Category Archives: Photography

Tribute to Mothers: Feliz Dia de la Madre

Red roses for love, a Mother’s Day Gift to you

First, a bouquet of red roses for all mothers, daughters and foster mothers. For the women in our lives who give us strength, courage and determination to stand up with shoulders back, head high. For the women who came before us to open the path and show us the way. Saludos y felicidades, siempre.

Mother’s Day, dedicated to my own mother, Dorothy Schafitz Beerstein, b. February 14, 1916, d. November 15, 2015, and the remarkable women of Mexico.

Embroidered story rebozo by Teofila Servin Barriga, Patzcuaro, Michoacan

Rosa, center, and her nieces, Magdalenas Aldama

In Yochib, Oxchuc,talented weaver with impaired mobility, limited health care access

The girls who will become women, learning from the matriarch

The young women, keepers of tradition and culture

To those of us who explore and discover and support the makers

Cousins Maya and Alicia in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

The generations: Grandma Juana, Baby Luz, and Mama Edith

Grower of native corn, Mixe region of Oaxaca

My own mother, two years before her death at age 99 

For everything hand-made, here’s to the makers!

The women pottery makers of San Marcos Tlapazola

Intricately embroidered blouse, San Bartolome Ayautla, 8 months to make

To Lila Downs, who tells stories in song, with compassion

Frida Kahlo Calderon, our muse and heroine

Susie in Chiapas, thanks to the adventurers who visit

To the women who love and give care

Deceased potter Dolores Porras, inspiration for Atzompa

To Margarita, the basket weaver, Benito Juarez Market

Thank you to all the women who make a difference just by being you!

Bonus–Yochib, Oxchuc, Chiapas: Portrait of Young Girl with Dog

Oaxaca and Chiapas have a lot in common. They are the two poorest states in Mexico, have the lowest literacy rates and in the rural areas there is little or no access to health care.

Chiapas and Oaxaca have the highest percentage of indigenous people in Mexico, yet they are under-represented in politics and business, lack access to education.

Because of the rural character of each state, people are isolated and removed from the mainstream. They produce some of the most exquisite textiles in all of  Mexico.

For this entire time in Chiapas, I am using only my iPhone 8Plus with zoom lens. All the photos you’ve seen since February 12 are from my portable device with very little editing. I’m a devotee. Thinking of selling other equipment!

Thank you for following this adventure. There is more to come. Our Chiapas Textile Study Tour Group 2 starts this coming Tuesday evening.

Join us for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour, February 27-March 8

Chiapas Textile Study Tour Snapshot: Thursday In and Around Tenejapa

On Thursday, we spent the day outside of San Cristobal de Las Casas, on the road to Tenejapa village, Romerillo Maya cemetery and then to the home of Maruch and her son Tesh in the Chamula district of Chiapas.

First stop, Tenejapa for the Thursday market and textile cooperative

Cynthia with Maria Meza, coop manager

Taking registrations now for 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour.

Walking along the village market street, Gail spots a huipil hanging inside a shop

Look inside doorways to see textiles are hanging from the rafters

Small doorways open from the street into hardware stores, pharmacies, bakeries, tienditas (little stores), dry goods suppliers. The inside is often obscure. Sometimes, there are textile treasures — hand embroidery, traditional clothing made on back strap looms — hanging on clothes lines. You have to look for them.

Out on the street the market is a crush of people, fruit, veggies, meat and more

Tenejapa. Still remote enough that foreign visitors are an anomaly. Children and adults are curious, shy and distant. I saw about six Europeans in addition to our group during this market day.

Market day in Tenejapa means handmade textiles for sale, too.

The population of Tenejapa is 99.5% indigenous. About 99.8% speak an indigenous language, and almost 53% speak only their native language and do not speak Spanish. Health care services and educational opportunities are limited. Maya culture and traditional folk practices are strong.

She is minding the store and watching the passersby.

The village celebrates Carnavale with pre-Lenten festivities on February 15

Traditional dress of a Tenejapa man, once commonplace. Now for ceremonies only.

