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, December 30, 2015

Bed, Bedder, Best

Finally, and just before my back gave up, the new beds are finished.  Lot of digging, removing all the old soil, replacing it with bags of decent potting soil and voila, the finished results.
I even put a few plants in and some worms.  I'll give it a few days and then plant some seeds just to see how things are going to go.  I'll probably cover them with a heavy mulch to keep in the precious moisture, but I think because of the clay surrounding them and the straw underneath, they will hold the moisture well.
One of the reasons, really two of the reasons, I undertook this labor intense insanity was all about sound and light.  You can see the wind chimes.  I have three of them and, between the three, they are tuned to a very nice Lydian scale.  With all the wind we have here.... beautiful music.
As for the light, there are these almost silent hummingbird chimes, however, they, like the little lights above are solar powered and change colors.  Easily one of the coolest things ever in the entire intergalactic universe.
Back to rabanos shots mañana.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bedder and bedder - Better and better

Just a quick progress update on the beds I have been working on for the last few days... I know, I know, riveting. 

Step 2 - A bottom layer of straw like stuff.  I figure by spreading it, I can save eight or ten bags of soil.  It is going to take at least twenty four bags to fill all three beds.  These beds look like they will hold water and I am hoping that this layer will break down and feed the worms I plan on adding.  Hey, it might work.
Step 3 - Four bags down, twenty to go.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

In the eye of the beholder

Finally going through more shots from rabanos and , as I said before, I am impressed with how many young participants there were this year. 
It seemed that several came from the vibrant visual arts scene here, young and cool.
Here's looking at you, kid.....

Dig we must...

Sorry to be so slow in posting more rabanos shots.  They are coming, but I've been busy digging up beds and removing the soil.  Gardening can be tough no matter where you are, but that's what makes it fun.  Here, it is the lack of water during the dry season and the quality of the soil.  I have had these beds for the last couple of years and put more organic material in each that you can imagine... and yet, they turned to concrete during the dry season.  You would need a hammer just to drive a nail into them.  No lie.  Each year I would have to take mighty swings with a pick ax to break up the soil.  I could never believe how dense and solid it was.  Just crazy.
Well, Merry frickin' Christmas.  I gave myself a present, the idea that things would be so much better if I just replaced that concrete.  And so I started early Christmas morn.  Yes, with pick ax and pitch fork, then shovel and wheelbarrow and finally, for the last bed, I carried all the stuff out in five gallon buckets, a very Mexican thing to do.  I couldn't get the wheelbarrow near enough so it was bucket time.  Maybe sixty bucketfuls did it... and almost did me in.  You can see how solid it is in this shot.
The other beds had twenty wheelbarrows full each.  Who woulda thunk it?  I did one bed a day.  Three beds, three days.  All while listening to a great audio book, so the work flew by.  I spread all that dirt, which turned out to be a construction quality clay and sand mix in the side lot where I hope it will gradually break down and mix with the organic stuff I have out there.  Looks like I could put in a nice little water feature or pool..... but at this point looks like a grave that I am ready to crawl into.
As a side project here, I have a worm factory going here with three large boxes, each at a different stage.  Worm caca is the shit... no really, good fertilizer.  One interesting thing I noticed was that there were earthworms in this concrete like dirt.  They could barely move in that dense environment and seemed very different from my others.  I saved as many as I could and put them in one of my boxes.  An experiment that I think will fail.  Just too different an environment for them with all that food and moisture.  We shall see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

La Noche del Rabanos - Early edition

Yes, it is La Noche del Rabanos, the Night of the Radishes, but this annual event draws so many people, more every year, that one has to get there quite early in the day to see the real action.
Porfirio Diaz in all his radish glory
And that action is the setup, the creation of real works of art in three areas: rabanos or radishes, dried flowers or flor inmortal and totomoxtle or corn husk figures (both natural and colored).  This flor work was very large, thousands of flowers, months of work.
I got there around 10 AM and unlike previous years, there was easy access to the folks setting up.  This lasted a while, but after they closed it off, that press pass came in handy.  So much fun to meet all the artists.
I think the one thing I noticed that was different this year was that there were so many young people participating in the competition.  Look at this incredible piece in natural corn husks.
I'm talking about young hip artist types as well as young people from the villages.  Very cool! 
Looks like they are going to push this tradition forward.
I left at around 1 PM.  The crowds were building, but nothing like they will be in a few hours.  As MC Hammer says, "Can't touch that." There is so much happening in the city these days.  There is music, art and traditional food, clothing and folk art everywhere.  Lots of open and free public participatory things.  This place really knows how to do it right... at times... and this is definitely one of those times.  Lots of shots to go through, but hey, this is being posted nine hours before the thing ends.  I'll rejoin humanity and the crowds tomorrow night for Noche Buena in the zocalo.  More Magic!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rabanos! - Mañana!

