Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Virgin of Guadalupe in Textiles at San Bartolo Coyotepec Folk Art Center

The Virgin of Guadalupe is Mexico’s iconic symbol of feminism and the divine. She appears everywhere since Juan Diego first saw her apparition in 1531. She represents Mexico’s syncretism — the Tonantzin Aztec mother goddess and the Catholic Virgin Mary.* (See footnote.) Her origins are pure fertility, plenty, and indigenous. She is the spirit of Mexico and the most widely honored woman in the world. Many call her Mexico’s Patron Saint.

Textile exhibition focuses on Mexico’s tradition and faith.

December 10-12, 2018, Artisan Expoventa at Convivio, Parque Llano.  All the artisans in the exhibition will sell their work here.

Elida Lucina Merino Hernandez, San Pedro Amusgos, Oaxaca
Fito Garcia’s elaborate ikat rebozo with hand-knotted fringe, Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico
Tapestry loomed ruana by Erasto Tito Mendoza, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Linda Hanna, Oaxaca’s textile maven, curated this exhibition Rosas y Revelaciones working with a myriad of native Mexican weavers and embroiderers for three years. All the pieces were commissioned by her and I was told are part of her personal collection. 

Just in time for the December 12 Dia del Virgen de Guadalupe, the opening celebration was yesterday, December 9, at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular (Folk Art Museum) in San Bartolo Coyotepec. It will stay up until March 2019. 

Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, embroidered blouse
Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, Oaxaca

These are just a sampling of the more than 60 textile works of art on exhibit. It is so stunning, so mesmerizing, so meaningful that it is difficult not to be emotionally overwhelmed by the magnitude of human creativity that is displayed here. 

The power of woman, Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca
Flouncy Virgin apron, San Miguel del Valle, Oaxaca
Gilardo Hernandez Quero, San Pablo Villa de Mitla with his crocheted homage

Highest accolades to Linda Hanna for putting this extraordinary exhibition together, and for assembling the artisans to sell their work in an expoventa. It is always most gratifying to be able to buy from artisans directly to support them. 

Catalog available at Museo Estatal del Arte Popular, San Bartolo Coyotepec

*Footnote: A discussion, a dialog and opinions have surfaced around whether the Virgin of Guadalupe is in fact a saint. On my Facebook page

I asked the question: Is the Virgin of Guadalupe a saint? Many have responded. I invite you to join the discussion if you have an opinion or read what people say. 

Rare Find: 18th C. San Pedro Quiatoni Necklace, Coral and Blown Glass Rod Pendants

This necklace is SOLD.

It could be that this San Pedro Quiatoni necklace is from as early as the 17th century, or maybe even the 16th century. When Hernan Cortes, the Spanish Conquistador, came to Mexico and other parts of the Americas in 1521, he brought with him Venetian glass trade beads to use for barter. 

For some reason, there is only one village that adopted this particular style of beading using these trade beads — San Pedro Quiatoni, which is high up in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains almost three hours from Oaxaca city. 

These necklaces are rare, prized and very collectible.

I came across one last week in my wanderings around the Tlacolula valley with my friend Gretchen who was visiting from Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, located on the Sea of Cortes within an hour’s drive from the Mexico-USA border. I was showing her some of my favorite haunts. It just so happened that someone had just brought this necklace down from the mountains.  

Since I already have two in my collection that I do wear, I decided to send this necklace on into the world for someone else to enjoy. Perhaps that someone is YOU!

22 inches long, coral and blown glass necklace, San Pedro Quiatoni, Oaxaca

16 vintage, mouth-blown glass pendants suspend from this double-strand coral and Venetian trade bead necklace likely from the 17th or 18th century, found only in the Oaxaca mountain village of San Pedro Quiatoni, located about 2 hours from Oaxaca city. Hernan Cortes brought trade beads and European glass rods to the new world in 1521 with the conquest. The people in this village coveted the beads and strung them with Mediterranean coral on hemp and agave rope to hang around their necks. The more beads, the greater the symbol of wealth.

This particular necklace has blue and clear glass rods that are uniform and rare in color. I had the necklace professionally restrung (it was strung by the man who took it in trade) so it is now more secure with a sterling silver hook clasp. Traditionally, the necklaces were tied with blue ribbon (which has a tendency to come loose). This is a rare and collectible piece, perfect for wearing on that special occasion, too. The necklace is 22 inches long. Each rod measures approximately 2-3/4″ long, with some variation in each because they are hand-made. I just came across this spectacular beauty and want to pass this along to another collector since I already have two in my collection.

Here is the listing I have published on ETSY, priced at $695. If I sell it on Etsy, I will need to pay a fee. If you buy it HERE from me directly, the price is $595 USD plus $8 USPS priority mailing. Extra for insurance. Please purchase by Tuesday, December 11. I leave for the USA on December 12.

