Fearless Painting Oaxaca

19 Nov

There is no better place for inspiration than Oaxaca, Mexico. The streets are full of sights and sounds, color and whimsy. So when Connie Solera of Dirty Footprints Studio posted her painting workshop in Oaxaca for November 2017, I signed up! (If you want more of the backstory check out my March 2017 blogs).

 

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Since I am currently busy painting, I will give you a taste of what’s going on with a promise to post more next week. You can also check out my Instagram page dos_tortas.

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A chance to play with acrylic paints.

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There had to be a Guadalupe in there somewhere.

Random thoughts from this week’s workshop:

If there’s water – SWIM – in a pool, pond, laguna, waterfall, river, spring, cenote – move water around…

If there’s music – DANCE – at a party, in the grocery store, mercado, on the street – wiggle your hips, twirl, clap, move your feet, even if no one else is…

If there’s paint – grab a brush, use your hands, and smear some color, PAINT on paper, wall, cardboard, fabric – don’t worry for an end result, or if others will like it – listen to your inner voice, feel, be fearless…

Do it today, don’t wait, your soul is craving freedom. SING, MAKE MUSIC, GET OUTSIDE, RIDE A BIKE. The possibilities are endless.

DOS TORTAS

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No Wrong Turns in Mexico

12 Nov

Murals are an integral part of Mexican culture dating back to the ancients who decorated their homes with frescos that told stories of everything from human sacrifice to everyday life. In the 1920s the Mexican government used murals and even financially supported muralists, Diego Rivera being the most famous, to educate people on the new post-revolutionary order. Murals adorn every village in Mexico with health messages to whimsy.

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Mural in the stairwell of the National Palace in Mexico City. Diego Rivera

Today, whole villages are painted bright colors to create pride and interest for their residences.

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A small village not far from Bacalar.

We recently learned of a mural project in the village of nearby Chacchoben. Guests of our neighbors stumbled upon it by taking a wrong turn, on the way to visit some nearby pyramids. Of course we had to check it out. There are no wrong turns in Mexico.

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The village has been transformed.

A Mexico City artist, Carmen Mondragón, now living in Quitana Roo worked with residents to paint eighty lovely murals on the walls of their village of 1,700 people.

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The artist at work from her website.

The idea was to bring art to the people. There are streets of butterflies, ladybugs, flamingoes, and lovely little Mayan people adorning the stores, school, town square and even abandoned buildings.

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Everywhere we looked were delightful paintings.

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I especially love her people.

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As much as I love to share finds like this one, I cringe to think what tourism could do to this sleepy little town. We saw others taking pictures so word is getting out slowly. I’d love to meet Carmen and sent her a message through Facebook. Fingers crossed. I am off this week to Oaxaca for a week of painting with artist Connie Solera. Just maybe painting murals will be somewhere in my future. DOS TORTAS

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Gallery

Bread for the Dead

5 Nov

Enjoy this blog from Casa Colibrí on Day of the Day events in Oaxaca. 

Pan de Muertos in Tlacolula mercado - October 29, 2017

View From Casita Colibrí

When Día de Muertos approaches, the panaderías (bakeries) work overtime to fill their shelves and counters with Pan de Muertos — an egg based bread, sometimes elaborately decorated, but always with a cabecita (also known as a muñeca), a little painted flour dough head, at the top.

The most intricately decorated bread comes from Mitla.  For a few years, Mitla held a Pan de Muertos fair and competition, with prizes for decoration.  Alas, because their bread is in such demand, the feria was halted two years ago as the bakers put a priority on attending to their customers needs — this is their livelihood, after all!

However, the small pueblo, Villa Díaz Ordaz picked up the slack and last year began holding a Festival del Pan de Muertos.  The village is off the beaten path and the festival hasn’t yet drawn much in the way of tourism, but it’s a…

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It’s That Time of Year

29 Oct

It is that season in Bacalar, cooler temperatures and beautiful sunrises. It’s the time of year that those who reside here year round, live for.

 

The Canadians and other part-timers usually show up about the first of December through April. The hotels are full and the restaurants busy.

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In the four years since we moved here, we’ve seen a lot of growth. There are many new hotels and a wider selection of good places to eat. I’ve heard there’s even a Japanese restaurant although we haven’t been able to find it. Lol

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Lisa really appreciates the new Time Out sports bar run by our friend Kim. We get to watch football and the World Series and eat some good food in Bacalar! Imagine that.

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Love love love Mexican murals.

