Category Archives: Cultural Commentary

Mexico Travel Photography: Five Day Photo Challenge Editor’s Choice

Last week, I posted a Colors of Mexico photo challenge on Mexico Travel Photography, a Facebook group I moderate. We had 45 people take part. I didn’t count the total number submitted, but it was a 5-day challenge. We saw a lot of beautiful photographs of Mexico.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Geri Anderson. Oaxaca Zocalo.

Mexico is where anything goes! Vibrant color is everywhere. The photographs in this post run the gamut from people, buildings, food, clothing, festivals, markets, street life, re-engineered cars that would have become junk in the USA, and then some. There are literal and figurative photos, abstract and impressionistic.

David Taylor.

David Taylor shared this photo of live dress-up dolls.

As this blog’s writer/editor, I took the liberty of selecting photos to post here that I thought were especially dramatic for the choice of color (or not).

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

Mary Anne Huff Shaw. Quinceanera dresses, Mexico City.

As editor, I also took some artistic license to crop the original photos submitted on Facebook and do some photo editing enhancements. I used my judgment in this process. Why?

Day 5, Mexico Colors Photo Challenge. "Day of the Dead" celebration in Zinacantán, Chiapas. (In tzotzil language is called "Sk`in Ch`olelai")., Ana Paula Fuentes

Ana Paula Fuentes. Day of the Dead, Zinacantán, Chiapas. “Sk`in Ch`olelai”in Tzotzil.

Sometimes the subject of a photo reveals itself by getting in closer. Cropping is all an experiment and depends on each person’s preference. Some people are afraid of doing this, but you can always revert to the original. Nothing lost by trying. If I altered your photo and you don’t like it, please forgive me!

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

Miles De Coster. Oaxaca chickens.

For example, I didn’t crop this chicken in the market photo that Miles took. It’s so close you can see the pin hairs.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

Donna Howard. Mexico provides so many opportunities for photography.

And, I bet Donna got right up to this young boy judging by his expression. Zoom. Zoom.

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Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

Mary Stelletello. Amaranth harvest.

This is exactly as Mary shot this picture. I confess I bumped up the color a bit. Such a beautiful Mexican landscape. They are growing healthy food, here.

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

Kathy Maher Fritz. Ceviche at Rocio, Punta Mita. My mouth waters just looking at this!

I got in closer on Kathy’s photo so we could see the juice of that orange slice, and yes, says Kathy, the mouth-watering ceviche. Thank you. What’s for dinner? Anyone have a good recipe?

Hollie Taylor Novak. Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. Its what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.

Hollie Taylor Novak. Funky, Rusty, Junky.

Hollie says, “Nobody loves funky, rusty, interesting old junky cars like I do. It’s what makes Mexico so charming. I see Texture, Color, Rust, all things I love. Getting all the use you can out of the objects in your life and being resourceful is worthy in my book.”

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers at the Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Flor de Piña dancers, Guelaguetza desfile in Oaxaca.

A Oaxaca desfile is a joyous parade. We have them here all the time, and it’s wonderful. Shannon got up close to get the intricate embroidery on the dresses. It’s what Oaxaca is known for. Don’t stay away!

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

Diane Hobbs. CIMMYT- Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo, Texcoco, 2014

I wrote to Diane that this looks like a Luis Barragan design. Intense primary colors. Gorgeous. I didn’t touch this one. Love how the right angles contrast with the round trees. Ah, Mexico.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

Lanita Busher. Semana Santa, Oaxaca 2012.

The subject is holding a bull that spits fireworks. It’s a traditional part of Oaxaca celebrations. We see these at Christmas, especially. Not for the faint of heart, but dazzling.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Nena Creasy. Museo Textile de Oaxaca, dyeing with indigo.

Ok, I did a big crop on this one to get our eyes focused on the glorious indigo dyed cloth at Oaxaca’s textile museum, and that amazing red-orange wall in the background. Love that splatter of indigo blue on the floor tiles.

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres

Pauline Hastings. Colourful stairway on Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Gad, do you think Mexico could be any more colorful than this? Not likely!

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Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago. Calle Alcala, Afternoon in Oaxaca.

Omar Chavez Santiago sent this one in on the last day of the Challenge. We all loved the sky! Omar is age 22 and is graduating from university this December. He has an eye!

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market... // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

Moises Garcia Guzman y de Mendoza. Aprons in the Tlacolula Market… // Mandiles en el Mercado de Tlacoula.

