesterday was one of the craziest I've seen in the zocalo.  It was packed.  There was a Science Fair going on.  Several bands playing simultaneously with the volume at 11.  A massive protest by MULT, the Triqui organization,  commemorating the deaths three years ago and they filled every space to overflowing.  I'll post more on that in a bit, but the reason I went into the city was to see all the flowers at the cathedral for the week-long celebration of Señor del Rayo.  The streets were packed and I arrived just as mass began, so it was impossible to get anywhere near the altar... so I just hung for a couple of hours until the mass was over.   I just wandered through the crowds and kept returning to the cathedral. 
The flowers were wonderful. 
They filled the cathedral with color and fragrance.
People filled every inch.
The north entrance.
One of the little chapels inside the cathedral.
 One of the many Triquis in attendance.
Eventually, I made it near the altar.
 From the other side.
How rare, for me, to see confessions taking place.

Leaving with flowers that had been blessed.
Meanwhile, out in front.
 Lots of action all around, but I'll save it for later.