We continue to make and distribute masks, although at a less frenzied pace! This week, Alvin Starkman from Oaxaca Mezcal Educational Tours picked up 60 masks from Kalisa Wells in El Centro. He gave 20 to folks he knows in San Dionisio Ocotepec. Villagers in San Pablo Guila asked Alvin if he could get them more masks, so he brought 20 there, too. Twenty more will go toa small village TBD where Alvin’s goddaughter, La Doctora Lucina, will do her servicio social.
We had funded the making of 100 more masks in Tlacolula de Matamoros under the supervision of Eric Ramirez, the English-speaking owner of Zapotrek. Eric is a knowledgeable adventure guide who has a superb knowledge of history and archeology, among other things. Early in The Project, he asked how he could help. He identified a seamstress who needed support. We sent money via Western Union.
We make masks, pay the sewists, and give the masks to those in need for FREE. The project is funded by donations.
This week, Eric gave more masks to vendors and customers in the Tlacolula Market.
Now, Oaxaca has gone from Code Red to Code Orange, using the traffic-light (semiforo) system of identifying the severity of C-19 spread. Many of us think this is done for the reason of boosting the economy, not because the disease risk has diminished.
Kalisa reports that on her masked forages to the Benito Juarez market, most are now wearing masks inside.
But, we can see in Tlacolula that the story is different. There are still maskless vendors and shoppers. It’s no different there than it is in the USA. Some people want to protect themselves and others. Many are “non-believers” as if mask-wearing was one form of religion.
Still accepting gifts. To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:
Here, in my own Durham, NC, apartment condo building, where there are 90 units in a historic downtown repurposed tobacco warehouse, despite the signs, many are not wearing masks in public spaces. It is so frustrating and I find myself getting angry at the mask-less who ignore the printed and email messages that masks are required in the public spaces.
What are their excuses when I ask, Where’s your mask?
Oh, I left it in my car. I forgot. It’s in my apartment. I just went out for a quick errand. Oh, it’s in my pocket. I was just out for a bike ride. Or, it’s dangling around their neck. What to do? Steer clear. Make a wide arc around them. Take a deep breath.
Meanwhile, all over the world, rates of infection are increasing, deaths are on the rise, and I’m still scared and being super cautious.
And, I’ve been worried about my dogs. But, they are well-fed and cared for by my host family in Teotitlan del Valle. Mostly, I guess, I’m missing them — our daily walks in the campo with the vast landscape of mesquite and cactus, purple mountains casting shadows on the valley, the green of summer rains. You know that smell of rain when everything is fresh.
When will I be able to return? A gnawing question that has no answer.
Please tell everyone you meet to wear a mask! Stay safe. We are in this for the long-haul.
We branched out from masking making and distribution last week by raising funds from four donors to buy a Welch-Allyn vital signs monitor for the Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, health clinic. Village volunteer officials contacted me with this special need.
I reached out to readers and received immediate response from Kate Rayner, Toronto, Canada; Claudia Michel, Portland, Oregon; Boojie Cowell, London and Mexico City; and Deborah Morris, M.D., Coates, North Carolina. Debbie advised me on brand and helped make a selection from a hundred or so used models available on eBay.
The vital signs monitor was a big purchase, and we are so grateful to these four women for their generosity to be able to say YES, WE CAN.
This piece of machinery will give doctors the tools to check oxygenation and do continuous monitoring with accurate temperature and blood pressure checks, according to Claudia Michel, who is also an RN. Oxygenation is an essential reading for early detection of Covid-19. When oxygen levels decline, that is a sign there is illness. I have a portable pulse oximeter at home and use it regularly to monitor my own levels.
We also used funds to purchase gallons of hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol and two portable pulse oximeters for the village clinic to take into people’s homes. This is in addition to giving the clinic hundreds more masks to distribute as an official appeal to the village to wear them and keep social distancing.
Yesterday, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras picked up 100 more face masks in El Tule for the health officials to distribute to the people of his village, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya. The masks were the second order I placed with Arte Textil Orozco, the workshop that wove the cloth that was then sewn by Stephanie Jeronimo.
Since Phase II of the The Oaxaca Mask Project started on May 23, 2020, we have ordered, sewn and distributed 1,810 masks. This includes 100% cotton fabric donated by Patrice Wynne, Abrazos San Miguel, and more from Karen Nein in Eldorado, New Mexico.
