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, November 30, 2014

La Zandunga - Teotitlan del Valle - 2014

Here are Alani Ruiz Ruiz and Juana Lizbeth Contreras Vincente, Malinche and Doña Marina, respectively, dancing La Zandunga.  This dance is just one small part of the whole Danza de la Pluma, which can have over forty parts.  These two young ladies were all of six years old when they started with the group and will dance through 2015.  You can see how they are changing over time and... they are just too beautiful.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Danza de la Pluma - Teotitlan del Valle 2014

I have promised the dancers in Teotitlan del Valle a video and at long last, here it is.  It certainly helps to have new software and fast internet, but really the key was taking the time to list and categorize the many video clips I've shot since this group started in 2013.  They will dance for another year to finish out their three year commitment.  You will notice the changing outfits, as I think I have seen them maybe six or seven times at least.  I love seeing how much the little girls have changed since they started.

Sounds good on paper, but....

From the LAHT
Peña Nieto committed himself to doing everything necessary to free the country “from criminality, (and) combat corruption and impunity,” calling on Mexicans not to become pessimistic and not to resort to violence or vandalism to demand justice.

Peña Nieto also announced that on Monday he will present to Congress three constitutional reforms, one to create single police forces in the country’s 32 states, another to combat the infiltration of organized crime in the municipalities and the third to define the responsibilities and jurisdictions of all authorities in the fight against crime.

The first reform is aimed at “going from more than 1,800 weak municipal police forces, which easily can be corrupted by crime, to 32 solid state security bodies that will be more trustworthy, more professional and more efficient,” he said, adding that the focus will be in the four states in question.

The second reform will result in “dissolving” a city hall “when sufficient indications exist that the local authorities are involved with organized crime,” as happened with Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, who is under arrest as the intellectual author of the attacks on the teaching students.

Regarding the third initiative, Peña Nieto explained that it will redefine the responsibilities of the authorities in the anti-crime fight, “taking into account the institutional strengths of the different levels of government,” federal, state and municipal.

“When everybody has responsibility, in reality nobody has it,” said the president, complaining that the “complex system of penal responsibilities” in Mexico “creates dispersed responsibilities, confusion in enforcing the law and, the most serious thing, impunity.”

The president also revealed the creation of three special economic zones including Guerrero, Michoacan, Chiapas and Oaxaca, the country’s poorest states, via a legal initiative to spur development, trade and infrastructure that will be sent to Congress in February 2015.

Spelling doesn't count... shirt shots

How about this typo from a gentleman from Tlacolula?  Not a biggie.  What's a "k" or "que" between friends?
However, with this young lady from Atzompa, the truth is less obvious. "Away smile?"
Ah, yes.... Always smile.  Good advice.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Food for thought

So much of Thanksgiving here in El Norte is about food.... and shopping... and football.  Lord knows, I am into the whole gastronomic thing as demonstrated by all the succulent food shots on this blog, but not so much this year.  I will have a taste of turkey, but none of the fixins'. I just don't like that bloated stupor.  I prefer my stupor to be lighter;-) Saludos and be thankful for what you've got.  It is all just temporary.
And maybe there is just too much on our collective plates these days to overindulge in eating or in consuming.  Let there be an overabundance of food for thought. 
And that brings me to these shots from the panteon in Tlacolula for the recent celebration of Muertos. 
These simple offerings are left so that the returning spirits will have something to eat and drink and to know that they are welcome, not forgotten.
Bread, water, fruit, nuts,
All left with love for the loved.
So be thankful, you are not forgotten.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quién es mas macho?

Remember those old skits?  Well, I don't, but somehow the phrase keeps going through my mind these days.  Maybe it should be "Que es mas macho?" but really it should be "¿Donde está más loco?"

I mean I thought Mexico was pretty messed up with all the killings and disappearances, overt acts done with impunity and no accountability for nada.  People do get arrested, but they are never the right ones, but what are you gonna do?  "Call the cops?'
And here I sit in the "greatest country God ever put on the face of the earth"  and the same shit is happening here.  Uh... the whole world is watching.  Injustice?  Nothing to see here... move right along.

At least in Mexico everything seems more visceral, more in your face, more real.  Politics, corruption and death are all up front players in the game.  But in El Norte... I dunno... it is all covered with a facade of glitz.  Yes, there are riots, with the flames fanned by the police and the media, but wait... Black Friday.... which, incidentally, is now a couple of weeks long.  Yes, the invented day of massive consumerism, designed to get a leg up on Xmas shopping and, at the same time, making Thanksgiving an also ran, but hey, gotta get out there and shop.  Now back to the riots....

