Category Archives: Teotitlan del Valle

Preview: Teotitlan del Valle Celebrates Village Life with Basket Parade

The fiesta in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, is an annual event, always celebrated the first week in July. This year it continues through July 9.  I’m posting the schedule below for those of you in Oaxaca.

Gathering in the church patio, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

This is a festival that honors the village church, Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo. This is a religious event primarily that also includes La Danza de la Pluma (Dance of the Feather), daily masses, an adjacent carnival next to the market (making it impossible to park), fireworks, and lots of parties with tamales and mezcal.

Out in front of the parade, children with papier-mache animals atop bamboo poles

I couldn’t imagine a better homecoming than by celebrating the kick-off event by attending the Desfile de Canastas — Parade of the Baskets — that started yesterday, July 2 at 6 p.m. from the church courtyard.

Miles to go with a heavy decorated basket on their head

All ages take part, from children, pre-teens and young adults

Young women who have never married are selected by the festival sponsors to hold ornate and heavy baskets on their heads and process about three miles through all the village neighborhoods.

Village officials go with the young women through the cobbled streets

They are solemn. This is serious respect for traditions and religious life. Even three and four-year olds participate, helped by parents. Learning the culture starts young.

My friend Danny Hernandez with his daughter

Group photos in front of the 17th century church

How do I know the distance? I clocked it on my FitBit, starting right along with the group of hundreds, including the two bands, the Feather Dancers, the Canasta walkers, church and village officials, children out in front holding whimsical animals atop poles, various relatives and volunteers.

The children are a special feature of this event, joyful and eager to take part

As the parade wound through the village streets through all the five administrative sections, up hill and down, crowds of onlookers assembled at strategic corners. In every neighborhood, I passed people I knew. Since I’ve only returned three days ago, it was an opportunity to greet people and feel welcomed.

At the corner behind the municipal building, a crowd of all ages gathers

Hand-carved amulets and rattles are held to keep evil at bay

This custom of community celebration and mutual support goes back thousands of years in Zapotec life, long before the Spanish arrived to conquer Mexico, name it New Spain, and integrate Catholic rites into already existing spiritual/mystical practice. Today, we call this blending syncretism. Zapotec tradition has very strong roots here.

Los Danzantes stop to offer homage in each neighborhood

Today, joking with the children and the crowd is one of the jester jobs

Festival Schedule

Tuesday, July 3: The Dance of the Feather will start around 5p.m. in the church courtyard accompanied by the Band, followed by an extravagant fireworks display that usually doesn’t start until 11 p.m.

Wednesday, July 4: The Dance of the Feather starts at 1 p.m. and continues until about 8 p.m.

Thursday, July 5: This is a day of rest.

Friday, July 6: At 6 p.m. there is another procession with the beautiful young women of the village wearing their traditional indigenous dress.

Saturday, July 7: At 4 p.m. the Dance of the Feather dancers meet in the church for a mass, then at 5 p.m. the Dance of the Feather resumes in the church courtyard.

Juana Gutierrez with her niece.

Sunday, July 8: At 11:30 a.m. there is a procession through the village with Los Danzantes, and at 1 p.m. there is a Dance of the Feather ceremony in the church courtyard.

Monday, July 9: The festival ends with an 8 a.m. mass in the church.

The fair (feria) is filled with rides and carnival games — open daily.

Felipe Flores is on live camera for his California family

All of this is organized and produced by village volunteers. To be a member of the community, one must make a promise to serve. This involves being part of a committee for one to three-years, including the job of village president. Because this is a traditional indigenous Usos y Costumbres village that is self-governing, this is a responsibility by men, women and families who live here.

The jester. In the conquest story, he was an Aztec spy, invisible

Committees determine priority projects and moderate conflicts, levy local taxes and make village improvements. Even the police department is based on two-year volunteer service of one week a month — a daytime or nighttime duty.

The band in reflection

Quite a marvel in today’s complex, law-driven universe.

I hope you come and enjoy. It’s a wonderful experience to be here.

Santiago family sisters with grandsons. Their father was a danzante 12 years ago.

After the procession returned to the church courtyard, we met for a taco at Buky’s, under the lights of the tent, watching the children racing between the rides, enjoying the chill summer air.

El Buky for hamburgers and tacos al fresco

Outdoor dining Teotitlan style

Before the rides start up there is still fun

Opposite directions; street dog in search of food

Long Day, Soft Landing to Oaxaca, Mexico — City Mouse, Country Mouse

Life is bimodal. I’m a city mouse in Durham, North Carolina, and a country mouse in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. Federico says I’m an honorary Zapoteca although I can only say hello and raise a toast in his native language. For the time being, I travel back and forth, with roots in both places with small spaces.

Durham condo life in a restored tobacco warehouse downtown

This is my second day back at the casita in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. It was perfect timing to return. North Carolina was becoming so hot and sultry that it was impossible for me to walk just a mile to the downtown from my loft condo and live without air conditioning. I’ve only lived in the South for 30 years, unlike my native Tar Heel friend Hettie who can’t stand any temperature under 72 degrees F.

