Thursday, August 3, 2023

2023 07 Vida y Sueños (Life and Dreams): A Mixed Media Art Experience with Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus During Oaxaca’s Famous Guelaguetza Festival Dia Seis

Dia Seis, July 17th (Monday)

Today after we ate the hotel breakfast I took Denice on an exploration of the Xochimilco neighborhood that sits above our hotel across the Pan American Highway. 

Even the Dentist's Office has cool wall art

If you look at my blog from October, you will see this same poser

We walked out of the Xochimilco neighborhood and walked back to our area on a busy road filled with morning traffic.

Maybe just a little--Yankee Go Home!

To get back towards our hotel I walked us back into the Xochimilco neighborhood down a street that led to the gate of one of my favorite places in Oaxaca: the Xochimilco cemetery. To my great surprise, the gate was open and Denice and I were able to walk right in.

  After we were done in the cemetery, there were still some things to see on the way back to the hotel.

In the knot of a tree in the park across from our hotel

The group met at 11:00 a.m. in the lobby to begin today’s all day tour. We left in two vans and our van had Leo as the guide. 

On all vacation trips that involve a van ride, I like to sit on the sidewalk side of the van in the last window so that I can shoot out the window, creating what I cleverly call "Out the Window" shots. I just rest the camera on my knee against the window and fire away. Like in traditional street photography, sometimes there is odd framing or blurry images but the magic is in capturing something slightly unpredictable and unique.


After about a 30 minute drive, we arrived at the alebrije festival in San Martin Tilcajete. We spent about an hour and one half visiting with the artist and viewing the art on display.

This artist showed us her self-portrait

Denice and I met an artist named Irene who was born in Oregon so spoke English as her first language.

Irene, grandmom, her husband and her younger daughter (Photo by Denice)

She is an entrepreneur who came up with an idea to package blank alebrije with paint and brushes in a ready to go kit. She and her husband also teach alebrije making at their San Martin Tilcajete workshop.

I found this alebrje on the table and was struck how it appeared to not be a blank but rather a redacted one. When Irene told me her daughter had painted on this alebrije when her back was turned so that Irene had to sand it down in order to sell it with the kits, I fell in love with it and the story. I told her I wanted to buy the creature just as it was and would not paint it. Her husband took it and wandered off to the carving area and returned with brand new ears which I did not even know where a part of the deal. Then we had a chance to meet the original artist and take a photo with her and her new American collector friend.

Dad (the carver), the eldest daughter (the accidental artist) and the art patron


Our group lunch at was at Almu, a fine outdoor restaurant where your food is cooked over fire while you sit amongst the magnificent plants on display. The restaurant is a little remote as it sits within a conservancy of native Oaxacan plants and trees.

Michael deMeng

Photo by Denice


Today we had a chance to go to the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco for their Gueltaguetza festivities and performance. While the Gueltaguetza in Oaxaca at the Auditorium is a spectacle (and we could not get tickets), this is the real deal—a non-tourist event that feels very authentic. After the parade and our experience having a guided tour of the dance previously at the Quinta Real Hotel, we are able to recognize the styles of dance, the costumes and the regional differences during each dance. 

Getting our dance on

When we got back to town after 9:00 p.m., I went and had a light dinner with Andrea, Michael, Una and Anna. To say we laughed would be an understatement. 

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