16 vintage, mouth-blown glass pendants suspend from this double-strand coral and Venetian trade bead necklace likely from the 17th or 18th century, found only in the Oaxaca mountain village of San Pedro Quiatoni, located about 2 hours from Oaxaca city. Hernan Cortes brought trade beads and European glass rods to the new world in 1521 with the conquest. The people in this village coveted the beads and strung them with Mediterranean coral on hemp and agave rope to hang around their necks. The more beads, the greater the symbol of wealth.

This particular necklace has blue and clear glass rods that are uniform and rare in color. I had the necklace professionally restrung (it was strung by the man who took it in trade) so it is now more secure with a sterling silver hook clasp. Traditionally, the necklaces were tied with blue ribbon (which has a tendency to come loose). This is a rare and collectible piece, perfect for wearing on that special occasion, too. The necklace is 22 inches long. Each rod measures approximately 2-3/4″ long, with some variation in each because they are hand-made. I just came across this spectacular beauty and want to pass this along to another collector since I already have two in my collection.

Best of Oaxaca’s Biodiversity at Ejido Union Zapata: Day of Plenty

Oaxaca celebrates indigenous food and handmade at the annual Agro-biodiversity Fair in Ejido Union Zapata. This once a year event is building traction. The main street of several blocks, cordoned off for booths and foot traffic, was packed by noon. The natural food color was beyond belief.

Day of Plenty: native corn varieties with tortillas

Criollo, organic-natural tomatoes + More

Billed as a seed exchange, farmers came from as far away as Chiapas, the Coast of Oaxaca and the Mixteca Alta, the high mountain range that borders the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Weavers working in natural dyes and mask makers joined in. For sale were seeds, fruit, vegetables, flowers, tortillas and tamales.

Coconut from Oaxaca’s coast. Have you tasted coconut crackers?

Fitting for Thanksgiving Weekend, it was a day of plenty.

Amaranth seeds, protein-rich, makes sweet treat

There is a big and growing movement in politically active Oaxaca to conserve native food: chiles, tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash, coffee, chocolate, amaranth, jicama and more. There are so many different varieties of each.

Sierra Mixe handmade ceramics, utilitarian beauty

One of the leaders, Rafael Meir, was present along with government representatives of Oaxaca and Mexico. Leaders are becoming more conscious about the importance of keeping GMO contained to what has already infiltrated the commercial tortilla business. Yet, there is still much more to do.

Public education has so much to do with the success of programs like this one.

House made sesame crackers — yummy, or buy seeds and make your own.

Backstrap loomed textiles rom San Juan Colorado

I was so happy to see Yuridia Lorenzo and her mom, Alegoria Lorenzo Quiroz from the Colectivo Jini Nuu in San Juan Colorado. They were selling their beautiful blouses and dresses made with native coyuchi, white and green cotton and natural dyes. Participants in my Oaxaca Coast Textile Study Tour will visit them in mid-January.

Alegoria Lorenzo Quiroz and me.

If you missed it, I hope you will mark your calendar for next year. Although the dates may float, so I’m not sure exactly when it will be held. Check out these Facebook pages to keep track: Rafael Meir, who is director of Fundacion Tortilla de Maiz Mexicana. Watch a VIDEO of the fair. 

Zapotec words describe native food

Another benefit of attending is to taste and buy mezcal, Oaxaca’s organic, artisanal alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented agave.  I bought a bottle of sylvestre (wild) jabali mezcal grown and distilled in Teozacoalco in the Mixteca Alta  by Mezcalero Javier Cruz. Que Rico!

San Juan Colorado Katyi Yaa coop, native coyuchi cotton, natural dyes

I’m noticing that Oaxaca is becoming inundated with foodies and followers of What’s Hot on the food and beverage scene. We’ve got free walking tours led by guides holding colorful umbrellas and flags downtown who get paid with tips. We have USA restauranteurs coming for cooking classes to bring the cuisine home. Rent prices are escalating in the historic center. If one lives on the peso, everything is at a premium now. Those of us who live here always ask if the influx of tourist dollars trickles down to the pueblos, the makers, the field and kitchen workers.  What is your experience?

Corn, snake, cacao symbols on wool, back-strap loom

Back-strap loomed wool, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, corn, snake, cacao symbols. That’s why fairs like this one are so important — to buy direct from those who produce.  Slow food. Slow fashion. Slow mezcal. Saludos.

Know the Natural Richness of Mexico

Chiles, squash, Mexico’s gift

 

 

Day of the Dead — Dia de los Muertos — Is it Halloween?