Adults and children participate. Mayordomos and their wives observe.

Next we stop at Romerillo cemetery to understand Maya burial practices

The Maya practice syncretism, a blend of mystical pre-Hispanic beliefs and Spanish Catholicism. Mostly, they are spiritual and keep their connection to ancient traditions.

The Maya cross represents the four cardinal points, a pre-Hispanic symbol

The Romerillo cemetery is on a grand hill overlooking a valley. Wood planks cover graves so that the living can communicate with and ask advice from the dead.

Evangelization was easier for the Spanish; the symbol existed before they arrived.

After lunch, we take a dirt road to rural Chamula territory to meet Maruch

Maruch and her family raise their own sheep, shear and wash the wool, card and spin. Sheep are sacred, raised for their fleece and not for food.

Carding, hand-spinning with the malacate and weaving on the back strap loom 

Join us for the 2019 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. We are accepting registrations now.

Hand carding local sheep wool for spinning

Using the malacate drop spindle to spin wool and prepare it for weaving.

We are an hour away from San Cristobal de Las Casas, but it feels as if time stands still here and we are standing in a place that could have been 500 years ago. Isolation preserves culture, but it also marginalizes native peoples.

Lanita models a furry capelet woven by Maruch

Sheep wool skirts and capelets are made to look like a furry animal, repel moisture and keep people warm. There is no heat and it’s chilly at 7,000 feet altitude in February.

At cooperative Huellas Que Trascienden, Lanita and Cynthia

We finished off the day with a visit to a new cooperative in the city that names the weaver of each garment with a featured photo on the hang tag. Recognition is finally coming to the women who do the work! We did our best to support them.

 

Sunset in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

My internet connection is funky and while I wanted to publish a post today about our Oaxaca Textile Study Tour trip to the mountain village of San Juan Colorado, it may not happen. The photo download is not cooperating.

Sunset at Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

So in lieu of hand-spun green, brown coyuche and creamy white native cotton, I’m going to tell you about our first night in Puerto Escondido on the beach after flying in the AeroTucan 13-passenger single engine Cessna Grand Caravan skirting 12,000 foot mountains and not going higher than 9,300 feet altitude.

Patrice Petrillie tells us about the endangered caracol purpura snail

How do we know? We could all see the altimeter. The pilot sat a mere eight feet in front of me!

Patrice Patrillie, director of Dreamweavers Tixinda Cooperative invited our group to the home of a supporter for sunset on the beach, a presentation about the purpose of Dreamweavers to sustain indigenous textile craft, and to participate in a release of endangered baby sea turtles.

Barbara and Sandi enjoying appetizers before the turtle release

Dreamweavers was having an expoventa on Sunday, January 21, and our itinerary dovetailed so that we would return for the event from our wanderings along the coast and in the mountains discovering textile villages in time for the 10:00 a.m. opening.

Being here in time for the expoventa was planned as part of the itinerary for the Oaxaca Textile Study Tour.

I’m accepting names now for people interested in our 2019 trip.

Please send an email.

We put the sea turtles on the sand to make their way to the ocean

Before touching the turtles, we were asked by our host to wash our hands in sand and sea water to eliminate any odors.

The sea turtles are a food staple for indigenous people who live in coastal towns along the Pacific. There is a rescue operation in place to protect them from poachers.

Along the Puerto Escondido coast where we learned about the caracol purpura

The tension is always about honoring the cultural traditions of native people who rely on sea animals to survive and wildlife preservationists who want the species to survive. With global warming, survival is becoming a more difficult challenge for all of us.

As I held this turtle, its flippers were strong, eager to escape

As with the turtles, the caracol purpura, a snail that lives on the rocky coastline of Oaxaca, is at risk of extinction. Mixtec people have used the snail ink for millenia to dye their clothing a brilliant purple, just as the Romans harvested the snail along the coast of Morocco to color the senators’ robes. But, this creature is also endangered and caracol threads incorporated into clothing drives the price up. Yet, this, too, is part of the regional culture as humans interpret their lives through the garments they wear.

