Wednesday, October 21, 2009

La Danza de La Pluma

Dancers dancing in the plaza in front of the church in Teotitlan

Closer view of dancers.
Linda's (la malinche) family and support group with beer and fruit to give away at the dance.

The Danza de la Pluma in Teotitlan for the Virgin of
Guadelupe started with a 6:30 AM mass for the Dancers and their families in Teotitlan's beautiful church on December 12. After weeks of preparation the Dancers themselves appeared in the streets around 2:30. They and their extended families went to the church yard where a dance space had been created. Seating around the area went to the support groups, women in the front rows and men in the back rows. All five sections of Teotitlan were represented by one or more dancers. The Danza de la Pluma started at 3 PM in the afternoon. They danced for about 5 hours with very few breaks, dancing in their costumes with tall, round feathered headdresses, scarves and Virgin of Guadelupe capes. I was there to support Linda, Lichita and Ismael's 10 year old daughter, who danced one of the 2 Malinches. She danced the Native part. The other Malinche is dressed in a 16th century Spanish costume. The Danzantes finished their 3 year commitment to this Dance. It seemed somewhat emotional, being the end of their commitment. They are featured in a film on sale at the Museum in Teotitlan, made by some film makers from Santa Fe who filmed them 3 years ago, at the beginning of the cycle. I was there then too as a part of Linda's family.

After the Plumed Dancers finished dancing, their wives and mothers and fathers danced the Jarabe del Valle with jicapetxles filled with various candies..some are made in molds in Teotitlan-- white with red flowers on sticks. After these dances the five groups danced other jicapetxles and threw out sweets and fruit to the growing pueblo audience. Various parts of the ceremony took place with people dancing in a previously decided order called by a master of ceremonies.

The family I was with finally danced at 4:30 AM.
Around midnight I slipped away after seeing various other friends in the church yard. At 4:30 AM I was sound asleep at Tito and Ale´s little adobe house on the edge of town. Reina and Piti Mendoza--Tito´s sisters gave me atole and tamales. That family was there to support another dancer.

Last night( Dec 29) the Teotitecas brought their beautiful costumbres (customs) to the Oaxaca Zocalo. I met up with my friends from there and other places to watch them make a calenda (religious parade) around the Zocalo and then dance--the Danza de la Pluma and the Jarabe del Valle again. The Danza de la Pluma group was the same that had just completed their 3 year term. It was wonderful to see them one more time. Linda danced well. Afterwards the Dancers were being photographed with friends and tourists in their costumes. They were the stars.

I was grinning ear to ear through the whole thing. Finally my friend Alicia (Linda's grandmother) and I were dancing the Jarabe together with others as the dance became public.

El Dia de la Revolucion (post Nov 11)

Mexico I, 1995--gouache painting by Mitzi Linn

This painting is in recognition of the Zapatista uprising on Jan 1 1994. I was in Oaxaca about to go to San Cristobal, Chiapas to see friends. Well, I couldn´t go, as the government of Mexico was bombing the mountains around San Cristobal and the Pan American Highway was closed. I went a year later. Today in Oaxaca there is a big demonstration by the teachers, the Popular Assembly and many others against the policies of the state and federal government. This goes along with the annual celebration of the 1910 revolution in Mexico.

Still, since the violence of 2006 when Federal and State troops attacked peaceful demonstrations by the teachers and others, the most recent uprisings are not distant, romantic history. In the painting an indigenous woman from Chiapas is looking out, wondering what will happen in Mexico in her lifetime. Perhaps she is one of the Zapatistas or one of the many indigenous pueblo people looking to regain power that the Spanish took 500 years ago. Vamos a ver!

My visit to San Cristobal de las Casas ( post Nov 20)

Kiki and Gabriel Suarez, in front of their gallery and restaurant
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, has changed substantially since my last visit in 2000. There are pedestrian streets which are used by everyone. Buildings in el centro too are painted bright colors giving it a festive feeling. I lucked out and had 4 days of sunshine and though I didn´t make it out to Chamula because I also had a cold, I did walk the back streets some too, with Kiki on her way to her therapy office. I was so happy to be with her again. She and Gabriel and family are doing well with their various galeries, restaurants etc. You can check out Kiki´s work at Gabriel too is a really fine wildlife photographer. Check out his stunning photos
Kiki was diagnosed last year with an eye disease that reduces her sight to tunnel vision. Still she continues painting, photographing, writing and all her other myriad of activities.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead

I made this little painting in response to seeing a woman from the Istmus of Tehuantepec selling sugar figures of Tehuanas for transplanted Istmenos' altars at the local market. The vendor indicated that the figures were only for sale to people from the Istmus. The female figure here is in full costume of the Tehuanas with their beautiful embroideried blouses and skirts.
I called it "Frida and Diego Return" since Frida often dressed in Tehuana blouses. I could imagine them posing in this traditional manner, man standing with his hand on the seated woman's shoulder. Behind the figures is a house altar complete with marigold petals making a path for the departed from the cemetery to the home.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Welcoming the Dead in Oaxaca

"Musicos del Campo Santo" (The Grateful Dead??) bring the departed ones out of the cemetery and into our lives every November 1 and 2.

Combining both the US and Mexican culture you might notice Jerry Garcia's tombstone and the Dead on top of "Further", the Merry Pranksters old bus.
I made this painting the year Jerry Garcia died.
"Amor Sin Palabras", the bus ran from Teotitlan to Oaxaca. This combination magical bus is tearing out of the graveyard full of musicians tombs. A nod here to my roots as a hippy dancing to the Dead at the Fillmore West before they were famous. Later, going to Mexico, and spending hours riding on "Amor Sin Palabras." (Love without words)--exactly my feelings those first years discovering myself and Oaxaca.