And, Moises sent us this one of the ubiquitous embroidered apron worn by all traditional Zapotec women who live in the Tlacolula valley. And, where do you buy these? Why at the Sunday Tlacolula market, of course! I enhanced the color and did a crop so you could see the embroidery detail.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen Otter. Colors of Mexico.

Karen sent us this terrific masked man whose garments are covered in bells!

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge - Hualulco

Don Hughes. Colors of Mexico Photo Challenge – Huatulco

Good enough to eat. I bet it was tasty, fish head and all. I cropped in closer. Such a great color. Wonder what the seasoning was? Squash? Carrots? Huatulco is Oaxaca’s beach resort. Flights go there direct from the USA.

Betsy McNair. I have no idea where this was taken.

Betsy McNair. She says, “I have no idea where this was taken.”

Old here is very beautiful. The textures and layers are a sight to capture. Thanks, Betsy.

Claudia Brewer Michel. How to make the colors of Mexico. Studio of Jacabo Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia Brewer Michel.  Studio of Jacobo & Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.

Claudia says, “This is how to make the colors of Mexico.” At alebrije carver-painter Jacobo and Maria Angeles‘ studio, visitors see how natural pigments color carved animals. I cropped to get in closer to the hands. A slimy, beautiful mess.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

Rene Cabrera Arroyo. Chiles en Nogada from Puebla.

This is the season for Chiles en Nogada, the traditional dish that celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain. Red, white and green! Eat it through September.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Melanie Schulze. Oaxaca, near Parque El Llano.

Another take on fish, this time a graphic adorning a wall. Peeling paper and paint. Such great texture. I bumped up the yellow and contrast.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Araceli Gonzalez Carrasco. Tanivet, Tlacolula.

Sunset in the Tlacolula valley. Such a beautiful silhouette. Thanks, Araceli.

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Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick Hamblen. Colors of Mexico.

Nick sent this one among several over the week. I loved the shadows, the rust, and the color contrasts. I couldn’t decide between this one and the Mexico City subway scene. It was the blue that did it.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail Schacter. Day 2, Colors of Mexico.

Gail sent us this one on Day 2 of the challenge. I cropped in to get us closer to the faces of the children, and highlighted the color. Wanna red lollipop?

Bob Ward.

Bob Ward.

Maybe Bob will tell us where he took this photo. It’s the stippled walls that really pop along with those beaten down doors that might have a few more years left in them. What stories these buildings could tell if they talked.

Please take a look at Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group to see the work that everyone submitted. We’ll do another challenge soon. If you aren’t yet a member, please join. Most of us are amateurs who just love to take photographs of Mexico, her places and people.

Thanks for reading and following!

Norma

How to Correct the Image and Crop a Photo: Download your photo. For simplicity, take a Facebook photo and download it. I use a MacBook so I click on the download and it opens in Preview.

Image Correction: You then use your cursor to open Tools on the Toolbar above. Click on Adjust Color. A screen pops up. Use your cursor to slide the levers to change exposure, contrast, shadow, highlights, saturation, and sharpening.

To Crop, put your cursor on the photo and click the touch pad. A square will come up that you can adjust to decide the area you want to cut. It’s all an experiment and you won’t ruin anything. You can always revert to the original and start over!

 

 

No Plan to Live in Mexico: How I Got Here

The best plan might be NOT to have a plan.

I spent my working life doing goals and objectives, setting annual plans and then evaluating whether I met those targets. They became part of my annual performance review. Yet, the serendipity of how my personal life progressed was never a conscious decision. Sometimes I felt bad about that. I should have had more direction.

But I couldn’t have planned it better. How I came to live in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, was pure accident.

Many I meet ask, How did you get here? Here’s a condensed answer.

Church of the Precious Blood, Teotitlan del Valle, built on top of Zapotec Temple, archeological ruins

Church of the Precious Blood, Teotitlan del Valle, built atop Zapotec temple ruins

My friend, Annie Burns, moved to Teotitlan from Pittsboro, North Carolina, in the early 2000’s.  She would return to visit with wonderful textiles to show and sell. At the time, there were probably three or four gueros living here. She kept inviting me to visit. Finally, I did, in 2005 with the wasband.

