Tag Archives: Mexico

Generosity Knows No Boundaries: Oaxaca Mask Project II

We put out the call on Monday, May 25, that we were starting Phase II of the Oaxaca Mask Project. On Tuesday, May 26, an article in Mexico News Daily featuring the project appeared, written by journalist Janet Blaser. Oaxaca blogger Shannon Pixley Sheppard, View From Casita Colibri, reposted our Monday cry for help.

You responded.

We send you our sincerest, most grateful thanks. Special thanks to Janet and Shannon!

Your generosity gives us the wherewithal to go into mask-making overdrive. Even more important now that the virus is spreading to the villages and more cases are identified.

100 masks went to Macuilxochitl, adjacent to Teotitlan de Valle

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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!

Since Monday, May 25, 2020:

  • 108 donors made gifts
  • $6,746 USD received
  • 1100 masks ordered
  • 4 distribution partnerships formed
  • 8 mask-makers employed
  • Expanded mask-making and distribution to San Miguel del Valle apron-making village
  • More to do!
Rocio Arecely Garcia Lopez, left, San Miguel del Valle, will sew masks for us

Phase II, Oaxaca Mask Project, Starts Today

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!

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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!

Use a face mask in all public places

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.

Cristy gave our last 100 masks to Macuilxochitl villagers, where cases just diagnosed

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.

Sections of Central de Abastos Market closed for the next two weeks

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.

Cristy Molina designs public health messages to create awareness

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!

Alvin Starkman with N95 mask, protective shield and 6 ft. pole

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator: What will the future hold?

This is a big question as we try to live in the present and get through each day. One reason I turned my focus to creating The Oaxaca Mask Project, I have come to realize, is that it is a perfect distraction to keep me busy and helpful. I can think about NOW, not what will be.

Note: We will likely start the project up again in the next few weeks. Janet Blaser, a journalist who lives in Mazatlan, interviewed me yesterday for Mexico News Daily. The mask project story will likely appear in the next 10 days. We will begin accepting donations again then, ordering masks to be made, and giving them to people in need.

I started the project soon after I arrived in Huntington Beach, California, for what was to be a one-week visit with my son on my way to Durham, North Carolina. I was there for two months. Now, I’m in NC, just out of quarantine. My plan was to be here until the end of May and then return to Oaxaca for the summer. Now, who makes plans?

Meanwhile, the news came yesterday that Traditions Mexico is closing after 20+ years of operation. They set the bar for many of us who lead cultural journeys and tours in Oaxaca and Mexico. I want to acknowledge Eric Mindling’s passion, heart and generosity for opening doors to indigenous artists and communities over the years and send well wishes to all who have been part of his adventure.

Yes, COVID19 will take its toll in many ways.

On the Southern California coast, April 2020

What we have come to rely on will be no more. The familiar and the dependable will be no more. Life has changed and will continue to do so. We grieve the losses and must take comfort in making positive next steps.

We want to do more than survive! We want to thrive. We want to be with family and friends. We want to explore. For most of us, this is impossible now. I suspect that this will be the case over the next two years.

This got me to thinking about our own Oaxaca Cultural Navigator situation amid this virus and attendant path of destruction. We are a small operation. Tiny, actually. It’s mostly just me. I dream up the programs, organize them, contact the artisans I know and love, handle the bookkeeping, and make arrangements to ensure quality. Now, there is nothing to do but wait.

This is also about others. It impacts the artisans I work with in the villages. It impacts the local experts who provide the cultural guidance I rely on at the Oaxaca coast, in Chiapas and Michoacan, and yes, in Kyoto and Tokyo, to create a rich experience for our travelers. What will it be like for them who depend on people like us to appreciate their work and support them?

We have canceled the Japan textile study tour. We have canceled the Oaxaca Day of the Dead study tour. We are waiting to see about the December writing workshop and the programs set for early 2021. We read that there will probably be a surge in virus infections this fall.

When will we be be able to resume?

If you don’t travel for a year or two or even more, what will that mean for you? How will you make your future travel choices? Where will you go first and next? Will Oaxaca Cultural Navigator be starting over then? What will our collective future hold? Will we ever regain the confidence to travel on a plane or in a van with ten strangers?

Friends here and there are asking me: When will you return to Oaxaca? How long will you be in North Carolina? When will we see you next? My best answer is: I don’t know. Maybe September. Maybe October. Vamos a ver.

Right now, we must be focused on staying healthy and safe. It is difficult to know what the future will bring. Let’s take a deep breath and carry on.

The Oaxaca Mask Project Report #8: Big Thanks!

Taking a short break! Project will resume in June 2020.

This is our Interim Report for The Oaxaca Mask Project. I’ve been focused on making and distributing cloth face masks in Oaxaca, Mexico, and surrounding villages since mid-March.