These paintings represent the party aspect of the Day of the Dead. The holy days celebrate several different things. One aspect is honoring and connecting with the ancestors, or the family members who have gone on. Families gather to eat and drink and party-- either in the cemetery or in the home, or both. The living commune with the departed. It is also a harvest fiesta with altars loaded with food, flowers and drinks. And a link to Hallowmas, the old European pagan holy day on Oct 31.

Some people go out to party and celebrate in public with friends. Going out usually includes dancing so we have some images of dancers. The first is a self portrait called "She returns to Rhumba" a nod to my nights at El Sol y La Luna, La Candela, y mas when I happily danced to Cuban music.

The next is a collage called "Frida's Salsa" a word play here on the dance and the sauce. The dancing skeletons are from the Spanish tradition, not the Native American tradition. 'Calacas' or skeletons have been used in political art also, criticizing the local politicians, or national ones. They are playful, making fun of what many people see as something serious--life and death.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Celebrating the Day of the Dead in Teotitlan del Valle

The Montano family gathers on the Day of the Dead. In this older photo various members hang out with their compadres from Mexico City. They decorated their restaurant El Descanso for Halloween that year.

On November 1 various tasks must be accomplished before nightfall. Clean the house, make a house altar and foods such as tamales. Part of the family goes to the "campo santo" (cemetery) to clean and decorate the graves. In this photo flowers, candles, food etc were loaded in the back of their pick up, along with Troy the dog, to go to the "panteon" to visit the dead. The departed souls are invited to return to their old homes when the church bell rings at 3 pm. I went to clean and decorate Karen Turtle's tiny grave and invite her to return too.

Karen(an American) was like a family member of the Montanos, and a very close friend of mine. She died unexpectedly in 1992. After her funeral and cremation in Oaxaca, Edmundo got permission to bury her ashes in this Zapotec pueblo. Karen always wanted to live in one of these pueblos and had longtime friendships in Teotitlan, San Martin Tilcajete, and Arrasola. All her friends from these towns wanted her ashes for their town panteon.

I enjoyed decorating Karen's grave for a number of years. The Montanos also consider me one of their family members so spending the Day of the Dead with them has been a great pleasure. Once, Fidel and Mari and I went to the local mill to have the cacao beans, cinnamon and all ground together into chocolate after cleaning the house. Here is a photo of Karen's grave in 1992. I loved being able to make her little tomb a work of art.

A few years ago another person was buried in the same plot. The cross with her name is still there too, behind the new tomb. The man buried there was a close friend of hers and the plot probably belonged to his family when she borrowed the tomb. Teotitecas are practical people.

In this photo Alicia's mother Viviana is cleaning the family plot. Since the photo was taken, Viviana joined the family members resting in this beautiful sacred ground.

As evening arrives the family gathers in their living room in front of the house altar. Here various members wait to greet visitors who come and go thoughout the night. Teotitecas don't go to the graveyard for the night.

One of the first couples to visit stand in front of the altar, having lit a large white candle, and put their offerings of bread and chocolate on the altar. They make a prayer in Zapotec. They came in, made the ceremonial handshake with everyone in line in the previous photo, saying "Shaa". After their prayers, Edmundo welcomed them and they took seats at the long table, men on one side, and women on the other. Then Edmundo started serving shots of mescal, beers, and soft drinks. The party had begun.

Conversations often take place in Zapotec but I enjoy just being present. Later, this couple will be given fruit, bread and chocolate before they leave for another compadres home.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

House Altar for Day of the Dead

Emilia Arroyo took this photo of me standing next to her beautiful home altar during my stay there in 1994.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Virgin of Guadelupe Appears for Day of the Dead

painting---copyright Mitzi Linn

In this Day of the Dead painting the Virgin reappears in a corn field where the unseen shaman/farmer is making a ceremony. A small pre hispanic diety is on the right, an incenser and candles on the left. The Virgin is encased in a grain of corn pollen and holding the Earth in her hands.

Day of the Dead Public Altars

Here's an altar I created with Vicky Ayers who I met while living in Oaxaca years ago. This altar honors migrant workers who died working in our fields and crossing the border between the US and Mexico. It is also dedicated to Cesar Chavez. On the right is a detail of the lower part of the altar. It was installed at Due Fine Arts in 1997 in conjunction with the annual show at Maude Kerns Gallery in Eugene, Oregon.
Below is an altar I created at Maude Kerns for the Day of Dead show in 2003. It is called "Pensando en La Muerte " and is dedicated to Oaxaca

Monday, October 5, 2009

Free to Sail Away

"Oasis (Number 1 )"--gouache painting by Mitzi Linn

My Boat

My boat,
the guru,
pointing towards a shore
I can only trust is there.
Glimpsing it rarely from this
Samsaric daydream
of conflicted thoughts
and feelings.

My boat,
the guru,
pure awareness
clear energy
empty of all desire
and remorse
free to sail
with no shore in sight.

copyright, Mitzi Linn

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Past Autumn Equinox

Photo taken at the Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, NM


Sunlight glitters through spider webs,
glistens in buzzing wings of insects,
glimmers in bird wings rising.

A breeze quakes the golden aspen tree.
The suchness of an autumn evening.

Shadows of winter cross my mind.
The dark, the damp, the cold.....

Meanwhile a shimmering light
occupies my eyes.

copyright Mitzi Linn