Teotitecas, parade of the canastas

Teotitecas, Parade of the Canastas each year in July

Annie introduced us to Josefina Ruiz Vazquez and her mother-in-law Magdalena. They had both lost husbands to illness that same year, son and father. Josefina and Magda are great cooks. Josefina, mother of three youngsters, was left with no means of support. Annie thought, maybe they could start a B&B. We were the first experiment in hospitality for gringos.

That’s how Las Granadas B& B in Teotitlan del Valle got started. Today, it is a shadow of its former self. Another friend, Roberta Christie, stepped in to make a huge difference by creating the infrastructure to make it happen. But I digress.

Rooftop View of Teotitlan del Valle from Las Granadas

Rooftop View of Teotitlan del Valle from Las Granadas

Years ago in San Francisco, I was a beginning weaver and experimented in natural dyes. My love of textiles informed my adulthood and as I traveled, I collected. During that first visit to Teotitlan del Valle, I thought I had landed in heaven. Teotitlan was filled with talented weavers and stunning textiles.

Federico Chavez Sosa at his loom in Teotitlan del Valle

Federico Chavez Sosa at his loom in Teotitlan del Valle

I was on a quest to find a family that worked only in natural dyes. I did research in advance and knew that while it was not widespread, there were a few working with plant dyes and cochineal. I set out to find them. It wasn’t easy. And, of course, I loved all those bright aniline dye colors, too.

Yet, it was a time when we were talking more about sustainability and consuming what was healthy, organic. Making a commitment to buying an organic textile was important to me and I didn’t want to compromise.

Dye demonstration with cochineal bug, acid and base

Dye demonstration with cochineal bug, acid and base

For the first few days in Teotitlan del Valle, I walked around meeting and talking with weavers in their workshops to learn more. There were many beautiful textiles and I was smitten. But I restrained myself from buying.

Everyone could give me a natural dye demonstration, crushing the cochineal bug in my palm, squeezing lime juice, adding baking soda. I watched the color change from orange to red to pink to purple, depending on proportions and chemistry. I wasn’t certain who was actually using the process to dye the wool.

Eric Chavez Santiago giving dyeing wool with wild marigold

Eric Chavez Santiago dyeing wool with wild marigold

Then, the only Internet connection in town was at the pharmacy across from the church. One day, as we left, we decided to make a right turn instead of our usual left to wander through the rug market.

I hear a voice say in perfect English, “Do you want to see my rugs?” Looking down to manage my steps on the cobblestones, I waved my hand and shook my head, no. The English was too perfect. Too slick, I thought. Then I looked up, saw these magnificent rugs and stepped into the space.

Chavez Family Weavers, portrait by Norma Schafer, 2012

Chavez Family Weavers, portrait by Norma Schafer, 2012

That’s when I met Eric Chavez Santiago and his sister, Janet. Both were university students, selling rugs in the market during Christmas vacation. Janet was huddled in the corner with a book on her lap, studying. I went to their family home and studio to see the complete collection, meet dad Federico Chavez Sosa and mom, Dolores Santiago Arrellenas.

Being a Teotiteco Danzante for Dance of the Feather requires incredible concentration

Being a Teotiteco Danzante for Dance of the Feather requires incredible concentration

I saw the actual wool dyeing and weaving process. Eric explained how difficult the economy was. The market demand had softened since the 90’s when Santa Fe Style sent thousands of Zapotec rugs out of Oaxaca to the American southwest.

Of course, I bought rugs. Eric later told me, many came to visit them, said they would help and were never heard from.

Caracol rug design, communication symbol

Caracol rug design, communication symbol by color master Federico

Then, I went home to North Carolina, gave thought to how I might help this family. I wrote an arts education grant with the Carrboro Arts Center to the NC Arts Council. We got funding to bring Eric and Federico to North Carolina for workshops, expoventas (show and sale) and give a master class at NC State University College of Textiles. I helped get 10 year visas with assist from Congressman David Price‘s staff.

It was never the plan to live here. The idea was to visit once a year … maybe. Living in Oaxaca City was not considered. I fell in love with Teotitlan del Valle, her people and textiles.

The casita where I live in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

The casita where I live in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

The next year, Federico and Dolores invited us to build a casita on their land. It was a surprise and a gift. Because no foreigners (even people born in other pueblos) can own property in Teotitlan del Valle, we knew that this would be a vacation home that would always be owned by the family. This relationship is based on trust, respect and good will.

Because of this unique arrangement, this is not for everyone. Many immigrants who live in Teotitlan and other usos y costumbres pueblos rent.

But plans have a way of changing and nothing is for certain. The wasband and I had our differences. Our divorce was final in 2014. For now, this is where I live and this is how I got here. I never planned it this way.

Cane bobbins wrapped with red wool dyed cochineal

Cane bobbins wrapped with red wool dyed cochineal

Eric, who thought he might work in a bank after graduation, went on to become the founding director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, with our coaching help and his innate intelligence. This year, Eric is starting a new entrepreneurial venture at the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation. Janet is a linguist educator at the Biblioteca Juan de Cordova. Youngest brother, Omar, will finish university in December and wants to take the family business to the next level. Federico and Dolores run Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca City and continue to weave.

Goals? I have no idea what’s next.

Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat, March 2017

Natural dyes have strong color, as strong as synthetic dyes

With a great dye master, natural dyes have strong color, as strong as commercial dyes

Will you share your story? If you live in Mexico, how did you get here?

 

 

 

Everyday Life in the Campo, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Those of us who live here in Mexico probably do much the same things that you do every day. Food shop, clean house, exercise, visit friends, read, write, take naps, volunteer, etc. Most of the immigrants I know are retired and live here either part or full-time. We’re from Canada and the U.S.A. for the most part, but Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans are among us, too.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

Oaxaca Red casita color. With Gar Bii Dauu. Local endangered succulent.

Living in Teotitlan del Valle is different from being a city dweller. This village of indigenous Zapotec people holds to a strong, powerful and ancient culture. Many work at weaving wool rugs. Some are musicians. Others are shopkeepers or run comedors. Some are bakers and butchers. A few sew clothing. Many are farmers. In times when there are fewer tourists, many weavers supplement their income by growing and harvesting food.

Plowing my neighbors corn field, a five-hour project

Plowing my neighbor’s corn field, five plus hours of labor

I live in the campo. Out beyond the hubbub of town, amid the traditional milpas of corn, beans and squash. I’m surrounded on three sides by maize fields. Some are tasseling now. Here, the tradition is to plow the furrows when the corn is waist-high to break the crust and allow rain to penetrate earth. This is living close to the soil. Organic. Honorable.

It’s rainy season. Green stretches for miles. Today I awakened to whistling. Out my window was a young man driving a team of bulls plowing the field next to the casita I live in.

Rene's Volkswagen van. Can you guess it's vintage?

Rene’s Volkswagen van. Can you guess it’s vintage?

I grew up in Los Angeles. Miles of freeways. Concrete. Tiny lots separated by six-foot block walls. School yards paved with asphalt. I remember scraped knees and elbows. The hum of car engines passing. We were all jammed together, a jam of humanity. Even more now. Gridlock. I think I’ve become a country girl.

The crop was planted in July. There wasn’t much rain in June and farmers worried about another year of drought. In my absence over the last five weeks, seems that weather has played catch up and everything is growing.

Two teams of bulls on two days, one white, the other black. Take a rest.

Two teams of bulls on two days, one white, the other black. Take a rest.

The young man plowing the field rents out his services. His two bulls are tethered with a hand-hewn yoke that supports a wood plow. He guides the curved stick deep into the earth with one hand to keep the furrow straight. In the other, he holds a switch that gently prods the animals to keep on the straight and narrow. Farm machinery cannot do this job well enough.

A perfect day for plowing the fields.

A perfect day for plowing the fields. From my living room window.

This is his second day at it. Both days, he started at eight in the morning, ended around two o-clock in the afternoon, just before lunch. People work hard here. Five plus hours plowing the field with no break in the heat of the day. The monotony of walking back and forth. The patience of walking back and forth.

Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat, March 2017

My friend, plumber and handy-man extraordinaire René asks me if I know what the greca (Greek key) symbol means that is woven on village rugs.  It’s the step-fret carved into the Mitla temple walls, I answer.

Grecas, Mitla archeological site

Grecas, Mitla archeological site, post-classical Monte Alban

Yes, and more, he says. The ancient Zapotecs believe the two interlocking hands that form the pre-Hispanic greca represent the serpent deity duality and the life-giving connection between earth and sky, water and fire.  

The transformation. Beige to red. Another symbol.

Rene executing the transformation. Beige to red. Symbol of change.

We are eating lunch and the thunder is rolling in. The sky darkens. Earth gives off the aroma of on-coming rain.  The just plowed field next door will soon drink its fill. René packs up his painting supplies. Paint does not do well with humidity.

