You Are Invited: Italian Cultural Festival in Oaxaca

Being a Oaxaca Host: Lessons for People and Nations

My friend Debbie from North Carolina came to visit me in Oaxaca this week. It was a fast three nights and two-and-a-half days. We packed a lot in as the news of the world was (and continues to) unfolding, raging, tangling itself up around us. I wanted to show her my world here.

Archeological sites. Markets. Weavers. Mezcal and candle makers. Mountain vistas. High desert.

Amidst Zapotec-Mixtec ruins, San Pablo Villa de Mitla church

Debbie is more than a friend. We share the sisterhood of once living together as neighbors in a co-housing community that was based on consensus decision-making.

Our relationship developed amidst all the attending struggles within a group of having to reconcile differences and come to agreement about how to live with respect, caring and intention. This is not easy, not natural and takes practice.

Evening respite, chiminea aglow, on my casita patio

We were part of a women’s group that shared reading material, discussions, intimacies, success and disappointments. We comforted each other when there was loss.  We celebrated together when there was joy. We lost a friend in this group to cancer that took her fast. We mourned. Picked up. Continued.

Debbie wrote a blog post about how to be a good guest:

Learning to Be a Guest

The counterpoint for me is how to be a good host. Give comfort, security, food. Offer activities, entertainment and quiet. Make introductions to friends. Sit and talk. Understand the then and now. Have fun. Create discovery. A lesson how to be a good host should be a taught to the USA’s new administration.

Fresh carrot/beet/pineapple juice alongside Jugo Verde, Teotitlan del Valle market

This is not only about how to stay in another person’s house. It is about how we live/visit as guests in a country other than our own. It is about how we welcome people in, consider their needs.

Even for those of us who make Oaxaca or Mexico home for several months or the entire year, even for those of us who have taken up permanent residency, we are the other, the guest.  In that capacity, how do we behave? How do we interact with the local community? What do we contribute? Are we observers or participators in local customs and traditions? What is our footprint?

Debbie in the shadows of ancient archeological site

This week, in the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave, at the end of the first week of the 45th president, we have closed our borders and threatened our immigrants. We are at risk of sacrificing our civil liberties out of fear and isolation.

The country of my birth, where I also make my home, is rampant with xenophobia, arrogance, and has retreated into becoming a very bad host. The risk of losing values — that of welcoming the huddled masses yearning to be free — brings me despair.

Mexico, land of the free and home of the brave, too.

This new president, whom I call Mr. Orange Menace, has a lot to learn about hospitality, although he seems to run hotels. But, oh, yes, they are for the very wealthy!

Ancient Zapotec temple carvings, Teotitlan del Valle church

Here in the Mexican village I call home for much of the year, I am a guest. I try to remember that daily. I live here in respect for my hosts, the indigenous people who are my neighbors. I know many by name and they invite me into their homes to visit, for meals and celebrations. As a good guest, I try to be helpful and not overstep. Keep my footprint in sync with theirs. I live in a small casita and drive an old car. I am not worried about living in the campo.

Sharing mezcal with weaver friend Arturo Hernandez

With the tone of discourse between Mexico and the USA at a low point, with the bullying and bluster of wall-building on the border taking on fearful proportions, I can’t help but wonder if that will have an impact on how I might be treated here.  I can only imagine these parallel universes between cross-border immigrants. Respecting minority rights is a basic principle of humanity, of democracy.

And, all I want to do is say, I’m sorry. 

The high desert gives forth life, prickly though it is

 

 

 

How Oaxaca Got Her Name: Guaje Seed Pods

When the Spanish arrived in southern Mexico in 1521, they found a region called Huāxyacac, the Nahuatl word for the pod of the tree Leucaena Leucocephala. Of course, they couldn’t pronounce it easily, so they renamed it with the moniker, Oaxaca. Originally, Oaxaca was pronounced wa-shaka from a medieval Spanish root. Now, the X is silent, so we say, wa-haka.

