Our friend Annie Burns has been living in Teotitlan del Valle for years. Every time she visited us at Blue Heron Farm in North Carolina she extended an invitation to visit her in Oaxaca. Finally, we decided to come for 10 days over Christmas some years ago. Annie said that her friend, Josefina Ruiz Vasquez had just lost her young husband to cancer, had three children to support, and asked if we would be agreeable to helping in an experiment to stay at Josefinas’s as a way to help establish a guest house in the home that she shared with her children and mother-in-law, Magda. Annie, who is a PhD psychologist and was a community organizer in North Carolina, had set her considerable skills and gentle approach to helping single Zapotec women with children create a sustainable lifestyle. We agreed, arrived just before Posada time, were welcomed into the earth courtyard and led into a basic room that we later learned was Magda’s bedroom, and became part of the family. During this visit and others that followed, Josefina and Magda learned how to prepare food and wash dishes that would be easy on our digestive systems. We participated in family celebrations: the quinciniera of Eloisa, birthdays for los dos ocitos Willi and Eligio, and marriage and baby shower for younger sister Natividad.
Then, Roberta Christie, who retired to Oaxaca from Florida State University in Tallahassee, decided to move to Teotitlan, teamed up with Annie and Josefina, built a second story onto the family compound where she now lives permanently. Roberta added a second story guest room complete with private bath and an extraordinary view of Picacho (peak, point or summit in Spanish and Quie ya bedz in Zapotec), the mountain overlooking and protecting the village. The transformation into a garden of Eden was beginning.
With Roberta’s help, the old screen-in kitchen and outdoor sink for dishwashing was replaced by a gorgeous new kitchen with contemporary appliances, an island work table, seating for 10 guests, and hand painted murals of village scenes. Magda used to cook on the earth patio in the traditional way, over a wood fire where she would make her own delicious chocolate or handmade corn tortillas or sopa de flor de calabaza or mole amarillo tamales. Now, there is a palm leaf shaded palapa that covers a raised hearth that contains an area for two fires to be going simultaneously. What was the earthen patio is now stone and concrete walkways and patios, with a gravel area around the palapa. Bright red earth and turquoise paint add a vibrant and festive touch to the environment. Planters filled with cactus, bougainvilla and ajuga are just the perfect finishing touches.
Recently, two new rooms were added, the original bathrooms were remodeled and an outdoor talavera tile sink is a focal point. The looms are at the back of the patio and the rug room now occupies part of the altar room. It is a haven. Of course, the centerpiece of the garden are several giant pomegranate trees, hence the name, Las Granadas, meaning pomegranate in Spanish.Today, daughter Eloisa, who was fondly called “la Princessa” by her father, is enrolled in culinary school in Oaxaca. She is having fun creating traditional Zapotec and Spanish cuisines, while learning European styles of cooking, too. Josefina’s kitchen has always been known for the quality of its ingredients and great meals. Eloisa is carrying on this tradition.
Willi and Eligio are learning to dye wool and do simple weavings, carrying on the traditions of their father. The bed and breakfast provides employment for Josefina’s sisters who come to help cook and clean. The best room is the one upstairs called The Deluxe with private bath, but all are comfortable, clean and easy to be in. The best part is that visitors become part of a Zapotec family for however long they wish to stay, knowing that they are doing their part to sustain three generations of the Bazan Ruiz family.
Contact Josefina Ruiz Vasquez, from the United States: 011 52 951 52442 32 The address is Avenida 2 de Abril #23 in Teotitlan del Valle, or http://lasgranadasoaxaca.com/about_teotitlan.html (Note: prices out of date)
Note: Prices on the Las Granadas web site are out of date; they haven’t been updated for several years and Roberta says they can’t update the site. For current prices, please send them an email!
See my blog entry “Names” for more about Josefina’s family and her deceased husband Eligio Bazan Ruiz.