Monthly Archives: April 2016

Festival Time In Tututepec

Tututepec has its celebration for the anniversary of the foundation of the town in mid-April, a large event that combines the regions cultural highlights – basically dancing and livestock. During the day there was an animal show, a guess-the-calf’s-weight raffle, singers, free food and a horse dancing show. The kids were most impressed when one of the dancing horses shat in the middle of the arena, but that’s kids for you.

At night there was a demonstration of traditional dances. These events are quite common — anyone who has traveled to a Mexican city has likely seen a show like this, with groups from around Mexico dancing on stage. The main difference here is that all the groups were from individual towns within the municipality, demonstrating the traditional dances of that particular town. This is why Mexico is described as having a mega-diverse culture… it’s not just the country or the states that have different customs and traditions, it’s each town, and quite often each suburb or diocese. It’s possible these traditions will ebb away as highways are built across the land and TV and the internet become more common, but it’s equally possible they’ll be maintained, even if it’s only a in retro or anachronistic way.

I was most impressed by the dance from Jamiltepec. It’s the Mexican think I’ve ever seen — and the dancers from Juquila included an El Torrito. The Jamiltepec dance was a little bit cantina, and a lot wedding-of-the-year. The women wore colourful dresses with intricate designs and the men wore the traditional white outfit of rural Mexico. The dancers moved frenetically, had a lot of fun, and shouted a lot. They had a cry of excitement and warning, like a mix between a baying dog and a cock crowing, which they’d let off at random intervals and which reverberated around the square. At one point they formed a circle, and one woman put her fingers on her head like horns, pretending to be a bull, and charged at a man dancing like a matador and waving his paleacate (bandana) like a bullfighter. At the end the man fell over.

The most Mexican part was when the dancing was paused for insults. Everyone would stop and a couple would go up to the microphone, and the man would make vulgar comments about what they wanted to do to the woman sexually. The woman would then give a scathing reply that the man was too pathetic to even jerk off to the woman and it would be a pleasant day in Santa Rosa before she slept with him, and then people would laugh and give the baying crow in appreciation.

The dances from Juquila were very similar to those from Jamiltepec, except that the men wore colourful shirts and the movements were a tad more constrained. However, at the end they pulled out an El Torrito, which is a paper-maché bull in a wooden frame covered in fireworks. They light the fireworks and then charge at people with it, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. This one was different from those in Cuernavaca in that they concentrated on fireworks that made painfully loud noises rather than ones that spat out dangerous amounts of sparks.

The dances from other towns varied more (and they may have been from other towns in Oaxaca, rather than just the municipality). The most indigenous style had people dressed with colourful semi-circles on their heads that were maybe a metre across, and other garb and decorations that showed prehispanic roots. It’s the first dance I’ve seen that actually included people leaping and gamboling, with a graceful movement where the dancers seemed to follow a curved path in the air. The trick probably involved swinging the legs, and it’s damn impressive.

Another group reminded me of Chinelos on stilts. The dancers were on stilts, dressed in a crude mockery of old-style Spain, and danced to music that jitters and twirls like latino jazz. The dance itself was a weird shuffle, but the movements were precisely defined. I’m sure it was developed in the same way the Chinelos of Morelos were — too mock the Spaniards.

There was a very Spanish dance with just two people, in which they moved energetically and the woman lifted her dress a lot. The final dance was from the municipal capital, Tututepec itself, and was far more sedate. The women wore a white sheet wrapped around them leaving them backless, and the dancers moved slowly and elegantly through the moves.

At the end of each group’s demonstration the dancers through things into the crowded, various bread products in brightly coloured wrapping. The kids passed out long before the end, though, it finished pretty late.

Unsettled in Santa Rosa

Hubris and optimism look very similar from the inside…

Other aspects of Tututepec aside, there are some basic factors that may limit our time here. The muggy heat is close to unbearable, for a start — although we suspect that may be exacerbated by our town, which is particularly windless. However, Karla is attacked by mosquitoes to such an extent that her legs look like she’s wearing polka dot leggings, and nothing she does seems to help. The baby and I have both developed a rash, probably a heat rash, but possibly from chlorine. And, while I’m whinging, food is more expensive here than in Cuernavaca. Apparently they transport the food to Oaxaca City and then back down to the rural areas, which strikes me as idiotic.

I’m also having trouble with my devices — my phone no longer connects to my computer, so I have to transfer video files to my tablet via Bluetooth, then move them (not copy them, it won’t do that, only move them) via SD card to my wife’s laptop, from there to a USB drive and from there to my desktop. Whenever I’m in the car I put on Bat Out Of Hell just so I can yell the line:

Nothing ever works in this rotten old hole, and everything is turning out lost
And nothing really rocks, and nothing really rolls, and nothing’s ever worth the cost.

Certainly, our current lifestyle is not one we wish to continue. It’s possible that if we bought land on the coast or in the hills — where there’s breeze — and built a house to suit us, and found people with similar world views to join us, we’d love it here. However, that’s a big investment for something that isn’t guaranteed.

Of course, this means our move here was a success, since the whole point was to see whether we’d enjoy living here as opposed to just coming for holidays. It would be a great place for a part-time house, though, where you didn’t stay here during the worst months.

There’s been a lot of cultural activity recently, and I’ll put up a post on that once I get my devices working.