Country mouse comes home to Teotitlan del Valle

For the last two nights here, I’ve been sleeping with windows open, fresh air, cool breezes, temps in the mid-70’s. Close to heaven, so to speak.

Tia and Mamacita, always happy to walk with me

The three dogs didn’t skip a beat after my being absent for three months. I was greeted with licks and nudges for petting. Yesterday, I spent most of the time taking photos and nesting in the terrace hammock looking at views, pinching myself.

First limes ever this season, rooftop garden

My house sitter and dog caretaker Janie surprised me with an amazing cactus garden she designed and planted in front of the casita, and vases everywhere filled with fresh flowers. Quite a homecoming!

Fresh flowers everywhere, a welcome home gift from Janie

This is my thirteenth year here. For some reason, I expected culture disconnect but I eased right back into being here. I took the dogs for a two-mile walk out to the far reaches of the village borderlands.

Toros resting in the shade, walk through the campo

Today, after an hour stroll around our daily morning farmer’s market, I set to work in the kitchen making Korean kimchi, adapting the recipe to locally available ingredients.

In the country surrounded by green mountains, fertile valleys

I am far from the craziness of US politics but BuzzFeed keeps buzzing and the New York Times online is within reach. There will be a march here in Oaxaca on Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the US Consular Agency to protest government zero tolerance policies that ban Latino immigrants and separate families — starting at IAGO. I’ll be there.

Efficient city kitchen, Durham, NC — Mexico touches everywhere

Country kitchen clutter, Oaxaca, Mexico — US touches everywhere

I wondered when I entered Mexico through Immigration on Thursday night if I might be treated differently, more disdainfully and with suspicion because of these US policies. But, Mexicans are kinder and gentler and I was welcomed back, again.

South Bend, Indiana friends of more than 30 years

This past week was a time of reconnecting with long-time friends in South Bend, Indiana, some of whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. It’s where I lived, raised my family and started my university career.

In the Teotitlan market, $2 USD for a dozen roses

After taking a bus and then taxi from South Bend to Chicago O’Hare, I boarded Aeromexico to connect in Mexico City and take the last flight of the day to Oaxaca. This was a smooth and easy way to get from the US to Mexico. Thankfully, there were no hurricanes.

Mex dogs chilling on the patio. In Durham, outdoor life is on the streets.

My only advice in Mexico City is get to Gate 75 early and watch/listen for the boarding announcements. Most commuter flights within Mexico leave from this gate. They board and depart faster than you can say Buenas Noches.

Janie helps Juanita make fresh beet, carrot, pineapple juice cocktail, 30 pesitos

At the South Bend Farmers Market, breakfast for $4.95 … still

Women’s Writing Retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico: Take a Discount and Express Yourself

This is our 8th year to offer the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Gentle Yoga Retreat from June 22-29, 2018. We want a full-house and are offering a 10% discount off the already high-value, low price of $895 for a shared room and $1195 for a single room. It’s not too late to get on board and join us.

Who is this for? Beginning and experienced writers, those who believe they can do it and need inspiration and coaching, note-jotters and margin-scribblers. Do you have an idea for a novel, a memoir, a prose poem, a travel piece or family history? This is the place for you.

See the complete course description HERE.

Send me an email with your interest HERE.

Please share with family and friends who would like this retreat.

Omar’s Discovery Tour: A First Visit to the USA

Omar Chavez Santiago is twenty-four years old. He is a weaver and natural dyer from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. Last year, he graduated with a degree in industrial engineering after studying for four years at Anahuac University in Oaxaca. He is at a cross-roads.

Fayetteville, Lillington, Coats, NC friends give Omar a warm welcome in Durham. Thanks Becky, Robin and Debbie for your support.

Does he pursue a professional engineering career and move to Monterrey or continue in the generations-old family tradition of his Zapotec culture?

On March 1, 2017, Omar went to Mexico City for an interview appointment at the US Embassy to follow-up on his visitor visa application to enter the USA. He is male. He is young. We didn’t know what his chances would be. Slim, I thought. Very slim. So few are allowed to enter.

I wrote my Congressman G.K. Butterfield ((D-NC) to ask if they would send a message and alert the Embassy staff that Omar would be there on March 1 to present a letter of invitation from me and Wendy Sease, owner of INDIO Durham. We invited him to give a presentation and sale of the family’s 100% naturally dyed wool rugs in early April.

List to this GistYarn Podcast with Omar Chavez Santiago

Omar, age 24, has been weaving since he was eight years old.

An alert is different from a request to approve. No one interferes with US Embassy immigration decisions. An alert just says, Look out for this applicant. I guess they did. At the end of the short interview, Omar was awarded a 10-year visa. Ojala.

Discovering La Superior Carneceria y Super Tienda, Durham

Three weeks later, the paperwork arrived in Teotitlan del Valle, and Omar arrived in Durham, North Carolina on March 28.

I started calling this Omar’s Discovery Tour because everything was new to him. Exciting. Inspiring. Being here gave him the chance to see that what Galeria Fe y Lola creates in Oaxaca is linked to the home goods fashion cycle in the USA, where most of their clients come from. It connected the dots.

A walk through Duke University with Jacob and Hettie.

