Category Archives: Oaxaca Mexico art and culture

Take Me to the Source: Gin Mezcal in Matatlan, Oaxaca

Last Thursday was pretty depressing. Not because of Oaxaca safety concerns or traffic or the zocalo encamped by teachers. I got around Oaxaca easily by foot last week.

Aye, que borracho! That's what happens after too many!

Aye, que borracho! Don’t blame the mezcal for making me stupid.

I was depressed because when I got to La Mezcalillera, the purveyor of artesanal mezcal on Calle Murguia in the historic center of Oaxaca in the early afternoon, they were out of my favorite Gracias a Dios Gin Mezcal. I wanted to buy a few bottles to bring back to the U.S. with me to give as gifts. Of course, once the bottles were open, I could have a nip or two.

Copper still for processing mezcal, just like moonshine but more refined.

Copper still for processing mezcal, just like moonshine but more refined.

Despite the attempts of the barkeep to help me find something else that would equal, and after numerous tastings (sips, please), I just couldn’t bring myself to buy anything else and walked out empty handed.

Dreams of juniper berries and orange peel dancing in my head.

Agave Gin: Dreams of juniper berries and orange peel dancing in my head.

My head hung for the rest of the afternoon as I tried to divert my mood, concentrating on the shopping list: a 5-year old aged añejo mezcal for my sister (her favorite), special order Oaxaca blouses for friends, Oaxaca chocolate, and a much needed haircut.

Cuixe wild agave cactus, pronounced Kwee-shay.

Cuixe wild agave cactus, pronounced Kwee-shay.

When I woke up on Friday morning, still feeling let down, I decided it was time to research where Gracias a Dios is distilled. After a 30-minute Internet search I came up with a location, website and contact form.

Tobala, another wild agave cactus, yields a distinctive herby aroma and taste.

Tobala, another wild agave cactus, yields a distinctive herby aroma and taste.

I got a reply back from Emmy Hernandez within minutes via email and then a phone call. It was about 11:30 a.m. She was willing to drive three bottles to the city from Santiago Matatlan at the tail end of the Tlacolula Valley and world capital of mezcal.

Horse driven stone wheel used to crush roasted agave pineapple

Horse driven stone wheel used to crush roasted agave pineapple

I said, No, I’ll go there! I wanted to see the palenque and find a regular, reliable source for what I have come to consider an amazing spirit. I want to go where it’s made, I mumbled to no one in particular as I was standing on the cobblestone street in the historic center. I arrived an hour later.

Vintage, well-used copper vessel for distillation

Vintage, well-used copper vessel for distillation

Emmy Hernandez is the daughter of master mezcalero (distiller) Oscar Hernandez Santiago. He is the person who creates the distillation process to ensure he gets the best flavor from each of the varietals during roasting, pressing and aging. He’s the mezcal equivalent to a winemaker.

Espadin is the most common agave and the base for gin mezcal

Espadin is the most common agave varietal and the base for gin mezcal

The family lives where they work: On the far side of Matatlan as the Federal Highway 190 disappears from view over the rise on the way to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Distilled in copper, aged in oak, 45% alcohol by volume, 90 proof, ground by horse-driven stone, organic.

Contact Gracias a Dios

Thank God for Mezcal. I believe it. So do Zapotecs. A great medicinal.

Thank God for Mezcal. I believe it. So do Zapotecs. A great medicinal.

The palenque is more than where Gin Mezcal is made. It is an event destination and there’s going to be a big mezcal, food and music festival there in mid-July. If you are around, don’t miss it.

Fiestas, festivals, parties, weddings, a great event space.

Fiestas, festivals, parties, weddings, a great event space.

Ok, so there’s a commercial edge to what’s going on here. It’s not like going to the rural agave farms in San Dionisio or San Baltazar Chichicapam or Santa Catarina Minas. That’s okay, because they sure do make an excellent Gin Mezcal (organic, triple distillation, flavored with 32 herbs including juniper berries, rosemary, orange peel and cinnamon, 45% alcohol by volume). And, they have distribution in the USA and Europe.

