Mega Market for Muertos: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

They tell me tomorrow’s market on October 31 will be even bigger in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, as everyone prepares for Dia de los Muertos.

TeotiMarketMuertos

Huge trucks filled with oranges are parked in front of the church. Vendors sell copal incense, at least five different varieties of marigolds, brilliant magenta rooster’s crown, pecans and walnuts, lots of handmade Oaxaca chocolate and pan de muertos — the special bread of the season made with butter, knotted and topped with a Jesus or Mary milagro.

TeotiMarketMuertos-12

Beyond the market courtyard is Picacho rising to a pristine blue sky as if making a special blessing on the village.

TeotiMarketMuertos-10

Later, I get water delivered to fill the rooftop cistern. Danny tells me his abuelos will be here with his family for an extra day this year, arriving from the underworld on Saturday and departing on Monday.

TeotiMarketMuertos-17 TeotiMarketMuertos-7

It is a festive time. The cane branches will arc over each home alter to provide a door for departed loved ones to re-enter and visit their families. They will be guided by incense, the scent of flowers, the smell of hot chocolate, tamales and mezcal.

TeotiMarketMuertos-2

Death and life are one, integral to what it means to exist. This morning I hang papel picado and little cut-out-doll skulls across the patio. Vases of marigolds and incense fill the house where I live with memory for my own father and grandparents.

TeotiMarketMuertos-9

Soon, my son will arrive and we will join comparsas and family meals. It is a festive time in Oaxaca.

TeotiMarketMuertos-13 TeotiMarketMuertos-11 TeotiMarketMuertos-6TeotiMarketMuertos-15

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead: Schedule and Photography Retrospective

NormaBest11Xoxo10312013-6 copy

Only four more days until the official start of Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico. Everyone is lining up their calendars to watch comparsas, visit cemeteries and participate as locals honor the return to earth of their loved ones and then escort them back to their graves with the scent of copal and flowers.

NormaBest11Xoxo10312013 copy Mimers copy

 2014 Cemetery Visiting Schedule

October 31:

untitled-13 copy

November 1:

  • Oaxaca City Cemetery (Panteon)
  • Barrio Xochimilco
  • San Augustin Etla
  • San Pablo Villa de Mitla, begins mid-day

NormaBest11Xoxo10312013-2 copy 6_Zapotecs-7 copy

November 3:

NH_Best9_1028-3 copy NH_Best9_1028-6 copy NormaBest20_102913-13 copy

Usually, the Teotitlan del Valle Day of the Dead All Souls’ Day observances are held on November 2. But, this year the date falls on Sunday, so the village has moved observances to Monday.

Norma11113_Teoti copy

I’ve written extensively about the history and customs for Day of the Dead. You can use the search engine on the blog to find more about how to decorate an altar, the meaning and symbolism of the observance and relationship to pre-Hispanic rituals.

NH_Best9_1027-5 copy Slide17 copy   I’ve also seen tour groups come into small town cemeteries where people sit quietly in reflection at gravesites.. They step into plots and between people, point cameras in their faces and set their strobe flashes to get a good shot. Then, they climb back on the van or bus and leave to go on to the next stop on the tour.

Please be mindful that we are all visitors here and it is our responsibility to walk quietly and with respect.

NormaBest11Xoxo10312013-7 copy

There is lots to do in the city. Don’t forget to hang out on Macedonio Alcala to catch the comparsas. The sand sculptures will be in the Plaza de la Danza. Peek into courtyards and hotel lobbies to see all the fanciful decorations. Enjoy yourself. We are happy you are here!

Slide14 copy NormaBest20_102913-19 copy

For activities, check Margie Barclay’s Oaxaca Calendar, too!

 

 

Pop-Up Show + Sale — Huipils from San Felipe Usila, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale from San Felipe Usila
  • at Restaurante La Olla, Calle Reforma #402, Oaxaca, Centro Historico in front of Las Bugambilias B&B
  • Tuesday, October 28, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — One day only

I must confess that I left two great huipiles behind in San Felipe Usila and I’ve been ruminating for three days, since I returned to Oaxaca last Friday afternoon, about how to get them to me!

So, this morning I created a Pop-Up Huipil Show and Sale to make the trip worthwhile for two families who live in this remote mountain village in the Papaloapan Region of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca. I spent a couple of hours hunting them down and then making the arrangements!

