Saúl and Alma Aragón Ramírez  (http://blogs.sjsu.edu/casa/tag/alebrije-artisans-saul-aragon-ramirez/) are artisans from the town of Arrazola, Oaxaca.  They create alebrijes.  Alebrijes are elaborately decorated wood carvings that are made from the wood of copal trees.  They typically are constructed out of one piece of the wood that most carvers will explain inspires them to draw the creature out of the wood.

When Saul was in Sacramento last fall presenting his art form for my college, some of the people who viewed and purchased his work wanted to have a hawk, our campus mascot.

Saul, Alma, one of their daughters, and I met for dinner one evening, and Alma and Saul presented me with this hawk to bring back to my college to share with the campus president and my colleagues. They told me they had been working on the piece since we last met: carving, sanding, curing, and painting it.  And, they wanted me to carry it back as a gift, a symbol of our friendship.  I accepted the treasure, the time and distance and camaraderie this stunning figure represents.


Devils on K Street – A Pastorela


A pastorela is a theatrical presentation, featuring shepherds as they follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus. Along the way, they face great challenges. These dramas of the Nativity are a part of Mexican tradition, and we had one in Sacramento.

It took place in several different acts at corners on K Street, ending at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. How strange to see el Diablo in a battle against San Miguel a block away from the State Capitol building, outside of Chops, on the way to the Crest Theater. In this political town, it made sense to depict Jose and pregnant Maria represent undocumented Californians in their quest for the American Dream and in their journey to provide a home for Jesus.

There were devils and angels on K Street, and a crowd grew as we headed for the church to watch good triumph over evil.

Photo Class Cont…


So, the photography lesson continued, from 9-10:30 on Saturday night. We had sweets and took pictures and videos of anything around us, learning a little bit more about shadows and holding the camera steady and whether people wanted their pictures taken. At first, most didn’t, but, as you can see in one, some even started to pose (especially if they could see themselves in the camera).

Mateo took more than twenty shots of a one-legged action figure, each time getting steadier and playing with the focus. While Cecilia and Mateo focused on the picture taking, Augostino did his clown routine for me, wreaking a bit of chaos (especially for the man the next table over whose chair was bumped twice during the routines). At one point, Augostino put his head in my lap as if he wanted comforting, but it was a surprise attack as he pretended to carve me up with a spoon.

The fun might’ve gone longer, but at one point someone looked up and Julio was missing, really gone. He couldn’t be found in his usual hiding spots, and for ten minutes, even Augostino was frantic, wailing ne-ne into the crowded sidewalk. I stayed at the table, feeling foolish and alone and worried. And then he was found in the bushes with someone else’s missing ne-ne.



















Jenni Rivera


Televisions all over Oaxaca have been covering the plane crash of banda and reality television star Jenni Rivera. Originally form Long Beach, California, Jenni Rivera was a controversial and well-loved figure in Mexico.

A sad roundtable panel of women read Tweets from people touched by this loss and spoke with people who had seen her last show in Monterrey and so on.

I am just a couple of years younger than she was, but she had such a different life. By 1989, when I was headed to college, she already had children and her singing career was taking off. She leaves behind a family of musicians and five children.

She is known for her powerful female message. One of her songs, “Las Malandrinas,” is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01ysi1dKbXg.