Gracias a Dios Gin Mezcal, boxed and ready to go!

Gracias a Dios Gin Mezcal, boxed and ready to go!

Salud. I now have three bottles to pack and take!

Ready to plant tobala cactus starts. I bought three. Ants hate cactus.

Ready to plant tobala cactus for my garden. I bought three. Ants hate cactus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop-Up Sale: Oaxaca Quechquemitl, Mexico Stylish Scarf/Poncho

This pop-up clothing sale features the indigenous Mexico short poncho or triangular bodice cover-up called a quechquemitl in the Nahuatl language, used by pre-Hispanic women throughout the country.

It’s my favorite accessory and that’s why I have too many of them! Slip one over your head, and your shoulders and bodice are covered beautifully, even if you are only wearing a tank-top or halter. It’s a one-piece scarf, too, that never falls off!

My 2011 Quechquemitl Blog Post

How to Wear a Quechquemitl

Here I am offering — in like-new, rarely worn condition — some beautiful indigenous clothing made by women and men in Oaxaca villages, most made with natural dyes, some hand-spun native cotton. As you might expect, they are from some of Oaxaca’s finest weavers, dyers and designers.

All prices include shipping within 48 U.S. states!  Send me an email and tell me which piece(s) you want. I’ll email you a PayPal invoice. Purchases must be made by June 30. I will ship from Santa Fe, New Mexico after July 7.

Native Oaxaca coyuchi cotton quechquemitl, trimmed in green cotton, $125 USD

Native, rare Oaxaca coyuchi cotton quechquemitl, hand-trimmed in green, $125 USD

  1. Coyuchi Cotton Quechquemitl (above) handwoven in the village of San Sebastian Rio Hondo on the back strap loom by Khadi Oaxaca. Color is a warm caramel. One size fits all. $125 USD.
1B. Coyuchi cotton quechquemitl, close-up

1B. Coyuchi hand-spun wild cotton quechquemitl, close-up

Note about coyuchi cotton: This is rare, wild native cotton grown in the high mountains of Oaxaca that separates the valley and the coast.

2. SOLD. This pericone (wild marigold) dyed quechquemitl (below) is exactly the same style as the one above, made in San Sebastian Rio Hondo by Khadi Oaxaca. It is golden-yellow and the hand weaving shows the variegation of the process. One size. $145 USD.

Pericone and indigo quechquemitl from Khadi Oaxaca, soft gold and variegated blue

Pericone and indigo quechquemitl, hand-spun cotton, soft gold and variegated blue

Pericone quechquemitl trimmed in indigo blue cotton thread, hand-dyed. $145 USD

Pericone quechquemitl with indigo blue cotton thread. $145 USD

3. Below. Pericone/indigo/coyuchi dress, size M/L. I made a pattern from a favorite Dosa dress and have sewed it multiple times with French seams, patch pockets, and lots of designer detailing and hand stitching. For this dress, I bought hand-spun cotton fabric from Khadi Oaxaca that is hand-woven and dyed with wild marigold, indigo and integrates native coyuche cotton. $165 USD.

3B. Detail, Dosa-inspired dress with Khadi Oaxaca fabric

3B. Detail, Dosa-inspired dress with Khadi Oaxaca fabric

Here is the full dress below.

Size M/L. A-line dress made with Khadi Oaxaca handspun + woven cotton. $145 USD

3A. Size M/L dress made with Khadi Oaxaca handspun + woven cotton. $165 USD

4. Alfredo Orozco nut-dyed quechquemitl, below, is woven on a flying shuttle pedal loom in the deshillado technique, which means there is an open-weave. You can see the detail in photo 4B. This one is more pale beige than brown. Touches of cream-colored ikat add interest. One size. $85 USD.

Hand-woven, nut-dyed quechquemitl with ikat dyed warp threads by Alfredo Orozco, $85 USD

Hand-woven, nut-dyed Orozco quechquemitl with ikat warp threads, $85 USD

Below is the weave detail of the fabric above. Finish work is done by Alfredo’s wife Veronica on the sewing machine.

