Monthly Archives: June 2017

Yagul Archeological Site: Oaxaca’s Hidden Treasure

Yagul is one of those magical places in Oaxaca that not many people visit. When I first went there in 2005, it was mostly rubble, secreted away up a hill beyond Tlacolula, on the way to Mitla. Access was (and still is) a narrow, cracked, pot-holed macadam pavement.

Stunning view of the Tlacolula valley and beyond

In those intervening years, there has been progressive archeological restoration, with good signage, uncovered tombs, and vistas of the Tlacolula valley that are unparalleled.

Over the rock wall, the valley below

I guess I love this site most because of the caves where the remnants of early corn (maize) was carbon-dated to 8,000 years ago. It tells the story of human kind in Mesoamerica, the resourceful people who developed the edible kernel from teosintle.

Yagul has a ball court, too. About the same size as Monte Alban.

There are cave paintings here, but they are not open to the public. One can only enter by arrangement with INAH and go accompanied with an archeologist.

How old is this cactus? Others, the size of trees, dot hillsides.

I also love it because of the peace, tranquility, the wind on the mountain top, the open spaces with extraordinary views, the ability to walk and climb unfettered by masses of visitors piling out of tour vans, unbothered by vendors selling replicates and fake jewelry.

Judy and Gail descend from the highest platform

Climb to the top of the mountain to discover another tomb. Imagine that you are standing sentry, guarding the trade route between north and south, protecting your Zapotec territory.  Once a foot path, the road is now called the Pan-American Highway.

A recently uncovered passageway beneath a mound

Yagul is only about seven miles from where I live. I take friends there who come and visit. In June, Judy and Gail went with me. As I roamed the land, I realized that there has been more unearthed there in recent months: Two entry ways at the top of one of the mounds.

Where recent dig uncovered an entrance

There are lots of mounds in this valley. Most of them are said to be archeological sites waiting to be unearthed.  They have been covered for centuries by dirt, rocks, weeds. The Mexican federal government does not have the resources to uncover them all.

Original limestone plaster walls of Yagul

There are a handful of small sites under restoration along this route from Oaxaca to Mitla.  Near Macquixochitl is Dainzu, a significant site undergoing restoration.

Wild flowers in rock outcroppings, rainy season

Close to Tlacolula is Lambiteyco with a small museum. When I drive along the road, I see foundations of platforms that could once have been temples.

Courtyard of one of the ancient residences, Yagul

Few stop at these sites. Why? Perhaps because they are not as fully developed as Mitla or Monte Alban. Perhaps because they are not as famous or promoted as heavily. They offer tourists an opportunity to explore and imagine what lies below.

Frog sculpture near the tomb, where you can climb down and enter

Yagul is a great destination for families where most of the area is accessible to walking, hiking and climbing.  If you are so inclined, bring a picnic or a snack. Sit under the shade and think about life here centuries ago.

Cactus trunk, woody, strong enough for shelter

It’s worth it to come out here and stay a few days to explore the region — a nice contrast to the city. Stay in Teotitlan del Valle, at either Casa Elena or Las Granadas B&B. Both offer posada-style hospitality at reasonable cost. Hosts can arrange local taxi drivers to take you around to visit the archeological sites.

Taking a break under the shade

Videos–A World of Makers in One T-Shirt: #whomademyclothes

Today, I’m setting out to take visitors from Australia to meet some of the Oaxaca weavers of fine textiles who work in natural dyes. They make the finished product. But it gets me to thinking about all the people who were part of the creation process.

I think, today, I will ask our weavers, Where does the dye come from? Where does the wool come from? Who spins it? What about the cotton? Is it imported? Grown in Mexico? Commercially spun? This whole discussion makes me more curious!

Here is a short, one-minute + video from NPR sent to me by Judi Ross. It’s beautiful and personal. It’s a visual story worth taking time out to see.



I think its fascinating to think about all the people in the world whose hands have touched what we wear.


Who Made My Clothes? Digging Deeper Into Fashion and Consumption

Who Made My Clothes? is a program of the Fashion Revolution. I’ve been following them and its co-founder Carry Somers since she came to Oaxaca in February 2016 to take one of my natural dye and weaving textile excursions.

Pedal loom weaver Arturo Hernandez, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

I introduced her to some of the weavers who make my clothes and the rugs that adorn floors and walls where I live in Teotitlan del Valle and Durham, North Carolina.

When I got notice of an online course Who Made My Clothes? produced by Exeter University and Fashion Revolution, I decided to sign up.  The first of three sessions over the next weeks went online yesterday. I’m eager to tell you about it.

But first, what also prompted me to pursue this course was the discussion we had during the WARP Conference about recognizing and naming the people who make our garments.

African indigo tie-dyed cotton that I sewed into dress and skirt

This is true here in Oaxaca, where many of us value, buy and wear beautiful locally made dresses and blouses. If we can afford it, we might buy from Remigio Mesta’s Los Baules de Juana Cata, from the Textile Museum Shop, or from Odilon Morales at Arte Amuzgos. Buying fewer pieces and choosing better quality can be one justification for paying a higher price.