Today is Halloween in El Norte, the northern part of North America aka USA. In southern North America aka Mexico, the celebration is very different. And, the border is more permeable so iconic images of carved pumpkins, witches on broomsticks, and the call of trick or treat are becoming part of the Mexican holiday landscape.

Catholic Halloween (imported to Latin America from Spain) has three components:

  1. All Hallows’ Eve, October 31
  2. All Saints Day, November 1
  3. All Souls Day, November 2

It is likely the Spanish moved indigenous ancestor worship celebration and traditions to these dates to coincide with teaching the new religion. In many Oaxaca villages, the celebrations occur on one of these three days. You need to know where and when.

Here in Durham, North Carolina, Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, takes on the flavor of Mexico and is celebrated beyond the barrio. I suspect that many cities and towns with Mexican and Central American immigrants have incorporated the images, if not the practices, of Muertos into Halloween.

 My annual celebration is on November 2, All Soul’s Day, which is when Muertos is observed in my Oaxaca home village of Teotitlan del Valle.

I build an altar. Decorate it with cempasuchitl (aromatic marigolds), offerings of food and beverages that my parents loved. My dad gets a beer. My mom gets green tea. There is bread and chocolate — a requirement. No bagels and lox in Durham, so I make do with something else. I light candles. Arrange the sugar skulls. Put their photos on the table. Sit and remember. This is ecumenical.

Paul Cezanne contemplates mortality in this still life

Death in the Mexican culture is synonymous with life. It is a time to celebrate life in all its forms and think about the continuity. Muertos is when the loved ones return to visit. It is a chance to talk to them, to thank them, to honor them and to consider how they gave us life. If we had unresolved issues, we can discuss those with them, too. It is very healthy and healing, like a prayer.

2019 Day of the Dead Women’s Writing Retreat

Pan de Muertos

Here are some links of past blog posts I have written over the years that explain Day of the Dead. Please feel free to read and pass along. Lots of photos in these links, too!

Papier mache flying devil bridges the spirit world

Let us know how you will celebrate and remember.

Photo Essay: Oaxaca Cochineal Dye Workshop in Durham, NC

Cochineal dyed wool scarves drying

Yesterday, my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, godson Omar Chavez Santiago, from Galeria Fe y Lola, taught a cochineal natural dye workshop through INDIO Durham, hosted by owner Wendy Sease.  We had a sold-out workshop.

Acid base using fresh lime juice turns the dye bath orange

Most people don’t know that cochineal is the natural dye that colors lipstick, Campari, yogurt, and wine. Anything labeled carminic acid comes from cochineal. When you manipulate the pH, you can change the dye color.

Cochineal dyed silk

When you over-dye with blue, the cloth becomes purple. When you start with wild marigold and over-dye with cochineal, the cloth becomes peach color. The color of the sheep wool will also determine the shades of red.

Cochineal dyed wool

The wool must be washed/cleaned or mordanted first before it is dyed. This takes out the lanolin and makes the wool more receptive to accepting the color. The cochineal mordant bath is clear water with alum, heated to dissolve the natural rock. Wool dyed with cochineal needs mordanting. Wool dyed with indigo does not.

Taking the wool out of the bath that mordants the wool

Once the wool is cleaned, we prepare the cochineal dye bath dissolving the powdered bugs into hot water and stirring.

A red pullover scarf called a quechquemitl coming out of the dye bath

For a deeper color red, the wool must stay in the dye pot for at least an hour. At home in Teotitlan del Valle, Omar and his family will keep the yard they weave rugs with in the dye bath overnight to get the most intense color.

Another view of a dyed wool scarf coming out of the dye bath

Eight women gathered around Wendy’s kitchen to prepare the mordant and dye pots after Omar gave an introduction and orientation to the cochineal and its color properties.

Cooking it up in Wendy’s kitchen

He brought hand-woven wool scarves with him from Oaxaca that each participant could work with.

Omar coaching participants as they get ready to immerse their scarves

Fresh lime juice is essential because the acid is the necessary ingredient to alter the color of the dye bath. This is exactly how the family does it at home in Oaxaca — an entirely hand-made process.

Everyone squeezed limes by hand!

You can come to Oaxaca for a natural dye workshop or a tapestry weaving workshop. Contact Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC. We can fit your schedule.

It was a perfect NC day — our outdoor dye kitchen

Wool wet and waiting for the dye pot

When you bring the cloth out of the pot you want to make sure not to waste the cochineal. It cost over $100 USD per kilo, so you squeeze the liquid out over the dye pot to reuse it.

Squeezing the excess liquid

A study in color variation depending on wool type and dye bath

Hot purple and juicy lime, a great color contrast of wool in bowl

Three scarves in black and white

Experimenting with shibori