Tag Archives: face masks

More Masks Needed for Oaxaca: Will You Help?

So many of you have been very generous with repeated gifts since we started the Oaxaca Mask Project in April 2020, as soon as covid-19 reached Oaxaca and started to spread. Requests for masks continue. The need now is more in the remote villages than in the city, I’m told. Will you consider us again in giving support to Oaxaca?

Puente gave our masks to Mixtec farmers

We ordered the making of 400 masks today from your gifts! Thank you!

Late last week, Alvin Starkman from Oaxaca Mezcal Tours, who has been an immense help distributing masks, wrote this to me after I asked the question, Does Oaxaca need more masks?

Actually, more masks are indeed needed, so if anyone wants to participate in the program, contact Norma Schafer to donate so we can get more produced. I am mentioned regarding distribution in San José del Chilar. I just learned last night from Lucina, doctor in charge of the health clinic in the village, that word has gotten around that she is giving them out to those in need, so much so that some people are coming to the clinic and feigning injury just so they can get a free cloth mask. So we need more for the Cañada district of the state.

Drivers use our masks when delivering Food For All orders

We are down to zero masks to distribute! We have had some funds come in over the last couple of weeks and I have asked for another 100 to be sewn right now for distribution. Still, we can use many hundreds more. It takes a bout a week to cut and sew 100 masks. We have sewists in villages waiting for our contact to sew more. Can you help us do this?

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Many of you are keeping up with the semi-foro (traffic light) system of virus spread alerts in Oaxaca. The state continues to move back and forth between red (stay home) and orange (proceed with caution). Green is not in sight. Many of us believe that orange is in place to keep the informal economy functioning, otherwise people will starve. There is not less virus than there was before! Mexico is third in the world for virus spread and the health system cannot handle the number of cases.

Our masks covering medical staff at Oaxaca’s IMSS hospital

We will also provide masks for Friendly Food Donations. Here is what founders Jesi Jello and Erick Garcia Gomez say: Hello Friends! We are looking for mask donations here in Oaxaca City for our upcoming food deliveries, many people in the communities we donate food to do not have a mask or they do not have one that properly protects their nose and mouth. Often they have 2 amongst a family of 7 people.

And, this came in from Tanya LaPierre in Oaxaca who volunteers with local communities and is an active leader in an animal rescue/spay and neuter clinic.

Norma, I am contacting you about getting masks to San Isidro Roaguia. I will be doing a fundraiser for food basics for the village, and no one there has masks.

I replied to Tanya, yes, of course, we will make and give you as many masks as you need!

Mask wearing family, Teotitlan del Valle

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

Of course, this promise to make masks depends on the generosity of our readers. I know many of you have given and continue to do so. Will those of you who haven’t yet, will you please consider supporting our effort.

With deepest thanks,

Norma

Friendly Food Donations

Are there enough masks for Oaxaca?

I ask myself this question every day as the level of risk reported by the Oaxaca government moves fluidly back and forth from orange to red and back again. Confusing? Yes. And, in the informal economy small shop owners and street vendors are determined to do business, regardless of the risk. Restaurants have opened. Who can blame them? Not me. There is no safety net in Mexico for the impoverished. And, it is disappearing here in El Norte, too, as the U.S. Senate stonewalls on a new aid package.

Farmer in San Pablo Huitzo stays safe in one of our masks

The virus continues to rage. Mexico has the third highest outbreak in the world. We all want life the way it was. It’s not going to happen any time soon. So, we may as well settle into this as the way it’s going to be for a while.

There are slivers of good news out there.

From San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Puente director Isahrai tells our Food for All partner Rachael Mamane that 50 of our masks were delivered to the Red de Amaranto Mixteca council for distribution to farmer families in the Mixteca communities. Isahrai participated in a meeting of the group where mask wearing do’s and don’ts as well as advice on care and washing were shared.

