Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

More Masks Needed for Oaxaca: Will You Help?

So many of you have been very generous with repeated gifts since we started the Oaxaca Mask Project in April 2020, as soon as covid-19 reached Oaxaca and started to spread. Requests for masks continue. The need now is more in the remote villages than in the city, I’m told. Will you consider us again in giving support to Oaxaca?

Puente gave our masks to Mixtec farmers

We ordered the making of 400 masks today from your gifts! Thank you!

Late last week, Alvin Starkman from Oaxaca Mezcal Tours, who has been an immense help distributing masks, wrote this to me after I asked the question, Does Oaxaca need more masks?

Actually, more masks are indeed needed, so if anyone wants to participate in the program, contact Norma Schafer to donate so we can get more produced. I am mentioned regarding distribution in San José del Chilar. I just learned last night from Lucina, doctor in charge of the health clinic in the village, that word has gotten around that she is giving them out to those in need, so much so that some people are coming to the clinic and feigning injury just so they can get a free cloth mask. So we need more for the Cañada district of the state.

Drivers use our masks when delivering Food For All orders

We are down to zero masks to distribute! We have had some funds come in over the last couple of weeks and I have asked for another 100 to be sewn right now for distribution. Still, we can use many hundreds more. It takes a bout a week to cut and sew 100 masks. We have sewists in villages waiting for our contact to sew more. Can you help us do this?

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Many of you are keeping up with the semi-foro (traffic light) system of virus spread alerts in Oaxaca. The state continues to move back and forth between red (stay home) and orange (proceed with caution). Green is not in sight. Many of us believe that orange is in place to keep the informal economy functioning, otherwise people will starve. There is not less virus than there was before! Mexico is third in the world for virus spread and the health system cannot handle the number of cases.

Our masks covering medical staff at Oaxaca’s IMSS hospital

We will also provide masks for Friendly Food Donations. Here is what founders Jesi Jello and Erick Garcia Gomez say: Hello Friends! We are looking for mask donations here in Oaxaca City for our upcoming food deliveries, many people in the communities we donate food to do not have a mask or they do not have one that properly protects their nose and mouth. Often they have 2 amongst a family of 7 people.

And, this came in from Tanya LaPierre in Oaxaca who volunteers with local communities and is an active leader in an animal rescue/spay and neuter clinic.

Norma, I am contacting you about getting masks to San Isidro Roaguia. I will be doing a fundraiser for food basics for the village, and no one there has masks.

I replied to Tanya, yes, of course, we will make and give you as many masks as you need!

Mask wearing family, Teotitlan del Valle

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Of course, this promise to make masks depends on the generosity of our readers. I know many of you have given and continue to do so. Will those of you who haven’t yet, will you please consider supporting our effort.

With deepest thanks,

Norma

Friendly Food Donations

Are there enough masks for Oaxaca?

I ask myself this question every day as the level of risk reported by the Oaxaca government moves fluidly back and forth from orange to red and back again. Confusing? Yes. And, in the informal economy small shop owners and street vendors are determined to do business, regardless of the risk. Restaurants have opened. Who can blame them? Not me. There is no safety net in Mexico for the impoverished. And, it is disappearing here in El Norte, too, as the U.S. Senate stonewalls on a new aid package.

Farmer in San Pablo Huitzo stays safe in one of our masks

The virus continues to rage. Mexico has the third highest outbreak in the world. We all want life the way it was. It’s not going to happen any time soon. So, we may as well settle into this as the way it’s going to be for a while.

There are slivers of good news out there.

From San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Puente director Isahrai tells our Food for All partner Rachael Mamane that 50 of our masks were delivered to the Red de Amaranto Mixteca council for distribution to farmer families in the Mixteca communities. Isahrai participated in a meeting of the group where mask wearing do’s and don’ts as well as advice on care and washing were shared.

Puente gives mask wearing and care instructions to the farming council

Alvin and Arlene Starkman’s goddaughter Lucy just finished her medical school education and has been assigned to do her public service in the village of San Jose del Chilar IMSS health clinic. This is the public health service. Lucy will distribute our masks to the 700 (+) (-) people in the village, which is in Oaxaca’s Cañada district. The closest town is San Juan Bautista Cuicatlan.

At the San Jose del Chilar IMSS health clinic

And, also thanks to Alvin, my son Jacob is the proud wearer of a Mezcal Educational Tours cap and face shield. Please note that we all know for maximum safety, one must wear a cloth mask under the shield. This photo is merely for demo purposes. Jacob is now officially part of the Mezcal Educational Tours Covid19 Fighting Brigade! P.S. That’s an agave plant on the cap, not another botanical.