They are getting ready for one of the best days and nights of the year.
They're ready and so am I.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Feria de empanadas - San Antonino Castillo Velasco

It doesn't get much better than this.  Empanadas are ubiquitous in Oaxaca, in all of Mexico.  They are everywhere and they are all just a little different.  And it is not fast food, maybe twenty minutes from the start of the process to my mouth.
And some of the very best, in my humble opinion, can be found in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, just outside of Octotlan.  The is something special about the consistency of the filling,  It is polenta-like but richer in taste. 
I have written about them just about every time I visit the village which is actually quite often, but this feria was something else.  So many from which to chose.  Hungry yet?
Fifteen or twenty different family operations cranking out these wonderful taste treats.  I barely knew where to start.  I normally get one from this woman, but I had to bring it home.   She is wearing some of her family's embroidery.
Check her out in this video.  It goes through the entire process for a couple of the women.  Each one is just a little different.  The video shows a few of the women who were working their magic.

I did manage to come home with five different ones.... and you can be sure that right after I post this I will be eating one.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Yesterday was the grand finale of the festival celebrating the Mother, Queen and Patron of Oaxaca, Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and the cathedral and the surrounding streets were packed.  I had been there a day early just to get these shots because I knew I wouldn't be able to get near the place on Friday.
 A beautiful serene scene.
Friday, completely packed with the faithful.
Outside, people lined up to light candles
 And to receive blessings.
They rubbed bouquets of flowers on the statue and her robes and then caressed their family members, blessing them
Adorning the wall was a huge picture of La Soledad as she appeared at La Noche del Rabanos..... which is one of the best days of the year and it is next Wednesday, Dec. 23.
Be there or be square!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More of the finale - Los danzantes of Teotitlan del Valle

There were so many special moments on Saturday, as the dancers danced their final danza de la pluma.  The many hours of setup and preparation, the stately, formal and joyous arrivals of the each families, some led in by bands, all fed into the day's energy as the start approached.  Just before the dance began, each of the dancers was joined by a spouse, girlfriend, sister or mother.  Each woman was carrying a gourd filled with offerings that were distributed later.... after dancing the Jarabe with the gourds on their shoulders.  I'm kicking myself that I did not get everyone, but it happened quickly... and I hope I have their names right.  If I don't, please let me know.   They all deserve to be recognized,

Angel Ruiz Lopez
Roman Gutierrez Hipolito
Claudio Vincente Gutierrez
Francisco Javier Lazo Sosa
Gabriel Gonzalez Sanchez
Jose Antonio Ruiz Martinez
Leonardo Ruiz Lopez
Pedro Ruiz Lopez
Taurino Mendoza Martinez
I do have shots and video of all the dancers, just not in this particular moment.  I sure wish I had, but next time for sure.... I'll have three years to get ready!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A grand finale - Los Danzantes of Teotitlan del Valle

It will take a while to process all the various aspects of the final performance of la danza de la pluma by the danzantes of Teotitlan del Valle.  It was the end of a three year commitment for each of them and I'm sure it meant something different to each one of them.  It certainly meant a lot to me.  Faith, family, honor, tradition, respect, all played a part.  And all I can say is they sure did it right, something of which they can be proud for the rest of their lives.
You can see by the layout what a large affair it was and those chairs are only for the families of the dancers.  They each had a section and each family brought lots of offerings that would be exchanged later in the evening. 
After they finished each dancer gave everyone... everyone!  some little gift, some fruit or candy.  We came away with a large overflowing bag of good things... and some of the weirdest candies.
The entire village turned out and the areas behind all those chairs were filled.  They were celebrating both the Virgin of Guadalupe, and showing their love and respect for these dancers.  In Zapotec culture, respect is at the very top of the ethos.  I humbly admit, I have learned much from beholding how they comport themselves in daily life.  It's all about respect!  And dancing...
And wow, these dancers demonstrated those core values so powerfully that I thought... well, I'm still thinking about it.  
I have lots of photos and some pretty amazing video of the last dance and then, the end of it all as the dancers congratulate each other and hug, slap five, some with smiles, some with tears in their eyes.  It was a pretty sweet moment.  Jose Isaac Vasquez de los Angeles, Monctezuma....
They did themselves and their village proud.
Long to be remembered..... and much more to come.