We’ve sent money via Western Union to mask makers in Oaxaca, San Miguel del Valle, and Teotitlan del Valle. We are also using PayPal to send money because it is fast and direct for those who use it.
Bordados Xime, a fancy apron-making workshop in San Miguel, has shifted over to making masks and we are supporting them. We paid for our first order of 100 that will be distributed to the residents of this Zapotec village.
The map of Mexico shows RED. There is a high rate of infection everywhere. People are now asking for masks as infection rates rise in Oaxaca. Stay-at-home orders from the Governor are in place until June 15. We have orders out now for 500 more masks that have not yet been paid for.
News this week is that markets are closed and will only be open on a rotating basis. (Some on a Oaxaca listserv are saying markets are closed for the next 10 days. I’m not there, so I don’t know.) Masks have been required for entry. Officials taking temperatures and requesting shoppers to use hand-sanitizer often.
There are official three-diagnosed Covid-19 cases in Tlacochahuaya. Our mask recipients on Sunday were taxi drivers, moto-taxi drivers, and the general public. Here, too, health officials were grateful to have the masks and participated in distributing them.
Moises, a Zapotec language activist who lived in Santa Monica, California and worked for Verizon before returning home to Tlacochahuaya, tells me that the real issue is testing for all of Oaxaca. “Testing is only performed when symptoms appear, but by that time there have been contacts, and it might be too late.” He is recording a video in Zapotec for his village to explain Covid-19, symptoms and prevention measures.” Testing is run by the epidemiology department of the state government, Moises tells me.
Public health messages are essential for Zapotec communities of the Oaxaca valleys. Many of the older people, those who are most vulnerable, do not speak much if any Spanish, and hearing warnings in their indigenous language is essential.
Thanks to Alan Goodin, a resident of Santiguito (Santiago Ixtaltepec), who picked up face masks today from Cristy Molina Martinez at the crossroads. Alan will give them out to friends and neighbors who need them.
Meanwhile, we are doing what we can, and we know that mask wearing can reduce infection by as much as 80 percent. Masks don’t just filter air. They promote social distancing. Epidemiologists are telling us that this virus will not go away and that to stay safe mask-wearing will be part of life in the foreseeable future.
Now, we hear that Teotitlan is limiting funeral attendance to 10 people and has put up a blockade at the entrance to the village to limit access to people who don’t live there. Yes, there have been funerals. Few people believe they are Covid-19 related; some do. Without tests, there is no proof. We do believe that the doctors who asked for the vital signs monitor understand how this infection is transmitted and want every tool at their disposal for prevention.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for contributing. Thank you for caring.
COVID-19 cases are rising in Oaxaca and the villages. This week’s news reports closures at Abastos Market (Central de Abastos), the huge central food distribution center in Oaxaca city due to high rates of disease. People are testing positive in villages in the Tlacolula Valley. Concern is rising. Demand for face masks is stronger. We must continue to respond. Thousands are at risk. No time to sit back and take a break!
If you gave earlier, please consider making another gift. If you haven’t yet given, now is the time. The need is still with us.
New Oaxaca Partnerships
We have formed distribution partnerships with:
Food for All A Oaxaca-based collective of farmers, chefs, drivers and citizens in Oaxaca, Mexico, providing market boxes from farm to table, founded by Rachael Mamane, James Beard-nominated chef.
Puente Works with food producers and micro-enterprises in vulnerable Oaxaca communities to maintain production and economic solidarity
Cafebre A Oaxaca city coffee bar that roasts and distributes artisanal beans from independent growers in the highlands
Mama Pacha Chocolate A small Oaxaca workshop that makes rich and nutritious chocolate without agrochemicals, promoting a fair economy for cacao bean growers
Each of these organizations will take our masks and distribute them to those in need. The partnership allows us to go deeper and wider with more urgency!
Urgency: We are out of masks in Teotitlan del Valle. People are coming to Cristy’s house to ask for masks. Please help!
With help from Food for All‘s Rachael Mamane, our point person, we will be able to get more masks quickly into the hands of farmers, consumers, fruit and vegetable vendors, taxi fleets, and others.
You are key to this project’s continuing success. Right now, we have commitments to make 300 more masks this week and need to pay for them! We want to provide a steady source of face coverings for the near future.
