My sister and I have assembled these pieces from our collection and to offer for sale. Many are earrings. Some are small and go well in this time of mask-wearing as they won’t get hung up on the ties. The larger pieces are perfect for social distancing al fresco dinner parties with one or two others (who are as careful as you are) with at least six feet separating each of you. I’m picnicking from time-to-time with a trusted friend and feel comfortable removing my mask when I’m sitting at a safe distance. Then, I wear my big earrings and lipstick! Many of the pieces were collected over the past 20 years from various places we have visited in Mexico — Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puebla, Chiapas, Michoacan, and even New Mexico. We want to offer them to you at very attractive prices.
To Buy: Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, and item number. I will send you a PayPal invoice to pay with credit card, adding on $12 for USPS mailing to anywhere in USA. Happy to combine multiple items with one mailing fee.
I left Oaxaca on March 12, 2020, for what was to be a two-month return to the USA, first to visit family in California for a week, and then to check on my North Carolina apartment. I landed in Los Angeles to see my son and brother, with a plan to visit my sister in San Francisco next.
On March 15, the California stay-at-home order started. I was with my son for two months in a one-BR apartment. In the beginning, I ordered face masks for us as we walked in the wildlife preserve wetlands along the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. Then, I turned my attention to Oaxaca.
What could I do to be useful to help the place I call home for most of the year? That’s when I decided to start The Oaxaca Mask Project to offer face coverings FREE for anyone in need. This was accomplished with help from many Oaxaqueños and gueros who live in and remain in Oaxaca. From April 14 to today (July 3, 2020), I have raised a bit over $20,000 USD through 283 individual gifts. We made and distributed 3,223 face masks throughout the city and villages.
At the request of the Teotitlan del Valle Community President and the Public Health Committee, we purchased and mailed a high-quality vital signs monitor, and donated funds to purchase pulse oximeters, gallons of alcohol and hand-sanitizer. The vital signs monitor helps assess blood oxygen levels as a way to detect covid-19. I asked for designated donations for the very costly monitor and received gifts from Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Dr. Deborah Morris, and Boojie Colwell.
My thoughts are always with Oaxaca regardless of where I am physically located. I continually plug into the public health information to know how our people are doing, and to also help me determine when I will return. I should have been back by now. My plan was to be in my Teotitlan del Valle casita by the first of July. Now, there is no certainty about much and my first concern is to stay safe and have access to excellent medical care, should I need it: Ojala!
I’d like to tell you a little more about the project.
We employed mask sewists in Oaxaca City, Santa Maria El Tule, Tlacolula de Matamoros, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, San Miguel del Valle and Teotitlan del Valle, providing a needed income, in some cases sending 100% cotton fabric when none was to be procured. We sent mask-making instructions and a pattern in Spanish. We crafted the language for hand-tags to be attached to the masks to instruct wearers on use and care. We depended on amazing volunteers on the ground to help with distribution: Kalisa Wells, Alvin Starkman, Cristy Molina Martinez, Kari Klippen-Sierra, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras, Gail Pellett, Malena Jimenez, Rachael Mamane, Alan Goodin, Eric Ramirez Ramos, Luvia Lazo, Jacki Cooper Gordon and Samuel Bautista Lazo.
We also relied on help from friends in the USA, Canada and Mexico who made masks and sent fabric in late March and early April to jump-start the project. Janet Blaser wrote about the project in Mexico News Daily, too. That helped spread the word and raise more needed funds.
These folks put masks (often repeatedly) in the hands of market vendors, shoppers and villagers in the city and far-flung villages. We covered faces in San Marcos Tlapazola, Santiago Matatlan, San Dionisio, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, San Andres Huayapam. San Agustin Etla, San Martin Tilcajete, Santiago Ixtaltepec and more. With help from the Episcopal Church, we covered faces of people who glean from the Zaachila dump. We covered faces of women entrepreneurs who work with EnVia and taxi drivers and farmers who work with Puente and the healthy food-sourcing project Food-for-All. We got masks into the hands of at risk-youth from Casa de Kids, and IMSS doctors and nurses in two Oaxaca hospitals.
