Monday, April 25, 2011

Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca (MUFI)

MUFI, Museum of Philately, dedicated solely to postal art in Latin America, was opened in 1998, located in a beautiful restored colonial building on 504 Reforma. The British post office created the first postal stamp in 1840 and with this it gave birth to Philately, a term which refers to the collecting and the study of postal elements: stamps, seals, envelopes and other graphic manifestations relative to the different forms of sending correspondence. It is perhaps the most popular hobby all over the world. On August 1st 1856 the Mexican government put into circulation it’s first postal stamps with the effigy of Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a hero of the Independence.

The museum has a variety of different exhibition spaces beginning with the Sala Grande dedicated to temporal expositions. Included in this space are traditional mail boxes considered as architecture in small scale, almost a tiny building, imagined to host their own inhabitants, the letters. In 2005 to celebrate the 400 anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes publication of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha or simply Don Quixote, this space hosted poster art placing Don Quixote in contemporary society. For a look at this exhibit visit my picasa web album.

Next is the La Boveda which has a collection of postal stamps, ordered chronologically, back to 1864. There are also about thirty letters written by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to her Doctor Leo Eloesser. The museum library, Jose Lorenzo Cossío y Cosío, has more than 6000 books. The museum has a souvenirs store and offers workshops to kids and adults.

The outdoor spaces are lovely and varied from cool and lush to stark and modern.

You can visit their website

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sierra Norte

Oaxaca lies in a convergence of three valleys at about 1500 m (5000’). Mountain ranges of more than 3000 m (10,000’) block the weather from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. Mexicans refer to the people who live in these mountains as ‘the people of the clouds’. Some of these people live in a group of small pueblos known collectively as the Pueblos Mancomunados that are run as cooperatives and together they own about 70,000 acres of the Sierra Norte. The Pueblos Mancomunados provide services for eco tourism. You can stay in an adobe cabin at night, eat at a restaurant in town, then during the day hike or mountain bike on trails or on roads connecting the pueblos. Only 40 miles from Oaxaca, San Isidro Llano Grande is one of those pueblos surrounded by pine forest with a bit of fir and a lot of madroña and a bit of scrub oak. The woods contain many useful plants including pennyroyal, pericón, chepil, papal, rabbit grass, copal, chepiche, purslane, maguey, and epazote. In the rainy summer months they have mushrooms. Considering the elevation the terrain is fairly gentile.

Since for each 1000’ of elevation the temperature drops from 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit with 5 being the norm for clear skies it can be 25 degrees cooler than the valley floor. Even though it can get cold, it rarely snows in the Sierra Norte. When the clouds come usually it warming and it rains. Although every place on this earth is unique the upper elevations of the Sierra Norte feel a bit like coast range in southern Oregon near Ashland with a touch of California’s Northern Sierra thrown in, but then there are the tropical plants such as bromeliads. For another 20 pictures please go to my picasa web album.

Here are a few websites with a bit more information:árez

Monday, April 4, 2011

Galeria Arte de Oaxaca

The historic center of Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful in Mexico and is a renowned tourist destination. Still beauty and historical value preserved only for tourism would be of little value if there were no one to transform the tradition and beauty in a living cultural awareness. One such place is the Galeria Arte de Oaxaca. Galeria Arte de Oaxaca was founded in 1987 with the help of famous Ocotlan artist Rodolfo Morales to promote young Oaxacan artists. Prominent among the artists of Oaxaca are Rufino Tamayo, Rodolfo Morales, Francisco Toledo, Filemon Santiago, Eddie Martinez, Cecilio Sanchez, Abelardo Lopez, Fernando Olivera, Rolando Rojas, Enrique Flores, and Amador Montes. For more than twenty years, Galeria Arte de Oaxaca has brought to light different expressions of the art of Oaxaca. Currently the Galeria Arte de Oaxaca is housed in an eighteenth century building. In 1996 the artist, Rodolfo Morales, purchased the house as the first property of the cultural foundation that bears his name specifically to house the Galeria Arte de Oaxaca. Cultural Foundation Rodolfo Morales AC, is an institution dedicated to the rescue of architectural and cultural heritage of the central valleys of Oaxaca, the restoration of historical monuments, the promotion of popular art, music and performing arts and the promotion of education of children and youth in the Ocotlán district of Oaxaca, and the preservation of local traditions.

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) was Zapotecan born in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He moved to México City to attend the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas "San Carlos." Tamayo worked as a draftsman at the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia where he was exposed to the cultural wealth of pre-Colombian México. While his contemporaries were advocating art with a political message, Tamayo's work focused on plastic forms integrated with a masterful use of colors and textures. Tamayo devoted himself to creating an identity in his work, expressing what he believed was the traditional Mexico.

Rodolfo Morales (1925-2001) was a Mexican surrealist painter, who incorporated elements of magic realism into his work and is known for his brightly colored surrealistic dream-like canvases and collages often featuring Mexican women in village settings. He was notable for his restoration of historic buildings in Ocotlán. Morales shared mainly through his dedication to the study, preservation and enhancement of the traditional heritage of the region of Oaxaca.

Francisco Toledo, born in 1947, has the same attitude, the same spirit, the same concern to establish a continuum between past and present. He has also founded institutions for the recovery of cultural heritage. Considered one of the best living artists in Mexico, Toledo is a master printmaker, draftsman, painter, sculptor and ceramist. His art reflects a deep appreciation for the aesthetics of nature, particularly animals that are not conventionally associated with beauty (bats, iguanas, frogs, insects). The view of Toledo says the world of humans and animals are one with nature. His art is cut heavily with expressionism, tinged with black humor.
For more photos click here.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Teatro Macedonio Alcalá

The Teatro Macedonio Alcalá is named in honor of Macedonio Alcalá Prieto, a Mexican violinist, pianist and songwriter born in the City of Oaxaca in 1831. He is remembered today for his waltz, "Dios nunca muere" (God Never Dies), which is considered the anthem of Oaxaca. Construction of the theater began in 1903, was completed in August 1909, and opened on September 5th of that year. It originally operated as a theater and casino, called Luis Mier y Teran. Over the last 100 years the teatro was the boxing and wrestling area, casino, Government inauguration hall as well as movie theatre. The teatro can accommodate a total of 800. In 1999 an earthquake damaged the theatre; restoration began in 2000. Today the teatro hosts the symphony and other music, dance programs, operas, and other civic functions.

The main entrance is located on the corner of Independencia and Armenta y Lopez and divides two symmetrical facades. Inside, the foyer is done in the French character, much in the style of Louis XV. On the ceiling is an allegory of the Temple of Art where the “La Fama” and the “El Premio” are showcased. A white marble staircase leads to the main hall done in imperial style shaped in a horseshoe with six levels: the orchestra, orchestra seating, first balcony, second balcony, gallery and paradise. Around the ceiling starting at the stage there is a bust of General Luis Mier y Teran for whom the teatro was first named. From this point circulating outward are nine medallions containing portraits of famous artists and writers: Victor Hugo, Calderon de la Barca, G. Verdi, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Shakespeare, Racine, Wagner, Beethoven and Moliere.
On the ceiling itself are the nine muses. The curtain has pictorial composition of the Parthenon and Mount Parnassus. In the background are the clouds and Apollo’s carriage drawn by four horses.

You can see more photos by clicking here.

Los Danzantes and El Timon

Los Danzantes
Holiday greeters in the courtyard in front of Los Danzantes

Let’s take a break and have something to eat. Oaxaca has many choices. Los Danzantes is a sister restaurant to one in Mexico City. It’s located off an interior courtyard on Macedonia Alcala between Bravo and Allende and is open for lunch and dinner starting at around 1:30 PM. While not traditional Oaxacan cuisine it is very upscale and combines modern and traditional elements in both food and décor. Normally they command top prices but on Wednesday and Friday they offer a price fix comida consisting of a mezcalito, sopa o entrada, plato fuerte, agua de sabor, postre, and café o té all for $105 (pesos) and prepared to their high standards. Get there early, it starts around 1:30 PM and when they run out your out of luck. For 25 pesos more they’ll throw in a glass of wine. Another nice thing about the comida, the chef gets to play. At most restaurants in town the menu rarely changes.
Before the lunch rush
Pools and the lounge area
Stuffed squash blossoms with chapulines
A starter of pasta with camaróne
The main course a chili stuffed with mariscos
A dessert of guayaba with a salsa of tuna
Los Danzantes movable awning of sails
El Timon

The second place, El Timon, is a hole in the wall with about 7 small tables. El Timon translates to the rudder so expect mariscos. The main thing here is tostadas or cócteles of mariscos, including camarón, pulpo, ceviche, almejas, y ostras or in English, shrimp, octopus, ceviche, clams, and oysters. You can also get a shrimp soup and on Fridays and Saturdays whole fried fish, usually Huachinango or red snapper. The ceviche here is better than at some of Oaxaca’s finest. The cóctele de camarón y pulpo is a personal favorite. The cócteles come in three sizes and you can wash one down with fresh limonada or naranjada, bottled water or coke. Everything is made to order including the limonada and it’s often a one man show so be prepared to wait. El Timon located on Matamoros between Porfirio Diaz and Garcia Vigil is open midday only from around 12:30 to about 6.  Unfortunately El Timon closed in January 2012.