Dancing on the Zocalo, Veracruz, Mexico

The Zocalo, or town square, is the center of community life in Mexico. Here in Veracruz, on Friday and Saturday nights, the band starts playing at seven in the evening and dancers take to the pavement to strut their stuff. We hear tell that they go long into the night.

VeracruzDancing-13

Our hotel is right across the street from the Zocalo, so it’s convenient to stroll over to watch couples twirl, spin and do a fancy two-step.

VeracruzDancing-8

You can tell some of them have been dancing together all their adult lives. They are in rhythm with each other and the music.

VeracruzDancing-11 VeracruzDancing-12 VeracruzDancing-9

I asked a sweet elderly man who looked like he could have been the grand master of the Huapango if I could take his photo. He was wearing a huge gold medal chain around his neck, perhaps a sign of winning some contest or another. Of course, he said, Yes. And, then he asked me to dance! Something I wasn’t quite expecting.

Norma SoneandoDon’t tell my surgeon! I’m scheduled for a knee replacement operation in November, and I have to confess that after a few spins on the dance floor I needed to find some ibuprofeno at the Oxxo convenience store on the other side of the square. But, how could I resist that music?

VeracruzDancing-7 VeracruzDancing-2

Sheri, Mary Anne and I took a break to have dinner at El Gran Cafe el Portal, written up as a good place for seafood. It was just next to our hotel by the Zocalo. Thank goodness I didn’t need to walk very far! The grilled sea bass Veracruz style, flavored with red sauce, fresh veggies, onions, capers and green olives, was the best!

VeracruzDancing-16 VeracruzDancing-23  Then, it was off to Guero Guera for Mexican style frozen ice cream-like dessert called nieves. I love the fruity flavor of nanche topped with a not-too-sweet scoop of chocolate. Get the very smallest cup size. It’s plenty!

VeracruzDancing-3 VeracruzDancing-14

The Zocalo is a magical place at night. Filled with lights, color, food vendors and families out for an evening to find a breeze in the tropical warmth of a Veracruz October evening.

VeracruzDancing-24 VeracruzDancing

And,  be careful where you step. You might come across this mosaic sea turtle as you stroll the neighborhood where Hernan Cortes once set foot, too!

VeracruzDancing-5 VeracruzDancing-17 VeracruzDancing-18 VeracruzDancing-20 VeracruzDancing-21

 

 

Street Life, Veracruz, Mexico

We are walking down a Veracruz street with guide Martin and I had this sudden feeling that I could be in Havana, Cuba. I’ve never been to Havana. But it’s a port town like this one, facing an unrelenting ocean and assaulted with the same kind of weather that beats up beautiful buildings so that overtime they become like dowagers who have lost their glamour and their inheritances, become shabby and unkempt if attention passes them by.

VeracruzDay2-25

When I asked him, Martin said Yes, this area near the Zocalo is very much like Havana, and I had a sense of being in an exotic place filled with the wonder of a five hundred year old history, a blend of Afro-Caribbean music and steamy heat.

VeracruzDay2-17 VeracruzDay2-28 VeracruzDay2-11

Restoration is underway. Buildings are undergoing renovation in preparation for the city’s five-hundred year anniversary in 2019. As we looked closer, we could see that many of the ancient walls were constructed with coral.

VeracruzDay2-26

The morning started with mega-doses of lecheros at El Gran Cafe de La Perroquia on the Malecon. Now, there are two of these restaurants with the same name located next door to each other because years ago there was a split in the family. The real authentic, original with the silver coffee service imported from Italy is the first one you will come to.

VeracruzDay2-2 VeracruzDay2-3 VeracruzDay2-4

We didn’t know that until we found ourselves at the other one, which was truly enjoyable nevertheless. While we ate huevos Mexicanos and huevos Moltuleños, and slurped rich, hot and milky coffee, we were entertained by dancers and musicians. This was easily an almost two-hour breakfast, filled with reverence for coffee preparation.

VeracruzDay2-5  VeracruzDay2  VeracruzDay2-7 VeracruzDay2-6 VeracruzDay2-8

Then, we took one of those city tours in a double-decker vehicle, followed by a walk out to the pier to see the transport ship that carries two thousand Volkswagens made in Puebla, Mexico, to other parts of the world.

