Category Archives: Mexico

The Virgin of Guadalupe Photo Essay: From Primitive to Painterly

The Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City is featuring a special exhibition about the Virgin of Guadalupe.  The images include primitive figures in carved wood, elaborate paintings and wood carvings from church altars, woven and embroidered textiles, and contemporary 2016 photographs by Federico Gama taken at the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Why am I so taken with this exhibition? Certainly not from a religious point-of-view, but from one interested in the cultural expression of this great nation. The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico’s own, personal patron saint.

To me, she is a woman of strength and valor, able to transform and uplift a nation. She is Mother Earth, fertility and blessing. Her figure transcends and tricks the Spanish overlord. She is disguised as and more than the Virgin Mary. Her roots are indigenous. She belongs to the people.

I am also taken with the various artistic expressions of her figure, how she is depicted: from facial expressions, use of color and shadows on the folds of her gown, the portrayal of the angel at her feet, from simple to elaborate. It seems that everyone had their own version of the Virgin of Guadalupe vision.

As my friend, artist Lena Bartula says, In Guad We Trust. 

Virgin of Guadalupe Exvoto

I hope you enjoy this visual expression of Mexican life.

Stone church carving

Ceramic plate from Patzcuaro

A Federico Gama portrait

Even the Virgin wants us to drink Pepsi

Close up of the angel, 18th century

A book engraving

One artist’s version with apparitions and flowers

Another version with a different cloak and coloring

Note the more elaborate Mexican flag on the angel’s wings

A polychrome figure, perhaps from Oaxaca

A Federico Gama portrait at the Basilica de Guadalupe

Inlaid oyster shell portrait

Exvoto, giving thanks to the Virgin for a car purchase

Embroidered textile, huipil

Ceramic and alpaca metal from Guadalajara

A primitive painting, every bit as meaningful

Formalized altar construction

 

 

On Becoming a Permanent Resident in Mexico

Last month I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book about ex-pat women from the USA who have chosen to make a life in Mexico. Tell your story, the editor said. Write about your experience. What was your reason for leaving our land of the free, home of the brave (my tongue and cheek terminology)?

I dug deep. Went back to the story about how I met the Chavez Santiago family thirteen years ago in Teotitlan del Valle and fell in love: with them, with Oaxaca, with Teotitlan del Valle, with the rug weaving culture, with Zapotec life and values, with the climate, archeology, history, artisanry and art.

Monte Alban, Zapotec archeological site, Oaxaca, Mexico

But, I always did, and still do, consider The United States of America my country, where I am vested and invested in language, culture, and especially social justice and political issues.

And, I am now spending most of the year at home in Teotitlan del Valle, with occasional, short stays at my apartment in Durham, North Carolina.

So, I went deep into that question about how did I get to Mexico, and more importantly, why I make it home, am comfortable and love it there. I will save this for when the book is published and you can read it for yourself.

Glyphs at Monte Alban Museum

(As a consequence, I wrote a blog post about the difference in terms: immigrant and ex-pat.)

By writing about this I realized that it is time to declare my commitment to Mexico by applying for a permanent resident visa. It was about time, I told myself. I have been living permanently in Oaxaca for many years but functioning as a visitor, leaving the country and returning. I wrote the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, NC, and scheduled an interview to make application.

(I confess, too, that the Supreme Court Justice nomination and hearings helped me make this choice, too.)

My application was approved and within two hours I received the official visa in my passport. I knew I had done the right thing after taking a pulse on why I was grinning ear to ear!

Flags for sale in Tlacolula, a size for everyone.

This means I will have 30 days after returning to Oaxaca to present this credential at the immigration office to get the ultimate, official identity card. Permanent means I no longer have to leave the country at the end of 30, 60 or 180 days. It means I can get a bank account and a credit card and own a car, get discounts and free admissions to museums, bus rides, and what else tangible I do not know. But, the intangible is that I belong in Mexico, too, and that feels good.

While I was at the consulate, I met Cecelia Barros, who heads up cultural affairs for the consulate in North and South Carolina. We talked about ways to bring attention to the talent, creativity, rich history and culture of Mexican people to this part of the USA. Our mutual goal: to overcome and disable the stereotypes and shiboleths that so many hold about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.

Chinas Oaxaqueñas at El Tule Guelaguetza 2018

I invited her to Omar’s presentation at Meredith College, and we are cooking up some ideas together about ways to develop educational programs that would offer greater cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. I’m excited about that.

My experience at the Mexican Consulate was positive and supportive, and did not mirror that of my Mexican friends and family who go to the US Embassy in Mexico City and are treated perfunctorily, with disdain and most often with denial.

Before I leave to return to Mexico on November 8, I will vote.

Gathering in the church patio, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

 

Lila Downs Concert Is Mini-Guelaguetza Extravaganza

How could each Lila Downs Concert be better then those that came before? The Best Ever is what I heard people say who have gone to many in the past. I don’t know, but Lila Downs knows how to dazzle a crowd.

Grammy Award Winner Lila Downs

The Guelaguetza Stadium on the Cerro Fortin in Oaxaca city was full on Friday night, July 27. We got there early to be sure to beat the crowds and that gave us a chance to settle into our seats and audience oggle.

Our diverse group from Israel, South Africa, Italy, Mexico and USA

Love this tapete — handwoven sarape

I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group of friends at the last moment. They had an extra ticket and offered it to me. Thank you, Patrice and Neal! Seems that to snag a primo seat means standing in line all night and someone they know did that for them. I was happy to pay the premium.

Lila loves wearing indigenous dress (traje) from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec!

Beribboned and twirling figures with  hand-woven hats

I had some serious doubts about whether my shout out for tickets would yield results. I was not successful finding online tickets via Ticketmaster. Nothing materialized and I gave up … until a few days before!

