First, the last day of this year’s (2018) Feria del Barro Rojo in San Marcos Tlapazola is tomorrow, Monday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Grammy Award-winner Lila Downs is feria Madrina, charms us all, gives her all
If you go, wear your distinctive Tlapazola apron, like I did. It’s gingham trimmed in folded ribbon that ends up looking like frosting on a wedding cake. Too much fun. And, that’s exactly what it evokes — the hilarity of a gringa (otherwise known as Huera — White Girl) wearing indigenous dress. I get called Huera a lot in these parts.
Oh, those aprons! All handmade icing on the cake
If you don’t have an apron, you can buy one at the fair.
Now, we know I will never pass as a local and even if I tried, I’d never get away with it. But, that’s not the point. The point is to honor and appreciate the local culture and one way I’ve found to do that best is to make a point of dressing like a local. Everyone in the village finds this more than amusing. They like it. They smile, giggle, laugh and wave.
Front and center, beautiful red clay pottery
They invite me to sit with them and have a tejate (not a Tecate, which is a Mexican beer). They offer an embrace and accept mine.
Lila Downs speaks with everyone, congratulates them, shakes hands
Some of the ladies I know from years of meandering and buy from them at the Tlacolula Sunday market and they recognize me.
Beribboned young women comprise the welcome delegation
I have time. I sit a while. Visiting with people and taking your time is another way to show respect. It was late afternoon and my second visit of the day after taking two friends to Mitla. (I decided to return for a more leisurely visit and to pay for a blouse I put on hold.)
Meet Paul Cohen, Lila’s husband, and their son, oh, and me
We broke open a bottle of wild agave tepeztate mezcal and shared a sip or two with fair organizer Gonzalo Artuza from the Oaxaca Government Office of Social and Economic Support in Oaxaca, that underwrote the event.
Red clay with painted design
Sometimes I like to travel solita just to experience the serendipity of what can happen by just being somewhere with no other plan than to just BE.
My apron, bought last year, gives my friends a giggle
Many of the women here are the pottery makers whose work is distributed by and sold under the name of others more famous. Few of them get personal recognition. The fair is a great way to collect this beautiful ware and to offer much-needed economic support in this Zapotec village of about 3,500 people, while directly supporting the women makers.
Sometimes the only roadblock is a bull and a bunch of cows
How to get there: Drive through the main street of Tlacolula and go southwest, toward the coastal mountains. Follow the main road out of town. There are no road signs. In the distance you will see a village straight ahead — that’s San Bartolome Quialana. Don’t go there. Tlapazola is the village to the far right, so as you get closer to Quialana, there is a road (unmarked) that will take you to the right and directly to Tlapazola. This road has curves, straightaways, potholes and some smooth pavement. If you use GPS, it’s pretty accurate. Just look for the church with the rounded red dome off to the right in the distance!
Many farmers are giving over their corn fields to the planting of espadin agave for mezcal production. It is now a high-paying cash crop. The road goes through these fields and it’s gorgeous.
Who can stop taking photos of beautiful, talented Lila Downs? Not me.
And, our last laugh! They are acculturated to be serious!
I want to recommend Maria Aragon Sanchez and Gloria Cruz Sanchez for their excellent red clay dinnerware. Privada del Porvenir #1, San Marcos Tlapazola, Cel. 951 281 3329 and email: email@example.com