We have accomplished so much! We did this together:

  • Made and distributed 2,480 masks
  • Raised $6,320 USD from 116 separate donations*
  • Received gifts ranging from $10 to $500
  • Employed seamstresses and weavers to make masks in Oaxaca City, San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Teotitlan del Valle, Tlacolula de Matamoros, and San Agustin Etla
  • Shipped 675 masks made and donated by USA seamstresses via DHL to Oaxaca villages
Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista family, Teotitlan del Valle

Special thanks to Oaxaca mask-makers for their talents, speed, creativity and dedication:

  • Rocio Bastida Cruz, San Felipe del Agua, Oaxaca
  • Rosario Lazo Lazo, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
  • Malena Jimenez, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
  • Rocio Mendoza Bazan, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca
  • Inez Lopez Hernandez, Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca
  • Cheri Verber, Patzcuaro, Michoacan
  • Beatriz Raymundo Camacho, Telarcito Lindo, Oaxaca
  • Armando Sosa, San Pablo Villa de Mitla
  • Alfredo Hernandez Orozco, Santa Maria el Tule
Karen Nein sewed 200 masks for San Martin Tilcajete

Big thanks to USA mask-makers for donating their labor and/or materials to the project:

  • Hollie Taylor Novak, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Karen Nein, Eldorado, New Mexico
  • Sam Robbins, Columbus, Ohio
  • Claudia Michel, Portland, Oregon
  • Susie Robison, McCloud, California
  • Shuko Clouse, Los Angeles, California
  • Yumiko Wilson, Los Angeles, California
  • Barbara Kuhns, Arizona
  • Katharine Jennings
Cristy Molina, getting masks to Teotitlan del Valle, Tlacochahuaya + Mitla

These are the folks who volunteered to make it happen on the ground, getting our masks into the hands of and onto the faces of the people, in the city and far-away villages:

  • Kalisa Wells, Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle
  • Cristy Molina Martinez, Teotitlan del Valle
  • Alvin Starkman, Oaxaca
  • Eric Ramirez Ramos, Tlacolula de Matamoros
  • Gail Pellett, San Agustin Etla
  • Kari Klippen-Sierra and Rudy Sierra, San Andres Huayapam
  • Jacki Cooper Gordon, Oaxaca
  • Luvia Lazo, Teotitlan del Valle
  • Dave Crosley, San Felipe del Agua, Oaxaca
  • Gabriela Morales Cruz (Morac), San Jeronimo Tlacochuhuaya
Zapotrek’s Eric Ramirez covers Tlacolula market vendors

And, to all our 116 donors, to whom we are blessed with their generosity. THANK YOU. You made it possible for Oaxaca people to stay safe and healthy. Donors are from Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and the USA.

  • Kate Rayner
  • Claudia Michel
  • Diana Huber
  • Martha Sorensen
  • Elaine Saunders
  • Wendy Sease
  • Deborah Mersky
  • Susie Robison
  • Mary Earle
  • Jacob Singleton
  • Susan Barkoff
  • Diane Manning
  • Marla Jensen
  • Nancy Craft
  • Ellen Benson
Kari and Rudy got masks to Huayapam public health clinic staff
  • Robin Greene
  • Gloria Yeatman
  • Sandra Wilcox
  • Maureen Parker
  • Catherine Johnson
  • Anne Damon
  • Barbara Beerstein
  • Phyllis Milder
  • Nancy MacBride
  • Lynda Nelson
  • Laura Renger
  • Natalie Klein
  • Sunnie Hikawa
  • Chris Clark
  • Sam Robbins
  • Julia Erickson
  • Dennys Eymard
  • Kay Michaels
  • Carolyn Urban
  • Lisa Michie
Alvin Starkman got masks to San Marcos Tlapazola
  • Lynn Nichols
  • Gail Barraco
  • Gail Pellett
  • Lesa Porche
  • Shuko Clouse
  • Kajal Patel
  • Janet Waterson
  • Lian Brehm
  • Mike Bronn
  • Phil Schlak
  • Beverly Oda
  • Winn Kalmon
  • Elizabeth Pou
  • Irene Keaton
  • Bitty Truan
  • Barbara Garcia
  • Erin Borreson
  • Kathryn Leide
  • Leslie Roth
  • Holly Ziretta
Gail Pellett got masks to San Agustin Elta taxi-drivers
  • Heather Leide
  • Elizabeth Rosen
  • Joan Anyon
  • Elizabeth Pomeroy
  • Christine Bourdette
  • Linda Mansour
  • Frances Fine
  • Laurie Landau
  • Barbara Oseland
  • Dorothy Hermann
  • Kathryn Kasimor
  • James W. Johnston
  • Jennifer Becker
  • Karen Soskin
  • Salima Khakoo
  • John O’Connor
  • Tamsie Hughes
  • Pamela Esty
  • Katharine Jennings
  • Rita Schweitz
Drew Vogt and Casa de Kids got our masks, thanks to Kari and Rudy
  • Cathy Platin
  • Elizabeth Cauthorn
  • Makiri Sei
  • Diane Winters
  • Karen Hembree
  • Holly Taylor Novak
  • Annie Johnson
  • Susanne Corrigan
  • Virginia Dunstan
  • Marsha Smelkinson
  • Janet Lowe
  • Madelyn Smoak
  • Sheri Brautigam
  • Marla Jensen
  • Virginia Bartley
  • Ben Dyer
  • William Watts
  • Sue Bramley
  • Jill Bennett
  • Eshkie Zachai
  • Tom Sheeran
  • Craig Watts
  • Julie Kaspar
  • Kathleen Smith-Wenning
  • George Young

