Oaxacaphiles will cringe or love that Seth Kugel has written a Frugal Traveler story in the New York Times travel section about this lovely, small village outside Oaxaca city. Enjoy! Article comes complete with map and a video.
Personally, not many but the most adventurous would undertake this type of travel. There has been a discussion on the comments section of this article about the personal safety of going in to an unknown village and presenting oneself. Most advice is to be cautious and to know the territory. The Tlacalula Valley people, where Seth explored San Juan Teitipac, are usually friendly, warm and welcoming to visitors. We did not find this to be the case in San Mateo del Mar on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It was very easy to read the glaring eyes.
There is also an issue of safety in the Mixtec regions of the Oaxaca highlands where remote villages have been in an indigenous human rights struggle with a repressive central government. It is too easy to get caught in the middle.
So, as always, use your judgment!
Red Kiss #35
For sometime now, Eric has been telling me that lipstick is made with cochineal, the bug cultivated by Zapotecs in the Oaxaca valley, and prized as a natural colorant for cotton, wool, Colonial frescoes and lip stain. Today, I was playing around with my Estee Lauder Signature Lipstick #35 Rich Red and thought, gee, I wonder what is really in this stuff? Of course, there is no ingredients list on that shiny golden container. Where would they put it? A Google search brought no immediate answers. I get on the Live Chat to Estee Lauder and Chatter Melissa tells me she can’t answer the question and refers me to a phone number: 1-866-378-3301 and email firstname.lastname@example.org
I call, asking a simple question and wanting a simple answer: What are the ingredients for Lipstick #35 Rich Red? What is your concern? the young female voice greets me. I don’t have a concern, I say. What exactly are you looking for? she says. (She seems to be anticipating a problem.) I just want to know what makes up the red color in this lipstick. She says she will need to look at a product catalog and get back to me. I am on hold. After what seems to be several minutes, she gets back on and tells me that the lipstick is colored with carmine, plus a bunch of other things I don’t understand or recognize. But what the heck. I like this lipstick.
Bingo. Carmine is the commercial name for cochineal. So, whatever else is in that lipstick, I do know that it is colored with crushed bugs.
Okay, now in the interests of consumer health, I received an e-mail from the above consumercare group and their reply lists the ingredients below. Would any chemists like to weigh-in with an analysis. If you look way down there toward the bottom, you’ll see lonely, little carmine. Who knows what the other stuff is?
Signature Lipstick #35 Rich Red by Estee Lauder: INGREDIENTS: TRIDECYL TRIMELLITATE  CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC/MYRISTIC/STEARIC TRIGLYCERIDE  DIPENTAERYTHRITYL TETRABEHENATE/POLYHYDROXYSTEARATE  POLYETHYLENE  BIS-DIGLYCERYL POLYACYLADIPATE-2  BARIUM SULFATE  OZOKERITE  BUTYROSPERMUM PARKII (SHEA BUTTER)  VP/EICOSENE COPOLYMER  CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC TRIGLYCERIDE  TOCOPHERYL ACETATE  CALCIUM ALUMINUM BOROSILICATE  OLEA EUROPAEA (OLIVE) FRUIT EXTRACT  TRITICUM VULGARE (WHEAT BRAN) EXTRACT  HORDEUM VULGARE (BARLEY) EXTRACT\EXTRAIT D’ORGE  TRITICUM VULGARE (WHEAT) GERM EXTRACT  METHYL GLUCOSE SESQUISTEARATE  ASTROCARYUM MURUMURU SEED BUTTER  OCTYLDODECYL NEOPENTANOATE  POLYMETHYL METHACRYLATE  CHOLESTEROL  MICROCRYSTALLINE WAX\CERA MICROCRISTALLINA\CIRE MICROCRISTALLINE  GLYCERYL BEHENATE/EICOSADIOATE  SORBITAN ISOSTEARATE  DI-PPG-3-MYRISTYL ETHER ADIPATE  LAURYL PCA  BEHENIC ACID  HYDROXYSTEARIC ACID  PVP/HEXADECENE COPOLYMER  LINOLEIC ACID  SQUALANE  TIN OXIDE  POTASSIUM SULFATE  VANILLIN  SYNTHETIC FLUORPHLOGOPITE  FRAGRANCE (PARFUM)  POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE  SILICA  CALCIUM SODIUM BOROSILICATE  ACRYLATES COPOLYMER  [+/- MICA  TITANIUM DIOXIDE (CI 77891)  YELLOW 6 LAKE (CI 15985)  RED 7 LAKE (CI 15850)  COPPER POWDER (CI 77400)  IRON OXIDES (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)  MANGANESE VIOLET (CI 77742)  RED 6 (CI 15850)  YELLOW 5 LAKE (CI 19140)  RED 22 LAKE (CI 45380)  RED 30 LAKE (CI 73360)  CARMINE (CI 75470)  BISMUTH OXYCHLORIDE (CI 77163)  RED 33 LAKE (CI 17200)  RED 28 LAKE (CI 45410)  YELLOW 10 LAKE (CI 47005)  BRONZE POWDER (CI 77400)  BLUE 1 LAKE (CI 42090)]
I bring a few pocket/purse size containers of hand gel and use them liberally! If you travel during the rainy season, bring bug spray. There are no health worries in the well-traveled tourist areas of Oaxaca. However, there is some malaria risk if you are traveling to remote mountain villages. Here is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says:
Prevent Insect Bites
Many diseases, like malaria and dengue, are spread through insect bites. One of the best protections is to prevent insect bites by:
- Using insect repellent (bug spray) with 30%-50% DEET. Picaridin, available in 7% and 15% concentrations, needs more frequent application. There is less information available on how effective picaridin is at protecting against all of the types of mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.
