Cochineal is the insect that produces carminic acid (think Campari, lipstick, yogurt), that tantalizing RED that the Aztecs, then Spanish adored.
Tapestry-loomed rugs hand-made with 100% natural dyes
Indigo blue dyed wool scarves and shawls in time for winter
Gorgeous hand-bags and totes, all with natural dyes
From October 27 to November 6, Omar is traveling to Philadelphia, Pa, and New York, NY, to exhibit, demonstrate and sell beautiful tapestry rugs at various locations. I’ll be posting the schedule soon. If you live in the NE Corridor, stay tuned!
I’ve been in North Carolina for a week, arriving safely on the tail of Hurricane Florence. In some parts here, it is still treacherous, but not where I live when I’m here in Durham, NC. My two pieces of luggage each weighed in at 49 pounds and some ounces. Maximum is 50 pounds without penalty.
SOLD. #1. All Naturals Lightening Rug. 57-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $350 USD
#1 is all natural sheep wool in tones of grey, cream and brown, with traditional fringes. A complex design to weave. Shipping to anywhere in the USA is $8.
I stuffed them with what-nots and rugs, aprons (flouncy and more simple), stylish market tote bags, and a selection of Zayzelle dresses and pullover scarves. Some were pre-sold. Many were not. I guess this is what I do when I come to this part of home! Make Oaxaca available to you.
#2 Butterflies. All natural. 58-1/2″ long x 29-1/2″ wide. $260 USD
#2 is a butterfly motif accented with the mountains and rain pattern. $8 mailing to anywhere in USA.
Catching up with friends, keeping routine medical appointments for check-ups, walking and sewing is what I do here. Not much different from life in Teotitlan del Valle in terms of activities, but lifestyle worlds apart.
SOLD. #3 Runner. 116″ long x 30″ wide. All natural wool. $385.
#3 is part of my collection, unused but stored for a couple of years. I’d like it to go out the door! It is large, so will weigh more and mailing is $26 USD to anywhere in the USA.
#4. B&W Large Market Tote. Woven plastic. 20x13x5″ $55. Two available.
#4 is a snazzy, elegant tote, sturdy and functional with double straps. I use mine to carry an umbrella, farmer’s market produce, an extra wrap. I sling it over my shoulder and it goes along with me everywhere. Mailing is $8 to anywhere in USA.
Here in NC there are no barking dogs, no corn fields, no mountains, no patio or terrace, no hand-made blue corn tortillas. Here, I get uninterrupted sleep. Here, there is the pulse of urban life in a country that continues to need my attention. I will not give up my voice. Usually everyday I make a call or send a text to my U.S. Senator. Remember John McCain, I want to tell him. He would do the right thing.
SOLD. #5. All natural zigzag rug. 42″long x 28″ wide. $265.
#5 is a sawtooth zigzag rug in all the natural sheep colors. Note that fringes are tucked in for easy vacuuming. $8 to mail anywhere in the USA.
I brought a few rugs back woven by friends in Teotitlan del Valle who need the money. One family just had a new baby. The other has two daughters pursuing college educations — costly on a rug-weaver’s income. Another is by a woman who weaves for a family enterprise and wants a bit of her own money.
SOLD. #6 Zapotec Diamond with Feathers. 58-1/2″ long x 31″ wide. $295.
#6 is tones of gray sheep wool, accented with dark brown and hints of gold and cream. $8 to ship anywhere in USA.
These weavers are not famous and their prices are modest in comparison to others. The quality is very good. I bought them outright at the asking prices to help and passing these savings on to you.
In villages and towns large and small, Independence Day is a big deal in Mexico. On September 16, 1810, the Grito, or Cry of Dolores was shouted by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo in the Guanajuato town of Dolores (later renamed Dolores Hidalgo). On September 27, the revolutionaries, led by Augustin de Iturbide, marked into Mexico City to overtake the Spanish garrison. The rest is history.
Mexican Flag, La Bandera de Mexico, Zocalo, Mexico City
Even in the days preceding the celebration, even in the rain, I could hear the drum beat of the Banda de la Guerra (the military marching band) practicing in the middle school courtyard. This is a celebration where children are front and center.