Please come and support these incredible weavers whose work you will recognize from the Guelaguetza Dance of the Flor de Piña. Prices start at about 1,500 pesos for pieces made on a back strap loom with intricate designs incorporated into the weft.

Meet the Longino Tenorio Mendoza family and the Hermalinda Inocente Isidro family. Together, they will bring about 40 pieces with them for you to see and describe their work.

I will need a fluent Spanish-English speaker to volunteer to translate, please! We will ask them to talk about their work, their lives and the designs they create.

Just a few examples of what you may see:

RibbonsDress RedDress TuxtHectorArturoHndz-5ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-31  FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-30

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-28 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-9 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-10FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-8 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-15

Tuxtepec, Oaxaca: Huipils, Dance of the Pineapple Flower and Guelaguetza

Oaxaca’s July Guelaguetza features some of the most glorious traje — indigenous dress — throughout the state. But few, if any, surpass the beauty from the state of Tuxtepec.

ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-6 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-4 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-7

I am on a textile tour to discover the artistry of some of Oaxaca’s most remote villages. The evening our group arrives in Tuxtepec from Veracruz, we are treated to a fashion parade. Featured are the region’s woven and embroidered garments that we will see over the next several days. It’s like attending a sneak preview!

ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-12 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-13 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-15

They varied from the more simple daily wear of traditional women to those that are more elaborate and reserved for special occasions.

ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-9 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-10

The presentation is organized by Jose de Jesus Hernandez, known as Chucho. He teaches dance and has a collection of authentic dresses. Chucho explains that fifty-eight years ago there was a movement to return to the roots of the region by the younger generation. That’s why the Flor de Piña dance was created.

RedDress FlowerDress GeoDress

I realize that all the different huipil designs in this one dance at the Guelaguetza is a compilation to express the diverse weaving and embroidery styles of Mazateco and Chinanteco communities that are part of Tuxtepec.

BirdsDress RibbonsDress DiamondsDress

As our week together comes to a close, we return to Tuxtepec one last time. Dance master Hector Arturo Hernandez meets us at the hotel, teaches us the Flor de Piña dance steps and brings huipils from his collection to show and tell. I would say we were not equal to the task of keeping up with the strenuous foot work of the dance!

TuxtHectorArturoHndz-4

More than one hundred and eighty young women audition to represent these Chinanteco and Mazateco villages. Only thirty-six are selected, says Don Hector Arturo, who has been teaching the Danza Flor de Piña for the past thirty-five years.

TuxtHectorArturoHndz-5 TuxtHectorArturoHndz-7 SheriDress

He recruits and selects the dancers, and serves as the narrative voice for the Tuxtepec delegation at the Guelaguetza. As soon as I hear him speak, I recognize him. Our models for Don Arturo’s collection are women on the tour.

TuxtHectorArturoHndz-12 TuxtHectorArturoHndz-13

In 1958, the governor of Tuxtepec decided that the jarocho music and dance presentation at the Guelaguetza did not fully integrate Tuxtepec with Oaxaca, since jarocho is a part of Veracruz identity. So, the Danza Flor de Piña was choreographed and orchestrated to the poem of native son Felipe Matias Velasco.

ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-30 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-28 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec

By doing this, the back strap loom weaving and embroidery of these remote Oaxaca villages became a distinguishing feature of the Guelaguetza, something that we all identify with its pageantry and with Oaxaca.

ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-8 ChuchoFashionTuxtepec-16

Those who study Oaxaca culture and communities know that the term guelaguetza is NOT about this annual tourist attraction that is a dance interpretation of the word. It is a way of life, the foundation for maintaining community and mutual support in indigenous pre-Hispanic Mexican villages.

Guelaguetza2014-30 Guelaguetza2014-2

Note: These finest quality huipiles range in price from 1,500 pesos to over 6,500 pesos. Some take more than three or four months to make. The current exchange rate is about 13 pesos to the dollar. The average wage of an agricultural or hourly wage worker in Mexico is 100 pesos or eight dollars a day. Tourism is Oaxaca’s economic engine.

How To Get There

If you are more inclined to travel independently rather than taking a tour, take a bus or collectivo from town to town, or rent a car and drive from Oaxaca city on Mexico 175 to Tuxtepec. Get a Guia Roji Mapa 20 for the Estado de Oaxaca.

photo-1

You may want to stop and spend the night in Pueblo Magico Capulalpam de Mendez or continue on until you reach Valle Nacional. There are several lovely hotels in Capulalpam and a few small hostals in Valle Nacional. From there, you can get to the pueblos in the Papaloapan Region that we visited: Valle Nacional, Rancho Grande, San Pedro Soyaltepec and San Lucas Ojitlan, bypassing the entry through Veracruz.

