Art is subjective but I think good street art should be transgressive, make a statement or speak to the community that it is painted in. Most of these represent the later by showing the people and the culture in the state of Quintana Roo in Tulum, Mexico.
Tulum has a plethora of street art with many simple concrete walls begging to be illustrated on and many visitors from around the world eager to paint. No surprise since Tulum is a special and beautiful place that people want to spend time in.
I realized while walking around photographing the street art in Tulum–that many of the places that I have visited that have excellent street art also have intense gentrification. Street Art tends to follow the emergence of hip or maybe it iss the other way around.
In spite of the fact that Tulum is a town taken over by tourism–it is a magical place to visit.
2016 was a big year of change for me, for the world and for family and friends.
I say, bring it.
You don’t get anywhere being stagnant. And that is becoming more and more the theme of this blog.
While I will continue to fill these pages with street art from around the world and practical information regarding health and travel, the place I have been landing more personally is that playing small will not get you anywhere.
In fact doing otherwise is sorely needed and judging from the election and the #nodapl fight at Standing Rock we will not be able to afford to be complacent in the future.
I left my job of four years of doing product demos for nutritional supplements. I am grateful for the work I had, the connections I made but it was time for something new.
Went to Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Miami and it was the best trip ever! It was a dream long in the making to visit Brazil and I learned that I am quite comfortable living out of a backpack and exploring foreign places, especially if it is hot outside and has the music I like.
That trip included going to Carnival in Salvador, Bahia Brazil. It was crazy and so fun!
Moved officially out of the San Francisco Bay Area. It will always feel like home but I’m glad to kiss the Bay Area Housing crisis goodbye.
I took these pictures in October, 2016 in Guanajuato, Mexico during the festival of Cervantino. It wasn’t related to the festival but I felt it was important to document the voices of these women. #metoo is all over the world.
I asked a fellow traveler from Argentina to help me with the translation and she told me that there was two terrible rapes in which the women were also killed in Argentina last year. Terrible violent acts and one in which the perpetrator got off because he was a son of a Policeman.
In October there was a response and protest from women around South and Central America. She was in Oaxaca at the same time I was in Guanajuato and there also was street action there.
I hadn’t occurred to me it was a mass action–because as woman, we are always at risk.
I did not come from your rib, you came from my vagina.
Take your rosaries out of our uterus.
If priests gave birth, abortion would be legal.
The value of love is joy not pain.
No only punches hurt.
To be a woman is to not be in danger.
We want our lives.
If you touch one of us, we will respond to all.
The featured image above–the Virgin of Guadeloupe is from inside a church in Guanajuato. It seemed appropriate for the incredulous way in which in this world, women are revered and yet not at the same time.
No festival or concert in the United States prepared me for the crowds of Carnival in Salvador, Brazil. It was beyond what I could have imagined but that made it even more amazing. I read on the Lonely Planet and Thorn Tree forums about Carnival in Salvador but it was much crazier then they had described.
Does this mean you should not go to Carnival in Salvador? No, absolutely not. Especially if you love Brazilian culture and music.
Vai, vai, vai. (Portuguese for go)
Salvador is a coastal city in the state of Bahia in northern Brazil. It has the largest concentration of Afro-Brazilians in all of Brazil allowing for a preservation of African customs and religion. It has led to a richness of musical styles such as Samba Reggae and the spiritual Afoxé.
Carnival in Salvador begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and continues through Tuesday night, technically. Although the people across the street from my Airbnb were still partying on Ash Wednesday. They were still drinking beer (carnival is already 6 days of heavy beer drinking) and still playing music very loud.
On Thursday the stores will board up and banks will close. I was lucky I didn’t need to buy anything and had an opportunity to go to far away from where the parades were to withdraw cash because ATMs were closed along parade routes.
The main events are parades that transverse through the city in 3 main areas. Some are during the day but the party really gets going at night and it also becomes unreasonably packed. The parades consist of tractor trailers carrying top musical acts on massive stages called Trio Electricos. Carnival in Brazil is defined but this event–different then in Rio at the Sambadromo where floats are more like a theatrical production.