Handwoven indigo rug with greca design

Handwoven indigo rug with greca design, Teotitlan del Valle

The exterior walls of the casita I live in are getting a makeover. The wasband liked beige. I’m in the mood for Oaxaca Red.

From rooftop terrace, a 360 degree view of Tlacolula valley

From rooftop terrace, a 360 degree view of Tlacolula valley

Oaxaca Safety and Day of the Dead: Come or Cancel?

I’m hearing about people thinking of canceling their Day of the Dead trips to Oaxaca this year. Someone said they were afraid of the Zika virus. I haven’t heard of any cases being reported here. Fear is powerful.

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos

I returned to Oaxaca five days ago. It was an easy flight from Orange County, California (SNA) to Mexico City on Southwest, then a connection to Oaxaca on Interjet. I arrived in Teotitlan del Valle without incident. Not even an airplane snivel.

Out and about on Sunday in Mitla, I saw tourists. They are mostly Europeans, Germans, Swiss, French, Dutch. Fearless world travelers.

The children's comparsa, Muertos

The children’s comparsa, Muertos

We are rounding the corner to prepare for Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead. Oaxaca is famous for this celebration of life and its continuum. Hotels are usually booked a year in advance.

But fear is in the air. People are asking once again, Is it safe? Should I come? Should I cancel?

The 2016 Guelaguetza is behind us. Observing from my son’s California living room, I heard various numbers: from a 31% to 53% occupancy rate in Oaxaca hotels. This is devastating news to a tourism-dependent city.  Yet, I also heard the auditorium was packed with Mexicans and Europeans. Only the Americans missed out.

My own altar, in memory of dad. This year, we add our mother.

My own altar, in memory of dad. This year, we add our mother.

Why are we so afraid?  I think this is an important question to ask ourselves as protectionism and insularity dominate the political rhetoric in our social discourse. Are we willing to stay put, stay home, close ourselves off from an invigorating world that offers exploration and discovery, and is probably no more or less safe than going to the local mall. Fear is self-protection. It is also paralyzing.

Even Frida returns to celebrate

Even Frida returns to celebrate

I subscribe to Improvised Life. Sally Schneider talks about how important it is to lean into the fear that puts a stranglehold on us. Onward.

It’s true. Oaxaca struggles with its own political upheavals and social justice issues. The zocalo is a gathering place for dissidents and right now, it’s not pretty. The federal and state governments are prone to take impulsive, though calculated aggressive action against demonstrators. We are aware of where these potential flash points can happen and we steer clear. Just like we wouldn’t go into a U.S. neighborhood known to be volatile.

Offerings on the altar. Favorite foods, beverages.

Offerings on the altar. Favorite foods, beverages, pan de muertos

Yesterday, my inbox contained a message from a Day of the Dead tour leader to his clients who seem to be softening on their commitment to visit. In summary:

  • The zocalo occupation is not dangerous, just annoying
  • If there are roadblocks, they are not dangerous, just annoying
  • There is no random violence, nor is there violence focused at the public
  • Protest is a way of life here, guaranteed in the constitution as a way to express grievances
  • The protest leaders and government representatives continue to negotiate

We hope for the best. Meanwhile, life in Oaxaca continues to present its wonderful mysteries, artistic expression, great culinary taste sensations, and an unparalleled opportunity to meet artisans where they live and work.

Sand paintings, part of the transition, Muertos

Sand paintings, part of the transition, Muertos

I urge you to come and not cancel. Day of the Dead is an extraordinary opportunity for examining how we feel about life and death through the eyes of indigenous people. It is with love, not fear. It is with respect for ancestors, not grief.

Oaxaca welcomes you! If you are afraid, buy travel insurance. You should, anyway (smile). Wherever you go.

Over-the-top decorations throughout Oaxaca's centro.

Over-the-top decorations throughout Oaxaca’s centro.

 

The Latino Comics Expo @Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California

After hiking the wetlands trails of Bolsa Chica (little purse) Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach along the Pacific Ocean, my son decided we should take in some local culture at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in nearby Long Beach. What’s there? The Latino Comics Expo to celebrate it’s 5th anniversary at MOLAA, age 20.

Lucha Libre is a popular Latino comic book subject

Lucha Libre is a popular Latino comic book subject

The Expo was created by Javier Hernandez and Ricardo Padilla. They started it at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum in 2011. This is their second time at MOLAA. They mounted the first expo there in 2013.

