Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Veracruz, Gateway to La Chinantla, Oaxaca

Just as Veracruz was the gateway into Mexico for Hernan Cortes in 1519, I begin my journey here to explore remote textile villages that are part of the Chinanteco and Mazateco regions of Oaxaca state called La Chinantla.

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We start at Veracruz because it is a short two hours by car to cross over the border to Tuxtepec. From Oaxaca city, this trip can take as much as eight hours over winding, two-lane mountain roads of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte.

Cortes landed in Veracruz on Good Friday and name the place The True Cross.

I am traveling with Stephanie Schneiderman of Tia Stephanie Tours. She made this trip on her own three times to research the villages and put the tour in place before opening it up in 2013 to textile lovers and collectors.

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This is the land of fresh fish, seafood stew, a paella-like dish called arroz a la tumbada and ceviche. It is where women have been weaving on back-strap looms and creating glorious embroidered designs for centuries. They are preserved because the region is remote. The conquistadors were more interested in gold, silver and cochineal.

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It’s the end of the rainy season. From the airplane window as we descend into Veracruz, I see the rivers below are full. The earth is forest, spring, olive and lime green. It is the middle of October. I see the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the distance. It is low, flat and warm here. The port city is Mexico’s most important shipping and naval center.

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Our Gran Hotel Diligencias is on the Zocalo across from a stark white cathedral. The square is filled with outdoor restaurants,  son jarocho music and dancers, and late night lechero coffee drinkers. It’s colonial architecture reflects the sequence of conquests: Spain, France and the United States of America.

I will be here for two days before our textile journey begins.

Another Tlacolula Market Sunday, Fiesta of Our Lady of the Rosary

The festival of Our Lady of the Rosary — Fiesta de la Virgen del Rosario — is a big deal in Tlacolula de Matamoros, the county seat for the Tlacolula valley part of the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.To give you a sense of it, I’ve changed the blog header once again.

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Last Sunday huge crowds gathered under a huge tent for a noon mass in the church courtyard. The sanctuary isn’t large enough to contain everyone who gathered here from the surrounding villages.

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Sunday market day in Tlacolula is always a treat and a special day to meet up with family members and friends, and to buy supplies. This Sunday feast day was even more so.

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The streets were impassable because they had been set up with carnival rides, sideshows and a midway filled with carnival games. It was a juxtaposition to see women in traditional indigenous dress walking alongside bumper cars and pitch ball games.

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What caught my attention was the big top tent right beside the church dome on the skyline.

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We could tell this day was special. Women wore their most glittery rhinestone jewelry. Their blouses, skirts and aprons were embellished with sequins.

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Families strolled with ice cream cones filled with Leche Quemada and topped with frozen Tuna nieves. That is NOT fish, folks! Children everywhere love cotton candy and Oaxaca is no exception.

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Men come to shop for things like cane and iron tools. Women shop for scarves, shawls, aprons and food.

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Sheri and I met up at the rebozo section where she was on a quest. These shawls are ikat dyed and woven with either cotton or artecel, a silky natural fiber that is a recent substitute for more costly silk.

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The ikat shawl is a utilitarian part of the local costume used to wrap babies, groceries, wipe perspiration and shade the head from the sun. We often see women who wrap it turban-style and then perch a basket on top, child in in one hand, a satchel in the other.

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What never ceases to fascinate me are the handwoven, tassled belts that hold up heavy wool loomed skirts, and braids tied with colorful ribbon.

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After lunch at Comedor Mary, including some of the best Mole Coloradito in the world accompanied by a shared cold Victoria beer, we headed down the main thoroughfare on foot to fill our shopping cart with fresh papaya, mandarin oranges, limes and avocados to take home.

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By now, it was late afternoon and time to go home. Sara and Woofy joined us later on the rooftop terrace as we sampled the San Juan del Rio mezcal I had bought the day before, accompanied by a fine sunset to close the day.

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Tlacolula Sunday Market Low-down:

  1. I like to get there early by ten-thirty or eleven in the morning to avoid the crush of people and get deep into the market without elbowing my way through.
  2. If I eat lunch at one-thirty or two in the afternoon, this is earlier than the traditional Sunday comida, so I usually always can get a seat and a good selection of menu items at Comedor Mary.
  3. There’s always a line at the Banamex ATM (located near the pharmacy, the ice cream lane, and across from the church). Be prepared to wait a long time!
  4. If you have a car, park in the lot across from the Pemex on the main street for twenty pesos. This is where the buses from Teotitlan del Valle and San Miguel del Valle go in and out.
  5. Prices drop at the end of the day, by four in the afternoon, when people want to pack up and go home.
  6. Best Finds: embroidered aprons, hand-woven shawls, woven bamboo baskets, red clay pottery from San Marcos Tlapazola, handmade wood toys, painted gourds from Guerrero

Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop starts January 30, 2015

 

Come to Opening Night: Antioxidantes Art Exhibit at Gallery Quetzalli, Oaxaca, Mexico

Artists Mauricio Cervantes and Sati Zech asked me to invite you to
the opening reception, October 30, 6:00 p.m.
at Galeria Quetzalli in the Casa Oaxaca Restaurant Patio
Constitucion 104, Centro Historico, Oaxaca

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Antioxidantes is the exhibition that unites the work of Mauricio Cervantes  (Mexico) and Sati Zech (Germany). Each artist has a distinct technique and style. Yet, this show presents points of convergence between them.  Sati Zech works with canvas, leather and wool plus other materials. He is noted for the use of the color red in his work. Mauricio paints abstract forms on cement tiles using oxidation processes for interest and emphasis.

 ***

Antioxidantes es la exposición que une el trabajo de Mauricio Cervantes (MEX) y Sati Zech(ALEMANIA) ambos artistas con técnica y estilo tan distintos, sin embargo esta exhibición logra encontrar algunas líneas de convergencia entre la obra de ambos; mientras Sati Zech trabaja con lienzo, cuero y lana, entre otros materiales, el color rojo se encuentra como sello característico de su obra, Mauricio presentará piezas de pintura en baldosas hidráulicas con procesos de oxidación y formas abstractas que lo caracterizan. ­­

Inauguración  30 de Octubre, 20:00 hrs. Galería Quetzalli, Constitución 104, Col. Centro, Oaxaca. Oax.

Mas información: http://galeriaquetzalli.wordpress.com

www.mauriciocervantes.wordpress.com

www.satizech.de

 

San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca: Mezcal on the Mountain

We didn’t start out planning a trip to San Juan del Rio, Oaxaca. It just happened as we moved into the day. Friend Sheri Brautigam, textile designer, collector and Living Textiles of Mexico blogger, is visiting me. After a roundabout through the Teotitlan del Valle morning market, we headed out to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to visit master flying shuttle loom weaver Arturo Hernandez.

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Don Arturo creates fine ikat wool shawls and scarves colored with natural dyes, including cochineal, indigo, wild marigold and zapote negro (wild black persimmon).  Sheri knew him from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market where he exhibited in summer 2014.  I’ve known him for years through my friend Eric Chavez Santiago, education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, of course, we couldn’t help ourselves and new rebozos made it into our collections.

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It was only eleven in the morning. I asked Don Arturo if he knew the village of San Juan del Rio, where some of Oaxaca’s finest mezcal is produced and sold under private label. He said, Yes, it’s only about forty-five minutes from here.

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I looked at Sheri, she looked at me. We said, Let’s go. I invited Don Arturo to come with us and he said Yes, once more. A native Zapotec speaker, we were lucky to have him with us. He helped find our way!

About Mezcal: The agave piña or pineapple is dug up out of the ground at maturity (seven to twelves years of field growth) and taken to the distillery, where it is roasted over a wood fired, rock-lined pit.  That’s what gives it a smokey flavor. It’s then crushed to yield the liquid that becomes mezcal. Good mezcal goes through two distillations.

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Years ago, Sheri  worked with a seamstress embroiderer Alma Teresa who lives in San Juan del Rio. Sheri designs gorgeous quechquemitls and Teresa crochets the pieces together. To reconnect with her was another reason to go.  Notice Teresa’s blouse and jacket, with the elaborate crochet trim. Seems like some of the most fun days in Oaxaca start with no particular plan.

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We headed out toward Hierve del Agua but made a left turn onto a winding road that soon became unpaved dirt, rough from recent rains. It took a good hour plus to get there from Mitla.  The road ends at the picturesque village, tucked away in a river valley. Houses are built on hillsides.  Other hillsides are terraced with mezcal palenques and maize crops. The stills are at river level.  They use the water to cool the distillation process. This is not yet a tourist destination.

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This village is known for small production, artesenal mezcal. I was on a hunt for reposado. What I found was an extraordinary reposado at a third the price of what I usually pay in Oaxaca city, plus a wild agave (silvestre) mezcal called Tepeztate from a mezcalero who is akin to a winemaker. He produces mezcal that he sells to some of the top hand-crafted brands.

