More … My Oaxaca Tienda Sale

I’m leaving for the USA on July 10 and I’ve made a second loop through my collection to offer a few more pieces for sale here. I’m now a size small-petite and most of these artisan made clothes are size large and extra large. Most are new, never worn, bought directly from artisans who asked me to help them. Personally curated!

Purchase must be made by Monday, July 8 to get into my luggage. I will mail from USA.

How to Buy: I have numbered each garment with price. Please send me an email and tell me which piece you want by number. Include your mailing address. I will send you an invoice and then bring the piece with me to mail to you after July 11. Mailing cost of $8 USD per package will be added. For Canada shipments, add $30 USD.

#1. Las Sanjuaneras, San Juan Colorado huipil, soft hand-spun native creamy white and coyuchi cotton woven on the back-strap loom, $325 USD
#2. Blusa, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, hand-embroidered collar, back-strap loomed, $115
#3. San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas, blusa, $85
#4. SOLD. Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas Gala Blusa, $225 USD, finely woven
#5. Michoacan, needlepoint cross-stitch, $185
#6. SOLD. Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, white on white gauze weave. Small head opening. $95.
#7. SOLD. Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. Hand-embroidered, $125
#8. SOLD. Amusgo, Oaxaca, $75 USD
#9. Amusgo, Oaxaca. Gauze weave with supplementary weft, $145.
#9. Khadi Oaxaca Quechquemitl, native coyuchi brown cotton, handwoven, $95

My Oaxaca Tienda: Sale

I’m leaving for the USA on July 10 and as is my custom before I go back, I loop through my collection and offer a few pieces for sale. I’m now a size small-petite and these beautiful clothes are large-extra large. They are never worn or gently worn, perhaps a couple of times.

How to Buy: I have numbered each garment with price. Please send me an email and tell me which piece you want by number. Include your mailing address. I will send you an invoice and then bring the piece with me to mail to you after July 11. Mailing cost of $8 USD per package will be added. For Canada shipments, add $30 USD.

#1. Santiago Jamiltepec blusa, backstrap loomed, cotton with embroidery, $68 USD
#2. SOLD. Las Sanjuaneras huipil, San Juan Colorado, Oaxaca, hand-spun and woven cotton, natural dye with oxidized pomegranate, $285 USD
#3. SOLD. Pinotepa de Don Luis, Oaxaca, from Dreamweavers cooperative, woven by Amada, with coyuchi native cotton, indigo and caracol purpura shell dye, $325 USD
#4. SOLD. From Remigo Mesta’s shop Los Baules de Juana Cata, back-strap loomed, cotton gauze, shimmering turquoise and rich brown colors, $165
#5. SOLD. Amantenango, Chiapas, cotton blouse, smocked, embroidered, $65 USD
#6. SOLD. Tlahuitoltepec, Oaxaca, machine embroidered traditional blouse, $135 USD
#7. Puebla Mountains, embroidered and smocked blusa, fine detail, $155 USD
#8. SOLD. San Juan Colorado cooperative Jini Nuu, back-strap loomed blusa, $110 USD

A Walk in the Mushroom Forest: Cuajimoloyas, Oaxaca

My friend Debbie has been here for a week with her granddaughter in a Spanish immersion class. She’s a medical doctor. I discovered (in addition to curing me of my intestinal ailments) she knows all the Latin botanical names for mushrooms, since she likes to hunt them in the forests near her North Carolina home. So, I decided we needed a trip to the wild mushroom village of San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, up the mountain from Teotitlan del Valle in the Sierra Juarez.

I’m going to miss the Wild Mushroom Festival there this year, but wanted to cook and eat hongos silvestres before I leave Oaxaca for a while on July 10. Debbie, who has been eating out all week and is a great cook, jumped at my offer to take us to the mushroom village and offered to prepare any mushrooms we found for dinner. Granddaughter likes pizza and pasta. Dinner would be spaghetti topped with sauteed mushrooms and garnished with hard cheese. Hold the mushrooms for the pre-teen.

(Note: Hongos are different than champiñones, the common button mushroom that we find in all our USA supermarkets. Hongos are truly wild, uncultivated, and you have to know what you are doing to pick and eat them.)

Below us in the Tlacolula Valley is mi pueblito, Teotitlan del Valle

It’s about a 40-minute drive up the mountain from Tlacolula to an altitude of 3,200 meters. That’s 10,400 feet, about 4,000+ feet higher than the Tlacolula Valley. We drive through Teotitlan del Valle and San Miguel del Valle community lands. At a mirador, we stop to see Teotitlan del Valle just below us.

