Friday, December 13, 2013

Donde las Calles Cantan: Where Streets Sing

406 Pino Suarez: Courtyard view from my apartment
On November 19th, I arrived in Oaxaca and went directly to an apartment that my friend, Amalia, had found for me before my arrival. It was a perfect place to start my new sejour in Oaxaca. I have a one bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, bathroom, and living room on the second floor. It is very centrally located, a few blocks from Santo Domingo and a ten minute walk to the zocalo, one of my nightly destinations for a delicious "nieve" (sorbet), my current favorite being tamarindo. A few blocks down the street is a recently opened "marisqueria" where thirty pesos gets you five fish tacos and another twenty five an ice cold Bohemia Oscura beer. Not only is the food fresh and
Pescado Rock Marisqueria, Pino Suarez & Murguia
"sabroso", but the decor of the restaurant is "heavy vinyl" with album covers of the Giants of Rock, the Beatles, Stones, Kiss, etc. adorning the walls. It is not necessarily my favorite dining music, but it does make me finish my meal quickly and get on with my day. A few blocks further down Pino Suarez is "el Pochote" organic market, a great place to get a variety of healthy food ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables, to organic coffee, home-made nopal and hibiscus jams, "salsas piquantes", and other imaginative culinary delights. Once I was certain that my  gastronomic needs would be met and I would not go into gourmand withdrawal, I was able to move forward with my projects.

I had already been in contact with el Centro de Esperanza Infantíl, a non-profit that works with street children. I proposed to do a series of bookmaking workshops, and an illustrated journal workshop based on Marie's approach, but a la Deek. That means trusting that giving kids access to good materials and a little direction, they will take off on their own. And they usually do. I also seek out people who have artistic talents that they are willing to share, and have them in as "guest artists", with a small "a", of course! I am just finishing up an origami book project that will be a Christmas gift from the kids to their parents or loved ones. What took me much time and effort to perfect, the kids mastered in a half an hour! So I have given them the task of teaching newcomers to the group the "how to" part. Needless to say, they excel as teachers.

"Then you put the glue here.."
Shortly after my arrival, my friend, Demetrio, invited me to a sketching workshop he was giving for teachers. He had adapted Marie's approach and paid homage to her in the workshop, taking some direct quotes from her book. I was very touched to see Marie's  approach alive and well in Mexico. Marie had invited Demos and his two daughters, Itza and Erendira, to her Oaxaca workshop in 2009. It was a good fit for Demetrio, who despite much talent as a painter, lives the life of an artist with a small "a". The workshop was meant for teachers in rural areas, but I was most impressed by a young boy who had accompanied his mother. He jumped right into the activities and did the drawing to the right.
Beneath his drawing he wrote, "After picking up the book that my mother had just given me as a gift, I was so happy that I felt heat emanating from my hand."
Demos presenting sketching workshop
Oaxaca is a place where streets sing and people dance to the rythmn. There seems to be endless activity in the streets and parks of the Centro Historico. My nightly walk to the zocalo for my tamarindo nieve always includes a show of some kind. Sometimes it the evening sidewalk chess matches in front of la Catedral where passers by stop and contemplate moves along with the players. Other times it is a colorful evening procession, usually honoring one of the many Virgins that are revered here.

Don't move there!
But by far the most impressive celebration thus far has been la Fiesta de Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe. A few blocks up Pino Suarez at Parque el Llano, is la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. For three days the park is filled with rides for children, an infinite number of food booths, religious souvenir booths with statues, rosaries and pictures of la Virgen. and my favorite, stalls where parents can have their children photographed with la Virgen. I will let the photographs speak for themselves. 
Niña Bendita

Virgin, Bless my Path

Juan Diego y su burro

Awaiting an apparition?
So my first month in Mexico ends on a clear note. Las calles cantan, la gente bailan, et je me regale! Virgencita, bendice mi camino!
Los Fotógrafos