Tag Archives: Mexico

Wandering Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle

Casita Roof Sunset-3 Casita Roof Sunset-2 After our Art Huipil Workshop ended, I retreated to the rooftop terrace where I live in Teotitlan del Valle to finish The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The views of the surrounding Tlacolula valley are glorious from there, especially at sunset. Casita Roof Sunset-4It’s winter, the dry season. The night air is clear and cold. The star field is glorious. During the day, sun provides enough heat that we have to hide from it by walking on the shady side of the street. So many northerners are here to seek shelter from the winter cold in the warmth of Oaxaca’s sun.Art Huipil Workshop-9Around and about Teotitlan del Valle, the daily village market, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., gives us bread, fresh vegetables, meats and poultry, handcrafts and the essentials of daily life, like soap and bathroom tissue! The space is a source of constant fascination and appreciation for me. It’s where my food comes from! Art Huipil Workshop-99 For those without vehicles and sturdy legs, the tuk-tuks (or moto-taxis, as some call them) are an essential for getting home from the market with the daily bundle that always includes fresh flowers for the altar.Art Huipil Workshop-111 When the market closes at 10:30 a.m. not much happens there until mid-afternoon when the nieves (ice cream) vendors come to open their stalls. Ices made from tropical fruits like mango, papaya, strawberry and pineapple are muy rico. And, yes, they are made with purified water.Art Huipil Workshop-22After resting for a few days, I went to Oaxaca city to meet up with friends for a series of lunches and dinners. Social life here during the season can be intense. But not as intense as the color of this yellow flowering tree that punctuates the skyline throughout the city.

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Everyone along the cobblestone sidewalks have their heads lifted skyward to take in the brilliant yellow blossoms of the Primavera tree of the genus Tabebuia, also called Ipe or Trumpet tree.  Not me, though. With my new knee replacement only two months behind me, I’m very careful to step lightly. If I want to take something in, I stop and plant myself on terra firma.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-2 Late afternoon brings us to Santo Domingo Church where vendors gather and weddings and quinceañieras are scheduled throughout the day. Bring it on!

Pink Hummer-3 Later that same night, with Pink Hummer stretch limo in waiting, a fifteen year old princess emerges from Santo Domingo complete with her men in waiting to escort her into the cavernous vehicle. There’s lots of poverty in Oaxaca and visible wealth, too. I see many more Audi’s, Mercedes and BMW’s on the streets now than ever before.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-4As we emerge from a delicious dinner at La Zandunga on Garcia Virgil, we stop in to Casa Crespo for a Oaxaca chocolate tasting. I think my favorite is the one flavored with chipotle chili. Trees on the avenue are illuminated in changing colors of red, green, yellow and purple. It’s a warm and festive evening for strolling.

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So we stroll on over to Mezcaleria El Cortijo for a nightcap of my favorite reposado, an aged mezcal that goes down smooth and easy.  Ellen sniffs the bottle while our host Raul Mendez talks about mezcal culture.

Anri Okada Artist-4 Anri Okada Artist-2Oaxaca is pretty quiet most Sundays, and in my meanderings I notice an artist through an open doorway painting what appears to be a sign.  Meet Anri Okada. She has been in Oaxaca for six months, is an artist from Japan who studied painting. She speaks Spanish and English and is delightful.  Curiosity is what keeps the world exciting and imaginative.  You never know who you will meet next!Art Huipil Workshop-89Back in Teotitlan del Valle, weaving continues, surrounded by the paraphernalia of the craft — bags of wool, unwarped looms, cotton warp thread, a baby’s rocking horse and a dog’s water bowl.

Pochote_CKnox-2 Ultimately, it’s time to eat and what could be better than blue corn tortillas on the comal with your choice of chorizo and cheese, beans, or potatoes and spinach topped with a fresh egg. The health of Mexicans depends upon unadulterated non-genetically modified corn. It’s a constant battle here between the small farmers and the mega-producers like Monsanto. Indigenous corn, grown in the Oaxaca valley for 8,000 years, is laden with nutrition.

As we say in Mexico, buen provecho!

Two spaces open now in the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing & Yoga Retreat. And, you may want to come with me as we go Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in April in Mexico City.

 

Telling Stories: Art Huipil Mixed Media Workshop

The Art Huipil Workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico just ended. Our instructor Lena Bartula says, Textile is text, which is why she incorporates stories, messages, poems and other writing into the mixed media art workshop she teaches.  Textile is also cultural subtext, telling personal stories of the makers through pattern and design.

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Exquisite Corpse Huipil — Group Collaboration

The huipil is the oldest Mesoamerican clothing form worn by women. Each woman who weaves a piece of cloth on a back-strap loom has to tell that is incorporated into the cloth.  No two garments are alike.  They may incorporate similar materials and patterns, but they are arranged differently, reflecting our distinctiveness.

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Each woman uses symbols that reflect her personal and village history, and place in the world.  Each chooses yarn and thread colors important to her, mother, grandmother and village tradition. The way the symbols flow through the garment is a message about life. Our instructor La Huipilista Lena Bartula, guides along the creative pathway.

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Arrepentimientos by Vicki Solot

We take this Mexican tradition and use the huipil concept to create our own stories. We bring cloth, scissors, thread, canvas, handmade paper, ribbons, photographs, paints, drawing pens, glue, memorabilia and our imaginations.

