Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oaxaca Dia de Los Muertos Dia Dos

I could not sleep last night for whatever reason and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, October 26th.  Finally out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and down for the buffet hotel breakfast at 7:30 a.m.  The group gathered at 9:00 a.m. to join our tour guide Juan on a day's worth of activity.

The first stop was the home of black pottery maker Carlomagno Pedro Martinez.  On a rather unassuming street in the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec we rang a door bell and were received into a beauty studio filled with samples of black pottery and numerous pet cats and dogs.

Juan gave a nice explanation of the man's work and then the buying was on.  I bought two little whistles for my project for $1 a piece. 

While being driven around the Oaxaca area, I tried a trick that I used while being driven around Beijing in 2006:  I jam the lens against the window and fire away, letting serendipity do its thing.  The photos are always slightly fuzzy but some are just worth the effort.  Here is what Fuzzy Out the Window Shots I got on this day:

The second stop was Azucena Zapoteca, the restaurant of artists Jacobo and Maria Angeles in San Martin Tileajete where we arrived just in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Dia De Los Muertos.  There was speech making, a middle school band playing and a parade of costumed local dancers. 

There was also a ring of booths full of local artisans.  The state of Oaxaca is filled with craftspersons and each area has its own specialty.  Today we are hosted by the Angeles, perhaps the most famous and successful of all the Zapotecan figure carvers and painters of the alebrije.  I bought a piece for myself, my mom and my wife from the artists Flor and Abad Xuana which will be stored for Christmas .

We left this area to go up the road a bit to the home of the Angeles. His entire extended family now makes pieces on a spread of buildings on their family property in the village of San Martin Tileajete.  If you live in San Martin Tileajete and you want to get to the restaurant without your car, you can always grab a cab. 

The tour here was very informative but no one needed anyone to tell them how impressive the artistry of this family is.  Some of the people carve the copal wood which takes an enormous time to cure and repair once it is carved. 

What has made the art here so unique (and expensive) is not the carving or the painting but rather what they paint with:  colors made from natural plant material harvested in the area.

Then the family members very carefully, and with great detail, paint the most intricate detail onto these fantastical creatures. 

Here I purchased an ornament for my tree and a piece of art for Denice's arts and humanities school. 

Fuzzy Out the Window Shots:

Next up was the pottery makers in the Aguilar family.  First up was the house of sister Josephina where we found the artist sitting on the floor in her shop, working on a piece.  Of course, we also got a chance to shop some more. 

Here I bought a ridiculously evil devil with a shoulder full of skulls that I just loved.  Hey, no lookin' at this guy's package--its art. 

Then we visited the next sister artist, Guillermina, before loading back into the van.

Then is was onto the Ocotlan de Morelos open market day where we first received a stern lecture on pickpockets and other nefarious intentions.  We walked through the booths to the amazing former monastery, then jail, now museum of Rodolfo Morales artistry.  His works were varied and interesting.

After the museum tour, the group gathered on the square for some drinks and snacks while we waited for Juan to return with the van. 

Photo by kd

It was not until 3:00 p.m. before we managed to return to the Azucena Zapoteca restaurant of the Angeles for a light lunch.  Here is a picture of me waiting for lunch to show how hungry I was:

I ate a pizza with grasshoppers as the meat.  I ain't kiddin'--GRASSHOPPERS--known in Oaxaca as chapulines. I could kid and say it tasted like chicken but what it really tasted like was salt.  Not grasshoppers, salt!  Later in the trip people would call these crickets but they are grasshoppers.  GRASSHOPPERS!

Once we were back in Oaxaca, we had a chance to clean up before heading to the zocalo for all the action.

We went to La Biznaga restaurant for dinner.  This dinner was the welcome event for the group and was a part of the workshop.  I had soup whose English translation on the menu said, "Chicken, rice and stuff."  The stuff was a plate of extras I could choose or not to add in.  My entree was pork with shitaki mushrooms and goat cheese that was stacked to the point where everyone thought it looked like a Jenga game.  We all share two desserts and a latte before waddling out of the restaurant.

Photo by Teresa Reaver

Now after 9:00 p.m. we continued to walk around the downtown area and went to view the sand carvings that are a part of the Dias de Lost Muertos celebration.  These were made by school children as a part of a competition and they were so exciting to see.

On the walk back to the hotel down the Alcala, I took this picture which I had hoped would turn out to be my favorite from the whole trip.  It is still a great shot but...upon further review, it is a bit fuzzy.  Still, very evocative of the night life on the Alcala in Oaxaca:

Here is a black and white version from a different angle. 

I tipped this street musician the most on my whole trip because I kept taking his picture each time I ran across him.  Hopefully shots from future days will be a little bit more in focus.

You can see the full set of photos from this trip at


  1. You are a great photographer Gary....excellent shots. I feel as if I was there ...wait a minute. cheers buddy,

  2. I love these photos, Gary! I haven't been able to read the text because I can't stop looking at the photos. Beautiful art!