Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oaxaca Dia de Los Muertos Dia Ocho

Today is Thursday, November 1st, and it is finally Dia de Los Muertos.  The day found me up bright and early so I went to the workshop and worked on another little wall hanging which is piece number four.  At 7ish I had breakfast and then decided my early morning stroll today would be north into the hills across the Pan American Highway. 

My goal this morning was to re-shoot the wall art we discovered on day four (dia cuatro) when we were walking back from the Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church.

After shooting the wall art I walked up to the Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church where on Fridays and Saturdays the Pochote natural food and craft market is open from 9:00 a. m. until 3:00 p. m.  I walked around the square and visited the ofrendas as well as observed the vendors in the market.

On the square is a gate to the Panteon de San Tomas which looked like a lovely little cemetery with plenty of sculptural and flora interest to a photographer but the gate was padlocked and I could not get in.  The cemetery was full of residents decorating the graves and I must have looked absolutely pathetic standing there because a kind gentleman took it upon himself to pantomime to me that I could leave the square, walk about a block up the south wall of the cemetery and find the actual entrance.

I did so and then had a truly religious experience.  I was the only non-resident in the cemetery as the residents were working and it was very moving.  I am not a religious person nor do I put much faith in whoo-whoo kind of stuff but at one point while taking these photos I started crying.  Very strange.
Very unexplainable or not.

I spent about two hours shooting photos this day so pardon the excess on my part but I think this might have been the best photography experience of the trip for me.

Here is an example of how I can use the images from the graveyard to make interesting art.  I plan on using some of these for screen printing onto hand-made paper to create a book about this special place.  

On the walk back to the hotel there was time to swing down the Pan American Highway (to revisit the wall of art by the cultural center) and a different street so I could see some different street art.

The art on the wall of the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca is too tempting not to shoot all over again (see Dia Cuatro).

I had some time on my hand so I did this self-portrait in order to leave a little of myself in Oaxaca.

OK, just kidding.  However, this is a little eerie to look at.

Although Oaxaca is the most poverty stricken state in Mexico, you did not see the homeless on the streets like you do in the USA.  However...

When I got back to the hotel it was time to hit the studio and finish my fourth little hanging sculpture and then on to a bag lunch brought in by Colleen and her crew.

After lunch, it was time for the famous Michael de Meng critique.  For those who have never experienced it, the end of the workshop comes when the students here the tune The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Then it is, as the man says, "Pencils down!" and we gathered to have a discussion about what we have done. For this workshop, we gathered on the patio of the hotel.  All the students bring their art forward to a table and there is time to take a close look at everything that the other students made during the class.  Because this was the patio of the hotel, we even had an audience (not sure what they thought about all this).

 Michael de Meng

My apologies to my fellow classmates but time and my failing memory may have me mislabeling some of the art below or missing some completely because of fuzzy shots.

My five pieces

Lois Inman Engle

Vickie Trancho

Solange Belleforte

Teresa Reaver

Marilyn Ubben Werst and Jazz Hands Jesus

Jessie McNally

Kristy (KD) Duncan

There is value in having your own piece discussed but there may be just as much value in hearing the other students talk about theirs and hear Michael critique their efforts.

Tonight we are a mission to conclude our Dia de Los Muertos experience by heading out by cab across town to the most famous of all the cemeteries, the Panteon San Miguel.  Once there, the atmosphere was very circus like and the cemetery was very crowded.  While my experience from earlier in the day at Panteon de San Tomas was very religious, this was a very different event and not quite as moving.

After wandering around the panteon we all cabbed back to have dinner in the zocalo at La Cafeteria del Jardin.  That night I need a little down time so I walked around the zocalo by myself and the back to hotel.

I had a little Photoshop fun with this child and his costume.

I really liked my time in Mexico and I found Oaxaca to be a vibrant and exciting place to be.  Perhaps too exciting at times.  There is a federal presence in the city that at times can be rather scary.  Trucks roll by with mounted machine guns and federal police with really big military guns walk the streets.  Once I was walking with my arm slung over my camera when I found myself approaching two federal police who, oddly, had their arms over their rifles in the exact same position as me.

Tonight, alone, I returned from the zocalo and as I rounded the last corner to head to our hotel, I saw a trio of officers standing on the edge of the small park that is just down from our hotel.  All I could think of was that I might have run into my worst fear, that all stories of political unrest, drug running and Mexican prisons was about to be my story.

I kept saying to myself:  don't stumble, don't look at them, don't do anything.

And..nothing happened.  They did not call out.  They did not want me.

I would guess they have other things to worry about.

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

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