Few have an income source in Oaxaca now and people cannot afford to buy masks. They can barely afford to buy food!
We also continue to work with Cristy Molina in Teotitlan del Valle, where she organizes seamstresses to make masks for us. These are the masks that we will give to Rachael for distribution. Cristy my essential partner who volunteers to protect her village and her neighbors.
Sewing Masks Provides Income
Our strategy has changed. We now want to focus on sending funds to Oaxaca seamstresses for mask-making. This provides an important source of income when all other work has evaporated. We are grateful for all the masks made by friends in the USA up to now. We found that the cost to ship to Oaxaca is better spent providing income to seamstresses there.
To keep up-to-date with Oaxaca Covid-19 statistics, please use the Municipio de Oaxaca Facebook page. I am told, however, that actual data is lagging and cases may be as much as 20% higher than what is reported. Hospital beds are filled to capacity. This is what it takes to get people’s attention, unfortunately.
Another key person whose help we value is Alvin Starkman, Mezcal Educational Tours, who says that masks are direly needed at Abastos — and he feels safe with his N95 and protective shield going there to distribute face coverings!
Yesterday, Oaxaca government announced that the use of face covers is mandatory throughout the city, that all public squares, where the greatest number of infections occur, will be sanitized, and that police will enforce social distancing to prevent concentrations of crowds. They continue to encourage isolation.
This is good news for Oaxaca.
More face masks are needed. I just ordered 100 masks to be made and mailed to Oaxaca. I am organizing a distribution task to give the masks away starting in the public markets and with street vendors and customers. We have created hang tags for each mask that will explain in Spanish why it is vital to use the mask to prevent the spread of infection and save lives. My goal is to enlist helpers to distribute the masks in Oaxaca and the villages. We will need hundreds of mask and funds to pay local people to hand them out.
Please help me support this effort and make a gift to my PayPal account, designating that it is for the Mask Fund: paypal.me/oaxacaculture or open PayPal, use Send Money to Friends and Family, for oaxacaculture.me
Last week, Erich Hansen (you met him at the chef’s party with Kalisa) and I spent about 2,000 pesos at Sam’s Club to buy rice, beans, and oil. We delivered it to Martha Canseco Bennetts – CEI Board Chair and owner of Becari Language School. She delivered it to CEI.
Families also need cash donations in order to afford transportation into Oaxaca. Some of the supported students live 2-4 hours away. Getting in to Oaxaca for donations is quite a journey.
Resources for Giving and A Cry for Help in Oaxaca
SiKanda.org Solidaridad Internacional Kanda (SiKanda) AC is a Oaxaca non-governmental, and non-profit organization. It was founded ten years ago with the mission of facilitating and leading participatory processes of harmonious and sustainable development to improve the quality of life of people in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are raising money to feed vulnerable families during the COVID-19 crisis. Donate via PayPal from their home page.
PuenteMexico.org works with 30 communities in the Oaxaca Central Valleys and Mixteca to grow and distribute healthy food, develop sustainable agriculture programs, and provide public health education. They support over 16,000 people. You can donate here.
Huacal is a food basket delivery service created by Sirilo and Oaxacking that sources food from Abastos Market, packs it into weekly portions, and distributes it now to those in need. It costs 350 pesos to feed a family of 4 each week. You can donate here.
Tlayudona is organizing an effort to create high-quality reusable masks to donate to local hospitals and clinics in Oaxaca. We are looking to create a sustainable effort that will supply local medical personnel with much-needed masks. At the same time, this project will provide living wages for several of Tlayudona´s hosts who no longer have work because of the pandemic. We ask that you donate what you can to support this effort.
Our friend, Cristobal Santiz Jimenez, is a community leader in the Tzotzil Chiapas village of Magdalena Aldama, Chiapas. He was arrested on March 14, 2020, and imprisoned on false charges, according to the Fray Bartolome de Las Casa Human Rights Center and our friend Alejandro Alarcon Zapata.
Cristobal is still in prison, and may be there indefinitely: All court business is halted because of COVID-19. His wife and family have run out of money.
I am asking your help to make a gift. To secure his freedom. To provide food for his family. To provide legal assistance. To keep him safe in prison.
Any amount is appreciated.
Defense Fund for Cristobal Santiz Jimenez, Make Your Gift Via PayPalSend to Alejandro Alarcon Zapata firstname.lastname@example.org I am sorry. We are not set up as a charitable fund and this is not tax-deductible. You would give, as we have, out of the goodness of your heart.