The Mezcal Educational Tours Covid-19 Fighting Brigade

As long as there is a need, we will continue to sew and distribute masks and ask for donations. Let me know if you need masks in Oaxaca and if you want to donate.

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Norma Schafer’s Red Tail Grains Cornbread–Dairy + Gluten Free

We are confined to a smaller lifestyle. There are limitations to what we can do, where we can go, who we can see. Many of us are suffering loss of income, family contact, financial well-being. Some of us don’t know if we can keep our homes or make the next rent payment.

I yearn for Oaxaca. I yearn to take small groups of travelers into indigenous villages in pursuit of understanding and to explore the textile traditions. I perfected a cornbread recipe in Oaxaca where I went to my local mill down the street to buy organic meal. They grind the finest cornmeal and I could not find it here — until now!

redtailgrains@gmail.com or www.redtailgrains.com

For now, I’m stuck in Durham, North Carolina until it is safe to travel again. Many of us are stuck somewhere, physically or metaphorically. (There are worse places to be stuck!) For solace, I turn to cooking — that great leveler of creative output. This falls into the category of comfort food.

At the Durham Farmer’s Market (I go early when it is safe and there are fewer people), I discovered Red Tail Grains from Mebane, NC. I’ve been using their fine stone ground corn meal for several months. It makes the finest cornbread, perfect for my lactose-free and gluten-free diet. It yields a cake-like texture with a fine crumb. I season it up like a spice cake but add Hatch Chili powder for a Mexico-style kick. Great with morning coffee, too!

Ingredients/Recipe:

  • 1 C. Red Tail Cateto Orange Heirloom Flint Corn
  • 1-1/2 C. Gluten-Free Flour (almond flour or King Arthur brand)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Hatch chili powder
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 T. ground turmeric
  • 2 T. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 C. almond milk or other plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 7 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1/2 C. sugar

Note: To make this VEGAN, use butter and egg substitutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients and grated ginger in a mixing bowl. Make a well. Combine milk and vinegar and let it sit to clabber for at least five minutes. Beat together eggs and sugar. Add all liquid ingredients to the well and mix until thoroughly combined into a cake-like batter — the consistency of pancake mix.

Prepare a baking pan. I use a 10″ cast iron skillet, well-seasoned, lined with parchment paper. You can also use an 8″ x 8″ square glass baking dish, greased. I would also recommend lining same with parchment paper.

Pour batter into baking pan. Put onto middle rack of preheated oven. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Cut into squares. Will keep refrigerated for one week or you can freeze successfully.

Enjoy!

Fresh from the oven! Can you smell it?

Las Sanjuaneras Huipils + More to Come

I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these textiles and overcome by your response in support of this great women’s weaving cooperative from San Juan Colorado. Thank you all for your incredible support.

This beauty is now SOLD. #5.

SOLD. #5 by Catalina Garcia Nejia. Dyes: wild marigold, mahogany bark. 34″w x 41″ long. $265.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, mailing address. I will mark it SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

The weavers were thrilled we visited last January 2020

And, then there is this one. Blue and gold. Pericone and indigo.

SOLD. #17. by Camerina Cabrera. 21-1/2″ wide x 40″ long. $165 + mailing

Now, I’ve just spent the afternoon packing and mailing all the beautiful huipiles and blusas you bought yesterday. Some of you were disappointed because we sold-out early and fast!

So, I’ve contacted Las Sanjuaneras and I am arranging for another shipment of 16 beautiful textiles to come to me from Oaxaca. These will include more blusas and and a few tunics. The selection, again, is magnificent. I have seen preview pictures and chosen the ones I think you will enjoy most.

A selection of beautiful Las Sanjuaneras textiles — at their village

I’ll give you a heads-up when then arrive. I will need a couple of days to prepare them for posting — with photographs and descriptions.

Thank you for being so wonderfully supportive of Oaxaca and her weaving community. We are all deeply appreciative.

Spinning and cleaning cotton in San Juan Colorado
Meet Patrocinia from Las Sanjuaneras, San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca
This is Margarita, another outstanding Las Sanjuaneras weaver
Weavers Rufina with daughter Aurora and her son

Families depend on the work of women in small, remote weaving villages like San Juan Colorado. Husbands are subsistence farmers who are able to feed their families with beans, corn, squash that they raise in the field. But the produce is no commodified because everyone grows what they need to eat. It is the weaving that can bring in the extra money to the household to pay for school, medicine and health care, an occasional chicken or a fiesta.