This route will take six to eight hours of driving from Oaxaca to Valle Nacional over winding mountain roads! You might also consider establishing a base in one of the villages if you don’t mind sleeping in a hammock or a basic, no frills room with only cold running water.

 

 

 

Textile Fashion Show: Journey to Remote San Felipe Usila, Oaxaca

For the past six days I have been on a textile journey through the Cuenca del Papaloapan Region where the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountain range meets the coastal plain of Veracruz. This has been off-the-beaten-path travel into remote villages where textile traditions, back strap loom weaving and intricate embroidery techniques, manage to survive in a dominant culture invaded by polyester, machined fabrics and low-wage, Chinese-made clothing.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-8Travel took us overland starting from Veracruz, the oldest port in Mexico, south along the Gulf of Mexico to Tuxtepec, a jungle wonderland and gateway into Oaxaca state from the east.  Today, I’m featuring the indigenous dress of San Felipe Usila, the most isolated village of our tour.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-12 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-22 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-31

From Tuxtepec, it takes us three hours to get to Usila on a winding mountain road, half of which is unpaved. But, the gift of meeting some extraordinary weavers who are incredibly hospitable make the trip worthwhile.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-10 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-11

We are greeted with the opportunity to purchase some very beautiful pieces followed by a lunch of chicken and mole amarillo, and handmade tortillas fresh from the comal. Dinner is a delicious, home-cooked traditional stone soup that is a pre-Hispanic recipe originating from Usila. Overnight lodging in Usila is basic and clean. A hotel is located on the outskirts of town down a dirt road that turns to mud in the rain. It’s a rainforest here, so the climate is tropical, damp and lush.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-29 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-28

Many of the plants and animals of the region are reflected in the weaving designs including flowers, squirrels, corn, butterflies and the tree of life.  Every woman has her own interpretation of the mythic and actual world that is translated to cloth, so each weaver creates a different and very distinct design.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-30

We learn that the two headed eagle represents the duality of life, the good and the bad. We see quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent, and the eye of god that offers protection. We are told about the four cardinal directions, how they are incorporated into the woven story and their pre-Hispanic significance.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-25 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-14

We hear that traditional women want to be buried in their wedding huipil so that their husbands will recognize them in the afterlife. We see that only the grandmothers continue to wear the huipil as a daily garment.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-15  FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-26 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-19

For holidays, festivals and special occasions there is more elaborate dressing with the media-gala and gala huipiles, adorned with flowers, ribbons, lace and intricate detailing that is unparalleled.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-24 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-18 FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-16

Many of the ancient techniques of back strap loom weaving to create traditional clothing has been lost by some villages. There is a dedicated effort to teach young women the techniques to keep the tradition alive. But, it’s a challenge. People everywhere want an education and higher paying jobs.

FashionShowUsila3-2 FashionShowUsila2

Today, the major markets for these garments are textile lovers and collectors who purchase them in many fine Oaxaca galleries. Few dare to venture into the hinterlands to find these treasures on their own.

FashionShowUsilaSoyaltepec-21

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator offers in-depth, educational workshops usually based in one location to establish a sense of place. We are not a tour or guide service. I decided to travel with Tia Stephanie Tours to discover the source of this beautiful, ancient, woman-centered tradition. We moved from village to village across a wide swath of territory at a racer’s pace to get an excellent overview.

FashionShowUsila2-3

If you are more inclined to get there as an independent traveler, take a bus or collectivo from town to town, or rent a car and drive from Oaxaca city on Mexico 175. Get a Guia Roji Mapa 20 for the Estado de Oaxaca.

You may want to stop and spend the night in Pueblo Magico Capulalpam de Mendez or continue on until you reach Valle NacionalThere are several lovely hotels in Capulalpam and a few small hostals in Valle Nacional. From there, you can get to the pueblos in the Papaloapan Region that we visited: Valle Nacional, Rancho Grande, San Miguel Soyaltepec and San Lucas Ojitlan, bypassing the entry through Veracruz. This route will take six to eight hours of driving from Oaxaca to Valle Nacional over winding mountain roads! You might also consider establishing a base in one of the villages if you don’t mind sleeping in a hammock or a basic, no frills room with only cold running water.