This project has preoccupied me for the last months. I am waiting now for Oaxaca to move from Code Red to Code Green (semiforo system of measurement), as are all of us. We want to return, to live, to visit, to support artisans, and to freely enjoy all that beautiful Oaxaca has to offer. Oaxaca is not ready for us yet. We will go when it opens up. Most importantly, we wish for the health and safety of all our friends.
When will I begin to offer textile tours and workshops? My best answer is, I don’t know. Life now is an improvisation and we are all getting used to it.
*Note: The Oaxaca Lending Library is collecting accounts from members and friends about how we are dealing with Covid-19. This essay was my contribution.
To see more photos, search Oaxaca Mask Project on the site for prior posts.
Today I am offering 9 treasures from my collection for sale. These are pieces I have never or rarely worn. They live in my Durham, NC, closet. Many of you know that I am now walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps at least four times a week and have maintained size small for almost two years. These beautiful clothes are now way too big for me to wear. I’ve decided it is time for these pieces to be with others who appreciate them as much as I do.
To Buy: Send me an email — email@example.com with your name, address, and item number. I will send you a PayPal invoice to pay with credit card. Please be sure to use the payment option “sending to family and friends.” Once I receive your funds, I will mail via USPS to anywhere in the USA. I will add on $12 for mailing to the invoice. Thank you VERY much.
#1 is from the Oaxaca coast in Santiago Ixtlayutla, near Pinotepa de Don Luis. It uses fuchsine dye, which locals call “cochineal” but it isn’t! It actually creates a more purple stain on cotton cloth that then bleeds intentionally into the base fabric. Fine silk thread is woven as the supplementary weft creating the figures in the cotton cloth. It is the silk that takes the dye after the piece is finished. The style is to dye and fold the cloth, soaking it in water so that the dye runs into patterns that are mirrored into the surrounding cloth. Those of us who know these textiles, covet and cherish them. The finishing joinery stitches on this one are very secure and fine.
All fuchsine-dyed garments are rare and collectible!
Notes from Traditional Innovation in Oaxaca Textiles: There is another colour that can be found in several textiles from Oaxaca: fuchsia. The costume of men and women from the Mixtec town of Santiago Ixtayutla use locally-raised silk from San Mateo Peñasco, where silk is dyed with fuchsine, a magenta dye invented in mid-19th century which chemical composition is rosaniline hydrochloride. Since these dyes arrived in Mexico during the second half of the 19th c., weavers started using them: they were quick to use and cheap to obtain.
SOLD. #4 is from the warm, humid coastal region of Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, where lightweight hand-woven textiles are preferred. This is fine cotton woven on a back-strap loom. The colorful figures uses synthetically-dyed cotton in the supplementary weft. Measures 25″ wide x 25-1/2 long — size L-XL.
SOLD. #5 is woven on a back-strap loom in a Chiapas village of medium-weight cotton, hand-tied fringes. The design is incorporated in the weaving using the supplementary weft technique. It is not embroidered!
SOLD. #6 is a medium-weight cotton poncho with hot red needle work down the front to join the two pieces of cloth together. This is an unusual piece because of the texture of two different weaving styles used in the cloth (it does not have a seam). The front of the piece is shorter, hanging hip length and the back hangs longer to cover the rear!
SOLD. #7 was purchased from Remigio Mestas’ Oaxaca city shop Los Baules de Juana Cata. He is cited as a top authority on Oaxaca textiles, and offers only the finest woven and naturally dyed fabrics for sale, created by the best weavers. The dye is called Palo de Aguila, which translates to Alderwood, and is found in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca.
SOLD. #8 is from the back-strap loom weaving village of Pinotepa de Don Luis. There is a very fine young weaver there named Sebastiana Guzman Hernandez. She was educated and worked as an engineer but preferred to weave and rescue her family’s indigenous traditions. I purchased this huipil from her workshop studio in the village. She dyes the indigo and buys the caracol purpura threads from the few local dyers who collect the rare purple snail dye from the Oaxaca coast.
