Though I’ve been here two months and three previous times, I still jump and close my eyes for each cahuete sent into the day or night sky. I still cringe and show my fear (it is not exactly fear).

I know people get used to the noise, to the little particles of ash and fire falling over them. To me, it is still like a whip cracking over my head. It takes everything I have not to duck or squeal.

You Have to See This

More altars, more parades, more masks and costumes, more flowers and papel picado, more celebration everywhere.

Leaving school, I saw two groups working on two altars. I arrived at the posada to see water spilled all over the entryway as Mari was assembling the offenda there. I contributed to the madness by upsetting a second vase of flowers that had not been weighted down.

At the cafe where I joined friends for hot chocolate, the only bread they had was on the altar.

Browsing through the “new” stands selling all things Dia: copal, flowers, papel picado, statues, nuts, loquats, apples, oranges, bread by the truckload, I came across a man in a truck full of flowers. As I asked if I might take a photo, he rearranged his whole load and asked me questions as he worked and then posed.

There is so much to see and hear and taste and smell. Most importantly, I want to find the words to describe how this all feels. Instead, I report.

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Meet Veronica

People sense my discomfort with making things. It’s not as if it is any sort of a mystery. They say nice things like I really like your witch hat, rasta cap, flowers. I am grateful for the kind words for my labor.

It really did feel like labor. After painting and putting acrylic on my mask, I then was informed that my mask was too “debil” (weak or feeble, but I prefer delicate). So, we had to add more layers of venda, use a blow dryer, live with the new “bandages” that could not be sanded at this point, repaint, reapply acrylic, but the face back under the blow dryer. I know my face said something about how I was done with the mask, and then I was really done. All I had left was to figure out an outfit to accompany her and conjure a name beyond Abeja. I call her Veronica, after one of the Ronettes, a group from Spanish Harlem that popularized the do.

I tried it with my hair down. It definitely looked like an incomplete witch hat. With my hair up, I think it sort of reads beehive. However, I bought a knitted cap (black) to help keep my hair hidden.

The parade starts at 11:30 or 12 tomorrow. We will hit the streets with a band, have mezcal, celebrate big–Oaxacan style.

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Hotel Transylvania

Saturday night I went to see Hotel Transylvania at Cineppolis. A 3D version, this outing marked my first film of this type outside of an IMAX theatre.

The movie, an animated tale about the power if love to cross cultural divides, was completely in Spanish, including the delightful score. Clearly designed for children, the film appealed to me as I speak Spanish as a little girl still (although under Flor’s cultivation I’m maturing quickly).

The 3D elements caused the majority of the crowd to squeal in equal parts delight and fear. I could hear the magic of film working throughout the duration of the story.

A great way to hear Spanish, to have the music of the words, sentences, songs in my ears, films, as much for their didacticism and delight, are an important part of my curriculum.

Do I Bring Cake?

Recently, I have enjoyed the hospitality of several different Mexican families. For the first, we purchased a fruit arrangement, but we never saw it or heard anything about it.

So I asked Jesus what I should bring to the artisans to thank them. Of course, I should have something from the US or Sacramento, but I have nothing. And, I don’t know what I might have anyway.

I ran through a list:
A cake?
Mezcal? Wine?
A plant?
More fruit?
Art? For people whose work is making and selling art?

Jesus said that if I decided t bring anything at all (because nothing is expected), I should bring something I can carry on the bus. I agreed.

Then he said: “Dulces” (candy). When I asked his favorites he unfurled a list as if he’d been waiting for the question. Usually he speaks slowly for me, but he went into super speak. Because I couldn’t lasso the list, I decided to get a mix of US staples (Snickers, m&m’s, gum) with some classic Mexican candies including Glorias (made from goat’s milk), marzipan, and chocolate-coated clown pops, among other things.

The recipients were pleased with the thought, and Jesus was surprised to see how his suggestion turned out as I presented his own package to him.

Pasa Le (Come in)

In class, we are told that the imperative is impolite, that we should use the conditional when petitioning someone to do something unless we are the boss or the parent or are reciting a recipe.

However, as people are welcoming me into their shops they will often us the command form to say, “Come in.”

I was standing outside the ex-convent watching couples in a dance class. The intensity in trying to learn to move together was captivating. My recollection of dance classes is neither as beautiful nor as tranquil. And so I stood staring while the man at the door urged me to come in. I was tempted, wondering about the music, the words of the instructor, the exchange between the lovers as they learn to be together.

One More

The official celebration does not begin until tomorrow, but people are ready to go. In fact, tonight I saw more than four comparsas (parades specific to Dia de los Muertos) and many costumes.

One of the parades was the most rollicking I have ever seen in Oaxaca. Fueled by mezcal, beer, and marijuana, the pace stalled in front of Cafe Brujula. People stood in the streets dancing to the band and repeatedly shouting for the group to play one more. One man began to vomit and his lunch nearly hit my leg, but his friend guided him out of the way of the heavy pedestrian traffic, and the party is only warming up…

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