Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

h1

Springtime in Oaxaca

Friday, March 20, 2009

Today’s the first day of spring, though in Oaxaca it has been quite summer-like for a good month more.  It’s been quite warm here and dry.  Very enjoyable I think.  Come summer, it actually cools off here somewhat and rains a bit.

To commemorate the first day of spring, there is a children’s day environmental parade going on through the centro of Oaxaca.  Various daycares, including Benjamin’s, are participating in the parade.  The children are dressed up in various costumes with a spring/environmental theme: mostly as animals, but some were decked out as things to recycle and as trash that shouldn’t be thrown out on the street.  There are a couple of bands leading the parade through the streets of Oaxaca, starting off at the Santo Domingo church, and wending their way through the streets of Oaxaca.

Benjamin and Margarita in the Spring Parade

Benjamin and Margarita in the Spring Parade

Advertisements
h1

Macuiltianguis in 3-D

Friday, March 13, 2009

While going through my photos of our recent trip to Macuil for Carnaval, I noticed that I had accidentally managed to take two almost identical photos of [I’ya Periicu], a distinctive peak visible from Macuil and bordering the town of Luvina [Debiina].  The two photos are similar enough, yet distinct enough, that they make an excellent stereoscopic pair (click on the thumbnail below for a full size view):

I'ya Periicu San Pablo Macuiltianguis 20090224

If you cross your eyes right, or have your own stereoscopic viewer, the details of I’ya Periicu to the south of Macuil (the peak with the saddle-like shape on top) comes out quite nicely.  Some of the houses of Macuil leading down into Margarita’s barrio are visible on the right of the photo.  And beyond the tree, on the mountain behind I’ya Periicu is the town of Abejones [Eyhu’ni], although I’m not sure you can really make out any details of it in the photos.  Enjoy!

h1

Everybody Dance Now

Friday, February 20, 2009

I never thought when I started studying Zapotec that my research at some point would best be served by putting on a dress, but when duty calls, we do what we must.

The main event of Carnaval involves putting on a costume and dancing. The costumes often involve wearing the opposite gender’s clothes and something to cover the face, which, in the name of scientific discovery, I demonstrate here (with Benjamin’s help).

Benjamin and John Ready for Carnaval

Benjamin and John Ready for Carnaval

The traditional masks shown here are painted screens, although anything works, Halloween-type masks (there was even a George W. Bush among the Luvina revelers), bandanas, baskets and bags with eye-holes cut out, etc.

People then danced around in a fenced-off area in front of the agencia. Generally, people dance individually, though occasionally you get couples dancing together, as you can see at the end of the post.

During certain songs, the music periodically pauses and people step up to the microphone to recite verses they have composed, either beforehand, or more impressively, while dancing. The little poems (and I was happy to hear some in Zapotec as well as in Spanish, which is more common) are intended to be humorous, although often at someone’s expense. Despite my attempts at disguise (I pretty well covered every inch of skin), my height gives me away and I even was mentioned in a couple of verses, which I took as an honor. I heard a reference to the gavacha (a white woman), which I understood to be me, and so apparently was a reference to the Queen of England. People who produce good verses are admired, and coming up with them on the fly (such as those directed at me) show particular skill. Some of the best seem to be those that involve back and forth barbs between participants.

The costumes and attempts to disguise the voice can offer some anonymity, and allow for some pointed barbs, although things can get a bit heated too, which is while several of the community police were patrolling the scene carrying clubs. Even so, as the day wore on, several fights did break out (although they didn’t seem to be verse-inspired). This is a regular part of Carnaval, Margarita assured, kind of like fights at a hockey game I guess.

And just to liven things up a bit more, there are also petate bulls, that people (generally the only ones not in costume) can carry around while dancing. They then attempt to smash the petate bulls into the dancers. The more daring dancers try to tempt the people with the bulls and try to dance out of the way.

I didn’t end up facing the toros myself, since they did’t start using them until later in the afternoon. I only got to dance a few songs before we stopped for a lunchtime hour break. It was overcast, but my costume was still too hot, and once I got out of it, I didn’t get around to getting back into it, before the day’s dancing was done.