Flags for sale from the back of a motorcycle, a size for everyone.
Most homes have flags flying. The moto-taxis are adorned in banners and flags featuring the red, white and green bandera (flag).
Red, white and green as a food display.
On the late afternoon of September 15, my Zapotec family celebrated family matriarch Dolores’ birthday, named so because she was born on this special day. The Cry of Dolores is an important part of political and social acculturation, just like singing the Star Spangled Banner.
My chakira (beaded) flag blouse, stained with guajillo chile sauce at supper, soaking
Here in Teotitlan del Valle, the celebration begins on September 15. After the marching band leads the parade of young costumed girls through the streets, the townspeople gather in the municipal square. The late afternoon brings the threat of rain, but none comes.
A drum for every child? Why not!
At 11:00 p.m. everyone shouts the Cry for Independence together and the event is followed with firecrackers and rockets. The dogs bark and donkeys bray.
Chiles en Nogada at Oaxaca’s Los Danzantes. Traditional for Independence Day.
I put in my earplugs to get a good night’s sleep because I have a long travel day on September 17, starting at 3:30 a.m. and I want to walk the dogs in the campo where it is quiet and meditative.
It’s been a week since the new Community Cultural Center debuted on August 18, 2018 with a grand opening event. It was spectacular! What I love about the new Centro Cultural Communitario is it’s tri-lingual explanation of village life and values in Zapotec, Spanish and English. I also love the simplicity of PRODUCTORA’s architectural design that brings past into present.
Bringing food for the celebration, a traditional feast
The center explanations begin with a discussion about what is on display, exploring three core themes: indigenous customs and uses (usos y costumbres), artisanal production, and celebrations and ceremonies.
When we think of Teotitlan del Valle, tapetes or rugs, come to mind
Most importantly, the curators raise the question, What is cultural heritage? We need a context for this center and what it means. It is not a museum, per se, but a gathering place, an educational space to share, discuss, and learn. They explain that “Cultural Heritage includes tangible goods — works of art, historical and archeological monuments, urban and natural landscapes — as well as the intangible practices of a people — expressions, beliefs, knowledge or techniques, that which are cherished and passed down by the community generation to generation.”
[The Dance of the Feather, video above, is one key ingredient to cultural heritage. The dancers make a three-year promise to community and church that is a serious undertaking. This is not a folkloric dance, as many think, but essential to identity.]
The grand plaza that joins old adobe and modern concrete.
I don’t think we can talk about cultural heritage without addressing the issue of cultural appropriation. This is an important topic in Oaxaca and worldwide when the dominant culture adopts elements of the minority culture, often for commercial benefit without recompense to the originators.
Designed by PRODUCTORA, Mexico
“The array of tradition-based creations such as worldview, mythology, usos y costumbres, language, literature, music, dances, games, ceremonies, and crafts, among others, constitute the intangible cultural heritage also known as a living heritage,” they say.
The Grand Opening featured traditional dances, including the Jarabe del Valle from this Tlacolula de Matamoros ensemble. The dance is part of every village festivity, especially weddings, quinceanera’s and birthdays.
Ernestina in the comparsa with traditional basket of sugar flowers
Ultra-modern edifice sits between traditional rug market and municipal offices
For me, an important reason to live and celebrate life in Teotitlan del Valle is all bundled up in an ancient, deeply rooted history of thousands of years. More than having survived, Teotitlan del Valle has thrived because her people have innovated, adapted, changed and evolved while continuing to honor and respect tradition. At the core of this is the family and community.
Lila Downs and Paul Cohen are madrina/padrino of grand opening
Abigail Mendoza of Tlamanalli Restaurant* fame wove her skirt, is committee head
[A Note About Abigail Mendoza: Anthony Bourdain discovered her and she became famous. Abigail and her sisters operate famed Tlamanalli Restaurant in Teotitlan del Valle. She has made a two-year volunteer service commitment to head up the cultural center committee, part of usos y costumbres traditions. She told me this responsibility may have an impact on how often the restaurant will be open. Abigail is also the sister of the famous artist/weaver Arnulfo Mendoza who died in 2014.]