SOLD. #9 is a slinky blouse, machine embroidery on polyester, with see-through eyelet detail from Zinacantan, Chiapas. It is not hemmed because traditional women will tuck this inside their wrap-around skirts.
Lots to report since the last time I wrote about The Oaxaca Mask Project.
The recent 7.5 earthquake in Oaxaca eclipsed news about Covid-19 last week. Fortunately, in the city and surrounding villages, damage was light. The quake was centered near Huatulco along the Pacific Coast, where indeed, some villages suffered.
This week, the Welch-Allyn Vital Signs Monitor arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, a Usos y Costumbres village. Armando Gutierrez Mendoza, a member of the village health care committee, took it to Municipio President Andres Gutierrez Sosa, who received it — our gift to them. Señor Andres sends his thanks to all of us!
Here are photos of the committee opening and using it at the public health clinic.
Four donors made this vital signs monitor possible: Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Boojie Colwell and Dr. Deborah Morris.
A special thanks to Larry Ginzkey who organizes Hoofing It in Oaxaca hiking group. His group of hikers collected and donated $250 USD for The Oaxaca Mask Project.
If you live in Oaxaca or the pueblos and you want to receive and distribute masks to those in need, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachael Mamane from Food for All took 70 masks to Jorge Toscani who is part of a Oaxaca taxi fleet. He told us that they disinfect the taxis regularly and has distributed our masks to all 15 drivers for themselves and passengers. She also took 150 masks to Puente. Rachael is looking for a contact in Ocotlan where she thinks there is an on-going need for masks.
Mama Pacha chocolate is some of the best in the world, I think. It is tempered, which makes it so smooth and creamy — fine eating chocolate rather than the Oaxaca chocolate we know for making the hot drink!
We continue to send masks where requested. We had another request from Macuilxochitl for an additional 100 masks, so Cristy took them over there.
Cristy’s cousin Catalina Martinez, who operates the folk art gallery WA’HAKA, has organized a food pantry in Teotitlan del Valle to help 50 older people. We gave her 80 masks to distribute.
We are slowing down as requests for masks subside. Lately, we are waiting to sew and distribute based on whether we hear there is more need. So far, we have made and distributed 3,119 masks.
I’ll give you more tallies of what we have accomplished in coming days.
Berle Driscoll is moving from New York City to Florida this week. She wrote to ask if we could use more fabric for Oaxaca mask-making — she had a lot of unused cloth! It’s hard for me to turn down an offer like this. I received two boxes yesterday and will consolidate to include colorful elastic cording I will donate to the cause.
Kari Klippen-Sierra has helped immensely. For the past two months she has worked with us to get masks to families and the health clinic in San Andres Huayapam, where she lives with husband Rudy Sierra. She has also made sure that two non-profits operated by the Episcopal church to help at-risk families receive masks. She repeatedly picks-up and distributes!
We need color in our lives right now. I dress up for Zoom and FaceTime calls. It feels good to wear something special and put on a little lipstick! When I go out to walk or to the market (always with mask and social distancing), I put on a colorful Mexican top or dress. Today, I’m meeting a friend for a picnic (six-to-eight feet distance) on a blanket at the North Carolina Museum of Art sculpture park. We then walk in the fresh air along the trails, mindful of others. I’ll wear one of my Oaxaca pieces today, too.
I have listed 23 items from my collection for sale. In addition to clothing, the selection includes napkins, woven bags, coin purses, tea towels.
To Buy: Send me an email to email@example.com with your name, address, and item number. I will send you a PayPal invoice to pay with credit card. Once I receive your funds, I will mail via USPS to anywhere in the USA. I will add on $12 for mailing to the invoice. Thank you VERY much.
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
Study Tours + Study Abroad are personally curated and introduce you to Mexico's greatest artisans. They are off-the-beaten path, internationally recognized. We give you access to where people live and work. Yes, it is safe and secure to travel. Groups are limited in size for the most personal experience.
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We send printable map via email PDF usually within 48-hours after order received. Where to see natural dyed rugs in Teotitlan del Valle and layout of the Sunday Tlacolula Market, with favorite eating, shopping, ATMs. Click Here to Buy Map
Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle