Sunday, February 18, 2024

Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete

Devil at carnaval San Martín Tilcajete

We drove in the morning an hour from our village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, to experience Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete, a town located about 20 miles from Oaxaca City. The annual event is a vibrant celebration that combines pre-Hispanic Zapotec traditions with Catholic rituals. Festivities, known as the "Dance of the Devils," take place in the lead-up to Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) and feature revelers running through the town in costume, with their bodies covered in oil or paint, wearing devilish and otherworldly handmade masks. The colors used in the body paint have symbolic meanings: black represents the underworld, yellow represents the earthly world, and red represents infinity.

Street at carnaval San Martín Tilcajete

The tradition of Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete has been passed down through generations and includes parades, dances, and a satirical wedding. The dancers, known as Aceitados, or "the oiled ones," traditionally only included men, but since the mid-1990s, women have also participated. The celebration is deeply rooted in the local culture, where each person is believed to have a spirit animal assigned at birth, which is represented in the costumes during Carnaval.

The Bride, Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete

Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete

Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete

We had been warned not to wear nice clothes because revelers have been known to dirty the onlookers, many of whom are tourists. I was wary of even slight damage to my expensive camera, especially since I get in close for my best shots.

Carnaval in San Martín Tilcajete

In the end, we had a fabulous time and although the celebrations were raucous, they were constrained and mostly courteous.


Amy bought a couple alebrije she could not resist . . . though we had our eye on some that were way more expensive.  

Definitely we will go again next year.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Pitchforks, Pagans and Ogres


We strolled into the heart of Oaxaca City, engulfed by the vibrant chaos of pre-lent Carnaval. Brass and percussion bands filled the air with lively rhythms, setting the stage for the extravagant procession of revelers. Everywhere we turned, people adorned in elaborate costumes, some as devils with horns and pitchforks, others as pagan beings and ogres, paraded through the streets with infectious jubilation. Oaxaca always has surprises up its sleeve. 

The energy was palpable, a whirlwind of laughter, music, and colorful spectacle. We couldn't help but be swept away by the festivities, our hearts swelling with excitement. Hand in hand, we wove through the throngs of merry-makers, capturing the magic of the moment with our cameras, preserving memories of the enchanting experience. Of course, I felt entirely in my element as a street photographer and hurled myself into the midst of mayhem. Amy stayed on the perimeter . . . we always stayed close enough not to lose one another.

Amidst the chaos, we found ourselves immersed in a world where tradition and revelry collided in a glorious celebration of life. It was pure joy shared between us as we danced through the streets, embracing the spirit of Carnaval and the warmth of our Oaxacan community. 

In fleeting moments, surrounded by devils and ogres, we found ourselves utterly captivated by the magic of Oaxacan carnival, grateful for the opportunity to revel in its splendor together.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Saying Something Difficult

What struck me was tremendous loss while reading the CNN article,“She was fleeing with her grandson, who was holding a white flag. Then she was shot.” In intimate words and pictures the senseless event was  described by the women's surviving family members. 

Immediately I knew the murdered woman was of a pure heart and devoted to her family. I know Middle Eastern families and have friends in Egypt so the story felt more personal to me. 

I decided to create a painting and used AI to help visualize the scene. AI did a great job cobbling together a visual narrative. I combined images to arrive at a “sketch” of the painting I wanted to make.

I wanted to show the war-torn street in Gaza, with rubble and bombed buildings . . . and a dead woman sprawled across the road. The other part is the little boy with his white flag of surrender and peace, holding the hand of his grandmother. For some reason, I chose to portray the picture as witness to the moments before and after the tragedy occurred.

When I start  a painting in the “old” style of art, where I am depicting a realistic scene, I make a drawing on canvas, and underpainting with limited color. A full fledged piece arrives that includes all elements of color, drawing and subject. 

After getting my drawing on canvas, when I began the underpainting, I dripped some red⏤symbolizing life and death in art. I  felt sure as I worked, knowing the subject was not coming out of any thought of material gain. It is not pleasing fluff ready for any wall in a home. Rather, I had deep feeling of doing something meaningful, saying something difficult that needed to be said.

In the end, it became an unusual painting for me. It is suspended in a semi-finished state . . . life interrupted. The colors are gone except for some streaks of blood, while the dear, innocent subjects live in a wasteland. I paid homage.