We have cried this week. There were seven (7) funerals in Teotitlan del Valle, two on one day. There are cases diagnosed in neighboring villages and towns. For every published case diagnosed, the multiplier is eight (8) for the underrepresented numbers. If five (5) cases are known, the likely total is 40. The curve is no where in sight.
Mexico’s health care system is in disarray. Upon taking office, President AMLO (Lopez-Obrador) started dismantling the system to reorganize. There is little PPE and health care workers are taxed. The New York Times reports today that 25% of Mexico’s coronavirus cases are health care workers.
In all this, we are hopeful that the masks we offer FREE to people will mitigate the spread of disease in the Oaxaca valleys. Thank you for your generosity, your big heart and your gifts.
It takes a village to protect a village. You and I do this because we have a connection to people and place. We do this because we respect the creativity and hard work of Oaxaqueños. We understand. Thank you, again!
Tomorrow, May 15, 2020, we are accepting last donations for the time being to make and distribute masks to Oaxaca and the villages. I’m taking a break until we see if there is more demand. Thanks to all who responded earlier this week to The Last Push post! Many of you made second and third gifts!
We still need several hundred dollars more to pay Oaxaca mask makers for orders in progress and complete mask shipments. Thank you for making a gift. Please use this link:
We started this project on April 15, 2020 — one month ago!
Alert: I just received a notice from Cristy Molina Martinez that the Oaxaca government has announced that they cannot accept any more COVID-19 patients at Oaxaca’s specialty hospital. They are at capacity!
Cristy Molina Martinez has been our right-hand person in Teotitlan del Valle. This morning she received a shipment of masks from Portland, Oregon, from Claudia Michel. Claudia made an in-kind donation to the project by purchasing and shipping masks at her personal expense.
Cristy will take masks to San Jeronimo Tlacochuhuaya where graphic artist Gabriela Morac will distribute them in her hometown. Some will go to San Pablo Villa de Mitla where doll maker Armando Sosa is redirecting sewing efforts to mask-making. He will use our masks as a pattern, and we will send him funds to also make masks to give out to villagers and taxi-drivers. .
Gabriela closed her studio in downtown Oaxaca shortly after the invasion of COVID-19 and returned home, staying safe and selling online.
We have two other mask shipments in transit. Another 100 masks are going today to San Martin Tilcajete from Karen Nein to Taller Jacobo y Maria Angeles. The famed maker of alebrijes, ceramics and curator of a sustainable copal forest has a vast network of friends and relatives who are wearing our masks.
Early this week, Alvin Starkman, Oaxaca Mezcal Educational Tours, took 60 more masks, made and donated by Rocio Bastida Cruz and Dave Crosley (contact them to order in Oaxaca), to villages where he has mezcal-making friends. Alvin says, “I have been assisting distributing to several of the mezcal villages over the past few weeks. The good folks at Mezcal Vago (Judah Kuper & Dylan Sloan) have most recently agreed to distribute a bunch to the villages where their mezcal is produced, to the growers, jimadores, palenqueros and their families, especially those older / with pre-existing conditions, in Sola de Vega, Candelaria Yegolé, Miahuatlán and Tapanala. Thanks guys (and gals). Let’s keep ’em all safe.”
Yesterday, I shipped 100 masks made by Sam (Frances) Robbins from Columbus, Ohio, for Cristy to deliver along with fabric that Rosario Lazo will sew.
Jacki Cooper Gordon received 150 masks from us for EnVia Foundation to give to the women (and their families) in the villages who are recipients of their loans.
The Episcopal Church in downtown Oaxaca has our masks, too. So does the health clinic in Huayapam thanks to Kari Klippen-Sierra and Rudy Sierra. Kari just told me she made contact with and gave 50 masks to Steve Friedman with Seeds of Hope in Zaachila, an organization that works with impoverished people who live in and around the dump there. She also gave 30 masks to Drew Vogt from Casa de Kids. They work with children, often orphaned, to help them get through school.
In Santa Maria El Tule, I am working with weaver Alfredo Hernandez Orozco who is making us 100 masks. They should be done by early next week. Then, we will figure out who needs them most, who will get them out to people, and will wear them!
As of today, we have contracted for, shipped and distributed almost 2,500 masks, and received almost $5,000 in funds. This does not include gifts of masks made by friends of the project which I will tally as in-kind gifts in my final report.
If we keep going, we will need to raise more money to fund the project. Cristy and I are assessing need and should know more in a couple of weeks. Everyone has been so generous. What is your will?