He discovered that design and color preferences change according to season. Texture and palette compliment. He saw traditional and contemporary side-by-side. He saw cities and farmland. Innovation and comfort. The edges where his countrymen and women live beyond the chi-chi neighborhoods, shopping in grocery stores named La Superior Carneceria or Compare or Tienda Mexicana Guadalupana, where life is familiar and safe. He heard an earful about politics, leadership void and political discontent.

A walk through Duke Gardens with Jacob

Omar thinks we are organized, tidy, friendly, and open to opportunity. (Of course, we know this is NOT a universal truth in the USA.)

Lime bikes propagate in downtown Durham. Take a ride.

He likes that people here greet him with a smile, that cars stop for pedestrians, and he can ride a Lime Bike on the American Tobacco Trail all afternoon for a few dollars, followed by beer and bonding at Ponysaurus with Jacob and Kathryn. He likes that we recycle (some of us). And, he can put on his jogging shoes and run for miles on groomed paths and streets.

Wow, there are REALLY good goat tacos here, just like in Mexico

It got to the point after the first week that he could rank order the best hamburgers in Durham after tastings at many restaurants. In retail shops, he was invited to sit down in a comfy chair or sofa, offered refreshment, and an invitation to kibbitz informally. He saw that deep friendships can be formed well beyond the inner circle of family.

A talk and cochineal dye demo at Echoview Fiber Mill, Weaverville, NC

Then, we went to Asheville and Weaverville, where the fiber arts community welcomed Omar for a cochineal dye demonstration and exhibition. We ate at Buxton Hall Barbecue and White Duck Tacos, and walked the downtown going in and out of fine art and craft galleries. He was mesmerized by the creativity. We slept in a cozy Arts & Crafts Cottage on the Blue Ridge Parkway hosted by Laura and Bryan.

100% naturally dyed churro wool rugs from Galeria Fe y Lola

Omar began to imagine that his dreams could become a reality. He began building new dreams. By the time he went home on Saturday morning after almost three weeks here, he was excited and inspired to create new designs, incorporate new business ideas, capture on cloth that which captured his imagination, and incorporate elements of traditional Zapotec motifs with new energy.

I wish we could give this opportunity to other talented young Mexicans who have dreams, who want to create and add value to their country.

Making the presentation at Echoview Fiber Mill, in collaboration with Local Cloth

Cochineal dye demonstration at Echoview Fiber Mill

I feel much this way when I go to Mexico. I see that families are tightly knit, where ancient ritual gives meaning to life, how reverence for the elderly shapes  continuity, how people take time to be with families and celebrate together.

Art at the Durham Museum Hotel

Travel broadens and opens us up to more than new experiences. It gives us something intangible, a new neural pathway to exploration, learning, becoming. It gives us an opportunity to befriend, to connect and to live expansively with meaning.

Taking a break at Ponysaurus Brewing Company, Durham

It was twelve-and-a-half years ago when I met Omar’s brother Eric and sister Janet in the Teotitlan del Valle rug market. They were both students, not knowing where their paths would lead. Omar was not quite twelve. Through mutual support and effort, our lives were changed.

Thanks to all who supported Omar with a purchase!

Laura and her family with Omar in Asheville

There are many people to thank for making Omar’s Discovery Tour possible: parents Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellenas in Teotitlan del Valle; Wendy Sease, Hettie Johnson, Jacob Singleton, Kathryn Salisbury, Karen Soskin, Steve Haskin, Nick and Rochelle Johnson in Durham; Laura and Bryan Tompkins, Judi Jetson with Local Cloth, Grace Casey-Gouin at Echoview Fiber Mill in Asheville and Weaverville, and our friends everywhere.  Thank you.

We are talking now about when he may return.

 

Mexico Trunk Show Going to Asheville, Last Day in Durham, North Carolina

INDIO Durham — Final Day Today, 1-5 pm

We have had a successful show at INDIO Durham, thanks to owner Wendy Sease and our many NC friends. This is our last day, so if you live around the NC Triangle please stop by to say hello. We have many beautiful things to show you.

We go to Asheville on Wednesday to show Omar Chavez Santiago the North Carolina mountains. There is a rich Appalachian weaving and spinning tradition in these parts and many makers who are creating beautiful cloth. It’s Omar’s first US visit. Miraculously, he got a 10-year visa!

On Thursday, April 12, we will be at Echoview Fiber Mill in Weaverville, NC, to show beautiful hand-woven, hand-spun wool rugs colored with natural dyes from Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca. I will have a collection of Mexico clothing and jewelry for sale, too.

Please Share!

Omar is 24 years old, born and raised in the Zapotec rug weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, and is a fluent English speaker. His family has worked in 100% natural dyes for over 20 years. He just graduated from university with a degree in industrial engineering and his love is for creating innovative designs that reflect his ancient 8,000 year old culture is embedded in the cloth.

He thinks the people here are very kind, and he especially appreciates that pedestrians have the right of way. Every chance he gets, he will order a hamburger. He is running an algorithm on the best burger in Durham, NC.

Ancient Zapotec temple stone, Teotitlan del Valle Community Museum