Whirling dervish cowboy dancer devils

We were in the third row, far left of center, behind the mixing station staff. Not great for photos, but a fabulous spot for listening and watching Lila’s husband Paul Cohen on his badass sax.  Even Lila made her way over on occasion. I did my best to get photos, but the strobes and movement of dancers made the conditions very challenging.

Little girl Flor de Piña dancers

In the row behind me, he sang every word along with her

I think what was fantastic about this concert is that Lila brought us her incredible traditional play list, the oldies but goodies. Everyone around us sang along. AND, the performance was built around the dancing and costuming of the annual Guelaguetza event held on the last two Mondays in July at the same venue.

Tlacolula de Matamoros Delegation

Benito Juarez, iconic Zapotec president of the Republic: respect human rights

With Lila’s singing mastery, great musicians and representative delegations invited from Tlacolula de Matamoros from the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca, Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec from the Sierra Mixe, Juchitan women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, girls from the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca near Veracruz giving us the Pineapple Dance, and groups that are masked, twirling and whirling, the show couldn’t have been better.

La Bandera, the Mexican Flag, iconic and powerful revolutionary image

Lila Downs and Paul Cohen have a strong commitment to social justice issues in Oaxaca and Mexico. Her songs tell the struggle of poverty, lack of education and health care, discrimination, disenfranchisement, pain and tears, hopes and dreams. Together, they have been a powerful voice for human rights.

Lila sings La Llorona and the audience goes crazy

Artist woodcut projected as stage backdrop to band

The dynamic visual backdrop to the stage were photos and video of migrant farm workers, artist woodcuts of peasant life, the work of artisans and craftspeople, marching soldiers with bayonet rifles, heroic President of Independence Benito Juarez, a Zapotec from Oaxaca.

Sax and trumpet with lots of marimba band back up

Saxaphonist Paul Cohen takes a break to enjoy the Flor de Piña dancers

The fun was mixed with the message that we cannot be complacent about politics and world events. Half the seats in the audience were available to adoring fans for free.

The Grand Finale included everyone on stage

Guns at the border — NO

 

 

Is Cinco de Mayo Mexican Independence Day? NO!

Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated and where is it celebrated most? More than a great time for a Margarita or a swig of Corona, Cinco de Mayo was the response by Mexican-Americans — mostly Californians — to the French invasion of Mexico, The Battle of Puebla, and fear that the North would lose the Civil War, enslaving those with Mexican heritage along with Blacks throughout the southwest.

Mexican Californians gave hugs amounts of financial support to preserve the Union and defeat the Confederacy. They had a lot at stake.

I wrote about the roots of Cinco de Mayo in 2012 that offers history and a UCLA professor’s research about the topic.

I’m in southern California this weekend for a family reunion and to attend a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Viva la Vida honoring a dear friend, Michael Stone and his wife Charlotte.  I’m reminded again being in my California homeland about how strong Mexican culture here is and has been for centuries. Afterall, this was once part of New Spain!

Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City

So, raise one today for the courage of Mexican-Americans who helped defeat France in the Battle of Puebla, and thereby averting French support for the Confederate Army. We owe them a lot.

Viva la Vida.  Viva Mexico!

Meanwhile, I’ll be back in Oaxaca on June 28. Publishing intermittently until then!  Saludos.

Mexico Jewelry Collectible and Vintage Pop-Up Sale

This Pop-Up, Mash-Up Sale features collectible Mexican sterling silver necklaces, earrings and bracelets. They are from a California collector I am representing. All pieces are handcrafted and personally selected for quality and beauty. Many are vintage or close-to-it!

Perhaps there is something here that strikes your fancy.

How to buy: Each piece is numbered and priced.  Send me an email (normadotschaferaticlouddotcom). Include:

  1. The number of the piece you want.
  2. Your name, mailing address and zip code

I will send you a PayPal invoice and add the mailing cost to your bill. I will mail within 48 hours to the USA or Canada.

#1. Patzcuaro, Michoacan necklace. Vintage. Rare. Substantial. 17″ long. $425 USD

#1A. Handmade sterling silver chain with sturdy hook clasp

#1B. 15mm sterling silver pearls. 11 fishes, each 1-1/2″ long, dangle from red beans

#2. Vintage turquoise and sterling silver bracelet 7″ long, Mexico, stamped. $125 USD

SOLD. #3. Flexible 17″ solid sterling silver collar sits comfortably on neck, a showpiece, intricately carved, easy to wear. $195 USD

#3A. Substantial, not heavy to wear, marked sterling Mexico

#4 (left) Famous Oaxaca designer Kandart earrings, 2-1/4″ long, Ask for price.              #5 is SOLD. (right) Fish Earrings, 2-1/4″ long, $125. Both 925 sterling.

#6. Mazahua, State of Mexico, Garnet & Coral Love Birds. 3-1/2″ long. $165 USD.

SOLD. #7, Oaxaca-New York designer Elena Solow designed these about 10 years ago. Green and chartreuse glass, with sterling silver. $135 USD.

SOLD. #8. Friday Kahlo Style, smaller version, 1-1/2″ wide x 2-1/2″ long. Sterling. $185 USD

#9. Oaxaca designer Kandart sterling silver necklace. Ask for price.

#9 is a solid sterling silver necklace that rests comfortably on the collar-bone. Each piece is hand-made using the ancient lost-wax casting technique preferred by the ancient Maya and Mixtec people who were skilled in jewelry making. The piece is rare and no longer being made. The silversmiths returned to their native France and are creating other unique pieces. Please send me an email if you are interested in acquiring this stunning expression of Mexico of wearable art.