Carnival goers follow behind the Trio Electricos and you can buy an Abada or be “Pipoca or Popcorn” as you bounce around in the street. With the Abada you get a T-shirt and are in a roped area behind the truck and can get a bit pricey.
Sounds clear enough, right?
There are so many people in the street that when some of the Trio Electricos come by it becomes impossible to pass or even move. Each group has hundreds if not thousands of people following it. People follow kind of walking and kind of dancing, kind of pushing–especially if the group is popular. Then the Police come through dressed in riot gear and push the crowd over as they pass. You could be knocked over. Some people are nice but others just want to keep their place in line and the vibe can get intense. Fights break out in the pushing and the moment is ripe for pickpocketing.
There was time when a well-known hip hop artist in Brazil came by and I stayed against the wall, holding to a pipe and almost jumped up on a concrete out cropping to avoid being pushed. My Airbnb host and I joked I survived a Carnival hurricane.
But here is the thing not every group is like this–it is more the case of popular acts and more true at night. If you follow an Afoxé group such as Ilê Aye, I think is less likely that you will have this experience. My host warned us to be careful especially with Olodum and Bell Marques, that is where the fights break out.
It is tempting to follow the Trio Electrico because that is where the music is. But you can choose a safe place, a wide street to watch from where there is more space and you are less likely to be pushed. It also free. But it also can get a little dull as you wait sometimes what can seem like hours for the next musical act to come by. One Saturday night I found ample space on the Barra route by the ocean and was safe all evening long alone, watching the music.
If you buy an Abada you are inside the ropes of the truck and in theory are safer. I didn’t do it but people I met said they didn’t feel particularly more safe inside the Abada. That there still was pushing. But you do get a T-shirt and get to follow your favorite group all night long. Some acts have two trailers–one is the group and the other is the support trailer that dispenses water and has a bathroom so you never have to leave the Abada. Prices run from about $30 US to $300 US.
There are two more options to enjoy Carnival in Salvador.
One is to buy a ticket to a Camarote which is like a grandstand or 2nd floor bar open to the street which often includes a full bar and buffet. You are safe from the confines of the bar and you can get to see the float from high above but that seems more for partying them for being up close with the music.
The second is to hang out in the Pelourinho, the historical center of Salvador. There you will find a much more chill vibe–almost family like with stages set up around the neighborhood, restaurants to sit outside and small drum and dance groups casually parading on foot around the streets. Much, much fewer people, less beer and the groups parading felt like young artists doing their thing. It also is more traditional and less modern.
Where you stay for Carnival is Salvador will be strategic since it is difficult to go from one section of town to another during the parades. Barra by the sea tends to be where the out of towners are. The streets by the ocean felt more spacious than in some of the other neighborhoods but it is quite far from the Pelourinho. I stayed in a home in Dois de Julho, a neighborhood in between which perhaps could be considered a little rough but was not touristy and close to some of the parade routes. You can take Taxis but getting through can be impossible. I took a moto taxi and it was scary but pretty awesome! I also walked at night from the Pelerinho to Dois de Julho around midnight which we were warned not to do but I was careful to walk with my full guns blazing–my eyes.
Wear sneakers, only take what money need for the night and keep it tucked inside your clothes. I love this Lewis and Clark wallet. Actually I need to thank Liza at Carnival for introducing me to this kind of travel wallet! The same goes for your camera. Find away to keep it hidden and not easy to grab. Also book your lodging it least a few weeks ahead of time. YouTube videos are great way to get an idea how big the crowds get.
Also watch out for the Muquirana– they are young guys that dress up gender bending and go through the crowds with squirt guns, spray foam and sometimes dildos.
There is more than one way to experience Carnival in Salvador. 🙂
Experiencing the art of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Mexico City
Diego Rivera–using his art for social justice and storytelling
Palacio Nacional Bellas Artes Secretaria de Educacion
I have a whole new respect for Diego Rivera’s work. I was familiar with him before but now I understand to a greater detail what he was trying to do with his artwork. Many of his themes reveal the lives of indigenous people, issues of class and capitalism and political struggles of the times. He tried to push the envelope and paint what he thought was important.
He is created Man, Controller of the Universe which was supposed to be in the Rockefeller building in NYC but was destroyed after he included a unflattering portrayal of John D. Rockefeller and a picture of Lenin. Man, Controller of the Universe is now in Bellas Artes in Mexico city–a building which is a work of art in of itself.
When I went to my third stop in Mexico City to see Diego Rivera’s work in the Secretaria de Educacion–I was blown away. Not only is the atrium beautiful but his frescos adorn every alcove for three floors. His work in the Secretaria de Educcaion building is immense and I could imagine the hours he spent and the political impact of having indigenous people adorn these walls. It made me happy that he used the fervor he felt for art for justice and inclusion
Frida Kahlo–vida por vida
Frida Kahlo Museum
Frida on the other hand painted images mostly of herself and at the time no one was doing so. They didn’t take her seriously which seems rather surprising in this day and age of the selfie. People around the world are attracted to her beauty, boldness and the rawness of her pain in her artwork. She is now said to be the most famous Latin American artist of all time.
Visiting the Frida Kahlo museum, which has her home for many years in Coyoacan, a neighborhood in Mexico city brought everything I knew about her to a more personal level. I saw where she painted, where she slept and I saw her clothes. I learned that no matter what she suffered she rarely spoke of it to friends in her home as she didn’t want to turn them off which is perhaps why her artwork was such a powerful outlet.
It was hard to not still romanticize the life of Frida and Diego seeing the way they lived, their home adorned with beautiful colors, their values and intellectual life expressed throughout. The tall windows and courtyards where they would have enjoyed the warmth of the Mexican sun.
This painting was done towards the end of her life and it says, “Vida la Vida–Live for Life”. Still after what she endured: polio, the accident on the bus, many unsuccessful spinal surgeries, physical pain that never left, miscarriages, adultery, loss of a foot–she still lived by this mantra.
If you’re getting ready for a trip around the world or planning to live abroad the list of things to do beforehand may seem immense. Just packing for a long time away is a project in of itself.
Here are some things that I figured out along the way as I was preparing for nomad life. Some are innovative and some are obvious but likely they will make your transition a little easier.
1. Cancel your memberships with your gym or car sharing.
No sense in paying for services if you are not going to be using them. Some gyms will let you put your membership on hold for a fee. Compare the monthly hold fee to new initiation rates–it may not be worth it to pay the monthly fee.
2. Check all your monthly automatic debits and make sure there are things that you want.
Netflix allows different amounts of users per plan so if you are going to be too busy to use it consider canceling your membership or maybe share with a family member or friend.
Netflix is available in other countries but the same selection of shows and movies will not be. I was fully into season two of my favorite show when I left for Mexico and now I have to wait til I return to the states to see the rest.
I’ve never paid for Pandora but if you pay for ad-free, fyi Pandora is not available outside the U.S.
3. Phone: Buy an unlocked phone and consider getting a Google voice number.
Cell phones are our lifeline to the world and it becomes even more true when you are traveling abroad. Your phone will help you stay in touch with friends and family, check your bank charges and use apps like Google translate and Google maps.
Buying an unlocked phone will give you an option to buy a local sim card if necessary. Depending on where you are headed it may not be necessary to get a local sim card. Many hotels, hostels, airbnb’s, even cafes and restaurants have wi-fi so if you plan ahead you can look up information before you leave for the day. Put your phone on airplane mode so it will stop looking for a cell tower.
If you are staying in a town for a length of time–find out where the wi-fi is and stop on in if you need to check your messages or use Google maps. In San Miguel de Allende I had the wi-fi password to a hostel, two cafes, a Chinese buffet and the library so I could almost walk around like I had service!
Two things to know about Google Maps and Translate:
Even if you don’t have service you can still use the GPS in Google maps, sometimes. I say sometimes because there has been times where it hasn’t worked but much of the time you can still use the GPS signal to see where you are. You can not search for an address but you can use it to roughly get around. I could not get it on the street in Mexico city–perhaps it has to be in the your internet cache but I have used it many other places to find my way in a new city.
You can also download directions to your phone and use them when you are not online. Very helpful as a traveler!
Google translate allows you to download by language so you can use it when you are offline. It’s a nice little bit of confidence to have in your back pocket when you don’t know the language. There are also other dictionary apps that work offline.
4. Phone part two.
Go no contract–that way you can stop paying for service when you leave the country.
The tricky thing is keeping your phone number for when you come back. Some companies are better at holding your number than others. T-Mobile will give you 3-4 months before they will release your number. You can also pay T-Mobile $3.00 a month to keep your number current without paying for service. Cricket was not so great at this–they only give you two months before they release your number.
There is another option and it is Google voice. It is the best long-term travel, live abroad thing ever!
You can call and text with the Hangouts Dial-er or Google voice app for free over wi-fi. For free. Google voice also allows you receive an email transcription of voice mails and texts.
The apps are little bit confusing. As far as I know Hangouts dial-er is different from the Hangouts app. Hangouts dial-er will allow you to call U.S. numbers of any kind where as with Hangouts you must call other people who have the Hangouts app and connect via an email address. And then you need the third app, Google voice to receive texts.
You can get a brand new number from Google or you can port your existing number to Google voice. It is all free except when you port your number and that is a one time $20 fee.
You must do this while you have cell service. Google will ask you to confirm via by sending a confirmation to your phone. I have heard of people doing it through Skype but I can not vouch for that. If you want to port your existing number you must do it before you end service with your current carrier. I did it at the last-minute the night before I left the country and it was a little tricky. It can take 24 hours so I was really happy it worked before I got on the plane.
Then when you return to the United States sign up for cell service again and forward your Google voice number to your new cell number. Then you can make and send calls with your Google voice number through your cell plan and your phone number will always remain the same. More information on how to do that here.
San Miguel de Allende is small, beautiful town in central Mexico where old meets the new. The new being modern conveniences like internet, fancy restaurants and home to many foreigners who enjoy the cities charm year round. The old being the buildings that date to the 16th century, the cobblestone streets (ladies leave your heels at home) grand churches and beautiful fountains that you are bound to stumble upon while walking around town. You can imagine a time when they were a necessity, although not anymore.
When you are carrying everything on your back or packing everything into a small suitcase– everything you take with you matters.
Furthermore when it comes to body products you have the TSA to contend with. Every liquid product must be smaller than 3.4 ounces to take as a carry on. I don’t know about you but I don’t like checking my bag. It’s not just that it costs $25, it is because there is nothing better than grabbing your bag and stepping out onto the street of where you have just landed! After customs and immigration, of course.
I’ve narrowed down my beauty kit to simple and effective and these are some of the products I love.
It’s impossible to take enough shampoo and conditioner to last months of travel in a carry on and additionally buying natural beauty products free of chemicals in countries outside of the United States can be difficult so I came up with small concentrated items that would last me for months.
For shampoo and body soap both I use J.R.Liggett’s original shampoo and body bar. It’s made with natural oils such as olive, coconut and castor. It contains no detergents so it doesn’t strip your hair and you might not need conditioner afterwards.
I found a small zip pouch to carry the soap bar that is more compact then those travel plastic soap containers. It is made out of heavy-duty plastic, the kind that is used to make rice bags in Asia. I wasn’t sure if it would leak but it works great.
For hair conditioner, body and face moisturizer I use Acure organic Argan oils. I’m addicted to the stuff and I love it. When I came back from Brazil my Mom said my skin looked a special shade of gold. We wondered if it was the sun in Southern hemisphere or the Argan oil that made my skin look so great. Maybe some of both!
I like to buy Acure Argan oil. I’ve tried other brands but I go back to Acure. I trust their quality and how the oil feels on my skin.
For toothpaste I use Weleda Ratanhia toothpaste. I like it not only because it is high quality product free of sodium lauryl sulfate but because it is 2.5 ounces. It is bigger then most travel size toothpaste but still falls under the TSA restrictions. There are several other flavors: calendula, salt, and plant gel. Weleda uses organic and biodynamically farmed plants in their ingredients.
