Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lila Downs Concert in Oaxaca on November 5, 2011

Lucky us! Lila Downs is performing at the Auditorio Guelaguetza on Saturday, November 5. The concert starts at 7 p.m. and you can purchase tickets at Ahorra Farmacia in Oaxaca or online at Ticketmaster.  I bought two tickets on-line and can’t wait.  Lila Downs is one of my favorite singer-songwriters and her Oaxaca roots make her very special.  From time to time, as friends point out, she will do a free concert on the Zocalo but I haven’t heard any inkling of this and didn’t want to miss the chance to hear and see her perform.

I have this one favorite photo I captured of Lila Downs a couple of years ago when she appeared at the Las Cuevitas celebration in Teotitlan del Valle.  I treasure it.  She is wearing a hand-woven sarape created by Erasto “Tito” Mendoza.

Lila Downs at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle

What I love about her music are both the lyrics and the vocals.  She sings in Spanish, English and Zapotec, reflecting the complexity of her origins.  Her songs are lilting as well as socially and politically relevant.  She sings about what touches the hearts of Mexicans with a universality that speaks to all of us.

If you live in Oaxaca or you are here for Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) don’t miss this opportunity to experience this live concert with Lila Downs.


A Passport Travel Wallet Designed by a Traveler

That “traveler” would be me!

My friend, Asheville, NC, artist Gwen Diehn, is at it again.  This time, in addition to writing books about art journaling, and making hand-made art books and book binding,  she is delving into the world of creative, recycled wallets and related paraphernalia — called Piece Work Wallets & Things.

We met up last weekend in Asheville over a great dinner with mutual friends Natalie and Paul.  I admired (and coveted) her whimsical wallets and ordered one custom-made to hold money, credit cards, and a travel notebook.  THEN, I thought, what about a Passport holder that would hang around my neck so I wouldn’t have to fumble for it going through airport security.  I described it and she sketched it on the spot.

Gwen knew I was leaving tomorrow for Oaxaca, so she immediately manufactured what I described (using her “new” treadle sewing machine and recycled found materials).  Lo and behold, there it appeared on my front doorstep less than two days later.

See Gwen’s Website/Blog call Piece Work Wallets & Things:  Click here on the link  to see (and order) a whimsical wallet or Passport holder for yourself.

From Lark Books, Real Life Journals: Designing and Using Hand Made Books by Gwen Diehn.









Weekly Photo Challenge: Opportunity

Woman in Ocotlan Market. I was shopping for  a Tenancingo ikat shawl and this woman stepped into the stall to find a new head covering.  She was so beautiful and I didn’t want to let the opportunity to capture her pass.  I asked if I could take her photo.  The friend with her said, “she is hungry, can you give her a few pesos.”  I looked at her feet (below), and agreed. It was an opportunity for both of us! and, I am grateful to her for letting me into her life for this moment.


Hand-Forged Knives and Swords in Oaxaca–Apolinar Aguilar Keeps the Tradition Alive

The famed Oaxaca knife maker Angel Aguilar died several years ago and his brother Apolinar carries on the craftsman tradition by making forging Toledo steel swords and knives in the Angel Aguilar Studio in Ocotlan de Morales, Oaxaca.  I wanted to update all the mis-information floating about that Angel is still at his forge!

Someone recently wrote to me to suggest that.  So, I thought I would add a small insert here to the contrary to keep accurate information circulating on the Internet.

I want to refer you to the very brief Oaxaca Times story about Apolinar Aguilar Velasco written in August 2011.

Friends of Oaxaca Folk Art features Apolinar in their fine book on Oaxaca Folk Art and on their website where you can see a photo of him and his fantastic work.  You can find Apolinar at Callejón Victoria S/N, Ocotlan de Morales, Oaxaca.

As a sidebar: What is fascinating about all the information available online is that it can quickly become outdated and unreliable!  So, it’s important to check facts before referring people to a website or blog that might have come down years ago 🙂  Which is why I am not going to approve the comment about how to find Angel Aguilar and reference to an article written in 2006!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Possibility

Sunset at Las Cuevitas

New Year’s in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, is an extraordinary, momentous and reflective time when families gather to make wishes for the coming year.  The celebration is on January 2 when the entire village makes a pilgrimage to the caves (las cuevitas) or grottoes in the hills outside the town.  There, they make an offering to the Virgin of Guadalupe for the hopes, dreams and possibilities of the year to come.  From the twigs, rocks and grasses, families will construct a symbolic house, adding a roof or a garden or barnyard or a new addition or a second floor.  Everyone wants to create a home that holds children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  This is a sign of both satisfaction and wealth.

This photo captures the mystery of the Las Cuevitas annual ritual.  As the sun sets and the people gather, the possibilities for the future are luminous.

Las Cuevitas Sparkler

The boy sits by the “house” made of rocks contemplating his future.  A sparkler lights the space.  Are the possibilities limitless for him?  Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico and many young people migrate to the cities or El Norte looking for work.  Perhaps he will stay in the village and work construction or weave like his father or grandfather before him or plow his father’s fields and plant them with organic indigenous maize.  Will he dream of going on to high school?  Perhaps. And, then, what possibilities will open to him?

A family wishes for bright possibilities

Circle of Women, a not-for-profit advocacy organization, says, “Oaxaca, being a mainly indigenous state, has one of the lowest literacy rates in Mexico, and literacy among indigenous adult women is even lower. Historically there has been a major bias towards Spanish literacy in education, leaving indigenous languages marginalized. Migration to the US for jobs has also left women as heads of households. Illiteracy and discrimination has been a major barrier for women in trying to market their weaving products and create sustainable micro-businesses.”

See our Oaxaca arts workshops:  Christmas and New Year’s photojournalism workshop, Day of the Dead documentary photography, creative writing, and more.