Ready to eat guaje seed pod. Yummy in the tummy.

The tree is also known by the Maya as Uaxim and in English as Leadtree, White Popinac and Wild Tamarind. The pod, spelled phonetically as either Huaje, Guaje or Huaxya, is not edible. Inside the pod container are small green seeds that plump up in early spring (here, in Oaxaca it is late January and early February). The growing range is from Central America to Southern California.

Peel open the deep purple pod and there you have a tangy, somewhat bitter bright green pea that is rich in protein. My Zapotec friends tell me this is a food staple eaten by the grandparents. That means food for the centuries.

Ready-to-eat guaje seeds. I’ve acquired a taste for them!

It will cure your digestive problems, says my friend Arnulfo.

Ah, just like mezcal, I answer him, and he smiles.

We both know there is truth to folk medicine here in the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca. Indigenous food is sustainable.

The land on which I live in Teotitlan del Valle is dotted with these trees. The ones closest to the casita are over twenty feet tall and branches laden with pods hang over the rails of my rooftop terrace now. The pods are within plucking distance. That makes me happy.

Landscape is dotted with guajes, good for erosion control and shade.

When I go up there to read a book in the hammock, I reach out, grab a branch and pick off a pod, open it up and pop the seeds into my mouth. They taste healthy and refreshing. A friend suggested they would be good in salad, too.

There are lots of tips for cooking with guaje seeds from this gourmet food site, Specialty Produce. The ground dried seeds flavor guacamole and traditional Oaxaqueño moles.

When you are in Oaxaca this time of year, give the guaje a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. You’ll find them on comedor tables as a snack, and in markets tied in bundles ready to take home. Be sure to hold the pods up to the light so you can see how plump the seeds are. That’s the It’s Ripe test.

Ripe ones are easily plucked. Open like beans!

 

 

No Alternative Facts. Send Paul Ryan a Message: Postcards From Oaxaca

I never intended this as a political blog. Far from it. It’s about art, culture, history centered in Oaxaca, Mexico. But, these are unusual times. After the Saturday march here on January 21, that some say 2,000 people attended, I don’t want to sit back. I want to keep the momentum going, as do so many of you, wherever you are. But, I’m in Oaxaca so this is about Oaxaca!

A simple homemade postcard sends a powerful message.

What Can We Do? Open the Floodgates!

I’m asking Oaxaca Expats and all people of civility to join with us to write Paul Ryan a postcard (address below). Tweet Paul Ryan at @SpeakerRyan (thanks, Mary Stellatello). Seems phone lines into his office are clogged. So, let’s find an #alternatepath for our voices to be heard. The messages are simple.  Use these or create your own:

  • Keep the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA)
  • Don’t tamper with Medicare — no privatization
  • Fund Planned Parenthood
  • Respect differences — do not legislate sexual choice
  • Keep our civil and human rights secure
  • Protect our environment, save our planet
  • Build community, not walls
  • Speak out against HR193 that repeals USA participation in the United Nations.

Here is my Facebook message today:

OK, #pussyhatnation There is no PAUSE. #noalternativefacts (notice the ALT). Only today counts. Today is #justthebeginning.

Since Paul Ryan has blocked his office phones and fax numbers, and is turning away people who show up to deliver petitions, time to change tactics.

Please mail post cards to his home address saying NO to defunding Planned Parenthood, NO to repealing the ACA, and NO to privatizing Medicare! (OR NO TO ANY CONGRESSIONAL ACTION YOU DISAGREE WITH)

PAUL RYAN
700 ST. LAWRENCE AVE.
Janesville, WI 53545

Twitter: @SpeakerRyan

Call to take the survey to #keeptheACA Please participate in Paul Ryan’s survey on the ACA (Obamacare). (202) 225-3031 (option 2), listen all the way to the end, and then press a number if you support the ACA and another if you do not. It takes a couple minutes. You can even leave him a message.