During this intensive one-month project to get our Oaxaca friends protected from coronavirus, I have been gratified, ecstatic, overwhelmed, discouraged and tearful with the joy of so many people stepping forward to help. I have felt like a mask-jockey, juggling where to distribute masks available immediately to those who want and need them immediately, waiting for more to be ready and re-deployed.
Thank you for trusting me with your gifts to make this project happen. Thank you for your willingness to sew. Thank you for your effort to bring masks to people who will wear them. Thank you for trying to bring masks to the people when they reject the offer of help.
We can only do the best we can, one step at a time. For now, we will wrap this up …. unless someone else wants to step forward for a while!
Friends ask, When are you coming back to Oaxaca? My best answer is, I don’t know. As with most things these days, we are driven by the virus and much is to revealed and it is too soon to know. They say, no one vaccine will protect against the many iterations of this scourage. My intention is to continue to shelter-in-place, take walks, eat healthy, Zoom with friends and drink MEZCAL.
Right now, there’s mango cardamom chutney cooking on the stove. It’s a clear, cool day after a series of heavy rains and the sky is brilliant blue. White puff clouds hug the mountain just beyond my reach, and I’m thinking about the injustices in our world and how people cope.
In about three weeks, I’m leaving Oaxaca and traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the International Folk Art Market where I’m volunteering. For artisans, it’s a privilege to be invited to this juried and highly competitive exhibition market.
Jovita’s husband, Amando, a fine potter, too, and head of their family workshop, has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a pretty rare disease with unknown causes. Medical researchers believe it is linked to the Zika virus. The couple have three children. Amando is in hospital for the past two months, unable to speak, with paralysis and the prognosis isn’t clear. The family has spent more than 150,000 pesos for public health treatment. This is a huge sum in Mexico, equivalent to about $10,000 USD. The long-range implications of a head-of-household not working will have a huge family impact.
Note: If you are making the gift from the U.S. or Canada, please log into Generosity with your Facebook account. Otherwise it won’t work because we just discovered this Indiegogo donation site was created in Mexico! So Sorry! Don’t use your email address. It won’t work. Many thanks for your support.
They won’t have to pay a transaction fee if you send it to family/friends!
One of the children stopped going to school for a semester to help at the ceramic workshop, since they have orders to fulfill and Amando is not able to work.
Jovita does not want you to feel sorry for her and was reluctant for us to share this very personal information about family circumstances. She wants your support for the Wayfinders crowdfunding campaign because she is an exceptional artisan and nothing more.
Celebrating the Humanity of the Handmade
But that is not the complete story, and the family situation makes this appeal even more urgent and necessary. I talked about it with Kythzia Barrera and Diego Mier y Teran, who lead Innovando la Tradicion. They spoke with Jovita, who agreed that without support, the financial stress on the family for out-of-pocket expenses to go to the Folk Art Market would be a burden they would not easily recover from.
Will you help? Any amount will make a difference.
I don’t personally know Jovita, but I know her work. I know that handmade Oaxaca artistry and craft take time, is a family heritage, is multi-generational and the best quality can be hard to sustain as some cut corners and turn to more commercial production methods.
I am writing to ask you to consider making a gift of whatever size to remove the toxic, cancer-causing asbestos from La Flor de Xochistlahuaca women’s weaving cooperative work space in Guerrero, Mexico.
Flor de Xochistlahuaca cooperative needs your help for cancer-free health
On the webpage it explains everything: the roof of asbestos that needs to be destroyed and rebuilt because it is very toxic and a carcinogen and operates like an oven creating uncomfortable working conditions in the extreme heat. In addition, there is a great video about the cooperative and the weavers and the gifts that will be given with each donation. Please take a look.
Goal: $45,000 USD
To Date Raised: $7, 541 USD or 17% of Goal
The goal is ambitious and we need the help from all of our friends – especially those textile lovers and those interested in artisan craftsmanship. I know most of us don’t like to receive petitions for money, but in this case, I know that it is worth it. And, I know that I owe it to the weavers, to their hope for a better future and for their wish to have a work space that is healthy and dignified for the excellence of their textile art. I ask you to please consider participating.
I thank you from my heart and I thank you on behalf of the artisans for your willingness to support this project either through a donation or by sharing it with friends or on Facebook or in any other way you are able: https://igg.me/at/laflordexochistlahuaca
Thank you again for your support and time, I really appreciate it.
Norma’s Note: Maddalena has worked with this group for three years to build their economic development and marketing capacity; this is her last project with them. They live on the border between the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Their handmade weaving work is exquisite, and their health matters! Please support them with whatever size gift you can afford.