Puente gives mask wearing and care instructions to the farming council

Alvin and Arlene Starkman’s goddaughter Lucy just finished her medical school education and has been assigned to do her public service in the village of San Jose del Chilar IMSS health clinic. This is the public health service. Lucy will distribute our masks to the 700 (+) (-) people in the village, which is in Oaxaca’s Cañada district. The closest town is San Juan Bautista Cuicatlan.

At the San Jose del Chilar IMSS health clinic

And, also thanks to Alvin, my son Jacob is the proud wearer of a Mezcal Educational Tours cap and face shield. Please note that we all know for maximum safety, one must wear a cloth mask under the shield. This photo is merely for demo purposes. Jacob is now officially part of the Mezcal Educational Tours Covid19 Fighting Brigade! P.S. That’s an agave plant on the cap, not another botanical.

The Mezcal Educational Tours Covid-19 Fighting Brigade

As long as there is a need, we will continue to sew and distribute masks and ask for donations. Let me know if you need masks in Oaxaca and if you want to donate.

If you are inspired to give to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

We are still here! Covering Faces in Oaxaca

I must confess it is difficult to be away from Oaxaca for so long. I have peripheral news to give you about daily life other than what we all read. I’m in the same boat as you … depending on others to tell me what’s going on!

Mostly, it’s the same story. The Orange Light is now on. Which means that businesses are opening up and people are back on the streets and in the markets — except for those who are disbelievers. It’s important now to continue to question the common sense of business as usual, here or there. (Name your location.)

Lucina and Kalisa with 60 masks

Kalisa tells me that she is still in hiding for the most part, and stepping cautiously and quickly in and out of Benito Juarez Market. Most of our guera friends continue to isolate, wear masks and keep distance when out and about. My family in Teotitlan del Valle is doing the same.

About the Photo Above: On the left is Alvin Starkman’s goddaughter Lucina. He and Arlene have been supporting her education for many years and she has just finished medical school. She will be taking 60 of our masks to a remote village (TBD) where she will do her public service at the end of the month. Kalisa has a repository of our masks that she keeps on hand to give to those in need. Alvin and Lucina picked them up the other day.

We continue to make and distribute masks.

A friend told me the risks in the villages are still high and people are dying, especially the vulnerable elderly. Numbers, I’m told, are in high double-digits, for some villages where commerce is a way of life.

Still accepting gifts. To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

We continue to make and distribute masks, albeit as I said earlier, at a slower pace. But, your gifts continue to be welcome.

Representative weaving examples from new project

I am working on a new project.

Soon, I will receive a shipment from a remote Oaxaca coastal village. The women there grown their own cotton and use natural dyes to color it. They formed an outstanding 16-member cooperative, but they have no Internet presence — no knowledge of technology and limited marketing savvy. I will help them sell during this time of scarcity.

Photo by Ana Paula Fuentes

The box contains a dozen beautiful hand-woven textiles fashioned into garments that are a perfect weight for summer. Here in North Carolina, it’s been over 90 degrees and this will continue for another couple months. Clothes that breathe are essential for this climate and many other parts of the USA.

I will post photos and prices here as soon as the box arrives.

Made by hand, indigo and wood bark fine gauze blouse

Covering Faces: Oaxaca Mask Project Summary*

I left Oaxaca on March 12, 2020, for what was to be a two-month return to the USA, first to visit family in California for a week, and then to check on my North Carolina apartment. I landed in Los Angeles to see my son and brother, with a plan to visit my sister in San Francisco next.

On March 15, the California stay-at-home order started.  I was with my son for two months in a one-BR apartment. In the beginning, I ordered face masks for us as we walked in the wildlife preserve wetlands along the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. Then, I turned my attention to Oaxaca.

What could I do to be useful to help the place I call home for most of the year? That’s when I decided to start The Oaxaca Mask Project to offer face coverings FREE for anyone in need. This was accomplished with help from many Oaxaqueños and gueros who live in and remain in Oaxaca. From April 14 to today (July 3, 2020), I have raised a bit over $20,000 USD through 283 individual gifts. We made and distributed 3,223 face masks throughout the city and villages.