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We take field trips to local markets to collect paraphernalia.  We look down on street pavement and in gardens to incorporate found objects. We determine what to edit, what is more or less, what is meaningful. We make art.

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We laugh. Dance. Eat. Sing. Rest and renew. We make an altar to bless each other and our work.  We celebrate the creativity and spirit within.

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We celebrate the completion of our work and time together with a spirited exhibition of our work, followed by a fiesta dinner complete with handmade chilis rellenos, roast chicken, tortillas, salsa verde, potato empañadas and a divine dessert called Pastel Imposible — chocolate cake topped with flan.

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As we say goodbye, we lay out our huipils. The sun is shining. The air is clear and warm. The days have sped by quickly and each participant takes away an art piece to display, a memory of an unparalleled experience in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Here is our work:

Workshop participants and their art.

Workshop participants and our collage of huipils.

I Love Mexico by Carol Egan

I Love Mexico by Carol Egan

Quierdos -- Dear Ones, by Ellen Benson

Quierdos — Dear Ones, by Ellen Benson

XXX by Sherry Bone Peel

Finding Teotitlan by Sherry Bone Peel

Bad Girl by Ellen Benson

Bad Girl by Ellen Benson

XXXX, by Vicki Solot

Natural Grace by Vicki Solot

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Gracias a la Vida/Yin by Ruth Greenberger

XXXX by Sherry Bone Peel

Let It Be by Sherry Bone Peel

XXX by Ruth Greenberger

Gracias a la Vida/Yang by Ruth Greenberger

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More or Less by Norma Hawthorne

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Let me know by email if you are interested in participating next year. I am starting an early notification list.

 

News: Two Spaces Open for Women’s March Writing Retreat

We have been SOLD OUT for months, but today I received two cancellations for the 2015 Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat that starts March 6, 2015.  That means we have TWO SPACES OPEN now. If you have been thinking about expressing your creative self and escaping winter, this could be the workshop you are looking for.  Let me know if you are interested in registering!  We would love to have you with us.

Looking for Secundino and His Textiles, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

On Monday around noon, I pick up Ester at her brick bungalow nestled under the shadow of Picacho, Teotitlan’s holy mountain.  We drive down the cobbled hill, across the small bridge over the Rio Grande, now a trickle in the dry season, to get Janet, an expat friend who lives here during the winter months.

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We are on our way to visit Secundino, Ester’s eighty-seven year old father who still weaves cloth in the old serape style.  His blanket weight wool is soft, very soft, not suitable for rug use. He uses undyed sheep wool that he cards, cleans and spins himself. His is a lost art.

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Ester says he has a couple of textiles finished and for sale, so we are eager to see them.  Secundino only produces about six pieces a year.

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We arrive midday to discover that the rugs are gone, bought up by an exporter. Secundino is not at home. He is out in the countryside in his fields of corn. Though we are disappointed, we make the best of it, stay to visit with Ester’s mother, sisters and nephew with his pet chicken.

This is another opportunity to use my just acquired used wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens. I’m liking the results!

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Secundino was the drum major in the village band for decades leading the way in all the processions.  His drums hang like trophies on the wall above his bed. Ester tells us that he joined the village band this year at Las Cuevitas and the family was so happy he could take part again.  A mended broken hip and advanced age doesn’t hold him back.

Secundino's House

We hope Secundino will keep weaving and we’ve put in our order for another one of his wonderful textiles.

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Two years ago, Secudino was the subject for our portrait photography workshop. We have space this year for you, starting January 30, 2015.

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Three Kings Day and Rosca de Reyes, Oaxaca, Mexico

Rosca de Reyes-3It’s January 6, Three Kings Day in Mexico, that marks Christmas celebrations in Latin America and Spain, culminating in the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The children especially gather around to open gifts, sip hot chocolate made with water, no milk, and dig into tamales and Rosca de Reyes.

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Everyone loves Rosca de Reyes. And, everyone tries to avoid getting one of the little plastic baby Jesus figures baked into the sweet dough.  Why? Because if you get the baby, you must host a tamale party for your family and friends on Dia de la Candelaria. This is the official ending of the Christmas season and the transition into Easter. Good tamales, like the women make here in Teotitlan del Valle, are very labor intensive.

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This morning I set out for the Teotitlan del Valle market in search of Eloisa. Last night I bought a rich round egg bread made with pure butter, studded with dried fruit and topped with crab apples. She bakes them in the clay oven tucked into the corner of the courtyard, one at a time.  The outside is crusty and the inside soft, sweet, melt-in-your mouth magic.

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A group of us from the village gathered and after mezcal and tamales, we gobbled up Eloisa’s cake. I wanted more. As I drove to the market early, there she was walking back home, empty basket in hand. But, she had an extra one stashed away at home and I happily gave her 80 pesos to tuck it into my shopping bag.

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Then, in the market bakery section there were any number of bakers selling their own versions of Rosca de Reyes.  I bought two more to give as gifts to friends, another lovely tradition of sharing that comes with living in Mexico.

I’m experimenting with a “new” wide-angle Tokina 11-16mm lens I bought used from B&H Photo to fit my Nikon D7000.  Fun to get a different perspective.  I’m practicing and getting ready for our Portrait Photography Workshop coming up at the end of the month.

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