Monthly Archives: October 2015

Oaxaca expoVENTA: San Felipe Usila Textiles for Muertos


Pop-Up expoVENTA coming Oct. 29-30, from the land of the Dance of the Flor de Piña (of Guelaguetza fame) and those exquisite huipiles of San Felipe Usila, a remote village high in Oaxaca’s Papaloapan region near Tuxtepec, 8 hours from Oaxaca City.


Jose Isidro and his mama, will come from their village with hand-woven textiles at various prices and sizes, from complex to simple, from daily wear (diario) to fancy, schmancy gala traje (special occasion dress). They represent the weaving of their extended family cooperative.

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Big thanks to Casa de las Bugambilias B&B-Adryana Zavala, and El Diablo y La Sandia Boca del MonteMaria Crespo for their generous hospitality.

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All sales go directly to the family weaving cooperative. Please share widely. Thank you.



Getting Ready for Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Parade of the Catrinas

I can’t help myself. Those flamboyant, extravagantly costumed Catrinas, made famous as a Dia de los Muertos symbol by political cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada, are starting to pop up all over town. Day of the Dead is a big deal in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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As I walk the cobbled streets and uneven sidewalks, I remember to look up (as well as down to make sure my footing is solid). There are Calaveras on rooftops and leaning over balconies here in Oaxaca, too.

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Of course, I have to photograph them and the golden marigold flowers that are coming into full bloom. Their fragrance guides the dead from the other world back to this one for the annual visit to loved ones still living.

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Whimsy, fun, mockery, parades, joyfulness and celebration are all part of Day of the Dead. Local people take the return of their loved ones seriously. They are deadly serious. One mother I know from El Norte who lost her adult son this year to a rare illness, is waiting with family in her local village for Muertos when she will be with her son again.

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This is a pre-Hispanic tradition based in belief and mysticism, attached to the harvest season when all that lived returns to the earth.

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We have two weeks to go but the energy is building. Shop windows lure the eye with decorations that are uniquely Oaxaca plus a blend of Halloween, an adaptation of commerce brought to Mexico by the U.S.A.

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So, we see a blend, a syncretism of sorts, of plastic pumpkins, witches on broomsticks, ghosts, candy corn, spiders and gauze integrated with skeletons riding bicycles, skeletons wearing rebozos and skeletons dressed in indigenous clothing.

                                   My vote for the best decorations is the patio                                                                        entrance to Los Danzantes Restaurant.


Today, I went to the printer to make a copy of a special photograph of my dad who died in 1997.  I’m thinking about the altar I will build where I will display his photo in memorial, light copal incense and guide his spirit back to me.

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He wasn’t a drinker, but he liked a beer on a rare occasion. It really didn’t matter what kind. So, maybe a Victoria will go on the altar along with fresh fruit and a 24-hour candle whose flame will remind me of life, death, memory and the commitment to honor a beloved parent.

How to build a Day of the Dead Altar and Another Version 

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As I passed through the Zocalo, I noted doorways decorated with flowers, young boys tossing balloons, mothers and fathers strolling with their infants hugged to their bosom or nestled in carriages. A bandstand was set up awaiting the next performance. More tourists are in town meandering, eating in outdoor cafes.

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Soon Muertos will be here. Another opportunity to count blessings, to appreciate life and to honor those who gave it to us.

Oaxaca Filmfest This Week to October 17

There are five more days to enjoy the international Oaxaca Filmfest that is bringing filmmakers and audiences here from throughout the world. So many movies, so little time! From full-length feature films to shorts and short shorts, fiction and documentaries, you can fill your days and nights with movie-going.


Last night I saw the Thin Yellow Line, La Delgada Linea Amarilla, a beautiful, well-crafted, sensitive Mexican film written and directed by Celso R. Garcia, at the Teatro Juarez, one of the venues across from Llano Park. It will play again later this week in other locations where films are being screened around town.


I highly recommend that you see it. Here’ is Variety’s review. The cinematography is delicious, expansive. The film is luxuriously slow and spends time introducing the characters, all men who meet for the first time hired to work on painting the center yellow line on a remote Mexican road. In the course of their 217 km obligation, you find out who they are, why they are there and their developing relationships with each other. It is funny, heartwarming, sad and intelligent.

Don’t worry. The film has English sub-titles if you need it.

On Thursday, I’m going to Oaxaca Cineopolis in Plaza del Valle for the 3 p.m. screening of Perdiendo el Norte, followed by the 5 p.m. screening of Diamond Tongues, followed by the 9 p.m. screening of High Sun.  Meet me there?


I want to see Speed Sisters, Nicodemus, The Wannabe and El Tiempo Suspendido. Friends tell me Bridgend is another must see. I’m not going to be able to fit it all in.

All the films are free and open to the public except for the screenings that are fundraisers for local not-for-profits. A modest donation will get you in.

And Saturday at noon, is the Met Opera performing Othello (ticket cost 150 pesos) at Teatro Macedonio Alcala. I hear there are classical guitar concerts around town in the evening this week, too.