VeracruzDay2-21

By three in the afternoon, Sheri and I are ready for a rest. Mary Anne is the energizer bunny and keeps on going. Looking forward to eating more seafood before we leave here on Sunday.

VeracruzDay2-16 VeracruzDay2-12 VeracruzDay2-18

But, before we got back to the hotel, we made a stop at Galerias PopulArte Tlacihualli, Calle Mario Moline No. 23, Planta Alta, Centro, Tel (229) 931 9640.  They are not always open, so we considered ourselves fortunate that we found it, and there was extraoardinary Veracruziana folk art to be found there. artepopular@secturveracruz.gob.mx

VeracruzDay2-22 VeracruzDay2-23

In addition to ceramics and jewelry, there is a good selection of finely embroidered textiles, including table cloths, runners and clothing.

VeracruzDay2-20 VeracruzDay2-10

Along the wharf there is a bas relief cement sculpture representing scenes of agricultural life in Veracruz and the importance of Africans as part of the region’s development. There, too, are classical Baroque-style Spanish buildings that served as the customs house, post office and telegraph office.

VeracruzDay2-14  VeracruzDay2-19VeracruzDay2-27

 

 

Veracruz, Gateway to La Chinantla, Oaxaca

Just as Veracruz was the gateway into Mexico for Hernan Cortes in 1519, I begin my journey here to explore remote textile villages that are part of the Chinanteco and Mazateco regions of Oaxaca state called La Chinantla.

LaChinantlaDay1-3 LaChinantlaDay1-2

We start at Veracruz because it is a short two hours by car to cross over the border to Tuxtepec. From Oaxaca city, this trip can take as much as eight hours over winding, two-lane mountain roads of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte.

Cortes landed in Veracruz on Good Friday and name the place The True Cross.

I am traveling with Stephanie Schneiderman of Tia Stephanie Tours. She made this trip on her own three times to research the villages and put the tour in place before opening it up in 2013 to textile lovers and collectors.

LaChinantlaDay1-9 LaChinantlaDay1-10

This is the land of fresh fish, seafood stew, a paella-like dish called arroz a la tumbada and ceviche. It is where women have been weaving on back-strap looms and creating glorious embroidered designs for centuries. They are preserved because the region is remote. The conquistadors were more interested in gold, silver and cochineal.

LaChinantlaDay1 LaChinantlaDay1-12

It’s the end of the rainy season. From the airplane window as we descend into Veracruz, I see the rivers below are full. The earth is forest, spring, olive and lime green. It is the middle of October. I see the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the distance. It is low, flat and warm here. The port city is Mexico’s most important shipping and naval center.

LaChinantlaDay1-11 LaChinantlaDay1-6

Our Gran Hotel Diligencias is on the Zocalo across from a stark white cathedral. The square is filled with outdoor restaurants,  son jarocho music and dancers, and late night lechero coffee drinkers. It’s colonial architecture reflects the sequence of conquests: Spain, France and the United States of America.

I will be here for two days before our textile journey begins.

Another Tlacolula Market Sunday, Fiesta of Our Lady of the Rosary

The festival of Our Lady of the Rosary — Fiesta de la Virgen del Rosario — is a big deal in Tlacolula de Matamoros, the county seat for the Tlacolula valley part of the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.To give you a sense of it, I’ve changed the blog header once again.

Tlacolula Market-11 Tlacolula Market-7

Last Sunday huge crowds gathered under a huge tent for a noon mass in the church courtyard. The sanctuary isn’t large enough to contain everyone who gathered here from the surrounding villages.

Tlacolula Market-9 Tlacolula Market-8

Sunday market day in Tlacolula is always a treat and a special day to meet up with family members and friends, and to buy supplies. This Sunday feast day was even more so.

Tlacolula Market-32 Tlacolula Market

 

The streets were impassable because they had been set up with carnival rides, sideshows and a midway filled with carnival games. It was a juxtaposition to see women in traditional indigenous dress walking alongside bumper cars and pitch ball games.

Tlacolula Market-10 Tlacolula Market-5

What caught my attention was the big top tent right beside the church dome on the skyline.

Tlacolula Market-4

We could tell this day was special. Women wore their most glittery rhinestone jewelry. Their blouses, skirts and aprons were embellished with sequins.