Debbie recognizes this one as a chanterelle … she thinks!
At the comedor, San Antonio Cuajimoloyas

When we arrive about 10:45 a.m. it’s chilly. Er, actually, it’s COLD. I was in three layers of lightweight cotton and could have used a warm wool sweater and a hat. Mittens might have been in order. A breeze made it even chillier.

Debbie stops to inspect this mushroom. Is it edible?
Debbie and I climbed rocks to get to Piedra de Colorada

I decided to stop at the ecotourism center. We joked about doing a Zip Line and then bailed on the idea, opting for a walk through the forest instead. Rather than doing it on our own, we arranged guide services, which cost 200 pesos for two- to three- hours and definitely worth it. It supports the town’s ecotourism and the people who are committed to preserving the natural environment.

Manuel shows us ocote, sap-rich pine and used for fire starter in all the villages.

Meet Manuel, who’s mom owns a tiny convenience store and comedor at the entrance to town. He was our leader, equipped with a walkie-talkie and knowledge of local vegetation. Manuel took us into areas I had never been before, up and over barbed wire fencing, through wildflower meadows and fields of grazing goats.

A small piece of ocote to start my grill, anafre. Today, hamburgers, apples, potatoes.
A field of potato plants. Up here it’s still spring time.
Palo de aguila is prized as a natural dye — alderwood — gives a lovely rose color

As we walked, we warmed up. Now, closer to noon, the clouds had moved away and while it was still chilly, it was comfortable since the first hour of the walk was horizontal or downhill. I noted that what goes down must come up. And the last 45-minutes to hike out of the community-owned forest was a struggle for me at this altitude, even though I’m now a seasoned walker!

Granddaughter resting … really, she’s content!
Wildflowers are prolific throughout the mountains now
Blue is the most difficult to find in nature, I learned from NC State student David Denton

I pulled the soy grande card and asked Manuel if he would rescue us from the remaining 30- minute grand finale stretch laid out before us at a 90-degree incline. I handed him my car keys. By then, we were on the road between Cuajimoloyas and Llano Grande. I had to stop every five minutes to catch my breath. I’m reconsidering going to Peru!

Teotitlan weavers who work in natural dyes go here to collect moss
We eat these here, Manuel says
Debbie atop Piedra de Colorado — really high!
Saying hello to a mushroom hunter

However, the walk is glorious and the upcoming Feria de Hongos promises to be even more than it was when I attended last year.

Stone-ground masa becomes the tortilla for quesadilla with hongos and tasajo

We finished the day eating a comida of tasajo and quesadillas at the comedor, completely satisfied with the adventure, and left town with a big bag of wild mushrooms, and locally grown organic potatoes, apples and peaches.

Dinner is pasta with wild mushrooms sautéed in butter and olive oil
Look at the size of this maguey …
Complexity and beauty of the forest

Oaxaca Mango Ginger Shrub — A Drink, Not a Plant

What is a Shrub? you may ask. It is a drinking vinegar, usually a fruit concentrate that is added to sparkling water, tablespoon by tablespoon depending on your strength preference, to give it a zesty flavor. Since it’s non-alcoholic and slightly fermented, it is a perfect drink over ice for those who don’t want an alcoholic beverage.

It’s also good to add to sparkling white wine or for in the mixed drink fixin’s.

What to do with leftover pulp. Don’t discard it!

I came across a ginger shrub at a health food grocery in downtown Oaxaca. It was 50 pesos for about 2 ounces. That’s about $2.65 USD. Give it a try, I thought. And, wow, was it delicious added to club soda. I’m going to make some.

It’s even tasty with plain water over ice! Refreshing.

So, I researched recipes online. There was none for mango and none for mango combined with ginger. I had two very large and very ripe mangoes in the refrigerator. I’ll use them for this experiment.

Mangoes are plentiful here this time of year. They grow on the coast of Oaxaca and most of them are the size of a large man’s fist. They cost about 5 pesos each.

Shrub concentrate after filtering pulp from liquid

My Mango-Ginger Shrub Recipe:

Peel and dice the mango, separating fruit from pit. Put in a medium size mixing bowl. Total should yield 2 cups of fruit. Mash fruit until you get a pulp.

Dice 5 cubes of candied ginger. Add to mixing bowl. I buy the candied ginger here in Oaxaca at the health food store.

Add 1-1/2 C. apple cider vinegar and 1/2 C. balsamic vinegar to the bowl.

Add 2 C. Mexican cane sugar to the bowl.

Stir well. Cover bowl with clean dish cloth. Set a plate on top and put aside so as not to disturb. Let sit for 48 hours, stirring once every 24 hours.

Drain liquid from pulp. Pour liquid into glass jar or clean container and refrigerate. Will keep up to 3 weeks. To use, put 1-2 T. into a drinking glass. Add ice cube and seltzer water. Stir and drink.