For deodorant I use essential oil. Not only is it much safer and you know that you are not putting junk into your armpit but it is concentrated and comes in very small bottles. Essential oils can mask odor and contain anti-bacterial compounds. One bottle lasts me months.
I hope you have some new ideas for finding the best natural body products for when you travel. And of course you can use these products any time–not just when you are traveling.
I bring you rats. Great big giant rats. From San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I found these rats hanging out down by the river.
Fine specimens..of street art that is. Both pieces are kind of amazing and very large. The bottom picture is facing away from the paintings into a mostly dry river bed.
They can be found on the backside of the Guadeloupe neighborhood in San Miguel de Allende. Walking distance from the centro jardin is about 15 minutes. Guadeloupe has a plethora of street art and there is an organization in San Miguel de Allende furthering street art in the neighborhood, called Muros En Blanco Distrito De Arte.
I have experienced Dia de los Muertos living in the Mission District of San Francisco but never in its country of origin. Finally I got to see it in its native land!
We do not have a official ritual or holiday to honor family members that have died in the United States like they do in Mexico. There is thing called Memorial Day that I think maybe was/is celebrated here and there. Mostly people I know remember their dearly deceased on the day of the loved ones birthday or not at all. I would say as a culture we are afraid of death and it is rarely expressed as a natural part of life.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that most white Europeans lost touch with their pagan heritage (thanks to Christianity) which included the Celtic holiday of Samhain and has the same idea as Dia de Los Muertos and is celebrated on the exact same day. Samhain originated thousands and thousands of miles away and across an ocean. Interesting, huh?
Dia de los Muertos comes from Mexica or Aztec pre-Hispanic traditions and while it is changing— the holiday is still alive and well in Mexico. It is considered a time when the boundaries between the physical and spirit world are more open and spirits can return to the material plane. It is also time to honor the natural cycle of life and death.
San Miguel is a town centered around tourism and home to a large percentage of foreigners that live in the city year round so it’s not your average Mexican town–but still it was lovely to see the community gear up for Dia de los Muertos. In the days preceding: mostly by selling sugar skulls (Calaveras) and marigolds on the street and plazas for decorating graves and altars. The calaveras are placed along with treats the dead (Muertos) enjoyed while alive to welcome them. Marigolds are used to entice spirits to return by their distinct smell.
San Miguel held a celebration in the central plaza with public altars, a Catrina parade (not a costume but an honoring of Dia de Los Muertos and its origins are in social political commentary), and an indigenous music and dance performance.
On Wednesday the second of November and final day of Dia de los Muertos, I went to the large cemetery in town and saw how Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos more traditionally and as a community. The cemetery was bustling in and out. Vendors were selling all kinds of things on the road leading to the entrance of the cemetery. There were marigolds of course, containers for the flowers, candles and all kinds of other things. There was a special for buying cable TV along the way, hats, purses and food of course. There is always something to eat in Mexico.
The cemetery was packed! Families gathered around their loved ones graves, talking and a few were praying. There was a mariachi group and a marching band. No one was crying and to my eyes the mood seemed jovial. People were hanging out. Graves were weeded and decorated– some simply and some more elaborate. It didn’t feel sad til I found myself in the section of the cemetery for children that had died. But still no one was visibly upset, they were cleaning the graves of weeds and marigolds were aplenty.
Public altars in San Miguel Allende.
From a more modern artsy altar in the center of town.
I only took a few pictures in the cemetery–out of respect. Something didn’t feel right about photographing the graves and posting them on the internet.
There is a concentration of street art in the Guadeloupe neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende. It is close to the center of town and home to Via Organica, the health food store and once a month farmers market.
I had a lovely time in Brooklyn this fall. Knowing I was going to be in Brooklyn, I had to get to Bushwick–its well-known for being a haven for street art. Most of these were taken around the L train track and Broadway in Bushwick. If your going to be in NYC, definitely go. It’s a not yet completely gentrified neighborhood which reminded me of Mission Street in San francisco. Pizza was more than 1/2 the price than in other more upscale parts of Brooklyn.