Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blog Carnivals!

I'm being increasingly seduced by the beauty of Blog Carnivals, because they remind me of the zines of old. If I can sound extra geeky for just a moment, they also remind me of one of my favorite assignments from my Library Science days. In reference class, we chose a theme (I, of course, chose the Chupacabras) and then created a Pathfinder with materials in the collection that related to the theme. Blog Carnivals are more of a "Greatest Hits" medley than a reference tool. They are essentially web pages along a theme, with links and descriptions of blog entries relevant to the theme. My lovely Mexican Pop Spot has been featured on a couple of them lately, including the Carnival of Cities blog carnival.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cartoon Cow Hero

You may have noticed, by now, that I have a proclivity for cartoons. One of the most popular ones around here is Cowco, a cartoon cow that is, I believe, at Sponge Bob level of popularity. He's on my daughter's toothbrush and my son's socks. I am charmed, too, by his sidekick Wamba, who is a little girl with curly red hair.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Altar of Radishes

Yes, it's a crucified Jesus carved from radishes at the top of this altar. My favorite details are the papel picado decorations adorning each step of the altar. Oaxaca has got a way with radishes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Church of the Radishes

Here is another entry in Oaxaca's Night of the Radishes festival. A few people created tableaux of this nature, with archways and domes.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Night of the Radishes

Last night was the annual Night of the Radishes festival in Oaxaca, known as Noche de los Rabanos. The entire zocalo was framed by displays of giant carved radishes. Some of the entries depicted scenes from daily life, like tortilla-making and farming. Others showed celebrations like Calendas, Dia de los Muertos, Guelaguetza, Posadas, and fairs. I was intrigued by this narrative scene, "Death Driving His Cart":

One of my favorites had radish figures stacked in a style reminiscent of Peruvian folk art:

The zocalo was packed with people viewing the radishes, watching a clown, listening to bands, drinking coffee and beer at the sidewalk cafes, and shopping. I ventured down Calle de las Casas and scored cartoon character socks, cascarones, singing Christmas lights, a handmade wooden doggy car, silly string, two chocolate clown lollipops, a cartoon magazine with robot enclosure, sparkly hair clips, and bubbles with a wrestler attached. My Christmas shopping is done!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lo Maximo

Although no one is named Max in Oaxaca, it is a commonly used word within expressions. There's "Lo Maximo" for the most or the best. For some reason, Max's Oaxaca friends love to shout out his name over and over again, so that we sometimes leave Colegio Teizcali amid a chorus of "Max! Max! Max!"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bugs Bunny and a Horse's Butt - What do they have in common?

Bugs Bunny or "Bonny" as pictured here, is one of my heroes. First of all, he is entirely comfortable with dressing in drag. I love him flirting with Witch Hazel, conducting classical music, and turning Daffy Duck into a walking flower. So, when I saw this bootleg bugsy painted on the butt of a merry-go-round horse, I was delighted. Every horse featured a different character, including a sexed-up female Daffy Duck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What is Spiderman Saying?

Here is a prime example of why I will never be bilingual. I have no idea what Spidey is saying here, but I know that "chinga" usually means f***.
Babelfish discreetly avoids the issue and says: "To chinga and the towers!"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Don't Step on the Grass

Here is a photo of a sign in Parque Llano, which is one of my favorite spots in Oaxaca. I like the image of the disembodied foot approaching the innocent clover-like plant. My son, Max, would like to point out that, in order to take this picture, I had to step--just the littlest bit--on the grass. I would like to provide a counterpoint, however, that I was one of un monton de people stepping on the grass and, in fact, there was a whole soccer game going on, couples making out, and some tai chi practice, all on the grass. Still and all, I agree with Max that it is best to keep our disembodied feet away from the grass.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Freaky Cactus at Yagul

Yagul is an incredible place to visit, because it feels so remote. Unlike Monte Alban, Yagul just doesn't get the tourist action pumping through and, wandering around its tombs, labyrinth, and cliffside haunts, you feel like you could disappear without a trace. In this picture, the cactus seems like a security fence, making you take the long way around.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dia del Virgen at Llano Park

Oaxaca's been going nuts for the Virgen de Guadalupe, setting off firecrackers all night for a week, striking up the band in every other public square, and setting up another impromptu amusement park, this time in the wonderful Llano Park. Llano Park is an incredible gathering place. It seems to me that, since the unrest which was often zocalo-centered has resulted in the increased presence of armed police, Llano Park has inherited the previous zocalo energy. There is a tianguis open-air market every Friday, special events nearly every week, a huge fountain that frequently has children diving into it, fondas serving up memelas and empanadas, a La Michoacana booth, and the endless balloon-sellers, bubble-sellers, and plastic toy-sellers. Pictured here is one of my favorite t-shirts from a stall at the amusement park. I guess Top Cat is known as Don Gato around here. I grew up singing the song "Don Gato was a Spanish cat".