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We are learning to enjoy the Bacalar of today and smile at the “do you remember when…?” reminiscings of those who moved here before us. The only thing you can bank on is change.

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So enjoy whatever is here and now for you. Love whoever is in front of you. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. DOS TORTAS 

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Magical Cholula Revisited

22 Oct

Memories can shape our lives. We can run from them or toward them. And if they are significant enough, we can build little alters to them and freeze them in time. That’s what I did to the village of Cholula.

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We never saw the volcano due to the rainy season.

I left home in 1973, twenty-one years old, and went to “study abroad” in Mexico. I lived with a local family, studied intensive Spanish and raised as much hell as I could. In those days it wasn’t much.

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Making tamales with my Mexican family and fellow student Brian.

In 2013, I saw the youthful dream of living in Mexico realized as my wife and I retired and built a home on the southern most border near Belize on beautiful lake Bacalar. It wasn’t colonial Central Mexico, but you can’t have everything. I longed to go back to Cholula and visit my old stomping grounds. Boy was I in for a shock. A lot had changed in forty years.

Dirt roads and hand-made brick buildings have been replaced by cobblestone and cement block architecture. There is a modern indoor mercado that resembles all others in Mexico. People were fascinated by my old pictures but no one could remember where they had been taken.

This was the 1973 view from the Cholula pyramid looking down on the old mental hospital. I was fascinated at the time with the gardens (right) that the patients worked providing their own food and therapeutic activity.

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Today the hospital is a beautiful museum with adjacent park and playground. The university is buried somewhere in the buildings in the distance.

Cholula has become a suburb of the state capital, Puebla. There are trendy restaurants and festivals galore. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t  experienced the quaint village it used to be. Frankly I was shell shocked.

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A day trip to an old hacienda was worth the visit to see this exquisite talavera fountain.

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The church of Tonancitla, one of the best of the trip.

Do not allow my letdown get in the way of visiting this magical city. My suggestions are 1) do your homework, there is much to do 2) find a hotel close to the center. The buses are not difficult to maneuver but conversational Spanish is useful. 3) check the weather (duh) Cholula’s altitude is 7,000 feet which makes it a great escape from the hot, humid jungle we live in. There is also a rainy season. Don’t let it put a damper on your vacation. Dress appropriately. Cholula is really a hopping place and well worth a visit. DOS TORTAS

 

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Life’s Unexpected Treasures

15 Oct

I wish I could say that arriving in the colonial city of Puebla was dejavú, but the truth is, nothing looked familiar. I first visited Puebla in 1973, staying in a boarding house for the first month of studies at the University of the Americas in nearby Cholula. In August 2017, it is a bustling modern city that’s kept much of its old-world beauty and charm. We were pleasantly surprised.

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The convent of San Francisco one of the oldest churches in Puebla circa 1535

I had reserved an Airbnb in the historic district and spent a bit more money than usual. We were not disappointed. In Mexico it is common to walk an unremarkable street of high privacy walls and intriguing doorways. We stepped through one of those doors to inner city paradise.

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During our stay, our hosts directed us to the best mole (MÓ lay); is there any OTHER reason to go to Puebla? We wandered exquisite old churches, artist markets, homes converted into museums, and even a free concert. I did not expect to fall in love with Puebla. This city is definitely a contender for retirement locations.

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Tres moles – poblano, rojo and my new favorite pipian (pumpkinseed)

No trip to Puebla would be complete without a visit to La Estrella de Puebla, the Star of Puebla, a very large ferris wheel. After some deep breathing I joined Lisa the adventurer and I’m so glad I did. No fear!

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The weather made this adventure challenging, but we did not give up.

Puebla was so much fun and worth the time. Our AirBnB hosts certainly added to the experience.

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Luis and Malu (who fed us many local delights).

The world is filled with many delightful people and places. Puebla unexpectedly is near the top of our list.

DOS TORTAS 

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Need A Distraction? Get A Puppy

8 Oct

Let me introduce our little distraction from hurricanes, earthquakes and mass shootings, meet Frida aka Puppy Puppy. She is a dachshund mix. Every street dog in Mexico is a mix. You may remember that we lost ChaCha (A Díos ChaCha), a rescue dog that we adopted the month before our July vacation. Three days into our trip, we got the message that she had escaped our yard and was hit by a car and killed. Our hearts broke. Continue reading

Oaxaca – Ruins, Monastery & Crafts

1 Oct

During our nine-day visit in August to Oaxaca City, MX, we enjoyed a second day trip. This time we boarded a van to the ancient city of Monte Alban. “The White Mountain” was strategically placed in 500BC, by rulers high on a mountain, to better subjugate the lands and people below. They ruled about a thousand years. The City was abandoned before the Spanish conquerors arrived in 1521 and because of its obscure location went undiscovered until much later. As a result many royal tombs were found intact with jade masks, detailed murals, pottery and onyx jewelry. We wandered the site and small museum on a stunningly beautiful day to be alive.

