Category Archives: Photography

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead: Schedule and Photography Retrospective

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Only four more days until the official start of Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico. Everyone is lining up their calendars to watch comparsas, visit cemeteries and participate as locals honor the return to earth of their loved ones and then escort them back to their graves with the scent of copal and flowers.

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 2014 Cemetery Visiting Schedule

October 31:

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November 1:

  • Oaxaca City Cemetery (Panteon)
  • Barrio Xochimilco
  • San Augustin Etla
  • San Pablo Villa de Mitla, begins mid-day

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November 3:

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Usually, the Teotitlan del Valle Day of the Dead All Souls’ Day observances are held on November 2. But, this year the date falls on Sunday, so the village has moved observances to Monday.

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I’ve written extensively about the history and customs for Day of the Dead. You can use the search engine on the blog to find more about how to decorate an altar, the meaning and symbolism of the observance and relationship to pre-Hispanic rituals.

NH_Best9_1027-5 copy Slide17 copy   I’ve also seen tour groups come into small town cemeteries where people sit quietly in reflection at gravesites.. They step into plots and between people, point cameras in their faces and set their strobe flashes to get a good shot. Then, they climb back on the van or bus and leave to go on to the next stop on the tour.

Please be mindful that we are all visitors here and it is our responsibility to walk quietly and with respect.

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There is lots to do in the city. Don’t forget to hang out on Macedonio Alcala to catch the comparsas. The sand sculptures will be in the Plaza de la Danza. Peek into courtyards and hotel lobbies to see all the fanciful decorations. Enjoy yourself. We are happy you are here!

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For activities, check Margie Barclay’s Oaxaca Calendar, too!

 

 

Pop-Up Show + Sale — Huipils from San Felipe Usila, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale from San Felipe Usila
  • at Restaurante La Olla, Calle Reforma #402, Oaxaca, Centro Historico in front of Las Bugambilias B&B
  • Tuesday, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — One day only

I must confess that I left two great huipiles behind in San Felipe Usila and I’ve been ruminating for three days, since I returned to Oaxaca last Friday afternoon, about how to get them to me!

So, this morning I created a Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale to make the trip worthwhile for two families who live in this remote mountain village in the Papaloapan Region of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca. I spent a couple of hours hunting them down and then making the arrangements!

Please come and support these incredible weavers whose work you will recognize from the Guelaguetza Dance of the Flor de Piña. Prices start at about 1,500 pesos for pieces made on a back strap loom with intricate designs incorporated into the weft.

Meet the Longino Tenorio Mendoza family and the Hermalinda Inocente Isidro family. Together, they will bring about 40 pieces with them for you to see and describe their work.

I will need a fluent Spanish-English speaker to volunteer to translate, please! We will ask them to talk about their work, their lives and the designs they create.

Just a few examples of what you may see:

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Tuxtepec, Oaxaca: Huipils, Dance of the Pineapple Flower and Guelaguetza

Oaxaca’s July Guelaguetza features some of the most glorious traje — indigenous dress — throughout the state. But few, if any, surpass the beauty from the state of Tuxtepec.

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I am on a textile tour to discover the artistry of some of Oaxaca’s most remote villages. The evening our group arrives in Tuxtepec from Veracruz, we are treated to a fashion parade. Featured are the region’s woven and embroidered garments that we will see over the next several days. It’s like attending a sneak preview!

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They varied from the more simple daily wear of traditional women to those that are more elaborate and reserved for special occasions.

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The presentation is organized by Jose de Jesus Hernandez, known as Chucho. He teaches dance and has a collection of authentic dresses. Chucho explains that fifty-eight years ago there was a movement to return to the roots of the region by the younger generation. That’s why the Flor de Piña dance was created.

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I realize that all the different huipil designs in this one dance at the Guelaguetza is a compilation to express the diverse weaving and embroidery styles of Mazateco and Chinanteco communities that are part of Tuxtepec.

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As our week together comes to a close, we return to Tuxtepec one last time. Dance master Hector Arturo Hernandez meets us at the hotel, teaches us the Flor de Piña dance steps and brings huipils from his collection to show and tell. I would say we were not equal to the task of keeping up with the strenuous foot work of the dance!

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More than one hundred and eighty young women audition to represent these Chinanteco and Mazateco villages. Only thirty-six are selected, says Don Hector Arturo, who has been teaching the Danza Flor de Piña for the past thirty-five years.

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He recruits and selects the dancers, and serves as the narrative voice for the Tuxtepec delegation at the Guelaguetza. As soon as I hear him speak, I recognize him. Our models for Don Arturo’s collection are women on the tour.

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In 1958, the governor of Tuxtepec decided that the jarocho music and dance presentation at the Guelaguetza did not fully integrate Tuxtepec with Oaxaca, since jarocho is a part of Veracruz identity. So, the Danza Flor de Piña was choreographed and orchestrated to the poem of native son Felipe Matias Velasco.

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By doing this, the back strap loom weaving and embroidery of these remote Oaxaca villages became a distinguishing feature of the Guelaguetza, something that we all identify with its pageantry and with Oaxaca.

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Those who study Oaxaca culture and communities know that the term guelaguetza is NOT about this annual tourist attraction that is a dance interpretation of the word. It is a way of life, the foundation for maintaining community and mutual support in indigenous pre-Hispanic Mexican villages.

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Note: These finest quality huipiles range in price from 1,500 pesos to over 6,500 pesos. Some take more than three or four months to make. The current exchange rate is about 13 pesos to the dollar. The average wage of an agricultural or hourly wage worker in Mexico is 100 pesos or eight dollars a day. Tourism is Oaxaca’s economic engine.

How To Get There

If you are more inclined to travel independently rather than taking a tour, take a bus or collectivo from town to town, or rent a car and drive from Oaxaca city on Mexico 175 to Tuxtepec. Get a Guia Roji Mapa 20 for the Estado de Oaxaca.

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You may want to stop and spend the night in Pueblo Magico Capulalpam de Mendez or continue on until you reach Valle Nacional. There are several lovely hotels in Capulalpam and a few small hostals in Valle Nacional. From there, you can get to the pueblos in the Papaloapan Region that we visited: Valle Nacional, Rancho Grande, San Pedro Soyaltepec and San Lucas Ojitlan, bypassing the entry through Veracruz.

This route will take six to eight hours of driving from Oaxaca to Valle Nacional over winding mountain roads! You might also consider establishing a base in one of the villages if you don’t mind sleeping in a hammock or a basic, no frills room with only cold running water.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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