We covered 5 de Febrero taxi syndicate faces, Oaxaca

At the request of the Teotitlan del Valle Community President and the Public Health Committee, we purchased and mailed a high-quality vital signs monitor, and donated funds to purchase pulse oximeters, gallons of alcohol and hand-sanitizer. The vital signs monitor helps assess blood oxygen levels as a way to detect covid-19. I asked for designated donations for the very costly monitor and received gifts from Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Dr. Deborah Morris, and Boojie Colwell. 

My thoughts are always with Oaxaca regardless of where I am physically located. I continually plug into the public health information to know how our people are doing, and to also help me determine when I will return. I should have been back by now. My plan was to be in my Teotitlan del Valle casita by the first of July. Now, there is no certainty about much and my first concern is to stay safe and have access to excellent medical care, should I need it: Ojala! 

The entire fleet of drivers took masks

I’d like to tell you a little more about the project. 

We employed mask sewists in Oaxaca City, Santa Maria El Tule, Tlacolula de Matamoros, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, San Miguel del Valle and Teotitlan del Valle, providing a needed income, in some cases sending 100% cotton fabric when none was to be procured.  We sent mask-making instructions and a pattern in Spanish. We crafted the language for hand-tags to be attached to the masks to instruct wearers on use and care. We depended on amazing volunteers on the ground to help with distribution: Kalisa Wells, Alvin Starkman, Cristy Molina Martinez, Kari Klippen-Sierra, Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras, Gail Pellett, Malena Jimenez, Rachael Mamane, Alan Goodin, Eric Ramirez Ramos, Luvia Lazo, Jacki Cooper Gordon and Samuel Bautista Lazo.

We also relied on help from friends in the USA, Canada and Mexico who made masks and sent fabric in late March and early April to jump-start the project. Janet Blaser wrote about the project in Mexico News Daily, too. That helped spread the word and raise more needed funds.

Rachael Mamane helped us get these to Jorge Toscani, fleet chief

These folks put masks (often repeatedly) in the hands of market vendors, shoppers and villagers in the city and far-flung villages. We covered faces in San Marcos Tlapazola, Santiago Matatlan, San Dionisio, San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, San Andres Huayapam. San Agustin Etla, San Martin Tilcajete, Santiago Ixtaltepec and more. With help from the Episcopal Church, we covered faces of people who glean from the Zaachila dump. We covered faces of women entrepreneurs who work with EnVia and taxi drivers and farmers who work with Puente and the healthy food-sourcing project Food-for-All. We got masks into the hands of at risk-youth from Casa de Kids, and IMSS doctors and nurses in two Oaxaca hospitals. 

Everyone in the fleet was proud to wear a mask!

This project has preoccupied me for the last months. I am waiting now for Oaxaca to move from Code Red to Code Green (semiforo system of measurement), as are all of us. We want to return, to live, to visit, to support artisans, and to freely enjoy all that beautiful Oaxaca has to offer. Oaxaca is not ready for us yet. We will go when it opens up. Most importantly, we wish for the health and safety of all our friends. 

When will I begin to offer textile tours and workshops? My best answer is, I don’t know. Life now is an improvisation and we are all getting used to it.

Best wishes,

Norma

*Note: The Oaxaca Lending Library is collecting accounts from members and friends about how we are dealing with Covid-19. This essay was my contribution.

To see more photos, search Oaxaca Mask Project on the site for prior posts.

Taxis have been vectors of disease spread from city to village

A Letter and A Story: The Oaxaca Mask Project

First, the letter I sent to our most recent donors yesterday — people who made gifts over the last two weeks. Read on for a story from Kalisa Wells about giving out our masks on the streets of Oaxaca.

