Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Landscapes of Southern Mexico

Recently this blog has strayed a bit from its theme of "looking at the natural world". Let's correct that: here are some landscapes.

Most of our time in Mexico was spent in cities, as you can see in the previous posts about windows and the Day of the Dead. But we also took some day trips outside of Oaxaca to see the ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla, crafts, markets, and the spectacular mineral deposits called Hierve el Agua. The entire region is set in rugged terrain of mountains and valleys, so even short trips afforded dramatic views.

Ruins at Monte Alban and Sierra Madre del Sur
Landscape near Teotitlán del Valle 
Hierve el Agua: Cascada Chica
Hierve el Agua: Cascada Grande

Hierve el Agua pool
Susan at Hierve el Agua

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Day of the Dead

Despite the name, this Mexican holiday occupies at least a week, considering all of the preparation. Stores, restaurants and homes put up paper cut-outs and skeleton-themed decorations. Families clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Special breads are baked. Temporary altars are assembled and adorned with candles, favorite foods of the deceased, photos, and marigolds...lots and lots of marigolds. We were told that Día de Muertos is the biggest holiday of the year, at least in Oaxaca.

On the night of October 31/November 1, we watched street celebrations before joining the thousands of families and tourists visiting cemeteries. Hundreds of vendors lined the streets leading to the cemeteries and many were having meals there (street food is a real thing in Oaxaca).

In contrast to the carnival atmosphere on the streets, the insides of the cemeteries were mostly calm and dark except for the myriad candles on the graves (although one large cemetery had a rock band at the entrance). Some of the families seemed cheerful and some somber. We'd been told that the occasion is generally a celebration of the imagined return of the loved ones, rather than a time for grief. In any case I was moved by the beauty and emotion of the graveyards. Graves from the most elaborate to the most humble were decorated.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Windows on Mexico

In our first extended trip to Mexico, we spent three weeks in Oaxaca, the capital and largest city in the state of the same name. Friends have raved about Oaxaca's culture, people, food and weather. They did not exaggerate; it is a remarkable and most agreeable place.

It is also a great place for photography. The city contains many buildings dating to early colonial times. Many are of stone and many others are adobe. Colors and textures abound. I found myself wandering the streets, shooting buildings, doorways and windows.

I was inspired to create a photomontage of some windows by a poster Susan purchased in Italy long ago, showing a number of windows from Tuscany. Here's my Oaxacan version.

We also went into the countryside, and it is also beautiful. There are crafts-persons weaving and embroidering, making pottery, and selling all types of produce in open air markets. And we were in town for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. I'll add more images in a later posting.