En Español de Maddalena Forcella
Les escribo pidiéndoles unos minutos de su tiempo para que chequen la campaña de fondeo colectivo para renovar el espacio de trabajo de las tejedoras de La Flor de Xochistlahuaca, en Guerrero . Después de tres años de trabajo con el grupo, este es el último esfuerzo que hacemos juntas, el objetivo es ambicioso, así que necesitamos de la ayuda de todos nuestros amigos, especialmente de los amantes del textil y la excelencia artesanal; se que no es lo máximo recibir peticiones a contribuir a una buena causa, pero en este caso se que vale la pena, y se lo debo a las tejedoras, a su esperanza de un presente/futuro mejor y a su deseo de tener un espacio de trabajo digno de la maestria de su quehacer. Entonces doble agradecimiento por si quieres hacer una donación, o ayudarnos a difundir la campaña a través de este enlace entre amigos y conocidos, en Facebook y cualquier otro medio a tu alcance: https://igg.me/at/laflordexochistlahuaca
En la página se explica todo, el techo de lámina de asbesto, que debe ser cambiado ya que es super tóxico y cancerígeno, ademas de ser un horno cuando se esta debajo, también hay un bonito video y fotos de la cooperativa y de las tejedoras, y los regalos que las artesanas enviarán a los donadores.
Les mando un gran abrazo y mis agradecimientos sinceros
It was two days after the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market closed but the celebration continued. Los Amigos de Arte Popular de Mexico hosted a gala fundraising dinner at a private home filled with folk art treasures within walking distance of the city’s historic center.
About forty people attended to support Innovando la Tradicion ceramics cooperative. We were from all over, including Oaxaca, New Mexico, Texas, California. Of course, it was a huipil fashion show, too!
The food was prepared in the Oaxaca clay cooking vessels made by Macrina Mateo and her family in the indigenous Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola, just a few miles from where I live. I’ve visited Macrina and took photographs of the firing process, which you can see here.
Susana Trilling, famed Oaxaca chef, cooking teacher and cookbook author prepared the multi-course meal. She was assisted by local culinary school faculty, students and friends. Everyone donated their time and talent!
When Susana left Oaxaca for Santa Fe, her suitcases were loaded up with Oaxaca cheese, mole coloradito, sea salt, poleo, spices and condiments. Her bags just reached the weight limit, she said.
The meal was spectacular, of course, because it featured these ingredients which were also available for sale under Susana’s private label. If you click this link, you’ll get recipes, too.
Here is the Menu:
Corn fungus taquitos, pumpkin seed dip
Fondue of string cheese, pork, and purslane in green sauce
Ensalada de la milpa
Oaxacan coloradito mole with chicken, or
Yellow mole with oyster mushrooms and vegetables (vegetarian option)
Baked, spiced potatoes from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
Layered mango pudding or “charlotte”
Oaxacan chocolate chile truffles
Hibiscus flower and ginger cooler, sangria punch
John Waddell, one of the organizers, said he made a liter of sangria for each attendee. We started off with huitlacoche tacos and finished with Susanna’s Oaxaca chocolate truffle paired with a mango raisin cream pudding.
The first course was a pork stew floating in salsa verde, topped with Oaxaca string cheese, garnished with wild greens and served in one of Macrina’s handmade clay duck bowls.
For dessert, we dove into the mango cream pudding and exhaled.
After dinner, Susana and Macrina presented the culinary school with a gift of their largest cooking vessel. Then, Eric Mindling talked about his book, Fire and Clay, a bilingual journey into the traditional ceramics making culture of Oaxaca.
The gathering was relaxed, informal and fun. We hung around to sip more sangria, visit with new and old friends, and just savor the experience of welcoming Oaxaca folk artists to Santa Fe.
There was just enough remaining after the folk art market of the beautiful, lead-free black and red pottery to present tonight for sale at a free gallery opening at Santa Fe Clay gallery and workshop. If you are in town, don’t miss it. Call to check times.
During my visit, I made a day trip to Taos to visit friends Jane and Adam. On the drive, you pass through the Rio Grande River canyon. It was so beautiful, I stopped several times just to get that special inspiration from the landscape. It is sacred space that offers renewal, healing and enlightenment.
Tlacolula Market every Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find Macrina and her family at the intersection of the main road and church. They lay out a straw mat to display their work and sit cross legged on another
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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Norma Schafer and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC has offered programs in Mexico since 2006. We have over 30 years of university program development experience. See my resume.
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Dye Master Dolores Santiago Arrellanas with son Omar Chavez Santiago, weaver and dyer, Fey y Lola Rugs, Teotitlan del Valle