7376542628_0caf739a93 Tlacolula Market-24

Families strolled with ice cream cones filled with Leche Quemada and topped with frozen Tuna nieves. That is NOT fish, folks! Children everywhere love cotton candy and Oaxaca is no exception.

Tlacolula Market-26

Men come to shop for things like cane and iron tools. Women shop for scarves, shawls, aprons and food.

Tlacolula Market-30  Tlacolula Market-29

Sheri and I met up at the rebozo section where she was on a quest. These shawls are ikat dyed and woven with either cotton or artecel, a silky natural fiber that is a recent substitute for more costly silk.

Tlacolula Market-17 Tlacolula Market-18 Tlacolula Market-19

The ikat shawl is a utilitarian part of the local costume used to wrap babies, groceries, wipe perspiration and shade the head from the sun. We often see women who wrap it turban-style and then perch a basket on top, child in in one hand, a satchel in the other.

Tlacolula Market-21

What never ceases to fascinate me are the handwoven, tassled belts that hold up heavy wool loomed skirts, and braids tied with colorful ribbon.

Tlacolula Market-14

After lunch at Comedor Mary, including some of the best Mole Coloradito in the world accompanied by a shared cold Victoria beer, we headed down the main thoroughfare on foot to fill our shopping cart with fresh papaya, mandarin oranges, limes and avocados to take home.

Tlacolula Market-22

By now, it was late afternoon and time to go home. Sara and Woofy joined us later on the rooftop terrace as we sampled the San Juan del Rio mezcal I had bought the day before, accompanied by a fine sunset to close the day.

San Juan del Rio_2-33

Tlacolula Sunday Market Low-down:

  1. I like to get there early by ten-thirty or eleven in the morning to avoid the crush of people and get deep into the market without elbowing my way through.
  2. If I eat lunch at one-thirty or two in the afternoon, this is earlier than the traditional Sunday comida, so I usually always can get a seat and a good selection of menu items at Comedor Mary.
  3. There’s always a line at the Banamex ATM (located near the pharmacy, the ice cream lane, and across from the church). Be prepared to wait a long time!
  4. If you have a car, park in the lot across from the Pemex on the main street for twenty pesos. This is where the buses from Teotitlan del Valle and San Miguel del Valle go in and out.
  5. Prices drop at the end of the day, by four in the afternoon, when people want to pack up and go home.
  6. Best Finds: embroidered aprons, hand-woven shawls, woven bamboo baskets, red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola, handmade wood toys, painted gourds from Guerrero

Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop starts January 30, 2015

 

Come to Opening Night: Antioxidantes Art Exhibit at Gallery Quetzalli, Oaxaca, Mexico

Artists Mauricio Cervantes and Sati Zech asked me to invite you to
the opening reception, October 30, 6:00 p.m.
at Galeria Quetzalli in the Casa Oaxaca Restaurant Patio
Constitucion 104, Centro Historico, Oaxaca

entwurf-comentarios-mc-1

Antioxidantes is the exhibition that unites the work of Mauricio Cervantes  (Mexico) and Sati Zech (Germany). Each artist has a distinct technique and style. Yet, this show presents points of convergence between them.  Sati Zech works with canvas, leather and wool plus other materials. He is noted for the use of the color red in his work. Mauricio paints abstract forms on cement tiles using oxidation processes for interest and emphasis.

 ***

Antioxidantes es la exposición que une el trabajo de Mauricio Cervantes (MEX) y Sati Zech(ALEMANIA) ambos artistas con técnica y estilo tan distintos, sin embargo esta exhibición logra encontrar algunas líneas de convergencia entre la obra de ambos; mientras Sati Zech trabaja con lienzo, cuero y lana, entre otros materiales, el color rojo se encuentra como sello característico de su obra, Mauricio presentará piezas de pintura en baldosas hidráulicas con procesos de oxidación y formas abstractas que lo caracterizan. ­­

Inauguración  30 de Octubre, 20:00 hrs. Galería Quetzalli, Constitución 104, Col. Centro, Oaxaca. Oax.

Mas información: http://galeriaquetzalli.wordpress.com

www.mauriciocervantes.wordpress.com

www.satizech.de