We just visited Cristobal and his wife Rosita on March 2, during our 2020 Chiapas Textile Study Tour. We have visited them for four years. They talked about the on-going boundary dispute that has turned into an armed conflict by neighboring Santa Marta, Chenalho. They were scared then, and more so now. Aldama is a smaller village, more vulnerable.
Here is the back-story sent to me by Alejandro, who is our point-person and trusted information source.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. as of March 14, 2020
Urgent Action No. 03
Incommunication, criminalization and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of community defender Cristóbal Sántiz Jiménez
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center, A.C. (Frayba), documented the facts of human rights violations perpetrated against Mr. Cristóbal Sántiz Jiménez, (hereinafter Cristóbal) with the following facts: The arrest was made when he left his job today at 6:50 hrs . After 5 hours of being incommunicado, we confirm that the arrest was carried out by the State Attorney General’s Office, who transferred him to Tuxtla Gutiérrez and it was at 12:20 p.m. when the family was informed of the arrest of Mr. Cristóbal and his transfer to State Center for Social Reintegration of Sentences, N.14, el Amate, based in Cintalapa de Figueroa, Chiapas.
Cristóbal Santís Jiménez, peasant, belonging to the Tsotsil peoples, is representative of the Permanent Commission of Communards and Displaced Persons of Aldama. Member of the families that were attacked with high-caliber weapons by a paramilitary group from Santa Martha, Chenalhó and stripped of their land. He is a community defender, representative of the Permanent Commission of Communards and Displaced Persons of Aldama since the conflict arose due to widespread violence and forced displacement by the paramilitary group of Santa Martha, Chenalhó. In addition, Mr. Cristóbal has held traditional positions in his native town of Aldama, as a Traditional Regidor. Mr. Cristóbal has been working as a watchman for 21 years at the 133 Industrial Training Center in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
As a spokesman for the displaced communities, he has denounced the omissions of the Mexican State due to the escalation of violence in the upper Chiapas region. He was present during the signing of the Peace Accords, which was preceded by Governor Rutilio Escandón and Undersecretary Lic. Alejandro Encinas, immediately afterwards he participated during the so-called Banderazo de Paz. He has repeatedly faced threats from both the Mexican State that demanded his silence in exchange for his freedom; as well as death threats by the armed paramilitary group of Santa Martha, Chenalhó.
El Frayba requested precautionary measures number 284/18 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect the life, safety and integrity of Mr. Cristóbal Santis Jiménez and his family.
For this reason, this Center for Human Rights considers that the State Attorney General’s Office is perpetrating serious human rights violations, such as criminalization, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, placing Mr. Cristóbal at a high risk to his integrity and security. personal.
This Center for Human Rights requests the immediate intervention of the federal and state government to implement pertinent actions for the prompt release of Mr. Cristóbal.
We request from national to international civil society to send your appeal to:
Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Constitutional President of Mexico Official Residence of the Pines. Miguel Alemán House. Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850 Mexico City.
Fax: (+52) 55 5093 4901
Lic. Olga Sánchez Cordero. Secretary of the Interior of Mexico Bucareli 99, 1st. floor. Col. Juárez. Cuacthemoc delegation
Lic. Rutilio Escandón Cadenas. Constitutional Governor of the State of Chiapas Government Palace of the State of Chiapas, 1st Floor Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009. Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico
Cristóbal Sántiz Jiménez is a community defender of human rights, representative and spokesman for Tsotsil communities in forced displacement of Aldama, cultural promoter and traditional authority. His arrest occurs in the context of criminalization and threats to his life, liberty, security and integrity due to the constant denunciations of the omission of the Mexican State in the escalation of violence in the Altos de Chiapas region. Members of the Specialized Police of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Chiapas, detained him on March 14, 2020, when he was leaving his job, kept him incommunicado for 5 hours and is currently incarcerated in the State Center for Social Reintegration of Sentenced Persons. , No.14, el Amate, based in Cintalapa de Figueroa, Chiapas, Mexico.
A journalist, Cristóbal’s friend, asked to AMLO for his liberation, check this link [AMLO is Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador]
Why We Left, Expat Anthology: Norma’s Personal Essay
Norma contributes personal essay, How Oaxaca Became Home
Norma Contributes Two Chapters!
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