4B. Orozco beige quequemitl detail with open weave.

4B. Orozco beige quechquemitl detail with open weave.

5. SOLD. Below, same Orozco style as #4, but with indigo blue dyed threads to add detail of design. One size fits all, $85 USD.

Orozco quequemitl with nut and indigo dyes. Detail is with open weave. $85 USD

Orozco quechquemitl with nut and indigo dyes. Detail is with open weave. $85 USD

#5B. Full view of Orozco nut/indigo dyed quechquemitl. It is more beige than photo shows. $85 USD

#5B. Orozco nut/indigo dyed quechquemitl, more beige than photo shows. $85 USD

6. Melon colored cotton top, below, size medium, from the Oaxaca shop of Remigio Mestas, Los Baules de Juana Cata, the finest in town. Machine chain stitching, commercial thread, signed by back-strap loom weaver. $75

Crop top from Remigio Mestas' Los Baules de Juana Cata, $65 USD

Cotton top from Remigio Mestas’ Los Baules de Juana Cata, $75 USD

6B. Detail of cotton top from Remigio Mestas

6B. Detail of cotton top from Remigio Mestas

7. SOLD. Turquoise quechquemitl, one size, with machine chain stitch detailing, hand-finished seams and hem. From the best shop in Oaxaca, Los Baules de Juana Cata and Remigio Mestas. $125 USD.

Quechquemitl in brilliant turquoise from Remigio Mestas, one size, $125 USD

Quechquemitl in brilliant turquoise from Remigio Mestas, one size, $125 USD

7B. Detail of turquoise quechquemitl.

7B. Detail of turquoise quechquemitl. Not discolored, just photo light variations.

8. Wine Red Quechquemitl, below, from Los Baules de Juana Cata and Remigio Mestas who personally works with indigenous weavers and embroiderers to make the finest garments. One size. $125 USD.

Wine Red Quechquemitl, one size, $125 USD, from the shop of Remigio Mestas

Wine Red Quechquemitl, one size, $125 USD, from the shop of Remigio Mestas

Detail of wine red quechquemitl from Remigio Mestas' Oaxaca shop

Detail of wine red quechquemitl from Remigio Mestas’ Oaxaca shop

Let me know which one you would like to purchase by number —  send me an email. I’ll be going to the USA in early July and will mail to you via USPS after July 7.  Thank you very much!

Injustice, Coping: Fine Oaxaca Black Pottery Maker Goes to Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

Right now, there’s mango cardamom chutney cooking on the stove. It’s a clear, cool day after a series of heavy rains and the sky is brilliant blue. White puff clouds hug the mountain just beyond my reach, and I’m thinking about the injustices in our world and how people cope.

In about three weeks, I’m leaving Oaxaca and traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the International Folk Art Market where I’m volunteering. For artisans, it’s a privilege to be invited to this juried and highly competitive exhibition market.

This year, the market welcomes Jovita Cardozo Castillo, an exceptional master artisan of black pottery from the Oaxaca village of San Bartolo Coyotepec. It is her first visit outside of Mexico and to the United States, as part of Innovando la Tradicion and associated cooperative Colectivo 1050 Grados.

I appeal to you to give to The Wayfinders crowdfunding campaign to help cover her expenses to travel, sleep, eat and ship her beautiful work. And More!

Jovita needs all the help she can get! Why?

Wayfinders 04 | Haz que Jovita llegue a Santa Fe, NM. from Innovando la Tradición a.c. on Vimeo.

Jovita’s husband, Amando, a fine potter, too, and head of their family workshop, has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a pretty rare disease with unknown causes. Medical researchers believe it is linked to the Zika virus. The couple have three children. Amando is in hospital for the past two months, unable to speak, with paralysis and the prognosis isn’t clear. The family has spent more than 150,000 pesos for public health treatment. This is a huge sum in Mexico, equivalent to about $10,000 USD. The long-range implications of a head-of-household not working will have a huge family impact.

Donate Here!