In times like these, when there are no tourists to visit or to shop in the Oaxaca city galleries, we are doing what we can to help families sustain themselves.

Bringing Oaxaca Textiles to You: Las Sanjuaneras Cooperative

Oh, dear, I thought. We have a textile tour to visit the cooperatives on the Oaxaca coast this January 2021. What if we don’t get there because of Covid-19? The best I can do now is bring them to us until we know if we hold this tour … or not. I contacted Las Sanjuaneras in San Juan Colorado, a pueblo located in the coastal mountains near Pinotepa Nacional. Why? Because they weave exceptionally fine garments AND they have no Internet presence for online sales — no website, no Instagram, no Facebook. They need our help.

Las Sanjuaneras weaving cooperative

15 Gorgeous Hand-woven, Naturally-Dyed Textiles for Sale

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

So, I contacted Ana Paula Fuentes from the CADA Foundation. She worked with the group in the past. I selected garments from photos she sent via cooperative leader Camerina Cabrera and I prepaid shipping so Las Sanjuaneras would have no out-of-pocket expenses. As soon as the pieces sell, I will send funds to them via Western Union. It’s a win-win for all of us.

SOLD. #2. Maker: Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: nanche, indigo, almond. 38″ wide x 39″ long. $295
SOLD. #4 Maker: Brisaida. Dyes: Indigo and ferrous oxide. 34″w x 41″ long. $295

Here’s some background about Las Sanjuaneras sent by Ana Paula to share with you:

Five weavers started Las San Juaneras in the year 2000 — 20 years ago, in the Mixtec village of San Juan Colorado on Oaxaca’s Costa Chica region where 80% of the women are back-strap loom weavers and spinners. Today, their membership has grown to 16 women. Most are younger, invited by the elders to join them to keep their traditions vibrant, to become stronger, to share ideas, and to encourage and support one another.

SOLD. #5 Maker: Catalina Garcia Nejia. Dyes: wil marigold, mahogany bark. 34″ w x 41″ long. $265

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

#6 by Margarita Nicolas Hernandez. Dyes: guava, wild marigold, Brazil wood, beets, ferrous oxide. 37″ wide x 43″ long. $325

In September 2017, Ana Paula with Maddalena Forcella were invited to collaborate with the group to build their creative competency, design innovation and quality. Their goal was to differentiate their weavings from others in the community and to create a more cohesive team. This included integrating the younger women and developing skills to transform lives in a positive, healthy and sustainable way. The important by-product was to revive and reinforce their traditional techniques and empower the community through shared knowledge.

SOLD. #7 by Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: Brazil wood, mahogany, guava, beet. 34″w x 36″ long. $295.
SOLD. #8 by Delfina Quiroz. Dyes: indigo and nanche. 34″ w x 38″ long. $265.

They dye the native wild cotton that grows in the region themselves using only native plant materials — flowers, fruit, wood bark. They buy coyuchi cotton and the purple shell-dyed (caracol purpura) cotton from others in San Juan Colorado and Pinotepa de Don Luis.

Sold. #9 by Brisaida Garcia. Dyes: indigo & coyuchi. 31″ w x 45″ long. $285.
Indigo-dyed cotton. Las Sanjuaneras. Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes.
#11 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo & nanche. 31-1/2″ w x 34″ long. $195.
Sold #13 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo & natural cotton. 35″ w x 41″ long. $195
SOLD. #14 by Aurora Nicolas. Dyes: almond bark, indigo. 35″ w x 36″ long. $225

The garments represented here are some of the finest workmanship I am aware of in all of Oaxaca state. I hope you find something you will enjoy collecting and wearing. And, on behalf of the women, thank you for your help and support.

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.

SOLD. #15 by Brisaida. Dyes: mahogany, marigold, indigo. 37″ w x 40″ long. $225
SOLD. #16 by Maria Ines. Dyes: mahogany, wild marigold. 36″w x 38″ long. $295.
SOLD. #17 by Camerina Cabrera. Dyes: indigo, wild marigold. 21-1/2″w x 44″ long. $165.

All these garments are made with natural cotton native to the Oaxaca coast. The cotton is cleaned, beaten, and hand-spun using a malacate drop-spindle. Then the threads are dyed in the dye bath before they are put onto the back-strap loom. The process is labor-intensive and painstakingly precise. This is the work of women (and some men are now learning) that goes back centuries, millenia! Most learned to weave starting at age eight. Only a few are masters at spinning.

Las Sanjuaneras weaver. Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes

To Buy: Please email me normahawthorne@mac.com with your name, garment number, mailing address. I will mark your choice SOLD, send you a PayPal invoice and add $12 for cost of mailing.