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, April 29, 2015

Over and Under in El Tule

People go to Santa Maria del Tule to see the largest tree in the world.  The tree is impressive and seems to make the church next to it appear to be a miniature.  The church is actually quite small, but quite stunning inside.
Looking up one sees this...

I love that this is such an obvious indigenous face, not so much the cherubs surrounding her.
And the ceramic tile floor is just as spectacular.
El Tule is one of Oaxaca's most popular tourist destinations, so when you go, be sure to check out the church.  Another place well worth the visit, only 30 minutes from the city at most.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Buggin' out in Yanhuitlan

"You lookin' at me?"
This beauty was the most alive and vibrant creature in Yanhuitlan as it took in the world from its vantage hanging out on the ancient doors leading onto the huge outdoor gathering area.
I said things were nice and green.....

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Checking in at Yanhuitlan

We took the short drive north to visit Yanhuitlan and Teposcolula.  It is a gorgeous drive through such diverse country and for a change, things were nice and green because of the recent rains.  I have been going there for a few years, watching the restoration proceed.  It used to look like this...
And now it looks like this....
However, for me, they have made this magnificent church into a cold, sterile place.  It feels less alive than ever and it never really felt that alive.... maybe it is the 95,000 Mixtecs that died in the 16th and 17th centuries in its early days of construction.  They died from diseases that came with the conquistadores, but hey, they at least died Catholics, although, as indigenous, they were not allowed into the church proper.
Vestiges of its original glory remain.
Somehow I don't think is was this sterile when the monks were here.
The state government is pushing the Ruta Dominicana as a tourist attraction and it is certainly worth the trip, but sadly, they have removed much of the patina of the place, taken out the old weathered stones that covered the floor and replaced them with stark white smooth stone tiles.  And it sure looks like they sandblasted the walls and removed what must have been original paintings.  A little remains, but one can only imagine what it looked like before the geniuses behind the restoration started.
Actually, I was there just before and the church was dark and closed off, full of birds and echos of the past.  It was definitely more alive then. And the adjoining zocalo was completely empty with a voice blasting over the loudspeakers... not really warm and fuzzy..  Still, it is most definitely worth the trip.  It is a great piece of Mexican history in a nutshell.  One can see the whole story, the result of the conquest, the Dominicans and the revolutions.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Visiting the little church in Reyes Etla is always a treat.  The church is famous for it appearance in Jack Black's Nacho Libre, but for me it is the the annual celebration of the guelaguetza dance festival that will always be with me.  It is such a beautiful setting with views across a vast lush green valley all the way to the mountains and Monte Alban and Atzompa.  However, yesterday the tiny church was filled with people celebrating the baptism of these two little boys.
The family had decided to wait until the boys were old enough to be aware of the rite of passage as opposed to baptizing them as infants.  And it sure seemed worth the wait as the family was so happy and proud....
And Dad was absolutely glowing with happiness and pride.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

If it's Sunday...

Then it's off to the market in Tlacolula, where there is always something happening.... not to mention all the visual, auditory, olfactory and mouth-watering stuff.  Last week, it was the incredible band with the great tuba player and today it was these wonderful young people dancing in the style of Chihuahua.  There were lots of twirls and swirls and major league foot stomping.  That is all part of the dance and they shook the stage and filled the ait with the sound of their shoes hitting the floor.
They could really dance quite well.
I am pretty sure they were all from Tlacolula so it is impressive that they were so accomplished in the dance from a state so far away to the north.
They came in all sizes and this little guy was quite a bit shorter than his partner, but he carried it off well.
I am not sure my feet go this way.... to be fair, it was in mid-twirl.
Tlacolula on a Sunday?  Always a good time.
 Who knows what will be happening next week?   I bet we will be there to find out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What the pig saw...

No one escapes the pig's studied perusal.
No one notices

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Recomposed - Alvaro Carillo

A follow up to the post from a couple of days ago.  They moved the bust of the Alvaro Carillo just a few meters, but you can see, by turning it 90 degrees, it made all the difference in the world.  He is one happy composer. 
He looks fantastic.  And he lives on in all the hearts of all oaxaqueños in his wonderful music.

Update:  As the librarian from Casa Colibri informs me, this little park is called La Plazuela de la Bohemia.  Gracias!

Monday, April 13, 2015

All about the bass... uh, tuba

The tubas players in Oaxaca are totally killer.... meaning they are just the best.  Each has a different personality and they are always the driving force behind any good bands sound.  This player from Los Magueyitos from Matatlan, the very heart of mezcal country.  They were playing in the zocalo in Tlacolula yesterday and I did record them, but to say they were loud would be an understatement.  Loud enough for a good rave, but people were just sitting quietly and listening to some really hot music.
Here's the tuba player warming up. 

He had a nice mic on him and his low notes made my body vibrate!
Be sure to check out Casa Colibri's shots of the festivities.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Maybe the rains have come early.  We had a very nice display of thunder and lightning and then a solid rain for thirty minutes which the ground immediately drank in.  Ahhhhh.....
The plants and trees are quite happy.

Shirt shots from Carnaval

Well, massive marches and blockades made it impossible to make it back to Teotitlan del Valle for the last day of carnaval, but that's Oaxaca.  Still, I had some shirt shots from Tuesday that pretty much covered it all.  Our first model, Little Mess Maker... note the wrecking ball.
Good friend, Beto Ruiz - Zapata is not dead!
And where would we be without.... ove?  No, silly, love
I like that her nails match her phone.... coincidence?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Re-composing not decomposing

They are working on the base that holds a large bust of Alvaro Carillo, Oaxaca's famous composer of so much wonderful music, over three hundreds songs.  He was born in Cacahuatepec in 1921. 
I watched them work for a while and suggested that we all should be singing.  They agreed.
Here is the maestro singing and playing a couple of his hits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Carnaval in Teotitlan del Valle - 2015

Carnaval in Teotitland del Valle is very different from most.  First, it is after Easter, not before Lent.  And second, it is a movable fiesta that goes from village section to village section and culminates after five days with a grand gathering at the municipal center.
We caught the action on the second day so, Segunda Seccion, here we come.  As in all things in the village there is an over arching sense of formality and tradition... no matter how much mezcal gets imbibed.  There is music and food and dancing, all following a pre-described order.  We got there early and left before lots of the action, but will be back on Friday to catch the final celebration.
The stars of the show are los viejitos, who are absolutely hilarious... purely in Zapoteco... but one still finds oneself laughing along with everyone else.
They do their dance and lead the band to the house where everyone is waiting.
There is much merriment and then a meal.  Delicious mole rojo.  No knives or forks or spoons, only tortillas.  No, no chopsticks either.
And then more dancing.... which I hope to catch on Friday.  Today it is section three's turn, different house, different viejitos, then, on to four and finally section five.  Then recovery...


From one of the most quoted films of all times..... "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter in Mitla - Pascua en Mitla

A beautiful Easter Sunday morning and no better place to be than Mitla.  I have been here before for Easter celebration and it is such a warm and serene place it always feels great.  Mitla has ten thousand years of history and you can feel it all around you. 
It is the place where corn was developed and on the edge of mezcal land.  They always use agave flowers for decorations.  Simply elegant.
 This is the view from inside the church.
While this was behind me.
We caught the very beginning of mass with lots of excitement in the air.
Such a sense of community and happiness.
 Smiling through the clouds of incense.
Happy Easter!