Note: If you are making the gift from the U.S. or Canada, please log into Generosity with your Facebook account. Otherwise it won’t work because we just discovered this Indiegogo donation site was created in Mexico! So Sorry! Don’t use your email address. It won’t work. Many thanks for your support.

Or make your gift with PayPal to: 

1050grados@gmail.com

They won’t have to pay a transaction fee if you send it to family/friends!

One of the children stopped going to school for a semester to help at the ceramic workshop, since they have orders to fulfill and Amando is not able to work. 

Jovita does not want you to feel sorry for her and was reluctant for us to share this very personal information about family circumstances. She wants your support for the Wayfinders crowdfunding campaign because she is an exceptional artisan and nothing more.

 Celebrating the Humanity of the Handmade

But that is not the complete story, and the family situation makes this appeal even more urgent and necessary. I talked about it with Kythzia Barrera and Diego Mier y Teran, who lead Innovando la Tradicion. They spoke with Jovita, who agreed that without support, the financial stress on the family for out-of-pocket expenses to go to the Folk Art Market would be a burden they would not easily recover from.

Will you help? Any amount will make a difference.

I don’t personally know Jovita, but I know her work. I know that handmade Oaxaca artistry and craft take time, is a family heritage, is multi-generational and the best quality can be hard to sustain as some cut corners and turn to more commercial production methods.

 Help for Jovita

$1,331 raised toward $8,000 goal. That’s 17%. We can do better!

What your gift will help underwrite:

  • Market registration fees
  • Air and bus travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Lodging and food
  • Shipping cost (I can’t imagine what it costs to build wood shipping containers, package and send pottery to make sure there is no breakage!)
  • More possibilities for Jovita, Amando and their family

If Jovita sells out without encumbrances, she will have the funds to help her husband recover. Will you join me as a donor? Thank you.

All my best, Norma

 

 

 

Artist Gabo Mendoza Show Opens, Thursday, June 16 at Galeria Arte de Oaxaca

Your invitation to join Gabo Thursday, June 16, 7 p.m.

Your invitation to join Gabo this Thursday, June 16, 7 p.m.

I’ve written about Gabriel “Gabo” Mendoza before. His work might seem whimsical at first look. But it is filled with meaning, emotion, character and ripe for interpretation.

Woven handmade paper painted with a child's scream or song. You decide.

Woven handmade paper painted with a child’s scream or song. You decide.

Gabo’s subjects are street people, many representing the underbelly of Mexico: poverty, disenfranchisement, sex workers who are mothers, children who are homeless, uneducated and uncared for.

Young boys on the street with artist Gabo Mendoza

Young boys (or are they men?) on the street with artist Gabo Mendoza

Dreaming of bicycles and a way to get away

Dreaming of bicycles and a way to get away

Gabo plays with language in his paintings. Words and parts of words appear and trail off the paper or canvas, giving a sense of incompleteness, impermanence. Bici is Spanish for bicycle. Where’s the B in the painting above? Broken off or away or a shadow or dream?

The family comes together as a unit of friends, substitute for those who are absent

The family comes together as a unit of friends, substitute for those who are absent

Portrait of Gabo Mendoza in his Xicotencatl workshop taller

Portrait of Gabo Mendoza in his Xicotencatl workshop taller

Doesn't every child want a puppy to play with? or maybe it's a goat!

Doesn’t every child want a puppy to play with? or maybe it’s a goat!

And they went into the ark, two by two, one male, one female ...

And they went into the ark, two by two, one male, one female …

The Dyeing Life: Values and Commitment to Family, Art

This is a short three-minute video from the New York Times that I have to share with you. In 1994, I was in a Maio village in China, a 9-hour bus ride from the Sichuan capital of Chengdu. Not only does this video remind me of that visit, it retells how important it is to carry forward ancient traditions of dying cloth with natural materials. It is about more than the beauty of the textile, it is about honoring values, traditions and cultural art forms wherever we find them: Mexico, China, India or elsewhere. It is about how to recalibrate by understanding how important the natural world is to our total well-being.