Tag Archives: Mexico

Oaxaca’s Monte Alban Archeological Site Key to Zapotec Civilization

The UNESCO World Heritage archeological site of Monte Alban never ceases to capture and hold my attention. I go there every time I host visitors to Oaxaca and each time there is something new that I notice or an area that is recently restored. MonteAlban

The Spanish conquerors named Monte Alban, or white mountain, because the hill was in bloom with white flowering trees when they arrived.  This week, the sky was nearly flawless blue with outstanding big, white cloud formations. I don’t remember a more beautiful, breathtaking day here.

MonteAlban-8The best way to enter the site is to begin on the north platform, the highest place. After you go through the ticket turn-style make a right turn and continue up the hill.  The path isn’t well-marked, but the trail is well-traveled, so you will figure it out.  Even though it looks daunting, be sure to climb the pyramids.

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Otherwise, you will miss the most stunning views.  On the main level of the platform you will see carved stones depicting men captured in war. Called Los Danzantes, or dancers, these are replicas. The originals are in the museum on site and in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.

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Summer in Oaxaca is very temperate and GREEN.  Now,  the rainy season that brings torrents of water is almost over, and so we may get a late afternoon or evening shower, which is lovely, and tends to cools things off — a perfect temperature for sleeping.

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By the time we arrived at Monte Alban, it was almost ten-thirty in the morning, and the sun was already strong. Our guide extraordinaire, Rene Cabrera Arroyo, was prepared and had plenty of bottled water for us.

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It took about two hours to walk the site and get a complete explanation of Zapotec history, conquests, relationships with the Aztecs and Mixtecs, and the political and religious structure at the time they were at the height of their power.

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Of course, we had to stop to look at the clay replicas of the found objects in the Monte Alban tombs made by local craftsmen from Arrazola. The figures are all hand formed and the sellers — who are the artisans — are licensed by Monte Alban to create and sell their wares.  Prices are reasonable and there’s room for a little bargaining to make it more fun — if you must!  (Remember, the dollar to peso value is in favor of the visitor so don’t drive a hard bargain.)

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It’s Guelaguetza time and Monte Alban crawling with visitors who come to Oaxaca from throughout Mexico and many foreign countries. I am hearing a cacophony of languages: German, British English, Australian English, Dutch, French, Japanese and Chinese, as well as Spanish and American English.

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Oaxaca is a wonderful place to visit and bring the family for summer vacation. It’s safe, educational, fun and affordable. Entry fees are 59 pesos per person.  That translates to about $4.25 each. We’d love to see you here!

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After Monte Alban, we went off to Atzompa, the nearby village of potters who supplied the priests and nobles with utilitarian and ceremonial clay vessels.

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My advice: wear sturdy shoes for rock climbing, use a sun hat, sun screen, and pack a water bottle — as important as your camera! And, consider hiring a licensed guide who knows the in-depth history of the place.  It will enrich your visit.

 

Oaxaca’s Grand Master of Pottery Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz

Overlooking the Oaxaca valley at the top of the Santa Maria Atzompa hill is the pottery studio of Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz.  She has been recognized as one of the great masters of Oaxaca folk art by Fomento Cultural Banamex, the foundation that recognizes the best crafts people of Mexico.

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We visited Angelica at her home and studio after taking a guided visit around Monte Alban, led by our excellent licensed tour guide Rene Cabrera Arroyo who is very knowledgeable and gives an in-depth discussion of the archeological site.

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Atzompa was a satellite city of Monte Alban and it’s artisans provided the clay vessels and altar pieces for the Zapotec religious and political leaders.

The skill to learn the traditional craft is passed from generation to generation and Angelica learned from her father, who learned from his father before him.  Helping her today is her daughter (above left), an artist in her own right.  Angelica’s granddaughter, a child of about three years old, brings her tools and clay as she constructed a devil for us — one of Angelica’s favorite figures.

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Angelica works in local clay.  The colors  that decorate the pieces come from rocks that are ground on the metate (ancient stone hand grinder) to make a powder, that is then reconstituted with water.

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The cookware, all lead-free, is constructed in the traditional method and is then wood-fired.   A gas kiln is used to fire the more elaborate, larger figures that can be used outdoors for garden art.

Contact: Voces del Barro, Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz, Ceramics, Independencia 637, Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico, Tel. 951-558-9061, Cellular 044-951-102-0149.  Email: vocesdelbarro@outlook.com

 

 

Oaxaca Show & Sale, July 25-26: To Benefit Artisans and Artists at Las Bugambilias B&B

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2014 Dance of the Feather Schedule: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Today, Monday, July 7, the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle begins its weeklong fiesta to celebrate its Catholic Church of the Precious Blood with a calenda de las canastas — the parade of the canastas.  This starts in the church courtyard today around 6:00 p.m. Oaxaca time.  Which means, it starts at 5 p.m. in Teotitlan del Valle because here, time never changes!

Times are never exact either. So, I suggest if you come today, you arrive around 5 p.m. and go into the inner church courtyard to watch the young women assemble with their elaborate baskets that they will carry on their heads in a procession throughout the village.  The baskets are adorned with flowers and religious images.  The women, who must be unmarried to participate, wear extraordinary traditional traje or dress that is indicative of this particular village.

Tuesday, July 8, at 8 p.m. there will be the introduction of this year’s Danzantes — the dancers who have made the three year commitment to participate in this ancient pre-Hispanic rite — in the church courtyard.  They will dance a short program and then this will be  followed by a festive fireworks display.

Wednesday, July 9, at 1 p.m, the Danza de la Pluma will begin in the church courtyard.  The dancers will demonstrate their prowess for the next 10 hours, taking intermittent breaks.

About the Dance of the Feather

Cultural History–Dance of the Feather

Video Interview–Dance of the Feather

Thursday, July 10, is a day of rest.

Friday, July 11, 4 p.m. Dancers process around the village

Saturday, July 12, 1 p.m. Dancers will be in the church courtyard until about 10 p.m.

Sunday, July 13, 1 p.m. is the last day of the fiesta and the dancers will be in the church courtyard all day.

There is lots of food and drink, and there is a fair with rides and sideshows to also entice you to visit.  Have a good time!

 

 

So Sew: Two Commerical Sewing Machines For Sale

This is a public service announcement!  I am posting this with the idea that these two industrial sewing machines, deeply discounted,  could be purchased to help a local woman develop her business. Louise Hopkins, who is selling them, says the machines are about one year old. Perhaps you know a Oaxaca woman in a village who might benefit from having one of these sturdy machines.  The price is negotiable.  Please contact Louise Hopkins directly if you are interested or know someone who is.

Louise Hopkins, lulu1international@gmail.com or telephone: (52)19541398371

From Louise …

I have a bag making business in Puerto Escondido which is a sister brand to the australian brand launched in Sydney and now distributing all over the world. We tried production locally but have moved it to Guadalajara, keeping only a small workshop at Puerto for sampling.  I have 2 industrial machines that I would like to sell, one being a Brother and the other a Juki, both work well . I am prepared to drive to Oaxaca to sell them if you can suggest anywhere that might be interested. Thank you.

Juki Machine picture

Juki Machine

Brother machine

Brother Model No.