I mapped out my schedule and read the separate thick program book first to determine which films I wanted to see. You can get the program schedule at the Oaxaca Filmfest headquarters on Andador Alcala in the interior plaza next to La Brujula coffee shop in the block just before Santo Domingo church.

If you have seen films in this festival that you want to recommend, please comment and tell us why!



Higadito, Oaxaca Scrambled Egg Soup — Vegetarian Recipe

A traditional fiesta breakfast dish here in Oaxaca, Mexico is called Higadito — scrambled egg soup. It is always served at banquet breakfasts for weddings, baptisms, birthday parties and any other big family celebration. On Sundays, when I go to the Tlacolula Market and have lunch at Comedor Mary, it is a staple on the menu. (If you are here for the Oaxaca Film Festival, today is market day.)

MushroomEggSoupTraditionally in Oaxaca, the base is chicken soup with bits of chicken mixed into the scrambled egg. It is flavored with salt, chiles, onion and garlic.

Sound familiar? A variation of egg drop soup, perhaps.

Last week I was having breakfast with my friend Janet at Boulanc, the European-style bakery on Calle Porfirio Diaz (between Morelos and Matamoros), when a woman from the campo walked in carrying a big bag of wild mushrooms, offering them for sale.

The wild mushrooms here are called hongos and are different from cultivated mushrooms, called champiñones. The bag she was carrying was huge and she was selling a pint size container for 20 pesos, three for 50 pesos. At the current exchange rate 50 pesos equals about $3 USD. (It’s a very good time to visit Mexico!) So, I loaded up with the idea I’d figure out what to do with them. And, I did.

Vegetarian Wild Mushroom-Garbanzo Scrambled Egg Soup

  • Soak 1-2 pints of whole, small wild mushrooms in warm water for 10 minutes. Rinse.
  • Put into 4 qt. saucepan, cover with 6 cups water, bring to simmer.
  • Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes until mushrooms are soft.
  • In a separate bowl, add 1/2 c. roasted, ground garbanzo bean flour to 1-2 c. water. Stir until dissolved. Add to mushroom water.
  • Bring back to simmer.
  • In a frying pan, sautée 1 medium size onion, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, chopped in 3 T. olive oil until glazed
  • Scramble 4-6 eggs in onion-garlic mix, adding oil as needed.
  • Add mixture to soup.
  • The garbanzo bean paste will thicken as it cooks. Add water for the consistency you prefer.
  • Season to taste with sea salt and Chile Pasilla paste.
  • Serve hot with tortillas or crusty whole grain bread.

Optional: I had a lot of matzo leftover from Passover, so I crumbled one whole cracker into the soup to thicken it. Mexican-Jewish Food Fusion.  You could use crispy tortillas, too. Do you know about restaurant Toloache?

Enjoy! Buen provecho!

Wild Blue Hongos from Estado de Mexico

Wild Blue Hongos from Estado de Mexico

Out and About in Oaxaca, Mexico

Back in Oaxaca again. How do I know? Well, for one thing I had an 11,000+ step walking day, several days in a row.


There was a procession to honor Our Lady of Juquila in the neighborhood near the zocalo where I stay when I’m in the city.  Men carried her on a palanquin trailed by women, heads covered, each carrying a lit candle with both hands. There were resting stations around the neighborhood, each numbered, to stop for refreshment and to honor the Queen.

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At the corner of Guerrero and Xicotencatl streets, the locals set up a temporary shrine in a vacant lot with chairs set up for the prayerful. Fresh flowers adorned the altar and the Virgin of Guadalupe had her place of honor, too. I asked permission to come in to take a few photos and the two women sentries readily agreed.

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Then, it was off to Omar’s twenty-second birthday party at a local eatery in Colonia Reforma. After lunch, Janet and I stopped at La Pasion, maybe one of the best bakeries in the world, to buy the cake.


It was a lemon cream, whipped cream, sponge cake that didn’t look like much but tasted like heaven. We quickly devoured it at the after party and then settled in to watch a soppy Mexican romantic comedy.

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On the street again, I stopped a young woman with a bundle of flowers — maybe destined for a wedding shower or birthday party. I’m practicing asking random people on the street if I can take their photo. She smiled and agreed. And, then, this street vendor was cutting watermelon to put into snack cups. Oh, the color!

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I was reminded as I passed by Teatro Macedonio Alcala that Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore will be shown this Saturday at noon. And, the Oaxaca Film Festival starts, and the month is filled with chamber music performances, too. We have many cultural riches here!

OmarBDay_Streets-16 Then it was a meander by San Pablo Cultural Center where a new exhibition on growing organic vegetables demonstrates the commitment to local food and herbs, some used for medicine. I just love the life-size portraits of young women with vegetable crowns.

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Street life takes on many forms here, from people watching to the sculptural interest presented by a hand-truck loaded down with fruits and vegetables on their way to someone’s kitchen.

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On Tuesday my destination was La Biznaga for the weekly vegetarian comida corrida, the 110 peso lunch special that includes salad, entree and a mezcal. Before I settled into the restaurant  courtyard and looked up at this magnificent blooming ceiba tree, I rounded the corner along the Alcala side of the Botanical Gardens to see this creeping cactus exploding over the wall.

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