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There’s always the question of climbing one more pyramid. What a treat to experience such a breathtaking vista.

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Evidence of early cranial surgery. Some patients actually survived.

After Monte Alban, we continued to Cuilapam and the monastery complex of Saint James the Apostle, a beautiful Dominican cathedral with no roof over the nave. The priests abandoned construction in the 16th century due to the lack of funds and diminishing native population to convert. A small rear sanctuary church, rarely open to the public, was holding a funeral and we entered respectfully amid blaring trumpets and pounding drums.  Love the churches and rituals of Mexico.

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Pope John Paul II landed his helicopter for a visit in 1979.

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A stone baptismal font.

The tour ended with a visit to an artists cooperative. The skill of hand painting takes lots of practice and installs awe. We had so little space in our luggage for purchases and even less space in our house for display. We also had Puebla and Cholula left to visit. Sigh….

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Getting one’s groove on at work? Steady hands and concentration.

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Drunk with all things Oaxacan we reluctantly packed up to begin the next phase of our trip, the colonial city of Puebla! Thinking it couldn’t get much better, boy were we wrong.

DOS TORTAS

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Musings

24 Sep

The continuation of the glowing account of our recent month-long journey to central Mexico needs to be put on hold in light of the recent earthquakes. Many of the places we visited are damaged, destroyed or at the very least suffering. 

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The two bell towers of the 16th century church in Cholula that sits on top of the world’s largest pyramid toppled.  Our Lady of the Remedies.

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We visited here three weeks ago.

We are blessed to have a roof over our heads and food on the table. The need is so great and overwhelming in the world that some days I must turn off the news and simply be kind to the person in front of me. It’s all I have. Other days I have more.

IMG_0580We were robbed again this week. While we are certain of the culprit, there is little definite proof. We have increased the security with bars on my MIL’s house and two of our vulnerable windows. Sad, but necessary.

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Security for Alice.

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Enjoy your week. Connect with your neighbor (unless they are the ones robbing you).  Get outdoors. Be grateful, no complaints.

DOS TORTAS 

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Amazing Astonishing and Fabulous

17 Sep

I thought the Ciudad de México was supposed to have the best museums. Well, it might, but Oaxaca certainly gives it a run. My favorite of the many museums we explored was the Cultural Museum situated next to the cathedral in El Centro. After having been to the Anthropology Museum in CDMX, you’d think we were burned out looking at so many antiquities, but you’d be wrong.

 

 

There are statues large and small, religious iconography and conquest remains. Note the  great views of the botanical gardens next door from the upper windows of the converted monastery museum.

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Cool temperatures in this mountainous city were a lovely break in August.

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The gardens are young but having planted adult plants makes it feel ancient.

The Oaxacan Textile Museum shows some of the amazing costumes of the many indigenous populations that live in the state. Not only are they beautiful, but the quality of the handwork is mind boggling to this fiber artist.

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As the world over, many skills being lost as the younger generation is not interested in such time consuming work.

The Filatelia Museum, no I didn’t know what it was either, is a collection of all things postal. There are letters from back in the day when we wrote words by hand. Letters from Frida to her doctor are arranged vertically to peruse front and back, in large pull-out drawers. There were postcards, stamps, a typewriter, even old mailboxes. I am particularly fond of writing postcards. Time to revive the habit.

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Many colorful Mexican stamps.

One more astonishing museum is the private collection of world renowned Oaxacan muralist, Rufino Tamayo. I know I can use words like amazing, astonishing, and fabulous just so many times without my readers glazing over. This one is not to be missed.

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Goddess in many renditions.

Then there are the incidental galleries found overhead in corner restaurants where we stopped for breakfast.

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Mexico is all things Frida.

If Oaxaca is on your bucket list, give yourself at least ten days. You need that amount of time to leisurely explore the many wonderful things there are to see, do and eat. Enjoy a rooftop sunset, mescal tasting and time to wander. You won’t be disappointed.

DOS TORTAS

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