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Sheri got a taste of just distilled mezcal, warm and just out of the still. At eighty-percent alcohol her engine was roaring after just a sip.  I inhaled and almost fell over. Don Arturo joined us. Being the designated driver, I had to be more careful. The whole thing reminded me of North Carolina moonshine, but the resulting product here is so much more refined it’s not even comparable.

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There are now so many varieties of mezcal, depending on the type of agave used and whether the mezcal is aged and for how long. Añejo can be aged as long as twelve years in oak which takes on characteristics of the wood. Wild agave has a distinctive herbal flavor and aroma. You need to taste to see which you prefer.

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This is a full day trip. We could have stayed longer and visited more mezcaleros. But I think we came home with some of the best produced in the village at a fraction of the retail price. If you go, bring your own liter size glass bottles with tight lids. Some bring gallon jugs to fill up. Plan to leave Oaxaca by nine in the morning. You’ll return around seven at night. Don’t go in the rainy season! You will slide all over the road!

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Who to visit?

  1. Redondo de San Juan del Rio, Rodolfo Juan Juarez, mezcalero. Tel. (951) 546 5260. Reposado and Tepeztate
  2. Perla del Rio Mezcal, Ignacio Juan Antonio, mezcalero, Tel. (951) 546 5056. Espadin joven.
  3. Alma Teresa’s clothing cooperative, a block from the church. She is sending two daughters to university in Oaxaca. Her husband went to the U.S. to work years ago and never came back.

 

 

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You can buy a road map of Oaxaca state at the Proveedora, corner Reforma and Independencia, in the Centro Historico. Comes in handy for exploring and having an aventura, like we did.

Coming Up: Oaxaca Portrait Photography Workshop, Starts Jan. 30, 2015

Friends of Guadalupe: How Your Small Gift Counts

Updated October 16, 2014:  On September 30, I wrote A Prayer for Guadalupe, a post about our friend Lupita who was diagnosed with breast cancer and is being treated in Oaxaca. She is a widow with three children. Her resources are limited and a group of us have come together to for a fundraising effort to raise enough money for her to cover out-of-pocket expenses. We expect they will be substantial, since Lupita’s income depends on weaving and house cleaning, which she cannot do right now.

So far, we have collectively raised $3,211.  The cost of the surgeon was $1,350, which was paid out of this effort, and there will be expenses for chemotherapy coming up.

Thanks to all who have contributed.  It means so much. Will YOU add your name to this list?

FRIENDS OF GUADALUPE

    • David Aycock, Waco, TX
    • Sarah W. Aycock, Rayville, LA
    • Susan Bean Aycock, Oaxaca, MX
    • Anonymous, Oaxaca
    • Lena Bartula, San Miguel de Allende, MX
    • Barbara Beerstein, Santa Cruz, CA
    • Ellen Benson, Philadelphia, PA
    • Lori Benson, Oaxaca
    • Roberta Christie, Tallahassee, FL
    • Colleen Darling, Solvang, CA
    • Mary Erickson, Oaxaca
    • Jo Ann and Tom Feher, Seattle, WA
    • Janet Fish, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • Norma Hawthorne, Graham, NC and Oaxaca
    • Jenny Heard, Everett, WA
    • Rachael Herron, Oakland, CA
    • Elliot Hughes, Berkeley, CA
    • Natalie Hughes, Berkeley, CA
    • Jesse Hughes, Berkeley, CA
    • Edgar James, Washington, D.C.
    • Elliot Jobe, Maple Grove, MN
    • Candace King, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    • Kate Kingston, Trinidad, CO
    • Suzanne Kinney, Chicago, IL
    • Carol Estes Knox, Oaxaca
    • Kathryn Leide, Madison, WI
    • Deborah Mancuso, San Jose, CA
    • Elizabeth Moffett, Sonora, CA
    • My Mexico Tours, Santa Cruz, CA
    • Carolyn Nakasato, Pearl City, HI
    • Hollie Taylor Novak, Chapel Hill, NC
    • Melanie Schulze, New Braunfels, TX
    • Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Oaxaca
    • Lorajean Smith, Portland, OR
    • Julie Streeter, Beverly Shores, IN
    • Barbara Szombatfalvy, Durham, NC
    • Liduina Van Nes, San Francisco, CA
    • Michelle T. Verduzco, Oaxaca
    • Diana Youtsey, Portland, OR

Friends of Guadalupe:

Make Your Gift for Breast Cancer Treatment

 

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Click the PayPal button above to make your gift. It will be deposited into my Oaxaca Cultural Navigator PayPal account and I will convert it to pesos and give your gift to Lupe.  If you want to send along messages or prayers for healing, please include this.  If you just wish to send money from your account to mine, my PayPal account is oaxacaculture@me.com