Lagoon Birds in Escobilla

At the end of March we stayed at Escobilla where Karla had a workshop. One night we were paddled through the lagoon to the beach where the turltes leave the sea, ever so briefly, to lay eggs. It’s not turtle egg-laying season, but it’s a nice trip. It was dusk and I have a crappy camera, but here are a couple of photos of lagoon birds.

The Adaptable Can Settle

The holidays are over and the kids are back at school. Although we’re worried about how the kids are getting along in the social life of school, they seem a lot happier in the new house. They enjoy playing in the yard more than on the roof of the Cuernavaca house, they laugh more, they follow chickens and chase dogs from the yard and do things that adults can’t fathom.

The area is still hot and humid and windless, but we’ve found ways to mitigate the unsupportable. One of the first things we did was buy a fridge, the cheapest we could find in Puerto Escondido, but we now have ice and cold water, and the ability to store food.

I bought a couple of tarps and strung them across the concrete roof. My idea was that the house felt like an oven during the day because the sun blazed directly onto the roof, which then passed the heat through to the rooms. With the tarps blocking that sun and letting a bit of air flow over the roof, the house is a lot cooler. It’s still hot, but not baby-in-a-locked-car hot.

Karla climbed into the water tank and we emptied it, then she scooped out all the muddy dregs and wiped as much off the walls as she could. Then we refilled it from the groundwater. The water from there is a lot clearer now, and to be on the safe side we added chlorine.

Then there are the little things like tables and shelves, tubs to wash the dishes in and a rake to clear the detritus from the walking areas.

So much of living anywhere is figuring out how to adapt to the environment you find yourself in, in a way that doesn’t contribute to making the climate worse.

Review: Blink

Blink is a dimension-hopping secret agent story. Agent Smith works for the Utility Company, a top-secret US agency that deals with the sort of issues that can’t get reported in more pedestrian secret agencies…you the know the drill. His latest case is the result of one scientist’s successful effort to breach the barriers within the multiverse and allow travel between two parallel realities. One of them starts messing with the other, and the inevitable complicated conflict arises.

This is a fun read. There’s plenty of action and twists and turns to the plot to keep it fresh. It clocks in at 107,000 words so the length is good value – there’s even two interludes, allowing you to relieve yourself the restroom or buy more popcorn if you wish. The main difference between the realities is reasonably well thought out and surprisingly realistic, although the tone may cause non-Americans to roll their eyes.

On the downside, the novel could have done with a good line editor. Also, while complicated plot twists are an inherent part of this genre, some of the twists in this book – especially towards the end – don’t bear scrutiny, to the point where it can break the suspension of disbelief. If you’re willing to dive back into a fun story after a WTF moment – for example, if you like James Bond movies – you should give this book a try.

The Traveling View

Traveling is an odd experience, because everything changes. I don’t mean in the obvious sense that you move from one place to a different place, but that each time you take a route it is different.

I’ve done a lot of traveling recently. I drove down to Oaxaca, and then over Easter I drove back to Cuernavaca so the kids could see their friends, and then back to Oaxaca. Then Karla had yet another meeting that involved her staying away from home for two nights, so I drove another two hours along the coast to Escobilla, where there are some lovely cabins to stay in, a lagoon full of birds and crocodiles and a long beach where sea turtles come to nest. At this time of year there’s only the carcasses of the turtles that didn’t make it back to the sea, but I am not averse to the macabre.

turtlecorpseAnyway, each time you take a route it is different, the familiar sites and landmarks interspersed with the novel and strange. On the way back to Cuernavaca I was shocked at just how many Oxxos had appeared in the sparse weeks since I had left. They had been spreading fast before, but now they were sprouting like mushrooms after rain. Just outside Cuernavaca an old hotel with a classic facade had torn out several rooms and put in another one of those damn convenience stores.

More buildings are sprouting up along the highway outside of Cuernavaca, in some cases with quite serious foundations.

Marquelia has a new two-story mini-plaza… it doesn’t have any shops yet, but someone has set up a tiangui inside and hung clothes and hammocks from the stairs. At the turn-off to Pinotepa, in the triangle of grass between the meeting of three roads, they’ve put playground equipment for kids, so that is now on the list of good places to stop.

If they clear out scrub by the side of the road (normally by burning it) what had seemed like forest now gives a clear view over fields, and further along banana trees get replaced by papayas and suddenly I feel like I’ve taken a wrong turn somehow, and am driving down some strange road to an unknown destination. Even the time of day has this effect – the sun sets on my left so I look to the right more, and instead of seeing the abarrotes I see a run-down enramada with people selling quesadillas and huaraches, and that same feeling of being on a different route in a different timeline sneaks over me.

The only way I know for sure that I haven’t taken the wrong turn is that the Coastal Highway is pretty much the only paved road for several hundred kilometres, and there are no turn-offs to mistakenly take.

Coming back from Oaxaca in February I was a passenger in a bus rather than driving a car, and for the first time I could look at the scenery instead of the road. It’s beautiful, and a very different experience than the jostle of traffic.

If you stay in the one place it changes, of course, but you see each increment so you don’t really notice. Only by traveling is the nature of the world revealed, the constant change emphasised through the staccato visions you have of each place, and each journey.

So keep on truckin’, my friends.