As a lover of Oaxaca graphic arts, it’s not a stretch for me to consider that comics are a natural extension of the great Mexican tradition of illustrator Jose Guadelupe Posada. In fact, there are Posada illustrations on exhibit at this museum, too.

Jose Guadalupe Posada original illustration

Jose Guadalupe Posada original illustration, a poke at the bourgeoisie

After all, Posada is Diego Rivera’s hero and he features him prominently, and fondly, in the mural Dream on a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Park (Mexico City). Muralists Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros  form the second and third legs of the Mexican Muralist Movement stool. They used caricature, too, as prominent artistic expression in their work.

Artist Ramiro Gomez Magazine series, commentary on who does the work

In artist Ramiro Gomez’ Magazine series, he comments on who does the work

The Latino comics tradition of Los Angeles is rooted in these antecedents. Illustrators used and continue to use political parody in their work, just as Posada, Rivera, Orozco and Siquieros did one hundred years ago to poke at their adversaries.

Do you think they use pesticides? Who is harvesting? What is health risk?

Do you think they use pesticides? Who is harvesting? What is health risk?

In the permanent exhibition, Ramiro Gomez, son of Mexican immigrants, reflects his experiences and stories growing up in a working class family. His art (above) focuses on class difference and the people behind a socially constructed representation of luxury. He tears out advertisements from upscale magazines and superimposes domestic workers into the composition.

The Trump High Five, by Raul The Third

The Trump High Five, by Lalo Alcarez

The Latino Comics Expo was a two-day event, August 6 and 7. There were about 50 illustrators there demonstrating their work, selling books, posters, postcards, t-shirts, ball caps and pins. Some works were prints, silkscreen, engravings and hand-illustrated with colored pen.

Lowriders at the Center of the Earth, illustrated by Raul The Third

Lowriders at the Center of the Earth, illustrated by Raul The Third

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, illustrated by Raul the Third, grabbed my attention. So did the lowrider on the cover, an integral part of my growing-up years in the San Fernando Valley when young Latinos/Chicanos altered their Chevys, Fords and Chryslers. Tuck and roll leather seats. Raked front ends. Flashing lights. Flames. The more elaborate, the better.

Illustrator Raul The Third. Note his version of Melania.

Illustrator Lalo Alcarez. Political & social justice commentary, too. Plus a little pin-up.

The t-shirt Lalo Alcarez (above) wears, Hecho en California, speaks to the strong influences of Latino culture in the second largest city of America.

As I looked around at the posters and books, I thought, this is great art, just like what I’m used to seeing at the Oaxaca printmaking studios of Fernando Sandoval and La Chicharra. I walked away with an autographed book copy of Lowriders.

Hand-colored illustration of the Conquest. With codices footnotes.

Hand-colored illustration of the Conquest. With codices footnotes.

Then, my son tells me, mom, he’s pretty famous. He’s published in L.A. Weekly. What do I know?

Zapotec poet Natalia Toledo, in featured museum video

Zapotec poet Natalia Toledo, in featured museum video

As I turned the corner to go through the regular exhibition, there was a video interview with Oaxaca poet Natalia Toledo talking about the importance of literacy and preserving Zapotec culture. Natalia also designs extraordinary jewelry (available for sale at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca gift shop). Versatile like her father, Francisco Toledo.

Untitled, by Rodolfo Morales, Oaxaca painter

Untitled, by Rodolfo Morales, Oaxaca painter

Show Me Your Papers by Raul The Third

Show Me Your Papers! by illustrator Lalo Alcaraz

Comic book art/illustration defines the culture and sub-culture, makes a political, social commentary and moral observation about the world that can be humorous, biting and truth-telling. What if Native Americans had asked immigrating English, French and Spanish for their papers?

Uncle Sam wants YOU! Who else will clean homes, harvest food?

Uncle Sam wants YOU! Who else will clean homes, harvest food?

After over a wonderful, satisfying month visiting family and friends, I’m back home in quiet, calm Oaxaca. No freeway congestion or the lure of mall shopping, over-priced lunches and dinners, blustering television pundits that I admit had me addicted to the next adrenaline fix. My wi-fi service is now reconnected and it’s raining. What could be better? Now for a bit of sopa de pollo con limon (chicken with lime soup).

Come! It’s safe.

Comic book series, The Hand of Destiny

Comic book series, The Hand of Destiny