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, March 31, 2015

Palm Sunday in San Antonino - part 2 - The procession

After all offerings had been made and all the fruit, vegetables, breads had been carefully tied around El Burro, it was time for the procession to the church, where hundreds of people awaited its arrival for mass.  These gentlemen were ready to cover the path with rose petals.
And here they go.
It is about a kilometer to the church.  Imagine the weight.
This celebration operates on several levels.  One of them is the penitence of many in the procession.  Certainly for the men carrying the statue, it must be a very powerful experience.  I can only imagine how much it all weighs... looks like about a million kilos to me.  The effort, the strain on the faces.

The procession left promptly at around eleven in the morning, and led by drums and a whistle, followed by the priest and all the altar boys and girls and then hundreds of people, all carrying something, all walked in the clear morning sun.
A wonderful colorful parade of happy people.
Carrying all manner of things.
All manner of things...
A family affair.
Getting into the courtyard is always a challenge.
Followed by all the offerings.
There were some hairy moments as the men struggled to get the heavy weight in place.
But after several tense moments,
They did it.
It was time for the mass, or for this heathen, lunch time.  Next, the final part, details and faces.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday in San Antonino - part 1 - Offerings

Domingo de Ramos is one of the best days of the year, especially if you are blessed to be in San Antonino Castillo Velasco or its other name, San Antonino de Flores.  This is a village in the broad flat valley between the mountain ranges.  There is good water there all though the year and wow, they can really grow things.  Everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers is just exceptional.  And Palm Sunday is the day everyone brings an offering.  Much of it is tied in place surrounding El Burro, the statue of Christ from the church in the zocalo.

This being a Zapotec area, the work is divided between men and women.  The men take the things to be placed and draped on the statue.  The women take the offerings and affix a price to each, for all will be carried in a procession to the church and then sold to raise money.
All I can say is that the system works.  It is a magical morning.  The sense of community is inspiring and energizing.  This is the way it is supposed to be.

There is so much to this celebration, I thought I would break it down into parts.  First, the offerings that people bring.  Fruits, vegetables, breads, goats, pigs, chiles, herbs, kitchen items, an amazingly wide assortment.  All of these are received by the abuelas and madres of the family responsible for organizing the event. No doubt, some sort of cargo, or assigned communal work, which I am sure is an honor.
Just look at this acelga, chard.
Or these cabbages.  Incredible.
San Antonino de Flores, for sure.
It was fun to watch this niño carry in this squash.
"Uh, here, doña."
These offerings keep coming for a couple of hours and some are attached to the statue, but the vast majority are collected and labeled. They fill up a large area next to the panteon's wall.  All waiting to be carried up to the church.  And of course, all the animals provide endless entertainment for kids and adults alike.
The day touches all the senses.  There was music and, because people had brought so many bundles of fresh herbs, the air was filled with the most powerful and wonderful fragrances. 
One thing, the red and green canopy overhead did a number all the shots under it, but who cares?  It was great.  One of the best days of the year.  Next, the procession.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday lunch

I will get to the actual Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramos celebration we attended in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, but first.... this lady makes the best empanadas and we always have such a good time with her.  The filling has a polenta like consistency.... masa with flor de calabaza or cilatro and pork.
I mean, look at this thing.  I want another... right... now!
I always joke with her and say, "You know I don't really like them, but I think I need another."
She welcomed us with a shot of mezcal from nearby Santa Catarina de Minas, and it was sublime.... and totally kicked my ass as a non-drinker on an empty stomach.  She is wearing an example of the embroidery for which the village is so famous.
It was mighty fine.  And when offered mezcal, it is a sign of welcome and respect, I always accept it.  It's an honor.... with a nice buzz.  Now that lunch is posted... on to the real deal.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Semana Santa preparations

I had completely lost track of time and did not realize that Palm Sunday was upon us.  The signs are everywhere and tomorrow... San Antonino for El Burro, easily one of the best days of the year.  As in all things oaxaqueño, there is an art.  Look at these very common but gorgeous decorations made from the the end of the palm frond nearest the stalk.
In the zocalo, the artesanos were working their yearly magic. 
I have one of these hanging on my front door.
and son, both working.
Dos flores.
There are some incredible altars and ofrendas set up. 
This is in La Brujala Coffee cafe on the lower end of the Alcala.
Ahhh...  I made it back just in time.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Finally some color

Reentry is always different.  Culture shock in reverse.  This time just seeing color... "Toto, I don't think we are in Boston anymore"
This is what I missed.  Not your standard New England color scheme.
Beautiful colors
And all you have to do is open your eyes.
This is what I really missed.  Fresh perfect mangoes and papayas... ahhh
It is good to be back.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Just a Mexican Tourist

New England in March is maple syrup time.... when the sap is running, which needs warm days and cold nights.  However, all we have had is cold days and colder nights.... so the sap was not even walking, let alone running.  I was visiting South Face Farm, about two hours from Boston, and while there had a wonderful breakfast of waffles, bacon, corn fritters, coffee and lots of real honest to God maple syrup.  Right from the trees outside the window.  A Mexican would say, "From the trees?  No way. We get our syrup from agave."
Melt in your mouth candies.  Ain't nothin' like them.
Here is the boiling room, but no sap, no action or entertainment.  Still, the food alone was so good, it was well worth the trip.  You should go if you are in the area.
Next week I can watch mezcal being made.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The fabric of life

It is funny the things one notices, the things one misses.  I am getting ready to return to Oaxaca and what I've noticed here in Boston... it's too damn cold.... And what I've missed here in Boston, according to everyone, I missed the really cold weather.  This is balmy... mid-teens at night, upper 20's during the day.  I cracked someone up the other day, when I asked, "Who are all these people?  They all look so strange, so different."  I am so used to the faces of Oaxaca, the shapes, the color of skin and hair, all of this alien to me.... and, who is that guy in the mirror?

And where are the colors???  I'm used to seeing this look on the streets.
Here, it is all brown and black winter coats, unless they are runners, in which case, it is phosphorescent orange.  Even white looks better in Oaxaca.  This fiesta falda is from the north part of Oaxaca, Teotitlan de Flores Magon.
I keep flashing back to this exhibition at the Textile Museum that I saw on the day before I left.  There was a photography show right next door linked to this show.  This gorgeous huipil is from Quetzaltengo, Guatemala.
Beautiful detail work in the collar.
The dyes used by all the textiles in the show were indigo, cochineal and the purple of caracol (shells).
One can see people wearing these wonderful colors every day.  It sure brightens one's day.  I recognized this posahuanque from Santiago Jimiltepec as being from the costa part of Oaxaca.
The crazy thing is that I can recognize these fabrics and know the area from which each comes, but I could not pick out a Western designer if my life depended on it..... of course, some make it very easy as they put their names on everything.  Yes, Tommy Hilfiger, I'm lookin' at you.  I ain't no walkin' billboard or free advertisement.