This is a mantra of the Fashion Revolution: the high cost of fast fashion, disposable clothes. Who is paying the price? Our planet and the workers.  In the end, we are, too because we are contributing to a system of over-consumption.

  • 75% of garment workers are young women
  • the world purchased 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago
  • in the USA in 2012, 84% of unwanted clothes ended up in the landfill or incinerator

If we buy on the street, we have no idea who made the garment or what they were paid for their labor. Usually, it’s a reseller who takes this work, either buying outright or on consignment.

  • What are we doing to make our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to mend our own clothes?
  • What are we doing to buy at up cycle/thrift sales?
  • What are we doing to buy directly from the maker?
  • Do we read labels? Check clothes “ingredients?”

The WARP conference was also about fashion designer theft, talk of label switching by designers in the NYC fashion industry, and mainstream appropriation of indigenous cultural patterns.

A challenge in this week’s online lesson was to read about the 2013 tragic Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, when more than 1,100 people died, mostly young women. From this rubble, the Fashion Revolution was born.

The women in the building were making clothes for brands we all know: Gap, Walmart, H&M, Sears, Tommy Hilfiger and more. Questions came up: Who is ultimately responsible for worker safety? The brands, the subcontractors, the government? All of the above?  How does one person make a difference?

Family mourns death of loved one, Rana Plaza, Bangladesh

So, the course developers are asking me to look in my closet, evaluate what’s there, choose my favorite garment(s), ask whose lives are in the making of these clothes? What materials: cotton, synthetic, linen, flax? How old is the oldest thing in my closet?

The dress and skirt I made (above) last week, took me hours of labor, a total of about four days. I’m particular. I like French seams. I also made my own pattern. I appreciate good garment construction and fabric.

There may still be room in the course.  We have a week to finish the first module, and its insightful, reflective and purposeful to ask: Who made my clothes?

If we care about the food we ingest, we can also care about what we choose to say about ourselves in what we wear.

Oaxaca #DAYOFDINNERS Raises Funds for MALDEF

Twenty-two Oaxaca, Mexico, residents and visitors came together yesterday in Teotitlan del Valle to share food and community, think and talk about injustice, what being “the other” means, our vision of hope for the future, and what divides us and brings us together as human beings.

Our Oaxaca, Mexico #DayofDinners Group

The #DAYOFDINNERS was organized in the United States as a way to address the polarity and viciousness that has taken hold of the nation.

Welcome to Oaxaca Day of Dinners

Partners included Women’s March on Washington, People’s Supper, Take on Hate, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, I am an Immigrant, United We Dream, The Movement for Black Lives.

Our clean-up crew: Jacki, Merry and Roberta

Jacki Cooper Gordon and I chose to co-host this potluck supper as a fundraiser for MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. We raised over $200 USD. I am certain they would welcome your donation, too, and it’s tax deductible (USA).

Yummy food, great company, conversation

A discussion guide was sent to me by the Day of Dinners organizers, and we used some of the questions as a launching pad for conversation. We were urged to keep our conversations personal, to share our individual stories, provide space for each of us to speak and be heard, to curtail the rant about dysfunctional political leadership.

We raised over $200 for MALDEF

For me, it was a wonderful time to better know friends and acquaintances who make Oaxaca home, and welcome visitors.  I was especially grateful that we had a mix of men and women, native and foreign-born, to gain perspective about culture, tradition, politics and privilege. Can we reconcile differences? How?

Teotitlan del Valle tamales with chicken, mole amarillo, made by Ernestina Chavez

Guiding principles and conversation teasers: Give us your life story in 1-minute!

Hosted by Norma and Jacki in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Pineapple white mousse cake to finish it off!






You Are Invited: Oaxaca Day of Dinners, June 25–Support Human Rights

Jacki Cooper Gordon and I have teamed up to host Oaxaca Day of Dinners, June 25.  It will be held at my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, casita, from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.  This is a Potluck Dinner. Please bring a dish to share and a minimum suggestion contribution of $10 USD or 200 pesos to support MALDEF.   Checks drafted on U.S. banks welcome!

When you register, we will send you a map with directions. Just 40 minutes from Oaxaca. Share rides. I’m providing artisanal mezcal!

All are welcome! Mexicans, expats of any nationality, residents, visitors.

The National Organizers will send us conversation guides! Get ready for some stimulating conversation. Let’s keep on making a difference!

Register to Attend — Click Here

Partners for Day of Dinners 

  • Women’s March on Washington
  • Dream Defenders
  • The Movement for Black Lives
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Take on Hate
  • Millionhoodies Movement for Justice
  • Color of Change
  • Heal Food Alliance
  • Organize Florida
  • United We Dream
  • I am an Immigrant
  • The People’s Supper
  • Trim

Oaxaca area map

If you are NOT in Oaxaca, please find a Day of Dinners event to attend near you. And, it’s not too late to host.

We will come together to give freely of ourselves and to fight back against the narrative that silos us into us vs. them. We’re coming together to share and build — in order to truly resist.

Red, white and green as a food display.