We’ve been back for a week, on the calendar. In subjective time, we’re just getting settled. When we left, in the waning days of March, we shut off the gas (we have 30-kilo tanks with screw-down valves outside) and the lights, and locked the front and back doors and the security gate.
We are fortunate to have no need to sublet when we are gone, and someone comes in once a month to sweep up the dead bugs. When we got home after an all-nighter from LA with stops at Guadalajara and Mexico City, all we needed to do to get the apartment ready was unlock the doors, turn the gas back on, and open the windows to air the place out.
[World-famous painter and protector of the cultural patrimony FranciscoToledo turned 70 this week, and aside from feature articles extolling him in all the mainstream newspapers there were little celebrations here and there around town. This homage in front of the still-being-restored MACO, started out blank, and folks came by and had their say.]
First order of business after unpacking was a visit to the corner restaurant for a comida corrida, consisting (as normal) of a soup, choice of spaghetti or rice, a main course, dessert, and fruit-flavored water, all for the astounding price of 35 pesos (about $2.80 usd) each. Nothing fancy, but tasty and filling – a sort of “pinch-me” that tells us that yes, we really are back home.
Then it was off to the Merced market to stock up on fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese and eggs. We get all our non-perishables across the street at the IMSS market, and almost all our non-organic perishables at Merced.
Fed, beginning to restock the larder, and totally exhausted, we call it a day.
Next day, a trip to the Primavera to observe the changes, which were minimal. More hunting and gathering, comida at home, and a leisurely evening. Pretty much the same, until Saturday.
With the first Lunes del Cerro (Guelaguetza day) two days away, the town was jumping. Lots of tourists, mostly Mexican; puestos (booths) galore; and today a special treat: governor-elect Gabino Cue was throwing a thank-you party!
It was about 11 a.m. when we arrived in the Alameda. A giant soundstage had been constructed, with more than enough speakers to have satisfied the Grateful Dead. A plane was flying overhead, hauling a banner saying “Gabino thanks you for your vote”, a sentiment that was echoed above the stage and at various other points around the Zocalo. This, I was told was especially poignant, since the PRI city government had refused to give Gabino permission to use the Alameda during the campaign. We sat down in the Primavera, one of the sidewalk cafes across from the Zocalo to observe the goings on.
After a performance by a “folksinger” whose song was a paean to the great man of the hour, the entertainment began. First up was a payaso (clown), followed by someone who sang children’s songs, building up to the “tweenie” singer, Tatiana. As the demographic became older, the music got louder. After a couple of hours, our ancient ears had had enough, and we wandered home through rows of offerings, some so brilliant it fair took my breath away.
The show went on all night. We could hear the opera singer in our living room. By all testimony it was a great success. We went to bed that night remarking on how mellow it all felt; how much we enjoyed the colorful bazaar that sprung up around the Zocalo; how comforting the fireworks sounded; how glad we were (and are) to be home.
[One of many such colorful displays, these handbags are in my opinion definitely not native to Oaxaca. Still, they add a little something to the pallette of colors…]
For one reason or another, we decided to skip our traditional Sunday visit to the Zocalo. Friends tell us that the sidewalk cafes were crowded with visitors, and the vendors were wtill there.
Monday, first day of Guelaguetza, which is being held in the soccer stadium this year because the amphitheater is a mess. Ulises ordered that a convertible cover be built this year, but due to incompetence corruption, and a blockade by Section XXII of the teachers’ union, it didn’t get finished on time. Actually, it apears from our roof to be abandoned.
We, veterans of a hundred pineapple dances, opted to go visit our old friend Max, who is living in the nearby village of Huayapan, home to several gringos we know. As it happens, just as we are locking the front gate, a taxista pulls up, asking us if we could use a ride. I ask him how much and he quotes a very low price. I check his “sitio” (cab stand) logo and realize he is from another nearby village, and therefor illegally trying to pick up a Oaxaca fare. I’m afraid my greed gave way to my labor solidarity, and a good thing it did, because as it happened the traffic and the security around the Stadium had made it nearly impossible to get from here to there, and this guy knew every little back street and alley. More about Hayapan another time…
By the time we were ready to come home, the traffic had cleared to something resembling normal (moving, but not very fast), and our bus from Huayapan got us to within walking distance of our house quite nicely.
[This funny looking little fruit is called, near as I can recall, a Rambutan. It comes from Chiapas]
What we didn’t know was that while we were visiting with Max, and the dances were going on in the Stadium (official) and on the playing field at the technical school across town (“unofficial”, put on by Section XXII ever since the uprising in 2006), a contingent of municipal robo-cops invaded the Zocalo and the Alameda and began destroying the booths and confiscating the goods of the people in the bazaar. Being, as you might imagine, rather angry at this invasion, the vendors began throwing stones and swinging sticks, at which provocation the cops unslung their tear gas equipment and went to work gassing eveyone in sight, including the folks sitting in the sidewalk cafes. According to a waiter I talked to, some fled to other places, while some joined the restaurant staff at the very back, hoping to avoid the gas, a ploy that was only somewhat successful.
We strolled down to the Zocalo on Tuesday, and everything was pristine clean. No vendors, just a few cops without guns, the blood and the debris washed away. We told our favorite waiter that try as we might, we couldn’t think of a single reason why the cops hadn’t rousted the vendors in the middle of the night, when no-one is around, instead of in the middle of the morning when the place was full of tourists; he said that he couldn’t figure it out either.
According to the papers, Ulises and a squad of his goons were actually on hand to observe (from the other side of the Zocalo), so forget any thoughts that this might have somehow been spontaneous.
[This is the “food court” of the Friday organic market, at the church in Xochimilco. We were pleased to note it has grown both in number of vendors and in number of shoppers.]
Harvest From the Field:
Michele Gibbs and George Colman are among our oldest and closest friends. For years, we were also collaborators. They provided the content, and I provided the website for “From the Field”, a quarterly (and occasional) mixture of essays, poetry, photos, drawings and art, mostly their own but occasionally from the works of others they valued.
It was a rewarding collaboration, spiritually and financially – they paid a yearly fee for the space and my work, even though I didn’t require it – until they grew weary of the format and turned to other endeavors.
Now, after years of inactivity, George and Michele have asked me to remove the site from the web, and I have done so. All is not lost, however. Some of the contents have been preserved in their new book,”Harvest From the Field”.
Available only from Amate Books in Oaxaca (unless you happen to run into Michele on the street) for 275 pesos, “Harvest” was printed locally. The quality of the paper and the printing are high. The contents seem to have been selected for their timeless quality: lessons learned from past investigations that are well worth contemplating today; poetic truths that are as universal today as they were when they were written.
George and Michele write it – and draw it -like they see it, and they see pretty clearly in my opinion.
**Gabino has promised that he will bring the governor’s office back from the village of Santa Maria Coyotepec and reinstall it where it belongs: in the old governor’s palace on the Zocalo. It never was fully used as a “museum”. It will be good to sit and watch all the lawyers going in and out again…
**After a lengthy and frustrating hiatus, the Friday market is back at Llano park. Our delight knows no bounds. The chicken man tells us the deal is only guaranteed until December, but so is everthing else, since that’s when Gabino takes office…