Simple words send loud and clear message to Congress

Roberta Christie and Norma Schafer (me) are collecting postcards addressed to Paul Ryan from Oaxaca expats. We will get them mailed to the USA. Contact us to make arrangements for postcard delivery/collection.

#keepthemomentumgoing #justthebeginning #NMP

You are our elected officials and serve all of us!

Women’s March Oaxaca: Just The Beginning!

One of the organizers told me the traffic police took a count and reported 2,000 people marching in Oaxaca, Mexico, on January 21. Whatever the number, it was an amazing demonstration of peaceful solidarity to support this worldwide movement.

Engage Oaxaca march organizers hold banner at front of march

The Andador Turistica — Macadonio Alcala — the cobblestone walking street lined with restaurants and tourist shops in the historic center of Oaxaca, was packed with people. They were expats and Oaxaqueños, Zapotecs, Canadians, Estadounidenses, visitors and permanent residents. We gathered together to say to the world, this newly installed president of the United States of America does not represent our values.

The signs say it all.

Click for a Compendium of Photos, News & Video at Engage Oaxaca!

The 45th President on a Oaxaca Wall.

The sentiment of the crowd felt serious yet celebratory. It was another gorgeous Oaxaca winter day with strong sun and a slight breeze as we started to gather in front of Santo Domingo Church for the 11 a.m. march. I could feel our energy, the exuberance welling as we channeled the frustration and anger we have felt in the last two months into positive action.

The is only the beginning, says Jen Psaki, Obama Staff

Mary Michal holds sign, In the entire world, no one is illegal.

I was not out in front. I trailed behind, one of the stragglers at the tail of the snake. As I stood at the peak of the Alcala at the corner of Abasolo/M. Bravo, where the street gently descends to the zocalo, the massive number of people took me off guard.

In solidarity with the people of Mexico!

When I met with some of the organizers on Wednesday morning, the prediction was for between 60 and 100 people. They would be happy with 100, they said!

Demonstrators pack the Alcala in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The message of this march is clear! We stand in solidarity with our Mexican friends and neighbors. We want a friendly relationship between governments. We do not support a wall. We stand firmly against the rhetoric of discrimination and xenophobia.

Photos, Women’s Marches Around the World

“I did not vote for Trumpistan.”

Mexicans marched with us. Mexicans stood on the sidewalks and took photos and video. Mexicans thanked me for participating and speaking out. People of good faith everywhere were joined together this day.

With the 16th century Santo Domingo Church behind us, we march.

“The March was a beautiful example of how a peaceful walk can inspire us – Canadians, Americans, Mexicans……… etc. We are all people and the somehow the underlying values will surface. Many thanks and I hope to be able to buy a v- neck shirt before we leave.” –Barbara Clough

Proud to be a Nasty Woman!

I thought of my son in Los Angeles, friends, people I do not know in every corner of the globe, especially those in Washington, D.C. on a gloomy, dreary day, making our voices heard for justice, free press, a clean environment, adequate health care coverage, equal, civil and human rights. The echo was resounding.

For the future of all our children, we march.

And, there is so much more do to. This is only the beginning. The momentum is with us. Do more than you ever thought possible. I will.

Human rights across race and gender.

When the march ended at the steps of the Metropolitan Cathedral about 40 minutes after it began, no one wanted to separate. We were an organic mass of purpose. Some climbed the few steps at the front of the cathedral and began to sing, We Shall Overcome. They sang several times more.

We had walked in silence. But we are not silent. We have a lot more to say.

I’m part of the PussyHat Nation, er … world.

Thank you to the dedicated team of organizers who formed Engage Oaxaca to create this:  Jacki Cooper Gordon, Roberta Christie, Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Nancy Clingan, Vicki Solot, Kathie McCleskey, Jess D’Great, and Erica Fox.

We will not be silenced, bullied or intimidated.