That was the thing that surprised me the most: The dancing ended around 6pm. I really expected something that involved drunken revelry to be more of a nighttime activity, but it’s a all day event here. They’ll be starting again at 8 in the morning.

Dancing at Carnaval, Luvina, 2009

Dancing at Carnaval, Luvina, 2009

h1

The Official Drink of Carnaval

Friday, February 20, 2009

By the time we reached Luvina [Debiina’], the party had already started. There was a fenced off area that was set up in front of the agencia [yuulagwi’], and people were already there in costume, dancing:

First Day of Carnaval in Luvina 2009

First Day of Carnaval in Luvina 2009

We watched for a little while, and then we were invited upstairs to visit with some members of the cabildo. We were offered sodas and/or beer while we visited with them. Of course, alcohol is an important part of Carnaval with lots of beer and mezcal consumption, but the traditional drink of Carnaval is tepache [nuppi’] or [nuppi’ yattsi]. It’s an alcoholic drink made from pulque [nuppi’ sittsi], the liquid from the center of the maguey plant [tu’a].

After we had finished our sodas and beer, they brought in some tepache for us. It’s a brownish yellow color (hence the name nuppi’ yattsi, yattsi is the word for yellow), fairly sweet, and stronger than I had thought. It’s offered for free during Carnaval to revelers and spectators alike (and the cabildo assured us they had enough for the 5 days of Carnaval in Luvina). So with that, why not dance a little?

h1

Tumbas, Tumbas, JaJaJa

Friday, February 20, 2009

Carnaval doesn’t actually start in Macuil until tomorrow, so we decided to head over to the neighboring town of Luvina [Debiina’], where the festivities started today.

After spending the night in Macuil, we drove over to Luvina, and as we were going along Margarita’s sister told us that she had been taken on a hike up the mountain beside Luvina called [I’ya Periicu].  The peak is very distinctive and visible from Macuil, [as can be seen in the following photo taken Feb. 24, 2009].

I'ya Periicu

I'ya Periicu

She told us that up there she had seen presumably pre-Columbian columns and that there were tombs up there.  That’s really exciting. While there are a number of excavated sites in the valley, I haven’t really seen much evidence of archaeological explorations in the district of Ixtlán. It would be great to go up there and find something new to the archaeological world. Since my first visit to Oaxaca, I’ve said after I completed my linguistics degree, I should go get a degree in archaeology. (And it might not be a bad idea. There was a recent discussion on Language Log about the trouble archaeologists and linguists have in understanding the discipline of the other.) This recent claim about tombs near Luvina, if true, certainly renews that desire.

h1

Slim Thursday

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We’re heading off to Macuil today for Carnaval related activities. Here’s a video someone posted showing what’s in store for me:

h1

A China-Mesoamerica Connection?

Friday, December 19, 2008

While getting dressed this morning, I was watching an episode of Iron Chef–the joys of YouTube!–and discovered that the Chinese likely have similar kinds of beliefs about hot and cold as Mesoamericans seem to have. In the episode–the Horsehair Crab Battle–Iron Chef Chen Kenichi prepares gyoza stuffed with boiled crab meat, crab liver, and ginger; you can see them preparing them here (starting around 1:25):

At 1:50, the color commentator, Dr. Yukio Hattori (“always a pleasure”), mentions that he can tell us why Chen has included ginger in the dish. He notes that the Chinese have a belief that crab meat takes heat away from the body, while ginger has a thermal effect on the body, warming it up. So, many Chinese places, he notes, serve tea with ginger to warm people up. Combining ginger with the crab balances out the heat transfer, I suppose.

This actually sounds very similar to the beliefs people have here. Certain items are cold (“taking heat away from the body”), which is the case for fish here, even though they may be cooked and served warm. Other items, by contrast, are warm–chilis for example–bringing warmth to the body, regardless of the temperature they are served at.

Now, I don’t expect there may be any direct connection between the Chinese and Mesoamerican beliefs (one borrowed from the other, or handed down from common ancestry), but I do wonder if this might be a fairly common belief around the world, independently invented and developed. It will be interesting to find out. I need an ethnomedicology course.