Carved wood arrow holder on display with woven strap
The curators continue by saying that: ” Teotitlan del Valle is characterized by its remarkable artisanal production of tapestries and carved candles, the elaboration techniques of which are passed down through generations within the nuclear family. The workshops are located in households, meaning that the profession plays a part in everyday life. Making yarn, dyeing, weaving and carving candles are learned from childhood. The manufacturing of handicrafts is the embodiment of community and family tradition which comes from its origins in the ancient Zapotec people. It is the vehicle to express their individual creativity, their emotions, and worldview. Additionally, for most of the people of the town, this is their main source of income.”
Hand-made beeswax candles are a core part of celebrations
On display are the hand-made beeswax candles from the family of Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art Viviana Alavez Hipolito. The work passes through the generations. Women who marry into the family learn and do it, too. It is not merely decoration. It is part of ceremonial life. Church and home altars are festooned with these candles. Only three candle makers remain in Teotitlan del Valle.
Traditional beeswax candle making
Cochineal and pigment samples on wool
A highlight of the space are videos of traditions, practices and examples of life. All the videos have English subtitles, a nod to the value and importance of English-speaking visitors to Teotitlan del Valle. It helps us understand more!
How well do we teach our children who we are, what we value?
In many traditions, continuity depends on how well we inculcate values and practices in our children. The community cultural center does more than show and tell visitors — nationals and foreigners — about essential practices. It says to local children that they can be proud of their heritage and make a commitment to carry it forward.
Library, learning and workshop spaces
Indigo and pigment samples on wool
The process of using natural dyes on wool to weave tapestries on the two-pedal loom is part of the cultural center exhibit space. This is an intense and time-consuming process, much more complex and expensive than using aniline (chemical) dyes. Only about a dozen families in the village of 6,000 people work in natural dyes, though many more know how to give the demonstration.
We took a break to go to Arte y Seda for sopa de guias lunch. Que rico!
Visitor Hours: Quien sabe? Who knows?
Even the handrails are a visual delight
I’ve been privileged to live with a Zapotec family in this village for thirteen years. I live on their land in a casita that I built that will revert to the family when I no longer live here. This is also part of usos y costumbres traditions. No foreigners can own land here. We have no written contract. Our arrangement is based on our word of commitment to each other, that we call trust. A model for how the world might be.
Thanks to everyone for your generosity! Yesterday’s fundraiser to support the Teotitlan del Valle Spay Neuter Clinic was a huge success. We raised over 8,000 pesos through local donations and 10,000 pesos from antique and collectible sales from Merry Foss’ bodega. Plus, I’m calculating that an added $485 USD came in via online donations through PayPal from friends who were unable to be here.
This totals about $1,438 USD. This covers a lot of sterilizations for dogs and cats here in Teotitlan del Valle, plus enables Merry Foss to start a more comprehensive education program about why it is important to spay/neuter animals.
Even with the threat of rain and eventual sprinkles, about 30 people came from Oaxaca City and Teotitlan del Valle, plus other nearby pueblos of Tlacochuaya and Huayapam. Some we knew and some we didn’t! It was great to have this show of support. We enjoyed Rosario’s handmade flautas de papas — the homemade organic tortillas were filled with a spicy potato puree, pure yum. Ernestina crafted 50 black bean tamales flavored with an avocado leaf, plus 125 tamales with chicken and yellow mole sauce. Not much was left!
Teotitlan Spay Neuter Clinic Mission Statement
I provided the food. Guests brought their favorite beverage. I’ll have another fundraiser party for the clinic in January 2019. I’m grateful to Merry for what she does to improve quality of life for animals and people here in our village. And, the service allowed me to easily sterilize the dogs I call pets: Mamacita, Butch and Tia.
My right hand person, Rosario!
Our friend Winn, who carried donations from friends in the city
Moises and Lois brought the most delicious horchata
Zayzelle: Dress Simply is our new clothing line, one dress, one-of-a-kind, one size fits many, imaginative cloth. Plus, jewelry and an easy-to-wear pullover scarf. Keep checking back for What’s New.
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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