The last bit of sunset before we return to town

Christmas Posadas in Teotitlan del Valle, Nine Days of Awe

Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico celebrates the winter holiday with a posada on nine nights before Christmas Day, starting on December 15. Starting yesterday afternoon and going into the night, I participated with a small group of visitors from the USA, Canada and Ireland interested in joining me to explore the history, culture and traditions of this Zapotec-Catholic practice, rooted in Spanish-European practice.

Entering the house where Mary and Joseph will rest, December 22-23

Posada means inn or we might know it better as a roadside tavern where weary travelers take rest for the night. The story of Mary and Joseph as they make their way from Nazareth to Jerusalem to pay the Roman tax is well-known. They find a stable for animals to sleep in on December 24 in Bethlehem when the inn is full. This is where Jesus is born.

The altar room at the December 21-22 Posada

Here in Teotitlan del Valle it is a little more complex, a mix of spiritual seriousness and long-held ceremony.

I went in advance to ask permission of two host families that sponsored the posada on December 22 — the home where Mary and Joseph were brought on the night of December 21 and the home where they would be carried to on the night of December 22.

Procession leaving one house for another

Only family members are usually invited inside the home, although all of us in the village can take part in the candlelight walk when the religious figures are carried from one house to the next.

Piñatas celebrate birthdays, and this one is no exception

There is a posada today and the last one is tomorrow, December 24. The host family for the night of December 24 will go with the Church Committee to the December 23 host and ask for blessings. A string of fragrant jasmine flowers is placed on the litter that carries Mary and Joseph to their next resting place by the head of the village religious committee.

Making the transition from one house to the next, symbolic

This is also symbolic of a smooth transition, expressing care and trust. There is ritual around community trust here that is essential to village survival and well-being. It is not written by codified by behavior over thousands of years.

Church altar boys guide the way with lanterns

You might think the Posada is a purely Catholic tradition inherited from Spaniards, but it incorporates the Zapotec practice of Guelaguetza. This is NOT the July folkloric dance so popular in Oaxaca. It is a way of community and family support to ensure survival and to meet needs and obligations.

Reindeer dancing from rooftops in 60 degree F. weather

The Posada is also adapting to contemporary lifestyles and mass communications. Blinking reindeer dance from rooftops here and blue icicles drip from roof lines. Frosty the snowman has a red nose that glows. Imagines of snowflakes are projected on adobe walls. The United States of America has infiltrated traditional culture.

Icicles aglow illuminate the cobblestone street

We are seamless, we are universal, we are adapting. One Posada host family has a daughter living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband and two children. Another Posada host family lives in Moorpark, California, but maintains strong cultural ties to Teotitlan del Valle, where university educated children return regularly to visit grandparents and maintain their heritage.

It takes a village (of family members) to cook, wash, clean, serve

Our group talked with Pedro Montaño about how Christmas has changed in Teotitlan, comparing current practices and the more simple approach of a generation ago, when the crèche assembled with homemade wood figures, forest grasses and moss from the Sierra Juarez mountains nearby.

Learning about posada history from Pedro Montaño

Then, piñatas were filled with fruit and candles were carried to light the path since there was no electricity.

There is no judgment here. Only observation. There is plenty we can observe about traditional practices around the world and how they have changed as people have more disposable income and television teaches and creates aspirations.

Firecrackers and the band draw people out along the way

I always like to ask: What is authenticity? To change and adapt is part of the human experience. To expect that people keep their “authentic” practices is, IMHO, a colonial approach to saying, it’s okay for us to change but let’s keep them the way they are because it’s far more interesting for us.

Getting ready to carry Mary and Joseph to their next posada

Happy Holidays. I hope you come to Teotitlan del Valle this year to experience this remarkable celebration for yourself.  The posada tonight will start aound 6 p.m. at the corner of Pino Suarez and Zaragoza near the new chapel.

Children learn to appreciate their culture with parental help

The sons of Fortino Chavez Bautista, California born, bred and educated

The procession is serious and somber.

We built a Nacimiento (manger) in honor of the old ways of decorating