Because this drink is slightly fermented and has a vinegar sweet sour flavor, I suspect it is also an excellent pro-biotic and belly soother.

Yield: About 8 fluid ounces.

All the recipes I read recommended that you discard the fruit after extracting the liquid. I say NO. Use it to top crackers with cheese and avocado. Delicious. Muy rico!

How to Celebrate a Birthday in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Birthdays in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, are celebrated BIG TIME starting at the youngest, most tenderest age. They become grand celebrations when the honoree hits a milestone, like age 50 or 60 or 70. Depending on the number of extended family and economic wherewithal, a birthday party can include 200 or 300 invitees, mostly relatives, and go on for hours, even days.

Juana Gutierrez Contreras and Antonio Lazo Hernandez

Fortunately for me, I literally ran into Juana Gutierrez Contreras and her husband Antonio Lazo Hernandez at the village market the day before the celebration. A minute later and I would have missed them! Juana gave me a big hug. They said they were trying to reach me but didn’t have my phone number, and invited me to the party with warmth and sincerity.

Juana demonstrating carding, spinning, dyeing on another day, with her niece

First, let me say I’m in awe of her talent and that of Antonio. I’ve known them for years and they are included on my Self-Guided Tour Map of Teotitlan del Valle. She is a master dyer using only native plants and cochineal. He is among the most talented weavers who live here. So, this was a very special invitation for me.

This was Juana’s 50th birthday and it was an important celebration, not only to honor her age but her achievements.

Gift basket of fresh fruit, chocolate and bread

There is an etiquette to village birthdays. We arrive with a bottle of mezcal and/or a big handmade basket of fruit and/or a huge bouquet of flowers and/or a box of 24 Coronitas and/or a beautifully wrapped gift and/or lots of bread, candles, homemade chocolate for making mole or hot chocolate. Take your choice: Any or all of the above.

In Teotitlan del Valle, we say Ch-Ch-Bay-oh for Salud. That’s Zapotec.

First, we arrive around 3 p.m., step into the Altar Room* to greet the honoree and present the gifts. This is ceremonial. The gifts are accepted, kissed, and placed on the altar, symbols of blessings and abundance. We embrace, kiss, shake hands, stand for photos. There are others in line behind us, ready to give tribute.

Ready to eat: barbacoa de res

We take our place at one of about 30 tables that seats 10 people. The waiters serve beer and mezcal, piña coladas with chamoya candy stirrers, fresh fruit waters. There are snacks. The village mariachi band, an extraordinary group, serenades Juana, Antonio and their parents who sit at the head table. Respecting family is an essential cultural tradition here.

Under the protection of a big tent, in case of rain

A battalion of women are working in the area that is usually Juana’s dye kitchen. Today, it is a food kitchen. They are preparing the meal, tending the hot cauldrons fueled with wood. We are served barbacoa, in this case a beef stew with spicy red chile broth, along with fresh tortillas, tlayudas, and platters of grated cabbage, cilantro, chopped onion and cut limes to add to the soup.

Juan Carlos and his daughter, talented singer and weaver

In the late afternoon, not much before dusk, the mariachi band packs up and another village band, famous for playing the jarabe, arrives in full fanfare. The tables are cleared. The chairs reset in a big oval and a dance space materializes. It will be hours before the cake gets cut.

Juana takes the first dance with her father
The village Mariachi Band provides hours of magical music

Back in the kitchen, women kneel over huge aluminum vats of chipil and masa paste, stuffing them into corn husks for tortillas. These will be served around midnight.

The tamale makers
The tamale cooker
The dance floor is cleared and ready

The family is waiting for Juana’s brother Porfirio Gutierrez to arrive from California. Expected later that evening, he has been key to bringing international attention to their work. In July, Juana will make her first visit to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, where they have been participated for the last three years. Keith Reckers, IFAM’s creative director, has featured her photo on the cover of his new book, True Colors.

The tradition village band for dancing the Jarabe de Teotitlan del Valle

This recognition is important because it draws attention to the few Teotitlan del Valle weavers who work with, rescue and are dedicated to creating natural dye textiles. There are only about a dozen of them among the hundreds of village artisans. Raising the quality bar and talking about it is essential to survival of this ancient craft. Plus the results are beautiful!

This type of celebration is more usual than not. Behind the high walls and formidable patio gates there exists a world of community, continuity, cooperation and amazing celebrations. I was so happy to be included in this one.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Juana Gutierrez Contreras. May you thrive for another 50 years! Felicidades.

*The Altar Room is the most important place in every village home, however humble or grand. It is the hub of family, religious and cultural life — even more important than the church. It is the locus of celebration for funerals, weddings, birthdays, baptisms, engagements, confirmations, Day of the Dead and Navidad. Everything important happens here.