- Remaining indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period for malaria (dusk and dawn).
- Sleeping in beds covered by nets treated with permethrin, if not sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room.
- Spraying rooms with products effective against flying insects, such as those containing pyrethroid.
For detailed information about insect repellent use, see Insect and Arthropod Protection.
Prevent Animal Bites and Scratches
Direct contact with animals can spread diseases like rabies or cause serious injury or illness. It is important to prevent animal bites and scratches.
- Be sure you are up to date with tetanus vaccination.
- Do not touch or feed any animals, including dogs and cats. Even animals that look like healthy pets can have rabies or other diseases.
- Help children stay safe by supervising them carefully around all animals.
- If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound well with soap and water and go to a doctor right away.
- After your trip, be sure to tell your doctor or state health department if you were bitten or scratched during travel.
For more information about rabies and travel, see the Rabies chapter of the Yellow Book or CDC’s Rabies homepage. For more information about how to protect yourself from other risks related to animals, see Animal-Associated Hazards
Be Careful about Food and Water
Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Make sure food is fully cooked.
- Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
Diseases from food and water often cause vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to bring diarrhea medicine with you so that you can treat mild cases yourself.
Car crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from these injuries by:
- Not drinking and driving.
- Wearing your seat belt and using car seats or booster seats in the backseat for children.
- Following local traffic laws.
- Wearing helmets when you ride bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes.
- Not getting on an overloaded bus or mini-bus.
- Hiring a local driver, when possible.
- Avoiding night driving.
Other Health Tips
- To avoid infections such as HIV and viral hepatitis do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing, or injections.
- To reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases always use latex condoms.
- To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, especially on beaches where animals may have defecated.
It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we met textile artist Andrea Donnelly. My mind is calculating back to when Eric Chavez Santiago and his father Federico Chavez Sosa first came to the States. October 2006. They taught a master class and natural dye workshop at the North Carolina State University College of Textiles and Design. That’s when they met Andrea, who was completing her undergraduate education and looking to expand her repertoire.
Eric and Andrea in the camioneta, with her mom (standing), Stephen and Omar
The following summer 2007 Andrea came to Teotitlan del Valle for an intensive individualized learning program that she arranged directly with the family. She worked alongside Eric and Federico to learn more about the natural dyeing process. Gathering the plant materials and processing them into dye baths that would yield incredible colors. Traveling up into the mountain highlands rain forest to collect the moss. Walking the village to harvest the pecans. Picking the wild marigolds. Crushing the cochineal bugs and indigo with mortar and pestle.
Natural dye yarn samples
After that summer, Andrea went to Penland to experiment with metal forging. She was applying to graduate school and landed in Richmond, Virginia, where she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with an MFA.
Now, she has opened a workshop studio in Richmond, where she is weaving glorious, one-of-a-kind textiles, scarves and shawls, that are hand-painted under the label, “Little Fool Textiles.” You can find her at http://littlefooltextiles.blogspot.com
My all-time favorite book is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” in which he discusses how we measure the value of life. Core is love and hope, with a desire for what is meaningful and satisfying. Notice that he talks about degrees of satisfaction rather than degrees of happiness, for, as Frankl explains, one can be satisfied or not with life regardless of how much money one earns or how much stuff one has. I love this NYTimes article with the link below. It talks about spending resources (time, money) on experiences rather than things. That is one reason why I try to keep our Oaxaca Cultural Navigator programs affordable — to open opportunities for educational travel to people who believe that getting to know a country and its people is more important than staying in a three or four-star hotel. I’ve written about this before in a short-fiction piece called “Eating Lower on the Food Chain.” We can still live well and not lavishly or conspicuously as we downsize lifestyles to suit the new economy.