I will say the police in Oaxaca never appear to be as psycho as those in the States, but in truth, I have not had much interaction with them.  But the police here... damn, they be downright scary.  And it ain't like we did not see it coming.  Our taxes at work.  They look like something out of the future, Star wars robocops, but while we were watching "Dancing with the Stars" and thinking about the Kardashians, the future done come and went.  Now what?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chanting with the Wind - Teotitlan del Valle

I'm just taking advantage of fast internet and fast computers to learn and practice on the latest versions of music and video programs.  It is quite amazing what one can do quite easily... uh, after a somewhat rocky learning curve.  However, there are tutorials on virtually everything out there, so when in doubt, just ask.  And of course, I have to use the material I have at hand.... and thus...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Conch Shell Master

Here is a wonderful demonstration of how to play the conch shell and circular breathing.... that's where you breathe in through your nose while keeping the air flowing out of your mouth.  This gentleman is a master of both.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love it or leaf it

It's been a whirlwind week.  I arrived to find the trees still with leaves. 
Then I was blessed to see that special morning, just after a heavy frost.  As the sun rises and hits the tops of the trees, that frozen bond between leaf and branch warms just enough to break and the leaves, almost en masses, fall.  As the sun climbs. its light descends further down each tree and the leaves continue to fall.  There was very little wind and the leaves cascaded in greater numbers, seemingly never ending.... until.
It has been quite cold in Boston, in the 20's, a touch of snow and one absolutely ghastly day of torrential rains and low 40's, a perfect day to stay inside and hibernate. I have been raking and cleaning the gutters.  Fortunately, my fair city collects everything and it all goes into a communal compost pile..... something that every village in Oaxaca should do, but won't.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The burro has arrived...

I am on a quick jaunt to El Norte and as always, I am laden with lots of Oaxacan goodies for friends up here.  I brought about ten kilos of stuff including mole negro, real hand made tortillas, agave syrup and of course, the finest quesillo from Etla.  I always buy mine from Doña Vicki.  She has the best reputation and has the freshest butter, cheeses, salsas, moles, and veggies pickled in vinegar.  I get my mole and cheeses from her and she knows I buy her things for gifts. 
It always makes her happy.... almost as happy as the folks who receive them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The hits just keep on comin'

¡Ay!  You can't make this stuff up.
From the LA Time
Who lives in this palace of pricey if questionable taste, dubbed the White House?

According to a new report, none other than President Enrique Peña Nieto and his soap-star wife, Angelica Rivera.

He never paid for it, however. It belongs to a wealthy entrepreneur who was recently awarded one of the most lucrative public-works contracts in recent Mexican history, according to a months-long investigation published Sunday by a team of reporters led by prominent journalist Carmen Aristegui.
Quid pro quo? That is the suggestion from Aristegui’s report.
Aware the investigation was in the works, Peña Nieto’s government abruptly canceled the contract — a $4-billion deal to build a bullet train — on Friday. Yanking an already awarded bid was an unheard of move, commentators said.

Friday, November 7, 2014

"We are not sheep to be killed whenever they feel like it"

This is about the best summary of the tragic events in Ayotzinapa that I have seen.  It is by Alma Guillermoprieto at the NY Review of Books and clearly spells out much of what transpired leading up to today's arrests.  It is a long and graphic read, but  at the same time, succinct.  Please take the time to read it.  It is very important to get the facts out as Mexico tries to deal with a horrible situation, a national crisis.
Emiliano Navarrete, a slight man in a baseball cap who looked to be in his mid-thirties, was the last relative to speak.
“I am the father of a boy who, for me, is not disappeared,” he began. “For me, he was kidnapped by men in uniform who are municipal police of Iguala, Guerrero.” His face was stretched taut against his skull from tension and the stress of speaking in public, and his stumbling Spanish revealed his Indian origins. “Why does this government act like this?” he went on, searching for words. “We are not sheep to be killed whenever they feel like it.”

The hits just keep comin'

If one wants to buy paint here, the general way to ask is, "Where is the nearest Comex?"  Like Xerox, Comex almost supplants the original word.  The stores are everywhere, in every village.  You need paint, you go to Comex.

So this is kinda big news.  From the LAHT. (emphasis added)
U.S. paint and coating maker PPG Industries said it has “successfully” completed its purchase of Mexican paint manufacturer Consorcio Comex for $2.3 billion.

The deal is the second-largest acquisition in the company’s history, PPG Chairman and CEO Charles E. Bunch was quoted as saying in a company press release on Wednesday.

“We look forward to working with the Comex team as we integrate the business into PPG,” Bunch said after noting that Comex is a leading architectural coatings business in Mexico and Central America.

The deal was signed in June after Mexican anti-trust authorities refused to authorize a similar agreement between Comex and U.S. building materials giant Sherwin-Williams.

Founded in 1952, Mexico City-based Comex makes paint and coating for use in industry and construction and has 3,900 employees, eight factories and six distribution centers. In 2013, the company posted $1 billion in revenue.

Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries was founded in 1883 and has operations in nearly 70 countries.
Hmmm.... there are some interesting threads to follow.  But really, nothing to look at here, move along.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Signs of the Times

The End of the Drug War—Or a New Cartel of Cartels?

Very interesting read on the state of Mexico by Benjamin T. Smith at Dissent.  A bit long, but worth it.
The much quieter release of the Piedras Negras story has been suspiciously convenient for the Peña Nieto government, and hints at the increasing power Mexican authorities have asserted over the press under the PRI. On the one hand, by allowing the story to get out, Mexican authorities flagged to both Mexican voters and potential U.S. investors that peace is being restored. On the other hand, the story has not circulated widely enough to invite more penetrating and potentially critical discussion of Peña Nieto’s anti-drug strategy. The official narrative is the only one on offer.
Media spin has a long history in Mexico. But now, combined with historical amnesia, it threatens to cover up the return to a policy of state–cartel cooperation. Will U.S. authorities just stand by and watch—or are they quietly writing their own script for the next phase of the drug war?
Angry people are angry. They have a right to be. And they're going to get angrier. Eventually this will reach a breaking point. It has to. It'll break when some sufficiently large crisis occurs, and one side is fully prepared to use that seething rage for constructive outcomes.
What country is David Atkins from Hullabaloo writing about?  Could be Mexico, but it isn't. A pretty good analysis of the current state of affairs in El Norte.
The party that is more ready for that moment will be the one that makes real policy changes. Until then, we'll just keep surfing waves, watching each side crow that Americans have finally "woken up" and "put the adults back in charge" every two years while not a whole lot actually gets done for anybody but the rich.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empanadas - San Antonino style

Empanadas are everywhere, filled with everything from fruit to nuts to meat to vegetables.  And they are very different from village to village.  The ones I get in Etla tend to be a bit more liquidy, but still very tasty.  However, the ones in San Antonino are even better and the texture and taste of the filling is just out of this world.
The secret is in the masa prep made with cilantro, caldo de puerco..... and lots of other things.  A little pork is added.
 Onto the comal.
 And on to a bed of fresh lettuce.
 And talk about mouth watering.....

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mapping La Soledad

There were two mapping projects this past Muertos.  One on the church of Santo Domingo and this one projected on La Soledad, the cathedral.  The artists/techies use the architecture of each building as the basis for the work and it is pretty spectacular.

Unfortunately, the schedules were not quite accurate and I missed the one at Santo Domingo and the one above of La Soledad was hand held and a bit too close, but hey...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tamales in Teotitlan del Valle

We were invited to our good friends, Emilia and Zacarias Ruiz's, casa for tamales amarillo in Teotitlan del Valle.  They are such gracious and wonderful people, with an equally wonderful and gracious family surrounding them,  It is always an honor to visit them.
And.... Emilia is maybe, just possibly, one of the best cooks in the entire universe... okay, just the world, and I'm not kidding.  Each day of Muertos dictates what gets eaten.  Yesterday, it was these tamales amarillo.  Today and tomorrow (I hope) is mole negro.  We plan to stop by and say goodbye to the spirits as they depart.
As for the tamales....we were worried they might not have enough.  Here is Virginia - Look at her here!!, wife of Sergio, one of Zac and Emilia's sons.  She is watching the pot.  I was so lucky to be invited to shoot their wedding.  Check this out!!
They only had three hundred of these beauties.  I think I ate twelve... they are just a few bites, but, oh, so, good.

Pan de Muerte - Mitla style

With still one more day to go and hundreds of photos to go through, not to mention video, this has been a very nice Muertos.  Yesterday, we did the swing through Mitla, Tlacolula and Teotitlan del Valle and wow, it could not have been better.  We went to Mitla to see the tapetes de arena, the sand paintings, but there was only one and not really much to write home about.
However, there was an exhibition of pan de muerto, breads locally baked, and they were spectacular.
These are made to be placed on altars or ofrendas.
Each one a work of art.
 Some of the most ornate I've seen.
This one is made for an altar and it even gives you a plan for laying out the altar.
They just kept going...
 and going...
Never seen anything like these before.
 So Mitla was inspirational in new and different ways.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Muertos arrives

After all the turmoil, all the marches, protests and blockades, finally the city has exploded in the best of ways... with happiness and celebration.  Yes, El Dia de los Muertos has arrived along with thousands of tourists and the place is hoppin', the night filled with some mighty fine looks.  Father and daughter.
How about these great faces?  Father and.... hmmm.... I'm not really sure.
There is so much to do, one has to pick and choose and then just go for it.  It's going to be a fun couple of days.  People know how to do it right here.
As always, they were dancing in the streets.
She looks like she has seen something horrible....