Dear Friends,

Your gifts over the last two weeks topped us off at receiving over $10,000 USD since Phase II of The Oaxaca Mask Project started on May 23, 2020 from 162 donors. We have made and distributed 2,710 face masks and more are in the making. Oaxaca is at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak. Sadly, very sadly, we have seen Oaxaca mortalities rise and our artisan villages are also very vulnerable.

Gifts of masks for San Miguel del Valle

So, the masks have helped immensely as we give them to people who are going to funerals and to public health clinics and markets, and just going about their every day lives. Staying at home, sequestered in houses, is difficult for the most disciplined of us to do! Yet, we know survival is dependent on it along with constant public education. We are working on that through the public health clinics in Teotitlan del Valle, Tlacolula de Matamoros, Santiago Ixtaltepec, and San Jeronimo Tlacochuhuaya. We have friends on the ground in each village who are helping us with mask distribution and education!

Welch-Allyn vital signs monitor

In addition, this total amount raised includes a gift to Teotitlan del Valle of hand sanitizer, alcohol, small portable pulse oximeters, plus a used Welch-Allyn vital signs monitor that clinic doctors requested. They have an urgent need to accurately test blood oxygen levels, temperature and blood pressure there. Four donors made this possible: Kate Rayner, Claudia Michel, Dr. Deborah Morris, and Boojie Cowell. 

To contribute to The Oaxaca Mask Project, click here:

What else can I tell you?  We have masks going to vulnerable at risk people who live near the Zaachila dump and orphan children via the Oaxaca Episcopal Church, thanks to Kari Klippen-Sierra. Moises Garcia Guzman de Contreras is translating health messages and making videos in Zapotec for Tlacochahuaya. Cristy Molina Martinez continues to do the same in Teotitlan.  Alan Goodin has taken up the cause for Santiguito, where he lives. We provide important income to seamstresses in El Tule, Oaxaca, Teotitlan, Tlacolula, Mitla and San Miguel del Valle. Jacki Cooper Gordon gave 100 masks to EnVia foundation who distributed them to women they support in Tlapazola, San Sebastian Abasolo, Santa Maria Guelace, and San Miguel. We sent extra fabric, too, so one of their seamstresses with use it for masks. Another 100 masks made by Rocio Bastida will go to Rachael Mamane, FoodforAll.mx, today, who will get them to taxi drivers and farmers who are part of Puente.org

Tlacolula market vendor with mask

I don’t know when I will return to my beloved Oaxaca. All my friends there tell me the cases are rising and the health care system is overloaded. I’m hoping for November this year, but I have no plans yet. When will Oaxaca Cultural Navigator resume our textile tours and programs? Quien sabe? I don’t know.

Meanwhile, I must do what I can to stay healthy in this time of covid-19. I must do what I can to elect a responsive government,  and support justice for Black America.  I will continue to focus on doing the right thing. 

Thank you for joining me. Thank you for caring for Oaxaca. Say safe and healthy.

All my best, Norma

Now this from Kalisa Wells, also from yesterday, during her 12,685 step walk around Oaxaca with our blogger friend Shannon Sheppard:

Preparing fresh, organic tortillas on the comal


“I love these walks, giving out the surprise mask for the very deserving people out there working for a few pesos on a Sunday. I put one of the last two masks I have in a plastic bag as we set out. We were way beyond Xochimilco (north of Niño Heroes de Chapultepec). We passed a señora making tortillas on a comal. She was in a dark entry way to her home, a step down from the sidewalk. She was older and was wearing a paper mask.

“I asked her for 10 pesos worth of tortillas. She had been making and putting them in a basket under a cloth, but for my 10 (that’s one peso each), she insisted on making them fresh, right then and there.

“I carry a clean tea towel in my bag, perfect for piping hot tortillas! I gave her the 10 pesos and your mask. She hesitated, not really understanding. I said it was a gift. You would have thought I gave her a diamond. She examined it, the workmanship and a nod of appreciation and thanks. It made my day!

“This is why I live in Mexico.”

The best corn tortillas, organic, criollo