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alien Breathers

We're in the land of the Alebrije, a made-up word that probably most closely translates into alien-breathers. Artists carve figures out of copal wood and then paint them, adding miniscule details with toothpicks and other tools. One of my favorite excursions is taking a colectivo--a collective cab that has a designated route--to Arrazola or San Martin Tilcajete, and visiting alebrije artists at their homes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mexico City Blues

We were on the Frida path last week in Mexico City. Though I remembered her house and studio as indigo, it's more of a cornflower blue. Really beautiful. Our cabbie showed us a nearby cafe, El Jarocho, that was surrounded by benches and fauna and packed with people drinking what Steve said was the best coffee he's had in Mexico. I had hot chocolate and enjoyed taking in the sight of crowds arguing and drinking and dreaming.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Dance of Death

I'm working on an article about Monte Alban for Aishti magazine, and have been researching these sculptures. Though they are called
"danzantes" or dancers, these carvings--over 300 have been excavated--most likely depict captured leaders of neighborhing kingdoms who were castrated and/or disemboweled. Some of the carvings have scroll patterns symbolizing blood. Scholars theorize that the blood would have been used in religious offerings or in fertility rituals.

Friday, November 30, 2007

My Kind of Bullfight

One of Oaxaca's traditions is the Calenda, a processional through city streets that typically begins and ends at a church. The original ulterior motive of the calenda was to create a spectacle to entice passerby into attending Catholic mass and then converting. For a happy atheist, it's just a great street party. There's always music and manic dancing. People carry long wooden sticks holding lanterns of colored cellophane with candles burning inside, creating a moody glow. At some point, if you're lucky, there is the fake bullfight. Sometimes a couple cute senoritas entice the bull with the red sashes tied around their waists. In this picture, the bull appears to be made of actual skin; the ones I've seen before were paper mache, pinata-like figures.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flying over the Zocalo

The giant balloons get me, like some Fellini movie, just lyrical the way they arc through the air. It's a melancholy thing to watch it wind indecisively through the air. You smack the end and it soars. On 20 de Noviembre, the zocalo was filled with children chasing after them, falling on top of them, popping them, and then grabbing someone else's.
Max chose a bootleg Spiderman print, blurry with the thousands of times it had been reproduced. When that deflated, someone gave him a Sponge Bob one, where Sponge Bob was elongated and blue. Genevieve dove after a boy's Viva Mexico balloon, only to drag it over to him and surrender it. Five minutes later, he was by her side, offering it back to her.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Pottery Processional

We attended an art opening at the Museum of Oaxacan Painters. This installation was astonishing. I am accustomed to seeing traditional Oaxacan black pottery that originated in a nearby pueblo, but I'd never seen it used to create a large-scale piece. The figures seemed to be people, ghostly persona, muertos, and calaveras interspersed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lucha Libre

We're super into Lucha Libre iconography around here. For some reason, Mexican wrestling has always intrigued me. I love the ornate masks and the little punky fabric patches of wrestlers you can buy on Calle las Casas. And I love Maxito's shirt here, featuring El Santo, the king of La Lucha.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sad, astonished pumpkinhead

This Halloween pumpkin has two sides, one happy and the other kind of surprised or melancholy. When Max went trick-or-treating with it, he and his friends chanted "Queremos muertos, queremos muertos" to get their candy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Vochito Banditos

I have a long love affair with VW Bugs, known as "vochos" around here. It looks like Genevieve shares my adoration. When the ride ended, she gripped onto the steering wheel, refused to let go, and shrieked bloody murder. I had to get back up to wrench her from the ride.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Monster A Go-Go

When we first arrived here, Max very carefully assembled his monster collection on our kitchen table. He has spent the last couple months working on his monster research project for school and part of the assignment is to offer prizes for the students listening to the report. So we shall spend the coming week seeking more monsters for the giveaway. I'll post what we find here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Foghorn Goes Mexidelic

One super chido aspect of Mexican pop culture is all the bootleg cartoon characters. It was clear to me, at the amusement park in front of the municipal cemetary, that this was not Claudio (as the knees of his overalls would suggest), but Foghorn Leghorn, playing the bongo drums, accompanied by Sylvester in Elvis regalia. Thanks go to Steve for coming up with the concept of Mexidelic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Painting with Sand

One of the Day of the Dead traditions in Oaxaca is the creation of sand tapetes, literally "carpets of sand". People use colored sand, shells, flower petals, stones, and glitter to create incredible depictions of saints, skeletons, even dedications and messages. The tapete in this photograph was fascinating. It was huge, just monumental, and it was dedicated to the APPO, the group that led the protests last year. A long dedication ran beneath it, like a banner, and people surrounded the tapete from every corner, studying the inscription. While we watched, the creators layered hundreds of flower petals along the border of their sand painting. By the next day, it was gone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Anthropomorphic Avocadoes on Bags

A year ago, when I lived in Portland and began planning the big move to Oaxaca, I spied a girl in the frozen foods aisle of Winco sporting an incredible market bag. It featured dancing fruits and vegetables with ecstatic faces. Completely charming. I ran chased her down in bulk candy and got the skinny: "My brother bought it for me in Oaxaca."

It seemed like an omen, this enchanting market bag from my new home. But I couldn't wait for my arrival to Oaxaca. I began searching for it online. It took a few days, but I found it at Gringas & Company, this Mexican import shop. And now I have my own dancing produce to wear when I go out.

But here is an interesting twist to the story. I've been living in Oaxaca for three months now, and have yet to see that bag. Nearly every lady of a certain age has one, but not mine. And at the Benito Juarez Market, I encountered a stall stacked high with market bags. They advertised toys, pastries, meat, even hardware, but no anthropomorphic produce.