*Note: Some gave more than once!

Norma sends LOVE with mask made by Sam Robbins

Gail Pellett, former NPR journalist, writes from San Agustin Etla:

“Oaxaca has some of the lowest official numbers for infections, largely because of the indigenous villages and their community controls, Usos y costumbres, etc.  The Sierre Norte villages spinning out from Ixtlan and Gaelatao have no or very few numbers.  Some 200 indigenous villages have locked themselves away from commuters from the city of Oaxaca and elsewhere.  They check temperatures, spray cars, etc. including our own, San Agustin Etla, which is not so indigenous anymore, but a mixed bag of inhabitants, but still working on the communitario system.  At our checkpoint a gun thermometer is put to your forehead, your address checked, your business entering, your car sprayed with disinfectant, especially collectives and taxis.”

We will continue to monitor public health in Oaxaca and her villages to see if we need to start-up again. I was told today that the health minister is warning Oaxaqueños to expect an increase in disease this October. Yesterday, May 19, a covid19 case was announced from Maquilxochitl, the village neighboring Teotitlan del Valle.

As we say in Mexico, Vamos a Ver.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

The Oaxaca Mask Project Report #6: The Final Push

This is our final push for now to make and distribute masks in Oaxaca and surrounding villages. We need your help. Will you make a donation today to give us the means to get 300-500 more masks made this week? To do this, we want to raise $1,250 more. To date, we have made and distributed 2,355 masks. Please use this link to give:

paypal.me/oaxacaculture

We want to wrap up receiving donations for this project (for the time being) by May 15. That means we want to contract and pay for more mask making by this Friday and have all the distribution complete by May 30.

My doggie and casita caretakers, family of Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista, Teotitlan del Valle

Then, we are going to take a break and assess our successes and where we could have made a greater impact. Perhaps there will be another wave coming and we will be better prepared to move faster and cover more faces.

Disease will plummet if 90% wear masks! study shows.

And, the New York Times reports that Mexico is underreporting number of cases and deaths. A sad situation that is also true in the United States of America! Of course, some are disbelievers, too.

La Merced Market Story

Reports from Kalisa Wells in Oaxaca City are promising. The streets are empty. And, she says:

“This morning at La Merced Market: To enter, one must wash hands with soap and water, under supervision. Then a temperature check, followed by a gel squirt. The inside was bustling with fully-masked customers and vendors. No way to stay distanced, but big bottles of gel everywhere… at each station. I felt very comfortable! This market got it right!!!!

“Not ONE mask-less person. But it gets better ….. here is where The Oaxaca Mask Project comes in.

“While waiting to wash my hands, a very young (15- 17 years old) couple was trying to get in to pass the hat and play the accordion. They were very rancho, indigenous, poor, with a baby in tow. An official came out to talk to them. She said they may wash and enter and pass the hat, but they must wear a mask.

“Voila ! I gave them one flowered and one plain, and they were admitted. I do not carry a camera, it so wished I could send you a pic of them in masks made [here in Oaxaca] by Rocio Bastida Cruz and Telarcito Lindo [made possible through donations to The Oaxaca Mask Project].

“I carried a couple of masks with me this morning in a plastic bag… for this! But who knew! Thank you Norma. I imagine they made enough today to eat and maybe buy a few groceries to take back on the long bus ride home.”

Note about the above photo: Left to right is Rodolfo, then Arnulfo Menor (Jr.), mom Natividad Ruiz Vasquez, and two-year-old Esmeralda. Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista is taking the photo. They are my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, friends who are wearing masks made possible through this project. Arnulfo comes to my casita twice daily to feed my dogs in my absence. I’m eternally grateful to them.

Wear Your Mask. Love, Norma

Sam Robbins, mask-maker, who contributed 150 masks to this project